Poland And The Baltic States Express Concern About Regional Stability

Members of the Wagner group training Belarusian troops in summer 2023.

It can be expected that the Wagner troops will be used for border provocations against Polish uniformed services… It also cannot be ruled out that some of the mercenaries will try to infiltrate Poland and other countries mainly on the Eastern Flank.”

Since the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company known for its brutality and criminal activities, began training in Belarus in July, concerns amongst the neighboring states have steadily risen regarding regional border security. Belarussian President Lukashenko offered the Wagner Group employment in Belarus — with the goal of increasing the effectiveness of the Belarusian military — following its attempted run on the Russian capital in June of 2023.[i]

As the excerpted publication from the Polish Institute of International Affairs (Polski Instytut Spraw Międzynarodowych) indicates, despite interacting under the auspices of improving Belarusian military readiness and effectiveness, Belarus’s neighbors fear that Belarus is readying additional means of offense against its neighbors. Poland’s concern is that as Belarus’ offensive forces become better trained, they may create instability in the delicate border peace that the two countries have reached. Furthermore, the article suggests that the Wagner Group’s location in Belarus suggests the possibility of a larger-scale engagement within Poland and other border countries like Lithuania. In essence, Belarussian “Wagner-trained fighters” could enter the open border zones with a Belarussian passport with the intent to identify viable targets in Poland, specifically within the critical infrastructure.[ii]  Additionally, the statement requests the Wagner Group be declared a terrorist organization. Such a designation would significantly broaden the legal bounds of recourse and response available to both Poland and NATO, both as a preventative measure to increase border security but also as a guarantee of support from NATO should Belarus pursue further provocative actions. As expressed in the second excerpted piece, a joint statement from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia released on Poland’s Ministry of Internal Affairs X (formerly Twitter) feed, Belarus, by collaborating with Wagner and, more broadly, with Russia, is taking deliberate steps to destabilize the region. The joint statement declares that the four nations would take decisive and swift action should further provocation occur, noting that any border infractions would result in the immediate shutdown of all Belarussian border crossings. In addition, the governments called for the immediate removal of all Wagner Group members and holdings from Belarussian borders. Their statement asserts that the Wagner Group poses a threat not only to each country’s respective national security but to the security of the free world as well.


Anna Maria Dyner, “Grupa Wagnera na Białorusi – potencjalne zagrożenia dla Polski (Wagner Group Arrives in Belarus – Potential Threats to Poland),” Polski Instytut Spraw Międzynarodowych (official website of Polish Institute of International Affairs), 27 July 2023. https://pism.pl/publications/wagner-group-arrives-in-belarus-potential-threats-to-poland

The mercenaries in Belarus give the Belarusian and Russian authorities additional tools for hybrid action against NATO countries, in particular Poland and Lithuania. It can be expected that the Wagner troops will be used for border provocations against Polish uniformed services, including the possible use of arms or attempts to destroy barriers. They may also be used to coordinate and command operations at the border. It also cannot be ruled out that some of the mercenaries will try to infiltrate Poland and other countries mainly on the Eastern Flank (both illegally and, for example, with the use of Belarusian passports) with the task of identifying critical infrastructure facilities. Some of them may also be prepared to carry out acts of sabotage on Polish soil. … These activities will increase tensions and have a psychological impact on Polish society in the context of, among other things, the Belarusian-Russian military exercise Union Shield, scheduled for the end of September, or the October parliamentary elections in Poland.

It may also be necessary to recognize the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization. This would allow the use of the Anti-Terrorist Activities Act, which, among other things, broadens the spectrum of activities that can be undertaken by the relevant security services and authorities against persons suspected of seeking to carry out terrorist activities. In addition, Poland may hold consultations within NATO and propose a common approach by Alliance members to the Wagner Group, chiefly by pointing out that they are being used by Belarus and Russia as a tool of hybrid action that requires a coordinated response from the Alliance, for example, in the form of an increased Allied presence at the border.

At the same time, Poland and NATO should announce that they will use all available instruments to fight the Wagner Group mercenaries if they pose a threat, with Belarus and Russia fully responsible for their actions on the border.

Mariusz Kamiński, Angé Bilotaité, Māris Kučinskis, Lauri Läänemets, “Oświadczenie Ministrów Spraw Wewnętrznych Polski,  Litwy, Łotwy i Estonii po spotkaniu konsultacyjnym w Warszawie (Statement by the Ministers of the Interiors of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia after the consultation meeting in Warsaw),” Twitter@MSWiA_GOV_PL, 28 August 2023. https://twitter.com/MSWiA_GOV_PL/status/1696123142249283636

We emphasize that the actions taken by Russia and Belarus cooperating as an attempt to deliberately destabilize the situation in the region. We declare we are determined to oppose this together. Our answer will be joint, decisive and appropriate to the current situation- up to the possibility of further isolating both regimes by closing border crossings. We are determined to defend the borders of the democratic world, leaving access to our territories for the…Belarussian oppositionists.In this regard we call on the Belarussian regime to remove the “Wagner” group from the territories of Belarus…


[i] For a Belarussian perspective on the Wagner Group’s presence, as well as their views regarding Polish and neighboring states reactions, see: “Тенденции военно-политической обстановки и обновленную Концепцию нацбезопасности обсудили в Витебске (Trends in the military-political situation and the updated National Security Concept were discussed in Vitebsk)” Белта (A news service of Belarus), 13 September 2023. https://www.belta.by/amp/regions/view/tendentsii-voenno-politicheskoj-obstanovki-i-obnovlennuju-kontseptsiju-natsbezopasnosti-obsudili-v-587792-2023/

[ii] For more information on the operational tactics of Wagner Group from their previous engagements in Ukraine, see: Charles Bartles, “The Composition And Tactics Of Wagner Assault Detachments,” OE Watch, 03-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2023/the-composition-and-tactics-of-wagner-assault-detachments/

Image Information:

Image: Members of the Wagner group training Belarusian troops in summer 2023.
Source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fcommons.wikimedia.org%2Fwiki%2F, File%3APMC_wagner_in_belarus_2.png&psig=AOvVaw3nFw9Wep8soItuzbytxYTa&ust=1695536938589000&source=images&cd=vfe&opi=89978449&ved=2ahUKEwi799i4jcCBAxUeW_EDHdRvBoQQjRx6BAgAEAw
Attribution: CC By 3.0 Deed

Russia Announces New Combined Arms Army in Arctic To Offset NATO Expansion

Map of Russian Federation with the Kola Peninsula highlighted, a strategically important space for Russian defense in the Arctic.

“While Sweden and Finland were conditionally neutral countries, there was no need to keep any large forces in the region.  However, now that Finland has joined NATO, and Sweden is on this path, it is necessary to strengthen the northwestern direction.”

Russia will form a new Combined Arms Army (CAA) in the Arctic North as a response to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, according to a recently published article from the pro-government daily Izvestia. The Russian military expert featured in the article claims the Northern Fleet’s 14th Army Corps will likely be the nucleus of this new CAA, while the Arctic 200th and/or 80th brigades will likely be upsized to divisions. The new divisions will likely see the incorporation of a new Iskander missile brigade and air defense brigade to somewhat standardize the structure with other CAAs. Russian ground forces in the Baltic region facing Sweden and Finland, recently renamed the Leningrad Military District, will probably also expand to meet the new threat. The Northern Fleet Strategic Command covers the bulk of the Northern Sea route, but the Eastern Strategic Command controls the Chukotka Peninsula. There is currently a motorized rifle regiment stationed there, and plans exist to expand this to a division. Due to the distance involved, it is unlikely that the new CAA will expand to incorporate this other Russian Arctic ground force. The focus of the new CAA will be the defense of the Kola Peninsula.


Roman Kretcul and Aleksei Ramm, “Полярный округ: в составе Северного флота создадут общевойсковую армию (Arctic circle:  A new combined arms army will form as part of the Northern Fleet),” Izvestia (large pro-government Russian daily), 1 July 2023. https://iz.ru/1538203/roman-kretcul-aleksei-ramm/poliarnyi-okrug-v-sostave-severnogo-flota-sozdadut-obshchevoiskovuiu-armiiu.

A new combined-arms army will be formed as part of the Northern Fleet.

This decision was made by the Russian Defense Ministry.  It will cover the Russian border in the north, including the border with Finland and Norway. The defense of the Kola Peninsula is a vital task for Russia since strategic missile submarines are based there.  The creation of a new army is especially important due to the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO. The new formation will be based on the current army corps. The army will include motorized rifle brigades, regiments and divisions. Their personnel will be trained in Arctic combat.

“While Sweden and Finland were conditionally neutral countries, there was no need to keep any large forces in the region,” military historian Dmitry Boltenkov explained to Izvestia. “However, now that Finland has joined NATO, and Sweden is on this path, it is necessary to strengthen the northwestern direction.” The expert noted that the 200th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade, the 80th Arctic Brigade, and the 61st Separate Marine Brigade are now stationed there. He did not rule out that the 200th and 80th brigades would be reorganized into divisions, and the 14th Army Corps, of which they are now a member, into an army. The most important thing is that with the creation of this army, powerful separate formations will also appear – a missile brigade, an air defense brigade and others. This will significantly increase the group’s capabilities in the region. According to Dmitry Boltenkov, the protection of the Kola Peninsula is vital, if only because strategic missile submarines are based there.

In recent years, Allies have shown an increased interest in the Arctic region. Norway hosts large-scale exercises of the Cold Response Alliance every two years. In the spring of 2022, over 30 thousand military personnel, more than 200 aircraft and 50 ships took part in them. The Russian Armed Forces regularly conduct exercises in polar latitudes. In particular, the annual maneuvers “Umka”, during which both personnel training and polar research are performed. On July 1, the press service of the Northern Fleet reported that the Arctic grouping, which includes warships of the Kola flotilla, will conduct a traditional Arctic campaign with a set of tactical exercises on the continental coast, islands and in the waters of the seas of the Arctic Ocean.

Image Information:

Image: Map of Russian Federation with the Kola Peninsula highlighted, a strategically important space for Russian defense in the Arctic.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Murmansk_in_Russia.svg
Attribution: CCA-Share Alike 3.0

Russian Views on Finland and Sweden Joining NATO

NATO Secretary General meets with Ministers of Defense for Finland and Sweden, March 2022.

NATO Secretary General meets with Ministers of Defense for Finland and Sweden, March 2022.

Of course, this means the deterioration of our strategic position….” 

Russian reactions to the recent decision by Finland and Sweden to join NATO have ranged from mild concern to grave trepidation.  According to the excerpted article from the pro-Kremlin news outlet RIA Novosti, President Putin does not foresee any serious problems with this decision, provided that no “military infrastructure of the alliance is deployed in Finland and Sweden.”  If this were to occur, Putin stated that “Russia will be forced to respond in a similar way.”  Putin also asserted that there was no merit to “the thesis that Russia’s goal to push NATO forces away from its borders, preventing Ukraine from joining the alliance, led to the opposite, only from Sweden and Finland.”  Putin explained his rationale by claiming that “unlike Ukraine, Sweden and Finland do not persecute people who feel they are part of Russian culture.”

Other knowledgeable Russians have expressed greater concern over the further enlargement of NATO.  In an interview in the popular daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets, “Ruslan Pukhov, the Director of the Moscow Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), spoke about the military significance of NATO expansion in the northwest.”  According to Pukhov, this expansion “means the deterioration of our strategic position.”  He asserts that Russia will now “have to spend more on defense than before February this year [which will mean] that less money will be spent on infrastructure projects, healthcare, and education.”  Pukhov reviews Russia’s long history with these two countries, stating “both the Swedes and the Finns have already experienced the power of Russian weapons,” which resulted in “bad memories for them.”  He concludes that becoming members of NATO might tempt them to try to settle old scores, and that therefore Russia “can’t be weak.”


“Путин: Россия ответит в случае размещения баз НАТО в Швеции и Финляндии (Putin: Russia will respond in case of deployment of NATO bases in Sweden and Finland),” RIA Novosti (pro-Kremlin news outlet) 30 June 2022. http://RIA/Ru/20220629/Putin-1799133978.html

In Russia’s relations with Sweden and Finland, there are no such problems as with Ukraine, if they want to join NATO, let them join, but if the military infrastructure of the alliance is deployed in Finland and Sweden, Russia will be forced to respond in a similar way, Russian President Vladimir Putin said…

…He also called false and ‘having nothing to do with reality’ the thesis that Russia ‘s goal to push NATO forces away from its borders, preventing Ukraine from joining the alliance, led to the opposite, only from Sweden and Finland.  “For us, the membership of Finland and Sweden in NATO is not at all the same as the membership of Ukraine, these are completely different things.  They understand this very well.  No.  This is a completely different thing,” the Russian leader emphasized.  He noted that, unlike Ukraine, Sweden and Finland do not persecute people who feel they are part of Russian culture.

Source: Olga Bozheva, “Вступление Финляндии и Швеции в НАТО принесло России серьезные риски (The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO brought Russia serious risks),” Moskovskiy Komsomolets (popular, pro-Kremlin news organization), 5 July 2022. https://www.mk.ru/politics/2022/07/05/vstuplenie-finlyandii-i-shvecii-v-nato-prineslo-rossii-sereznye-riski.html

The process of accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO was continued.  On July 4, negotiations between these countries and the Alliance were completed in Brussels.  On July 5, the Foreign Ministers of Sweden and Finland signed the accession protocol at NATO Headquarters.  Ruslan Pukhov, Director of the Moscow Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), spoke about the military significance of NATO expansion in the northwest.

Now there are rather contradictory statements about the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO.  A number of political scientists say that this does not pose a serious danger to us.  Someone thinks that we need to strengthen the borders, up to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons there.  What do you think their entry into the alliance means for us?

Of course, this means the deterioration of our strategic position.  And not because these countries suddenly became anti-Russian overnight – even before that they loved us like a dog with a stick.  However, they were not at least formally integrated into NATO structures, and accordingly, they behaved cautiously and correctly towards us.

…In any case, such a move by Stockholm and Helsinki does not lead to anything good.  And the one who says that their entry into NATO means practically nothing to us, he, I think, is disingenuous.

…This will force us to invest more financially in the arms race.  We’ve already gotten into it.  And now it doesn’t matter at all whether we did it ourselves or were dragged into it.  The score is on the scoreboard.  We will have to spend more on defense than before February this year.  This means that less money will be spent on infrastructure projects, healthcare, and education. There are no illusions here.

…Both the Swedes and the Finns have already experienced the power of Russian weapons… bad memories for them.  They still remember very well how they got hit in the teeth from us.  And if you suddenly forgot, so we can remind you….  So we can’t be weak.

Image Information:

Image: NATO Secretary General meets with Ministers of Defense for Finland and Sweden, March 2022
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nato/51942155994
Attribution: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Russia To Provide Belarus a Potential Nuclear Delivery Capability

Russian Air Force Su-25 Ground Attack Aircraft.

Russian Air Force Su-25 Ground Attack Aircraft.

Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) with 9M723K5 Short Range Ballistic Missiles and Transloader of the Iskander-M.

Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) with 9M723K5 Short Range Ballistic Missiles and Transloader of the Iskander-M.

“Lukashenko has asked Putin to help convert Belarusian military aircraft to carry nuclear warheads.”

“The strengthening of the “missile fist” of the Union State can deter the deployment of critical, but vulnerable stationary objects of NATO military infrastructure near the borders of both Belarus and Russia.”

The accompanying excerpted article from pro-Kremlin daily Izvestiya describes Russian plans to provide Belarus with the Iskander missile system.  Russia exports the Iskander-E limited capability export variant to Armenia and Algeria.  However, according to Izvestiya, due to changing “geopolitical realities,” Russia will provide Belarus with the same version of the Iskander that the Russian Armed Forces field.  In a related development, Russian government news service Interfax describes President Putin’s proposal to modernize Belarus’s aging fleet of Su-25 ground attack aircraft and President Lukashenko’s request to modify Belarussian aircraft so they may employ nuclear weapons.  In February, Belarus removed verbiage from the constitution regarding its status as a “nuclear-free zone.”  This prompted speculation that Russia may be planning to deploy nuclear weapons on Belarussian territory.  There have been no announcements from Moscow or Minsk on what, if any, arrangements they have made for such a contingency, but the announcement about the Iskander, which is capable of nuclear delivery, and Lukashenko’s request for nuclear delivery capable aircraft is notable.


Anton Lavrov, “Идите под ‘зонтик’ (Go Under the ‘Umbrella’),” Izvestiya (large circulation pro-Kremlin daily newspaper), 28 June 2022.  https://iz.ru/1356221/anton-lavrov/idite-pod-zontik

On June 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Iskander [missile systems] would be transferred to our closest.  According to him, Belarus will receive a variant with both ballistic and cruise missiles.

This means that we are talking about transferring to a partner in the Union State not a limited and simplified export version of the Iskander, but a full-fledged formidable system that is not inferior in capabilities to those that are in service with our country and are now being successfully used in a special operation in Ukraine.

Due to international agreements, the export Iskander-E is limited to a range of 280 km.  The deployment of such in Belarus would not bring a serious increase in NATO territory controlled by them compared to the Iskanders already in the Kaliningrad region…

Such a radical discrepancy in the capabilities of the export and “home” version has long encouraged the leadership of Belarus to strive to obtain the Russian version.  But the issue of its acquisition, as well as price, for various reasons, remained the subject of bargaining between Minsk and Moscow for years.  Dramatically changed geopolitical realities, it seems, will allow Alexander Lukashenko to get a variant in the “top configuration”.  It is clear that in the event of a real conflict, it will be possible to use it jointly with the Russian Federation and according to a single plan.

The strengthening of the “missile fist” of the Union State can deter the deployment of critical, but vulnerable stationary objects of NATO military infrastructure near the borders of both Belarus and Russia.  The Alliance will have to reckon with the prospect of receiving a highly accurate and irresistible retaliatory strike against them in the event of a military confrontation…

Iskander missiles have already been deployed in the Russian Kaliningrad region.  But their additional deployment in Belarus will give a significant increase in the reach zone, it will shift another 300 km to the south.

…the Kaliningrad bridgehead has serious shortcomings.  Its limited territory is completely visible from all sides by means of NATO reconnaissance, and the Iskander has limited maneuverability there. Issues of ammunition storage and protection are also not easy.  Belarus is much better protected from outside surveillance.  The complexes on its territory will have better survivability not only due to the air defense “umbrella”, but also due to their ability to maneuver around the country and even beyond its borders.  It is much more difficult to hunt for ground launchers in the wide open area of Belarus than the small area of Kaliningrad.  The experience of the special operation has shown that mobile long-range weapons systems are still a very difficult target to counter…

“Президент РФ предложил дооборудовать Су-25 для Белоруссии на российских заводах (President of the Russian Federation proposed to retrofit Belarussian Su-25s at Russian factories),” Interfax (Russian government news service), 25 June 2022.  https://www.interfax.ru/russia/847889

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin proposed to retrofit the Su-25 aircraft in service with the Belarusian army in Russia.

“The Belarusian army is armed with a fairly large group of Su-25 aircraft.  They could be appropriately equipped and training of flight personnel could be started accordingly,” Putin said during Russian-Belarusian summit talks on Saturday.  “This modernization should be carried out at aircraft factories in Russia.  We will agree on how to do this,” he stressed.Meanwhile, Lukashenko has asked Putin to help convert Belarusian military aircraft to carry nuclear warheads.  He acknowledged that he was “very concerned about the training flights of US and NATO aircraft, which are preparing to carry nuclear warheads and nuclear charges.”… “It’s very stressful for us,” he said.

Image Information:

Image: Russian Air Force Su-25 Ground Attack Aircraft
Source: Vitaly Kuzmin, https://photos.smugmug.com/Military/MAKS-2007/i-kphcXRn/0/e220a607/X2/maks-2007-003-X2.jpg
Attribution: CC BY 4.0

Image: Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) with 9M723K5 Short Range Ballistic Missiles and Transloader of the Iskander-M
Source: Vitaly Kuzmin, https://photos.smugmug.com/Military/ARMY-2016-Demonstration/i-bSmJnCF/0/ac0d8313/X2/Army2016demo-076-X2.jpg 
Attribution: CC BY 4.0

Algeria Caught Between Neutrality and Strategic Relations with Russia

“… the repercussions of the Russian-Ukrainian war are strongly present in these diplomatic moves, by virtue of Algeria’s strong strategic relationship with Russia and its stable relations with Western countries…”

Algeria has sought to remain neutral in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but historical strategic relations with Russia and growing security concerns on its borders may draw it closer to Russia.  As noted in the excerpts from the Saudi-funded Independent Arabia and the influential Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, these relations were on display during a late March visit to Algiers by a high-level Russian military delegation, during which the two sides agreed to hold joint anti-terror military exercises in southern Algeria in November.  Algeria is a key buyer of advanced Russian weaponry and an attractive strategic partner for Russia in the current geopolitical climate due to its location on NATO’s underbelly and its abundant natural gas resources.  Russia can help Algeria with two of its vital concerns: securing its southern border, particularly with Mali, and militarily balancing Morocco.  Relations with Morocco have soured over the past year, and Morocco’s blossoming military partnership with Israel threatens to tilt the balance in its favor.  Although the Algerian military has recently turned to China for some advanced weaponry, Russia remains its main security partner and possibly the only country willing to help Algeria maintain a favorable military balance with Morocco.

On 4 April, the speaker of the People’s National Assembly, Algeria’s lower house of parliament, hosted the Russian ambassador and reaffirmed Algeria’s commitment to its deep strategic relationship with Russia, in comments that were reported by the country’s official news agency Algeria Press Service.  However, Algerian in-depth cooperation with Russia does not equate to enthusiastic support for Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.  Like other countries of the region, Algeria hopes to stay out of a Russia-NATO conflict.  Algeria has been explicit in endorsing a negotiated settlement to the conflict, and its foreign minister has been active in an “Arab Contact Group” that seeks to mediate between Russia and Ukraine.  Still, Algeria’s relations with Russia run deeper than those of many other Arab countries, particularly when it comes to defense cooperation.  Algeria joined Syria in the vote against expelling Russia from the UN Human Rights Commission, making them the only two Arab countries to do so.  Most other Arab countries either abstained or refused to vote.  Mali’s government, which is increasingly close to Russia and a strategically important partner of Algeria’s, also voted against the resolution. 


“روسيا تسبق بلينكن إلى ‘حلبة الجزائر’

(Russia beats Blinken to ‘the Algerian Arena’),” Independent Arabia (Saudi-funded news website), 27 March 2022. https://tinyurl.com/mr2czhan

The Algerian Ministry of Defense announced that the Chief of Staff of the Army, Said Chengriha and other high-ranking officers met with members of a Russian delegation at the conclusion of their visit to Algeria. The Russian delegation was led by the Director of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation of Russia, Dmitry Shuvaev, and also included the Russian ambassador to Algeria. The meeting came at the end of the Russian delegation’s visit, from March 23 to 25, to attend the regular meeting of the Algerian-Russian Intergovernmental Committee in charge of military and technical cooperation…

Said Hadef, a researcher in Maghreb affairs, told The Independent… “It is difficult to predict what Russia was expecting from its allies, but it seems that the visit of the director of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation came under the weight of one month of war for Russia, and the consequent sanctions and Moscow’s fear of losing its allies.” He noted that the repercussions of the Russian-Ukrainian war are strongly present in these diplomatic moves, by virtue of Algeria’s strong strategic relationship with Russia and its stable relations with Western countries.  This is making it move cautiously, as it seeks to preserve its positions and its allies, and at the same time avoids “angering” the West, led by Washington.


“مناورات عسكرية جزائرية ـ روسية تحاكي محاربة الإرهاب 

(Algeria-Russia anti-terror military maneuvers),” al-Sharq al-Awsat (influential Saudi daily), 6 April 2022. https://tinyurl.com/3k8r9fuc

Yesterday, the Russian TASS news agency quoted the Russian Southern Military District as saying that joint anti-terror exercises of the Russian and Algerian ground forces will take place next November in Algeria. The upcoming maneuvers were discussed, according to the press office of the Southern Military District in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz, during the “first planning conference to prepare for joint Russian-Algerian ground forces anti-terror maneuvers.” The same source also announced that the military exercises will take place at a base located in the Adrar Governorate, in the far south of Algeria. According to the Russian Agency, during the conference, “the exercise’s scenario and the organization of logistics, including accommodation procedures, were coordinated.” It added that the maneuvers “will consist of tactical moves to search, detect and destroy illegal armed groups. On the Russian side, about 80 soldiers from the Southern Military District are scheduled to participate in the exercises.”


“رئيس المجلس الشعبي الوطني يستقبل السفير الروسي لدى الجزائر

(People’s National Assembly Speaker welcomes the Russian ambassador to Algeria),” Algeria Press Service (official Algerian news service), 4 April 2022. https://www.aps.dz/ar/algerie/124089-2022-04-04-14-29-34

On Monday, the Speaker of the People’s National Assembly, Mr. Ibrahim Bougali, received the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Algeria, Mr. Igor Belyaev, in a meeting centered on the “outstanding bilateral relations” that unite the two countries, according to a statement from the parliament.… In addition, Mr. Bougali affirmed “Algeria’s commitment to its in-depth strategic partnership with Russia” and called for “exploiting all available possibilities to diversify the areas of cooperation.”

Kremlin Pushing False Narrative About Ukraine to Russian School Children

“I think the teachers are wrong. We are told that the people of Ukraine were brainwashed, but it seems to me that we were brainwashed here.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has cleansed the Russian information space has been cleansed of almost every source daring to contradict the government-approved narrative.  This unanimity of thinking has now spread to the Russian educational system.  The first excerpt from the official news agency, TASS, describes a recently mandated school lesson developed by Russia’s Ministry of Education “dedicated to the liberation mission in Ukraine [which] was watched by more than 5 million schoolchildren.”  Among other topics, the lesson “explained the danger NATO poses” to Russia, while stressing that “the Russian military does not strike at cities, but disables only the military infrastructure, so nothing threatens the civilian population.” 

The second excerpt comes from an article from Russian-run opposition news source Novaya Gazeta, which was forced to suspend operations in late March due to censorship pressure.  The article recounts what happened to a 6th grader, when during this history lesson, he “expressed his position on the ‘special operation’” in Ukraine.  The student objected to the teacher’s claims that “Ukraine started [the war], and it will end when Ukraine capitulates,” also “that Nazism is flourishing among Ukrainians.”  After this classroom incident, the teacher apparently reported the student’s disturbance to the authorities.  As the article points out, a few days later, police visited the apartment of the student’s family, turning off the electricity and leaving a summons for an interrogation.  The article concludes by quoting the 6th grade student, who said, “I think the teachers are wrong. We are told that the people of Ukraine were brainwashed, but it seems to me that we were brainwashed here.”


“Открытый урок ‘Защитники мира’ посмотрели более 5 млн школьников (More than 5 million schoolchildren watched the open lesson ‘Defenders of Peace’),” TASS (official Russian news agency), 3 March 2022. https://tass.ru/obschestvo/13956837

The All-Russian open lesson of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, dedicated to the liberation mission in Ukraine, was watched by more than 5 million schoolchildren, the press service of the Institute for the Study of Childhood, Family and Education of the Russian Academy of Education reports.

“More than 5 million schoolchildren watched the open lesson. During the lesson, the audience was told in detail the background to today’s events and explained what danger NATO poses to our country. The lesson also helped to figure out how to distinguish truth from lies in the flow of information,” the report says…. As noted in the text, a video was shown during the lesson, which told about the common history of Russia and Ukraine, traditions, common holidays and cultural heritage….

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a special military operation in Ukraine in response to the appeal of the leaders of the Donbass republics for help. He stressed that Moscow’s plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories, the goal is the demilitarization and denazification of the country. As stated in the Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian military does not strike at cities, but disable only the military infrastructure, so nothing threatens the civilian population.

Source: Irina Lukyanova, “Диссидент из 6-го ‘А’ (Dissident from the 6th A),” Novaya Gazeta (independent Russian opposition news source), 9 March 2022.


At a history lesson, a Moscow schoolboy expressed his position on the “special operation.” After that, the police came to his house and turned off the electricity.

Kirill… is 12 years old, he studies in the 6th grade of a Moscow school. His mother Natalia says that the boy has Ukrainian roots, he attended the Ukrainian Cultural Center. What is happening now between Russia and Ukraine hurts him.

On Friday, March 4, sixth graders had their usual history lesson. Cyril himself tells about what happened:

– The teacher said: “Actually, this is not discussed with the sixth graders, but if you want to understand what is happening, then ask questions.” And I started asking questions. I asked: “Why did Putin start a war?” To this the teacher replied that it was a “special operation.” She said: “I don’t know exactly where our troops are now, but if they had stopped halfway, the Ukrainian aggression would have continued.” A small part of the class was on my side, they also asked questions….

After that, I asked the question, why did someone start this at all and when will it all end? She said that Ukraine started it, and it will end when Ukraine capitulates. She also told us that Nazism is flourishing among Ukrainians…

This opposition of the sixth graders did not go unnoticed….

The next day, Sunday, Kirill was at home alone. Mom left for work. At this time, two policemen began to knock on the apartment, but Kirill did not open it. They knocked for about half an hour, then turned off the electricity in the apartment, left a summons “to be called for an interrogation” under the door and left. The summons contains an illegibly written date of the interrogation and a threat to “subject to arrest” in case of non-appearance….Kirill calmly explains his position: “I think the teachers are wrong. We are told that the people of Ukraine were brainwashed, but it seems to me that we were brainwashed here….”

Some Latin American Countries Responsive to Russian Entreaties To Remain Silent on Ukraine War

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro.

“Russia said in December that escalating tensions over Ukraine could lead to a repeat of the Cuban missile crisis, when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war.”

Many countries in Latin America opted to say little about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because of their reticence to ruffle their relationships with Russia.  This relative silence is the result of persistent Russian attempts to cultivate influence with anti-Western Latin American leaders in the United States’ backyard as a way to counterbalance Western actions in what the Kremlin considers its sphere of influence.  Center-left Argentine news outlet Infobae reports that Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov visited the region and met with Russia’s most important allies in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.  Borisov promised closer relations and greater “strategic depth” to Russia’s security cooperation.  In turn, the regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba have parroted Russian talking points about NATO and sanctions.  Further, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro and Argentina’s president Alberto Fernández both visited Putin in Moscow shortly before the war, according to Spain’s politically left-leaning main daily El País.  Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov recently stated that Russia had the ability to deploy forces and equipment to Latin America through its security and cooperation agreements.  Russia’s pattern of outreach to Latin America is not new since its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022: similar diplomatic and military visits presaged Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 (then President Dmitri Medvedev) and its invasion of Crimea in 2014 (Putin himself).


“Rusia continúa estrechando lazos con las dictaduras latinoamericanas (Russia continues to strengthen ties with Latin American dictatorships),” Infobae (Argentine news outlet generally seen as center-left politically), 19 February 2022.  https://www.infobae.com/america/america-latina/2022/02/19/rusia-continua-estrechando-lazos-con-las-dictaduras-latinoamericanas-el-viceprimer-ministro-de-putin-visito-cuba/ 

Borisov arrived on the island after visiting Nicaragua and Venezuela, Russia’s key allies in Latin America, and said Russia would also deepen bilateral ties with the two countries…Russia said in December that escalating tensions over Ukraine could lead to a repeat of the Cuban missile crisis, when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war…Cuban dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel discussed coordinating a ‘strategic partnership’ with Putin in January, as tensions began to rise in Ukraine.

Source: “Ucrania, una guerra incómoda para Brasil y Argentina (Ukraine, an uncomfortable war for Brazil and Argentina),” El País (Spain’s main daily generally considered politically-left), 1 March 2022.  https://elpais.com/internacional/2022-03-02/ucrania-una-guerra-incomoda-para-brasil-y-argentina.html 

Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Fernández’s Argentina have been trying to remain neutral since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.  Only eight days had passed after the Brazilian president was received in Moscow by Vladimir Putin and twenty since a similar visit by the Argentine.  Both Latin American presidents then highlighted the good relations they maintain with the Kremlin.  But the war has turned everything upside down.  The diplomatic tension leaves little room for the grays, and both Bolsonaro and Fernández, located at the ideological poles, face domestic problems due to their international positioning.

Image Information:

Image caption:  Russian President Vladimir Putin and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro.
Source:  Kremlin.ru via Wikimedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vladimir_Putin_%26_Nicol%C3%A1s_Maduro_in_Tehran,_24_November_2015.jpg
Attribution:  CC BY 4.0

U.S. CAATSA Sanctions Hurt Turkey’s Defense Agreements with Third Parties

Turkey’s T-129 ATAK Helicopter.

Turkey’s T-129 ATAK Helicopter.

“The US’s military embargo against Turkey has resulted in the loss of an important contract.  Pakistan decided against the ATAK helicopters it was waiting to buy from TUSAŞ [Turkish Aerospace Industries]…”

In April 2021, the U.S. government started imposing the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on Turkey because of Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missile systems from Russia, making Turkey the first NATO member to be subject to these sanctions.  The accompanying article from the pro-government Trhaber.com examines the first example of a Turkish defense contract with a third country, in this case Pakistan, falling through due to the CAATSA sanctions.  The excerpt reports that Pakistan has cancelled a $1.5 billion contract to buy 30 of the type T-129 ATAK combat helicopters from Turkish Aerospace Industries.  As the passage reports, American Honeywell made the helicopters’ turboshaft engine, so permission was needed from the United States for an export license, which could not be granted becaue of the CAATSA sanctions.  The passage also notes Pakistan has now turned to China to buy their Z-10ME combat helicopters.

In addition to the defense deals with third parties falling through, like this example with Pakistan, the CAATSA sanctions also have other, less quantifiable negative impacts on the Turkish defense industry.  As the second excerpt from an interview with a Turkish defense expert featured on Medyaskopetv.com via YouTube points out, the Turkish defense industry has effectively become “contaminated” or “blacklisted.”  He predicts that any Western country, or any “non-Western country wanting to have good relations with the U.S.” will have major reservations about doing business with the Turkish defense industry.  He notes this is not a technical issue, but a diplomatic one.


“ABD taş koydu, Pakistan ATAK helikopterinden vazgeçti! 1,5 milyar dolarlık anlaşma iptal (The USA prevented it, Pakistan [changed its mind] on the ATAK helicopter! The $1.5-billion-dollar deal is cancelled),” Trhaber.com (Turkish pro-government news site), 5 January 2022. https://www.trhaber.com/savunma/abd-tas-koydu-pakistan-atak-helikopterinden-vazgecti-15-milyar-dolarlik-h27804.html

The US’s military embargo against Turkey has resulted in the loss of an important contract.  Pakistan decided against the ATAK helicopters it was waiting to buy from TUSAŞ [Turkish Aerospace Industries] for three years.  The 1.5 billion dollar contract, which was the biggest export deal [in a single contract] for the Turkish defense industry, foresaw the sale of 30 combat helicopters to Pakistan. 

But the T129 ATAK helicopters’ LHTEC CTW800-4A turboshaft engine is made by the American company Honeywell, so permission was needed from the US for an export license.  Despite Ankara’s communication efforts, no official response was received from Washington.  The attitude of the White House and Congress resulted in Turkey losing this 1.5 billion dollar contract. 

The T-129 ATAK helicopters had been tested by the Pakistani Army multiple times in difficult terrains, and had successfully proven that it was the most effective combat helicopter in its class.  The ATAK helicopter had garnered great admiration from Pakistani pilots, but are unable to reach [those pilots] due to the U.S. preventing the process. 

…The sad development for the Turkish defense industry, was announced by Pakistani military spokesperson Babar Iftikar in a press briefing.  Iftikhar said, in response to a question, that they have decided against the T-129 ATAK purchase from Turkey due to the delays, and have instead started talks with China to buy their Z-10ME combat helicopter.  The U.S.’s blockage of Turkey enabled China to export more products.

Source: Işın Eliçin with Mevlütoğlu, “Trump yönetiminden Ankara’ya S-400 yaptırımları – Konuk: Arda Mevlütoğlu (S-400 sanctions to Ankara by the Trump Administration – Guest: Arda Mevlütoğlu),” Medyaskopetv.com via YouTube (reputable, independent Turkish media platform), 15 December 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPzR50sc6Fs

In a way, the Turkish Defense Industry Directorate (SSB) has been contaminated / blacklisted.  In this case, other Western countries or companies, or any non-Western country that has or wants to have good relations with the U.S. and their institutions, may have reservations regarding doing business with Turkeys Defense Industry Directorate… This is not a directly technical issue, it’s more of a diplomatic issue.

Image Information:

Image: Turkey’s T-129 ATAK Helicopter.
Source: wiltshirespostter, via Wikimedia Common
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BG12-1001  (14662033896).jpg
Attribution: CC BY-SA 2.0

Russian Invasion of Ukraine Detrimental to Turkey

Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“… conflict… poses a significant risk to the Turkish defense industry.”

The accompanying articles highlight that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses significant risks to Turkey’s already troubled economy, energy security, and defense industry regardless of Turkey’s position in this conflict as it balances its NATO obligations with its relations with Russia.  According to the first article from globally read security news site al-Monitor, the war will have crippling consequences for the Turkish economy since Russia is Turkey’s key economic partner in many sectors, including tourism, construction, and energy.  The second article from anti-Turkish government daily Sözcü states that sanctions targeting the Russian banking system will negatively impact Russian projects in Turkey, including the construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant that Turkey contracted to a Russian company for development.  The war in Ukraine will also make trade routes in the region insecure and negatively impact Turkey’s economic interests and trade with other countries in the region.  Furthermore, according to the Sözcü article, the war will likely disrupt the flow of natural gas to Turkey, leading to an energy crisis since Russia is the largest natural gas supplier to Turkish markets.  The two countries have nearly completed the construction of two natural gas pipelines carrying Russian natural gas to Turkey and some European countries.

The third article from independent Turkish news agency Anka Haber Ajansı highlights that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will also have significant implications for the Turkish defense industry.  Defense cooperation between Ukraine and Turkey is significantly larger than Turkey’s widely reported TB-2 drone export to Ukraine.  Ukraine’s two major firms in aviation engine and manufacturing, Ukrainian Motor Sich and Ivchenko Progress, a Ukrainian state-owned company, provide engines for the Turkish defense company Baykar’s Bayraktar Akıncı drone and the Turkish Aerospace Industries’ T929 ATAK 2 attack helicopter.  Turkey is also building a MilGem-class corvette for the Ukrainian navy, which the article notes, is one of the biggest exports for the Turkey’s defense industry.  The article points out that the conflict will hinder Turkey’s ability to sustain the supply of subsystems and products to its defense industry from Ukraine.


Amberin Zaman,“Russian invasion of Ukraine would spell more economic turbulence for Turkey,”al-Monitor (a globally read security news site with regionally based reporting),07 February 2022. https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/02/russian-invasion-ukraine-would-spell-more-economic-turbulence-turkey

War would bring Turkey under intense pressure from its Western allies to join putative sanctions against Russia, a critical trading partner and supplier of natural gas. Turkey will do its best to remain neutral, as signaled anew by Erdogan in comments to reporters en route home from Kyiv.

Ukraine has bought at least 20 drones from Turkey since 2018 and has used one only once in combat against Russian-backed separatists in Donbas in October 2021, eliciting growls from Moscow.

However, Turkey’s worries go beyond having to balance its NATO commitments with Russia, a key economic partner and since 2016 security partner in Syria. An actual war could have crippling consequences for Turkey’s battered economy.

In Ukraine, Turkey’s flourishing defense cooperation would likely suffer in a Russian attack as well.

Recent deals between Turkey and Ukraine include the supply of gas turbines for Turkish-designed naval vessels by Ukraine’s Zorya Mashproekt. Ukraine has ordered four of the MilGem class corvettes for itself.

Tourism, which Erdogan is banking on to help with an economic recovery ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections that are scheduled to be held by 2023, is also at risk.

… At best, Turkey can provide the two sides with “an optional diplomatic channel of communication” through which their respective messages are relayed.

Source: Dünya Taşlardan,“Rusya-Ukrayna krizi Türkiye’yi nasıl etkiler? (How does the Russia-Ukraine crisis affect Turkey?),”Sözcü (an anti-Turkish government daily),22 January 2022. https://www.sozcu.com.tr/2022/dunya/rusya-ukrayna-krizi-turkiyeyi-nasil-etkiler-6904478/

A possible war may involve significant losses for Turkey. First of all, if there is a war situation in the Black Sea, it will be difficult for tourists to come from both Russia and Ukraine this summer. Another problem is that Turkey meets most of its wheat needs from Russia and Ukraine. Since the war situation will also affect these imports, there may be rapid price hikes in food products…

In case of war, natural gas pipelines such as TurkStream and BlueStream in the Black Sea, which seem to be an important source of income for Russia, may also be attacked. Such a case may lead to a natural gas crisis in Turkey. By inviting both the Ukrainian and Russian presidents to Turkey, Turkey is actually signaling that it will remain neutral in this crisis with its mediation offer…

Turkey does not recognize and does not implement the sanctions imposed by the USA and EU countries on Russia. In this sense, we can say that there is an understanding and cooperation between the two countries. Although Turkey may not implement the Russian sanctions, especially the sanctions that would be applied in the banking system will negatively affect the Russian projects in Turkey. The construction of Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant may be delayed.

Since there will be no dollar circulation, Russia may have to pause its projects. Again, as the Black Sea will become a war zone, the use of commercial roads will be difficult, which will be reflected in the prices.

Source: Arda Mevlütoğlu,“Turkey – Ukraine Defense Cooperation In Russia’s Crosshairs?,”Anka Haber Ajansı (an independent Turkish news agency based in Ankara),06 February 2022. https://ankahaber.net/AnkaReview/Columnists/turkeyukraine_defense_cooperation_in_russias_crosshairs_73570

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky signed several agreements on Feb. 3, during Erdogan’s visit to Kyiv. The deals included a free trade agreement and a pact on cooperation in advanced technologies, aviation, and space…

Turkey’s sale of armed drones to Ukraine has come under harsh criticism by Russia. The TB2, however, is not the only subject of the rapidly enhancing defense industry cooperation between Kyiv and Ankara. Ukraine has become a preferred supplier for Turkey, especially for engines. A potential conflict, therefore, poses a significant risk to the Turkish defense industry…

Ukraine has two major firms in aviation engine design and manufacturing, Motor Sich and Ivchenko Progress…

The Bayraktar TB2’s manufacturer, Baykar Savunma. has developed a strategic reconnaissance/surveillance and strike drone that is designated Bayraktar Akinci. The Akinci can be powered by various types of turboprop engines, among them the Ivchenko Progress AI-450T… Baykar Savunma signed another deal with Motor Sich for the MS500 engine for the Akinci drone.

The drones are not the only area of engine procurement from Ukraine. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TA) signed a contract with Motor Sich for the TV3-117 turboshaft engines last June for use with the prototypes of the T929 ATAK 2 next-generation attack helicopter project. The Ukrainian company is also offering the same engine for the T925 10-ton class general-purpose helicopter project of TA.

Marine gas turbine specialist Zorya Mashproekt has become a candidate for supplying gas turbines for Turkish-designed naval vessels, mainly for the MilGem class corvettes… The MilGem sale to the Ukrainian Navy is one of the biggest defense exports of the Turkish defense industry…

An armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine poses a major risk for sustaining the supply of subsystems and products to Turkey. The level of risk depends on the scale of the conflict.

In a limited-scale conflict scenario, where the clashes occur in and around the Donbas region, there is a lower risk of Ukrainian defense industry facilities being targeted by Russian armed forces…

The second scenario is a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian armed forces. This scenario is the worst for Turkey and the region. In such a case, defense industry facilities as well as strategic industrial and infrastructure elements would be primary targets for the Russian military. The destruction of manufacturing facilities as well as the loss of skilled personnel would deal a devastating blow to the Ukrainian defense industry as well as to Turkish defense projects.

There may definitely be other scenarios involving intervention by external actors, diplomatic resolution, or various types of armed conflict. However, one thing is certain: a conflict of any type or scale would be a worst-case scenario for Turkey.

Image Information:

Image: Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
]Source: Russian Presidential Executive Office, kremlin.ru/events/president/news/62936, via Wikimedia, https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vladimir_Putin_and_Recep_Tayyip_Erdogan_(2020-03-05)_03.jpg, Files from Kremlin.ru
|Attribution: CC-BY-4.0 | Russia photographs taken on 2020-03-05

The Future of Turkish-Russian Relations

Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“…as long as Turkey keeps its relations with the West strong, it will find a more comfortable space for itself against Russia.”

Turkey’s recent purchase of S-400 systems from Russia has led to questions about Turkey’s “western-ness” and trustworthiness as a NATO ally.  Traditionally a pro-Western country, Turkey’s increasing shift towards Russia despite their complex relationship is one of the biggest geopolitical shifts since the Cold War.  As such, the evolution of Turkish-Russian relations will have implications for the United States, NATO, and great power competition.  The accompanying articles from Turkish sources provide an outlook on Turkish-Russian relations, discussing both issues of contention and cooperation.

The articles, one from pro-government Turkish newspaper Hürriyet and another from the Istanbul-based independent think tank Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), note that the points of friction between Turkey and Russia are the implementation of the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh; developments in Libya; tensions in Syria’s Idlib Province; and changes in eastern Ukraine.  The Syrian conflict has the potential to impact Turkish-Russian relations the most because, as the Hürriyet article highlights, Russia continues to strike Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces around Idlib and Turkey’s areas of operation.  The tensions between Russia and Turkey will likely increase once the Russia-backed Syrian regime launches an operation on Idlib.  Both articles note the Ukrainian conflict will be another high-level point of friction between Turkey and Russia because of Turkey’s drone sale to Ukraine.  However, according to the EDAM publication, despite these frictions, Turkey and Russia cooperate in the energy sector, including Russia supplying natural gas to, and building a nuclear power plant in, Turkey.  Russia also maintains strong trade relations with Turkey, investing in its tourism and defense industry.  The Hürriyet article also refers to President Erdoğan’s statement from September 2021 that Turkey will deepen its defense cooperation with Russia and is considering purchasing other weapons systems in addition to the recently purchased S-400s.

The EDAM article states that the foundation of Turkish-Russian relations is built on a personal dialogue between their presidents rather than on an institutional foundation, and Presidents Erdoğan and Putin have managed to de-escalate tensions so far when they rise.  However, considering the points of friction, Turkish-Russian relations remain fragile.  Finally, the Hürriyet article notes Turkish-Russian relations are asymmetrical and the scale will further tilt in Russia’s favor if Turkey continues to drift away from its Western allies.  Therefore, the article suggests that Turkey should ensure its relations with its Western allies remain strong to counterbalance Russia.


Sedat Ergin,“2021’den 2022’ye Türk Dış Politikası (5)-Rusya ile çatışarak işbirliği modeli ilerlemeye devam ediyor (Turkish Foreign Policy from 2021 to 2022 (5)- Adversarial Cooperation model with Russia continues),” Hürriyet (a pro-government Turkish newspaper),04 January 2022. https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/sedat-ergin/2021den-2022ye-turk-dis-politikasi-5-rusya-ile-catisarak-isbirligi-modeli-ilerlemeye-devam-ediyor-41974354

The Russians see no harm in continuing their air operations in a region where TAF [Turkish Armed Forces] units are present. We can guess that with these attacks, Russia wants to maintain a certain pressure on Turkey, which prevented the regime’s army from entering Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria…

The previous day also witnessed the first telephone conversation of the New Year between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Brief statements with largely similar content were made from both sides. In the Kremlin’s statement, there was an indirect reference to the Ukraine-linked NATO-Russia tension. Apart from this, it was stated that the topics of the Caucasus, Libya, and Syria were on the agenda in both of statements. Intention and determination to further the cooperation between the two countries were also emphasized as an important common theme in the texts.

Meanwhile, the importance of 2021 was that it was a year…[of] cooperation in Turkish-Russian relations that would extend to the coming years… President Erdoğan went to Sochi at the end of September and during the meeting he held with Putin, he proposed to his counterpart the construction of two new nuclear power plants in Turkey, in addition to Akkuyu… Putin also offered to cooperate with Turkey on launching rockets into space by establishing platforms at sea and on land.

A more critical development was that Erdoğan also suggested to Putin “deepening cooperation” in the defense industry during this meeting. In this context, the President announced that they discussed the further development of the S-400 project, and listed aircraft engines, warplanes, warship, and submarine construction as new potential areas of cooperation.

In this respect, Erdoğan is also trying to intimidate the USA and European countries by stating that the weapon systems that Turkey cannot obtain or have difficulty in obtaining from the West can very well be obtained from Russia. Although the second chapter of the S-400 project has not been signed, it remains on the table…

President Erdoğan keeps cooperation with Russia as a bargaining card in his hand against the West…

… Erdoğan followed a delicate balance between the USA and Russia throughout 2021… In any case, the continuation of cracks, conflicts, and tensions within the Western alliance, as well as the realization of new potential arms sales to Turkey, will be developments that will please the Kremlin.

This asymmetry will be widened further [in Russia’s favor] as Turkey’s relations with the West deteriorate… It should not be forgotten that as long as Turkey keeps its relations with the West strong, it will find itself in a more comfortable space against Russia. The decline in Turkey’s foreign relations with the west will also weaken Turkey’s hand against Russia.

Source: Doç. Dr. Çiğdem Üstün,“2022’de Türkiye-Rusya İlişkileri: İşbirliği-Rekabet İkileminin Devamı Beklenirken… (Turkey-Russia Relations in 2022: Expecting the Continuation of Cooperation-Competition Dilemma…),” Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM) (Istanbul-based an independent think tank), 13 January 2022. https://edam.org.tr/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/2022ye-Bakis.pdf

Although relations with Russia have been handled on the axis of cooperation, especially in the energy and defense sectors in recent years, it is not a relationship model free from crises and problems… Because Turkey’s relations with Russia are based on bilateral relations between leaders rather than on institutional foundations, it has a relationship model that is difficult to be called sustainable…

​​The ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, the possible developments in Libya, the tensions in and around Idlib, Ukraine and Belarus are noticeable issues that have the potential to affect relations.

Of course, it should not be ignored that as much as their problems [need a resolution], there are areas where Turkey and Russia are trying to develop cooperation. After the Blue Stream, the Turkish Stream project is a step taken to strengthen the energy ties between Russia and Turkey. Energy takes first place in Turkey’s imports from Russia.

Considering the problems experienced in its relations with the West, both the EU and the USA, it is expected that Turkey’s relations with Russia will continue to be economically important. However, every step taken towards Russia has risks to further wear down Turkey’s relations with its Western allies… the issues that occupied the agenda in 2021 also occupy the agenda in 2022, and that it is more important to benefit economically and geopolitically for Russia in the framework of possible tensions, than to provide a permanent peace environment in the region…

Image Information:

Image: Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Source: Russian Presidential Executive Office, kremlin.ru/events/president/news/62936, via Wikimedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vladimir_Putin_and_Recep_Tayyip_Erdogan_(2020-03-05)_04.jpg, Files from Kremlin.ru | CC-BY-4.0 | Russia photographs taken on 2020-03-05