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American Incoherence and the Making of Turkey’s Kurdish War

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SDF fighters in central Raqqa US-backed Forces Advance Against IS in Central Raqqa, September 6, 2017. Image Credit: By Mahmoud Bali (VOA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In mid-2012 Turkey was alarmed when the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) took over a string of Syrian border towns. The PYD is the Syrian branch of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a guerrilla-style war against Turkey’s government since 1984. Turkey has long warned that Turkey would never tolerate a Kurdish military presence on the country’s southern border. Following its warnings with action, Turkey has intensified its military campaign against Syrian Kurdish fighters. It is easy to blame, Turkey’s Erdoğan for being the culprit for this escalating confict. However, the United States’ must take a major blame for its myopic focus on vanquishing regional jihadism. The US’ Syria policy is inchorent and successive US administrations have obsessed over targeting the Islamic State (ISIS) without considering the full ramifications of their actions. Today Turkey’s incursion into northwestern Syria is just one consequence. After initially sharing Erdoğan’s concerns, when America found that the PYD is a useful ally to fight the ISIS, it started providing weapons and training to the PYD’s armed wing.

Full-scale invasions rarely succeed in uprooting jihadist threats. But America’s subcontracting of its battles to local fighters in Syria has created new perils. If Trump is to break with the past and earn the credit he is claiming, the US must find a new way to achieve its security goals without deploying entire divisions. At the moment, however, the US is offering Turkey – and the region – only incoherence and more empty promises.

Read the full article in Project Syndicate.

 

Features

A Russian Perspective of Cold War II

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Kremlin.ru [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Given the context of recent diplomatic confrontation between the West and Russia, Sergei Karaganov argues that the psychological backdrop to the bilateral relationship today is worse than it was during the Cold War. However, he does not agree that this is a sequel to the new Cold War. Karaganov has a point. He argues that a Cold War-like confrontation would require an ideological component that is decidedly lacking on the Russian side.

Even if the US decides to wage a unilateral Cold War, its chances against Russia, China, and other emerging powers would not be very good. The balance of military, political, economic, and moral power has simply shifted too far away from the West to be reversed.

Karaganov argues that the problem between Russia and the West is a problem among Westerners themselves and it is only because established elites in the West have not come to terms with reality: the balance of military, political, economic, and moral power has shifted too far away from the West to be reversed.

Read the full article in Project Syndicate.

 

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Balance of Power

Trump-Kim Summit: Optimism and the Need for Cautious Realism

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© Bwag/Wikimedia

An opportunity that is difficult ot seize and easy to squander is how Ramesh Thakur explains the upcoming Kim-Trump summit. However, he warns that if President Trump decertifies the Iran nuclear deal on May 12 as he has threatened to do, the move would almost certainly call into question America’s good faith and ability to honor negotiated international agreements.

Deliberating about the opportunity that the Kim-Trump talks presents, Thakur argues that that optimism must be tempered with cautious realism.

North Korea is the nuclear problem from hell. Neither South Korea nor the United States can control the narrative; definitions of success or failure are highly relative; and Trump must enter the talks with no exit strategy. The six decades since the Korean War ended in 1953 – with a ceasefire but no peace agreement – have hardened an increasingly dangerous stalemate. Although neither side is likely to launch a premeditated nuclear attack, the risk of war from miscommunication, misperception, or miscalculation is real.

Read the full article in Project Syndicate.

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Perspectives

Cold War II: Blame the Russians?

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By Carlos3653 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A quarter-century after the end of the Cold War, the world unexpectedly finds itself in a second one. This state of affairs was anything, but inevitable argues Richard N. Haass. It is in neither side’s interest to escalate tensions further, he says. However, the apparent problem with his arguments is the fact that he is looking to blame Russia for this new Cold War. On one had Haass forgets that the US has had a history of interfering in the internal politics of other nations. Haass finds fault with the US policies only on two counts – economic support and NATO expansion.

US could and should have been more generous as Russia made its painful transition to a market economy in the 1990s. Nor is it clear that NATO enlargement was preferable to other security arrangements for Europe that would have included Russia.

As a reader from outside the US, this article is nothing more than a US version of the recent confrontations with Russia – an assessment that goes to great lengths to lay the blame of Putin’s doorstep.

Read the article in Project Syndicate.

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