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Updates on the ‘Berlin Wall’ Week - Arindam Mukherjee



Guess Scrooge realized that vacating Syria would be handing over way too many aces to Putin, and that, propagandized properly by the papers that ‘love’ him might outweigh his other ‘good deeds’ at a crucial time. Hence Uncle army is back in Syria. The language is emphatically erratic. Oil field is ours (quite clear). Strategic points along Iraq Syria border is ours (clear). We care for the Kurds; sure do (clear), but we will decide which Kurds we love (vague). We have no beef with Turkey (very vague). We might create that zone for the Kurds after all (vague). Depends on our mood (crystal clear).

Dig that.  

I don’t know if they deliberately make stuff so confusing or are generally dimwit by nature. These kinds of short-term, ostrich-syndrome affected, indecisive moves don’t impact to anything; no pathways get created. If anything, the wriggle-space diminishes over time to leave one with literally zero space to manoeuvre. Think of one of those mobile phone games where you keep shooting at those balloon clusters. They keep coming; they don’t stop; and they pile up on your screen if you miss a big one. And soon you can’t move your damn gun. Uncle’s lame overtures to Turkey, then to the Kurds, then to Turkey, and then to the Kurds promises to be paralytic in nature. Middle East is in a state of flux. There are millions of balloons – and they’ll keep coming.

On the ground and as of now, a chunk of Syria (the oily region) remains in Uncle control. Those like us that were faintly relieved that the threat of the Balkanisation of Syria was perhaps over for now, had perhaps assumed wrong. With the oilfields and with the Kurd lobby in Washington convincing people there that they are the best bet as far as Middle East is concerned – better than the only other ally left (Turkey) – it is back in the party again with a DID YOU MISS ME? tag across the forehead.

Moves like these are going to add on to the headwinds that the Uncle-Turkey relationship is already facing. And I am again being reminded of Friedman – the chap who had predicted that Turkey is going to be more than just a pain in the ass for Uncle; Turkey is going to be The Regional Power in Eurasian transit zone, no less. Following the 1998 PNAC, when Uncle tried to take over as the caretaker of the Middle East (began around 2000 I guess), he had made a miscalculation; which a few of us realize now. That mistake was assuming that Turkey was kind of a natural ally in his quest to ‘civilize’ Middle East. Could have made for an interesting debate then, considering Turkey’s history, geography and leadership inclinations. No one had that debate. Turkey – clipped, stripped, and starved then – had trudged along silently till the time it took to gain some muscle and perspective, and is now trying best to be back to its dormant track of establishing a Middle East Caliphate, relationship with the West be damned. The four solid reasons that have fast forwarded this mission of theirs are a) EU’s squeamishness to consider Turkey as sufficiently European; b) Uncle’s half-assed regime change trials in Syria; c) orchestrating that failed coup to topple Sultan, and finally c) warming up to the Kurds. It is clear which way the wind blows; photo-ops and friendship ‘chats’ notwithstanding.  

In this journey Sultan finds an onlooker – the Czar in Moscow – taking more than just a lazy interest. [About this Czar-Sultan relation, I best leave it for another day.]



Moscow, meanwhile, taking a leaf out of the great Chinese business handbook has been on a consolidation spree with EU. They are on an overdrive to impress upon the mainlanders that Russia is a stable community that doesn’t plan on unwanted disruptions. Given the media and MSM frenzy that is a difficult task to accomplish (like the media completely overlooked the Nordstream II news), but the efforts are on. The failure/unwillingness/incapacity of the EU leaders to get its citizenry to accept and internalize out of other important things, the fact that Europe is destined to remain joint-at-hip with Russia has put the onus back on the Czar to lay down a picture that at least initiates acceptance. Interestingly, Emmanuel Macron has something extremely important to say on this. (In a rather BRILLIANT interview), he has expressed that while EU was busy believing itself to be, and behaving as a ‘market’, it did not realize that it was losing its core very quickly.

Well, what can you say? Being the dumping ground of Uncle’s friendship: random experimentation with bombing and Balkanization, force feeding of expensive oil and gas, refugees and radicalism, erratic geopolitics along the eastern border… All of these has a cost. And that cost has been Europe’s character. [Losing identity is HUGE. And that has underlined the entire interview. Whether Macron has realized that at the wake of the yellow vests, or with Obama’s pivot to Pacific – as he says – is open to debate. But the sense of disillusionment is not.] 

Germany interestingly, on the 30th year of back to being one of the centres of global attention, is trying to take a joint lead with France. The signals are mixed. At one end they take in random refugees in the name of young labour and continue their gamble with the fate of Europe. At the other, they try to resist Uncle where it comes to Chinese or Russian investments, in a realization that the balance of values and preservation of peace that Marshall Plan or NATO stood for doesn’t hold water these days like they used to. Uncle’s plans are what they are: Uncle’s. And they probably featured Europe in the past, but whether they do today could be a tricky guess. Would have loved to write more on well-placed and misplaced German enthusiasm; don’t have enough bandwidth for that.

Macron, in his interview has been more assertive. Consider this: “The paradox is that both the American decision and the Turkish offensive have had the same result: sacrificing our partners who fought against Daesh on the ground, the Syrian Democratic Forces [a militia dominated by Syrian Kurds] That’s the crucial issue. From a strategic and political standpoint, what’s happened is a huge problem for NATO. It makes two things all the more essential on the military and strategic level. Firstly, European defence—Europe must become autonomous in terms of military strategy and capability. And secondly, we need to reopen a strategic dialogue, without being naive and which will take time, with Russia. Because what all this shows is that we need to re-appropriate our neighbourhood policy, we cannot let it be managed by third parties who do not share the same interests. So that for me is an important point, it’s a priority issue which is both geopolitical and military.”

You might make fun of the man – and I might even join you in that – but don’t confuse this interview. This is a rarity: the result of a whole lot of serious deliberation by a whole lot of serious people across serious positions, along a level that Europe hasn’t undertaken in a long time. And if they have decided to exhibit this avatar, that means that there is some serious effort that’s being employed to rebuild what Uncle had deliberately dismantled/destroyed over the last 20 or so odd years… And so, you can be sure that there’s some underwater pedalling that’s on already.

If you are looking to commemorate the Fall of the Wall, locate the interview and give it a read. Meanwhile, I would wait for an interactive between Douglas Murray and Emmanuel Macron.

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