Wrong Train to Damascus: Will Erdogan Catch the Last Car?


Russia and Turkey were involved in the longest series of military conflicts in European history: they lasted between the 16th and 20th centuries and Russia has won the overwhelming majority of these 12 wars; a Serbian political analyst attempts to understand if a thirteenth is looming and what decisive factors could lead to it being unleashed.

There is a Serbian folk wisdom which says that “when you enter the wrong train, then all the stations are incorrect”.

This wisdom could be applied to the relationship between the Western countries and Russia, primarily to the one between Russia, Turkey and the US, Serbian political analyst Bojan Bilbija writes in his article for Serbian online newspaper Politika.

If one would assume that all the three are already in the wrong wagon, then the prospects of the thirteenth conflict between Moscow and Ankara are much more likely than widely anticipated, the journalist says.

However the unleashing of the one depends on several key factors, he assumes.

The conflict between Ankara and the second most powerful army of the world would be completely irrational without a direct support of Washington, the author reasons.

“In reality, the Russian armed forces have at least three to five times quantitative superiority above Turkey in every aspect,” the author says.
Ankara and NATO should be even more concerned not just about this qualitative superiority, but about a number of advanced weapons systems Russia has in possession, which the Turks will not be able to get in the long while, he adds.

However what is it that could give Turkey the hope?

The first option is an assertion that a “weakened” Russia does not have enough economic strength to power a large scale conflict, and that a “sharp decline in living standards” within the country could lead to the overthrow of the country’s authorities, the author suggests.

However, he goes on, one should keep in mind that the Russian economy and state budget are regulated in such a way that they accumulate significant reserves and provide saving options without major cuts to the country’s social policy and military investment.

Russia still has a noticeable trade surplus and its huge infrastructure projects — such as the 19-kilometer bridge to Crimea and the construction of the monumental stadiums for 2018 World Football Cup — show that its financial flexibility causes no doubts.

The country’s gold and foreign currency reserves “show no tendency of melting,” the author further suggests, which proves that “even if there was a sudden increase in military spending — which in recent years have already been enormous and estimates to hundreds of billions of dollars – it would be durable for the Russian economy in the medium term”.

The second option for Erdogan, the political analyst says, is the involvement of NATO in the conflict with Russia. This is also a very controversial point, he suggests, as in this case Moscow should be the first to attack the Turkish territory, which would be very difficult to cause given the recent death of a Russian pilot when the Russian bomber was downed by Turkey in the Syrian airspace.

In such a case it would be a backup of Turkey’s aggression rather than its defense.

Given all the above, Erdogan can only rely on the US foreign policy or what it would bet on: cooperation with “unreliable” Putin, which will lead to the prolonged ceasefire and de-escalation of the warmongering rhetoric of the American war hawks or on discrediting of Kremlin’s “good intentions” and further insistence on the soon ceasefire failure in fear of Moscow’s tight control over Syria?

“In case the latter option prevails, Erdogan will not miss the opportunity to catch his wrong train to Damascus,” the author finally states.




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