Russia Is Using Economic Leverage to Turn Turkey into an Ally

Aug. 10 2018

While the Turkish-Russian rivalry goes back at least to the 18th century, and has flared up recently over tensions in Syria, there have been signs in recent years of a possible alliance between the two countries. As Recep Tayyip Erdogan leads his country in an increasingly anti-Western, anti-American, and anti-Israel direction, a realignment with Vladimir Putin seems more and more likely. Aykan Erdemir and John Lechner explain how a recent scandal involving the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, a joint Russian-Turkish venture, sheds light on Moscow’s plan to use private enterprise to bring Ankara to its side:

[O]n July 8, the U.S. ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison stated that Russia is trying to “flip” Turkey through the sale of the S-400 air-defense system and energy deals. While these state-to-state deals are certainly significant, they tend to overshadow a quieter, but equally important, Russian campaign to “flip” Turkey’s influential business community, . . . in what appears to be a gradual building of hybrid-warfare capacity against a key NATO member.

The term hybrid warfare has become a catch-all for Russia’s exploitation of economic, political, financial, covert, and military resources to achieve desired foreign-policy outcomes in the former Soviet Union and the West. Moscow utilizes economic resources and Russian companies to exert influence on key power-brokers in the target country, often lobbying to maintain or increase the country’s dependence on Russian energy at the state level. In the Kremlin’s playbook, Russian firms co-opt local businesspeople and decision makers via lucrative business deals and high-profile board positions—all via non-transparent, frequently corrupt processes. . . .

Akkuyu is one of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pet megaprojects and . . . a key confidence builder in Turco-Russian relations. The $20-billion project will be Turkey’s first nuclear reactor, expected to supply the country with 10 percent of its energy needs. [The] Russian nuclear-energy company Rosatom provided the financing for Akkuyu in exchange for 51-percent ownership. . . . Russia is already the largest supplier of natural gas and the third-largest supplier of oil to Turkey. . . .

[The Russian government has recently arranged to place on Akkuyu’s board] Erdogan’s confidant, former senior adviser, and all-around fixer Hasan Cuneyd Zapsu. [He offers] Moscow effective channels of access to Turkey’s autocratic ruler. More importantly, it is likely that, given the sums and contracts at stake, the involvement of Erdogan’s inner circle in energy projects with Russia might [aid] Russia’s hybrid-warfare strategy. . . . And against a backdrop of growing calls in Washington for potential sanctions on Turkey for the procurement of the Russian-built S-400 air-defense system, such leverage might be worth more than ever.

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Read more at National Interest

More about: Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Turkey, U.S. Foreign policy

UN Troops in Lebanon Don’t Just Ignore Hizballah. They Protect It

Dec. 18 2018

Two weeks ago, IDF officers showed the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) the tunnels that Hizballah has dug into Israeli territory. UNIFIL, whose primary mission is to keep Iran-backed jihadist group from using southern Lebanon to attack Israel, responded with a statement that failed even to name Hizballah. Not only is UNIFIL useless at doing its job, writes Evelyn Gordon, but its very presence helps Hizballah, since countries that contribute troops are afraid to put them in harm’s way by aggravating the terrorists they’re meant to contain.

It’s no coincidence that the major contributors to UNIFIL . . . oppose listing Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. The only EU country that does blacklist the entire organization is Holland, which has exactly one soldier in UNIFIL.

The EU and its other member states blacklist only the [organization’s] military wing, not the political wing. And that’s fine with Hizballah because, as the organization itself admits, any distinction between its political and military wings is purely fictitious. Thus, so long as the political wing is legal, Hizballah can still fundraise and recruit freely in Europe.

A complete ban, however, would genuinely hurt Hizballah. According to a 2017 German intelligence report, Germany alone has [on its soil] some 950 Hizballah operatives actively fundraising and recruiting for the organization. Much of that money is raised through charitable donations, but another significant source is organized crime. An EU report published in August described “a large network of Lebanese nationals offering money-laundering services to organized crime groups in the EU and using a share of the profits to finance terrorism-related activities. . . . An EU ban on Hizballah would thus put a serious crimp in its operations.

UNIFIL, by contrast, hasn’t put the slightest crimp in them. . . . To be fair, expecting UNIFIL to stop Hizballah was never realistic. As a senior Israeli official acknowledged this week, few countries would be willing to contribute troops to a mission that actually involved fighting Hizballah. . . . [Yet] UNIFIL has no problem making accusations against Israel. [A] November report that couldn’t “substantiate” Hizballah’s [illegal] arms transfers declared that UNIFIL had recorded 550 Israeli violations of Lebanon’s airspace and demanded their “immediate cessation.”

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Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: European Union, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Lebanon