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November 1, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9619

Former Donetsk People's Republic 'Defense Minister' Igor Strelkov: Russia Will Not Punish Turkey For Sale Of Drones To Ukraine Because Erdogan Holds Russian Expeditionary Force In Syria Hostage

November 1, 2021
Russia, Syria, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 9619

On October 26, 2021, Ukraine, for the first time, employed the Bayraktar TB-2 UAVs that it had purchased from Turkey in the Donbass conflict zone against pro-Russian separatists. Moscow issued a cautious reaction. "As for the reports on the use of "Bayraktar" combat drones by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to strike positions in Donbass, we are now cross-checking this information. Regarding the recent statements, in making of which Kiev authorities has become so prolific, it's hard to tell which claims are true and which are false." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was restrained when asked to comment on Turkey but counseled Ankara not to supply Ukraine with weapons: "Naturally, history should prompt all those, who indulge Ukraine's capricious demands for immediate acceptance into NATO, to think hard on this issue. The same applies, of course, to those, who supply the Kiev regime, controlled by neo-Nazis, with weapons."

Boris Gryzlov, Russia's representative to the Trilateral Contact Group (Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE), also commented on the issue and accused Ukraine of continuing to exacerbate the situation on the line of contact. . "One can state that Ukraine continues to exacerbated the situation on the line of contact," said Gryzlov.[1]

The respected military analyst Pavel Felgengauer believed that the appearance of the Bayraktar in the Ukrainian arsenal was a game changer: "It can be stated that the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) now possess opportunities that they did not have previously. The "fog of war," about which the German strategist Clausewitz wrote, referring to the lack of information, when commanders do not know what is happening on the battlefield, is dispelled by unmanned aerial vehicles. In positional warfare, this is also essential, but especially important in mobile warfare...In other words, the use of drones by Ukraine is a significant change in the situation, since its military can now see all the changes taking place on the enemy's side. This largely evens the odds and, to a certain extent, changes the balance of power." According to Felgengauer, the results of the 2014 clash between Russia and Ukraine would have turned out differently, had Ukraine than been in possession of the UAVs. The Bayraktar will still come in handy in case of renewed fighting between Russia and Ukraine that Felgengauer still expects. [2]


Pavel Felgengauer (Source: Autogear.ru)

Given the importance of the Bayraktar's introduction to the battlefield, the Russian government faced criticism from both conservatives and liberals. The former Defense Minister of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic Igor Strelkov claimed that Russia was deterred from acting against Turkey because it feared Turkish retaliation in Syria. Strelkov predicted that Ukraine after reducing the breakaway regions would turn its sights on Crimea, provided it secured Washington's approval. The liberal Echo of Moscow website posted a column by one its bloggers "SerpomPo", who viewed the drones as emblematic of the authorities' failure in Ukraine and in all other important areas in general. Russia was totally isolated

Below are first, the interview with Strelkov, and it is followed by "SerpomPo's" blogpost:


Ukrainian Bayraktar UAV (Source: Dailysabah.com)

Ekaterina Sazhneva interviewed Strelkov for the widely circulated Moskovskij Komsomolets[3]

"Ukraine deployed a Turkish "Bayraktar TB2" combat drone for the first time in Donbass flattening a DPR People's Militia artillery position near the Granitnoye settlement of Donetsk Oblast. Will Donbass face a full-scale offensive of Ukrainian armed forces in the near future, and why did Russia respond so flaccidly to the unfolding events? After all residents of this region recently got Russian passports. Igor Strelkov, former Defense Minister of the Donetsk People's Republic [hereafter - DPR], provided his account of the events."

— Tell me, to what extent could one predict that Ukraine would sooner or later employ the "Bayraktar TB2" that the Turks sold them? After all, the very same Azerbaijan defeated Armenia last autumn thanks to the Turkish combat drones and the technological superiority they conferred.

— As people in Russia like to say, it was 146% expected [Strelkov refers to a Russian election meme, which means a slam dunk]. Otherwise, why else would Ukraine buy these drones? What other enemy, except for Donbass, did Ukraine intend to fight with? I have nothing more to add.

— So, why didn't the Russian Federation react, aside from, to be honest, [making] loud statements?

— Because Erdogan keeps our elite military corps in Syria hostage. If the Turks cut off the Bosporus and the Dardanelles straits, we will be left with nothing. We won't be able to fight with Turkey in the Syrian theater of war.

We are unable to provide support to our military contingent across the world [meaning across the Black Sea and Turkey's territory], while Syria is in Turkey's backyard. It will be even harder if the Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar will be closed for our ships. Thus, one has to manage things with Tukey extremely delicately.

For instance, according to the recent news, Russian troops have withdrawn from the city of Tell Rifaat, located in northern Syria, after Erdogan's statement that he intends to conduct a military operation against the Kurds in this region. Now only the Persians remain there. However, it seems unlikely that it will be possible to urgently withdraw our contingent from Syria altogether due to [Russia's] agreements with Assad.

— Well, some kind of sanctions will certainly be introduced against Turkey. For instance, import of tangerines from Turkey has been banned already

— Sure, tangerines are "important."

— In your opinion, are the current events connected with the commissioning of "Nord Stream 2" pipeline? Europe is suffering from a world energy crisis and is ready to do anything for Russian gas. Russia, in turn, desperately needs to finally commission this project. Ukraine simply took advantage of the right moment.

— I firmly believe that "Nord Stream 2" pipeline will never be properly launched anyways. This is a "sweet carrot" that long has been hanging from a stick that the West dangles in front of Russia's nose. They're deliberately force us to make constant concessions, and we buy into it for the sake of the many years and enormous funds that have been invested in this project. Many people's careers both personal and corporate hinge on this project. Thus, if, let's imagine, that Nord Stream-2 project will collapse, not only heads will roll, but a series of serious bankruptcies are to be expected...

Therefore, considering today's skyrocketing gas prices, we [Russia] will postpone any decisions aimed against Turkey, or Ukraine. What's more, I am sure that Ukraine did not decide to pursue this new escalation of its own accord either. This sort of behavior from Zelensky only became possible after consultations with Biden. America wants to assert pressure on Russia on all fronts. It is possible that Washington decided that Moscow didn't comply with the agreements reached during the last Biden-Putin meeting.

— So Ukraine is taking its chance?

— Ukraine plays a role of a rusty knife that will be thrown away as soon as it is used. It is a  chip off Russia, which can either be anti-Russian [state] or worthless to anyone it. It is foolish to envy cannon fodder.

— It was reported that "Bayraktar" flew 15 kilometers deep into the DPR territory, which is, no doubt, a violation of the Minsk agreements. Is a ground operation on the territories outside of Kiev's control likely to happen in the near future, since they [Ukraine] don't give a damn about the Minsk [agreements] anyway?

— The UAV struck a battery of field "D-30" 122 mm howitzers. The drone shot the equipment without the slightest resistance from the air defense system, since the Donetsk Republic has no air defense system of its own...

By the way, Ukraine is constantly engaged in small-scale tactical ground operations in the region. Now they took the village of Staromaryevka, but even before their sabotage groups infiltrated the village regularly. It was a "gray zone" that formally belonged to the DPR. Now they have built a pontoon crossing and took the village. Thus, there is an evident advance of Ukrainian troops.

... the southern section of the front from Donetsk to the Azov Sea coast consists of steppes. Thus, [Donbass] militia will be unable to hide their equipment and control units. It is for that reason, the Armed Forces of Ukrainian are able to use artillery and aviation, including UAVs, most successfully there.

—It is now suggested that Turkish drones may one day reach Crimea as well...

— Provided this will be Washington's order, no one doubts [that the drones will reach Crimea]. But it seems to me that Ukraine won't attack Crimea until it finalizes the operation in Donbass to destroy the republics. [One can only wonder] where they will attack next. After all the border between Ukraine and Russia is long.


Igor Strelkov (Source: Theinsider.ua)

Echo of Moscow reposted a comment titled "The Foreign Ministry's Failure, the Kremlin's Failure from the "SerpomPo" Telegram channel. The author claims that Putin's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and support for the separatists, once seen as a masterstroke, had left Russia isolated.  Ukraine was but one of the current regime's series of failures. He wrote:[4]

"It seems that Ukraine has successfully deployed UAVs purchased from Turkey, (a friendly to the Russian authorities' state), against the artillery in eastern Ukraine. This striking fact leads us back to the question of the Russian Foreign Ministry's effectiveness.

"How is it possible that a country [Turkey], to which advanced Russian air defense systems, are sold, to which Russian gas is being supplied, where our nuclear power plants are being constructed, whose president has good relations with Putin, sells arms to a country considered to be an enemy by the Foreign Ministry? How did you [the Foreign Ministry] allow this to happen? How did you allow these advanced weapons, which recently proven effective in the Armenia-Azerbaijan war, to be used against you?

"What did Russian Foreign Ministry's and, more broadly, what did the entire Russian government really achieve in the Ukrainian sphere of foreign policy since 2014?

"After all, diplomacy is primarily, results, secondly - results, and thirdly – results, and not only lip service, in which the Foreign Ministry is so proficient. The latter comes with an abundance of nauseating spillover.  As one can see, there are no actual achievements, none.

"Why can't you do anything for years?

" Even the second head [Alexander Lukashenko] of the 'Union State of Russia and Belarus' refuses to recognize Crimea as Russian land. Lukashenko, who is absolutely dependent on Russian support, publicly mocks the Russian authorities. What a humiliation! This is an insult to the dignity of a huge country, isn't it? Answer us, Lavrov!

"Recently, the presidential press secretary [Dmitry Peskov] stated that our country's authorities cannot prevent Ukraine from joining NATO.

"At the Valdai forum, Putin himself was confusedly asking 'what are we to do' if NATO cruise missiles will be deployed near Russia's borders?

"So, what were you thinking back in 2014? [When Russia annexed Crimea and backed Ukraine's breakaway regions] That the US wouldn't station missiles on the borders! This is the very same question, with which the authorities of a country that collapsed 30 years ago were dealing in the late 70's, i.e. the deployment of American cruise missiles in Europe. Gorbachev eventually found the answer, a diplomatic one, i.e. - disarmament. You claimed that it was all a bad decision (although we, thanks to Gorbachev, lived in peace for decades), but in the end we've stepped on the same rake, the handle went up and hit us in the forehead.

"To what result have you, the Foreign Ministry and the Kremlin, brought us to in our relations with Ukraine and with Western countries? To the coming war?

"Sorry, the country 'did not sign up for this'. Twenty years ago, you took power in a state that had a qualitatively different level of relations with the outside world. The world's environment was friendly to Russia. What have you done with it?

"Foreign policy is no exception to the general trend of failure by the current Russian leadership. The government thrashes 'undesirables,' and 'foreign agents;' it opens numerous criminal cases against political activists. But essentially, what do these people have to do with anything? These people have no influence on the decisions of the sovereign authorities.

"One doesn't have to be an oppositionist in order to understand the obvious. In every realm of leadership effectiveness that you look at, from space, the fight against COVID-19 to price increases, firefighting and Erdogan's drones striking Russian cannons, the result is the same: negative results. All that's left is propaganda, which patches the holes with triumphantly-themed billboards.

"Considering its total inefficiency, does the current Russian leadership have the right to rule the country?

"This, as the hero of a famous movie says, is 'the main question.'"

 

[1] Kommersant.ru, October 27, 2021.

[2] Rosbalt.ru, October 28, 2021.

[3] Mk.ru, October 28, 2021.

[4] Echo.msk.ru, October 27, 2021.

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