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December 4, 2017 No.
7207

Russian Military Expert Goltz: Putin Is Trying On Stalin's Yalta Boots

The Russian military affairs expert Aleksandr Goltz argues that Russian President Vladimir Putin, having failed to secure a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the APEC summit in Vietnam, "desperately needed some visible proof that he was still a global leader".[1] The proof was presumably supplied by the Sochi meeting that many Russian analysts defined as the new Yalta without Americans.[2] Goltz explains that Putin in Sochi sought to ratify his perception on the workings of world politics: the big and strong nations decide the fate of the smaller and weaker ones. However, according to Goltz, Putin's partners, Iran and Turkey, did not meet the criteria of great powers and above all they were players with chequered reputations and contradictory interests. This makes the trilateral Russian-Iranian-Turkish partnership inherently unstable..

Goltz concludes that Sochi may merely serve as a prologue to another confrontation. "A confrontation in which allies will quickly become enemies, and there will be no new allies for Moscow. After all, there are not that many pariahs in the world…"[3]

Below are excerpts of Goltz's article, titled "Putin Is Trying On Stalin's Boots":[4]


Aleksandr Goltz (Source: Newtimes.ru)


Putin with Rouhani and Erdogan in Sochi. (Source: Kremlin.ru)

'Russia's Partners In The Anti-Terrorist Coalition Have Contradictory Interests'

"Only the laziest journalist in the Kremlin pool has not yet compared the Sochi meeting of Russia's chief boss with his counterparts from Turkey and Iran to the famous Yalta conference of Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. In both places, it was the meeting of the victors (and never mind that two years ago the Turkish Air Force took down a Russian bomber, and Ankara became Moscow's enemy number one for a while). In both cases, the negotiations aimed at a post-war settlement – if not for the entire continent, then at least for a Middle East country. Reporters noted that even the venue was selected with a view to make an impression: the 1950s health resort brings to mind the interiors of [Yalta's] Livadiya palace.

"All this is understandable. After the failure in the Vietnamese Da Nang, when the American president refused to meet Putin, Russia's chief boss desperately needed some visible proof that he was still a global leader. And it had to be proof that would confirm his perception of how world politics worked: the big and strong [nations] decide the fate of the small and weak. However, his partners didn't turn out to be great powers but Iran and Turkey, whose reputation is, to put it mildly, chequered. Those who so painstakingly encourage (I don't know whether in the Russian society or in Putin's head) the sensation of 'high politics' must have forgotten what the first 'Yalta' ended in. Very shortly after that meeting, Churchill pronounced his [1946 "Iron Curtain"] Fulton speech, initiating the Cold War between the erstwhile allies.

"All the pre-requisites for an approaching quarrel between Iran, Turkey and Russia are in place. Russia's partners in the anti-terrorist coalition have contradictory interests. Ankara's position threatens to ruin the chief achievement of the Sochi meeting – the agreement to hold a congress of the peoples of Syria in the 'southern capital of Russia'. In fact, this congress was originally planned for 19 November. But it was postponed (and the new dates have not been given yet), because of Turkey's opposition. Ankara on no account wants to allow the Democratic Union – the main organization of the Syrian Kurds, which controls a significant part of the country's territory – to participate in the congress.

"Putin persistently tried to convince his partners that all Syrian groups should be represented in the congress, including political, religious and ethnic ones. But Erdogan was intransigent: 'Nobody can expect us to be under the same roof with the people who seek to destroy Turkey's national security. The Democratic Union of the Syrian Kurds are terrorists'.

"In addition, Ankara's interests clash with Iran's claim to a role of its own in the games with the Kurds. Thus, Erdogan is resolutely against the Iranian presence in the Afrin zone. Rouhani, however, fiercely insisted on a special role (and, consequently, privileges) of his country in the settlement and the division of spheres of influence, pointing out that Iran was the first country to come to Assad's aid.

'What We Have Just Witnessed In Sochi Was A Prologue To Another Confrontation'

"The Syrian armed opposition, which demands Assad's resignation, has not yet joined the discussion. But he [Assad] is definitely not going to leave. It is clear to everybody that his assurances about the fairness of the upcoming election under UN auspices are nothing but empty words. In a country ravaged by a civil war for six years, whoever controls the territory will win the election. Russia's only trump card in this game is the alleged capability to control Assad. It was not accidental that Putin made him thank Russian generals in Sochi. But when push comes to shove – or rather, when it is time to leave, – I suspect Assad will coolly ignore Moscow's recommendations.

"During the Sochi meeting, Putin did not mention the U.S. or its allies at all. It was done by the Iranian president, who denounced the U.S. and Israel, for a long time and with obvious pleasure, for allegedly supporting the ISIS terrorists (General Konashenkov from the Ministry of Defense Information Department has a lot to learn from the Iranians about passionate denunciation of overseas villains). It is funny that Rouhani (like Putin himself), who condemned foreign military intervention in every possible way, for some reason does not consider Iran's and Russia's participation in the Syrian civil war as such. It is even funnier that Assad, meeting with Putin, particularly emphasized that he expected of Moscow to prevent any foreign intervention.

"It is clear that from the point of view of Russia, Iran and Assad, there is 'good' foreign intervention and 'bad' – the intervention of the U.S. and the U.S.-led international coalition. In the meantime, according to The Washington Post, Washington is planning to maintain its military presence in the north of Syria even after the defeat of ISIS in order not to allow the government forces, supported by Iran, to restore their control there, among other things. If it is true, clashes between the government troops and the armed opposition supported by the U.S. are only a question of time. What, then, was Putin talking about for an hour and a half during a telephone conversation with Trump?

"Thus, hope that the defeat of ISIS will provide Russia an opportunity to get out of Syrian sands may prove to be futile. It is more likely that what we have just witnessed in Sochi was a prologue to another confrontation. A confrontation in which allies will quickly become enemies, and there will be no new allies for Moscow. After all, there are not that many pariahs left in the world…"