Friday, February 12, 2016

Guest Post: Feeding The Bear A Turkey Sandwich

Feeding The Bear A Turkey Sandwich
Samuel L. Skogstad, Ph.D.

(Note: This piece is written by a retired Economics Professor and Senior Foreign Service Officer of the U.S. Agency for International Development, not a specialist in Military History, Strategy or Tactics. He would be glad to hear the reactions, criticisms or corrections of any readers who are versed in these areas.)

This morning’s Wall Street Journal features a front-page story about an impending cease fire in the wars going on in Syria. The main negotiators working together on this solution are Russia, Iran, the Assad Government of Syria and the United States. Nations said to be most unhappy with the proposed solution are Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and assorted other Sunni-governed states. It is difficult to understand why the United States appears to be a party to the agreement, which seems to leave the Assad Government in place, a key goal of Russia and Iran.

Unless, of course, the United States goals in the region include making Shia-dominant states the core geo-political power there instead of our traditional allies.

But on to the title of these comments. Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States is strategically located on the narrow Bosporus, the only exit from the Black Sea into the warm waters of the Aegean Sea, and thence to the Mediterranean Sea, and thence to the Atlantic Ocean. Russia has long coveted such a route to warm water (not to mention Western Europe, Africa and North and South America) for its Naval forces.

Recent actions by Russia seem to represent major steps toward gaining such access, whether that was their intention or not. With impunity Russia simply stole Crimea and a swath of eastern Ukraine that eased logistical support.

Next, ostensibly in support of the tyrant Assad in Syria, Russia opened a large military air base on Syria’s northwest coast, just below Turkey---the bottom of the Turkey sandwich. Are these two moves less strategically significant than they seem?

(Dr. Sam is also a brother Marine, a blog reader and a contributor. ~Bob)

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