German / European Syria policy

The wannabe chancellor candidate of the conservatives in Germany is bungling in Syria policy with a proposal for military protection mission that almost nobody else in Europe appears to want.

The problem right now is that you cannot have a satisfactory Syria policy these days without either having very low expectations or a satisfactory Turkey policy.

There, that's the real issue:
What's the Turkey policy?

Turkey is NATO member, and it appears settled that it won't join the EU in this generation. Its autocratic government is dominated by a nationalist-pseudoreligious party and its undisputed leader.
Turkey clearly chose to have improved and more close relations with Russia, regardless of the incident about a shot down Russian aircraft. 
Turkey's geostrategic role is extremely important. It controls the Bosporus, is in striking distance of Crimea and Suez Canal, is neighbour with Syria, Iraq, Iran and Georgia. It has at least the potential to bridge between Orient and Occident, though not with the current president. The Turks dominated Arab countries for centuries in the Ottoman Empire, and there's a certain justified unease about their changed policies regarding especially Syria, but also northern Iraq.
Meanwhile, Turkey is a multi-ethnic country that oppresses the Kurdish minority, maybe because it cannot afford to accept the notion of not being a nation-state.

So what is the European Turkey policy? I understand the United States have a dysfunctional foreign policy right now that doesn't extend past personal interests and fixations of its president, but what's the European strategy?

(1) Do we try to keep Turkey in NATO at all costs, appeasing it regardless of aggressive actions and sporadic cuddling with Moscow?

(2) Do we try to at least keep Turkey from joining Russia's bloc? We should then neutralize them in NATO; there's no way to kick them out, but they need not be involved in secret affairs. 

(3) Do we try to push for a preferable political leadership in Turkey?

(5) Do we ignore Turkey and its actions?

We need to have and settle on a satisfactory Turkey policy before we can devise a satisfactory Syria policy. Else, we wouldn't know if to wield the power of the UNSC against Turkey, for example. Armed forces protecting the Syrian Northeast make sense only if they are meant to actually protect it, even against advancing Turkish forces of against advancing Turkish proxies supported by Turkish forces.

The current Syria policy appears to be short-sighted, incomplete, and many important actors do not appear to have thought enough about the Syria case.

About the German Minister of Defence: It was a folly that the proposal to send protection troops to NE Syria came from the Minister of Defence instead of from the minister of foreign affairs. A policy trial balloon about protection troops from the minister of foreign affairs with some dissent from the Minister of Defence would have damaged intra-NATO relations less. The military policy origin needlessly puts the military policy question (is Turkey really considered a NATO ally or a great power to be restrained) into the field of view more than if the minister of foreign affairs would have done it.
It's indeed a double folly, for the proposal isn't even national policy; the cabinet is divided about it.





  1. This is a period of extreme flux. It might end with Trump, it might not. Whenever the flux is over, the rules of the new game and its win conditions should become apparent. Cold war 2, rise of the East, etc...

    So? Don't make any expensive long term decisions about the future until we're there. Doesn't say there will be a delineator, but even if it wont be clear, it should be more clear than it is now.

    We don't know what the US policy will be to the region post Trump, we don't know what the Russian, Israeli, Turkish, Chinese response will be post Trump. He is destroying everything he touches, powered seemingly by some unknowable monkey level instinct. After he's out it doesnt say Russia or China wont continue that discordant destruction, more overtly at an accepted cost to themselves, afterwards.

    Macro picture, Turkey has no place in Europe, or the EU. The new frontier should be North Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia. Greece is far more important for Europe than Turkey, can't have both.

    Does that macro assessment mean that Turkey shouldn't be courted? No, everything is a compromise. Even if its only surface level (which it has always appeared to be) courtship. If it has the desired effect, it is worth it even if both sides and most observers can spot the compromise.

    NATO is obselete, compromised (prior point stands). The yanks are going to try to use NATO to get european blood to be spilled against the Chinese. Either threaten European nations politically, economically or do the dumb dumb game of trying to get South Koea or Japan into the club.

    History is just one thing after another, the future is never clear, etc... Okay, but Trump is a black swan. I can't think of another twerp like him in history. Even going back to braindead dolts like Willie, Franz and Nicky. So a stay on normal rules may be justified.

    Wait it out.

    My prejudice? Accept reality, Turkey is gone. Support Cyprus, Greece. Woo Albania towards Europe. Diplomatically support the Kurds, and start taking an IR interest in Azerbaijan and Armenia.

    What is going to happen in Lebanon? Who is behind it, is it organic? Will it go the way of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia or Syria. What's the response going to be from regional and global powers to a potential Syrian style war in Lebanon? No clue. But that alone can completely alter any Turkish strategies.

    1. Right. Turkey is the problem. Its alliance is overpriced. But as the author points out, its geographical location means that we cannot do without it unless we accept a hole in our southeastern defence. And 80 million turquey, it weighs. A small country can be neutralized, such as Switzerland or Austria. Perhaps a large country could be divided into a smaller collection. A very, very long-term project. Or, we admit that Russia is not a conquering enemy, but only defensive.To be watched, of course. In which case, goodbye Turkey. That would be more realistic.

    2. "we cannot", everything comes with a cost. Positive, negative. Everything is grey. Dangerous disease calls for a...

      Get the idea? I think maybe you dont. I might be wrong, surprise me.

      Anon1 replying to Anon2, shouting into the void. Hi, SO surprised you're still ticking along. I stopped for a while.

  2. Option number 2 seems to be the most favoured currently in political circles. It would be wise to staty calm and diplomatic with Turkey in case the wind starts blowing from another direction, but there is absolutely no reason the EU and NATO should put up with blatant aggression. Soft isolation is probably preferable to an outright stand-off with the Turks. It IS possible to influence Turkey in other ways (like economic pressure). Unlike Russia (which is struggling on its own terms), Turkey probably couldn't withstand full isolation very well because it is too integrated to the West.

    When it comes to Syria, 'short-sighted' seems to be the name of the game since at least 2011.