Russian and Turkish society are both in mourning over recent losses on the battlefield in Syria. 7 Turkish servicemen were killed when YPG terrorists fired upon their tank and a Russian pilot when an Su-25 fighter jet was shot from the sky by Al-Qaeda linked Takfiri terrorists. The Russian pilot who safely parachuted to the ground was later killed by a gang of Takfiri terrorists after intense hand to hand combat, in which the lone pilot was vastly outnumbered by the savages on the ground.
While the specifics of both attacks are still being investigated, for the public in Russia and Turkey, both of these attacks represent cathartic moments, as the long known reality of terrorists in Syria having advanced modern American weapons has finally hit home in a deeply emotional and visually unambiguous manner.
In Turkey, the phrase #KillerAmerika is trending on Twitter while in Russia, members of the State Duma are openly speculating that the MANPADS (Man-portable air-defence system) that downed the Su-25 was American made, brought into Syria by the United States and placed into the hands of Takfiri terrorists.
To understand how the deadly YPG attack on the Turkish tank and the deadly Takfiri attack on the Russian jet draw both states together, one must shatter a few myths about ‘deep state’.
Removing the stigma from the ‘deep state’
The use of the term ‘deep state’ often has negative connotations in the English language. The phrase was invented to describe a highly stratified military, intelligence, monetary and fiscal bureaucracy that controls the US with consistent agendas, in spite of changes in public political power due to America’s frequent election cycles.
In a country where one of the founding socio-political myths is that every man and woman’s vote counts and that anyone could grow up to be President, the idea that such a powerful bureaucracy is really calling the shots, came as a shock and disappointment to those who still subscribed to the textbook ideals of American “democracy”.
In reality, all countries have highly stratified bureaucracies (aka deep states) who are in charge of the making and execution of policies. The bigger the state, the bigger the deep state. Thus, when removed from the context of a kind of American idealism that was always partly mythical, one sees that a deep state is a normal part of any government. If people are bothered by what US and European deep states do, this just goes to show that the states themselves (deep or otherwise) are vastly more out of touch with their people than those in other parts of the world.
Russian and Turkish deep states
Historical memory typically lingers more among the lay public and old academia than it does among pragmatic policy markers and their colleagues in diplomatic corps. Case in point, while many ordinary Russians and Turks remain fixated on the multiple wars Russia and Turkey have fought over the last several centuries and while many academics who pontificate about these wars make them seem more relevant to 2018 than they are, the Russian and Turkish deep states are keen on cooperation because they know that having the two Eurasian countries as allies, removes the big money wasting headache of having two Eurasian countries as enemies.
This is not to say that Russia and Turkey agree on everything. After all, Russia and its Union State partner Belarus, a land which is historically Russian and whose people and culture are Russian, has occasional spats with Moscow, but still the deep states in Minsk and Moscow are incredibly close. Likewise, the deep states in Turkey and Russia are able to see past rhetorical disagreements and focus on the wider goals that both countries share – something that has been made possible, due to the professionalism of Russian diplomats after December of 2015, when many thought Turkey and Russia would be on the verge of yet another war. While Turkey and Russia do not agree on everything in the present and will never see eye to eye about the distant past, for the deep states in both countries, this doesn’t matter. Pragmatism has won the day.
The exact same phenomenon exists between Russia and Iran, two countries that had fought major wars with one another for almost as long as the string of Russo-Turkish wars. Like Russia and Turkey, Russia and Iran do not agree on everything in 2018 and will certainly not see eye to eye in respect of interpreting the past, but in the present day, Iran and Russia are valued partners and this is thanks to pragmatic deep states looking out for the interests of both countries in a win-win model.
Interestingly, because Iran, like Russia is a formal partner of Syria, Iran’s historic wars with Russia get a ‘pass’ from the Russophobe social media sphere far more than Turkey, which is in the midst of a pivot from being a western looking NATO member, to a Eurasian power looking to increase cooperation with Russia, Iran and with China in respect of One Belt–One Road.
Poland is a country that could also benefit from a Turkish and Iranian style deep state that could agree to disagree about all the past and some of the present, while working cooperatively in areas that benefit both sides in the present. Sadly, the bourgeois nationalism of academia combined with the hard-core nationalism of proletarians in Europe, has meant that European deep states are often far more nationalistic and xenophobic than their Asian counterparts.
The American guerrilla deep state
It was during the Obama era that the US deep state decided to embrace a guerrilla strategy which would see modern weapons made by the powerful military-industrial complex, bought with US tax money, shipped along with cash incentives to wannabe mercenaries across the world, but particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. After seeing how Lyndon Johnson’s war in Vietnam and George W. Bush’s war in Iraq resulted in high casualties among US troops, tremendous amount of expenditure and deep unpopularity among the American public, the US clearly needed a new strategy. Likewise, after seeing how Bill Clinton’s bombing of Iraq in 1998 and Ronald Reagan’s bombing of Libya in 1986 failed to foment the much coveted ‘regime change’–Washington needed a model that combined the “virtues” of both models while eliminating the “inefficiencies” of both models.
The result is that the US military-industrial complex as well as the US Treasury became a de-facto charity for wannabe foreign mercenaries who were transformed by the US into tactical guerrilla fighters, all the while acting as US proxies. At the same time, the US Air Force acted as the unofficial Air Force of these guerrilla fighters, thus creating new ‘Vietnams’ and new ‘Iraqs’ but ones where few American foot soldiers were never in harms way. The use of weaponised drones further removed Americans from the bloodsoaked conflicts in places like Libya and Syria where this strategy has been fully employed.
Multipolarity with Ottoman characteristics
Just as the United States learned in the Iraq war of 2003, that the ghosts of America’s war in Vietnam could be awakened at any time, so too did Turkey’s initial participation in the Syrian conflict, teach Turkey a valuable lesson than attaching neo-Ottoman ambitions in the bordering Arab Levant, to a wider US orchestrated guerrilla war for regime change, was a lose-lose position for Turkey.
First of all, while the US brazenly seeks to achieve domination through military strength (both through air power and through heavily arming guerrillas), Turkey sought to attain influence through arming and training proxy terrorist armies.
However, Turkey learned that genuine long-term influence needs to be achieved through winning trust, something a far away foreign power like the US is incapable of, but a neighbouring power to the Arab world like Turkey, could achieve under the right conditions. Secondly, Turkey learned that while working with an American regime that increasingly saw Turkey as an expendable ally to use when convenient and meddle with when it suited US interests–Ankara had put itself in a lose-lose position of being a devalued partner to the US, all the while alienating potential Eurasian partners who share a common geographical space.
Hence, Turkey’s pivot away from the US and towards Russia and Iran took shape. All the while, Turkey is working to asymmetrically detach itself from its proxies in Syria, while also attempting not to alienate them directly, thus creating a new headache for the Turkish state. For Turkey, what was initially a move designed to distract from domestic troubles, is now a problem that Turkey needs to eliminate in order to restore peace to the region and carry on with partnerships with Russia, Iran and China that will be beneficial to Turkey for the foreseeable future.
Turkey’s recent experience in Syria and with the US, has led Ankara to embrace regional multipolarity with the added element of Ottoman characteristics which seek to influence the wider Muslim world through soft-power incentives rather than bloodsoaked US style proxy wars. It was a lesson learned the hard way, but this is all the more reason that the overarching message of multipolarity has been chosen over a subordinate and expendable position in the hegemonic ‘American empire’.
When guerrillas and puppet master collide
While Damascus, Moscow, Tehran and Ankara still have different, yet increasingly similar goals in the Syrian conflict, the entire conflict when examined from a wider perspective, can be described as ‘state security interests versus hybrid guerrilla interests’. This is to say that while Syria, Russia, Iran and Tehran are fighting on behalf of the security interests of their own states and those of their indelibly linked state partners, their common enemy is that of US weapons in the hands of guerrillas.
As of 2018, these guerrillas are both those directly supplied by Washington, as well as those who are supplied by Washington’s direct proxies and those guerrillas who happen to seize US weapons from either of the aforementioned groups of guerrillas. Thus, the proliferation of US weapons among guerrilla forces in Syria is all encompassing, while America’s responsibility for arming dangerous renegade groups is total. Thus American denials that their weapons were in the hands of the terrorists who downed the Su-25 are not only insincere but are insulting to Russia’s intelligence.
While any objective examination of the Syrian conflict shows that there are no legitimate guerrilla groups in the country, even if one were to believe the US propaganda about ‘moderate rebels’ and ‘wholesome Kurds’, the idea that such groups would refrain from trading arms with ‘immoderate rebels’ or that the weapons wouldn’t slip in the the hands of ‘immoderate rebels’ was something that no one could have ever taken seriously. The moment one arms guerrillas in the same geographical space, one knows that these weapons will soon spread like a virus among anyone who can get their hands on them.
With Russian citizens and Turkish citizens realising that their countrymen fighting in Syria are now in danger of dying at the hands of US weapons in the hands of terrorists, it is already sinking in that the United States is a mutual enemy of every other state actor in the conflict. Furthermore, many in Turkey and Russia are learning the lessons that Syria and Iran already know: when one’s enemy is American weapons in the hands of American proxies or their allies, one’s enemy is the United States itself.
While the US continues to use these non-conventional methods to sow discord between Russia, Iran and Turkey, in reality, these methods are only creating a united front between normal states and a rogue USA that has gone guerrilla. Furthermore, while Syria, Turkey, Iran and Russia all seek as normal and state guided an ending to the Syrian conflict as possible, the United States continues to go increasingly rogue, knowing that its modern weapons in the hands of medieval guerrillas, is the only thing that is still capable of prolonging the Syrian conflict.