Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The 21st Century Eastern Question

Russia's interventions in Ukraine and Syria plus Russia's interest in destabilizing Europe via Moslem migrant flows from civil war in Syria and poverty in other Moslem regions all come together.

I recently wondered if Russia's intervention in Syria was in part based on the conquest of Crimea from Ukraine.

Taking Crimea makes the most sense as part of a Russian policy to project Russian military power into the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  This was a policy of both the Soviet Union and Czarist Russia before that. The interest remains.

But where does Russian power go if it doesn't have a place to go in the eastern Mediterranean? Now the long-dormant Russian naval base in Syria plus air bases for Russian warplanes become more important to Moscow, which would want Assad to survive in a core Syria in the west, reliant on Russia to survive.

Of course, as long as Turkey is hostile to Russia and Turkey controls the Turkish straits, Russian options in the eastern Mediterranean Sea region are constricted in wartime.

But if Turkey is alienated from the West and isolated from sources of military support, Turkey might be weaned away from the West and NATO.

So consider the effect of the European Union. I know that the conventional wisdom says that the Russians are opposed to the European Union (and so were for Brexit to weaken the EU), but you have to admit that the existence of the EU has weakened NATO in Greece, Italy, and Turkey, throwing our southern flank into crisis conditions:

Greece and Italy, two of the European countries most damaged by the euro disaster are also the hardest-hit by the migration crisis—and in both the euro crisis and the migration crisis, policies intended to safeguard northern Europe, and especially Germany, have made things much worse in Europe’s vulnerable south.

Greece is weakened by the Euro currency and now migrant and refugee flows, making me wonder if Russia could "flip" NATO member Greece with enough cash.

And Turkey's allegiance to the West through NATO is weakened by the EU stiff-arming the entry of a large Moslem-majority state into the "borderless" European Union. And refugees provide the sea in which jihadi fish swim (and kill) in Turkey.

Italy is shaken by the Euro's effects on Italy and from chaos in Libya encouraging that territory to be the source and conduit of migrants seeking European shores.While I don't worry that Italy will leave NATO, Italy will be much less of an asset to NATO if they become both weaker and the front line under pressure from close foes.

And if Saudi Arabia shifts away from America as the result of the horrifically bad Iran deal, Egypt--which Saudi Arabia props up financially--will slide away from alignment with America, too. Perhaps Egypt won't flip back to Russia any time soon (the Russians surely haven't forgotten the sting of that loss to America), but weakening ties to America will help Russia, too.

All of a sudden, Turkey is surrounded by chaos, Russian allies (heck, Russia staged combat planes into Iran recently for raids into Syria), or neutrals with no interest in coming to Turkey's aid and no interest in letting America use their territory to help Turkey.

And so the new Eastern Question of how to cope with the disintegration of NATO in the eastern Mediterranean Sea will be the big question in our foreign policy.

And Russia will have most of the answers, it seems.