As fighting resumes in Aleppo following a brief ceasefire - and as Russia’s largest naval fleet to sail since the Cold War steams down the English Channel on its way to the western coast of Syria - it’s important, in times when most of the focus is being drawn to one point, to step back and look at the whole board.
Yes, what’s happening in Aleppo is a tragedy. Civilians, women, and children are being blasted out of existence as two superpowers back opposing sides in a proxy war for regional dominance. Yes, as the Russian fleet nears the Mediterranean Sea, tensions will undoubtedly escalate for a number of nations with ties to the Syrian conflict.
But President Vladimir Putin’s moves regarding Aleppo are far from his only ones worth noting of late.
Take Turkey, for instance. Last week, Underground Reporter posited the idea that Turkey, due to its deteriorating relations with the United States and its strengthening cooperation with Russia, has, in effect, become the military wild card in the Middle East. Cited as evidence of deepening Russian-Turkish ties was the fact that the two countries have just signed a deal to build a pipeline from Turkey to Ukraine, which would then supply natural gas to Europe.
Turkey, which is north of Syria, shares much of its southern and all of its eastern border with the Mediterranean Sea. A good portion of Syria’s western border also runs into the Mediterranean, and it’s in those waters where Russian vessels, already hovering there, await the arrival of the aircraft carrier-led fleet now pushing through the English Channel.
All this fits nicely into a narrative that only focuses on what’s happening in Aleppo. But one need only glance at a map to see, using nothing but the eyes and common sense, just how much more is actually taking place right now.
In mid-October, it was reported that, for the first time ever, Russia and Egypt would conduct joint military drills. This followed news that Russia will sell attack helicopters to the North African nation and invest billions in Egyptian infrastructure. These items, along with the fact that Egypt is eager to be re-granted Russian tourism rights for its citizens after recent bad blood between the countries, lead one to the logical conclusion that Egypt has every incentive to cooperate with Russia going forward.
Egypt, in case you’re not looking at that map, is directly across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey.
This means when the Russian fleet reaches the Mediterranean — whether the intent is to park in those waters and bombard Aleppo, as some believe, or merely to project Russian might to the world, as others suggest — it will be flanked by friendlies on three sides. Turkey to the north, Syrian to the east, and Egypt to the south.
This is not a bad position to be in if you’re looking to build a natural gas pipeline from Turkey to Ukraine. Turkey, incidentally, shares its northern border with the Black Sea, which in turn shares its southern border with Ukraine. And the Black Sea, as those who’ve followed the Ukrainian situation in recent years well know, is swarming with Russian warships.
So, in the bigger picture — assuming Turkey will eventually fully embrace the Russian sphere and that Egypt, as it’s highly incentivized to do, embraces its new role as a Russian satellite — Putin has protected himself quite deftly from those in the West who’ll inevitably, no matter what the fleet does once it arrives, accuse Putin of aggression.
Turkey and Egypt are both formerly staunch U.S. allies, after all, and there’s been no official severing of ties, or even hints of such, with those nations. So Putin, thanks largely to the West’s own hegemonic maneuvering, has a lot of room to operate in terms of deals and cooperation — both militarily and economically.
In any case, the facts present a narrative — albeit a theoretical one — that isn’t being discussed. Putin, as we speak, may be implementing the first phases of an effort to secure a nice straight shot from Turkey to Ukraine for the long-desired Turkish Stream pipeline.