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Russia

What If Moscow Is The Real Loser In The New Syrian Chessboard?

Syrian forces in Qasr Yalda, northeastern Syria.
Syrian forces in Qasr Yalda, northeastern Syria.
Dmitry Drize

-Analysis-

MOSCOW — The USA betrayed the Kurds. This was the blunt interpretation from Dmitry Peskov, press secretary to Russian President Vladimir Putin, following the Turkey-Russia agreement on northeast Syria signed earlier this week in Sochi.

The Kurds have been the Americans' most loyal allies in Syria, yet Washington abandoned them. Now Kurdish military units are at risk of being run over by a Turkish onslaught if they refuse to leave their positions along the border. Russian-Turkish patrols will monitor the fulfillment of these conditions. The first convoy of Russian military police has already arrived in the Syrian city of Kobani.

We can consider the agreement between Putin and Erdogan in Sochi officially fateful.

Some in Russia have seen Peskov's open declaration of the betrayal of the Kurds as the final act in the moral destruction of the irresponsible U.S. policy — and announcement of a major Russian triumph. They abandoned their allies, and we will now save them, as if forced to correct the errors of others. But to what extent are Kurds, and their fighting force — the Kurdistan Workers' Party — truly "ours' now?

It was the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, in the presence of his Russian counterpart, called Kurds terrorists. We can consider the agreement between Putin and Erdogan in Sochi officially fateful.

Turkey Hosts Summit To Discuss War In Syria

Erdogan and Putin in Istanbul — Photo: Depo Photos/ZUMA

So what was in it for Russia? The war stopped: This is the key achievement. The Turkish army stopped but did not leave Syria. Kurds must leave the Turkish border within 150 hours, the primary demand of Ankara.

After returning home from Sochi, Erdogan said he is ready to resume hostilities if Russia and the United States do not fulfill their obligations.

It turns out that we still have to stay with Erdogan. It is also interesting that President Bashar al-Assad, Russia's main ally in Syria, on the eve of the Erdogan-Putin meeting stated the following: "Erdogan is a thief, he has seized enterprises and oil, he's stealing our land." It doesn't seem like the Syrian president is enjoying the situation at all.

Russian and Turkish military patrols will monitor the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from the border. How many military police do you need for this? Unclear. Where do we deploy them from? If central Syria, it means leaving the frontline exposed.

The Americans did not leave Syria. They just moved closer to the oil fields.

It might be that additional resources will be required. Where should they be based? We have to quickly deploy an entire military force, feed it, and place it somewhere. Will Russia have to expand the military operation? How much will it cost?

But back to the theater of politics. The central message of Moscow, as always, is "we showed these Americans." Oh, but did we? It was the U.S. that reached a peace agreement, and Erdogan stopped the war after a visit by the U.S. Secretary of State and Vice President. It turns out that Russia is merely carrying out the contract. It is not American troops who will now patrol the security zones, but Russian military police. As Trump put it: There is a lot of sand in Syria — let Russia play in it. And actually, the Americans did not leave Syria. They just moved closer to the oil fields. Away from war, closer to money.

Meanwhile, Erdogan defends his borders, creates a security zone and tries to get rid of Syrian refugees. What problems does Russia solve on foreign borders? What is its benefit? In the end, maybe we're just the help America wanted: shoveling Syrian sand for them.​

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Geopolitics

Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen

-Analysis-

HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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