Terrorists draw Turkey into conflict with Russia

This article is part of a series authored by STRATFOR – a geopolitical intelligence firm that provides strategic analysis and forecasting. For other articles by STRATFOR click here.

A powerful explosion went off in Istanbul near the city’s most prominent tourist attractions on Jan. 12, killing at least 10 people and injuring six foreign tourists. The blast, which took place in front of the ancient Egyptian Obelisk of Theodosius and near the Blue Mosque in the Sultanahmet district, reportedly involved a suicide bomber. Though the Turkish government is currently in conflict with numerous terrorist and non-state militant groups, the location, target and method of attack point to the Islamic State as the primary suspect behind the operation. In comments made after an hour long meeting of the country’s National Security Council, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the suicide bomber was of Syrian origin.

By cracking down on the Islamic State and actively supporting rebel operations against the extremist group in Syria, Turkey has knowingly made itself a target of the many groups loyal to the Islamic State. Furious at the disruption of their vital supply lines through Turkey because of the crackdown, which has steadily intensified since July 2015, Islamic State leaders have repeatedly vowed to launch severe retaliatory attacks. The first serious attack occurred last year on July 20, when the group staged a suicide bombing attack in the Turkish town of Suruc, near the Syrian border. Turkish raids and arrests stopped several other planned attacks, but not all of them; on Oct. 10, the group struck again in Ankara.

The latest attack, which hit in the heart of Istanbul’s oldest quarter, could galvanize an even stronger Turkish response against the Islamic State. Indeed, Ankara has already been pushing its allies to support it in an operation in Syria’s northern Aleppo province that aims to create a buffer zone in the Azaz-Jarablus zone. A successful operation would serve Turkish interests by hurting the Islamic State, strengthening the rebel position in northern Syria, preventing the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from expanding farther westward and — because Turkey does not want to go it alone — drawing the United States deeper into the conflict.

However, Russia’s intervention in Syria has greatly complicated Turkey’s plans for the operation, and in the wake of Turkey shooting down a Russian Su-24 warplane, Moscow continues to frustrate Turkish ambitions in the country. The Russians, for instance, have reinforced their air defense assets in Syria, and in a Dec. 17 interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin dared Turkey to fly over Syrian airspace with the implication that the aircraft would be shot down if it did. Faced with the prospect of a potential war with Russia if it proceeded with an armed incursion into Syria, Ankara has been forced to revise its plans for northern Aleppo.

In spite of the risk that Russia poses, Turkey could increase its involvement in Syria. This latest Islamic State attack on a Turkish city comes at a time when the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces have crossed the Euphrates River in their push westward and Russian- and Iranian-backed loyalist offensives have ratcheted up the pressure on Turkey’s Syrian rebel proxies. The Turks may choose to carry out intensified strikes with long-range missiles from the safety of their own borders, but a greater Turkish incursion into Syria cannot be ruled out.

Terrorists Target Turkey, Again is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Russia and the West Collide

This article is part of a series authored by STRATFOR – a geopolitical intelligence firm that provides strategic analysis and forecasting. For other articles by STRATFOR click here.


Since its emergence as an organized state, Russia has collided with the West. For over a millennium, the two have clashed economically, politically and militarily, using the countries that form the buffer between them as a staging ground for their rivalry.

With Ukraine’s Euromaidan uprising and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea in March 2014, the long-standing conflict has been renewed. But just as the end of the Cold War did not resolve hostilities between Russia and the West, neither will a resolution to the Ukrainian crisis erase the fundamental imperatives that have pitted the two against each other for more than a thousand years.


The Russia-West divide began when the kingdom of Kievan Rus, the Slavic precursor to the modern Russian state, arose in Eastern Europe in the ninth century. With territory stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, Kievan Rus was one of medieval Europe’s largest states. Toward the end of the 10th century, the kingdom adopted Orthodox Christianity as its official religion, opening a rift between itself and its Catholic neighbors in Western Europe and laying the groundwork for future contention between East and West.

A few centuries later, the Mongols invaded and destroyed Kievan Rus, and the state’s center of power shifted from Kiev to Moscow. The city became the heart of the Grand Duchy of Muscovy, a rising Orthodox and Slavic power that amassed its strength and territory during the 14th and 15th centuries. Meanwhile, Kiev (and much of modern-day Ukraine) became part of Catholic Poland and Lithuania, forging a lasting bond with the West.

The Rise of the Russian State

The Grand Duchy of Muscovy continued to expand and transform, first into the Tsardom of Russia in the 16th century and then into the Russian Empire by the early 18th century. Few geographic barriers stood between it and mainland Europe except vast and empty plains. And so, the empire extended its borders westward, vying with Poland, Sweden and Austria for territory in Eastern and Central Europe. By the start of the 19th century, Russia had become as powerful as many of Europe’s strongest states.

But the lack of geographic barriers surrounding it also made the Russian Empire vulnerable. It needed to create space between itself and other formidable powers, and it did so by spreading its influence in the territories on its periphery. The empire gradually and systematically took control of Siberia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. This brought the Russians into both contact and conflict with Muslim and Asiatic powers such as the Ottomans and Persians, as well as the European powers that held substantial sway in those territories, giving rise to great-power rivalries like the Great Game. As Russia evolved, so did its rivalry with Europe.

Then, at the start of the 20th century, something changed. The United States emerged on the international stage as a new global power, and the dynamics of the Russia-Europe conflict shifted. For the first time, a power that was not of the region played a significant role in its politics, first in World War I and then again in World War II. The competition between Russia and the West became an international one whose significance extended well beyond its geographic borders.

By the end of World War II, Russia’s influence on the Continent had spread farther than ever, reaching as far west as Berlin. In response, the West formed a new strategy to halt the Soviet Union’s spread: containment. Spearheaded by the United States, the strategy applied not only to Russia’s presence in Europe but also to its activities around the globe. The competition took on global proportions during the Cold War, with its participants divided into two diametrically opposed political and military blocs: the Warsaw Pact and NATO.

The Past 25 Years: A Rivalry Revived

Although the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s marked the end of the Cold War, it did not signal an end to the broader dispute between Russia and the West. At first, though, all evidence seemed to point to the contrary: Talk arose of incorporating Russia into Europe and the Western alliance, and it even appeared to be feasible. Moscow had lost its Eurasian empire, and the new Russian Federation had embraced democracy and capitalism, at least initially.

But the transition proved so chaotic and painful for Russia that, within a decade, the state began to recentralize power as Boris Yeltsin left the presidency and Vladimir Putin assumed it. The 1990s, celebrated by the United States and Western Europe as a golden age of Russian economic growth and democracy, were lamented by Russian leaders and much of the public as a catastrophe.

In its weakened state, Russia no longer needed to be actively and overtly contained by the West, and tensions between the two tapered off temporarily. However, the geopolitical imperative underpinning the United States’ containment policy — blocking the rise of regional hegemons on the Eurasian landmass that could challenge the Western alliance structure — never disappeared. Thus, NATO and the European Union continued to expand. Meanwhile, Russia recovered and Putin consolidated his power. The Kremlin worked to regain its position in the former Soviet periphery. On a rising tide of high energy prices and political stability, Russia began to re-emerge as a regional power.

Russia’s resurgence reignited the conflict between it and the West. The two fought for the allegiance of states in the former Soviet periphery, most clearly in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, when Russia invaded Georgia after it and Ukraine attempted to join the Western alliance structure, particularly NATO. The European Union responded by launching the Eastern Partnership program in 2009, with the goal of strengthening economic and political ties with former Soviet states. In 2010, Russia countered with its own integration program, the Customs Union.

The rival blocs sought to attract countries in the Eurasian borderlands, perhaps the most contested of which was Ukraine. When, in November 2013, Kiev refused to sign an EU association agreement, the cornerstone of the Eastern Partnership program, protests erupted that ultimately transformed into the Euromaidan revolution of 2014. The situation quickly deteriorated, as Russia annexed Crimea and lent its support to the pro-Russia rebellion in Ukraine’s east.

Since then, hostilities between Russia and the West have intensified, reaching levels not seen since the Cold War. With a proxy conflict in Ukraine, Western sanctions and Russian countersanctions, and military buildups on both sides, it is clear that the Russia-West confrontation has once again come to a head.

The Next 25 Years: Same Conflict, Different Shape

Less clear is the shape that the Russia-West confrontation will take in the coming years. The geopolitical imperatives that form the conflict’s foundations will remain intact, as will the cultural differences that have spurred their competition in the Eurasian borderlands. But many changes are on the horizon as well, some of which could shift the balance of power in the West’s favor.

One such change is the massive demographic shift that is underway in Russia, Europe and the former Soviet periphery. By 2050, U.N. demographic projections expect Russia’s population to decline from 143 million to 129 million, a loss of nearly 10 percent. The West, by comparison, has a more favorable outlook: The United States’ population will grow by over 20 percent, from 322 million to 389 million, while Europe’s largest countries will end up somewhere in between Russia and the United States over the same period. Germany’s population will shrink by 7 percent, from 81 million to 75 million; France’s population will grow by 11 percent, from 64 million to 71 million; and the United Kingdom’s population will rise by 15 percent, from 65 million to 75 million. Each of these trends will shape the economic and military standing of their respective countries over the next 25 years.

Consequently, Russia’s ability to challenge the West by projecting its economic and military power will likely decline in the coming decades. Of course, demographic growth does not directly equate to the projection of power, and the West (particularly Europe) will experience challenges stemming from immigration and high non-European birth rates. Still, Russia’s relatively steep demographic plunge can be expected to undermine its ability to influence its former Soviet neighbors. This will only become truer with each year that passes since the Soviet Union’s collapse, as the social and cultural bonds that tie Russia to its periphery continue to weaken.

This is not to say Russia’s influence in the Eurasian borderlands will evaporate completely. Russia has been the dominant foreign power in the region for centuries, and its position has withstood serious challenges and periods of dramatic upheaval. Thus, Moscow’s primary challenge in the next 25 years will be to figure out how to maintain its advantage in the former Soviet periphery as its resources decline and the cultural and political ties underpinning its position erode.

The West will likely face its own challenges in the years ahead. A shift toward greater regionalization is already underway in Europe, and it will likely intensify in the next 25 years as groupings of states with shared political and cultural characteristics overtake the Cold War-era institutions of the European Union and, to a lesser extent, NATO. This does not mean the two will collapse entirely. Instead, they will likely be reshaped into more practical and sustainable forms. Nor will it necessarily lead to a power vacuum in Europe that Russia could exploit. In fact, it may allow some European countries to better deter Russian aggression. Nevertheless, the format and manner in which the West can challenge Moscow will almost certainly change.

These are the broad strokes that together start to shape the Eurasian borderlands’ future. Though other factors, including technological developments and the emergence of new political ideologies, will no doubt shape the Russia-West confrontation as well, by nature they are more difficult to predict. In this series, Stratfor will explore how the rivalry between Russia and the West has played out in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia prior to and since the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will then forecast how it is likely to change in each region over the next 25 years — a period that is poised to be just as dynamic, as both sides prepare for the sweeping changes ahead.

Lead Analyst: Eugene Chausovsky

Russia escalates the conflict in Syria

Russia has just bombed CIA trained rebel camp:

Russian warplanes have bombed a camp run by rebels trained by the CIA in their second day of strikes. Read more here:

Russia has demanded that American warplanes exit Syrian airspace immediately:

The official said that Russian diplomats sent an official message to the US ordering American planes out of Syria, adding that Russian fighter jets were now flying over Syrian territory, according to the report.

US military sources told the news outlet that US planes would not comply with the Russian demand. Watch CNNs coverage here:

Iran Sends Troops for Mass Syrian Ground Offensive

Lebanese sources revealed on Thursday that hundreds of Iranian troops have entered Syria in the last ten days, and are planning a major ground offensive together with Syrian regime forces and Iran-proxy Hezbollah terrorists.

3 Similarities between Putin & the Gogian autocracy

Little is known about the man who was catapulted from obscurity into the seat of power.

Is Putin the man who will lead the Gogian force of Ezekiel 38?

I just finished reading a book by investigative journalist Masha Gressen entitled “The man without a face”.

In her book, Gressen explores the not so well known side of Putin and makes some observations about him which strike me as being very similar to the characteristics we might expect from the latter day Gog.

1. Putins ‘kleptomania’.

When reading about Gogs invasion in Ezekiel 38, one element stands out to me; Gogs desire to ‘take a spoil’.

Putin also, is infamous for taking what doesn’t belong to him.

Gessen dedicates a whole chapter to cover extensively what she calls “Putins Greed”. In this chapter, she documents Putins brazen history of becoming fixated on taking possession of personal items and corporate assets that belonged to other individuals and companies.

One notable example is was when Putin shutdown Russia’s largest privately owned oil & gas firm, Yukos, and salvaged its assets.

Here is a small collection of extracts taken from Gressen’s book showing Putin’s reoccurring urge to steal:

Putin hosting businessmen in St. Petersburg:

On several occasions, at least one of them embarrassingly public, Putin has acted like a person afflicted with Kleptomania.

In June 2005, while hosting a group of American businessmen in St. Petersburg, Putin pocketed the 124-diamond Super Bowl ring of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

He had asked to see it, tried it on, allegedly said, “I could kill someone with this”, then stuck it in his pocket and left the room abruptly.

Putin hosted as a special guest in New York:

In September 2005, Putin was a special guest at New Yorks Solomon R Guggenheim museum. At one point his hosts brought out a conversation piece that another Russian guest must have given the museum: a glass replica of a Kalashnikov automatic weapon filled with vodka.

Putin nodded to one of his bodyguards, who took the glass Kalashnikov and carried it out of the room, leaving the hosts speechless.

Gressen’s assessment of Putin’s ‘Kleptomania’

The correct term is probably not the popularly known kleptomania, which refers to a pathological desire to possess things for which one has little use, but the more exotic pleonexia, the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others.

If Putin suffers this irrepressible urge, this helps explain his apparent split personality: he compensates for his compulsion by creating the identity of an honest and incorruptible civil servant.

 Putin’s destruction & salvaging of Yukos:

It has been a year since Khodorvsky’s arrest, and it was now clear that Russia had passed two milestones. With the country’s former richest man behind bars indefinitely, no one, not even the rich and powerful, could afford free agency.

With the assets of the country’s largest and private company hijacked in broad daylight, Putin had claimed his place as the god father of a mafia clan ruling the country…. like all mafia bosses he amassed wealth by outright robberies such as with Yukos, by collecting the so called dues and by placing his cronies wherever there was money or assets to be siphoned off.

2. Putin has studied how to take the spoil.

It is worth noting that Gog takes a spoil specifically from two nations:

  • Israel (Ezek 38:12)
  • Egypt (Dan 11: 42-43)

Israel and Egypt aren’t the only nations that Russia will invade, Turkey will also be invaded. Why then doesn’t Gog take a spoil from Turkey?

Here is the suggestion: Both Israel & Egypt recently discovered unprecedented amounts of lucrative gas in the Mediterranean.

Both of these finds will be very disruptive to Russia’s control of the gas market.

The fact that both Egypt and Israel have now discovered what could be easily considered a ‘spoil’ from a geopolitical perspective makes this year distinct from past generations: The scene of the invasion of Israel in Daniel 11 & Ezekiel 38, is now set.

What is Putins take on all this? Well a few weeks back he called the Israeli PM and offered to guard Israel’s oil and gas assets.

But if we go back further and have a look at Putins past, Gressen shows that Putin actually completed his PHD on the subject of exploitation of natural resources.

His PHD was entitled: ‘Natural resources and the development strategy for the Russian Economy’.

Putin used the time to write and defend a dissertation, a goal he had set for himself when he went to work at Leningrad University seven years earlier.

The dissertation, oddly, was not on international law, as he had originally planned, but on economics of natural resources

So the idea of resource exploitation is well and truly entrenched in Putins mind, AND as Gressen points out, he seems to have some form of kleptomania. Not a good mix.

But that’s not all.

3. Putins overpowering violence

The third element of the Gogian invasion of Israel is the manner in which the invasion takes place.

It is fast and overpowering, Ezek 38:9 says “like a storm”.

Daniel 11 says: “he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many”.

Gressen recounts many stories of Putin that are on the public record showing Putin’s intrinsic tendency to impulsively dish out overpowering violence.

In one such story, Gressen describes Putins childhood:

“Thugs all. Unwashed, unshaven guys with cigarettes and bottles of cheap wine. Constant drinking, cursing, fistfights. And there was Putin in the middle of all this…When we were older, we would see the thugs from his courtyard, and they had drunk themselves ino the ground, they were hitting rock bottom. Many of them had been to jail”

Putin, younger than the thugs and slight of build, tried to hold his own with them. “If anyone ever insulted him in any way,” his friend recalled, “Vladmir would immediately jump on the guy, scratch him, bite him, rip his hair out by the clump – do anything to humiliate him in any way…

he would flare up and start expressing his outrage. He did this several times over”

Gressen notes that Putin likes to cultivate an image worthy of fear:

it is notable that Putin painted himself as consistently rash, physically violent man with a barely containable temper.

Gressen then goes on to show that his overpowering violence and impulsive temper which manifested through the tentacles of the KGB/FSB, resurrected vertical power enabling him to effectively head a security state much like Hitlers Nazi SS.

Is this the same barely containable temper that will “go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many”? (Daniel 11:44)

Three observations from Gressens book:

  1. Putins has a tendancy to steal / “kleptomania”, as Gressen puts it.
  2. Putin is well educated in and a strong proponent for the exploitation of natural resources for Russias economy.
  3. Putins has a record of calculated and overpowering violence.

Dubbed by Forbes the most powerful man in the world, Putin seems to perfectly embody a latter day Nimrod.

There are many other characteristics which define Putin, which when put together seem to all add up to a perfect storm.

Is Putin Gog? We simply dont know, however, with the way the world is headed, and if God wills, we might find out sooner than later.

Stratfor releases satellite images of Russian military in Syria

Russian expansion in Syria is taking place quickly.

Satellite images taken by Stratfor and published by Reuters show a build up of tanks, helicopters and other heavy weapons. It is estimated now that there is already 500 troops on the revamped air base.

Sources including Debkafile show that Russian troops are also actively fighting in Syria.

Turkey is becoming a logistical pain for Putin:

The increasing Russian military presence in Syria is not considered to be an invasion but once Russian casualties begin to mount its hard not to imagine Putin getting sucked into the vortex of the Middle East.

What is particularly obvious is that Russia is setting up infrastructure for quick access into the middle east through the development of a Syrian airbase.

However while the airbase is expanding its troop numbers via cargo flights, Russia is not allowed to fly through Turkey or Greece and therefore must take a very uneconomical route through Iran & Iraq.

Interesting to note that Turkey is a logistical thorn in Putins side at the moment as Russia continues to expand in Syria. Pro US Turkey and Greece won’t allow Russia to use their airspace – wonder how long this will last for. Source: Business Insider.

Furthermore all Russian naval cargo is coming through the Bosphorus which is a channel controlled by Turkey. It was recently reported that Turkey threatened to blockade the Bosporus to Russian ships. Imagine if they tried to do that anytime soon!

New Satellite Images of Russias Forward Air Base in Syria

Latakia airfield in Syria has been built up to accommodate Russian Forces. Satellite images show a build up over the past two weeks. Source: Reuters / Stratfor

Russia fortifies the Syrian airfield. Source: Reuters / Stratfor

A battalion-sized Russian contingent now appears to be located at the base, along with advanced T-90 Tanks, artillery and attack helicopter support. Source: Reuters / Stratfor

Recent News:

  • We are tracking Russian expansion in Syria as it happens here
  • Putin offered to guard Israeli oil & gas assets here
  • Egypt discovers what is likely to be the biggest gas field in the world here