30.09.2014 Author: Henry Kamens

Georgia “enhanced”, so watch out Turkey

4534534Now that the NATO Wales Summit is history it is high time to consider what the real results of this meeting were. The devil is in the detail, so to speak, “not-the-official-statements-but-what-was-talked-about-behind-closed-doors.”

What came as no surprise, considering what is happening with ISIS and Ukraine, is that US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Georgia and Turkey straight after the recent summit. This was not, however, out of friendship towards these countries. Hagel was told in Cardiff exactly where things stand world stage, and came on this mission not to support Georgia and Turkey, but to save NATO itself.

The Georgian equation

This was Hagel’s first official visit to Georgia. He met government and military leaders and congratulated this longstanding U.S. military partner on its new status as an “enhanced NATO partner,” a new status which will put Georgia on the cutting edge of NATO policy, with new training and engagement commitments on both sides.

If Georgia is really so valuable a partner for NATO one wonders why it is not actually offered NATO membership, which it has sought for years. Hagel’s visit was designed to deflect these very questions, given that Georgia contributes more troops per capita to NATO operations than any other country, including the actual NATO members, but is still not considered worthy of membership.

The official line on the trip was expressed by Reuters News: “The trip has two aims: reassuring Tbilisi in face of tremendous upheaval in the region and sending a pointed message to Moscow.” It is difficult to see however how it did either. Firstly, all the upheaval in the surrounding region, from Ukraine to Syria to Iraq, was introduced by the US through armed groups it trained and equipped, and is now both fighting on the one hand and continuing to support on the other. If that is what Georgia’s great friend does in other countries it claims to be helping, who’s to say it won’t do the same in Georgia, or ask Georgia to support such activities elsewhere regardless of the consequences?

Secondly, the US has supported Georgia for a generation, and did during the 2008 war. This did not stop Russia doing what it wanted during that war. If Georgia were a NATO member the rest of NATO would be obliged to send troops to support it if it were attacked. Yet over the years every Georgian attempt to join NATO has been met with encouraging words and nothing else. The US has pointedly done everything it can to avoid making a commitment to protect Georgia if it has to, and this latest stunt of “enhanced partnership status” is practically an open invitation to Moscow to walk in unhindered, though it is not currently threatening to do so.

But while we are supposed to be distracted by this message Hagel acknowledged what this “enhanced status” really means. The US is going to build a training centre which is allegedly there to support Georgia by providing additional equipment and technical assistance.

The US has been providing Georgia with this sort of support for twenty years, and already potential NATO bases in various regions have been identified and upgraded under the guise of civilian infrastructure projects, which civilians can’t go near or find out anything about. Therefore this announcement implies that Georgians who have been sent to die in NATO operations are actually too incompetent to serve in NATO operations, unless there is another reason the US needs these bases without giving anything real in return. This brings us to Turkey.

The bumble bee of Europe

A few days after Hagel’s visit President Obama outlined what he wants us to believe these bases are actually for. He stated that he was expanding his military campaign against terrorist organisations and would attack ISIS/ISIL fighters, Islamic State, “wherever they exist.”

“I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

This is of course the same President Obama who objects to the Russian military doctrine, which states that Russia will defend its own citizens wherever they may be, whatever country it has to enter to do so. Once again, the US is incapable of understanding that “democracy” and “hypocrisy” are supposed to be two different things. Or does Obama actually know that, but want to keep up the pretence because he will be retired by the time the US has to do what he has committed it to?

More relevant to the situation is the statement made some years ago by retired Four Star General Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander during the Kosovo War. Commenting on defence planning, he said: “We’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”

Iraq hasn’t gone – but now ISIS is there, trained and equipped by the US and staffed by Georgians, amongst others, for this purpose. Syria is being destroyed by forces the US backed and inserted in exactly the same way. Libya has seen a revolution and a transfer of power to the local branch of al-Qaeda. Somalia is in the process of being divided into two separate states with US assistance, Sudan already has been. Only Iran is left, but not for much longer if the Greater Kurdistan plan ISIS is pursuing, just as the US has long done, comes to fruition.

General Clark did not include Turkey in his list of countries to be “knocked off”. But this is because he did not have to. The US had no need to say that it was “going to” knock off Turkey because it has been trying to since long before Clark made his statement. There are close links between the US material support for PKK fighters in Turkey and the material support now being given to the Kurds in Northern Iraq, which existed years before ISIS appeared. The same methods, and the same supply routes, have been used for many years to undermine one Turkish government after another, whether they be right, left, democratic, military or pseudo-theocratic in nature.

Turkey’s crime is that it doesn’t fit in. The US is just as interested in its ongoing cultural war as it is in the bombs and bullets. The US will never trust Turkey because it is both Moslem and secularist. The “Islamic World” which Obama talks about engaging with consists of autocracies, fanatics, intolerance and anti-Western values, in US eyes. Turkey is rather more in the other direction, but does not abandon or denounce the faith which is alleged to create these things.

Bumble bees can’t fly, because the laws of aerodynamics say they can’t, but they do. Science won’t change the laws, it would rather destroy the anomaly. Turkey is the same as the bumble bee, as far as the US is concerned. Such a country can’t exist or prosper, but it is playing an increasingly important role in regional affairs. By doing so it presents a cultural and political model which provides a real alternative to US ones.

The US can’t cope with that, as we have seen in many countries, including Georgia, where democracy hasn’t produced the results Uncle Sam wants. It can’t actually destroy Turkey because the only alternative would be the sort of Islamic state the US most fears. But it can, and will, do everything in its power to undermine this ally of mutual convenience, and Georgia is the obvious place to do it from, as a look at the map and the statements of both Clark and Obama indicate.

Where Hagel went next

So where did Hagel go after his “reassuring” visit to Georgia? Turkey. Of course he did. Turkey may be secular but doesn’t like attacking fellow Moslems. A cowed and ineffectual Turkey, the sort of state the Ottoman Empire ended up as, would not be a problem. An influential and prosperous Turkey which does things its own way is a bigger threat to America than any faraway terrorist group, strategic alliances notwithstanding.

This is what lies behind the apparent tribute Hagel paid to Turkey when he was there. “When we look around the world … Turkey, I think in many ways, can be seen as a model for engaging and practicing a vibrant democracy,” he said, adding “Turkey will be involved in all efforts, as President Barack Obama articulated on the last day of the NATO Summit, to build a broad international coalition to combat the threat posed by the Islamic State…. ISIS is a threat, as President Obama and other leaders have said, to its own region of the world first. It’s a threat to every country, it’s a threat to every society, and Turkey lives right here.”

Therefore, as long as terrorist groups the US invented are roaming around, the US will expect Turkey to do whatever the US wants to destroy them. What that is has been indicated by other statements the US has made. US Senator John McCain, amongst others, has recently complained that Turkey is becoming increasingly authoritarian and restricting basic freedoms. So some change of government will be expected, and ultimately a change in national orientation. You can do anything in the name of combating the other side, just ask the people of Haiti under Papa Doc.


NATO has to fulfill some mission in a post-Cold War world. It is pursuing a two-pronged strategy to try and find one. One prong is to try and start another Cold War by declaring everything Unamerican to be wrong and hostile. The other is to insert terrorist groups into various countries to give the “international democratic order” something to fight against.

There is no reason a defensive alliance should have a cultural dimension. Very different political models can co-exist, side-by-side, and even within the same country, as the differences between local councils in pluralistic countries often demonstrate. But NATO insists on its partners having a culture the US likes and trusts, which is always something close to what the US itself has. You can’t talk to Communists or Moslems or Russians, and if you do you will pay the price, as Ukraine is discovering the hard way now.

NATO is aware of this weakness but has no real intention of addressing it. This leaves it only one way out – coming out of the stockade with all guns blazing, like Robert Redford and Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Turkey has to change and Georgia has to make it change, or both will be devastated as any other too independent states have been: ally or not.

So which state is next on the list of countries to be knocked off? Could it be that Obama realises the US is putting itself further up that list by the day?

Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.