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January 20-27

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Erdogan’s Gamble in Afrin

As The Atlantic writes, on January 20, Turkey launched the so-called Operation Olive Branch, a military campaign against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin, in northwestern Syria. The operation is part of Ankara’s endeavor to prevent the YPG, which is backed by America in its fight against the Islamic State, from developing an autonomous region in Syria along the Turkish border. Turkish objections originate from the YPG’s links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Russian reaction has been telling. Given its control of airspace around Afrin, Russia clearly acquiesced to the Turkish operation. (Erdogan dispatched his military and intelligence chiefs to Moscow last week to discuss plans.) Russia also removed troops, including military advisors working with YPG forces there. Erdogan has been notably silent about Russia’s partnership with the YPG given Turkey’s lack of leverage and vulnerability to Russia’s Kurdish policy.

According to the article at The Wall Street Journal, the main reason the Kurds are abandoned by their Western allies this time as well is just “cold realpolitik”. As the author implies, Washington must keep its alliance with the federal government of Prime Minister Haider al Abadi in order not to push Iraq with its huge oil reserves closer into an alignment with Iran. Ardently resisting the Turkish operation on Afrin would also hasten Erdogan’s retreat from NATO into an even-tighter relationship with Vladimir Putin. As for Russia, it conceded to the Turkish operation because prying Turkey away from the West is more important geopolitical objective to the Kremlin than the friendship with the stateless Kurds. The YPG commander-general, Sipan Hemo, expressed his anger in an interview with the Kurdish news agency ANHA: “We had certain agreements with Russia. But Russia suddenly disregarded these agreements and betrayed us. They have clearly sold us out.” The U.S., which didn’t have troops in Afrin, couldn’t avert the Turkish operation in that region. So if Erdogan attacks another Kurdish-held territory in eastern Syria, it’s a question whether the U.S. troops deployed there will try to stave off the attack, as they did in Manbij last year.

Russia's policy once again showcases what kind of "ally" it actually is. A lawful question should arise whether Russia can be even considered as an ally for Armenians, who many times have suffered the same fate as Kurds, and whether the Russian troops at our borders are a guarantee for our safety or a real national security threat.



From January 23 to 26 the heads of states, corporate executives, investors and tech giants headed to the World Economic Forum in Davos. And as for the first time since the global economic crisis that began a decade ago, the world’s major economies are finally growing, the participants had many reasons for optimism. At the same time, many discussions revolved around the most urgent problems the great economies are facing today. The participants had once again stated the importance to fight off populism and nationalism, curb protectionism and promote the free trade. As Bloomberg writes, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against the “poison” of populism that makes nations turn inward, telling the World Economic Forum her goal is to strengthen joint policy making in Europe and uphold free trade. Another world leader, French President Emmanuel Macron, who stated that “France is back”, had also called for a “global compact” to overcome the negative effects of globalization, warning against a race to the bottom on taxes and regulation, reports Reuters. In another article, Bloomberg writes that on the last day of the forum, the U.S. President in his speech will try to convince everyone that “America First” policies can coexist with globalism. Chief executives are looking more favorably at the President after his administration began a major deregulation effort and won passage of a law that slashes the U.S. corporate tax rate. Trump is hopeful to bring investment and jobs to the United States. 


Prepared by Marina Muradyan

01 March 2021
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The Armenian Center for National and International Studies

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