Is this the End of an Era? Or the start of a new one?

Is this the End of an Era? Or the start of a new one?

The US withdraws not only from Syria and the Kurds but also from Afghanistan

The resignation of Jim Mattis from the position of Minister of Defense of the USA, is not a good sign for Trumps administration. Mattis was seen by allies as a ‘caretaker of the US defense policy’. He was the “source of stability to counter an unpredictable and undiplomatic White House” as Thomas Valasek states in his article at Politico[1].

US strategic withdrawal: The US seems to be withdrawing from long standing ally the Kurds in Syria and Iraq. The US is withdrawing from Afghanistan most of its remaining forces, at a time of negotiations taking place between Pakistan, US on the issue of the Taliban. In Afghanistan the support towards the government is relatively low. Taliban now seem to control, based on the same article from Valasek more than they controlled in 2001 prior to the US engagement in Afghanistan.

Turkey’s depth: Turkey’s regional chess game seems to be paying off. Its strategic depth seems to pay out, to an extent, while Turkey increases its war and security rhetoric in the South-East Mediterranean sea. Turkey is on understanding terms with the US. That is why President Erdogan has postponed his ‘operation’ a new invasion-attack to Syria. And they seem to get the grip quite well on it. Something that is not welcomed by Greece, Cyprus, Middle East countries and Israel. Turkey’s operations is on restructure mode as the US withdraws. Seems like they opened a channel of communication through business ventures. it is too obvious of a coincidence: Patriot Missile sales to Turkey are on the way. Discussions around -against the delayed, not frozen, sale- of the F35s to Turkey seems to pave the way for the re-opening of a channel of communication and possible strategic method. As the US seems to need Turkey. Turkey would do the shuffling that the US would not wish to do at this time. There is just too much confrontation. Iran, Russia, Turkey in Syria, in Iraq in Afghanistan. The reaction of the Arab League and the Middle East Countries. Israel’s concerns. What is a strong obstacle to Turkey’s reorientation of relation, is Michael Flynn’s’ former NSA sentencing. That however was but is not first line news. It was his and his partners’ direct relationship with Turkey that was translated into a formal legal accusation against him and cooperatives; he went against any lobby registration or policy of the US considering any influence among others. Gullen’s extradition wishes rhetoric continues. A firm policy orientation of Erdogan is to reshuffle Turkish public picture in the US. He will try to project Turkey as the “savior”. The one who will contain extremists, ISIS related (who seem to be restructuring). all other aspects of statutes (refugee issues) to Syria or Iraq cases and why not Iran. That is why the recent visit to Ankara from Iran’s leadership holds a meaning. Not only in relations with Syria, rather with relations with the regional powers to be in the region.

Russia. President Vladimir Putin welcome such a step. However, did inform that while the USA is withdrawing, withdrawing from the INF treaty of the US, may render the world more vulnerable. At the same time, Russia will attempt to negotiate the future of Syria in or while a transition period is firstly agreed and discussed with Assad of Syria and Russia, Iran and Turkey as regional game players. Otherwise, Russia is on standby, considering challenges with the Ecumenical Patriarchy of the Orthodox Church, having agreed to self-head the Ukrainian Church. Further, elevating relations with Indo-China region and Central Asian States once more.

European Powers and neighborhood policy. While the European Union embraces for a Brexit that will have solid negative effects as well to both the UK and the European Union, many see the withdrawal of the US as an opportunity to boost a more efficient European Army that will take over the ways and the region’s protection. Still defensive in nature, completing the efforts of NATO, both a new EU defense mandate and or NATO itself need to realign with the realities at hand. There are challenges and threats both inside and outside the European space and neighborhood. There is also a global element attached to it. What will the Europeans commit to? Or how will they split the challenges and threats? Will Europe re-integrate itself to the realities at hand? We believe Europe will. But not prior deciphering what will the US will do. The fact that Trump is not steady, the fact that he is unpredictable, gives the “chills” to European Leaders. At the same time, more and more the voices of Europe are being heard saying enough is enough with both the inability to efficiently understand and cooperate and or similarly express common challenges and threats. It so happens that by the time the US reshuffles policy and re-engages, this maybe too late as the Europeans would have already taken the decision to go it alone. In this new reality, The European South plays a pivotal role vs Turkey’s wishes for further instability. As such cooperation, training and education agreed at the level of the EU makes sense. While a new energy corridor is created for Europe, while the Middle East Agenda is being reoriented for the benefit of the Middle Eastern Countries and allies beyond, Threats and challenges are on the rise, where only the threat of global trade wars can actually bring in the US and its power ability in a solid form. In the south west- a Cyber-Security training college also makes sense as Network can be remote. In the North East, the fear of the Russian Bear is absolute. Preparations and joined exercises, whether NATO or EU will constantly take place. Central and Eastern Europe will be the bargain for Central Eastern energy corridor, while the anti-refugee status is seen as the “Dourreios Ippos” of the future of Europe, that seems to be in transition, from an open and resilient to tolerance continent and organization to a very conservative, going back to Nation-States and sovereign borders issue. This happens at the time where much discussion has taken place on the future of the Western Balkans, while the East Balkans seem to be also on the way in projecting more integration wishes with the European Union.

The near Future: As expected, we shall distinguish more and more reshuffling of powers. New mapping corridors for new opportunities but also challenges will be raised. The fear of further escalation to conflict seems to be more and more visible. Trade Wars will also become trade reasons for involvement and influence. Natural resource and energy resource corridors will allow for further integration or further disintegration. The US will continue to pay attention to the policy of “we do not want globalization rather national sovereignty” as Trump claimed in his UN Speech in September. This would result to operational involvement only where there is business affiliated operational need for the US to be directly involved. This is the short future of the US foreign and defense policy under Trump. While he builds on this Mexico-US border wall, a now funded project the US will become even more conservative but always a good partner for business, while the US overconsumes and is the creator of more than the 20% of Global GDP. The ability for countries to trade and ally with the US will always be of value. Yet the future cooperation in a European Union when ready with robust defense and clarity in Global Trade will render another partner in the face of global challenges faced with a regional approach.

[1]Tomas Valasek, Europe will never feel safe with a Trump White House [seen 21.12.2018]