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Regional geopolitics

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  • Looks like it will be all out war between turkey and Syria in the next day or two.
    I like where Russia is standing while Iran is quiet. It is time to arm the kurds inside turkey.


    • Turkey and Azerbaijan continue quiet expansion in Georgia

      Batumi, 23.08.2020

      Turkey's presence in Ajaria has increased dramatically over the past fifteen years. Prior to that, the former head of the region Aslan Abashidze restrained Turkish infiltration into the region, thinking that the sale of a meter of land to them was tantamount to the loss of all of Ajaria. However, after his departure, the situation has changed radically, political scientist Lev Sloboda notes

      Batumi. Photo:

      Ajaria has become of interest to the Turkish capital. It is profitable not only to invest money in business, but also to spend holidays. On weekends, Turks love to go to Batumi, as casinos in Turkey are banned.

      To imagine the place of Turkey in the life of Ajaria, it is enough to walk through the streets of Batumi. The square of the city's central mosque is no different from the Turkish square. Turkish speech is heard everywhere. The population of Ajaria is more afraid of Turks than fictional Russian aggression.

      In Georgia, the second ethnic group after Georgians in terms of number are Azerbaijanis. They speak a dialect in Georgia that is closer to Turkish than to Azerbaijani. In the east of the country - in the areas of Kquemo-Kartli, Marneuli, Bolnisi, Dmanisi, Gardabani, Azerbaijanis make up the majority of the population. It is not for a reason that politicians in Tbilisi fear that The Borchalin Azerbaijanis may try to join Azerbaijan.

      Georgian Azerbaijanis mostly do not know or speak Georgian, preferring to communicate with Georgians in Russian language. This is partly due to the fact that in many local schools the Azerbaijani language is taught as the main language, and Georgian, English and Russian are taught as foreign languages.

      Azerbaijan has the same policy of peaceful, "cultural" expansion in Georgia as Turkey. Georgia has numerous refueling stations for the Baku company SOCAR, transit through Georgian oil and gas territory, Azerbaijanis manage business facilities in Tbilisi, in the resort areas of Batumi, Kobuleti, Urek and other cities, and own shares of state and private enterprises. Baku structures use this powerful economic lever for political purposes to manipulate the Georgian authorities.

      On the other hand, Georgia has a serious demographic problem, which continues to deteriorate against the background of the influx of Azerbaijanis. Turkey is also promoting the "repatriation" of Meskhetian Turks in the Samzme Jawahk region.

      Another hot topic in Georgia (primarily in Ajaria) is the construction of mosques, overseen by the Turkish government. During his visit to Turkey in 2014, the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Elijah II, said that the Muslim community in Georgia has more than 311 active mosques, while there are no Georgian churches in Turkey. In the 2016 election campaign, the Patriots Alliance was central to the construction of a new mosque in Batumi. The party warned of excessive Turkish influence in Ajaria. Subsequently, the issue of Turkish expansion was raised many times by progressives and party groups.

      The percentage of Georgian business in Batumi decreases over the years: 70% of investments are Turkish. There is nothing Georgian and Adjara left on many of the city's central streets. Even the names of the restaurants speak for themselves: "Mecca," "Doner-Duryum," "Mevlana el Madin," "Keremin Jeri" and so on. The peculiarity of this business is that for their facilities Turkish businessmen prefer to hire their own compatriots, taking them out of the country and helping to get a second citizenship, and Georgian workers are at best satisfied with low-paid work of service personnel. That is, Turkish circles feel quite confident in Ajaria and do their best to make financial flows circulate within the Turkish community.

      Most of the Batumi embankment, with all modern and luxurious buildings, also belongs to the Turks. It is no coincidence that Turkish President Recep Erdogan,speaking about those cities that remain in the hearts of the Turks (Syrian Aleppo, Greek Thessaloniki and Iraqis Of Mosul), also mentioned the Georgian Batumi.

      If someone from Ankara or Istanbul wants to go to the east of the country to look at the fortress in Riza or relax in the seaside town of Hopa, they can safely book a flight to Batumi marked "Hopa". And this flight will not be considered international. At the Turkish airport you will pass passport and customs control, and in Batumi no Georgian representative of customs even has the right to touch you with a finger. Directly from the airport you can get on a Turkish bus and if you wish to go to Hopa, Riza, etc.
      Khomeriki: Turkey will occupy Batumi if Russia does not support GeorgiaNo borders, no customs! Batumi is already considered an internal zone of Turkey, claims Georgian expert
      This is not just a business approach, but a program supported by the government, as the entrepreneurial interests of Turks in Ajaria are actively subsidized from Ankara. Moreover, the Turkish authorities even provide low-interest loans to compatriots who left for Ajaria to buy a home.

      The process of Islamization of Georgia continues. Turkey's geopolitical interests extend not only to Libya, Syria and the Aegean Sea, but also to the Caucasus. So we should not be surprised by the gradual ingation of Georgia.

      Leo Sloboda is a political scientist, especially for IA Realist


      • AL-Monitor Turkish army accused of throwing Kurdish farmers from helicopter
        by Amberin Zaman
        Sept. 24, 2020

        [Allegations that Turkish soldiers took two Kurdish farmers up in a helicopter and threw them out fit a broader pattern of operations against the Kurdistan Workers Party in rural areas.] Turkish prosecutors have begun to investigate allegations that a pair of Kurdish farmers were brutally beaten and thrown out of a military helicopter in the southeastern province of Van on Sept. 11 in a case that has recalled the horrors inflicted on locals at the height of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) insurgency in the 1990s. Images of the bloodied faces of Osman Siban, 50, and Servet Turgut, 55, circulating online have provoked an uproar in the Kurdish community, with lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) demanding that a parliamentary commission be set up to investigate the affair. Turgut is in critical condition in a hospital in Van. “My father is in a coma. He has brain trauma, 11 broken ribs, a punctured lung and doctors say his chances of survival are poor,” said Turgut’s only son, Huseyin in a telephone interview with Al-Monitor. “We demand justice but the state wants to bury the truth, to cover it up,” he said. Siban, who was discharged from a military hospital this week, is suffering from dizzy spells and memory loss. “He is absolutely terrified. He’s lost his sense of time and place. When he speaks it’s childlike blubbering,” said Hamit Kocak, one of three lawyers who lodged charges of deliberate manslaughter, torture and dereliction of duties against the alleged perpetrators on behalf of the men’s families. Siban is recovering from his injuries in the coastal city of Mersin, where he spends his winters, and was not available for comment. The government denies the allegations and is investigating the men separately for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.” The catchall label has been leveled against thousands of Kurdish politicians, activists, journalists and others who continue to be prosecuted and jailed, often on flimsy evidence since a two-and-a-half-year cease-fire between the PKK and the state collapsed in July 2015. The incident in Van occurred following a military operation against PKK targets near Surik, a hamlet in the township of Catak, where both men eked out a living farming their land. Three Turkish soldiers and three PKK militants died in the clash. Eyewitnesses in Surik said that same day, a military helicopter landed near their hamlet at 2 p.m. A group of soldiers emerged and ordered villagers to gather in the main square. They made them get down on their knees and show their identification. They singled out two of the villagers and started to beat them, shouting, “We are in pain, who are we to take it out on if not you? We are going to burn your village down.” According to testimony relayed to Al-Monitor by Kocak, the soldiers came back in the late afternoon, dragging Turgut by the neck from the nearby field where he had been making bales of hay. They asked for Siban, who was in his home drinking tea. The pair were bundled into a helicopter and flown away. When villagers tried to follow, the soldiers pointed guns at them and threatened to kill them. Kocak believes the pair was likely singled out because local informants had snitched on them. “Let’s assume they are guilty — and they are not — these are poor farmers trying to make ends meet. Is this the treatment they deserve? Getting beaten to death?” fumed Servet’s brother Naif in a telephone interview with Al-Monitor. Local officials presented a markedly different version of events. The Van governor’s office asserted in a statement that Turgut was seen near the scene of the clashes “displaying suspicious activities” and had “fallen off a cliff” while trying to flee security forces. Siban was also spotted in the area. “Despite resisting capture,” he was detained “in keeping with regulations” and had been put on a military helicopter with Turgut and the corpse of a PKK fighter. They were flown to the Van gendarmerie’s provincial command. Siban and Turgut were then transferred to the state hospital in Van, where the latter is being treated. The statement did not clarify why Siban required hospitalization. Kocak said that a delirious Siban recalls being “repeatedly beaten by 10 to 20 men.” “When asked if he was thrown out of a helicopter, he says he was, but then minutes later he says he wasn’t,” Kocak noted. With Turgut in a coma, it's impossible to corroborate either version. A medical report dated Sept. 17 issued by the state-run hospital where the men were treated asserts, however, that Siban was admitted after “falling from a height.” The report, which was seen by Al-Monitor, goes on to say that the emergency medical technician who brought him in had indicated that Siban had “fallen from a helicopter.” Mustafa Yeneroglu, a deputy for the newly created centrist DEVA Party led by former Economy Minister Ali Babacan, has filed a separate parliamentary motion asking Defense Minister Hulusi Akar to respond to the allegations. "The horrific claim that two of our citizens were tortured and thrown out of a helicopter must be investigated in an effective manner," he tweeted. “Whether they were thrown out of a helicopter or not, it’s clear that these men were savagely assaulted during their detention and one of them may very well die because of it,” said Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, an HDP lawmaker and member of the parliament’s human rights commission. “Yet, the message from the government is, ‘We will do whatever it takes to preserve the unity of the Turkish state, to combat terrorism. Nobody can stop us, we are above the law.’ The 1990s concept is back with a vengeance,” Gergerlioglu told Al-Monitor in a telephone interview. “The difference now, though,” he added, “is that since the [failed 2016] coup, state impunity extends to everyone, not only the Kurds.” The 90s were a brutal time. Security forces torched and forcibly evacuated at least 2,500 villages as part of a scorched-earth campaign that displaced well over a million people, including the Turguts and the Sibans, who moved to Mersin when their village was razed in 1988. Rogue elements carried out extrajudicial killings, kidnapped dissidents and subjected Kurds to numerous other abuses in a failed effort to quell the PKK’s 36-year insurgency. Throwing people out of helicopters was one of them, according to a 2005 report by Human Rights Watch. Siban and Turgut’s ordeal has reopened old wounds for Newroz Xebat Yildirim, a Stocholm-based Kurdish psychologist. Yildirim described how in 1993, his cousin Mejdel dangled by a rope tied to his ankle from a military helicopter as soldiers grilled him over his supposed support for the guerrillas. Yildirim, who had been 14 at the time, was in their native village near the township of Nusaybin, where the nightmare unfolded. “Unsatisfied, they took his pregnant wife to the creek and stripped her naked and made her sit in it while they forced Mejdel to watch,” Yildirim told Al-Monitor, his voice breaking during a telephone interview. “Then they shot at his hand and pulled at it until it literally came off and could not be stitched back to his arm. The foot by which he was swung from the helicopter was so mangled you could see the bone.” Mejdel’s wife lost the baby. Yildirim says he is still waiting for the Turkish state to issue an apology. During the early days of AKP rule, when the government embarked on radical reforms aimed at winning Turkey full membership in the European Union and Erdogan initiated direct peace talks with the PKK, an apology might have been within reach. But Erdogan’s alliance with right-wing ultra-nationalists struck in the aftermath of the coup “has reversed all of that,” said Ozturk Turkdogan, the president of Turkey’s Human Rights Association. The veteran rights campaigner expressed deep skepticism over the outcome of the prosecutors’ inquiry into the alleged abuses against Siban and Turgut. Turkdogan told Al-Monitor that their story fits a broader pattern of anti-PKK operations in rural areas. “When the military loses their own in clashes, they typically go to the closest village, declare it a no-go security zone and abuse locals.” In normal circumstances, he explained, prosecutors go to the scene of the alleged abuse and file a report. “But in a no-go zone, it’s the security forces who took part in the operation who do the reporting," Turkdogan added. “More often than not the file gets shut down and even when not, justice is rarely served.”;!!LIr3w8kk_Xxm!6VPVglw3G7W3lLKHolXCSLhR qXL8RwUFie4aaOoNRumcqn3JHCTHXh6BqfanRQ$


        • Պայքարի նոր ճակա՞տ Հայաստանի շուրջ. Պեկինը կքանդի՞ Երևանում մեծ դեսպանատունը
          • 2020-11-30
          • Հեղինակ՝ ԱՐԱՄ ԱՄԱՏՈՒՆԻ

          Պակիստանյան և չինական սոցիալական ցանցերում բավականին նկատելի ալիք է, որում ներգրավված օգտատերերը խոսում են այն մասին, թե իբրև Հայաստանը պատերազմում պարտության համար մեղադրում է Հնդկաստանին՝ մատակարարած Swathi ռադիոտեղորոշիչ համակարգերի անբավարար աշխատանքի համար: Դրանք սարքեր են, որոնք տեղորոշում են հակառակորդի հրետանային կայանները և խոցում դրանք: Թե որտեղից է պակիստանյան և չինական սոցցանցային տիրույթին հայտնի դարձել Հնդկաստանից Հայաստանի դժգոհությունը, պարզ չէ: Փոխարենը կարող ենք ենթադրել, թե ինչից է ծնվել այդ դժգոհության գաղափարը: Հնդկաստանի հետ խնդիր ունեն թե՛ Պակիստանը՝ որն ըստ էության եղել է Ադրբեջանի դաշնակիցը Արցախի դեմ պատերազմում, և թե՛ Չինաստանը: Չինաստանը այդ պատերազմում չի դաշնակցել Ադրբեջանի հետ, բայց պահել է չեզոք լռություն, ինչը անհավասար դիմակայությունում ըստ էության կարող է լինել աջակցությանը հավասարազոր: Դա, իհարկե, Պեկինի գործն է, վերջին հաշվով, սակայն ամբողջ հարցն այն է, որ այժմ չինական և պակիստանյան տիրույթում փորձ է արվում ստեղծել հայ-հնդկական լարվածություն: Եթե անգամ դա արվում է Հնդկաստանի հետ իրենց հարցերը լուծելու համար, ապա անթույլատրելի է այդ հարցերը լուծել Հայաստան-Հնդկաստան լարվածության ռիսկեր առաջացնելու գնով:

          Մյուս կողմից, այստեղ հարց է՝ լուծվում են Հնդկաստանի՞ հետ կապված իրենց խնդիրները, թեկուզ սոցցանցային մանրախնդրությամբ, թե՞ Հնդկաստանը դիտարկվում է Կովկասի ուղղությամբ ռեգիոնալ խաղի մեջ ներգրավվելու մրցակից: Նոյեմբերի 9-ից հետո՝ իհարկե Արցախի դեմ պատերազմի հետևանքով, ստեղծվել է ռեգիոնալ բոլորովին նոր իրավիճակ, որը շոշափում է ընդգրկուն շահեր: Խոսքն, ընդ որում, ոչ միայն բուն կովկասյան ռեգիոնի մասին է, այլ ավելի լայն ճյուղավորման և ընդգրկման, որ ներառում է Կովկասի հետ սերտ կապակցված անվտանգային այլ միջավայրերի:

          Դրանք ճյուղավորումով են, մերձավորարևելյան գոտուց մինչև Եվրոպա, Ռուսաստանից մինչև կենտրոնասիական գոտի: Նոր իրավիճակի և զարգացումների պատրաստվում են գրեթե բոլոր սուբյեկտները, որոնք այս կամ այն ներգրավվածությունն ունեն ռեգիոնալ այն դիապազոնում, որ ճյուղավորվում է Կովկասից կամ, մասնավորապես, արցախյան գոտուց: Իսկ Կովկասի հանդեպ հետաքրքրություն թե՛ Հնդկաստանը, թե՛ Չինաստանը դրսևորում են վաղուց: Իհարկե, այստեղ կարող ենք խոսել տարբեր քաշային կատեգորիաների մասին, և Չինաստանի ներուժն այստեղ, անշուշտ, չափելի է ԱՄՆ ու Ռուսաստանի հետ: Այդ համատեքստում առավել նկատելի է բավականին խոշոր խաղացողի՝ Չինաստանի քաղաքական պասիվությունը:

          Պեկինը պատերազմի շրջանում բավարարվեց հրադադարի կոչով, առանձնապես չցուցաբերելով որևէ ուղղությամբ դիվանագիտական աշխուժություն կամ նախաձեռնողականություն: Անկասկած է, որ այդ առերևույթ պասիվությունն ամենևին չի կարող նշանակել, որ Չինաստանը հետաքրքրված չէր տեղի ունեցողով և հնարավոր այս կամ այն զարգացումով, չէր հետևում ծավալվող ռազմական և ռազմա-քաղաքական, դիվանագիտական խաղին: Հարցն այն է, սակայն, թե որոնք են եղել եզրահանգումներն ու ինչ ծրագրեր ունի Պեկինը: Բանն այն է, որ Չինաստանի ռեգիոնալ ծրագրերի առումով բավականին խոսուն է Երևանում կառուցվող դեսպանատունն իր մասշտաբով: Չինաստանը Երևանում կառուցել է եվրասիական տարածաշրջանում մեծությամբ երկրորդ դեսպանատունը Մոսկվայից հետո: Այն հազիվ թե լինի պարզունակ մեծամոլության վկայություն և, թերևս, խոսում է Չինաստանի ֆունկցիոնալ անհրաժեշտությունների մասին, առավել ևս պայմանավորված Հայաստանի ռեգիոնալ դերակատարմամբ և հեռանկարներով: Բայց հարցն այստեղ այն է, որ Արցախի դեմ պատերազմից հետո այդ իմաստով տեղի են ունեցել առանցքային փլուզումներ՝ թե՛ ռեգիոնալ անվտանգային ճարտարապետության, թե՛ ուժերի հարաբերակցության, թե՛ Հայաստանի դերի առումով՝ բնականաբար ներառյալ Արցախը: Հետևաբար, առաջանում է հարց, թե արդյո՞ք Չինաստանը ենթադրում է իր վերանայումները, այդ թվում՝ Հայաստանի ֆունկցիոնալ հենակետային նպատակահարմարության իմաստով: Արդյո՞ք Պեկինը կքանդի իր դեսպանատունը Երևանում, վերանայելով ռեգիոնալ ներկայացվածության առաջնահերթությունները և ուղղությունները:

          Հատկանշական է, որ պատերազմից ի վեր, առ այսօր չի եղել հայ-չինական պաշտոնական շփում, թեկուզ Հայաստանում դեսպանի մակարդակով:


          • November 29, 2020

            Israelis may justify their relationship with Azerbaijan in realpolitik consideration: In its crudest terms, it is a relationship based on a weapons-for-energy calculation. Jerusalem sold Baku billions of dollars’ worth of top-shelf military equipment, and Israel received almost half of its oil needs from Azerbaijan. The long-term detriment to ties may soon surpass any short-term gains, however.

            by Michael Rubin
            STEPANAKERT, NAGORNO-KARABAKH—Armenia’s defeat in the 45-day Nagorno-Karabakh War was largely the result of its forfeiting dominance over the skies. Armenia does not have Azerbaijan’s vast oil wealth. Its economy remains strangled by a Turkish and Azerbaijani land blockade. That economic reality influenced Armenia’s military strategy to focus on parity with Azerbaijan’s ground forces. Azerbaijan’s air force, after all, both small and equipped with legacy Soviet Sukhoi-25s, MiG-21s and MiG-24s. Nagorno-Karabakh’s topography, meanwhile, resembles Switzerland. Even with smaller ground forces, the Armenians believed they could hold the higher ground. It was a fatal miscalculation. Not only did Azerbaijan augment its air force with Turkish F-16s, but its purchase and use of dozens of Israeli kamikaze and surveillance drones tipped the balance of the war against Armenia.

            Israelis may justify their relationship with Azerbaijan in realpolitik consideration: In its crudest terms, it is a relationship based on a weapons-for-energy calculation. Jerusalem sold Baku billions of dollars’ worth of top-shelf military equipment, and Israel received almost half of its oil needs from Azerbaijan. The long-term detriment to ties may soon surpass any short-term gains, however.

            Many Armenians—and ordinary outside observers—focus on the moral argument: The victims of one Holocaust not only turning a blind eye toward but also selling weapons to the potential perpetrators of another. That the Azeris (and Turkish Special Forces) started the war almost one hundred years to the day after Turks invaded the newly-independent Republic of Armenia against the backdrop of the Armenian Genocide colored Armenians’ understanding of the war. President Reuven Rivlin’s assurances to his Armenian counterpart Armen Sarkissian that Israel’s military trade was “not aimed against any side” further rang hollow given the rapid delivery of arms in the days prior to and perhaps during the conflict. Realists in Israel and elsewhere might dismiss moral arguments given the immediacy of other interests but, in the case of Israel’s Azerbaijan involvement, cynical short-termism will come at a high price.

            Consider Israel’s own border considerations: The need for “defensible borders” has, for nearly a half-century, been among Israel’s top priorities in any peace settlement. The late Yigal Allon was a founder of the Palmach, the pre-independence Jewish special forces, and his subsequent political career included eight years as deputy prime minister and three years as minister of foreign affairs. In 1976, he wrote a Foreign Affairs article entitled “Israel: The Case for Defensible Borders” which articulated Israeli fears and shaped its understanding of how land-for-peace might develop. Dore Gold, an academic who advised both prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli political and military veterans associated with his Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, have authored several reports on defensible borders as a critical need for viable peace.

            Armenia has long made similar security calculations to Israel: The districts which separate Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh are crucial to the security of both. At issue is not only the high ground and communication links, but the Kelbajar [Qarvachar] district which the Russia- and Turkey-imposed ceasefire agreement awarded to Azerbaijan is also the source of 85 percent of the entire Republic of Armenia’s water supply. Not only does Azerbaijan now have the power to cut-off Armenia’s water supply, but Armenians officials worry that Azerbaijan or the radical Syrian Arab Islamists whom they employed as mercenaries, could simply dump toxic or radioactive waste into the stream and poison Lake Sevan which serves as Armenia’s main reservoir. Israel, of course, has previously raised water security issues with regard to the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. Now, however, the precedents it has established by backing Azerbaijan against Armenia so that Baku could impose a solution that ignores defensible borders and water security undercut Israel’s future negotiating position. Azerbaijan may happily have purchased Israel’s drones, but the cost to Israel’s long-term security is far greater than Israelis realize.

            Nor is it clear that the peace-keeping lines will work. The Russian peacekeepers I encountered both in Stepanakert and in the Kelbajar district were professional. They were friendly toward locals. They let children sit on top of their BTRs, drank vodka with older residents in order to build rapport, and systematically reached out to NGO, both Western and local, in order to establish mechanisms to coordinate. That said, their lines are thin. The Russians have neither been able to stop kidnappings of Armenian civilians by Azeri forces or their mercenaries, even along the safe-passage Lachin corridor nor have they been able to prevent skirmishing around the Sotk goldmine. Should chaos envelop Russia when President Vladimir Putin dies, the Russian peacekeepers could evaporate as quickly as they came and leave Armenia exposed.

            The situation along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border is a far cry from the buffer zone which Israel required from Egypt upon the return of the Sinai. Israel’s assistance to Azerbaijan in the war and the lack of buffer or demilitarized zones in the districts separating Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh likewise will set a precedent to enable the avoidance of demilitarized zones in portions of the West Bank which will ultimately become part of a Palestinian state.

            Israel’s embrace of Azerbaijan has not only been commercial but also strategic as the two countries cooperated against a common adversary in Iran. Many Israeli officials, of course, believe the Islamic Republic poses an existential challenge. The clerical regime in Iran, however, has also threatened Azerbaijan because that country’s secular Shi’ite regime provided an alternate model which many Iranians craved. Supporters of strong Israel-Azerbaijan ties juxtaposed the two countries’ surveillance, monitoring, and espionage cooperation against Armenia’s traditionally strong ties to the Islamic Republic.

            Here, Israeli officials’ misreading of the regional dynamics creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: By embracing Azerbaijan and Turkey but remaining silent on those two countries’ blockade of Armenia, they force Armenia to rely on Iran as an economic lifeline. Nearly one-third of Armenians make their living in agriculture. To export produce by air because of the blockade would be expensive and make the good uncompetitive. Iran, then, becomes the only real option. The same is true with regard to minerals and most manufactured goods. A more far-sighted Israeli policy would be to help Armenia bypass reliance on Iran by demanding Turkey and Azerbaijan open their borders to Armenian goods.

            The final aspect of Israel’s short-sightedness involves the more than 7,700 Arab or Turkmen mercenaries transported into Azerbaijan from Syria by Turkey in order to wage religious jihad against Christians. The identities of these mercenaries are increasingly known: Many come from Syria and some previously fought for Al Qaeda-linked groups or the Islamic State. Israelis may depict Azerbaijan as secular and respectful of freedom of religion but, for President Ilham Aliyev to embrace militiamen who destroy churches, behead prisoners, and engage in anti-Christian polemic as they cut off ears and gauge out eyes of captured prisoners, suggests the opposite. At the very least, Azerbaijan’s embrace of Islamist mercenaries might not only destabilize the country in the long run, but it could also make Israel more vulnerable. Simply put, there is no such thing as a good terrorist and by turning a blind eye toward Aliyev’s most recent actions, Israel is undercutting its own war on terror: how can it complain that Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip are beyond the pale when Jerusalem simultaneously albeit indirectly cooperates with such mercenaries against Armenia?

            Israel’s relations with Azerbaijan have developed over decades. Perhaps the tight embrace of the two states once made sense, but times have changed. Armenia is a democracy, while Azerbaijan has become a family-run dictatorship. Armenia embraces religious freedom while Azerbaijan works with Islamist extremists. Azerbaijan’s hatred toward Armenians further allows Iran to exploit divisions. At the same time, whereas Israel once had few options to fulfill its energy needs, it now can rely not only upon Cyprus and its own Eastern Mediterranean gas fields, but also the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi’s human rights record is far from perfect, but at least it does not incite genocide.

            Israel need not break ties with Azerbaijan; there is still much about which the two countries can cooperate. But, just as the United States did not let its Arab partners dictate the U.S. relationship with Israel nor let Pakistan and India dictate Washington’s ties to the other, neither should Azerbaijan presume to dictate Israel’s relationship with Armenia. Rather than be partisan in the dispute, Israel’s goal should be to have cordial relations with all parties. So long as Jerusalem supports Baku uncritically, however, not only will Israel bring a lasting moral shame upon itself, but it will also create precedents corrosive to its own long-term strategic interests.

            Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). You can follow him on Twitter: @mrubin1971.


            • Israel’s Azerbaijan Mistake | The National Interest


              • Russia to set up naval base in Sudan

                Will Ross

                Africa editor, BBC World Service

                AFPCopyright: AFP

                Details have emerged of an agreement between Khartoum and Moscow for Russia to establish a naval base on Sudan's Red Sea coast.

                The deal, signed last week, will allow Russia to keep up to four navy ships, including nuclear-powered vessels, in Port Sudan for the next 25 years.

                Analysts say the move is part of Russia's attempt to reassert its geopolitical influence.

                It's suffered a series of setbacks this year in its backyard, including the defeat last month of its traditional ally Armenia by Turkey-backed Azerbaijan.

                In 2017, on his first visit to Russia, Sudan's former president, Omar al-Bashir asked President Vladimir Putin to "protect" his country from United States' aggression.

                Mr Bashir has since been ousted from power and is being held in prison in Khartoum.


                • The Syrian mercenaries used as 'cannon fodder' in Nagorno-Karabakh

                  By Ed Butler
                  BBC Newsimage captionMen reported to be Syrian mercenaries close to the Armenian border in Azerbaijan - from a video posted by Syrian news organisation Jarablus News
                  Turkey and Azerbaijan deny that Syrian mercenaries were used in the recent offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh but four Syrians have told the BBC that after enlisting for sentry duties in Azerbaijan, they were unexpectedly thrown into battle on the front line.

                  It was back in August of this year that the rumours started to circulate in rebel-held areas of northern Syria: there was well-paid work to be had overseas.

                  "I had a friend who told me that there is a very good job you can do, just to be at military checkpoints in Azerbaijan," one man told me.

                  "They told us our mission would be to serve as sentries on the border - as peacekeepers. They were offering $2,000 a month! It felt like a fortune for us," said another, whom I will call Qutaiba.

                  Both applied for the job through Turkish-backed rebel factions that make up what's known as the Syrian National Army, a force in northern Syria opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

                  In an area where few earn more than $1 a day, the promised salary seemed like a godsend. It's estimated that somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 men signed up and travelled to Azerbaijan, via Turkey, on Turkish military transport aircraft.

                  But the work wasn't what it seemed. The men, many of them with no military experience, were being recruited for war - as they soon discovered when they were taken to the front line and ordered to fight.

                  "I didn't expect to survive," Qutaiba says. "It seemed like a 1% chance. Death was all around us."

                  Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed enclave that fell under Armenian control during a bloody conflict that ended in a ceasefire in 1994. Tens of thousands died and hundreds of thousands were displaced, both from the enclave itself and from surrounding territory occupied by Armenian forces. The international community has not recognised the self-declared Republic of Artsakh (the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh) and this year, sensing its growing military superiority, Azerbaijan decided to go on the attack.

                  Although Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey deny the use of mercenaries, researchers have amassed a considerable amount of photographic evidence, drawn from videos and photographs the fighters have posted online, which tells a different story.

                  The Syrians seem to have been deployed on the southern flank of the Azeri advance, where casualties on both sides were extremely high. The fighters I spoke to came under heavy fire and seemed to have been traumatised by their experiences. They didn't want to be identified, for fear of reprisal from militia commanders, so I have given them different names.

                  "My first battle began the day after I arrived," says Ismael.

                  "I and about 30 guys were sent to the front line. We walked for about 50m when suddenly a rocket landed near us. I threw myself to the ground. The shelling lasted for 30 minutes non-stop. Those minutes felt like years. It was then I regretted coming to Azerbaijan."

                  "We didn't know what to do, how to react," says Samir, who adds that he and many of his fellow recruits had virtually no military experience or training.

                  "I saw men dying, and others who just went crazily running. They didn't have any sense of where they were going, because they were basically civilians."
                  • Listen to Syria's Soldiers of Fortune, on Crossing Continents, at 11:00 on Thursday 10 December, on BBC Radio 4
                  • Or catch up later online

                  All of the men say they were given little protective equipment or medical support. Many of their fellow fighters appear to have bled to death from wounds that battlefield medics could easily have treated.
                  image captionA video posted online in early October and geolocated to the front line near Horadiz shows a 23-year-old Syrian praying as shells land nearby - he has been identified by researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov as Mustafa Qanti from Hayyan, near Aleppo
                  "The hardest moment was when one of my mates was hit," says Ismael, who was himself later hospitalised with shrapnel wounds. "He was 20m away from me when the shell landed. I saw him fall. He was calling to me, screaming. But his spot was exposed to the Armenian machine guns. I couldn't help him. In the end, he just died there."

                  Another Syrian says he was paralysed by fear when the shelling started.

                  "I remember I just sat on the ground and cried and my injured friends started to cry as well," he says. "One guy got shrapnel in his head. He died right there... Every day I see this. When it comes to me, I sit and cry, even now. I don't know how I survived this war."

                  Estimates vary as to the exact death toll among the Syrian fighters. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the conflict in Syria, puts the figure at more than 500. This compares to reported figures of more than 2,400 on the Armenian side, and nearly 3,000 on Azerbaijan's side, though Azerbaijan doesn't acknowledge that any Syrians were among them.

                  "We don't use mercenaries," the country's president, Ilham Aliyev, told the France 24 news network in October.

                  "This is our official statement and since the outbreak not a single country presented evidence of that. And moreover we don't need that. We have an army of more than 100,000 fighters and what we are doing now on the ground demonstrates that our army is capable of liberating its lands itself."

                  This is an interesting point. Why would Azerbaijan recruit Syrian fighters?
                  IMAGE COPYRIGHTJESR PRESSimage captionA video of four Syrians in Azerbaijan listening to a song about a Syrian National Army division was posted online by Syrian news publication Jesr Press
                  Military analyst Michael Kofman, head of the Russia programme at the CNA military research centre in Washington DC, says the goal seems to have been to minimise Azeri troop casualties.

                  "They took quite a few casualties early on, especially in the south-east, and these mercenaries were essentially used as expendable assault troops to go in the first wave," he says.

                  "They calculated quite cynically that if it turned out these offensives were not successful early on, then it was best these casualties would be among mercenaries not Azerbaijani forces.

                  'Nobody cares about mercenaries."
                  image captionKinan Farzat, who is reported to have died in Nagorno-Karabakh, was a major in the Syrian National Army
                  Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the Centre for Global Policy, also in Washington DC, who has spoken to dozens of Syrians who took part in the conflict, agrees that they were "used as cannon fodder".

                  "They're cheap. They can be rushed to the front line with very little preparation, as was the case in Azerbaijan - essentially people to whom you can strap a Kalashnikov and tell, 'Go capture that hill, go capture that forest,'" she says.

                  And, she points out, they are desperately poor, "so they are willing to go and risk their lives".

                  However, within a few days of the outbreak of the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, in late September, hundreds were laying down weapons and refusing to fight. Two of those I spoke to were among them, and one sent a video of the strikers outside the barracks where they were stationed.
                  image captionA scene from a video sent to the BBC, said to show Syrians who refused to fight
                  "The commanders started to threaten us that they'd put us in jail in Azerbaijan for nine months. Then they told us that even when we got back to Syria, they'd arrest us," says Samir.

                  "But there were 500 of us on strike at that point and we did start to have an effect on them. They put together a list of our names. Then five or six days later they came and told us to get ourselves ready: 'You are leaving.'"

                  Samir says that none of these men were paid a penny of the $2,000 they had been promised, and many did not get back the personal possessions they had arrived with in Azerbaijan.

                  He also claims that on their return to Syria, commanders of a rebel faction summarily killed four men accused of organising the strike. The BBC has been unable to verify this allegation.

                  Nagorno-Karabakh is not the first conflict in which Syrian fighters have been recruited to serve recently. Allegedly through Russian and Turkish-backed security firms, Syrians from both the rebel and government-held areas have been fighting in the civil war in Libya for the last year or more - and on different sides.

                  A mercenary representing the internationally recognised Libyan government forces, supported by Turkey, told me he'd personally participated in the capture of former pro-Assad Syrian soldiers when driving back Russian-backed forces loyal to Gen Khalifa Haftar.
                  IMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGESimage captionAn alleged Syrian mercenary captured by forces loyal to Libyan general Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi
                  Turkey has acknowledged that Syrian fighters are present in Libya, though has not admitted recruiting them.

                  "We are not sending fighters to Libya. We have deep historical and close kinship ties to Libya and we want to see a political solution and in Libya now there is a chance for peace and talks," Turkey's ambassador to London, Umit Yalcin, told me.

                  When I mentioned what the Syrian fighters had told me about Turkey's role in recruiting them to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh, he echoed Azerbaijan's official denials. "Of course these claims are baseless and not helpful in terms of achieving justice and peace and stability," he said. "We should focus on the deal for peace and justice in the region."

                  He also alleged that Kurdish mercenaries had been fighting on the Armenian side - a claim Armenia has rejected.

                  Calling on 11 November for mercenaries in the conflict zone to be withdrawn, UN human rights experts said widespread reports indicated that Turkey had engaged in large-scale recruitment and transfer of Syrian men to Azerbaijan. At the same time, they said they were looking into reports that Armenia had been involved in the deployment of foreign nationals to fight in the conflict.
                  image captionA shot apparently of Syrian fighters in a barracks in south-western Azerbaijan - they are wearing the aqua-tinted fatigues of the Azeri border guard service
                  Today, a Russian-brokered ceasefire is in operation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Under its terms, Azerbaijan has reclaimed a significant proportion of the land it lost in the 1990s. Military analysts say that it was above all its superiority in the air, using Israeli and Turkish drone technology, that enabled Azerbaijan to achieve the victory it now claims.

                  Meanwhile, back in Syria, two of the mercenaries are trying to put the experience behind them.

                  "I feel guilty for becoming a mercenary. I feel ashamed," says Samir, even though he refused to fight after just three days on the front line.

                  "When people ask me, 'Did I travel?' I say no - even though they know that I went. I feel like I am very small in their eyes… When I got there I did say no to war. I objected to what was happening. But I'm ashamed because I trusted the mercenaries. That's why I feel shame."
                  IMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGESimage captionMilitary vehicles carrying drones made by an Azeri-Israeli joint venture take part in a rehearsal for a military parade in the capital, Baku
                  This month there are unconfirmed reports in Syrian media of a new recruitment drive in government-controlled areas. It's suggested that former pro-Assad soldiers have been signed up, through Russian intermediaries, to guard "oil installations" in Venezuela, on the promise of generous salaries. The BBC has not been able independently to confirm these claims. But Elizabeth Tsurkov says that, if true, it would follow a familiar pattern.

                  "The problem is Syria is so destroyed, the economy is so destroyed, that any actor wishing to recruit fighters on the cheap can find them in Syria," she says.

                  "You know, this is a population that has suffered immensely - displacement, chemical weapons, starvation, sieges, extermination in prisons - and now Syrians are basically just accepting the logic of an international community that does not value their lives and sees them as pawns."

                  I ask Samir what he would say to fellow Syrians tempted by similar offers of work abroad.

                  "I'd tell them you'll lose everything, even your dignity. You won't get anything and you might lose your life. Even if you are poor, being desperate here in Syria is way better than going to fight for something far away you don't know anything about."

                  Qutaiba, who joined the rebel Free Syrian Army as a student at the start of the revolution, asks those who would judge the Syrians who travelled to Azerbaijan to imagine what it is like being unable to afford milk or nappies for their children.

                  "Those who see us as mercenaries, they don't see our poverty and our need. We would do anything to help our children. It's the worst thing to see your child needing milk and you can't provide it. In our place you too would make the same decision."
                  You may also be interested in:

                  More than 300 people from Kosovo went to join Islamists fighting "holy war" in Syria and Iraq - per capita the highest number in Europe. But not all of them match the popular image of a jihadi, as Helen Nianias discovered when she met a hipsterish young man for coffee in the Kosovan capital, Pristina.

                  'How I joined the jihadis by mistake' (2018)


                  • Ռուսաստանը նահանջում է, բայց Խորհրդային Միության փլուզումը շարունակվում է. Atlantic Council (ԱՄՆ)
                    • 2020-12-13

                    Երեք տասնամյակ է, ինչ Խորհրդային Միությունը փլուզվել է, բայց այս գործընթացը դեռ ավարտված չէ: Պաշտոնապես, իհարկե, ԽՍՀՄ-ը դադարեց գոյություն ունենալ 1991 թ.-ից: Բայց իրականում Մոսկվան չի համակերպվել իր կայսրության կորստի հետ և երեսուն տարի պայքարում է վիճարկելու համար պատմության դատավճիռը: Նախկին ԽՍՀՄ հանրապետություններում ռուսական ռևանշիզմի այս պայքարը ազգաշինության դեմ ձևավորել է հետխորհրդային աշխարհի քաղաքական լանդշաֆտը մի ամբողջ սերնդի համար, բայց այժմ կան նշաններ, որ այս միտումը կարող է վճռականորեն շրջվել Կրեմլի դեմ:

                    2020 թվականն ապացուցեց, որ աղետ է Վլադիմիր Պուտինի համար, ինչպես նաև նրա երազանքը՝ չարտահայտված կայսրության մասին: Ենթադրվում էր, որ դա կլինի հաղթարշավի և կեցվածքի տարի՝ շեշտը դնելով նացիստական ​​Գերմանիայի դեմ Խորհրդային Միության հաղթանակի 75-ամյակին նվիրված իրադարձությունների վրա: Ի վերջո, Պուտինը տարվա մեծ մասն անցկացրեց հասարակությունից հեռու, և Ռուսաստանն ավելի շատ է տառապում կորոնավիրուսային համաճարակից, քան աշխարհի որևէ մեկ այլ երկիր: Այսպես կոչված, մերձավոր արտերկրում նույնպես ուրախության մի քանի պատճառ կա. հետխորհրդային տարածքում ռուսական շահերը մի շարք անհաջողություններ են ունեցել:

                    Կենտրոնական Ասիայում՝ Ղրղըզստանում, անկարգությունները հանգեցրին ռուսամետ կառավարության տապալմանը: Մտավախություն առաջացավ, որ Կրեմլի ազդեցությունը մի տարածաշրջանում, որտեղ Մոսկվան արդեն մրցում է Չինաստանի աճող ներկայության հետ, միայն կնվազի:

                    Մոլդովայում կայացած նախագահական ընտրություններում ռուսամետ նախագահը պարտվեց արևմտամետ թեկնածուին: Երկրի նորընտիր նախագահ Մայա Սանդուն հենց այն քաղաքական գործիչն է, որից վախենում է Մոսկվան: Նա Հարվարդի տնտեսագետ է, խոսում է անգլերեն, պաշտպանում է Եվրամիությանն անդամակցելը և արդեն կոչ է արել Ռուսաստանին հետ կանչել իր գրավիչ ուժերը Մերձդնեստրի կրեմլամետ անջատողական անկլավից:

                    Բայց ռուսական շահերին առավելագույն կործանարար հարվածը հասցվեց Անդրկովկասում, որտեղ Թուրքիայի աջակցությունը թույլ տվեց Ադրբեջանին վեցշաբաթյա պատերազմում հաղթել Կրեմլի դաշնակից Հայաստանին: Ի վերջո, Պուտինը կարողացավ բանակցություններ վարել խաղաղության համաձայնագրի շուրջ, որը Ռուսաստանին թույլ էր տալիս խաղաղապահ առաքելություն տեղակայել պատերազմական գոտում: Այս ժեստը չնայած թույլ է տալիս Ռուսաստանին փրկել դեմքը, սակայն չի կարող թաքցնել այն փաստը, որ Մոսկվան ստիպված էր համակերպվել տարածաշրջանում մրցակից տերության առկայության հետ, որտեղ անվիճելիորեն իշխում էր ավելի քան մեկ դար: Թուրքիայի մասնակցությունը ադրբեջանա-հայկական պատերազմին հետխորհրդային պատմության մեջ շրջադարձային պահ դարձավ, որը փոխեց ուժերի հավասարակշռությունը Անդրկովկասում և խորտակեց պատրանքները նախկին ԽՍՀՄ սահմաններում ռազմական պայմաններ թելադրելու Ռուսաստանի ունակության մասին:

                    Մինչ Ադրբեջանում տեղի ունեցած իրադարձությունները ցնցող էին Ռուսաստանի համար, հարևան Բելառուսում տեղի ունեցած իրադարձություններն էլ ավելի ուժեղ հարվածեցին: Օգոստոսի 9-ին տեղի ունեցած կեղծ նախագահական ընտրություններից հետո բռնկված բողոքի շարժումը կարող է հստակ աշխարհաքաղաքական բնույթ չունենալ, բայց Ռուսաստանի համար ժողովրդավարության պահանջները դեռ անեծք են: Մոսկվան երբեք չի վերականգնվի ԽՍՀՄ փլուզումից և ժողովրդական ցանկացած շարժման մեջ տեսնում է միայն Կրեմլի ավտորիտար մոդելի սպառնալիք:

                    Բելառուսի ընդդիմության առաջնորդները դիմավորեցին Ռուսաստանին՝ վստահեցնելով, որ ինքը վախենալու բան չունի, բայց Մոսկվան համոզված է, որ ժողովրդավարական Բելառուսը անխուսափելիորեն կդիմի դեպի Արևմուտք, եթե դրան ֆիզիկապես չխանգարեն: Ուստի Պուտինը դժկամությամբ միջամտեց Բելառուսի բռնապետ Ալեքսանդր Լուկաշենկոյին սատարելու հարցում՝ նրան տրամադրելով անհրաժեշտ միջոցներ և խորհրդականների խումբ, ինչպես նաև հրապարակավ խոստացավ անհրաժեշտության դեպքում օգտագործել Ռուսաստանի անվտանգության ուժերը:

                    Այնուամենայնիվ, Պուտինի աջակցությունը Լուկաշենկոյին տխուր անխուսափելիության զգացում է առաջացնում: Կրեմլի քաղաքական գործիչները տեղյակ են, որ աջակցելով ծայրաստիճան ոչ պոպուլյար և ավելի դաժան Լուկաշենկոյի ռեժիմին՝ նրանք միլիոնավոր երբեմնի համակրելի բելառուսներին հանում են Ռուսաստանի դեմ: Այնուամենայնիվ, հետխորհրդային տարածքում ծավալվող սրտերի և մտքերի քաղաքակրթական ճակատամարտում Մոսկվան պարզապես այլընտրանք չունի եվրոպական ժողովրդավարությանը, որն անսահման ավելի գրավիչ է: Արդյունքում Կրեմլը մնաց առանց կենսունակ տարբերակների՝ բացառությամբ ուժի կիրառման:

                    Ռուսաստանի՝ Արևմուտքին գրավիչ այլընտրանք ներկայացնելու Ռուսաստանի անկարողությունն առավել ակնհայտ է Ուկրաինայում: ԵՄ-ի հետ Ուկրաինայի առաջարկած Ասոցացման համաձայնագրի շուրջ 2013-ի բանավեճի ժամանակ Մոսկվան նույնիսկ չփորձեց գովազդել Ռուսաստանի հետ սերտ կապերի որևէ օգուտ: Փոխարենը Կրեմլը սանձազերծեց միակողմանի առևտրային պատերազմ և սպառնաց սարսափելի հետևանքներով՝ միևնույն ժամանակ սանձազերծելով ԵՄ-ի դեմ ուղղված անպարկեշտ արշավը՝ մանկապարտեզային մակարդակի հոմոֆոբիայով և նույնասեռ միությունների մասին սարսափելի պատմություններով: Եվ երբ ուկրաինացիները պատրաստվում էին ընդունել հետխորհրդային ողջ դարաշրջանում ամենանշանակալի աշխարհաքաղաքական որոշումը, Ռուսաստանը նրանց առաջարկելու ոչինչ չուներ, բացի սովորական հակաարևմտյան անհեթեթությունից և բարակ շղարշով պատված սպառնալիքներից:

                    Այսօրվա Ռուսաստանի վիճակը գաղտնիք չէ Պուտինի համար: Զրկվելով ապագայի հստակ տեսլական առաջարկելու հնարավորությունից՝ նա պայքար սկսեց անցյալի համար: Երկրորդ համաշխարհային պատերազմի մասին սովետական ​​վարդագույն կարոտն ու առասպելագործությունը Ռուսաստանի ներսում լավ են գործում, բայց դա ոչ մի կերպ չի համապատասխանում ԽՍՀՄ այլ մասերում ժողովուրդների ձգտումներին, որտեղ ժամանակակից Ռուսաստանի վիրավոր կայսերական հպարտության զգացումը կիսում են քչերը:

                    Անցյալ տարվա ընթացքում Մոսկվայի կրած արտաքին քաղաքական պարտությունները տեղավորվում են 1991-ին սկիզբ առած ռուսական նահանջի պատկերի մեջ: Այս ճանապարհի նշանակալից հանգրվանն էին ԵՄ-ին և ՆԱՏՕ-ին Բալթյան երկրների անդամակցությունը և Ուկրաինայի հետխորհրդային երկու հեղափոխությունները: Ադրբեջանա-հայկական վերջին պատերազմը և Բելառուսի շարունակական ազգային զարթոնքը նույնպես արժանի են տեղ զբաղեցնելու այս ցուցակում:

                    Այս նահանջը կտևի այնքան ժամանակ, քանի դեռ Մոսկվան չի հրաժարվել հետխորհրդային աշխարհի վերաբերյալ իր կայսերական տեսակետներից: Հենվելով ուժի վրա՝ Ռուսաստանը կարողացավ ստեղծել կրեմլամետ անկլավներ Ուկրաինայում, Վրաստանում և Մոլդովայում, բայց միևնույն ժամանակ օտարեց հետխորհրդային տարածքի տասնյակ միլիոնավոր քաղաքացիների, որոնք այլապես կլինեին նրա բնական դաշնակիցները: Նման հակաարդյունավետ քաղաքականությունը շարունակելը խելագարության գագաթնակետ կլինի: Փոխարենը Ռուսաստանը պետք է հրաժարվի հարկադրանքից՝ հօգուտ համոզելու: Կրեմլը սովոր չէ փոխշահավետ գործընկերային հարաբերություններ կառուցելու, բայց ռուս քաղաքական գործիչները ստիպված կլինեն սովորել, թե ինչպես դա անել, եթե նրանք չեն ցանկանում կրկնել 2020 թվականը: