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27 February 2020


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I appreciated you starting the column with a Warren Zevon song. Some details & a rhetorical question. Turkish reporters are giving the #s killed in the air strike as 73 dead & 82 wounded, most seriously. It is very messy on the ground; Turkey has equipped Free Syrian Army (FSA) with Turkish uniforms & APCs (M113). No one seems to know the extent to which Turkish special forces are mixed in with HTS & FSA. What is sure is that the Turks have brought in artillery which was used at Saraqib. There is also vid online of Turks using a manpad to shoot at Russian or Syrian a/c.
The Turk/FSA/HTS attack on Saraqib showed SAAs ‘talent’ problem is not fixed: Saraqib was held by militia, who were pushed out after 3 attacks (arty?). Saraqib is apparently ‘no man’s land’ at the moment. Meanwhile, SAA’s ‘shock troops’ were up north tearing another hole in salafist jihadi lines. The ‘shock troops’ seem to be the same half dozen elite formations used over & over in every attack & counter attack. Interesting that ‘Liwa al Quds’ (Palestinian) is among them.
The SAA says that they are no longer fighting Syrians; it’s guys from the ‘Stans, Chechins & especially Uyghur's.
The Saker has an article by ‘Col Cassad’ who says it’s all a big Kabuki Show. He marshalled a lot of factoids so you have to wonder. Certainly Gollum, er I mean Erdo, doesn’t want a batch of hard core salafist jihadis coming back into Turkey & HTS/FSA were crying about not being able to hold SAA (& Sukhoi) attacks because they had no artillery support.

Jim S

Remember the last time the Greeks came back from Moscow empty-handed. Maybe Russia didn't have the funds, but maybe she told them to pound sand because of their unjust condemnation of her over MH17. The onus is on the Greeks.

If I'm thinking wishfully President Trump would dismiss the MH17 report for the fiction it is.


Everything that is being said by Erdogan and the US/NATO is intentional distraction from what is really going on. Turkey and its mercenaries has been enlisted and supplied to the hilt to attack Tartus and Khmeimim. That is why there was a Turkish column so far south (the one that got hit).

Why use Turkey and its jihadists to do this? Simple. Even if Russia burns Turkey to the ground, nobody in the US/NATO gives a damn. Similarly, if Turkey/jihadists succeed the US/NATO start sleeping much better at night without breaking a sweat. And finally any direct conflict between the US/NATO and Russia is avoided, which only the very very crazies want to have happen and which will be very, very costly to US/NATO.

From the Turkish/US/NATO point of view, Turkey's actions have nothing to do with anything except removing Russia from Syria. That's incorrect? It's really about refugees and buffers on the border? Sure. Nope this is probably the last best chance to reverse the staggering defeat Russia has inflicted on the US/NATO in Syria.

Does Putin know all this? A better question is does he want you to think he knows all this?

A Portuguese Man


Europe is Russia's western flank. Extremum or extremum, Russia will inevitably reap whatever is sown here. Just like we are reaping the consequences of "de"-colonization of our southern flank. Not everything can be neutralized by ASM tech.


The only thing I can contribute is to say to note that the bulk of the Turkish Army is manned by one-year conscripts. (At most--last year Erdogan made an announcement the service obligation would be decreased to six months, but these things take time to implement, and Erdogan announces a lot of things.)

This means there are effectively two Turkish armies. The one that we've seen in action is a "deployable" subset of commando brigades and special forces, all of which are staffed by professional contract soldiers. The problem Erdogan has is that his creeping commitments in northern Syria, added to the running let's say (by now) rash of SE Turkey, have stretched this bit of the Turkish army to the limit. Casualties have not especially large, but deployments and general "OPTEMPO" have increased enough for this force to exhibit the vicious cycle some American readers may recognize from the 00's: more difficulty recruiting and increasing number of voluntary separations, which means the people who remain are under even more strain, which starts the cycle again. I've seen anecdata to the effect that the force is so fully committed that unit rotation has become impossible: any new additional commitment is meant by a kind of "vexillatio" levy across the various commands.

There aren't a lot of these guys, is the takeaway. And, if the rest of the "second-largest army in NATO" consists of one-year or maybe six-months conscripts, then I think there's a very simple bit of "open source intelligence" one can look out to asses what sort of operation the Turkish Army can stage. Have there been any efforts either to extend the term of service of serving conscripts or to "temporarily" recall the recently-discharged class? If not, then Erdogan has barely any military force to play with: most of those mechanized or armoured brigades you can look up the orders of battle are likely (what they are in late February depends on how Turkey organizes its training year) simply collections of buildings filled with conscripts only a few months out of civilian life who might, if they're able to operate their equipment, drive roughly 50km in one direction if they're told to. Turkey got a very bloody nose when it tried using this kind of unit during foray into Syria in 2016 against a gaggle of ISIS rearguards. I don't think Erdogan or anyone advising him thinks it would be a good idea to launch these against the SAA supported by the Russian air force, nor what's become for Syria a kind "military frontier" of semi-autonomous Kurdish garrisons across its northern border.

What I think this means in practice is that the escalatory actions we have to be looking not for massive offensive by waves of Turkish armor all across northern Syria, but rather opportunistic shoot-downs of Russian assets, perhaps timed in such a way Erdogan can hope he can enlist US support.


Don’t know about the rest but there is footage of Turk drones taking out Pantsir AA systems. Read something about the drones flying too high for the AA to get to them, and operator incompetency. I don’t know anything about this or whether it is true or not.


Turkey seems to have responded with a large scale attack on Syrian forces in different provinces.



Are the Turkish/NATO drones flying with Russian permission for some reason?

Yes and no! Under the Turkish/Russian agreements unarmed drones were allowed for monitoring purposes. It is probably fair to say that at some unknown date the Turks armed and used them. It would have taken a bit of time for the SAA/Russians to have realised what had happened during which some damage would have been done. Also the clips are from targeting as well as armed drones. One of the clips seems to be from a monitoring drone watching an incoming long range missile targeting the Syrian arms factory SW of Aleppo.

Peter AU1, a poster at MoA, has analyzed the Turkish videos and come to the conclusion that the architecture and surroundings of many were typical of Tripoli (where according to LNA claims there were at least 6 Turkish drones) not Syria. So it looks like a collection of clips from all over the place and at undetermined times.


re ... spot on, EU policy dysfunctional policy has caused the immigration crisis, and it will only be fixed by EU policy becoming rational. They also could have made an effort to block US neocon destabilization of the middle east - but Europe was fully on board.

No, not at all spot on. You get it badly wrong. It is precisely the opposite of what you wrote.

For starters, as for that 'was on board' goes - that may apply to France and the UK, perhaps Italy and Poland but that's about it.

Obama, Trump, MbS, Erdogan and the troupe of head chopping happy islamists torched places like Syria and Libya, with plenty plenty help given and plenty 'collateral damage' in order to topple Assad and Ghaddafi (Hillary Clinton iirc said to that something about as bright as "We came, saw and he died, hihihi") - it was 'regime changery über alles, fuck the bystanders', to put it friendly.

As a result that also caused masses of refugees running away from these blazes (to Europe because it was much closer than the US, for which they would have to cross the Atlantic, which is a tad larger than the mediterranean).

To call the resulting refugee crisis a "EU policy dysfunctional policy" that "has caused the immigration crisis" is absurd nonsense very short of being insulting.

That Europe was hard pressed to handle the refugees is one thing - but that is a consequence of the policy of different people, for their own reasons, not necessarily shared with the EU, and not a EU policy fault.

To make the point even blunter:

  • Salvini, Orban, Farage, Le Pen, Wilders and others of their ilk are europeans, but not the EU.
  • Obama, Trump, MbS, Chalifa Haftar, Assad, Erdogan, Netanyahu and Clinton are not the EU either.

Do you get that?

What should Europe had done? Play a Salvini and let the refugees drown (actually in violation of international treaties, also signed by Italy, obliging signing nations to help people in the sea if their ships or boats are unsafe).

Let's call it more sober "a policy of utterly deliberate nonassistance to many persons in danger" - by the way - under domestic laws in most of the west domestically reasonably seen as an act of crime.

The only involuntary fun part about Salvini here is that he will likely be tried for his domestic brutal and far right wing italian refugee policy. He recently bragged for that that he his policy was super, that he was not a politician but a hard street fighter and would go to jail for it happily with a straight back. Gutter policy from a gutter inhabitant.

But then Italy is Italy.

There was a lady participating in Berlusconis notorious bunga bunga parties, iirc as a minor. She gave testimony against Berlusconi on that. Last year she went to hospital feeling sick. There she died. It was an unusual death since it was found that she was poisoned with something like radioactive waste. It appears that someone (fiendly to Mr. B?) was doing a cheaper Litvinenko on her (cheaper since without polonium-210, but just as nasty and deadly). As for Mr B, well, he is free.

So to speak, in Italy shit happens a lot. It is to me entirely possible that Salvini gets away free despite what he did. Alas.

Pleaase don't conflate the acts of ... unpleasants like Salvini, Orban, Farage or Poland's PIS party with the EU policy. That'd be as unfair as nonsensical.

There are very significant differences betwen the two and there is a point in that so called 'master minds' like Bannon are for some reason friedly with the former (as in 'weakening Europe makes the US relatively stronger'?).

I recall Bannon sent last year some iirc former Breitbart "provocateur insane" as an election campaign advisor to Germany's right wing AfD party, who once in the US iirc said somthing like that sex abuse of a 12 yar old may be spiritually enhancoing for that kid. Obviously he has just the expertise that right wingers like AfD need ... if you ask Bannon.

Peter AU1


The drone video is from Libya. The general architecture and surrounds seen in the Turk videos do not match that seen in in Idlib and Aleppo.
Using google maps satellite view, zoom in on the buildings and farmland around Tripoli.
General architecture and setting seen there matches that seen in the Turk videos.

This links to the area.
Most buildings in the Turk propaganda offensive have flat roofs with a low wall, and a stone or mud fence around the house and yard.
These do exist but are relatively rare in the Idlib Aleppo area.


@vegetius: How many battalions would it take to close Greece's land border with Turkey?

We're about to find out. Friends in Athens with military connections told us today that Greek tanks have amassed on the eastern Greek border with Turkey (the Evros); the Greek Coast guard is protecting the 5 islands to which Turkey normally releases boats(Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros,Kos). Not sure where Frontex is in all this.

The Greek PM informed the German Chancellor yesterday of Greece's decision not to accept any more refugees and to close its borders with Turkey. (Current estimate: 18,000 as of now on the eastern/Evros border waiting to pass across.)

Official reason invoked: coronavirus fears.

On Lesbos, reports are that Greek residents have clashed with MAT (riot police)over the decision to build more detention camps on the island; the camp on Lesbos (Moria) now houses more than 6x the number of refugees for which it was built.

The rumor here is that Turkey plans to release 200,000 Syrian refugees, leaving them free to cross the land border or set out by boat to the Greek islands.


re "It is very messy on the ground; Turkey has equipped Free Syrian Army (FSA) with Turkish uniforms & APCs (M113). No one seems to know the extent to which Turkish special forces are mixed in with HTS & FSA."

It appears that that equipping with turkish uniforms has some side effects.

I read that Russia commented on the turks killed in their strike along the line "too bad, they were so utterly emeshed in nasty head chopper isalmists group" that we really didn't noticed the difference. That's perhaps Putin's sense of humour.

After Erdogan cleansing the turkish army from secularists, Kemalists, Gülenists and whoever else - what's left? Experience? Knowledge? Experts? Well, the newbies Erdogan sent to NATO center had a problem though, they rarely spoke english. They probably were much better at praying.

That messy side effect or goal reminds me of a georgian colleague who praised (erroneously) Shaakashvili as a great leader, pointing out that he did well when he really hard cracked down on ... corruption by ... firing some ... 8000 policemen. I left that undiscussed.

Now, back to Erdogan's army - old fashoined as I am, I think that communication is a relatively important part of an alliance.

So it is apparently a thing about his preferred result - loyalty trumps experience (That pun was unintended).

One turkish right winger not that long ago praised the turkish military size and formidable invincibility, asserting they were so awesome that they would be at the gates of Vienna again in a week. Oh indeed? He wants to the Kahlenberg again? High contender for a Darwin Award?

James Doleman

"Islamic invasion"

1. Accepting refugees is part of international law.
2. As it has an ageing population and a low birthrate Europe is in desperate need of new immigrants.

Anything else I can help you with?

Barbara Ann

"Nobody should dare portray the Syria issue as a foreign issue. Nobody should dare portray the Latakia minority government as a state, as a country. There is no such regime or administration as the Syrian regime."


"Turkey must now identify this as a “war.” The public needs to know that this war is going to continue to come knocking on our doors whether we like it or not."

If these latest rantings by Yeni Safak's neo-Ottoman-in-chief; İbrahim Karagül are indicative of Erdogan's thinking, Russia needs to stop this paranoid lunatic right now. He seems perfectly willing to drag his country into the abyss. Idlib is his Sudetenland, we have been here before.



Vegetius, why would Europe focus on a non-existent Islamic invasion (immigrants rebuilt Europe after the North-West Eurasians decimated themselves in the two WWs. The mass migration is in the old age Europe with Goths, Alars, Germans, Huns, Rus. Are you trying distract the Continentals from their Anglo-Saxon competitors? By the way, latter are the push factors which is causing the migratory streams, by destroying one society after another in Africa & America. The new administration in US is trumpeting an overt imperial policy: the mask has fallen off.


Reports of SAA et al collapse around Jabal Zawiyah and rebel advances in the surrounding villages. Constant stream of Turkish footage showing drone strikes on SAA armor and personnel. I do not buy at all these fringe damage control explanations that some of this footage, in particular the strikes on Pantsir, comes from Libya. Occam's razor


Note that the Russian press is now openly calling the Turkish province of Hatay as "the stolen province". The Syrians have said for many decades that 'hatay province is occupied Syrian land'. They call it Liwa Iskenderun.


Andrei Martyanov

Europe is Russia's western flank. Extremum or extremum, Russia will inevitably reap whatever is sown here

Russia's Western and Southern Military Districts (and commands) and nuclear triad exist specifically for the purpose of not reaping whatever is sown in Europe. Europe MADE itself Russia's "flank"--a process Russia could not and cannot control. Europe is primarily Russia's market and a place to vacation from time to time and this is the way it should remain.

The Twisted Genius

Andrei Martyanov,

I've enjoyed your comments in this thread about the nature of Russia. I'm reminded of that old French saying, "Scratch a Russian and you'll find a Tatar." I've always thought there was a lot of truth in that. According to family lore, my ancestors rode with Jalal al Din's Tatars at the battle of Grunwald to defeat the Teutonic Knights and end the West's northern crusades. That area of the world always struck me as a kind of Middle Earth in that age. Certainly something other than what we commonly refer to as Western Civilization. The Rus and later Russians were a large part of that world. I believe the efforts of Peter the Great to Westernize Russia are at the root of the view that Russia is part of Europe. However the Tatar is still there.

I see a strong continuity in Russia from those Middle Earth days through the centuries of Westernization, through the Communist days of the Soviet Union and to Putin's Russia. Unlike many, I don't see a vast difference between the old Soviet Union and Russia today. As someone of Lithuanian heritage, Bolsheviki and Russki are pretty much the same, different politics, but the same people. I agree Russia is increasingly less and less like modern Europe and that's a good thing.

I would very much like to see you post an article on SST on your views on the nature of Russia and Russians through the ages if you are so inclined.


DW Documentaries had a piece last month on Ataturk, the father of modern day Turkey.


Andrei Martyanov

TTG, I will fairly soon. Appreciate your kind words.



"Russia has increasingly less and less in common with modern Europe. "
Here's another difference:

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