A “parallel state” in Russia?

The Turkish mutiny: a response to change in foreign policy paradigm

On the night of June 15th-16th, Turkey faced an attempted coup d’etat. According to the country’s authorities, the military men who organized the rebellion were tied to the network of Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in the United States since the late 1990’s and has close links to the CIA. After the coup was suppressed, more than 100 generals and admirals were arrested. The main organizer of the rebellion was found to be Akin Öztürk, former commander of the country’s Air Force. The Air Force, which is most closely of all integrated into NATO structures and has long since been a stronghold of Gülen’s supporters, played a leading role in the coup. Turkish authorities suspect foreign powers of supporting the coup and have hinted at the United States.

The rebellion took place after Turkey’s foreign policy was radically changed by President Erdogan who apologized to Russia for the destruction of the Russian plane in November 2015 near the border with Syria. This new course intended to restore friendly relations with Russia. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also designated a course for restoring all working relations with neighboring countries, including Syria and Iraq.

Before these events, the former prime minister responsible for the doctrine of neo-Ottomanism and the architect of Turkish foreign policy for the last decade, Ahmet Davutoglu, who was closely tied to the United States, Qatar, and the Muslim Brotherhood movement, resigned. Erdogan then in fact began to review the whole of Turkey’s foreign political strategy and initiated a turn towards realist pragmatism as previously insisted upon by the supporters of Turkey’s sovereign development, the Kemalists.

Instead of Davutoglu’s typically neo-imperial understanding of Turkey as one of the centers of the global Islamic project which caused expansionism and attempts at exporting revolutions, Erdogan and Yildirim de facto returned to the Kemalist paradigm of understanding Turkey as a nation-state first and foremost. The change in foreign policy strategy initiated the intensification of contact with the Eurasian Kemalists. A special role here was played by the Vatan Party of Dogu Perincek who was involved in forging informal ties with Moscow and Damascus. Just when this strategy and alliance began to yield its first fruits, the coup attempt was launched.

Russian media disinformation

It would seem that everything is very clear. However, at the time of the coup in Turkey and afterwards, Russian media was filled with waves of disinformation. Information on the organizers of the coup, its character, and the forces behind it was purposefully distorted. Such a mass and coordinated action allows us to speak of an aggressive strategy aiming to prevent rapprochement between Russia and Turkey rather than a mere epidemic of incompetence affecting Russian experts. In brief, this strategy of disinformation spread the following theses:

·    The coup was organized by Kemalists dissatisfied with Islamist tendencies in Erdogan’s policies (varying between anti-national policies in Syria and in relations with Russia). But, in fact,the coup took place at the moment of rapprochement with patriotic Kemalists and the rejection of neo-Ottomanism.

·         Kemalists are Atlanticists and supporters of the US. In fact, most of today’s Turkish Kemalists are by and large supporters of Turkish national sovereignty threatened by the United States.

·         The coup was revenge by the military for past repression. In fact, the coup was organized by those people who did everything to offset the Eurasian-oriented Kemalists over the “Ergenekon” process and similar trials, when Erdogan, then in alliance with Gulen, replaced the Kemalists in high command posts with his own loyal people.

·         There was no coup. Erdogan plotted the whole operation. This is the official version of Gulen supporters as announced by their leader and spread by Western media.

Influence on Putin and Erdogan

The purpose of the disinformation campaign on the expert and media levels was confusingRussia’s leadership and population by painting a false picture of the processes taking place in Turkey, and then provoking Russia to make a mistake or take inappropriate actions. In the context of the quarrel between Turkey, the USA, and NATO in the wake of a failed coup, Russia adequately understood the situation and was able to extract maximum benefit out of the situation by supporting Erdogan in his fight against the Fifth Column and showing willingness to help Turkey in the case of a deterioration of relations with NATO, including up to leaving the alliance.

In addition, the creation of an unfavorable sentiment in Russian media towards the Turkish president allowed Gulen’s supporters the opportunity to express their opinion and broadcast the West and Gülen’s propaganda through the medium of Russian experts. Such also aided spreading skepticism as to Turkey’s prospects of leaving NATO, which could in turn affect Erdogan and his entourage. Thus, the goal was creating a wrong impression ofRussia’s official position, presenting Russia’s position as half-hearted, partially Westernized, and demonstrating that the Russian leadership cannot act as an ally for Erdogan, being unable to support him in the case of conflict with the United States.

SVOP and Its Atlanticist Network

At the expert level, one of the main centers of the disinformation campaign was the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (Russian acronym: SVOP) and the related Russian Council on International Affairs. SVOP was created in the 1990’s as a branch of the American globalist Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). It unites both open Liberals and the Westernizers and Liberals from the 1990’s who mimic patriots.

The former head and founder of the SVOP, Sergei Karaganov, was one of the first to announce the version that it was the Kemalists participating in the coup, not Gulen’s supporters. This disinformation was meant to distort the real balance of power in Turkey before and during the rebellion. Karaganov told Interfax on Saturday:

Turkey once again embarked on its usual course. The military elite of Turkey has traditionally advocated an anti-Islamist course. It is obvious that the downing of the Russian aircraft last year showed that there is an internal struggle among the Turkish elite. Apparently, this intra-elite conflict and the military’s discontent with the Islamist course led to the current situation.” ()

Instead of legally supporting the Turkish government, Kaganov suggested to wait:

Moscow has to wait, as it is important to understand what could be offered by the military men who are likely to take the situation under their control.” ()

The current SVOP head, Fyodor Lukyanov, also referred to the coup as allegedly being attempted by discontent Kemalists. He prefers not to talk about evidence of the US’ trace, and also fail to mention that Turkey’s foreign policy rapprochement with Russia allowed the current president to enlist the support of the Eurasian Kemalists. Instead, a false picture of confrontation between Islamists and the secular military is presented:

“The military may not have a good attitude toward the president”, confirms analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, “They have traditionally been a guarantor of stability in the country and ‘restricting’ governments. At least 4 times in the 20th century, they intervened in the government’s course. When Erdogan became president, he announced a new course. He began to squeeze out the army from politics and succeeded in doing this. About 10% of officers are in prison now. Added to that is the unsuccessful policy of recent years and a large number of internal and external problems. And the last sharp turn of Erdogan’s policy… All these measures could not but be irritating. So it is quite understandable why the military would overthrow the president.”()

Lukyanov displays skepticism towards Russian-Turkish rapprochement. The last paragraph of his article in the official Russian Newspaper is directed against Turkey:

“However, we can hardly expect that Moscow is ready to forget the recent events and open a new page of strategic cooperation. Especially when the stability of the Turkish political system remains to be proved.”()

Another member of SVOP and director of the Russian World Foundation, Vyacheslav Nikonov, like the other members of this network, believes that the organizers of the coup were linked to the Kemalists. At the same time, he claims the version that the coup was fake and arranged by Erdogan (a la Fethullah Gulen’s version). This political analyst recalls how in the 20th century, the Turkish army had already tried several times to “take power into their own hands to interrupt governance by the Islamist party and install the Ataturk tradition and secular authority.”

There is yet another version, according to which Erdogan himself provoked military action in order to once again behead the military and protect his regime. Supporting this theory, Nikonov says that “the military coup was too quickly choked.” The political analyst also suggests that the coup was obviously poorly prepared. ()

It is significant that, like other SVOP members, since 1990 Nikonov has adhered to liberalism. His son Alexey (born in 1979) is a US citizen.

The General Director of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, a structure under the auspices of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Kortunov,is also a notable supporter of the notion that Erdogan probably staged the coup. He stated this to lenta.ru (), an outlet formally controlled by the Kremlin.

In addition, Kortunov misinformed the public and, obviously, the government, by calling the Turkish Kemalists supporters of rapprochement with the West (a position which is in fact that of the Gulenists) and claiming that the Kemalists were involved in the coup:

“I think that there are several levels of confrontation, i. e. there is a political level where there are, course, the Kemalists who oppose Erdogan and have always been very strong in the armed forces of Turkey.The military are trying to position themselves as the defenders of the Ataturk heritage as a force which acts consistently for a secular path for Turkey’s development, and in this sense, many of them have criticized and continue to criticize Erdogan for playing with Islam, including political Islam, and denying or doubting the Western-oriented, secular Turkish state.” ()

Why did Kotrunov proclaim these ideas? This becomes clear upon examination his biography: apart from heading the Russian Council on International Affairs, he continues to lead the New Eurasia Fund, a de facto branch of the American National Foundation financed by USAID.

Here are some of the pages from his resume:

From 1998, he was executive director of the mega-project, Development of Education in Russia, an Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation) in conjunction with heading the Moscow Public Scientific Foundations. He was vice-president of the American Eurasia Foundation, president of the autonomous non-profit organization, ISE-Center (Information. Science. Education).

From 2004, he was the president of the New Eurasia Foundation established by the American Eurasia Foundation, the Russian Dynasty Foundation (created by businessman Dmitry Zimin, founder of the VimpelCom company) and the European Madariaga Foundation (the notorious former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana’s fund). ()

Since 2011, he has been the General Director and presidium member of the Russian Council on International Affairs. Another member of SVOP’s presidium is the State Duma Committee on International Affairs chairman and former speechwriter for Mikhail Gorbachev, Aleksey Pushkov. From 1993-2000, he was a member of the editorial board of Foreign Policy magazine published by the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, D.C. In 2004, he became a member of the Supervisory Board of the Moscow Carnegie Foundation.

In line with US interests, not Russian interests, Pushkov publicly demonstrated all the same SVOP skepticism towards Turkey leaving NATO, stating on his personal Twitter page: “Kerry has threatened Turkey’s exclusion from NATO if the purges forget the rules of democracy. An absolutely useless threat. Erdogan knows this.” ()

Soros’ Supporters from the Valdai Club

Another element of the network closely associated with the RCIA and SVOP is the Valdai discussion club.

Oleg Barabanov, the Program Director of the Valdai Club Foundation, scientific director of the European Institute of Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), and professor at the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs of the Higher School of Economics, has deliberately disinformed audiences with his publications for the state news agency Russia Today, in which he argues that it was not Gulen, but the Kemalists who were behind the coup:

“And so we are seeinga coup attempt which suits the middle layers of Kemalist military officials.” ()

The author deliberately distorts the situation in interpreting the elimination of the pro-Gulen network as repression against the Kemalist military: “Now, in the first days after the coup, we can see the quite clearly planned policy of repression against not only specific plot participants, but also against the whole pro-Kemalist part of Turkish society. In the first hours after Erdogan’s victory, we were surprised by the scale: thousands of officers were arrested and thousands of judges dismissed from work. And these numbers are only growing. This will naturally lead to more than just growing resentment for Erdogan among the deep layers of the Kemalist security circles.” ()

The expert’s resume includes passed qualification courses at George Soros’ Central European University in 1994, being a member of the council of the Liberal Youth Union of Russia and the council of Soros’ Open Society Institute’s Hot Spots program, membership on the Board of Trustees of the British NGO International Peace Project, and membership in the International Wilton Park Association based out of the Wilton Park Conference Center of the UK Ministry of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Andrey Suchentsov, the program director of the Valdai Club and student of Vice Rector of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations Andrey Bogaturov, is promoting the notion that a Turkish withdrawal from NATO is undesirable:

“In fact, NATO and the USA can do without the Turkish military base used in the Syrian operations. Syria is coastal country, so aircraft carriers can be used. But in the case of Turkey leaving NATO, Turkish-Greek relations would worsen, as the conflict is still largely constrained only through both states’ membership in the organization. Relations between Turkey and Iraq are likely to worsen on the Kurdish question. Relations with Syria and Georgia would be complicated.” ()

MGIMO Experts

Another MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations ) expert, Vyacheslav Avatkov, also promotes the concept that Erdogan organized the coup attempt:

“Though it may seem incredible, something of a conspiracy theory, one cannot exclude the possibility that the government itself tried to arrange the coup with the aim of strengthening the position of Erdogan and finally subordinating the military. Such actions activate the electorate, hoping for stability making them ready to vote for a “strong hand” in the future, in this drive for a presidential republic, which has been the dream of the country’s leader for a long time. In addition, the incident provides opportunities for  a “savior-hero” like Erdogan who can finally stop military coups, identifying all possible potential instigators and – at least – sending them to jail. This is possible in the context that the country’s intelligence services are closely linked to the ruling elite, especially to the president. But such an operation could only be carried out with the participation of intelligence services.”

Another MGIMO expert Kirill Koktysh (demanded by officious Russian media) also promotes the version of a fake coup:

“For me, there is no clear answer, if it was a fake or actually  a failed attempt. When it comes to Gulen supporters, they do not know how to fight. And if we talk about the right answers, we are likely not get them. For example, we still do not know how the 1991 coup in the Soviet Union passed, which eventually destroyed the Soviet Union, why it was so inept, despite the fact that it was headed by the first people from all key ministries. But the answer can be that it was a real failed coup or fake one or even a false start.” ()

Patriots of Russia and Israel

It should be no surprise that the point of view of Gülen and pro-Western networks of influence in the Russian expert community is shared by Yevgeny Satanovsky, the president of the Middle East Institute (formerly the Institute for the Study of Israel) and former president of the Russian Jewish Congress, one of the main lobbyists of Israel’s interests in Russia. He was one of the first to promote the version that Erdogan himself allegedly organized the coup in order to start the repression of undesirables. His hysterical commentary shows that the failed coup affected him. The possible causes for such include the old ties of Gen. Akin Öztürk with the Israelis ever since his service as Turkey’s military attache in the country. Satanovsky’s hysteria hints at his own investment in these matters:

“A personal dictatorship is being established will will undoubtedly turn the Turkey of Kemal Ataturk into an Islamic republic. In Europe, there was the Führer of the German people and in Turkey, there will be the Fuhrer of the Turkish people.” ()

Surprisingly, the leading expert at RISS, Adzhar Kurtov, shares the same position as the liberals, Israel lobbyists and staff members of Western foundations:

“‘In particular, the Turkish parliament has no impact on the country’s politics, so there was no need to attack it,’ the analyst believes. ‘Unless we take into account the theory this was done by someone with the aim of showing the inhumanity of the plotters is striking at Turkish statehood, i.e., with the aim of discrediting them.’”()

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Federation Council on International Affairs, announced on the night of the coup that the rebellion was caused by the contradiction between the Kemalists and Erdogan’s Islamists (which is pre incompetence or misinformation), and called on Russia not to interfere in the conflict (rather than support the legitimate government of the country):

“The crisis in relations between the current Turkish government and military elites (or a substantial part of them) has existed for the whole duration of Erdogan’s term. This crisis also concerns a fundamental disagreement between generals with Ankara’s departure from the ‘only true teachings’ of the father of modern Turkish statehood, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (which irritate the moderate Islamism of the current resident), and Erdogan’s more pragmatic offense of ousting the military from the real power they once had. These problems do not disappear overnight and will not be resolved by reprisals against conspirators (and they, knowing the particularities of Turkey, are many). And we in Russia have yet to see what will happen in the future, while respecting the sovereignty of Turkey and not interfering in the internal conflict. The main thing now is to ensure the safety of our citizens and compatriots. Once again.” ()

Nikolai Starikov also joined in on spreading misinformation about the failed coup in Turkey. He is an expert with the reputation of being a Kremlin propagandist. Starikov ignores Gülen’s trace in the organization of the coup. The Kemalists, he goes on, are linked with a focus on pro-American foreign policy, extrapolating from the situation during the Cold War to the current events. He concludes that “Turkey is not a friend of Russia,” thereby ignoring the large-scale shift in Turkish foreign policy that happened before the coup.

Starikov directly lied in claiming that those participating in the coup were military men unhappy with the worsening of relations with Russia under Erdogan:

“The reasons for the coup attempt are much deeper. The military was generally dissatisfied with the actions of Erdogan. It seems to me that the conflict with Russia is just one of the factors why they were dissatisfied.” ()

Gumer Isayev is one of the first who started the issue of a fake coup. He is the head of the St. Petersburg Center for a Modern Middle East openly supporting Gülen and heads the Russian Research Institute in Istanbul assumably associated with Gülen’s network.

Here is his “expert opinion” quoted by Komersant newspaper on the night of the coup:

“The whole story looks like a farce and a theatrical performance by the government itself. Afterwards, Erdogan will be the winner, for example, with the proposal to change the constitution. If this was indeed a real coup attempt, they would have been better prepared.” ()

Issues in the Media’s Work

Russian media did not work in the best way in terms of public interest, including state media and those having the reputation of being “pro-Kremlin.”

On the night of the coup, RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan wrote on her Twitter with undisguised glee:

“In Turkey, there is a coup attempt, i.e., an attempt to tighten the government’s grip under the pretext of a coup” ()

She wrote further: “According to the old Russian tradition, we are waiting for Erdogan in Rostov with crawfish, beer, and the Leberdon neighborhood. So are the many Armenians there. We have a lot of things to discuss.” ()

On RT’s site, the expert Semen Bagdasarov called the rebels “patriotic officers”:

“The patriotic rebels ‘have decided to put everything at stake and, particularly unprepared and acting on the principle of all or nothing, attempted a coup,’ Bagdasarov said. “Of course, they weren’t strong enough. That’s what happened.” ()

Moreover, RT has been marked as a pro-Gulen publication. It mentions nothing of Gulen’s ties to American special services, but portrays him to be a preacher promoting inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.

RT publications on the subject have been characteristically skeptical towards a possible worsening of Turkish-US relations. A good example of such is the article “After the Putsch.”

The Russia Today Online Media Holding published 5 materials on the attempted coup in Turkey. All of them are misinformative in nature:

In one (), Erdogan is called mentally deranged and the rebels are said to have acted out of patriotic motives. The assessment is made that the suppression of the coup will have negative consequences for Turkey, that “democracy is under threat.”

One of the others () is misinformative article by Barabanov

Another () quotes Bagdasarov’s anti-Erdogan statement and disseminated the fake about the supposed mass demolition of Ataturk monuments in Turkey. The possibility of rapprochement with Russia and Iran is skeptically commented on by the featured Bagdasarov and Fyodor Lukyanov. The supposedly “pro-Kremlin political analyst” Abzalov is given spotlight in insisting that the West did not arrange the coup despite all the obvious facts. It is alleged that the US needed Erdogan for some reason or another.

The fifth () mixes up Gulenists and Kemalists by suggesting that Gulen has defended the Ataturk principles which Erdogan has allegedly sought to destroy since the coup. The argument that Erdogan himself arranged the coup (Gulen’s line) is also repeated.

Daria Aslamova, the special correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda who supported the rebels’ actions, adheres to strictly anti-Turkish positions. She equates the actions of the pro-American group of conspirators to a demonstration of discontent with Erdogan by the whole Turkish Army:

“When Erdogan came to power, he immediately tried to create his own service and decapitate the army because military coups in Turkey are a usual, traditional thing. And when you can not get rid of a dictator, you use the army. This was a desperate attempt by these forces. I am very surprised that Istanbul did not support this since Istanbul terribly hates Erdogan…” ()

Several patriotic media outlets have published the opinion of Arif Asalyoglu, the Director of the International Institute for the Development of Scientific Cooperation. According to our information, Asalyuglu is representative of the Gülen’s network operating in Russia. As we know, it was Gulen who introduces the idea that the coup was fake. An article by Asalyoglu in which he supports this official Gulenist position was published on the website of Modest Kolerov’s Regnum Agency.

Also, the website nakanune.ru () as other “patriotic” publications in Russia media have actively given coverage to the theory of a fake coup. this includes the official news service Vesti ()

Even TASS fell for the tricks of provocateurs and on the night of the coup spread the fake information that Erdogan had supposedly fled Turkey.

Networks’ Work on the topic of Ukraine

A significant part of the same resources and experts behaved in the same way on the Ukrainian issue in 2014. We have already seen how similarly such at first glance different experts like Karaganov, Pushkov, Lukyanov, Starikov, and Koktysh assessed the events in Turkey. In 2014, however, the case was the same with Ukraine. In 2014, Starikov scared patriots with the thought of a Third World War while Karaganov said that Ukraine would be our second Afghanistan. Pushkov echoed them in saying that Washington and Brussels are waiting for Russia to send troops to Ukraine . Nikonov insistently protested against the refrain from deploying troops while Fyodor Lukyanov spoke against such and supported Poroshenko as a supposedly “peaceful leader”. Koktysh offered to give up Crimea in exchange for concessions from the West in 2014.

Now, just as then, Russia has the huge opportunity to not listen to such “expert” advice. After all, Russia was able to extract the maximum benefit from the crisis in Ukraine while taking advantage of the West’s confusion to reunify Russian lands. The exact same situation concerns the Turkish case. The pro-Western network in Russia is trying to prevent this.

Obviously, there was and is a massive disinformation campaign aimed against both the public and authorities carried out on both the expert and media levels. These examples only partially illustrate this campaign which involves both “patriots” and liberals (the anti-Erdogan campaign positing the “failed coup theory” is advocated by Russian liberal media and experts) as well as “anti-Maidan” experts such as Starikov and the classic representatives of the sixth column (Westerners and liberals imitating loyalty to the president) like Karaganov, Nikonov, Lukyanov.

The Achilles’ Heel of Caesarism

From the point of view of Gramsci’s analysis, we are dealing with agents of influence of Western hegemony acting through the media and intellectuals. From the perspective of critical theory based on the writings of Antonio Gramsci, both Russia and Turkey are structurally similar phenomena in regards to the organization of their political systems and their relations with the center of hegemony, i. e. that type of political power which is based not only on the police, political and economic power, but also on the control of ideas and basic concepts dominating intellectual life and intellectuals themselves. In Russia and Turkey, we are dealing with the phenomenon of Caesarism.

Caesarism is a political system in which hegemony is established only in fragments, but is still faced with no serious ideological alternative. The Caesarist authoritarian-style state opposes hegemonic forces from both the outside and from within (pressure groups, networks arising under the influence of Westernizing processes, entire social strata and social groups arising as a consequence of imitating the West).

Caesarist strategy is defined as “transformism”, in which the Caesarist regime balances between the pressure of external and internal hegemonic pressures in part by making concessions in interacting with pro-hegemonic forces (pro-Western networks) and including them in power. This can be seen in the faces of Davutoglu in Turkey, Erdogan’s former alliance with Gulen, Medvedev’s premiership in Russia, the liberal economic block in the Russian government, etc. These forces are selectively balanced in order for the state to maintain political power.

Caesarism remains mere Caesarism, i.e., it is not completely opposed to hegemony in the intellectual and ideological fields, and is therefore doomed to failure. Sooner or later, pro-Western networks will intensify their work and overthrow the Caesarist leaders.

In Turkey, concessions to the forces of hegemony resulted in a “parallel state” which infiltrated the army and organized a coup d’etat. Erdogan is now hastily getting rid of these pro-Western networks not only in the army, but in all spheres of society. Meanwhile, the Russian “parallel state” is successfully busying itself with disinformation on the Turkish question.

Source: katehon.com

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