Russian media seems to be preparing its military-motivated population for war with Russia’s enemy No. 1 – Turkey. The NATO member state has overtaken the U.S., Ukraine and even ISIS (Islamic State) as Russian news media’s main enemy, according to research by independent Russian news channel RBC.
Such sudden aggression toward Turkey is caused by the NATO member state shooting down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border in November after accusing it of invading Turkish airspace and refusing to leave it.
In response, Moscow imposed trade sanctions on Ankara. With approximately $31 billion in bilateral trade between Russia and Turkey, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal trade sanctions show Russia largely controls the economic relationship between the two sides.
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Tensions between Russia and Turkey, protected by NATO’s 5th article (however, many experts do not believe that other NATO member would be willing to come to Ankara’s protection in a possible war against Moscow), have been getting high ever since the incident, which was named the most dangerous encounter between Russia and NATO’s forces in over 50 years.
The research by RBC published on Tuesday monitored the number of times Russia’s state-owned TV channels, news agencies and blogs referred to countries and groups as “enemies” of Russia, as reported by Newsweek.
Turns out, in the first nine months of 2015, Ukraine was Russia’s No. 1 enemy, while the U.S. took the second place. In contrast with the beginning of 2015 – when Russia referred to Ukraine as to its “enemy” over 2,500 times in the press – Moscow now considers its neighbor an “enemy” 1,500 times, while in Russian blogs the number of adversarial references to Ukraine dropped from 1,300 to less than 1,000.
Turkey is now Russia’s enemy No. 1
Ukraine continued to top Russia’s No. 1 enemy list until September, when the country was considered Moscow’s enemy 2,705 times in the press and 43 times on television. ISIS was the only thing Russia referred to as an enemy more times on TV in September (46 times). Interesting enough, it seems that Russian media was preparing Russia’s population for the upcoming military campaign, which Putin launched in Syria against ISIS in late September.
It is unknown whether it means that Russia is currently preparing its citizens for an all-out war against Turkey – which basically means a devastating war against all NATO states.
In December alone, Turkey has beat Ukraine, the U.S. and ISIS in being Russia’s enemy: the number of references to Turkey have skyrocketed to 1,487 from 322 in November.
On TV, Turkey was referred to as an enemy 16 times in December, while Ukraine, the U.S. and ISIS were named Russia’s enemies only 10 times. As for Russian blogs, Turkey was named Russia’s enemy 316 times, while the U.S., Ukraine and ISIS less than 260 times.
Grim 2016 forecast: Russia vs NATO war
U.S.-based analyst company Stratfor published on Monday its annual political and economic forecast for 2016. According to a Ukrainian news outlet From-UA, which got its hands on Stratfor’s annual report (Stratfor told us that From-UA mis-interpreted the report – see note at bottom), Turkey will boost its presence in the Middle East by stepping up the military campaign in the north of Syria as well as attempting to increase its presence in the north of Iraq. The goal of Turkey would be to not only counter ISIS militants, but also Syrian Kurds, which will in turn increase the risk of war with Russia and Iran.
The potential confrontation between Russia and Turkey automatically means a military confrontation between Russia and NATO, since Turkey is a key ally of the Alliance in southern Europe and in the Middle East, according to From-UA citing Stratfor. The analysts warn that if such a confrontation indeed takes place in 2016, it will not end good.
Since Russia is now weak due to economic sanctions and a high risk of economic default, the county cannot sustain large-scale military actions neither in Syria nor in Ukraine. Thus, Russia is too weak to counter the military might of Turkey, let alone the entire NATO, according to the analysts.
That’s why Russia will rely only on hybrid diplomatic, economic and subversive activities in form of terror on the territory of some NATO states, Starfor warns. In the next six months, Russia is likely to imitate a serious military conflict in Syria but it will not go further than diplomatic arguing and airstrikes against the positions of U.S.-backed rebels.
Russia’s hands are now tight in Syria, and no matter how hard Putin wants to show his superiority, his country just does not have the resources for it, the analysts believe.
Russia plans terror attacks in NATO states
The only weapon Moscow has right now is its diplomatic efforts and pressure with the help of its media. All Russia does is waits for its enemies to chicken out. But in 2015, NATO has not chickened out, and it is even less likely to do so in 2016, according to the experts at Stratfor.
As for Russia’s military campaign in Syria, Putin wants to either continue waging the deadly war in the war-torn country with the help of European countries or freeze the conflict in order for Western countries and the U.S. to stop providing assistance for Syrian rebels that want Putin’s friend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad removed from power.
And according to Stratfor, the only way Putin is capable to persuade Europe to make such concessions is to either wage a war against Syrian rebels under the guise of war with ISIS or to carry out a terror attack in some NATO state similar to the Paris terror attacks in November that killed 130 people. The goal is to persuade the West to start making concessions in Syria and join Russia in its efforts in the Middle East, the analysts predict.
The only way for Russia to launch a more serious offensive against ISIS militants is to make Europe buy in Russia’s tricks, such as organizing terror attacks in some NATO member states, according to Stratfor.
Thus, Russia will be trying to persuade Europe with the help of psychological pressure in order to make it believe in Moscow’s story and start bombing everything and everybody in Syria indiscriminately: Syrian rebels and ISIS. As a result, it will lead to the suspension of elections in Syria, which are likely to remove Assad from power.
Editor’s note: From-UA, the website that published the story about Stratfor’s annual report, improperly cited Stratfor and made a series of claims that were not present in Stratfor’s article.