Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dropped his opposition to Sweden's entry into NATO, it was announced just ahead of the opening of the military alliance summit in Vilnius July 11. US President Joe Biden thanked Erdogan for his "courage" in clearing the way for Stockholm's bid. In an apparent quid pro quo, the State Department said the administration is dropping its objections to Turkey purchasing F-16 fighter jets from the US. Congress opposed sales of the jets to Turkey after Ankara bought Russian S-400 missile systems in 2017.
In Episode 170 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg predicts that Russian propaganda weaponization of World War II history, now being employed against Ukraine, will next be used to target Finland. Now that Finland has been "de-Finlandized," abandoning its Cold War neutrality to join NATO, its de facto wartime alliance with Nazi Germany is likely to be exploited by the Kremlin media machine—exactly as Israel exploits the wartime pact between Hitler and the Mufti of Jerusalem. In a pre-emptive strike against such propaganda, Weinberg breaks down the history of Russian conquest and colonization of Finland, the heroic resistance of the Finns in the Winter War of 1939-40, and how their betrayal manipulated them into the Nazi camp in the Continuation War of 1941-44.
Ukraine is denying involvement in September's attack on the Nord Stream pipelines, which were built to carry Russian natural gas to Germany (but had already been shut by Russia before the apparent sabotage). The denials follow a March 7 report in the New York Times, citing anonymous US intelligence officials to the effect that an unnamed "pro-Ukrainian group" was to blame. (BBC News) German prosecutors simultaneoulsy announced their investigators had found "traces" of explosive on a yacht that had sailed to the site of the attack from Rostok just beforehand, and had been rented from a Polish-based company that is "apparently owned by two Ukrainians." (Politico, The Guardian)
Turkish warplanes carried out air-strikes on several towns within the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria, known as Rojava, on Nov. 19. The strikes killed several Kurdish fighters as well as soldiers of the Syrian regime, with which they now jointly occupy the area. Among the towns hit was Kobane, from where Ankara says the order was given for the Nov. 13 suicide attack in Istanbul, that left six dead and several injured. "Kobane, the city that defeated ISIS, is subjected to bombardment by the aircraft of the Turkish occupation," tweeted Farhad Shami, a spokesperson for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Both the SDF and affiliated Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), named by Ankara as behind the Istanbul attack, have denied any involvement. Turkish authorities have arrested 17 in the attack, including a Syrian woman said to be the main perpetrator. (Al Jazeera, ANF, MEE, Rudaw, Rudaw, The Guardian)
The Supreme Court of Sweden on Nov. 10 ruled that the trial of Alex Schneiter, a Swiss citizen and former CEO of Lundin Oil charged in connection with war crimes in Sudan, may proceed in the Swedish courts. While Lundin Oil is a Swedish-based company, Schneiter claims that he cannot be tried in Sweden because he is neither a citizen nor a resident. This claim was rejected by the lower courts, and now by the high court. The Supreme Court held that Schneiter's alleged crimes are subject to "universal jurisdiction," which allows anyone to be prosecuted anywhere in the world for serious international crimes. Justice Johan Danelius concluded: "The fact that the defendant is not [resident] in Sweden does not constitute an obstacle to Swedish jurisdiction, provided that the connection to Sweden in other respects is sufficient." The criminal case will now proceed in the Stockholm District Court.
The speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament on July 6 threatened to "claim back" Alaska if the United States freezes or seizes Russian assets in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine. "Let America always remember: there's a piece of territory, Alaska," Vyacheslav Volodin said at the last session of the State Duma before summer break. "When they try to manage our resources abroad, let them think before they act that we, too, have something to take back," Volodin said. He noted that deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoy had recently proposed holding a referendum in Alaska on joining Russia. The day after Volodin's comments, billboards proclaiming "Alaska Is Ours!" appeared in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, apparently placed by a local "patriot."
In Episode 127 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Kobani, which became a global icon of resistance to ISIS in 2014, is now under threat of Turkish aggression. The Syrian Kurds were betrayed in 2019, when their autonomous zone of Rojava was greatly reduced by Turkey's first thrust into their territory. Erdogan is now threatening to extinguish it altogether, and incorporate all of Rojava into his "security zone." There is growing speculation that the US could "green light" this aggression in exchange for Turkey dropping its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Meanwhile, the Yazidis of northern Iraq, who were subjected to genocide and slavery at the hands of ISIS in 2014, are facing extermination of their hard-won autonomous zone Ezidikhan at the hands of Baghdad's military—acting under pressure from Turkey. Great Power meddling in Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan alike is pitting the peoples of the region against each other, portending a potentially disastrous Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. How can activists in the West help break this trajectory? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Over the past week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been ramping up threats to invade more areas of northern Syria, saying June 1 that he plans to "clean up [the Kurdish towns of] Tal Rifat and Manbij of terrorists," and establish a greater "security zone" in Syrian territory along Turkey's border. Much of this region is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey considers to be a "terrorist organization" because of its ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)—a Turkey-based Kurdish separatist organization. It's not clear if Erdoğan will go ahead with a new incursion now, but some wonder if Western states (such as the US, which has backed the SDF) may be willing to turn a blind eye to such an offensive if Turkey backs off its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were forced to flee the last Turkish offensive in northeast Syria in late 2019, and a reported 44,000 to 60,000 people have still not been able to go back home.