Letter From the Editors: Aug. 22-28, 2016

Author: Xenia Grushetsky

Rehabilitating Janus, Erdogan and Stalin

The ancient Roman god Janus gets a bad reputation these days. Depicted as having two faces - one looking forward and one looking back - he is often mistakenly associated with duplicity. But while Janus may be two-faced, his intentions are actually much more noble. He traditionally marks beginnings and endings, and therefore transitions.

So perhaps Janus inspired Turkish President Erdogan’s transition this week, when the latter brought Turkish troops into Syria? Experts are still flummoxed by Erdogan’s surprise move: After months of resisting Washington’s urgings to bring Turkish forces into Syria to help crush ISIS, he suddenly changed his mind. What’s more, he did so immediately on the heels of his "reconciliation" with Russia - and Putin personally. (Experts noted that Russia was the first country the embattled Turkish leader visited following the failed coup attempt in his native country.) It’s no secret that Erdogan is no friend of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose regime Moscow has been trying to support through its operation in Syria.

But is Turkey’s offensive - colorfully named Operation Euphrates Shield - really targeting ISIS? According to Arabic studies expert Leonid Isayev, "The main target of the Turkish invasion of Syria is the Kurds. They are Erdogan’s biggest headache at the moment." In Isayev’s words, "all Kurdish cantons in Syria could combine into a single territorial unit, extending along almost the entire Turkish-Syrian border." Not exactly a dream scenario for Ankara, which has been battling Turkish Kurds’ push for independence since the 1980s.

Maintaining independence while also fostering partnerships is also on Finnish President Sauli Niinisto’s agenda, writes Kommersant. Left in the shadow of two countries with colossal geopolitical ambitions - the US and Russia - Finland is a little Janus of its own: Helsinki is trying to maintain its past neutral status while at the same time adjusting to ...

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