‘Turkish putchists didn't adhere to Machiavelli's core rule – ensure an enemy cannot come back’

Posted by ap507 at Jul 29, 2016 10:00 AM |
Dr Rob Dover discusses the role of Russia in the reveal of the coup in the Turkish Republic, the strangeness of the rebellion and Stalin's mistakes

Think: Leicester does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Leicester - it expresses the independent views and opinions of the academic who has authored the piece. If you do not agree with the opinions expressed, and you are a doctoral student/academic at the University of Leicester, you may write a counter opinion for Think: Leicester and send to ap507@le.ac.uk

Dr Robert Dover from the Department of Politics and International Relations talked to a correspondent of Realnoe Vremya about the events around the coup attempt in Turkey. Particularly he told why an ordinary person exaggerates the role of intelligence, what mistakes the putschists made and why NATO is keeping silence about mass arrests initiated by Erdoğan.

'History is littered with examples of where leaders have been given good and accurate warnings'

Versions of how the Turkish Intelligence Service knew about the staged coup have appeared recently. According to one of them, Russian special services informed Turkey about the imminent coup. What do you think about this news? Does Russia really have means of technical intelligence in Syria that allow it to bug Turkey's talks? What means we are talking about?  

There is, of course, a high chance that the plans for the coup attempt raised flags within domestic and foreign intelligence services. It would be incredibly unlikely that an attempt on this scale could have been kept entirely under the radar – partly because such an attempt would require reaching out to a large number of people and the selection of those people might not have been sound – and partly because most sophisticated nations have decent counterintelligence measures in place. As attacks on the US, UK, France and Belgium in the last 15 years tell us, collecting good raw intelligence is one thing, understanding that it is good intelligence and responding appropriately to it is something very different. History is littered with examples of where leaders have been given good and accurate warnings and chosen to ignore them. Within your own history Stalin famously rebutted the intelligence given to him around Operation Barbarossa as did the United States about Pearl Harbor. We will not know any time soon whether Erdoğan used the intelligence to position his response or was caught unawares.

It would be surprising if Russia – as a major intelligence power – did not have very significant technical and electronic intelligence capabilities. Whether it would want to have surveillance over Turkish political or military communications would be a strategic judgment it would have to make. There is no open source evidence to suggest it does or does not do so.

Do the Turkish and Russian intelligence services cooperate closely?

Turkey is a strategically important member of NATO. However, all NATO members retain liaison relationships with Russia. These relationships are coloured and tempered by historical relationships and current strategic imperatives. The current situation in Syria would lend itself to thinking that there would be an enhanced level of conversation between the two, but there remain tensions around Turkey shooting down Russia aircraft in highly contested circumstances. 

 

 

'If he had not been able to return to Istanbul then it is likely that there would have been significant clashes between his supporters and those involved in the coup. Following on from that there would have been choices to be made by NATO powers, Russia and regional powers. From then on the outcome would have been very unpredictable.' Photo: tccb.gov.tr

 Might the suppression of the putsch strengthen the ties with Russia?

This will very much depend on how surprised Erdoğan felt by the coup attempt, and whether he lays blame on fellow NATO members for giving sanctuary to people he believes were instrumental to, or at the heart of the coup attempt. There is clearly an opportunity for Russia to provide the sorts of comforts to Turkey that might warm their relationship.

'Allowing Erdoğan to get back to Istanbul was their largest mistake'

In general, how does the algorithm that allows to get such information work? How is the ruling elite informed about imminent coups?

A coup attempt is a very rare and extreme event. Domestically, one would imagine that there are established and formalised reporting and escalation procedures up the chain of command. These might be muddied in a coup attempt, as officers seek to work out who is on which side. But information and intelligence — in extreme circumstances — behaves a little like smoke or water: it tends to find a way through cracks. Whether it is listened to is – as mentioned before – an entirely different matter.

How do countries inform each other about possible coups?

 Again, this would be an extreme and rare event. Each bilateral intelligence relationship will have standard operating procedures and those might be utilised. In extreme circumstances, it would not be unheard-of for a minister or head of state to directly dial a counterpart with intelligence they believed was credible and urgent. It is not clear whether any of these steps were taken by external agencies in the case of Turkey.

In your opinion, why did the coup fail?

Largely because Erdoğan managed to get back to Istanbul. If he had not been able to return to Istanbul then it is likely that there would have been significant clashes between his supporters and those involved in the coup. Following on from that there would have been choices to be made by NATO powers, Russia and regional powers. From then on the outcome would have been very unpredictable. Once Erdoğan had returned to Istanbul and his supporters came out in good numbers then the coup was bound to fail at some point.

Was anything strange in this coup? 

'In terms of its modus operandi, it looks like a very 'standard' coup attempt. Colonels and one-star Generals leading it, the capture of infrastructure, broadcast media and transport hubs.' Photo: le.ac.uk

In terms of its modus operandi, it looks like a very 'standard' coup attempt. Colonels and one-star Generals leading it, the capture of infrastructure, broadcast media and transport hubs. It seems very standard in that regard. As I watched the news coverage unfolding I expected to see that the coup plotters had taken captive or killed senior establishment figures, but that did not happen thankfully, but that marks the attempt out as being strange.

What mistakes did the putschists make?

They didn't adhere to one of Machiavelli's core rules, which is to ensure that an enemy cannot come back. Allowing Erdoğan to get back to Istanbul was their largest mistake, but one that heads off the sort of regional instability the world could do without at the moment.

'There would be no utility for the Turkish government to publicise these events'

Was not it a provocation in order to find rioters and destroy them?

Some people think this. It is not beyond the realms of all possibility, but is unlikely. The government's forces and agencies had been successfully containing dissent in a number of ways.

Don't you think that the real coup has begun only now judging by mass arrests? 

The measures taken by the government are very strong, and out of sync with the norms and expectations of NATO partners. If such a situation persisted into the medium and long term it would become a source of friction in NATO. If it is a very short-term measure to reinstate stability then I would imagine it will be tolerated, but not publicly supported. Erdoğan has already taken steps to cement his control over Turkish politics and society: most recent measures are a ratcheting up of these, in response to the coup attempt, but do not mark a coup in and of themselves.

Is the opinion of the Russian Special Services important in the world?

The assessments made and actions taken by Russian state agencies have global importance, yes, and they will likely be a prominent part of the mix for western powers when considering their own positions. Their view and response to the Turkish situation are important in and of themselves and particularly in relation to the ongoing conflict in Syria, of which Turkey has played an important and contested role.  

 

'Lessons from history tell us, however, that security personnel who have been made to feel vulnerable from attacks or attempted attacks often over-react as a response to feeling that vulnerability.' Photo: Reuters

According to photos published in social networks, the arrested Turkish officers and militants have bruises and grazes. Is it a usual thing to use tortures in such situations?

Bruises and grazes are unlikely to be tantamount to evidence of torture. Turkish authorities are obliged to obey by their own domestic laws and international law regarding the use of torture, and both the EU and NATO will expect there to be redress for excessive measures against detainees. Lessons from history tell us, however, that security personnel who have been made to feel vulnerable from attacks or attempted attacks often over-react as a response to feeling that vulnerability. Moreover, that whilst scientifically torture has been proved to be entirely pointless as a tool of intelligence gathering, that such actions have continued to occur even by civilised nations.

As for the 14 lost navy ships, don't you know how a third of the naval forces can disappear? 

Truth is often blander than possibilities in circumstances like these. Those ships might have been, and thus remain, on exercise or manoeuvres. If this was the case, then Turkey has good reasons not to report or publicise what they are doing. If the ships were part of the coup attempt then Turkey might be in the process of recovering those vessels or negotiating surrenders. Again, there would be no utility for the Turkish government to publicise these events. I would have thought the former scenario was far more likely than the latter.

By Aigul Ziyatdinova

Reference

Dr Robert Dover is a Senior Lecturer in Intelligence and International Security at the University of Leicester. He holds a BA and MA from the University of Nottingham and a PhD from the University of Bristol.

He studies the issues of intelligence and international security focusing on the impact of intelligence on aspects of government and private business, the politics of defence policy and defence reform and more recently the operation of power politics in the transatlantic area and of the operation of hybrid warfare. He also has a long-standing interest in the study of the international arms trade, and its relationship to political power.

Robert Dover is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Intelligence History, and SageOpen.

 

Currently, Mr Dover is working on a book on the politics of British arms sales since 1997 with Mark Phythian, in developing his work on hybrid warfare and publishing his research on network politics, using the case study of international corporation tax policy.

 

He also writes many policy pieces for the European Commission.
Source : http://realnoevremya.com/today/603

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Think: Leicester does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Leicester - it expresses the independent views and opinions of the academic who has authored the piece. If you do not agree with the opinions expressed, and you are a doctoral student/academic at the University of Leicester, you may write a counter opinion for Think: Leicester and send to ap507@le.ac.uk