Professor Ivo Hristov is one of the most famous Bulgarian sociologists and political analysts. He’s been a member of the Bulgarian Parliament since the elections in 2017. SouthFront’s Viktor Stoilov sat down with him to talk about the situation on the Balkans and the Chinese interests in Syria and the Middle East. You can check the first part of the interview here.
Professor Hristov, let’s talk a little bit about the situation in Syria. However, let’s go beyond the mainstream questions and topics and focus on a key player whose interests are being pushed without anyone noticing. What are the interests of China in Syria and the Middle East?
China has great economic interest in Syria, as it plays a big role in the new Chinese Silk Road passing through Aleppo and the coastline on the Mediterranean. Syria is important as a geographical location. China doesn’t have such a strong military and political force in Syria as for example Russia and Iran, Turkey and the United States. The Chinese interests are being pushed through Iran on the battlefield. China is interested greatly in resolving the situation in Syria and they’ve sent 5000 units from their special forces to Damascus to help with the liberation of Eastern Ghouta which is directly connected with resolving their problems in Chinese Turkestan.
Just like water is being absorbed in the desert sands, Chinese social and economic structures, as well as military and intelligence forces, have entered all the countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa from Djibouti to Morocco and even Angola in the South from where they’re getting important resources. Iran is very important for China as they’re a key element in the Chinese Silk Road as well as 40% of the Chinese oil imports come from there.
In this case, does the North–South Transport Corridor project go against the Chinese interests?
Yes, it’s against the Chinese interests, however this corridor cannot be built because brake the geopolitical and military spine of Russia which won’t happen. China is using the Russian military to cover their back while pushing their economic, political and military interest around the world.
The Chinese strategy is completely opposite to the Russian one. They want to achieve their goals using little steps toward the ultimate goal, and for now it’s successful. I think, however, that the main geopolitical players, mainly the United States and to some degree Russia, have figured their strategy out. For now, China doesn’t want to go in direct confrontation with the United States because, most probably, they don’t feel prepared enough to do it. They want to put the hegemon in a situation where it’s going to be too late to stop them. In other words, in a hidden way to gain power and achieve their goals. And they already have results doing this.
Let’s change the subject a little bit. Did Russia betray the Kurds in Afrin?
No. The way the question is asked is incorrect. The operation in Afrin is excellent for the Russian interest as the Kurds are playing as the proxy army of the United States and its interests. The creation of a big Kurdish state means creating a big client state of the US and would put, in chess terms, 5 players in check – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Turkey. If you allow me to make that analogy, the Kurds are playing the role in the Middle East which the Albanians play on the Balkans – with only one subject to control 5 other players.
The Kurds trusted their US mentors too much and burnt their hand. The first time it happened in Kirkuk where the Iranians clearly showed who is in charge there. The same is happening right now in Afrin where the Russians are pushing their interest using the Turkish army. That way they are accomplishing a bunch of goals:
First, Turkey is doing the dirty work of Russia by removing the US military and geopolitical interest from the region.
Second, groups who are disloyal to the Syrian government are put in check and these territories will be to some extent given back under the control of Assad.
Third, while everyone is looking at Afrin, without notice, the Syrian army is destroying, take notice, the pro-Turkish groups in Idlib which is actually the much bigger problem. You have there about 30 000 jihadists who were concentrated there from all part of Syria and are now being destroyed by General al-Hassan and the Tiger Forces.
So for now, this is a successful game of chess for Russia and the talks on the media are only for public use. Some sources say that the operation in Afrin was coordinated in Moscow by the head of the Turkish forces at least a month prior to the start of the operation. In addition, the whole operation was first prepared by the heads of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Sochi.
Will the US try to interfere in the process?
If it happens, this will be great for Russia because this will mean a direct confrontation between the US and Turkey. The bigger the clash and tensions between the US and Turkey are, the better for Russia.
Could this happen in the following months?
It has already happened on the battlefield. Turkish and US forces have already clashed in Syria. The question is will this happen on a regular basis or it’s just going to be sporadic fighting.
Does that bust the myth that NATO is a unified body?
It’s early to conclude this, but it’s clear that tensions are heating up. The Turkish political and military ship is slowly but gradually sailing away from the Western block. Turkey is starting to play the game of its own geopolitical interests which doesn’t always match the ones of the West. Russia is using this and is trying to make the gap larger and it seems to me that, for now, that they’re succeeding.
Last question very quickly: What is the role of the unexpected candidacy for President of Grudinin by the CPRF? What goals are set?
The idea is to dynamize the otherwise predetermined presidential elections in Russia and an attempt to get more political ground, but nothing more. The model of guided sovereign democracy, as invented by Surkov, doesn’t allow any mistakes to be made in the system.