Could Russia go to Syria for war with Turkey?

Since both countries stand on the contrary of Idlib, the experts both say that because of economic and energy relations they are worried about further military conflicts.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, left, attend a ceremony in Istanbul for the inauguration of the TurkStream pipeline, January 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

MOSCOW (AFP)— Russia in Idlib is not eager to have a military confrontation with the Turkey, but the Kremlin will not give up its support for the effort by the Syrian regime to regain control of the province.

The assassination of three-three soldiers by Russian Syrian regime ally forces— the biggest military loss of Turkey on the battlefield over the last few years— raised concerns about war between the two traditional rivals.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin quickly held telephone conversations and scheduled the summit in Moscow the following week and Russian officials struck a conciliatory tone.

Since 2016, the two men, both of them leading post-imperamental societies, have forged a friendship that has destroyed the west and is reluctant to disrupt the relationship.

Igor Delanoe, deputy director of the Franco-Russian Observatory in Moskw said: “Russia is certainly not looking for a full-scale military confrontation with Turkey, nor does Turkey want to threaten Moscow with ivlibe.

“The stakes are too high, particularly for Ankara, despite Moscow’s economic leverage,” he says to AFP.

Russia has built a Black Sea gas pipeline from Turk Stream and is constructing the first nuclear energy plant in Turkey; in particular, it has supplied aS-400 air defense system that has been shattered by NATO, a key member of which is Turkey.

The events were followed as tensions escalated after the Erdogan— which has vowed that he will not go back to Idlib — gave the Syrians 29 February to pause in the fighting and he said that Moscow believes Ankara had failed to fulfill a 2018 IDLIB agreement to root down more extremes rebel fighters and had offered Turkey a taste of what “a Military Adventure in Idllib could cost.”

Idlib is the last remaining Syrian rebel bastion, and even when Syria’s civil war ends, Turkey wants to maintain its control on the region.

This is an obstacle to Moscow’s ambition to see Syrian President Bashar Assad regain control over the whole country and confirm the largest military victory of Russia in the post-Soviet era.

Kerim Has, a Moscow-based Turkish-Russian expert, said that the “long-term strategy” of Russia for Syria had not changed but was not antagonistic with Turkey despite, in particular, the proximity between economic and energy ties and cooperation with the S-400s.

After a day of intense diplomacy, he told AFP, he warned that “the risks are on the ground” and any clash can send tension into spiraling again. “Full military confrontation is less possible in Syria.”

“Russia’s Idlib operations will continue. It won’t take a step back easily, “he said.

Although Russian officials were careful that Turkey wouldn’t be insulted any further, the Kremlin said that the killed Turkish troops were not manned observations under an agreement reached in 2018, but placed themselves as “terrorists” within armed group considered by Moscow.

In November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian warplane toward Syria, concerns of military confrontation were raised. However, a peace deal was reached in 2016 and when he faced a coup in the summer Putin quickly backed Erdogan.

Even the assassination in December 2016 by the out – of-service police officer of the Russian Ambassador in Ankara has not swept away the relations, since a joint effort has been initiated by both sides to bring peace to Syria.

Alexey Khlebnikov, Middle East Analyst at the Kremlin’s Foreign Policy Council (RFAC) says that while there are threats, the “worst case scenario” was direct confrontation. He said that Russia’s immediate priority was not to have all of Idlib taken over again but to have strategic M4 and M5 roads protected by the Syrian army.

“So far, the two countries are ready for de-escalation,” he said. “But now the chances of a by-scaling are much greater. There might be an explosion, and we can’t exclude it.

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