Moscow’s commitment to Assad of Syria continues to complicate an international situation that has worked wholly to Russian disadvantage since the reckless, populist seizure of the Crimea in 2014. The West did not cave in as anticipated. And this was just the beginning of a series of decisions reached in Moscow that completely misjudged the underlying correlation of forces in the world.
The Trump economic miracle dashed every expectation of a shift in the balance of power. The apologetic timidity of the early Obama years and the urge to appease Moscow had already disappeared from the horizon in a welter of Russophobia that even Donald Trump and his sweet talking could not assuage. Managing a forward policy at tous azimuts as the Brezhnev Politburo did, but largely for prestige, is not working well with an economy the size of Italy’s when facing crippling economic sanctions imposed by the United States.
Just over a week ago Turkish and Syrian forces came to blows after the Syrians broke their agreements with Ankara in order to ensure control of vital land routes connecting major cities such as Idlib and Aleppo in the north-west. Turkish casualties were inevitable. On 8 February President Putin’s special representative, Aleksandr Lavrent’ev, rushed to Ankara along with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin in a futile attempt to calm President Erdogan and defuse the situation. Predictably to no effect.
The Russian press reports that Turkish military forces entering Syria have now reached the level obtaining during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus (July 1974). Word has also come in that the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, approached Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Munich security conference on Saturday 15 February. Two days later a Turkish delegation arrived in Moscow to initiate discussions at Deputy Foreign Ministry level. Lavrov is obliged to sound optimistic, as he does whenever Moscow gets into yet another sticky situation from over-reaching elsewhere.
But the Turks have more at stake than their image and reputation. They believe their vital interests are being threatened on their border, and those interests collide directly with Russian persistence in propping up Assad. What aggravates the situation, here as elsewhere, is that the Russians do not have to hand an uncommitted intermediary that they desperately need. They just have friends and enemies. As so often happens, when a stronger Power makes a long term commitment to a state in collapse, it is the latter that holds all the cards. Look at Afghanistan!
See Nezavisimaya gazeta:
Турция перебросила в Сирию до 7000 солдат и более 600 единиц военной техники
Обзор арабской прессы
Судьбу Идлиба решают в Москве
Турция и Россия пытаются найти общий язык по ситуации в Сирии