Geopolitical Situation Room: Confrontation in Idlib, Syria between Turkey and Russia? (1 March 2020)
Moscow and Ankara unsuccessfully try to get out of the trap of the Syrian conflict
After the death of more than three dozen Turkish servicemen as a result of air strikes in the province of Idlib, the situation in Syria is entering an unpredictable phase, experts interviewed by the Voice of America Russian service say. According to their estimates, both escalation of events and localization of the conflict are possible..
The latter scenario is likely if there is progress in negotiations between Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan. But, judging by the latest media reports, this is far from.
Turkish political scientist Kerim Has (Kerim Has) in comments for the Russian service “Voice of America” noted that the events that are taking place in Idlib in recent weeks, and without that had a wide public response in Turkey, and in connection with the attack on the Turkish military, it intensified even more. According to him, it looks like a “pre-final chord” in the development of events..
“In this context, it should be understood that this situation has two sides, one of which plays into the hands of Recep Erdogan, the other against him,” he stressed. – In the first case, the president has the opportunity to “tighten the screws” even more and get rid of potential enemies in the domestic political arena. The image of an external enemy is the card that the Turkish authorities have been diligently playing lately, believing that this can further consolidate society and strengthen the support of the ruling circles “.
Demonstrators gathered outside the Russian consulate in Istanbul on Friday, according to media reports, chanting, “Russia is a murderer! Putin is a killer! ” The Turkish authorities, however, do not place direct responsibility for the tragedy on Moscow, apparently wanting to preserve the possibility of negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin..
“To destroy the external enemy and defend the state interests at distant approaches,” as the country’s leadership understands them, is the rhetoric that official Ankara is increasingly resorting to, states Kerim Khas: “However, there is also the other side of the coin: society is not ready to put up with such a high at the cost of protecting state interests, because the Turkish army suffers significant losses every day. Therefore, Erdogan’s rating is falling rapidly. Precisely due to the fact that the sharply negative reaction of citizens was not foreseen by the leadership of Turkey, on February 27, after the death of a large number of military personnel, access to social networks was closed on the territory of the country and the speed of the Internet was significantly limited ”.
The question remains how long Erdogan will be able to pursue such a policy, and how many more losses the Turkish army can suffer, being in many ways a hostage to Ankara’s ill-considered and erroneous policy in Syria, the political scientist believes. Therefore, in his opinion, further events may develop according to unpredictable scenarios, including possible agreements on the settlement of the conflict between Turkey and NATO..
The only thing that is quite obvious is that Turkish-Russian relations are at an impasse, and in the future this will lead to big political, economic and military problems for both capitals, but for Ankara they will, perhaps, be more significant, Kerim Has summed up.
Russian blogger and independent expert on the Middle East Anatoly Nesmiyan I agree that the situation in Syria remains unpredictable. However, in his opinion, some hope for the localization of the conflict is given by telephone negotiations between Putin and Erdogan, who are trying to find a way out of the impasse acceptable to both..
“It is clear that neither one nor the other wants to fight, but there’s nowhere in particular to go,” he added in a commentary to the Voice of America. “The degree of tension is too high, and most importantly, the contradictions between Moscow and Ankara in the context of the Syrian problem have not gone anywhere.”.
At the same time, the expert is inclined to believe that the blame for yesterday’s incident, which resulted in the death of the Turkish military, is likely to be placed on Bashar al-Assad. “This is the most likely option, simply because there is virtually no other way out. The Turks will be given the opportunity to shoot a little at Assad’s troops, and then everything will return to the previous format. But there are many pitfalls here. Turkey is a player approximately equal in status to Russia, so if Moscow neglects this fact, the risk of a military clash between the parties will increase. “.
Erdogan is in a more difficult position, since he is the subject of events held in northern Syria, Anatoly Nesmeyan believes..
“It is he who creates a semi-independent buffer territory there. And if so, then he must first of all solve the problem. The stakes for him are extremely high here. If war with Syria is officially declared, then Ankara can block the Bosphorus Strait. If only because it is through the Bosphorus that the supply of the Assad regime with Russia is largely carried out, “the expert concluded..