Sign In / Up

Add contribution as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Comment as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Login

Not a member Register   Forgot Password
or connect using
 

Email

 

Rudaw

Middle East

A Complicated Triangle: Russia, Turkey and the Syrian Kurds

By Paul Iddon 29/8/2016
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) visited St. Petersburg to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) earlier this month, starting a rapprochement. Kremlin photo.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) visited St. Petersburg to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) earlier this month, starting a rapprochement. Kremlin photo.
Turkey’s military incursion into northwestern Syria on August 24 began mere weeks after the failed coup attempt and Ankara’s rapprochement with Russia. Does Moscow approve of Ankara’s move into Syria, and if so, why?

As of writing Turkish-backed forces were advancing against the Syrian Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) west of the Euphrates River, with air and artillery support after Islamic State (ISIS) militants were forced from the border-town of Jarablus on Wednesday.

Is Russia merely acquiescing to this Turkish campaign, since it can’t do anything to prevent it, or is it in fact giving it tacit support?

“We know now Turkey put a lot of diplomatic efforts to re-approach Russia in June-August. There were also attempts to establish coordination between the militaries of both countries. We also know now that Turkey notified Russia prior to the Jarablus offensive. It means that there is an intensive dialogue between Ankara and Moscow,” Timor Akhmetov, a Turkey researcher at the Wikistrat Inc. consultancy, told Rudaw English.

A lot of this dialogue may be centered around the Kurdish issue in Syria, a key concern for Ankara, which has long sought to stress that the Syrian Kurds pose a grave threat to Turkey’s security, given their links with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

“I do think that what we are now observing is a key landmark in the Syria crisis. There's a strong opinion among many experts in Russia that of all other reasons, the Kurdish issue was a prime incentive for Ankara to seek reconciliation with Russia,” Dr. Maxim A. Suchkov, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Rudaw English.

Suchkov points out that Turkey has been seriously concerned about the Syrian Kurds linking up all their territories in northern Syria, especially in the northwest. Any ability they had to stop such Syrian Kurdish advances were seriously hindered by the severe strain in their ties with Russia last November, following the warplane shoot-down incident.

“Given the Russian military presence in Syria, Turkey could do little to change what it perceived as a negative trend for its interests. So the rapprochement was instrumental in helping to change this. For the first time since Russians deployed the S-400 (advanced anti-aircraft missile) system in November 2015, Turkish jets were able to fly in Syrian air space to carry out strikes,” Suchkov explained.

Akhmetov believes Russia willingly allowed this operation because it is "awaiting something from Turkey" in return.

“We should understand that Russia compromised with Turkey by allowing it to cross the border. Russia understands that incursion is an important measure for Turkey in terms of its national security. So it means that Russia is awaiting something from Turkey, since Russia is a realist player which doesn't compromise without being sure of getting something in return,” Akhmetov said.  

Suchkov also pointed out that, “both Damascus and Tehran signaled their tacit agreement to these actions as well, since the Kurdish issue is something that tactically unites the states who are, in other circumstances, regional rivals.”

“The US factor in light of Joe Biden's visit to Turkey is also interesting. The perception in Russia is that Moscow is now acting as an intermediary between Ankara and Damascus while Washington mediates between Ankara and Kurds,” he added.

Akhmetov doubts that Russia is ready to throw its lot in with the ruling Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in a fight against Turkey. However, at the same time, it doesn’t want to see the PYD destroyed, since it has proven to be an effective counterweight to various armed opposition groups Russia and the Syrian regime have been fighting.

“I am not sure Russia is ready to protect PYD till the end. In the fight between Damascus and the PYD Russia chooses the former. Russia in the long-run is not interested in having a very strong PYD in Syria,” Akhmetov explained.

“But the PYD is important for counterbalancing anti-Assad opposition, both on the ground and diplomatically, so the PYD must be strong enough vis-à-vis that opposition. So, I would risk saying that Russia is not against Turkey strategically weakening PYD, but Russia will be against any actions that may render PYD too weak in general,” he added.

Comments

 
Data pager
Previous
12
Page size:
PageSizeComboBox
select
FAUthman | 30/8/2016
This is the first time we read about Turkey advancing on Kurds east of the Euphrates, Iddon says above: "As of writing Turkish-backed forces were advancing against the Syrian Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) east of the Euphrates River". There is no confirmation of this!
FAUthman | 30/8/2016
The US own military would raise hell if Obama would allow Turkish forces to cross the Euphrates or descend from the north and attack Kurds in Kobani. There is just so much the US would allow Erdogan to get away with. Killing Kurds east of the Euphrates is not one of them! Obama will not let it happen.
H2B | 30/8/2016
By the same token Turkey doesn't want a weakened ISIS, hence their intervention in North Aleppo and their fight against SDF.
Mam | 30/8/2016
If not for turkey the civil war in Syria would have been over along time ago
M Gonzales
M Gonzales | 30/8/2016
A lot of backroom deals and possibly backstabbing. Only the fly's on the wall know exactly what deals were made. The rest of us will have to wait until the final act.

Be Part of Your Rudaw!

Share your stories, photos and videos with Rudaw, and quite possibly the world.

What You Say

Adstar | 7/25/2017 3:38:26 AM
She made her own bed.. Now she can sleep in it.. You can be assured most Germans will not want her back.. They do not support the death penalty but...
green activist defector | 7/25/2017 12:22:14 PM
joshcka fischer the "green activist" and turkish lobbyist in berlin maybe can talk to his boss in ankara to solve this girls situation.
German girl who joined ISIS wants to leave Iraq, return to family
| yesterday at 11:45 | (10)
Gorran is betrayal | 7/25/2017 11:31:12 AM
Russia recognizes the right of the Kurds on indpendence , but Gorran denies the Kurds the right to hold the referendeum on independence.
kurd | 7/25/2017 11:33:27 AM
when he talks to turkish and iranian newspapers, he condemns kurdish independence. some of these comments show how many are naive
Sergey Lavrov to Rudaw: Referendum is expression of Kurdish people’s aspirations
| yesterday at 08:55 | (8)
Gorran is betrayal | 7/25/2017 11:22:49 AM
Gorran is treason , is anti-kurdish .
alan | 7/25/2017 11:29:41 AM
A new leader who is not family member of the former leader? If KDP or PUK gets a new leader he will be from the same family. Thanks we have Gorran...
New Gorran leader: We can achieve party’s objectives through dialogue
| 11 hours ago | (2)
Dana | 7/25/2017 10:47:59 AM
All that useless repetition of obvious information made the article horrible to read, not to mention that it missed the most important detail, which...
Al-Qaida in Syria close to snuffing out competition in north
| 16 hours ago | (1)

Elsewhere on Rudaw

NRT TV owner announces vote-no campaign for referendum 5 hours ago |

NRT TV owner announces vote-no campaign for referendum

He called referendum a “dangerous gamble with more
Kurdish official says US role essential in post-IS Syria 6 hours ago |

Kurdish official says US role essential in post-IS Syria

Americans " must continue until a democratic more
PM Abadi: I won’t deploy tanks to Kurdistan in response to referendum 7 hours ago |

PM Abadi: I won’t deploy tanks to Kurdistan in response to referendum

PM Abadi: “I mean, what I will do? Will I deploy more
0.203 seconds