Russia and Turkey Make up: What implications for Syria, Kurds?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Turkey on Monday for direct talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, in a bid to further normalize relations between the two countries. Russian-Turkish trade and diplomatic ties were stress late last fall when Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet hitting rebels in Syria, which Turkey maintained had made an incursion into Turkish territory. Turkey is backing the Syrian rebels while Russia is standing behind the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad. So in fact, Russia had chased Turkmen guerrilla clients of Turkey in Syria’s Latakia province north into the mountains and interfered with the guerrilla plan to take the key Mediterranean port of Latakia.

The shoot-down resulted in a trade and tourism freeze from Russia’s side, which deeply harmed some Turkish economic sectors, especially tourism. It also put on hold a Russian company’s plan to build four nuclear reactors to provide Turkish industry with more electricity. Further, a Russian gas pipeline was delayed. Yesterday’s meeting was intended to built on a normalization process that began last summer.

Turkey has attempted to keep at least correct relations, including economic relations, with Russia and Iran despite their support for al-Assad in Syria. This approach contrasts with that of Saudi Arabia, which has poisonous relations with Iran in part because their proxies are fighting and killing each other in Syria.

Those correct relations were disrupted by the shoot-down. But Erdogan is now blaming that incident on the secretive and cult-like Gulen movement, which he maintains had infiltrated the police, judiciary and military, and which was responsible for the coup attempt in mid-July.

Since the failed coup, Turkey appears to have scaled down its ambitions in Syria. It wants to make sure the Syrian Kurds do not create a contiguous territory and declare it independent. The Turkish military went into Jarabulus in Syria to create a Turkish-held pocket for the Free Syrian Army that would prevent the leftist Kurdish YPG from taking that territory and uniting the western Afrin Kurdish canton to those of Kobane and Jazeera. But Turkish efforts to overthrow the regime by, e.g., having its proxies take Latakia, have subsided since this summer’s failed coup.

Putin and Erdogan are said to have agreed that civilian humanitarian aid should be allowed to reach the rebel-held East Aleppo pocket. Reuters says that Erdogan said, “We discussed … how we can cooperate on this matter, especially on humanitarian aid to Aleppo, what strategy can we implement so people in Aleppo can find peace . . .” In fact, the Syrian government is besieging and bombing the 250,000 civilians in East Aleppo, and Russia is helping. If Putin’s pledge to Erdogan really is implemented, that is huge.

Russian sources suggested (and I would take this with a grain of salt) that Erdogan and Putin had made a secret deal with one another whereby Russia has taken a neutral stance on Turkey’s incursions into Iraq to strike at the separatist PKK Kurdish guerrillas based there, who come over the border to hit Turkish security forces and sometimes to engage in terrorism. In return, Erdogan has ceased regularly demanding that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad immediately leave office.

If this report has any truth to it, then Turkey may have begun acquiescing in the survival of the Syrian government, which would be huge for the Syrian crisis.

BBC Monitoring translated from the Russian website:

“As for Russia, it is not going to interfere with Turkey’s actions against the Kurds at this time, Gazeta.Ru learned from another source, associated with the Turkish direction of the Russian diplomacy.

“There is information that Putin has made concessions on the Kurdish issue and Erdogan on the issue of recognizing Al-Assad’s regime. For as long as Russian and Turkish interests in Syria do not clash and there is no open confrontation between the Kurdish forces and the Turkish Army, Moscow will close its eyes to our intelligence on the Kurds,” the source said. “At the same time, Erdogan is changing his rhetoric towards Al-Assad, whose deposition he used to demand.”

Gazety.Ru’s source noted the Turkish leader’s address at the UN General Assembly on 21 September. Erdogan did not say a word about Al-Assad during his whole 30-minute address. . .

In the evening of 5 October, several hours after Baghdad’s forceful statement against Ankara, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart discussed the “issues of the Syrian crisis” on the phone, the Kremlin’s press service reported.

Source: website in Russian 6 Oct 16″


Related video:

Euronews: “The rocky relations of Russia and Turkey”

9 Responses

  1. I’m an old fart going deaf (I loved the LA and SF music scenes too close to the speakers) but I can hear it, can you hear it too?

    It’s the sound of the geo-tectonic plates of the world military-power states shifting.

    Depending on billions of variables — how we as a global so-called “civilization” evolve and shift with the changing times — all our lives and progress hang in the balance.

  2. Has all Turkish foreign / domestic policy become the national extension of Erdoğan’s obsessive pursuit of his twin “white whales”: Kurdish nationalism and Fethulla Gulen?

    And look at those chairs!

    Çok yaşa Sultan Recep Tayyip.

  3. They are natural allies. Trade will determine their future relationship as it always does. Trade, and the increasing US/Russia differences, the hotter the latter get the looser Turkish bonds with the US/NATO block are likely to become because if they get to swords drawn Turkey must side with Russia/China; the odds would be too heavily weighed against a US ‘win’. The Syrians, alas, are as blades of grass on a battlefield.

  4. The US is in a world of hurt. The Philippines (with it’s crazy leader) is bailing. Turkey is moving over to the enemy. All that’s left is the butcher Saudi Arabia, which the UN is accusing of war crimes and outcast Israel. The EU is fractured over support for the US sanctions. Germany wants out. The US is quickly becoming a wounded giant, flush with cash, but with dwindling influence. It’ll need to use its cash more and more to solidify its alliances. This means the US people will take it on the chin again, with the needs of the people, like investments in infrastructure, on the back burner. We need to wake up and say no to Empire and the military-industrial complex!

    • Might this not be a stage in a process of adjustment rather than the edge of a cliff or the end of a cul de sac. Attempts to analyse these things mostly result in contentious descent into non-contextual detail. However, detail aside, US foreign policy has long been guided by the notion of ruling the world, all its actions have been consciously or intuitively geared to that end. Its people have largely been brought up to that view and it’s woven into their attitude towards the world from an early age. This I recognise because I attended a notable public school in the early 1950’s and, with hindsight, I see the curriculum there was still in large part designed to produce the next generation to administer the Empire that was already unravelled or unravelling. The US does not really have enemies, those it takes to be such are simply resisting the notion of US world dominance. The US is an essential element in the future stability of the world, no one wants it crushed, but it is not the only element and that is what is proving hard to accept. It would be easier if US leaders had the authority Russian and Chinese leaders have, but it hasn’t. What it has is a constitution with a whole series of checks and balances on leaders’ decisions designed to safeguard the interests of the domestic population but hopelessly inhibiting when it comes to the devious business of global foreign policy. One can see this with the horror Trump evokes; ask the question, What conceivable difference does it make to the pursuit of US foreign policy if the leader has an appetite to grope? Dag Hammarskjöld was said to have had a thing with Nasser’s foreign minister!?! Were Trump president and in Moscow, they might even position suitable ladies within arm’s length along with his favourite tipple in the mini bar and then get on with the serious business.

    • So true. Even with the disastrous wars of the last 15 years, where we spent trillions and got an Iraq and Libya in turmoil and a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, the US wants to double down in Syria as well as put new bases all over Africa. I just wonder when the American people will stop being hoodwinked. Of course, it’ll happen when it hits their pocket book and their standard of living.

  5. It’s their neighborhood and is of virtually no concern to legitimate US interests in protecting US soil and US nationals.

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