The US might be trying to engineer a Russian-Turkish “security dilemma” in Syria through pre-coup weapons shipments and the exploitation of lingering demagogic suspicions.
Much has been written in the past few days about a speculated fault line developing between Russia and Turkey over “Operation Olive Branch”, with the narrative going that Russian-supplied rockets were as responsible for the Kurds destroying a Turkish tank the other day as Turkish-supplied MANPADS were for downing Russia’s anti-terrorist jet.
M.K. Bhadrakumar was the most prominent analyst to touch upon this issue in the least hysterical manner, and his article for “Asia” Times titled “Russian-Turkish axis in Syria faces meltdown” makes for an interesting read.
The glaring shortcoming, however, is that it both overlooks the Russian-Turkish coordination prior to Ankara’s intervention which made it all possible as well as their legacy of bitter proxy rivalry in Syria in the years preceding the failed pro-American coup attempt against President Erdogan in summer 2016.
The first of these two variables was discussed in the author’s article titled “Whaddya Gonna Do About It?”: The Relevancy of America’s Favorite Retort”, while the second is widely known by all observers.
Together, they debunk the narrative that Russia and Turkey are at each other’s throats nowadays and may have deliberately played a role in the tragic events that recently led to the deaths of their servicemen.
It’s entirely true that the US wants to provoke a “security dilemma” between these two multipolar Eurasian Great Powers so as to regain its unipolar hegemonic relevancy in Syria, and to that end it’s relying on the convincingly deceptive tactic of exploiting each side’s lingering distrust of one another.
State-to-state relations between these two have never been better, yet some loud elements of their domestic population and international supporters are suspicious about their ties and believe that they’re doomed to fail for historical or even religious reasons, overlooking the dramatic paradigm shifts that have thus far unfolded in the emerging Multipolar World Order and presuming that previous tendencies will forever remain unaltered.
Not only is that objectively incorrect, but it belies a subjective bias rooted in some form of seemingly inevitable identity-centric conflict, whether historical, religious, or whatever else, which makes these accusations of impending “betrayal” all the more “attractive” for demagogues to peddle.
To be clear, Mr. Bhadrakumar isn’t one of those said demagogues, but the fallacy of his warning is that he seems to have forgotten just how tense Russian-Turkish relations were prior to summer 2016 and how each of them were likely supplying Syrian-based proxy forces with certain weaponry, or at the very least facilitating or turning a blind eye to its transfer.
The US has always wanted to equip its “rebels” with MANPADS despite public statements to the contrary, and it’s a documented fact that Syria previously played the “Kurdish Card” in an effort to asymmetrically equalize its strategic position with NATO-member Turkey throughout the decades.
Therefore, it’s not the realm of “conspiracy” to ponder whether the “rebels” received MANPADS from the US via Turkey prior to summer 2016 just like how the Kurds might have received anti-tank rockets from Russia via Syria, with the latter scenario also possibly being the result of Damascus giving the PYD-YPG Soviet-era munitions in the period since 2011 or the group simply obtaining them from raided depots or even elsewhere in the world through other means.
In any case, the point being made is that it is extremely unlikely that either Russia or Turkey equipped Syrian-based proxies with these game-changing armaments after their summer 2016 rapprochement, or even that either of them had a direct role in this anyhow since they could have either passively facilitated their transfer or even more likely had their territories (like with Turkey) or countries of origin (as with the USSR and now the Russian Federation) pinned to these weapons without their knowledge (the CIA shipping MANPADS through Turkey using Gulenist networks or Syria giving Soviet/Russian rockets to the Kurds without informing Moscow).
These realistic scenarios cast serious doubt on the narrative that’s been aggressively promoted over the past week that Russia and Turkey are an itchy trigger finger away from turning their speculated proxy war in Syria into an all-out conventional one, and should give reasonable observers pause to consider whether the US might be trying to play everyone for divide-and-rule purposes like it has a documented history of doing.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.