Moments after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson departed Ankara empty handed, after his meetings with the Turkish President and Foreign Minister, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed Russia’s clear solidarity with Turkish concerns regarding plans the US has to set up an illegal Kurdish statelet on Turkey’s borders, wherein the terrorist group YPG/PKK would rule the roost.
The timing of the statement is crucial as Russia is keen to demonstrate its genuine sympathies with Turkey’s concerns regarding the US providing a safe haven for Kurdish extremists on what is legally defined Syrian territory.
Similar statements were made just prior to Tillerson’s arrival in Turkey by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. Yesterday, she said,
“The Americans have sent to Kurds convoys with weapons through the territory of Iraq, provoking Turkey. Turkey, in turn, has continued its military actions against Kurds in the Afrin area in northwestern Syria as part of the Operation Olive Branch”.
Today, Lavrov book-ended Tillerson’s mission to Turkey with similar sentiments when he told Euronews,
“It is clear that the United States has some strategy which I believe entails staying in Syria forever with its armed forces … They are gearing up for separating a huge part of Syria from the rest of the country, violating Syria’s sovereignty of territorial integrity. There they will create quasi-local authorities, will try to create autonomy based on the Kurds. They want to do the same thing now in Iraq and Afghanistan despite all the promises made earlier.
Playing a game with the Kurdish issue, in terms of a narrow understanding of own geopolitical intentions only in one part of this region, as the United States is doing now, is very dangerous. It could lead to big problems in a whole range of other countries where the Kurdish issue exists and where there is a Kurdish population.
These events once again point out the short-sightedness or even a malice of the United States. For two-three years, the US special units are permanently illegally operating in Syria without any request of Damascus or a mandate issued by the UN Security Council. From the very beginning the United States bet on the Kurds ignoring the Turkish concerns”.
Russia is sending unambiguous messages to Turkey that the US cannot be trusted with any promises of reducing its arms deliveries to Kurdish militants in Syria. While Turkey has made it clear that the atmosphere of trust with the US remains low, Russia is keen to demonstrate that when it comes to having a superpower partner, Moscow is more reliable, more honest and more concerned with Turkey’s security interests than the United States, in spite of previous decades of a generally strong US-Turkey alliance.
While Turkey is already largely increasingly leaning towards enhancing its Russian partnership at the expense of traditional ties with the US, Moscow is helping to make it clear that while the US remains ambivalent about Turkey, in spite of polite diplomatic rhetoric, Russia is far and above the more sympathetic partner.
Russia’s statements have become increasingly anti-US and increasingly anti-YPG in recent weeks, as it becomes increasingly clear that at this point Russia, Iran, Syria and Turkey each view the illegal US presence in the Syrian Arab Republic as counterproductive.
While Syria and Turkey remain publicly at odds over Turkey’s operations in the country, Moscow has worked behind the scenes to minimise any hostile contact between Syrian and Turkish forces in a delicate balancing act which has thus far been successful. Now, Russia is seeking to seal the deal by painting a contrasting picture of Russian priorities and geopolitical sympathies surrounding the conflict in Syria, vis-a-vis a United States which has clearly chosen the YPG/PKK over Turkey, in spite of rhetoric which seeks to maintain a balance which for Washington has become manifestly impossible.