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Putin outplayed both Erdogan, and Trump in Syria

But, nevertheless, thanks to Russia Turkey also solved the key problem of its security.

On October 22 in Sochi, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a memorandum of understanding. It spells out a procedure for resolving the situation in northern Syria in the zone of the Turkish military operation “Source of Peace”.


Negotiations lasted more than six hours. In fact, the leaders determined the fate of Syria and its territorial integrity. According to Putin, the outcome of the meeting reached crucial decisions.


Here are the key points of the agreement:


– Turkish troops will retain control over the entire territory for an indefinite period of time from October 9 – on a stretch along the border of about 100 km between the cities of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain, and a depth of 32 km (in the contract this is called ” maintaining the status quo ”).


– The rest of the border (Operation Source of Peace was on a 400-kilometer stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border) will be occupied by Syrian border guards and the Russian military police. On October 23, they advanced to the area adjacent to the territory controlled by Turkey, and will facilitate the withdrawal of the Kurdish self-defense units from the Turkish operation zone and their withdrawal deep into the territory of Syria.


Turkey may be expelled from NATO for the “Kurdish issue”, but it is ready to cooperate with Russia.


  • The Kurds were given 150 hours to get a complete conclusion, that is, just over six days.

During this time, Kurdish military formations, which Erdogan considers terrorist, must leave the border along its entire length. The agreement does not say anything about their future fate, but it is said that the parties are going to “fight terrorism in all forms.”


– After that, the Russian and Turkish military will begin joint patrolling of the territories adjacent to the Syrian-Turkish border (from Syria) and located west and east of the Turkish military operation zone. It is a strip 10 km wide along the border.


– The document does not say a word about the fate of Kurdish autonomy: it is said that all issues of the political structure of Syria will be decided later on by the constitutional committee, which will be convened by Russia, Turkey and Iran.


– The parties confirmed their intention to work on a political settlement in Syria within the framework of the “Astana mechanism” and support the activities of the constitutional committee. That is, Moscow and Ankara declared their readiness to continue to work together on the preparation of a new Syrian constitution.


According to analysts, Erdogan lost to Putin in a complex Syrian game. The Turkish leader claimed a region of the Turkish-Syrian border with a length of more than 400 kilometers with dozens of large Kurdish cities. He planned to capture them in order to resettle more than two million Syrian refugees from Turkey there. This is exactly what the Turkish leader agreed on October 17 with US Vice President Mike Pence.


As a result of the negotiations in Sochi, Erdogan received only a section of the border with a length of less than 100 kilometers and only two cities that managed to capture his troops. Plus – lost hope to expand the zone to that part of it, which was the initial task for his troops (a strip of 30 kilometers along the entire border). As a maximum, we note that in Turkey, the occupation of the entire north-eastern third of Syria was discussed.


For their part, Damascus and Moscow received the right to take control of almost another third of the territory of Syria, which until then was in the hands of the Kurds and their allies – the United States. This was made possible because Erdogan achieved the withdrawal of the US military from the region.


But in general, Erdogan has not yet lost the game. Damascus, with the support of Russia, plans in the near future to resume the offensive in Idlib, where Islamists hold power. Part of the Islamic groups opposing Bashar al-Assad there are controlled by the Turks or cooperate with them. And Erdogan’s hands were untied in this direction – the agreement with Putin does not specify the fate of Idlib.


  • The memorandum refers to the territorial demarcation on the Syrian border with Turkey, and the creation of a security zone, – notes Mikhail Alexandrov, a leading expert at the Center for Military-Political Research at MGIMO, – in my opinion, this is very similar to the Moscow Treaty, signed in March 1921 by representatives of Turkey and Soviet Russia – it dealt with the demarcation in Transcaucasia. Soviet Russia then actually acted as a territorial guarantor of the integrity of the Transcaucasian republics, and Turkey received certain rights in this region.
  • In particular, Ankara then gained the right to monitor the autonomy of Adjara – which, by the way, it does not do now: Adjara autonomy is actually destroyed in Tbilisi. Turkey then, in fact, became the guarantor of the security of Muslims in Georgia who lived in Adjara. In addition, Turkey has become a guarantor in relation to Nakhichevan, which is now part of Azerbaijan. Finally, the Moscow Treaty established borders between Turkey, Georgia and Armenia.

These historical developments, I believe, have helped our diplomats now find solutions to Turkey. Essentially, we also set a certain regime with regard to borders. Plus, Turkey acts as a guarantor of the rights of Turkoman in Idlib, and future refugees who will be settled in areas of the so-called security zone.


– Erdogan lost in Syria – didn’t he get everything he wanted?

– In politics, it rarely happens that you get everything you want. I think that Erdogan, when the Syrian mess began – the operation to “tear up” Syria, launched by the Americans in 2011 – generally had far-reaching plans. Then it was about creating a pro-Western puppet government in Damascus, on which Turkey hoped to have a serious influence. Turkey even counted on the creation in Syria of areas inhabited by pro-Turkish elements – similar to Northern Cyprus.


  • However, after Russian intervention, these Napoleonic plans are a thing of the past; Erdogan cannot count on them. But nevertheless, he managed to create a zone between the cities of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain, where pro-Turkish elements will live – an area in which the status quo is maintained by the memorandum.


  • This is a fairly large territory, and it is likely to host Sunni refugees from Syria controlled by Turkey.

– Why is it so important for Ankara?

– For the Turks, the security problem has now come to the fore. Ankara faced the danger of creating an independent Kurdistan on the territory of Syria, which would project its strength onto the territory of Turkey itself. In such a situation, Ankara’s intentions to chop off part of Syria have faded into the background. The main thing was to prevent the loss of their own territory.


  • That is what the main efforts of Erdogan are now devoted to. And he successfully solved the problem by creating a security zone. Then he will populate it, I repeat, with Sunni Arabs from Syria. The forces of the Syrian Free Army will prevail there – essentially pro-Erdogan forces. Thus, the Kurds will be forced out of this region, and will not be able to project their actions on Turkish territory.
  • Yes, there are still sections of the Syrian-Turkish border that will be patrolled jointly by Russia and Turkey. In fact, this is a consequence of the 1998 Adan Agreement between Turkey and Syria on security cooperation, which allows the Turks to enter Syria 5 km to fight the Kurds. Here are the Turks at 5 km and enter. And the zone of the next 5 km from the border will be patrolled by Russian troops along with the Syrians.


  • As far as I understand, the only point on which Putin and Erdogan failed to agree is the Kamyshly, which are considered the capital of Northern Kurdistan. Perhaps there will be separate negotiations on this issue – with both Kurds and Turks.


– How now, after the memorandum in Sochi, does the prospect of Turkey’s membership in NATO look like?

– It is already obvious that NATO is not a guarantee of security for Turkey. When Ankara has security problems, the alliance is in no hurry to solve them. And when Turkey begins to solve them independently, NATO immediately begins to condemn the Turks. And introduce sanctions against them. That is, from a logic point of view, Turkey’s presence in NATO is becoming counterproductive.


  • You will see what campaign unfolded against Turkey in the USA and Western Europe! Everyone just says that Donald Trump has abandoned his Kurdish allies! But the fact that Turkey is a longtime ally of NATO and the United States is not mentioned at all. Turkey is de facto regarded as a state hostile to the West, which pursues its own policy. And not as an ally in the military-political bloc. This is nonsense.
  • Ankara, in my opinion, must decide on withdrawal from NATO. Why would it have such allies ?!

– The US position in the region is weakening due to the fact that we have agreed with Turkey?

– The US position in Syria has really weakened, and very seriously. But you have to understand: Syria is a toxic asset for Trump. The operation that Barack Obama started to overthrow the Syrian regime and create a puppet state

The operation, which was launched by Barack Obama to overthrow the Syrian regime and create a puppet state, failed after Russian intervention.

It turned out that the Americans are present in Syria, spending resources for some reason, and at the same time, relations with Turkey are deteriorating.

Trump, having left Syria, actually retained the possibility of normalizing US-Turkish relations. Left the door open for Ankara.


  • Putin completely outplayed Erdogan, – said Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.

– In addition to the small plots that Turkey has already been able to capture, Ankara will not get anything. Yes, the memorandum does not determine the future of Syria unequivocally – a lot of things can happen in the country. But for now, at the moment, Russia is consistently taking more and more territory for Assad. And that is certainly good.

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