Turkish Forces Enter Syria — How Will Russia Respond?

A desperate move by Erdogan to stop Kurdish territorial gains

Thu, Jan 21, 2016
MORE: Politics
How will Russia respond?
How will Russia respond?

With peace negotiations to begin next week, and with almost no bargaining chips left to play with, Erdogan has decided to send Turkish forces into Syria.

Turkey has seized the ISIS-controlled town of Jarabulus, but faced no resistance, according to reports:

Eyewitnesses to the incursion reported that the Turkish forces have not encountered any resistance from ISIS fighters in the area. These reports once again raise the question of possible collaboration between Turkey and ISIS aimed at halting the advance of the Kurdish militias in north Syria.

The fact that Turkey faced zero resistance is suspicious, but even more troubling is Erdogan's level of desperation. The Kurds are slowly retaking northern Syria from ISIS. For Turkey this is an unacceptable reality. As Patrick Cockburn wrote earlier this week, "Turkey is getting close to the point where it has to become militarily engaged in the war for northern Syria or become a marginal player."

Stratfor also predicted a Turkish incursion into Syria. Earlier this week Stratfor wrote, "In what could be a sign of this intent, Turkish minesweeping vehicles have started clearing mines along a section of the border near the Syrian town of Jarabulus, which the Islamic State controls."

Turkish build-up on the Syrian border, as reported by Stratfor
Turkish build-up on the Syrian border, as reported by Stratfor

But the big question now is: How will Russia respond? According to Stratfor, Russia has agreed not to interfere:

According to Stratfor sources, Russia and the United States have discussed the plan, and Russia has agreed not to obstruct Turkey's efforts so long as Ankara does not try to expand the buffer zone to the Mediterranean Sea — a stipulation Turkey has reportedly acquiesced to. Our sources also said liaison officers from Turkey, Russia and the United States will coordinate with one another to prevent cases of accidental fire or, in the event that they do occur, to avoid any escalation between Turkish and Russian forces.

Time will tell.

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