October 7, 2015 | Quoted by Orhan Coskun and Jonny Hogg - Reuters
Furious but Powerless, Turkey Left Smarting by Russian Action in Syria
Turkey may be furious about Russian incursions into its air space but beyond words of protest there is little it can do, with its dependence on Russian energy and trade keeping its hands tied, and its own Syria policy in disarray.
President Tayyip Erdogan has said he is losing patience with Russian jets crossing the border after Moscow launched an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last week. “An attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO,” he warned.
The military alliance has, rhetorically at least, leapt to Turkey's defense, describing the Russian violations as “extremely dangerous”, raising the prospect of direct confrontation between the former Cold War adversaries.
Russia's actions are galling for Erdogan, who has lobbied in vain for Assad's removal. The Syrian army carried out what appeared to be its first major assault backed by Russian air strikes on Wednesday, highlighting how Turkey has been left impotent as the conflict over its southern border takes on an increasingly international dimension.Russia's air strikes, which mean Russian planes as well as those of the United States and its allies are flying combat missions over the same country for the first time since World War Two, have made the prospects of the “no-fly zone” Turkey has long campaigned for look more remote than ever.
That could be a blessing in disguise for Ankara, according to Aykan Erdemir, non-resident fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“Russia's presence seriously limits Turkey's options, forcing Ankara to be more cautious and prudent in the Middle East,” he told Reuters.
“I think the safe zone is off the table and that's probably a disaster averted for Turkey. Ultimately it would have gotten out of control … Turkey could have been drawn into a forever war,” he said.
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