December 7, 2015 | Quote

Russia Appears to Have ‘Gone Ballistic’ in Syria — and It May Be Helping ISIS

Russia is showing no signs that it intends to forgive and forget Turkey's decision to down a Russian warplane two weeks ago.

Moscow has chosen to retaliate for the incident asymmetrically, hitting Turkish economic and military interests instead of engaging in a direct conflict with Ankara that might lead to a military confrontation with NATO.

But the Russians appear to have “gone ballistic” in their determination to wipe out Turkish influence in northern Syria and help regime forces reach Aleppo, a United Nations official told McClatchy on Monday.


“There has been an uptick in bombing in northern Syria as part of the reaction to the downing of the Su-24,” Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert with the Washington, DC-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider in an email.

“Providing an opening for Assad to advance to Aleppo or any other advances is consistent with Russia's strategy all along. The situation with Turkey is an excuse to double down.”

“Putin’s larger immediate goal is to shut down Turkey’s link to Aleppo, thereby preparing the way for Assad (perhaps even in coordination with the PKK-affiliated Kurds) to besiege and eventually recapture the city,” Middle East expert Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote last week in Tablet.

In Tablet, Badran argued that this consequence was deliberate on Russia's part.

“By creating an opening for ISIS to make a push toward Azaz, Putin will leverage the US and Europe to pressure Turkey to shut down this section of its border. If ISIS actually makes it to Azaz, Russia can then invite the US and the Europeans to join it in strikes against ISIS, and in support of the Kurds,” he wrote.

Zilberman said it would be in the anti-ISIS coalition's interest to shut down this vulnerable section of Turkey's border anyway.

“The United States should be pushing the Turks to close the border and stem the flow of fighters and terror financing crossing the border,” Zilberman told Business Insider in an email. “That is in the interest of US and EU national security.”


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Russia Syria Turkey