Russia Withdraws. Turkey Advances. Watch Along the Syrian Frontier. Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs.

Mar 16, 2016, 03:41 AM

03-15-2016 (Photo: ‪Turkish soldiers and tanks on patrol in Şırnak province‬) Twitter: @BatchelorShow Russia Withdraws. Turkey Advances. Watch Along the Syrian Frontier. Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs. “Russia on March 14, 2016, moved another step forward in its isolation of Turkey, and to avoid being lured into direct military conflict with Ankara. The move was designed to give Russia and its ally, Syria, a better position in the UN-sponsored Geneva Peace Talks on Syria {“Geneva III”), which began that day in Geneva.1 “Turkey’s immediate response was to feel sufficiently comfortable to launch the cross-border conventional military offensive into Syria which had been planned for some time. “Russian Federation Pres. Vladimir Putin’s instruction on March 14, 2016, to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to begin the withdrawal of the bulk of Russian forces from Syria beginning March 15, 2016, was strategically based, despite being largely opaque in terms of detail for external consumption. It did not signify a diminution of the Russian confrontation with Turkey, which was now forcing Ankara into a desperate, reactive mode. The flight of capital, the cessation of much foreign direct investment, the growing isolation of Turkey from Europe and the US, and the blossoming of the Kurdish war of secession have now put Ankara on the back foot. “It also overwhelmed some of the early criticism of the Syrian and Russian positions at the Geneva talks, in which Turkey and some Western governments had insisted that Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad’s position should be up for negotiation. This is a point on which, at this stage, neither Damascus nor Moscow would enter discussion. “Russia’s withdrawal of some combat forces from Syria was clearly not based on the assumption that the present ceasefire in Syria would necessarily continue for any protracted period, but, rather, on the likelihood that it would, in fact, be broken in the near future. Under that assumption it was clear that Russian forces should be removed from possible direct engagement with Turkish forces. “The Turkish Government has deliberately sought to provoke direct military confrontation with Russia as a means of broadening the conflict. Direct confrontation with Russia would, Pres. Reçep Tayyip Erdo-ğan believes, enable Turkey to invoke the 1936 Montreux Convention which would give Turkey the right to close the Bosphorous to Russian naval shipping, thus constraining the Russian Navy to the Black Sea. It would also, Ankara believes, cause NATO involvement in the war, on the side of NATO member, Turkey. This move — to find a new way to engage NATO support — has been considered important by Pres. Erdoğan, given the explicit rejection by most NATO leaders of Turkey’s attempt to invoke Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty which declares that an attack on one NATO member constitutes an attack on all. The pervasive NATO approach ahs been that Turkey began the present conflict with Syria and the confrontation with Russia….”