#SyrianWar: Moscow moves closer to Turkey’s foes

Russia creating anti-Turkish alliance amid tensions over Idlib

Russia has been trying to abandon its tactical partnership with Turkey in Syria counterbalancing it by cooperating with the Gulf states, Al-Monitor wrote, stressing that of late Moscow has stepped up contacts with a number of Arab countries. The reason behind this could be irreconcilable differences between Russia and Turkey in Syria’s Idlib Governorate, which is controlled by both the pro-Turkish opposition and terrorists. Arab monarchies, except for Qatar, are Turkey’s key geopolitical rivals and any move to intensify contacts, especially amid escalating tensions over Idlib, could give rise to suspicions that Moscow is seeking a counterbalance to its ally Ankara, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Russian International Affairs Council expert Anton Mardasov believes that Moscow has the resources for rebalancing forces, but it has to change the rules of the game in Syria. "First, it was important for the Kremlin to galvanize Turkey’s efforts in Idlib. There was no other means of forcing it to interfere rather than to raise the stakes. Second, Moscow is interested in weakening Syria’s opposition and even more wants Damascus to acknowledge the boundaries of its capabilities: Assad’s units are powerless without Russia’s direct support," the analyst said. This means that Russia could use this situation to get greater loyalty from President Bashar Assad, Mardasov noted. "Third, distancing itself from Turkey over Idlib allows Russia to take into account the opinion of Arab monarchies, which seek to contain both Iran and Turkey," he pointed out.

According to military expert Yuri Netkachev, Ankara has no reason to quarrel with Moscow over Idlib. "First, the Turkish military’s active participation in the Syrian war and their losses have already come under criticism of the country’s politicians and its society." Besides, the Turks have a major economic interest in Russia as far as agricultural trade, tourism, energy projects and military and technical cooperation go. "All this finally encourages them to search for a compromise."

Russian political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov told Vedomosti that a Russian-Turkish war is impossible, noting that the behavior of Moscow and Ankara points to this. "A war would trigger devastating consequences for both sides and that’s why this is ruled out. We do not know for sure who had carried out the strike [on the Turkish military] but everyone carefully stresses that this was the Syrian regime and this shows that no one is interested in any Russian-Turkish escalation."

The only way to iron out challenging issues around Idlib is to hold face-to-face talks between the Russian and Turkish leaders, Izvestia writes. According to both sides, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan plan to meet in Moscow on March 5 or March 6. Enes Bayrakli, an expert at the Turkish think-tank SETA, believes that the two leaders have every chance of resolving the Idlib crisis.

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