After recent violations of Turkish airspace, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) has been questioning Russia’s motives behind increasing involvement in the Syrian Civil War. For the second time this past week Russia has illegally entered Turkish airspace in order to funnel resources to Russian ground troops in Syria .
NATO secretary Stoltenberg has expressed his concern and alarm over Russia’s increasing presence in Syria, stating that “we have seen a substantial military buildup by Russia in Syria, both in the air with the combat planes and air defense systems, but also an increasing number of ground troops. In addition to that, they have deployed…a large number of naval assets close to Syrian shores” .
In a recent Moscow News interview, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed Turkey’s blatant resentment towards Russian airspace violations by stating that “If Russia loses a friend like Turkey, with which it has conducted many businesses, it will lose a lot.”
Russia and Turkey currently stand on opposite sides. Russia has been backing the Syrian president Assad in fighting Syrian opposition groups, but Turkey believes that Russia should be focusing its military power on fighting jihadist ISIS, the more imminent threat, before aiming to resolve Syria’s civil war via diplomatic negotiations .
Among all NATO member nations, the United States has grown most wary of Russia’s military presence in Syria. Many of the rebel groups that Assad is fighting are backed by Western governments. Obama just authorized a renewal of financial and military aid to Syrian opposition groups, contending that Syrian opposition will put pressure on ISIS from the North and strengthen Syrian borders. .
For the U.S., who backs Syrian opposition groups, Russia’s hostility towards anti-regime groups is infuriating. In the past, the Russian government has allegedly launched airstrikes in areas under “rebel control.” Though Russia denies any claims of fighting the anti-regime movement, the U.S. criticizes Russia for concentrating its efforts on fighting anti-regime groups and killing civilian bystanders in the process .
Tensions are on the rise not only between Russia and Turkey, but between Russia and the U.S. as well. The question with which we are faced, then, is whether Russia and the U.S. can avoid further conflict, and whether they will go down the route of diplomatic negotiations or of war.
by Bradford Lin ’18