Putin risks pushing U.S. and Turkey back together

By supporting lethal attacks of Syrian government forces on Turkish soldiers in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, Russian President Vladimir Putin risks pushing Turkey and the United States reboot ties, foreign policy expert Tom Rogan said in his commentary in the Washington Examiner.

"The Trump administration senses an opportunity to rebuild the relationship with our NATO ally after years of disagreement over Turkey's evolving relationship with Russia,” Rogan said on Tuesday, citing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tweet on Monday that wished condolences to the families of the Turkish soldiers killed in Idlib and his move to send James Jeffrey, U.S. special representative for Syria, to Ankara for talks over the escalating situation in Syria’s last rebel-held bastion.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the last month repeatedly asked Moscow to honour the terms of a 2018 deal over Idlib that aimed establishing a demilitarised zone in the province to prevent an attack of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces on the province which is home to 3 million people.

But the Russia-backed Syrian government launched an offensive in Idlib in April saying the deal failed in containing jihadi fighters in the region. In recent weeks, Syrian forces advanced to areas in Idlib where Turkey has 12 observation posts and 13 Turkish soldiers were killed in one week by Syrian forces’ shelling.

“The Turkish leader is thus both furious over Putin's betrayal and embarrassed at having been played,” Rogan said. “He's learning that there's no such thing as a Putin partner, there's only a Putin puppet.”

The escalation in Idlib will continue in near future, the analyst said. “But considering Turkish anger and the broader tactical context (the United States will almost certainly have shared intelligence material with Turkey indicating Russia's deliberate effort to kill Turkish personnel), Putin may have to back down here.” 

“From Putin's perspective, undermining Erdoğan's relationship with NATO is of critical strategic value,” he said.