Friday, February 12, 2016

Pucker Factor Increases

Will Turkey enter the Syrian civil war to save Aleppo? Will Russia take on NATO member Turkey over that? Will that then spread to the entire front with NATO?

I noted that Russia's accusation that Turkey was about to "invade" Syria was probably fairly accurate:

Odd as it may seem, just because their lips are moving doesn't necessarily mean the Russians are lying. (Although that's the way to bet, in general.)

The Turks probably are preparing to move into Syria. They've long wanted a buffer zone (or a safe zone or a humanitarian corridor or whatever you want to call it) along their border with Syria where rebels could have a sanctuary and to have a safe place for refugees short of reaching Turkey.

Turkey seems to be telegraphing an intention to do just that with an argument designed to get Europe to go along (tip to the Instapundit Borg):

Speaking to reporters en route to Turkey from the Netherlands, Davutoğlu said that he had told German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the need to stop Russia in Syria in order to prevent further influxes of refugees to Turkey and Europe from the region, the Hürriyet daily reported on Friday. When asked whether Turkey will take action to reopen the corridor to Aleppo, Davutoğlu said, “Wait for the next few days and you will have the answer,” daily Hürriyet reported on Friday.

As I noted in an update to that post above about Russia's accusation, I figured Europe could be convinced to at least stay quiet by Turkey's argument that only halting Assad's offensive can prevent more now-unwanted refugees from reaching Western European street festivals.

And Russia is flexing military muscle against Turkey (tip to the Instapundit Borg):

Mr. Felgenhauer [per the link, "one of Russia’s top defense analysts" with links to Russia's military] minces no words about this: “Russia has begun the deployment of forces and resources for a major war with Turkey.” Mr. Putin has decided to let his client, the Assad regime, win its bloody civil war, first in the north around Aleppo, and any moves by Turkey or NATO to stop them will be met with force. So far, President Barack Obama has let Mr. Putin do whatever he likes in Syria, no matter the cost in innocent lives, so the Kremlin has no reason to think that will change.

While I don't think Russia has the conventional military power to fight a war against NATO stretching from the Middle East to the Arctic Circle (fighting in Syria is stretching Russia's few good military assets enough to reduce their capabilities in Ukraine's Donbas, after all), let alone against Turkey, Russia does have a lot of nuclear weapons which Russia views as the ultimate backstop for their weakened land forces.

However, you can't rule out the possibility that Felgenhauer is writing the way he is to conceal Russian military weakness to help Putin bluff his way to a cheap victory over an irresolute NATO.

And perhaps Russia in a fight with Turkey would, if NATO offers support to Turkey, limit fighting with NATO elsewhere to Narva, Estonia, believing this is all they need to do to give NATO a bloody nose and deter NATO from getting too involved on behalf of Turkey.

Heck, the more the merrier! Ukraine might think that with Russia embroiled in a war with NATO, it is time to liberate the Donbas and even go after Crimea to restore that territory to Ukrainian control.

Would Israel seize the moment to hammer Hezbollah?

Are we having fun yet as nuclear-armed Russia finally (as they've long known in their paranoid bones) see enemies everywhere along their western front?

All I have to say is thank God the administration had the wisdom to refrain from intervening early in the Syrian conflict when Russia was absent; Assad was reeling; jihadis were few on the ground; ISIL was not yet born; the war hadn't spilled into Iraq; Russia hadn't seen us back down from a "red line" over chemical weapons in Syria, perhaps drawing broader conclusions about our resolve; and civilian casualties were a tiny fraction of the current level.

Yes, in March 2012, the Obama administration didn't want to "further militarize" the war:

The rebels are badly outgunned by Syria's armed forces but the White House has said that it does not favour arming them, arguing that further "militarising" the conflict would worsen civilian bloodshed.

The war amazingly became ultra-militarized without us. Fancy that.

Have a super sparkly "Smart Diplomacy" day.

UPDATE: Here we go?

"Turkey and Saudi Arabia may launch an operation (against IS) from the land," Saturday's edition of the [Turkish] Yeni Safak pro-government newspaper quoted [Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu] as saying.


Saudi Arabia will send aircraft to NATO-member Turkey's Incirlik air base for the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was reported as saying on Saturday.

And note that the Russians are effing with the Turks (who really don't like the Kurds):

Kurdish fighters backed by Russian bombing raids have driven Syrian rebels from a former military air base near the border with Turkey, a group that monitors the war said on Thursday.

Please return your seats to the full upright position and fasten your seat belt. This could be a rough landing.

UPDATE: The Saudis say their planes are now in Turkey:

"The Saudi kingdom now has a presence at Incirlik airbase in Turkey," [Saudi] brigadier general Ahmed al-Assiri was quoted as saying by Al-Arabiya television late on Saturday.

"Saudi warplanes are present with their crews to intensify aerial operations along with missions launched from bases in Saudi Arabia," Assiri said, without providing further details.

Here we go.

With Russia on the other side, don't expect Saudi Arabia to do anything to increase oil prices, since low prices hurt Russia as much as arch-enemy Iran.

UPDATE: Thank goodness we didn't intervene in Syria early in the crisis. Things could have gotten bad! 

UPDATE: And remember, what "rational actor" model of foreign relations really covers Russia?