As we previously reported President Erdogan has declared that Turkish forces will begin a renewed assault into Northern Syria. This push is to establish a 30km safe zone along Turkey’s southern border where more than 1,000 Turkish soldiers have already been killed since the December 2011 cross border operations into Syria began.
However, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken announced that the United States wholly opposes Turkish plans for a renewed military operations in Syria as the United States currently back the Syrian Democratic Forces, composed of Kurdish fighters, while Turkey supports the Free Syrian Army. Secretary Blinken also told reporters that a renewed Turkish campaign :threatens to undermine peace and stability in the region”, language very reminiscent of that used to describe the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. He said this during a joint press conference with NATO General Secretary Stoltenberg two hours ago.
While Turkey and the United States being at odds in Syria is nothing new, this type of diplomatic dust-up during a period of diplomatic overtures to Turkey with regards to several high profile negotiations is critical. For example the United States is still trying to smooth out the deal to sell F-16s to Turkey, an issue that Secretary Blinken has said is separate from the issue of Sweden and Finland’s accession into NATO. That accession, opposed by President Erdogan, is another issue that the United States must dance around here. Even more important still is Turkey’s position in the alliance with regards to the enforcement of the Montreux Agreement which currently makes it impossible for NATO to counter Russian Baltic Sea dominance due to war ship tonnage limitations to non- Black Sea state actors. NATO has had to cancel several drills in the Black Sea in order to abide by the early 20th century treaty which gave Turkey sole authority over the Bosphorus Strait which connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles Strait which connects the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara. However, now there are talks in place to establish a joint NATO surface task group to oversee the transportation of grains from Ukrainian ports if a deal can be reached with the Russian Federation, talks that would rely on Turkey allowing NATO military vessels, en-masse to enter the Black Sea.
The question is: Will the United States forsake its allies in Northern Syria in order to appease President Erdogan in several NATO discussions?