Amid reports out of the Russian Defense Ministry that their Turkish counterparts had proposed a “joint working group” on Syria to try to reduce tensions along the ISIS-Turkey border, Turkish officials are also issuing public statements warning that the ongoing Russian strikes on ISIS imperil Russo-Turkish relations.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that Russia’s airstrikes have “deeply undercut” his nation’s goals in the ongoing Syrian Civil War, and warned that long-standing cooperation between Turkey and Russia would be a major loss for Russia if they continued.
While a lot of the specific comments out of Turkey have centered on a pair of brief incursions into Turkish airspace by Russian warplanes, which Russia insists were an accident related to changing weather conditions in the area, Turkey has long expressed disquiet whenever anyone’s airstrikes, including the US, seem poised to start undermining ISIS at the expense of gains by the Kurdish factions in northern Syria, and that’s doubtless an issue here as well.
Turkish officials have threatened to open fire on Russian warplanes if they cross the border again, and while such a move appears to be hugely risky, with the possibility of starting a major regional, if not global, conflict, analysts say that Erdogan wants to appear strong going into upcoming elections, and may be willing to take that risk.
What this means for the joint working group is unclear, but may reflect a split between Turkish defense policy officials and the political leadership.