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Russia and Turkey, Has Putin Lost Patience?

Putin and Erdogan: Syria, Libya, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Ukraine, Crimea

Putin and Assad have lost patience with Erdogan and the Turkish position in Syria that “was and is still the cause of all of Syria’s problems.”

The following is the English translation from Arabic of the latest article by Turkish career journalist Husni Mahali he published in the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site Al-Mayadeen Net:

The American campaigns and harassment targeting Russia through Belarus and Kyrgyzstan and the war in Nagorno-Karabakh continue, which has a negative impact on Moscow’s internal security and its national economy. In this context, Vladimir Putin found himself compelled to be more firm and decisive in his dialogue with “friend and ally” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which was evident in the contents of the phone call between them last Tuesday evening, as Putin expressed “his grave concern about the continued increasing involvement of terrorists” from the Middle East in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, “according to the Kremlin statement.

And the ‘Middle East’ here is a comprehensive term that Putin may have intended without specifically talking about Syria, after the information that began to talk about the transfer of Syrian and non-Syrian mercenaries from Libya and other places to Azerbaijan, which Tehran also expressed its concern about, with the talk of some Turkish national officials circles said that the Azeris should be incited inside Iran, on the pretext that they are of Turkish origin.

Putin’s warnings related to Syria’s developments acquire additional importance, given their timeliness, which came after a series of Turkish positions that bothered Moscow recently, as the information talked about pressure from President Erdogan on Fayez al-Sarraj and the armed factions that support him, to reject the US-German initiatives to stop the fighting and reach final reconciliation, which will mean the removal of the Turkish forces, experts and Syrian mercenaries loyal to Ankara from Libya.

This information also talked about Turkish pressure on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev not to accept any truce brokered by Russia, America, or Iran, unless Armenia and these countries agree to Turkey’s participation in the future course of the Karabakh crisis, as is the case in Syria and Libya.

Media circles in Moscow view Putin’s style as indicating “important indicators that prove his impatience, after he was finally convinced that Erdogan will not abide by any of his promises and pledges to him in Sochi on September 17, 2018, and in the Moscow agreement on March 5 about Idlib, “the latter has over the past period confronted all Russian pressure, strengthened his military presence in Idlib, prevented the Syrian army from approaching it, and increased his massive military aid to all armed factions in the region.

He also exploited his military presence, supported by tens of thousands of Syrian and foreign militants in Idlib and the western Euphrates in general, and he succeeded in convincing Putin to allow him to enter the east of the Euphrates as well. In more than one speech, Erdogan stressed that he would not withdraw from Idlib, and from northern Syria in general, except after the final solution to the Syrian crisis, on condition that the Syrian people ask him to do so.

In his speech to members of the parliamentary bloc of his party (Wednesday), Erdogan did not forget to condemn the Russian raids that targeted the training center of the Levant Legion (Faylaq Sham), saying, “Russia’s attack on a training center for the Syrian National Army in the Idlib region is a clear indication that it does not want lasting peace and stability in Syria.”

According to the preliminary data, the next few days suggest exciting developments in Russian-Turkish relations, which seem to have entered a new path after the air operation that targeted a training center for the militants of the Levant Legion (Faylaq Sham) loyal to Erdogan near the borders with Turkey, which adopts this faction and all the factions in the region. Turkey has mobilized additional forces with all heavy weapons to meet all possibilities, while Russian pressure continues to withdraw three Turkish observation points besieged by the Syrian army in the vicinity of Idlib “as soon as possible.”

It seems clear that Erdogan rejects such pressure after he was subjected to violent criticism from some armed factions, who accused him of “betrayal and abandoning their cause” after the withdrawal from Morek, which led to the fighting between the pro-Turkish factions.

He will also not accept such a situation, which some will consider the beginning of his defeat in Syria, with continued Russian pressure on him to resolve the Idlib issue and ensure the future of Russian-Turkish relations with all its important elements, which began with Erdogan’s apology from Putin on 27 June 2016 regarding the shooting down of the Russian plane on November 24, 2015, two months after the entry of Russian forces into Syria.

Some military circles do not hide the possibility of a new heated confrontation between the two parties in Syria after it has become clear that Putin will not rest anymore with Erdogan’s policies in the Caucasus, which are much more dangerous for Russia, which borders the Islamic autonomous republics and which borders Azerbaijan. And Putin said in his recent phone call about this region, “Turkey is transferring militants from the Middle East to it,” they may include Chechens and Uighurs, and they are many in Syria.

Here, the bet begins on President Putin’s practical possible position in the event that Erdogan continues in his current position rejecting his demands in Libya and Syria, and most importantly in the Caucasus, with the approaching date of the American elections with all the surprises awaiting the Turkish president, who will then think about a new formula in his regional and international moves, to help him in facing Russian and European pressures, after his crisis with President Macron, supported by European countries, especially Germany, which does not hide its annoyance over Erdogan’s efforts to obstruct its initiative with Washington and the United Nations in Libya, which may require the latter to return to the American embrace, to confront all these harassments, which he seems indifferent to because he believes that he has more bargaining chips in his challenges with everyone, especially Russia, the historical and traditional enemy of the Ottoman and the Republic Turkey, a day after speaking to Putin, he affirmed his country’s determination to move forward with steady steps according to its own vision and agenda, regardless of what the other parties say and do.

This explains the pro-Erdogan media attack on Russia and Iran together, accusing them of supporting the Armenians against Turkey and Azerbaijan, which is what Erdogan talks about from time to time, in a traditional attempt to provoke the Turkish nationalism, Ottoman and religious feelings of the Turkish people.

He also seeks to mobilize the solidarity of all Islamists in the world with him, after he took a violent stand against the French President Macron regarding his hostility to Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Erdogan achieved such solidarity in the early years of the “Arab Spring”, as he declared himself the defender of Muslims against “Shiite” Iran and “infidel” Russia, and the Christian West, which was with him at that time and is now a sworn enemy of him.

European circles do not hide now their concern about Erdogan’s approach, and they see it as incitement to all Islamists, especially the extremists who live in Europe, which affects all Islamists in the world, including Russia, which has about 25 million Muslims of Turkish origin. They enjoy Ankara’s attention, covertly and overtly, as is the case with Erdogan’s support for the Muslim minority in the Crimean peninsula that was retaken by Russia, his repeated rejection of this, and his efforts to develop strategic military relations with Ukraine.

There is no doubt that this position disturbs Moscow, which has become clear that it is preparing for a new phase in its relations with Ankara, in the event that it continues its tactics that have become embarrassing to Putin in his relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has also lost his patience with the Turkish position that “was and is still the cause of all of Syria’s problems.”

Circles close to the Kremlin expect that Putin will wait for the appropriate opportunity to do an “important practical something” against all Turkish moves, interests, and calculations in Syria, as it is the arena of Russian-Turkish convergence since 2016, which President Erdogan has exploited so that this square will be a starting point for all his political, historical, strategical, and ideological projects, which had it not been for President Putin and the green light granted by him, he would not have been lucky in achieving any of his goals.

The bet remains on the red light that Putin may illuminate at any moment for Erdogan after his last yellow light (80 members of the Levant Legion were killed). And it has become clear that it will repeat itself more than once during the coming period, before Putin’s patience is completely exhausted, and he is convinced that Erdogan is in a position that does not help him with more maneuvers to obstruct the final solution to the Syrian crisis, a possibility that many are betting on as the Turkish president continues to challenge all of them, as long as he believes that he is stronger than everyone else, otherwise, he would not have ruled Turkey for 18 years, despite all his enemies abroad, as he got rid of all his enemies at home, after he succeeded in changing the political system (after the failed coup attempt in July 2016), he controlled all state facilities and apparatus and became the absolute ruler of the country, and his media says that the world fears him!

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