Turkey’s Operation Spring Shield in the Syrian province of Idlib is ongoing amid an apparent increase of media hysteria. As the Syrian Army and Turkish-led forces are clashing in eastern and southern Idlib, Turkish, Syrian and Russian media release victorious reports and threaten rivals with casualties and geopolitical setbacks. This trend is especially strong in Russian and Turkish media.
Turkish M60TM Tank was destroyed by Airstrike in #Idlib during the supput to Al-Nusra backed turkish
pic by infantmilitario pic.twitter.com/Z3vzvXzVEZ
— Yusha Yuseef (@MIG29_) March 2, 2020
On February 28, Mesut Hakki Casin, a member of the Security and Foreign Policy Board advising Erdogan, declared that Turkey is prepared to go to war with Russia.
“We have fought Russia 16 times in the past, and we will fight it again,” he said.
Casin also pointed to Russia’s sizeable Muslim population and claimed that Russia “will be shattered from inside” should an armed conflict break out between Moscow and Ankara.
Erdoğan's adviser Mesut Hakkı Caşın said Russia, where there are 25 Mn Muslims, will be dismembered from within. "We fought #Russia 16 times in the past, we will do it again, our vengeance will be quite terrible," he said. pic.twitter.com/n75eZ776D9
— Ahval (@ahval_en) February 27, 2020
Casin remarks were widely circulated by Turkish and Western maisntream media. However, they are only a part of the wider ‘war-time’ propaganda campaign waged by Turkish media in support of Erdogan’s Idlib gamble. In some cases, this campaign takes ugly forms. For example, Turksh Defense Minitster Hulusi Akar claimed that Turkey had started a military action in Idlib in response to the agression against its peaceful troops deployed there. Somehow, he forgot to mention that Turkish troops were embedded with al-Qaeda members and were attacking Syrian forces.
Reports in Russian media quoting some ‘experts’ are not much better. When the situation in Idlib started escalating, some Russian ‘experts’ started claiming that Moscow should consider arming and funding Kurdish armed groups (for example, the YPG in northeastern Syria) in order to instigate their conflict with Turkey.
These reports exploit the fact that the so-called Kurdish question is probably the only issue that may undermine the existence of the modern Turkish state. Such a Russian support will put an end to any possible normalization of the Russian-Turkish relations. At the same time, any such efforts will not lead to gains for Russia itself. In the modern history, Kurdish groups repeatedly demonstrated that the only power that they are ready to threat as an ally is the United States. They see other players as a source of free resources that can be tricked and played. In particular, the Kurdish YPG openly demonstrated this during the battle of Aleppo city. Kurdish units were hiding the entire battle in the YPG-controlled part of the city. However, when terrorists were defeated, they immediately rushed to capture some new areas.
The Turkish Idlib gamble is a result of personal ambitions of Recep Tayip Erdogan that sees the region as an opportunity to turn into the reality his personal neo-ottoman dreams. This ‘personal jihad’ of the Turkish leader led to the ongoing escalation. Therefore, the conflict in Idlib is seen by Ankara as a place of geopolitical standoff while the Kurdish question lays behind the real red lines of the Turkish state. In fact, even a limited open military confrontation between Turkish and Russian forces in Idlib will not lead to such destructive events as the Kurdish issue can. Ankara and Moscow have a wide range of shared economic and political interests and they have repeatedly demonstrated that they can overcome the existing contradictions to achieve the economic and diplomatic goals.
In this light, the main question is what goals do pursue so-called ‘respected experts’ that promote the idea of using the Kurdish question against Turkey? The possible answer is that they prefer to use the existing hype for personal promotion rather than value the real and apparent interests of the state and international security.