Important NATO Members are not willing to support Turkey in a possible big war with Russia, according to a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel.
Last week the Turkish government decided to start a war against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Northern Syria, saying that the YPG has ties with the outlawed Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK) being a terrorist organization and posing a threat to Turkey.
The international community asked from the Turkish government to stop the operations against the Syrian Kurds, who are one of the most successful groups in the war against the so-called Islamic State (IS), who performed serious war crimes in Syria.
Despite the calls of the EU and the US to stop the operations, Turkish officials say that Turkey has the right to perform military operations on foreign ground, and days ago a Syrian Kurd representative warned that a “big war” between Turkey and Russia is not out of the question in case Turkey violate Syrian sovereignty. Russia supports the Syrian Kurds fighters and the Syria regime, led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Two days ago, Spiegel reported that Ankara’s aggression seems partially based on the assumption that, should conflict erupt between Turkey and Russia, then Turkey will be supported by its NATO allies.
However, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told Der Spiegel: “NATO cannot allow itself to be pulled into a military escalation with Russia as a result of the recent tensions between Russia and Turkey.” Asked about NATO’s article 5, which oblige the Member States to support a fellow Member State under attack, Asselborn stressed that the support “is only valid when a member state is clearly attacked.” However, the Russian government has said that it may defend the Syrian ground and not perform military operations in Turkish soil.
According to Spiegel, a German diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity also supported Asselborn’s comments clarifying that Germany will not “pay the price for a war started by the Turks.”
When the Turkish government decided to fire down a Russian warplane last year, because it entered Turkish airspace for tens of seconds, NATO backed the right of Turkey to defend it sovereignty but later on it asked from both Moscow and Ankara to avoid any further escalation. After the downing of the plane the relations between the two counties worsen, and now Russia says that Ankara has no right to violate Syria’s sovereignty.
Nikolai Kovalyov, a former head of the Federal Security Service, the main successor to the Soviet KGB, said that Russian jets would bomb Turkish troops if they enter Syria. Moreover, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also said that any foreign incursion into Syria would be “illegal” and the Russian response would depend on the situation.
On Friday, French President Francois Hollande stressed the need to prevent conflict between Moscow and Ankara. “There is a risk of war between Turkey and Russia,” he said in an interview with France Inter radio.
Today, Turkish daily, Hurriyet reported that two days ago the US President, Barack Obama spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the dangerous situation in Northern Syria.
After the end of the talks, Erdogan spoke at an UNESCO event and said that Turkey has the right to conduct operations not only in Syria but also any other place in which there are terrorist organizations that target Turkey.
“Turkey has every right to conduct operations in Syria and the places where terror organizations are nested with regards to the struggle against the threats that Turkey faces,” Erdogan said on February 20. Moreover, the Turkish President said that Turkey’s war in Northern Syria has “absolutely nothing to do with the sovereignty rights of the states that cannot take control of their territorial integrity.”
“On the contrary, this has to do with the will Turkey shows to protect its sovereignty rights,” he said. “We except attitudes to prevent our country’s right [to self-defense] directly as an initiative against Turkey’s entity – no matter where it comes from.”