Russia about to drive NATO into a corner in Syria - YASIN AKTAY

Russia about to drive NATO into a corner in Syria

The recent military operations conducted by Russia in Syria have topped the world's agenda. In my column, which was published following Russia's operations that are claimed to target Turkmen settlement areas as well, including the various aspects of the issue, I tried to explain that Russian operations cannot be interpreted specific to Syria alone, that there are aspects regarding the NATO, too. The latest developments confirm our evaluations.

It is clear that we can't evaluate the tens of missiles fired from Russia's battleships in the Caspian Sea, passing by Turkey and hitting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria, as a move aimed at solely ISIL elements in Syria. Hence, the matter is now beyond Russia's concern to give Turkey a message.

The developments are a powerful message to the U.S. and NATO, which have been unsuccessful at managing the fields of competition and conflict in Eurasia in the competition between the U.S. and Russia. Viewing it in terms of NATO, it is definitely an early warning that needs to be taken heed of.

Russia, which has reached the ability to conduct air operations in Syria, whenever it wants and however it wants, due to the wrong policies of the U.S. and NATO, hitting targets thousands of kilometers away with missiles, carries meanings beyond intervening in ISIL and supporting the regime in Syria. The first of these and the most important one in terms of NATO is that the reaction of certain NATO missile defense systems has sort of been measured.

Imagine that there are missiles being fired from the Caspian Sea and the NATO's radar systems positioned in certain points determine that the missiles are being fired. The time between the firing of the missiles and them hitting their targets is most likely about 10 minutes. The target of missiles is unknown. How is NATO's bureaucracy managing this process? In other words, the fired missiles may not have been targeting ISIL positions but the U.S. presence in Israel or Iraq or the large warplanes or battleships in the east Mediterranean. Had this scenario played out, we could have been discussing that NATO – whose first and primary duty is to defend – made an irreversible and unforgivable mistake, and today, the world could have been talking about other different and grievous matters.

In the incident of missiles hitting ISIL, we actually pulled through a crisis in which NATO's defense strategy was tested and its reflexes checked. The NATO Secretary-General's “harsh” statement that followed the violation of Turkey's airspace by Russian fighter jets was the only reaction to the incident. Furthermore, if the news in wires are true, Russian fighter jets blocked the U.S. jets that took off from İncirlik Air Base in Syria's airspace, making them cancel their duty, even before a day had passed NATO Secretary-General's “harsh” statement.

These developments may be considered insignificant. Certain attempts at developing mechanisms to prevent these insignificant developments from turning into a crisis might be in question. For instance, a mechanism similar to the dual mechanism Russia and Israel established over the use of Syria's airspace can be established between Russia and the U.S. as well. Furthermore, since the sides conduct operations within Syria aimed at a legitimate target, they may feel the need to use the same contractors and develop a few mechanisms to manage this need. Thus, are we going to think that the war in Syria is aimed at ISIL alone and within the borders of Syria? Will all problems be solved with the development of similar coordination mechanisms? The problem has long crossed beyond Syrian borders. This needs to be realized.

The aspect of the matter facing Turkey is at the same time the aspect facing NATO. Turkey, using its rights in the relevant section of the Charter of the United Nations regarding the provision of international peace and security, is trying to apply its collective defense strategy under NATO. Of course Turkey has the power to provide security for its own borders as well as public security. Since the U.S., like Turkey, has the same power, why has it chosen to go to an organization like NATO? It is obvious that the intention here was to increase the level of deterrence.

Is NATO a deterrent military organization? It seems, NATO, following the confirmation of its helplessness against Russia regarding Georgia and Ukraine in Syria as well, needs to reassess itself.


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