While Turkey is drifting further into instability at home, the number of foreign policy challenges facing the country in an increasingly unstable region is growing each day.
Russia’s recent military actions in Syria, likely to escalate tensions in the Middle East, will definitely complicate matters for Turkey.
Reports of hundreds of Iranian troops arriving to join Al- Assad government forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies in a ground offensive will heighten tensions further.
Russia’s entry to the Syrian conflict has risks for all military players present in the region but for Turkey, implications are particularly serious.
The new reality emerging on the ground runs counter to every pillar of Turkey’s Syrian policy. Turkey’s insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be toppled as a pre-condition to any political settlement and a safe-zone for refugees to be established on Turkey’s border have become unrealizable, if not totally irrelevant.
Yet, Turkey’s leaders have been, so far, quiet about the Russian intervention.
In his address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu repeated his calls on the international community to form a “safe zone” in Syria to protect civilians from the Assad regime and attacks by ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech to the Turkish parliament in Ankara, talked about Syria and more than two million refugees sheltered by Turkey, but said nothing about the Russian involvement and the changing circumstances.
Mr Erdogan rallied the AKP deputies by his reassurances that the history would continue to witness Turkey’s “unstoppable growth and strength”, while domestic and foreign developments of the day has suggested otherwise.
Speaking to The Associated Press new agency at the UN gathering in New York earlier, Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu revealed that Turkey had not been approached by Russia to participate in its plans in Syria, nor had it been asked to join its intelligence cooperation with Iraq and Iran.
To be fair, it is not only Turkey that has been taken by surprise by the rapid expansion of Russia’s military and political role in the region. Its NATO allies seems to have been taken aback by Russia’s latest moves, too.
On the second day of their air campaign, the Russians are targeting not the Islamic State positions but mostly those who oppose the al-Assad regime. Many of these are supported by Turkey and the Gulf states.
It is not only the game changers that have changed but the goalposts have been moved, too.
A reassessment of Turkey’s security and foreign policy must happen immediately.
This post is also available in: Turkish