On the last issue, one can only hope that the Russians are willing to fully share their information on what happened to the fighter jet. It is clear that both the Russians and the Americans know more about the incident, but with each passing day the jet crash is becoming more embarrassing for the Turkish government. Either the government still doesn’t really know what happened, which means that Turkish intelligence is not up to par and Turkey’s friends in Moscow and Washington, at least until now, have kept their data for themselves, or Erdoğan and Davutoğlu do know in the meantime what took place but have a big problem in squaring their initial remarks (based on apparently wrong information provided by the Turkish army and intelligence services) with the reality they discovered later on.
Of course the Moscow visit is not only about the lost Turkish fighter jet. The Turkish leaders will also try to convince Putin that the time has come for the Russians to give up their support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Last Friday, during a meeting of the Friends of Syria, Davutoğlu declared that the international community “should increase the pressure on the Syrian regime and those who support that regime.” The most prominent backing for Assad comes from Russia and China. Will the pressure work? Will Russia be willing to give up on its “red lines” on a new UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution that is currently being negotiated in New York? The UNSC has to pass a resolution by July 20, two days after Erdoğan’s visit to Moscow, because the 90-day mandate for the nearly 300 unarmed UN monitors in Syria runs out. Western countries have demanded further sanctions against Assad under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Russia and China are firmly against this.
Will Putin take Erdoğan’s support for tougher measures seriously? Forget about it, says Michael Ignatieff, a prominent Canadian author, academic and former politician known for his sometimes provocative defense of liberal values in foreign policy. Last week, Ignatieff wrote a strongly worded blog on the website of the New York Review of Books in which he basically advanced the thesis that the Syrian conflict has triggered a more fundamental confrontation between Western democracies on the one hand and Russia and China on the other.
Ignatieff describes the two post-communist countries as authoritarian states that will support tyrannies like Syria wherever it is in their interest to do so. According to the Canadian author, Russia and China don’t see conflicts like the one in Syria through the prism of international peace and human rights like the US, the EU and Turkey do and will therefore not hesitate to keep supporting Assad.
Conclusion: Forget about Russian or Chinese help in the creation of a post-Assad transition. Moscow and Beijing are simply not interested and believe that history is on their side. They see the West as weak and in crisis and believe that in the end they will win this battle for dominance because their power is not limited by domestic democratic checks and balances.
One could argue about some of the sweeping statements made by Ignatieff and the lack of any criticism on America and Europe regarding their past dealings with dictators in the Middle East and elsewhere. But he does have a point when it is about Russian intransigence. How long should the other UNSC members wait for the Russians to come on board? Was Kofi Annan right when he tried to save his plan for Syria by attempting to secure Chinese and Iranian support?
According to some analysts, the end game in Syria has started and the question is not if but when Assad will have to go. As the tragedy in Syria is unfolding, those countries supporting the Syrian opposition, like Turkey, should seriously consider whether they really expect any constructive contribution from Moscow and Beijing -- both now and after Assad’s palace has gone up in flames.