Name? Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Westphalian Identity? Turkish
Why is he in the news? After accusing Damascus of killing 8 Turkish military personnel, Turkey (under the leadership of President Erdogan) carried out rare and deadly strikes on Syrian military positions in the highly contested Idlib province. Assad’s regime hopes to regain the last rebel-held territory while Erdogan seems determined “to continue to make them [the Syrian government] pay.” Oh, did we mention they are actually supposed to be allies?
Why do we care? Well, the situation in Syria remains a major humanitarian crisis. It also still contains a proxy war- albeit a diminishing one- between the U.S. and Russia following Trump’s failed foreign policy in the region the past few months.
Why should you care? A couple reasons: 1) you are most likely an IR student and thus should know these things 2) the deaths of civilians, regardless of where, is a tragic thing 3) heightened violence between the two countries will only exacerbate the refugee crisis and specifically, the flow of Syrians to Turkey.
Who else cares? Russia, as the violence will certainly test the complicated relationship between the (seemingly eternal) Kremlin and Erdogan. Putin has continuously backed Syria’s offensive in Idlib, and this is a nuisance for him.
Any further comments? With Trump’s withdrawal of troops in Syria, Russia has expectedly attempted to step up its involvement in the region. Attempting to play both sides, Russia has externally back Assad’s regime while privately aiming for ceasefire agreements with Erdogan. The resulting love triangle pegs Assad and Erdogan further against one another as Putin reaps the benefits of ‘maintaining’ two relationships.