Turkey and Russia are conducting joint airstrikes against the Islamic State in northern Syria, a move that President-elect Donald Trump has indicated he may pursue.
The Russian military confirmed the airstrikes Wednesday in the first acknowledgement of any such action. The joint airstrikes come as no surprise given an increasingly friendly rapprochement between the two countries. Trump repeatedly said throughout the 2016 election that it would be “great” to “work with Russia” to defeat ISIS.
Russian-Turkish relations reached their lowest point in November 2015, when Turkey shot down a Russian jet that violated its airspace.
Turkey and Russia have grown increasingly close since then amid ratcheting tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, as well as within the broader NATO alliance. The U.S. overwhelmingly relies on Kurdish forces inside Syria to target ISIS. Turkey regards these groups as terrorist organizations, and has heatedly criticized the Obama administration for refusing to change course.
Feeling increasingly abandoned, Turkey is now a signatory to a Russian brokered Syrian ceasefire and potential peace deal for the Syrian civil war. The major agreement notably does not include the U.S. in any fashion. Russia has indicated it does intend to bring the U.S. in until the later stages of peace negotiations between the Assad regime and members of the opposition.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly tried to get Russia and Syria to agree to a ceasefire, and a pathway to peace talks. At nearly every instance the peace process broke down, and both Russia and Syria continued their brutal campaign for the city of Aleppo. Aleppo, the largest city inside Syria, is now in the hands of the Assad regime and was a significant victory for Russian forces.
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