Bosporus River crossing in Istanbul
Bosporus River crossing in Istanbulphoto HLJ

On June 28, 1914, Garvilo Princip, a Serbian Nationalist, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in the hope of somehow causing Austria to cede the areas of Bosnia/Kosovo to Russian Orthodox Serbia. Instead, the assassination set off a concatenation of events that inexorably led to World War I. The various post-assassination national cross-demands and ultimatums triggered various mutual defense treaties which accelerated the conflict like a row of cascading falling dominos.

Today, in October 2020, the Russian Orthodox Armenia is locked in a Turkish fueled proto-all-out-war with Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan over the disputed areas of Nagorno-Karabakh. In what is a mutual defense treaty similar to NATO, Russia is bound under the “Collective Security Treaty Organization” (CSTO Treaty) mutual defense treaty with Armenia.

So, if Armenia triggers the defense treaty, Russia will defend Armenia, and by necessity confront NATO member Turkey, Azerbaijan’s principal ally.

If the CSTO Treaty is invoked, we will be one step from World War 3:

Turkey’s closing the Straits (connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea) to Russia under the Montreux Convention [1] is a trigger, for if Turkey blocks Russia from re-supplying its forces in Syria, there is no telling how Russia might escalate from there.

The simple solution, and possibly the only solution, to avoid boxing Russia into escalating into violence with Turkey through the closure of the Straits, would be to assure Russia that the United States will continue to supply and militarily support Russia in Syria so as to enable a Syrian status quo ante.

Why would the United States want to support Russia in Syria? First, despite some friction, Russia and the US have almost the exact strategic interests in Syria. Both want a secularist, non-Iranian, non-Turkish, non-hostile to Israel, country where an Islamic Caliphate cannot regenerate itself.

Second, neither Russia or the United States wants to, or can, single-handedly control the entire country of Syria. Russia would love to oust Assad, if it had someone to properly and effectively fill his shoes. Looking at the Russian and American confluence of strategic interests in Syria objectively leads to the conclusion that the cup of common interests is nine-tenths full.

And, even though Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov often spouts about American’s “illegal presence” in Syria, Russia would have to deploy a much larger force structure than it has up to now to secure Syria. If it does not, Iran and Turkey will fill the vacuum left by an American withdrawal from Syria.

More Russian troops in Syria is the last thing in the world Putin wants. On the other hand, Turkish and/or Iranian expansion would ultimately doom Russia’s goals in Syria. Concomitantly, Iran or Turkey filling the wake left by an American withdrawal would be a catastrophe for the Gulf states as well as the Arabs left under the hegemonic yoke of the Turks and/or the Iranians.

Third, by supplying and supporting Russia in Syria, America would forestall Russia’s escalation against Turkey over Turkey’s closing of the Straits to Russian vessels. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia really has nothing to do with the United States or NATO. Turkey will want to force NATO into its self-instigated conflict by closing the Straits and provoking Russia to possibly attack mainland Turkey. By America giving Russia military assistance in Syria, America allows Russia to fight Turkey in Armenia, not in Turkey.

Turkey can only invoke Article 5 of the NATO Charter if mainland Turkey is attacked. An ancillary war of Turkey in Armenia would not allow for a Turkish trigger of Article 5. The best way to describe America’s position is the motto “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” America wants “What happens in Armenia/Azerbaijan to stay in Armenia/Azerbaijan.”

And, while Armenia borders Turkey, and sits between Turkey and Azerbaijan, Turkey would surely lose its NATO protection if it offensively attacked Armenia from its own territory.

Fourth, even if Russia did not react militarily to Turkey’s closing the Straits, they would then have to use Iranian air space and rely on Iran for resupply to Syria. The last thing America wants is Russia becoming more militarily enmeshed with Iran. Supplying Russia in Syria would obviate Russia’s need for Iran and allow America to build a stronger and deeper relationship with Russia based on clear mutual interests.

Fifth, such a Syrian entente could begin to forge a common mutual exit-strategy for America and Russia in Syria. Neither Russia or America want a Syria owned by either Turkey, Iran or ISIS. That’s a great place for Russia and America to work together to push Syria into becoming an ally of a stable Arab country.

A Russian bear boxed in by Erdogan’s Turkey is the last thing America or NATO wants. Unless Russia is convinced its military position in Syria is secured, Putin’s reaction to Turkey could escalate extremely quickly. It is imperative that on this issue, the US begins to see Russia as an ally instead of an enemy. Working with Russia on Syria is a good place to build an entente and maybe even an alliance.

[1] The Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits is a 1936 agreement that gives Turkey control over the Turkish Straits (the Bosporus and Dardanellesstraits) and regulates the transit of naval warships. The Convention guarantees the free passage of civilian vessels in peacetime, and restricts the passage of naval ships not belonging to Black Sea states (Wikipedia)

Mark Langfan is Chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI) and specializes in security issues, has created an original educational 3d Topographic Map System of Israel to facilitate clear understanding of the dangers facing Israel and its water supply. It has been studied by US lawmakers and can be seen at