…Russian military involvement in Syria has put NATO in a bind, with one of its key members right on the frontline. Turkey’s relations with Russia have been on the brink for months. Now Moscow has openly warned Turkey against sending forces into Syria to defend Aleppo. How the Turkish leader will choose to react is another Western headache.
All this is happening at a time when European governments are desperate to win Ankara’s cooperation on the refugee problem. If Turkey now turns into a troublemaker for NATO on its Middle Eastern flank, that serves Russian interests. Similarly, if Europe sees a new exodus of refugees, Russia will stand to benefit.
The refugee crisis has sowed deep divisions on the continent and it has helped populist right-wing parties flourish – many of which are Moscow’s political allies against the EU as a project. The refugee crisis has put key EU institutions under strain; it has heightened the danger of Brexit (which Moscow would welcome); and it has severely weakened Angela Merkel, the architect of European sanctions against Russia.