Photo: AP/Mikhail Klementiev
Last week we talked to Ross Wilson, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 2005 to 2008, who told us that there needs to be a stronger response from NATO as the chaos in Syria increasingly threatens regional peace and stability.Wilson noted that world leaders have been wise to resist direct military intervention in Syria, but said that individual NATO members need to “make clear that [Turkey’s] security is an alliance concern” and prepare for a situation in which “operation on the edges of Syria or along its borders becomes necessary.”
That puts Russia, which has been telling NATO to stay away from Syria, in a tricky spot. Leaked Syrian intelligence revealed that a top Russian general was killed by opposition forces while advising Assad and that in June Russia ordered Syria to shoot down a Turkish jet.
We asked Wilson—who served as U.S. Consul General at the American embassy in Moscow, USSR from 1980 to 1982 as well as from 1987 to 1990—about the Russian element to the Syria conflict. Although he didn’t “really have much to say” about the reports of Maj. Gen. Vladimir Kojève’s death, he did offer some insight on what can be done in regards to Russia.
“Russia and the Soviet Union before it have long had a close association with Assad,” Wilson told us. “In international affairs, you don’t necessarily break with your friends lightly.”
Wilson said that although Russia diplomats make accurate observations about the conflict – “the risks of intervention, the extremely complicated nature of Syrian society, the possibility of setting off even more problems than you were trying to fix” – they are making them from a perspective that “ignores where Syria is clearly headed.”
Turkey has also had strong ties to Syria until relatively recently, Wilson noted, explaining that their relationship only began to deteriorate last spring and summer “in the context of rising violence and rising suppression of the Syrian people” after they felt that Assad gave them false assurances about steps that he would take to end the violence.
Russia has stuck with Assad, but Wilson notes that the Turks are “quite well-placed … to persuade the Russians to support or at least go along with more robust measures to contain the instability coming out of Syria.”
Vladimir Putin is scheduled to travel to Turkey next week. Wilson called them “important talks,” adding that they “represent the kind of engagement of Russians on the Syria problem that’s necessary.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.