A piece I wrote on the crisis in Syria and Turkish-Russian relations has just been published by the always excellent Washington Review of Turkish and Eurasian Affairs. The article was written in late December so things have changed a bit since then, but the fundamental premises remain more or less intact, I think. The paper can be found here: introduction below.
The truism that the Middle East is going through a time of upheaval is, for once, true. The Arab Spring, the US withdrawal from Iraq, the stand-off between Iran and the West, and the rise of Turkey, have redrawn the geopolitical map, and its new lines are not yet clear.
The new Middle East will not just affect the regional states themselves; it will also have implications for relations between states in a much wider area. One particular case is the relationship between Turkey and Russia: the turmoil in the Middle East underlines their shared views on some issues, but it has also led to substantial divergences between Ankara and Moscow. The Syrian crisis may fracture this relationship further.
Both Russia and Turkey share a core fundamental goal in the Middle East: stability. Both have reasons to fear radical Islamist movements arising in chaotic or ungoverned zones; both also have reason to fear regional conflicts and flows of weapons and refugees. Russia is of course further away, but as a Eurasian power it has strong concerns over instability in a neighbouring and strategic region.