Feb 14-15, 2018: NATO defense ministers meet to grapple with proliferating headaches
NATO - The new headache for NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels is the exploding conflict in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in Syria. It puts NATO allies Turkey and the United States on opposite sides of the conflict. Meanwhile, reemerging Cold War tensions are soaring, another pressing issue for the meeting.
Ankara says it wants to clear the Syrian border enclave of fighters from the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), the defense force of the Kurdish area of Syria. The YPG emerged after the civil war erupted in Syria and started to spill over into Syrian Kurdistan. Ankara considers YPG units to be allies of the Kurdish insurgents who have battled the Turkish state for decades. Washington, meanwhile, sees the Kurdish militants as its main allies in Syria against the Islamic State (IS).
German broadcaster DW notes that the standoff in Afrin is hotter than it looks, citing the Soufan Group, a U.S.-based security intelligence strategy firm. Soufran suggests that the Turkish action is an example of the new coalition between Turkey, Russia and Iran, which are “united in a desire to block U.S. interests in the country.” Soufran suggests that Washington will have to back down or ratchet up the conflict with its NATO ally Ankara.
With echoes of the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union, NATO and Russia and its allies staged massive rival military exercises in late 2017. The now-soaring tensions followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea.