to the U.S.-backed YPG militia, Russia is establishing a military base in the northwestern
Syrian town of Afrin to help train the militia fighters in their ongoing
battles against ISIS. Russia, however, claimed that only a center to negotiate
truces had been opened in Afrin and that the defense ministry did not plan on establishing new military bases in
Syria. Although confusion remains over the future of the Afrin base, recently surfaced reports and open-source images point to growing military cooperation
between Moscow and the YPG.
move could have critical geopolitical implications on Russia’s relations with
Turkey and the fight against ISIS in Raqqa. A growing Russian presence in northwest Syria working in
conjunction with the YPG would likely deter cross-border attacks from Turkey,
maneuvers Ankara views as essential to protect its border and national
security. Meanwhile, the military collaboration between the two sides could
mean that the U.S. is planning to join forces with Russia and the YPG in taking
on ISIS in Raqqa. The YPG’s inclusion in the offensive would undoubtedly anger
President Erdogan who seeks to ensure that Turkey’s interests in restricting
Kurdish influence are met.
Last week, YPG
commander Sipan Hemo claimed that the YPG would be taking part in
an assault on Raqqa beginning in early April. The Pentagon, for its part,
denies that any decisions have been made on the battle.
“The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said
Russia was setting up a military base in northwestern Syria under a bilateral
agreement and will help train its fighters - a step that would anger Turkey as
it tries to block Kurdish gains near its borders.
The Russian defense ministry, however,
said it had no plans to open any new military bases in Syria; it said a branch
of its "reconciliation center", that negotiates local truces between
the warring sides in Syria, had been located in Aleppo province near Afrin.”