Wow. So the Sochi consensus has been long in the making. What holds it together is the gap between U.S. strategy and discourse. In the latter, Assad is a brutal murderer who “must go”. In the former, since there has been no alternative to Assad since the fall of 2012, Syria has been treated as a Russian problem to solve — amid talk of Russia’s revival as a great power.
When Trump defied the national interest and the US military in finally abandoning the Kurds under Turkish pressure, it set off a train of events no one had foreseen. The Kurds were left with little choice but to appeal to protection from Damascus. Assad, confident of Russian protection, sent his forces. Erdogan was left with no choice but to seek an understanding with Russia. For engagement with Assad’s forces immediately brought the Russian deterrent into play. That’s why Turkey suddenly declared it wanted nukes. Ditto all that baloney about the fifty U.S. tactical weapons at Incirlik air base. Do not miss what just happened: Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds triggered a nuclear crisis. Erdogan was grand-standing because he was shitting bricks. This is a case of nuclear coercion. Erdogan had no choice but to reach an understanding with Putin.