Russia Says Turkey Will 'Crush' Kurds If They Do Not Withdraw From Syria Fight, Accuses U.S. Of 'Betraying' Allies

Russia has warned Kurdish fighters they will be "crushed" by Turkish armed forces if they do not vacate a buffer zone along the border.

The threat came soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed a deal on governance of northeastern Syria, smothering the nascent Syrian Kurdish statelet.

On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—a coalition of militias led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG)—must vacate an 18-mile deep buffer zone along the Turkish border in line with Erdogan's demands.

The 10-point deal agreed between Putin and Erdogan in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday gives the SDF 150 hours to withdraw from Turkey's desired "safe zone."

Russian and Syrian government forces would facilitate the withdrawal, after which joint Russian and Turkish patrols would begin monitoring to a depth of six miles from the border.

Peskov said that if SDF fighters do not withdraw, Russian and Syrian troops would be unable to patrol the zone. In this event, "the remaining Kurdish units will be crushed by the Turkish military machine," he warned, according to state news agency Tass.

Russia has emerged as the major powerbroker in the war's endgame. President Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops has handed Moscow and Damascus a priceless geopolitical win.

President Bashar al-Assad has been able to re-establish control over swathes of the eastern part of the war-torn nation and several of its most important cities, with barely a shot fired.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has abdicated its seat at the table. U.S. forces abandoned their positions in northern Syria this week, passing angry and desperate residents on their way towards the Iraqi border.

American troops had been deployed alongside SDF fighters as part of the campaign against Islamic State militants. SDF troops bore the brunt of the fighting, bloodied by some 12,000 casualties.

Trump's decision to withdraw American forces left the SDF open to Turkey's assault, long-planned by Erdogan to clear what he considers Kurdish terrorist groups from the border region.

Reports indicate Trump is considering leaving a small force in southeastern Syria to guard the valuable oil fields there. Even so, the U.S. has nonetheless stepped back from the contest for major influence in Syria, leaving its allies alone.

Peskov told reporters that the U.S. "was the closest ally of the Kurds over the past few years," but that ultimately Washington "abandoned the Kurds, actually betraying them. The U.S. opted to abandon the Kurds on the border, almost forcing them to fight against the Turks."

Turkey, Russia, SDF, Syria, crushed, Dmitry Peskov
A Turkish-backed Syrian fighter burns the flag of the Syrian Democratic Forces in the town of Ayn al-Arus, south of the border town of Tal Abyad, Syria, on October 14, 2019. BAKR ALKASEM/AFP via Getty Images/Getty