Russia Says It Warned U.S. Not to Play 'Kurdish Card' in Syria: 'This Can Come to No Good'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Moscow repeatedly warned the U.S. against its Kurdish "experiment" in Syria, suggesting it could only end in disaster.

After Turkey launched its military offensive against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, Lavrov told reporters Thursday that the Kremlin wants "this situation to calm down as soon as possible," state news agency Tass reported.

However, Lavrov also suggested that the U.S. was to blame for the current chaos, which could herald a fresh humanitarian crisis in a country ruined by more than eight years of war.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched Operation Peace Spring on Wednesday. The action seeks to establish a 20-mile buffer zone inside Syrian territory, currently held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Erdogan has long sought to clear what Turkey considers terrorist groups from its border region, but the presence of U.S. troops there has stopped him. On Sunday, however, President Donald Trump ordered U.S. soldiers out of the area, effectively green-lighting the planned Turkish assault.

The U.S. had fought alongside the SDF against the Islamic State militant group. The Kurdish-led force cleared ISIS fighters from all of eastern Syria and has since continued mopping-up and anti-insurgency operations against the group.

Lavrov said Thursday that the U.S. alliance with the SDF was always going to end badly.

"We have been for years warning about an extreme danger of the experiment that the Americans were conducting there, trying to set the Kurds and Arab tribes against each other in every possible way," he told reporters.

"We were warning against playing the Kurdish card, as this can come to no good, of which we were also warned by our colleagues from other countries in the region having large Kurdish communities," Lavrov added.

Russian forces are fighting in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad. Ultimately, Moscow desires a reunited Syria under Assad's control, but the SDF is a barrier to that goal. Trump's withdrawal—if Americans do indeed leave Syria—will give Russia greater leverage and put it in a prime position to shape the war's endgame.

Lavrov said Russia will be working toward "the beginning of a dialogue between Turkey and Syria" and "contacts between Damascus and Kurdish organizations that renounce extremism and terrorist methods of activity."

The foreign minister also suggested Russia would be able to play a mediating role between the Syrians and the Kurds, thanks to "its good relations with all parties." He added, "We'll see how to go about this business."

Sergei Lavrov, Russia, Syria, Kurds, US, Turkey
Syrian Democratic Forces fighters pose for a photo with the American flag after a ceremony announcing the defeat of ISIS on March 23, 2019 in Baghouz, Syria. Chris McGrath/Getty Images/Getty