World View: Turkey Threatens Russia if Airspace Violations are Repeated

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Turkey threatens Russia if airspace violations are repeated
  • Russia’s incursions may be targeting Turkey’s Hatay province

Turkey threatens Russia if airspace violations are repeated

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) expressing solidarity with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Feridun Sinirlioglu, in Brussels on Monday
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) expressing solidarity with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Feridun Sinirlioglu, in Brussels on Monday

Russian warplanes violated Turkey’s airspace on two occasions over the weekend, once on Saturday and once on Sunday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry admitted Saturday’s intrusion, saying that it was an accidental intrusion caused by poor weather, but denied knowing anything about Sunday’s intrusion.

Based on the experience and Ukraine, we know that anything that a Russian official says is going be partially or completely a lie. There is no particular reason to believe Russia’s Defense Ministry.

Indeed, an unnamed senior US official said the Obama administration does not believe the incursion was an accident, and officials are in urgent talks with allies about what to do.

Since Turkey is a member of Nato, an attack on Turkey be an attack on all of Nato. Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued the following statement:

I just met with the Foreign Minister of Turkey Feridun Sinirlioglu to discuss the recent military actions of the Russian Federation in and around Syria. Including the unacceptable violations of Turkish airspace by Russian combat aircraft.

I made clear that NATO remains strongly committed to Turkey’s security. I will convene a meeting of the North Atlantic Council later today to discuss the situation.

Russia’s actions are not contributing to the security and stability of the region.

I call on Russia to fully respect NATO airspace and to avoid escalating tensions with the Alliance. I urge Russia to take the necessary steps to align its efforts with those of the international community in the fight against ISIL.

The harshest threat came from Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who said any future warplanes violating Turkey’s airspace could be shot down:

What we received from Russia this morning indicates that this was a mistake, that they respect Turkey’s borders and that this will not happen again.

Turkey’s rules of engagement apply to all planes, be they Syrian, Russian or from elsewhere. Turkey’s armed forces have very clear instructions. The necessary steps will be taken against whoever violates Turkey’s borders, even if it’s a bird.

For Russia, which long opposed foreign intervention in Syria and blocked UN Security Council [UNSC] resolutions, to be actively involved in Syria is both a contradiction and a move that has escalated the crisis.

The Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] have their orders. What is necessary will be done, even if it’s a bird that violates Turkey’s border… Our rules of engagement are clear.

The back story is that in June, 2011, Syrian forces shot down a Turkish air force jet. ( “23-Jun-12 World View — Syria shoots down Turkey’s air force jet”) A furious Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that the rules of engagement would be changed, and that Turkey would use military force in response to any incursion by Syrian aircraft.

On September 16, 2013, Turkey scrambled two F-16 jets, and shot down a Syrian Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter, after warning it that it was approaching Turkish airspace. The helicopter was shot down over Turkey’s airspace, but it landed in a ball of flames on the Syrian side of the border. Reports indicate that Syrian anti-government rebels shot the pilots dead after they ejected.

It is hard to overestimate the significance of these developments, as I wrote last month in “13-Sep-15 World View — Russia opens a dangerous new chapter in Syria and the Mideast.”

Russia’s military incursion into Syria is substantially inflaming sectarian tensions throughout the Mideast. Russia and Turkey are age-old enemies that have fought many generational crisis wars. Russia is allied with Iran, who is a bitter enemy of Saudi Arabia. And Russia’s incursion is inflaming Sunni jihadists who are reminded of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Russia feels that it can do anything it wants in the Mideast or elsewhere because the Obama administration is extremely weak and will always back off from any Russian show of force. As I have been writing for years, the entire Mideast is headed for a full-scale sectarian generational crisis war that will engulf the region. Russian officials may believe that Obama’s weakness allows them to do anything they want, but their actions are inflaming age-old ethnic and religious conflicts that will lead to a major war. Today’s Zaman (Turkey) and AP and NATO

Russia’s incursions may be targeting Turkey’s Hatay province

'The Statue of Tolerance' in Antakya, the provincial capital of Turkey's Hatay province.  Two massive hands are raised towards the sky, one holding a globe, the other a cross, a crescent and a Star of David
‘The Statue of Tolerance’ in Antakya, the provincial capital of Turkey’s Hatay province. Two massive hands are raised towards the sky, one holding a globe, the other a cross, a crescent and a Star of David

There’s a major reason why Western officials believe that the Russians are lying, beyond the fact that Russia’s president Vladimir Putin lies about pretty much everything.

The reason was expressed in a BBC interview by James Jeffrey, former US ambassador to Turkey, now at Washington Institute for Near East Policy. According to Jeffrey:

It’s tremendously destabilizing, and here’s one reason why. The area they flew into, Hatay province, I know it well, was part of Syria until the end of the 1930s, and Syria has never acknowledged that as Turkish territory, so you have a very interesting situation. It’s very difficult for me to believe that the Russians made a mistake. […]

I think this [Russian intervention] is long term, and I think it is that Putin doesn’t think there’s any real beef behind this coalition, beginning here in Washington. He thinks that as he bullies his way forward, everybody ‘s going to fall back. The coalition of forces and capabilities weigh against him. Putin’s a guy all about intentions. He doesn’t think that president Obama intends to do anything other than back down when Putin threatens him.

So the implication is that Russia’s military may invade Hatay province and annex it to Syria in the same way that Russia’s military invaded Crimea and annexed it to Russia. Russia can count on Obama and Nato to back down, but Monday’s incursions tested whether Turkey would also back down. In fact, Turkey did back down from its rules of engagement, and only warned Russia instead of shooting down the warplanes, but that could change next time, as Davutoglu’s threat implies.

Most of the population of Hatay province is Alawite, the same as Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. The population is strongly secular and committed to religious tolerance, but the people are divided about the Syrian war, with Alawite’s supporting the regime and Hatay’s Sunni population supporting the opposition. Washington Institute for Near East Policy (4-Apr-2013) and Guardian (London 3-Sep-2013)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Turkey, Russia, Syria, Hatay province, Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, Feridun Sinirlioglu, Antakya, Statue of Tolerance, Vladimir Putin, James Jeffrey, Bashar al-Assad
Permanent web link to this article
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail


Comment count on this article reflects comments made on Breitbart.com and Facebook. Visit Breitbart's Facebook Page.