World View: Russia and Turkey Move Closer to the Brink of War

Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Russia and Turkey move closer to the brink of war
  • Turkish analysis of downing of Russian warplane
  • Quote without comment

Russia and Turkey move closer to the brink of war

Russian pilots prepare for flight in a Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet in Syria (Reuters)
Russian pilots prepare for flight in a Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet in Syria (Reuters)

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is said to be inconsolably furious at Turkey for shooting down a Russian warplane on Monday. This incident has struck Putin in a deeply visceral way, and there is little doubt that he will seek retaliation. ( “25-Nov-15 World View — Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars”)

According to a statement issued by Russia’s military:

“The General Staff is currently working out additional measures to ensure the security of the Russian air base.

First: all actions of strike aircraft will be carried out only under cover of fighter planes.

Second: measures will be taken to strengthen defense. To this end, the cruiser Moskva, equipped with Fort air defense system, similar to S-300, will assume position in the coastal region of Latakia. We caution that any targets, representing a potential danger for us, will be destroyed.

Third: Contacts with Turkey on military lines will be discontinued.”

Russia is deploying its most advanced ground to air missile system in Syria. These missiles could target Turkish warplanes, and also bombers from the U.S.-led coalition, including those from the U.S., France and Britain.

I heard several analysts refer to this as a major escalation that could easily lead to a military conflict between Turkey and Russia. Many people believe that Putin will seek further retaliation against Turkey. Indeed, Putin has already promised “serious consequences” for the incident, which was a “stab in the back.” This retaliation could take many forms, and a military conflict could be triggered either intentionally or unintentionally.

Russia has used protection of ethnic Russians in Ukraine as an excuse for its army to invade and occupy portions of Ukraine, and annex its Crimean peninsula. As we described yesterday, the Turks wish to protect Turkmen rebels in Syria and Turkic Tatars in Crimea for the similar reasons, and they’re furious that Russians are treating Tatars harshly in Crimea, and that Russian warplanes are bombing Turkmen villages in Syria.

So neither of these two countries is satisfied, and either one make seek further military retaliation against the other. International Business Times and Reuters

Turkish analysis of downing of Russian warplane

According to a Turkish analysis, shooting down the Russian warplane was to be expected because “It was Russia that stabbled Turkey in the back.” According to the analysis:

  • Turkish and American bombers have jointly been bombing strongholds held by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in northern Syria, along the border with Turkey.
  • These joint bombing raids have been in coordination with Turkmen rebels and other opposition groups. The Turkey-backed Turkmen groups are crucial to the whole operation of targeting ISIS.
  • Russia claims that it’s bombing ISIS strongholds. We know from two years experience in Ukraine that Russian officials never tell the truth except accidentally, and in fact we know that Russian warplanes seem to have been targeting almost every opposition group in Syria EXCEPT ISIS.
  • In particular, Russian bombers have been targeting Turkmen villages. Thus, not only is Russia not targeting ISIS, but in fact, Russia is cooperating with ISIS to oppose joint Turkish-American attempts to strike at ISIS.
  • Furthermore, Russia is also directly challenging an important Turkish strategic objective: To prevent the PKK-linked Kurds from taking control of a large area in northern Syria along the border with Turkey. If the Kurds take control of that region, then it could probably lead to one of Turkey’s worst nightmare scenarios: a Kurdish state stretching from the Mediterranean to Iraq, along Turkey’s border.

Interestingly enough, it seems likely that there is one important thing that the Russians and Turks agree on: That nothing about the current situation is accidental, and both are taking deliberate steps to provoke the other — Russia in bombing Turkmen and not ISIS, and Turkey in shooting down the Russian plane in retaliation. Daily Sabah (Istanbul)

Quote without comment

At a joint Washington press conference with France’s president François Hollande on Tuesday to discuss the terrorist attacks in France and Mali, President Barack Obama said:

“Next week I will be joining President Hollande and other world leaders in Paris for the Global Climate Conference. What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children.”

The Federalist

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Russia, Turkey, Vladimir Putin, Syria, Turkmen, Ukraine, Crimea, Tatars, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, PKK, Kurds, Iraq
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