Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My Commentary On Today's Downing Of A Russian Military Jet by Turkey

WNU Editor: Warnings from Turkey that it would shoot down Russian military jets have been ongoing for the past two month. What has complicated the situation is that Turkey has also claimed airspace miles within Syria as their "buffer" against any violations of their airspace .... causing confusion and doubt on where exactly is the border. The dynamics on the ground in the Syrian war has also changed dramatically in favour of the Syrian government, and to the detriment of Turkey. Turkey's allies are under siege and/or are being defeated (see previous post), and Russia's support of Kurdish forces in their war against the Islamic State has raised the ire in Ankara who see these same Kurdish forces as a threat to their own sovereignty. Russian targeting and bombing of Islamic State oil facilities and trucks .... of which most of this fuel is shipped to Turkey .... has also been revealed and its loss has been a serious financial hit for some in Turkey.

The question that now comes out is .... what will happen next?

World War III is not around the corner .... Don't panic: Turkey shooting down a Russian warplane won't start World War 3 (The Telegraph). But .... this crisis is now very real, and there will be an escalation. I expect Turkey to now run to NATO demanding more assistance and protection .... and they have already hinted that they may invoke the "Collective Defense Clause". I also expect NATO to respond ... albeit reluctantly. France wants (and needs) Russian cooperation in their war against the Islamic State, and the last thing that President Obama now wants in the last year of his Presidency is a military escalation that may result in a deadly confrontation against Russia.

The Russian response is easy to predict .... they are going to double down. They are going to continue to assist the Syrian regime, they are going to continue to build up their own forces in Syria, and they are also going to continue their diplomatic efforts with European and Arab countries to work together in combating the Islamic State. The Russians are also going to be very blunt that when their military jets are flying .... and if they feel that they are under threat from another air-force that does not have a cooperation/joint coordinating agreement with Russia in the same manner that Russia has with Israel, Iraq, and Jordan .... they will respond accordingly. That is why I will not be surprised if U.S. air-strikes against targets in Syria will be put on hold ... if not already. And why even Turkey itself may now step back .... knowing too well that any military escalation against Russia will be a lose-lose position for them.

But the response that I have found most interesting to today's events is the reaction from Israel, the Arab states, the Kurdish region, and Iran. In short .... nothing. For Turkey .... this silence says it all. There is no support for Turkey's actions today (at least none right now) .... and I would not be surprised if  privately they are telling Turkey to back-off.

On a side note .... expect the Turks and Russians to rally around their governments. And if the next Russian poll shows Putin's support at 95% .... do not be surprised.


Rhaegar said...

Thank you for the analysis and covering of this chaos. The next thing to wait for now I think will be the nato meeting that is happening now and what will come out if it. Also eager to see your essay about US Russian relations

War News Updates Editor said...

I am going to postpone my essay for a day or two Rhaegar. Events in the Middle East is where everyone's attention is right now .... including myself.

Anonymous said...

I would expect the Kurds to receive anything they want from the Russians from this point out...

Dave Goldstein said...

Why didn't the Russians have air cover? We do it all the time with A-10's and F-16's.

Publius said...

I agree with WNU Editor: there will be no World War III over this incident. Let's look at how Turkey and Russia got here, which should shed light on what may happen next:

1. Neither Russia nor Turkey have an interest in war with each other at this time.

2. Russia and Turkey have shared interests in what I think they see as the principal issue: the approaching partition of Syria. I think that both Russia and Turkey would view partition with equanimity, provided each emerged with their local allies in control of regions that matter to them. For Russia, that region is Lattakia and Russia's bases. For Turkey, that region runs along their southern border. The borders don't overlap much; think partition of Poland in 1939.

3. Turkey and Russia also shared (at least until very recently) a view of how to handle ISIS. I think that, for both Russia and Turkey, while ISIS is not an ally to be strengthened, the danger of ISIS is clearly subordinate to the considerations in 1 and 2 above. As noted by others, some Turks make money from ISIS too, so attacks on ISIS hit some Turks in the wallet. Very recently Russia seems to be making more efforts to attack ISIS.

4. Turkey and Russia back different parties in the Syrian maelstrom. Russia backs Assad (for now) and some factions that Turkey opposes. As I have said before, I think Russia uses Assad as a pawn in its struggle for control of the parts of Syria, after partition, that Russia cares about. When Assad is no longer useful to Russia, they will ease him out. Turkey wants Assad out now. Russia generally backs its ally Iran, and Iran's ally Hezbollah, who together provide much of the ground troops for the war. Turkey probably prefers to limit Iran's influence in Syria, if only because Syria borders Turkey, not Iran, and so falls within Turkey's sphere of influence.

5. I think that the Kurds and are a real focus of contention between Russia and Turkey. For Russia, the Kurds are useful to fight ISIS, the other rebels, and (most importantly) to remind Iran, Iraq, Assad, Hezbollah, and Turkey that Russia has other options. The Kurds are, of course, anathema to Turkey.

6. Russia is fairly imperialistic in violating other countries' territory, waters, and airspace. Even recently Russia has been clipping the territorial waters and airspace of many nearby countries. It would be just like Russia to ignore Turkey's complaints about Russian flights over Turkey.

7. Turkey is fairly aggressive in defending its self-perceived rights. It would be just like Turkey to shoot at any plane flying over its airspace, even if that plane were Russian. Turkey would also not hesitate to shoot at a plane bombing one of its favored factions in Syria (Turkmen?). I think there is an article about this nearby.

8. At this point, I expect Russia (a) to be a little more respectful of Turkish airspace, if only to avoid more shoot downs; (b) to go after the factions Turkey supports in Syria. They will be bombed much more intensively now; (c) to increase support the Kurds; (d) to increase attacks on ISIS in a way designed to hurt the Turks financially; and (e) to find a way to strike back at Turkey in a way that seems unrelated to today's incident. For example, I wonder if a Turkish ship might suddenly strike a previously "undiscovered mine", etc.