Monday, November 30, 2015
Fresh Insights into Turkey's Shootdown of a Russian Bomber.
Chris Kilford has written an excellent opinion piece in The Ottawa Citizen. The former Canadian Forces colonel served as air attache to Turkey from 2011 until 2014, experience that gives him some clear perspective.
"The thing is that Turkish airspace is “violated” all the time and the Turks, equally, enter Greek airspace uninvited and conduct bombing missions into northern Iraq whenever it suits them. As the Turkish General Staff noted in a press release, Turkish airspace had been entered 114 times before the Russian incident – mostly by the Greek air force – without anyone being shot down.
"Why now then? Some observers say the whole affair was cleverly pre-planned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end any sort of alliance between Russia and the anti-ISIS coalition and the possibility of Assad remaining in power. In the aftermath, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg certainly said the obligatory words of support for Ankara but privately, I suspect, was as dismayed as everyone else with Turkey’s behaviour.
"...The fact is that because of Syria, Turkey and Russia have become adversaries. On one side sits the Syrian regime with their Russian allies who have been relentlessly bombing Turkmen positions for several weeks. On the other side are the Turkmen and their Turkish allies who have done everything they can, short of a ground invasion, to help them.
"In desperation, it’s likely the Turkmen leadership made one final appeal to Ankara to rescue them and, lacking any other viable options, the absurd idea of shooting down a Russian aircraft was about the best anyone could come up with. This was no wider geo-strategic strategy on the part of Turkey, just a Turkish “face-saving” exercise in front of their allies and one last angry lash-out before Syrian government flags are likely to begin popping up all along the Turkish border.
"As for the Russian sanctions designed to punish Turkey, one wonders if Moscow isn’t actually punishing itself. It’s also likely Putin is engaged in a little domestic face-saving of his own. How many sanctions will actually see the light of day is debatable. Indeed, if Russia was really that outraged, it could do far worse — cutting back on its substantial gas and oil supplies to Ankara, for example.
"But why bother? The Russians have the initiative. Assad isn’t going anywhere and Syria’s Kurds are well on their way to some sort of independence or autonomy.
"Erdogan is furious on both accounts and his judgement, as witnessed with the shooting down of the Russian jet, clouded. Besides, Turkey has its own significant domestic issues, and it would be better for all involved if Erdogan simply offered an apology and accepted that this fight is one he will not win."