The world yesterday was stunned by Turkey’s reckless move and of shooting down a Russian air force plane. This was seen by Russia as a truly unadulterated example of provocation and in the words of Vladimir Putin, “a stab in the back by accomplices of terrorists."
The speed in which Turkey called for an ‘extraordinary’ NATO's decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council (NAC), on Tuesday evening is interesting; it was certainly done in haste. By asking for this meeting, the Turkish authorities seemed to be trying to count on the support of NATO on the shooting down and to draw NATO into the Syrian conflict.
There are other ways of dealing with these kinds of incidents,” said one NATO diplomat who declined to be named.
Nevertheless, NATO members clearly understood this for it was this worth and did not give into the Turkish statements. The NATO response was certainly more muted than previous Russian-Turkish incidents in October of this year, where Ankara invoked NATO’s Article Four.
Back in October Turkey also called an emergency meeting after Russian planes violated its airspace several times following the start of Moscow’s air campaign in Syria. However, this time it did not invoke Article 4. NATO’s Article Four outlines the situation under which a member declares that its territorial integrity, political independence or security is under threat.
There is a slight hint of a re-run of the Georgian conflict in 2008 in the air to this whole event, since it points at huge confidence, (read arrogance or spite?), by the Turkish authorities in escalating an air incident into a huge diplomatic crisis. Erdogan presumably thought he could get away with only light repercussions. This would also explain why the Turks ran for cover in asking for the NATO meeting and in the swift release of a letter to the UN.
The enormity of the Turkish statement is in their letter: the SU-24 was in Turkey’s airspace for 17 seconds and only travelled through it for 1.15 miles. NATO’s statement suggests that it backs up this Turkish information without any quibbles. Is NATO seriously expecting us to believe that 5 minutes is enough for the Turkish Prime Minister, to clear a pilot to fire his missile at a jet, through the chain of command?
The SU-24 incident highlights NATO’s propensity for skirting around the issue and dropping totally unsubstantiated pieces of information. Here is a classic example; an extract from the rather vague statements expressed by the NATO Secretary General:
“The Allied assessments we have got from several Allies during the day are consistent with information we have been provided with from Turkey. So the information we have from other Allies is consistent with what we have got from Turkey.”
By ‘assessments’ & ‘information’, does he mean the US tracking facilities at the US air base in Turkey, or maybe the NATO warships in the Eastern Mediterranean or even the COAC tracking centre in Qatar?
NATO is sure tight-lipped when it comes to events that cause an international diplomatic stir. But it is hardly surprising since Turkey is a long-standing NATO member since 1952, with a lot of US military investment to boot, so they can never put a feet wrong.
Turkey has recently & begrudgingly re-allowed the US to use İncirlik Air Base for limited US air force air strikes against ISIS. (But only after Biden apologized for the remarks he made about Turkey’s involvement in supporting ISIS). US aircraft deployed there include A 10 Warthogs and soon Electronic Warfare EA-18 Growler aircraft.
The incursions of two Russian fighters in Turkish air space on Saturday and Sunday has brought the Syria conflict over NATO's borders, testing the alliance's ability to deter a newly assertive Russia without seeking direct confrontation.<!--[if gte mso 9]>
|Spanish Patriot Unit in Turkey|
NATO forces on the ground in southern Turkey consist principally of air defence units. German Patriot defense systems were positioned on the Syrian- Turkish until the beginning of the Russian air campaign, thus leaving a Spanish patriot battery in southern Turkey holding the NATO line. There was an US Patriot defense system remaining at Incirlik as well but it appears to be pulled out of service, although the stated end date is 1 January 2016.
"NATO first deployed its Patriot missiles along the border in January 2013, to shoot down any missiles from Syria's conflict fired into Turkish territory."
|Davutoglu's comments on ISIS|
Greece has experienced for decades hundreds of Turkish air force intrusions, despite the fact that they are both NATO members. Greece, according to its Foreign Ministry, “especially comprehends provocative moves by Turkey given regular multiple violations of Greek air space by Ankara lasting for years.” Despite the huge spike in Turkish violations in 2014, NATO doesn’t batter an eyelid over this at all. Everyone in Brussels knows that this take place and simply shrug their shoulders.
There is something odd to it all since not one major West mainstream media were able to recall and compare this latest event with what happened in June 2012 when a Turkish jet was shot down in Syria. The MSM haven’t even seriously mentioned this, let alone discussed the event. Even back then, the Turkish military authorities proudly announced back in 2012 that they:
"would have shot down 114 planes if every aircraft that violated a country's airspace were shot down without questioning."
This article was written in light of the shooting down of a Turkish jet by Syria. The article then continues to state that " a violation of one to two kilometers is accepted as "natural" given the speed of aircraft," drawing upon the statement released by the Turkish military. How times have changed, for one Russian aircraft, for just 17 sec. This information puts the whole context for the SU-24 shoot-down into a much darker perspective.
|Obama & Erdogan at G20 in Turkey|
More lashings of double-standards all around please. Obama said yesterday: "Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace," except for it seems Syria these days and Lebanon too. So Obama seems to confirm the Turkish position. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated that the shooting down was "fully in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement." Sure, those which were created after the June 2012 incident in Syria, which included a segment of Syrian airspace as well as their own buffer space. All of which goes against international law, but once more NATO played dumb at that time.
A Turkish military group of 572 soldiers, 39 tanks & 57 armoured vehicles went into Syria in February 2015 to move the Suleyman Shah shrine closer to the border. This is what the the Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had to say about its incursion into Syrian sovereign territory:
"We didn't get permission from anyone. The decision was taken, and the order was given, by the Turkish government".
Unfortunately for NATO, Erdogan has a nasty habit of falling out with ‘friendly’ countries. Russia has just been added to the list: Egypt, Israel, Iraq & Syria. Erdogan can also be seen to using NATO for his own purposes. A hint of this became apparent when the US was negotiating for the use of the İncirlik Air Base.
Turkey also regularly bothers neighbouring states, whether NATO allies or neutral states. Just compare the stated Turkish aggressive and outlandish position on airspace intrusions with those faced by Greece & Armenia. Armenia was definitely nonplussed when a couple of Turkish military aircraft wandered into their airspace in October. However, their indignation was limited to words only and not a missile. The Armenians raised this issue with NATO, through a letter:
“If NATO really values the inviolability of borders of its member states, it would be reasonable for the Alliance to serve an example and apologize for the incident, even if it has been caused by weather conditions. The incident is really an extraordinary and one, and I think NATO, of which Turkey is a member, should react to this case. Clear explanations are needed,” saidf Poghosyan.http://asbarez.com/140649/turkish-military-helicopters-violate-armenias-air-space-twice/
|Pat Bagley cartoon|
The problem is that NATO is saddled with Turkey and more disturbingly, goes along with Erdogan’s often unilateral and knee-jerk policies. NATO's ambivalent attitude towards Turkey's scam in providing significant support for IS is becoming more apparent by the day. It is almost a re-make of the Soviet Afghan invasion scenario, being played out in Syria, with this time the US & NATO lined up against Russia, Iran directly & through their own fighting unit proxies.It clearly show how the supposedly the main participants in an 'anti-IS' coalition are often at cross purposes with each other. Turkey has bombed the Kurds, whereas the US has at times provided the Kurds with air support. Likewise the Russians have bombed positions that neither the UK nor France would dare to.
The West continues to permanently dither on how to best tackle ISIS militarily, while Turkey is still afraid of losing its grip on its Syrian ‘rebel assets’ due to the ongoing Russian air strikes on their positions.
|Green circles - location of Russian air strikes on rebels. Purple finger is the alleged incursion spot where the SU-24 was supposedly have gone through & subsequently shot-down.|
The Washington& NATO elite mindset is still hell-bent on brow beating Russia, when the opportunity arises. Here is a blatant example: “I think it’s important that the world doesn’t separate what the Russians are doing in Syria with the rest of their behavior,” said US Gen Hodges, NATO commander.
Turkey still has not backed down from their rigid viewpoint regarding the shooting down of the Russian jet. The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu reiterated: "The protection of our land borders, our airspace, is not only a right, it is a duty," he said. "We apologize for committing mistakes, not for doing our duty."
In public NATO backs Turkey to the hilt: “All Allies fully support Turkey’s right to defend its territorial integrity and its airspace”, from the NATO secretary General. The UK & Germany are the latest to have joined in the bombing campaign in Syria.
This is disconcerting especially as there is a build-up of NATO air power taking place in southern Turkey. Are the Turks and NATO inching their way towards setting up a "safe-zone" on the Syrian border? Or is the US-led coalition trying to nudge Russia slowly out of the way in northern Syria?
More to follow. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_125208.htm
The world waits with baited breath what is the reaction of Russia to the shooting down of their jet. Meanwhile NATO continues to be at the complete mercy of Turkish political vexations.
Video analysis 10th Dec 2015
The last word: