Syrian rebels blow up Russian rescue helicopter with TOW missile.
The ecstatic ululations of “Allahu Akbar!” make my blood boil, and here we find ourselves, allied with Turkey which just shot down a Russian fighter in defense of Islamist insurgents.
But, as Walter Russell Mead points out, if we don’t stand by Turkey, who ever is going to believe we will stand by the Baltic States or Poland and the rest of Central Europe or do anything meaningful to stop Russia swallowing Ukraine?
The rapid deterioration of global order took an ugly turn this morning and we all moved a little closer to the abyss: Two Turkish F-16s have shot down what appears to be a Russian Su-24 bomber near the Syrian border. Two Russian pilots parachuted out of the plane as it went down in flames. One pilot was captured by Turkmen fighters in Latakia province, with early reports indicating the second pilot did not survive the ordeal. Turkey is claiming the bomber was warned ten times about being in Turkish airspace before it was shot down. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called for a special consultation with Turkeyâ€™s NATO allies.
The facts of the case arenâ€™t clear as I write. The Kremlin is calling it a â€œvery serious incidentâ€ but said it was still studying the specifics. Russiaâ€™s initial spin appeared to be that the plane was brought down by fire from the ground, but that story is not likely to hold for long given that Turkey is insisting it did the shooting. The plane was â€œexclusively over Syrian territory throughout its entire flightâ€, Russiaâ€™s foreign ministry maintained. â€œThis is recorded by objective controls.â€ Turkey, however, has released a radar trace of the incident purporting to show that the plane had crossed into Turkish airspace over the province of Hatay.
Russia has been flying missions over Latakia province since it began combat operation in Syria at the very end of September, and has by some accounts upped their intensity since Russia fingered ISIS as the party responsible for the downing of its civilian airliner over the Sinai. ISIS is not known to be operating in Latakia, however, and just yesterday, Prime Minister Davutoglu had said that Turkey would â€œnot hesitateâ€ to act on Syrian soil to protect the Turkmen people. (The Syrian Turkmen minority is one of many groups scattered between China and Bulgaria who speak a Turkic language and share cultural and historical roots with the Turks of Turkey.)
Regardless of the facts of this case, the root cause of the problem is continued aggressive Russian activity in and around Turkish airspace. That aggression was bound to cause problems at some point. Whether Russia or Turkey is more to blame with respect to this particular situation, overall there is no doubt that Russia is the country that bears the political responsibility for the incident.
Itâ€™s now critical that Russia not be allowed to intimidate or pressure Turkey over the episode. That means NATO support. Turkey, unlike Georgia and Ukraine, is a full-fledged NATO member, and failing to stand behind it threatens to unravel the alliance. Putinâ€™s number one goal, we must remember, is to break NATOâ€”or at minimum to show that it is a paper tiger.
Turkey’s Intelligence Chief on Sunday explicitly defended ISIS and the Islamic Revolution.
Ankara— Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, known by the MÄ°T acronym, has drawn a lot of attention and criticism for his controversial comments about ISIS.
Mr. Hakan Fidan, Turkish President’s staunchest ally, condemned Russian military intervention in Syria, accusing Moscow of trying to ‘smother’ Syria’s Islamist revolution and serious breach of United Nations law.
â€œISIS is a reality and we have to accept that we cannot eradicate a well-organized and popular establishment such as the Islamic State; therefore I urge my western colleagues to revise their mindset about Islamic political currents, put aside their cynical mentalitÃ© and thwart Vladimir Putin’s plans to crush Syrian Islamist revolutionaries,â€ – Anadolu News Agency quoted Mr. Fidan as saying on Sunday.
A more cheerful perspective comes from an anonymous Facebook friend who is apparently some sort of US spook, and who is very hostile personally to Russian intervention in Syria:
Never forget that Turkey’s army is 3X larger than Russia’s, is better trained and equipped, has far better air support, and that they have access to 60 nuclear weapons held for them in a U.S. bunker at Incirlik.
And then there’s this: Turkey is a member of NATO, has been forever, and has as much right to invoke Article 5 as do Germany, France, UK or the US.
Putin was warned, explicitly, by dozens of us that the risks of a shoot down like yesterday’s were “very high” when he put his foot in the shitpile. He didn’t listen.
He should have paid closer attention.