mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Turks Down Russian Bomber
NATO Must Have Turkey’s Back
Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • qet

    1914–Russia mobilizes against Austria-Hungary in support of Serbia following assassination of Archduke Ferdinand by Serbian nationalists. WWI ensues.

    1939–Russia signs secret non-aggression treaty with Germany partitioning Poland. WW2 ensues.

    2015–Russia invades/foments in Ukraine and Syria and generally behaves belligerently. ????? ensues.

    Why is it always Russia?!

    • InformedLawyer

      This article is a diversionary tactic to avoid the truth about the multilevel game being played by both the Erdogan and Obama administrations. The WH policy is highly dangerous and undermines U.S. national security here at home.

      See: Highly Questionable Turkey, Open Border & Greater Tribal Sovereignty Policies Together Undermine U.S. National Security, available on the SSRN website at: http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=2704179

  • Aldus du Flaperon

    Watch your cold war reflex. Based on what is know at this moment, it looks much more like a Turkish attempt to draw NATO into a fight with Russia in Syria. If confirmed, that would be ample reason to kick them out of NATO for recklessly endangering the alliance.

    • Andrew Allison

      What we know is that the aircraft ignored no less than 10 warnings (and that NATO doesn’t have an eject button)

      • Aldus du Flaperon

        During a <10sec incursion, if any?

      • Thom Burnett

        If the plane wasn’t in Turkish airspace the existence of warnings – however many – doesn’t make Russia wrong. It probably means that Turkey is being deceitful.
        Last month the US Navy ignored some large number of Chinese warnings in waters they claimed were Chinese.

        • f1b0nacc1

          The Russian aircraft ignored warnings from an armed aircraft that explicitly required them to change course….this is a clear violation of existing norms of international navigation. If it doesn’t make Russia wrong, it certainly means that the Turks were trying to avoid escalation. The radar track released by the Turks shows that the Russians were inside Turkish airspace, something that the Russians haven’t offered anything (other than a denial) to refute.
          Regarding the rather juvenile comparison to the Chinese….the Turkish/Syrian border is recognized by all parties here, the Chinese claims are recognized by the Chinese ONLY. If the Russians had disputed the border in question (they do not), this might be a different matter entirely.

  • Andrew Allison

    From the BBC: A spokesman for the US-led coalition against Islamic State, Col Steve Warren says it can confirm that the Turks warned the Russian plane 10 times before shooting down the jet.
    He said they were working to establish exactly where the plane was when it was shot down.

  • Angel Martin

    Putin is playing this as Turkey helping ISIS and US-backed insurgents murdering Russian pilot POWs and shooting down the rescue helicopter.

    if this narrative holds, the Jacksonians are not going to support a war in favour of insurgents who kill POWs and an ISIS supporting state (NATO or not)

    Putin has now promised “serious consequences”. I suggest the Turks climb down real fast. Putin doesn’t do erasable red lines.

    I don’t believe NATO will back a war against Russia so that Turkey can continue to help ISIS (I certainly will not).

    • Avram Cohen

      Turkey has been complicit all along with ISIS! American people are being duped!

  • qet

    Putin is calling the affair “a stab in the back.” Anyone remember another time when that phrase had currency?

  • f1b0nacc1

    The interesting question is what does Putin do next? While he might ‘impose sanctions’ on Turkey, this isn’t going to have any meaningful impact, and as such I suspect that it won’t play terribly well at home. His military options are quite limited, and the rather anomalous nature of the Russian expeditionary force (which seems to be useful primarily for dropping dumb bombs in a permissive environment in support of their client) is becoming increasingly clear. I suppose that they can fire up the acquisition radars on the S-300 installation that they have in place, but once again, to what purpose?:

    • qet

      On the eve of WW2 the Russian military was in a deplorable condition, having recently been unable to overpower the Finns of all people, and we all know how that turned out. The risk is less Putin managing the world like a stage director according to his geopolitical calculations, and more that things will get out of control and render his calculations meaningless.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Since NATO isn’t planning to invade Russia any time soon, the WW2 comparison isn’t all that apt. Much more viable, however, is the notion that this will all spin out of control….though for that to happen, what would his next move be? Unless you are suggesting that the Russians (who have a TOTAL of 37, oops…now 36, aircraft in Syria are going to start a series of escalations with the Turks (which would be quickly dispatched by the far superior forces that the Turks have in the region) or somehow decide to invade Turkey itself (at which point they risk open war with NATO….a bit chancy even for Putin), I just don’t see what his next move might be.
        We could see something trivial, like renewed strikes against the locals near the border, many of whom are friendly with the Turks, but this strikes me as weak sauce.

        • Dale Fayda

          A relatively painless method of revenge may be for Putin for start supplying arms to the Kurds in Syria and Turkey in a meaningful way and to start paying lip service to the creation of a Kurdish state comprising parts of both of those countries. That is bound to raise howls of protest from Ankara and possibly make them re-think this entire episode.

          • f1b0nacc1

            A clever proposal (one I wouldn’t mind seeing myself, the Kurds deserve far more support than we give them!), but it would likely create bigger problems for Putin with the Iranians and the Syrians, both of whom have their own issues with the Kurds. Still, that is a superb example of ‘outside the box’ thinking….my hat is oft to you!

          • adk

            For all his “decisiveness” and supposed geopolitical acumen, Putin creates, unnecessarily, more enemies and conflicts on Russia’s borders than he can reasonably manage. These days it’s hard to find any Russia friends along its borders and beyond. All that, plus a weakening economy and whipped up nationalist paranoia at home, make it hard to see any good way forward for him. That’s why he’s getting more dangerous — recall the example of a cornered rat from his youth that he cited.

          • Dale Fayda

            Looks like I may have been onto something with the idea of Russia making nice with the Kurds at the expense of Turkey: http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/12/01/russia-adds-troops-to-syria-opens-new-air-base/

          • f1b0nacc1

            Aside from the (very) shaky sourcing of this report (I mean really…. the Turks – who obviously have an axe to grind here – are the source), there is no guarantee that the Kurds would even go along with such an agreement, if indeed it were offered. As I said before though, this is an outstanding example of thinking outside the box, and potentially (if real) represents some very creative diplomacy on the part of Putin.

    • Nevis07

      I wonder if Eastern Ukraine is going to erupt again…

      • Angel Martin

        “I wonder if Eastern Ukraine is going to erupt again…”

        this is what to watch. If Putin starts acting reasonable and starts abiding by the terms of Minsk-2, it means that all hell is about to break loose against Turkey. (see Nazi-Soviet pact)

        Putin wants to bust up NATO. Instead of doing it via one of the Baltic states, he may be able to do it against Turkey. NATO or not, there isn’t much sympathy for a muslim, ISIS-supporting “ally” in the West right now.

        • iconoclast

          Not an ally led by an Islamist who is funneling Syrians into Europe. Not after Paris.

        • Nevis07

          Well Turkey certainly doesn’t get much sympathy from me, but I’m not sure that NATO could easily walk away from Turkey if Russia attacked them per article 5. The West is stuck between a rock and hard place. So it Russia, though. Hence my comment that the response is a proxy battle elsewhere just as during the Cold War.

          • Pete

            Friend, Article 5 is a paper tiger. It will mean nothing when the chips are down.

      • f1b0nacc1

        While that would be a possible option for Putin, how does this ‘punish’ Turkey, and how does it really help Russia? If Putin thought that aggression in East Ukraine was low-cost enough for him to get any benefit from it, he would be doing it already. More to the point, however, stirring the pot in the Eastern Ukraine only works for Russia (if it does at all) if it is deniable, which means that it is useless as a way to openly punish Turkey.

        • Nevis07

          Well, I understand your point about it not punishing Turkey, but if Putin feels that there are no real viable ways to punish Turkey without incurring a larger NATO response, then I would expect him to act out against NATO interests elsewhere for protecting Turkey. No one ever said that Russia had to only exclusively punish Turkey. Ukraine is not the same as the Baltics, but that doesn’t mean that Russia hasn’t been intimidating NATO Baltic states after western sanctions we stepped-up. I don’t know where, but I expect Putin to act out somehow and it may not necessarily be in the ME.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Perhaps, but what does Putin gain here by doing it? Let us presume that Putin does choose to act in the East Ukraine (or pick another venue amenable to you…the issues are the same) because he has no viable response against Turkey. What is the cost to him (more sanctions, potentially ramping up tensions in areas where he risks real war, and thus serious consequences, etc.), and what does he gain? The Russian population is likely to support him as long as the cost isn’t high, but if the response to more trouble in the Ukraine is tightened sanctions (and thus real economic impact on those very same Russians) I suspect that his support will take some hit. Perhaps this is worth it to him, but I rather doubt it…
            I dislike the man intensely, but I don’t believe that Putin is a fool. He is a very patient man, and while I don’t doubt that he will eventually find some way to exact revenge, I rather doubt that this will add new motivation to his ongoing crusade to create problems for the West. Perhaps in fact it is better that Putin starts to learn that his actions have costs associated with them, after all….

    • AaronL

      According to the BBC (see below it has a range of between 3-93 miles. If they put it on the border with Turkey they can shoot down airplanes in Turkish airspace.
      The Russians can always buzz commercial airliners flying into Turkey and in so doing scare away the tourist industry. According to Wikipedia , tourism is a major industry in Turkey and brought in close to $28 billion USD in 2013.

      • adk

        Turkey happens to be one of the major destinations for Russian tourists (it’s like Mexico for Americans), so I doubt imposing sanctions on the tourism industry would be a hit for him at home.

        • AaronL

          He’s already stopped Russian tourists going into Turkey.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Most commercial flights going into Turkey don’t cross areas where the Russians can reach with either fighters (their SU-30s are notoriously short ranged) to harass them. As for using their ONE S-300 system in the region to shoot down anything in Turkish airspace, this would be a bit much even for Putin. So we can safely write off these somewhat fanciful choices….got anything better?

        • AaronL

          You’re proceeding on the assumption that the Russians won’t put any more weapon systems into Syria. Do you really think that the guy who invaded Ukraine and has moved into Syria is going to take this lying down.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Actually, I am fairly sure that Putin won’t put much more into Syria than he already has there. He has been doing this on the cheap (using obsolete Su-24s, for instance, that the Russians themselves are trying to retire as quickly as possible because they are flying deathtraps, dropping dumb bombs, etc.), and there are few systems that he can deploy that would make much difference. Turkey’s air force is quite capable of handling anything other than a very large air campaign against it, and even then NATO is well-positioned to cope with it.
            Like most bullies, Putin doesn’t leave himself many options when his bluffs are called. He can certainly try cutting off (or curtailing) Turkey’s gas supplies, but Turkey has other options, and Gasprom does not have an infinite number of customers. Short of escalating to a much higher level of risk, Putin has few options for dealing with Turkey directly in a military sense, and the consequences of a rebuff there are considerably more dangerous for him than he is particularly interested in engaging. Turkey is NOT the Ukraine, a weak military state with no real support from the outside world.
            Putin may very well escalate elsewhere, but even then his options are limited. I believe that he is a smart enough bully that he knows when to accept limitations, and when to push the limits of what he can do. Bombing Turkemen tribes in Syria, moving missile cruisers (primarily useful for their SAM systems) into the ADIZ, that sort of thing makes sense…none of it will have much impact, but it looks impressive, pretty much what can be said about most of this campaign in the first place.

          • Pete

            “Putin has few options for dealing with Turkey directly in a military sense, ..”

            What if Ankara disappears in a cloud of radioactive dust one afternoon?

          • f1b0nacc1

            And why would Putin want to do that? Where is the gain for him?
            I will assume that you are being silly for its own sake

    • iconoclast

      I am not certain how Ergodan’s strategy of creating a greater Turkey while supporting Islamist elements in Syria and Putin’s strategy of ensuring the continuation of friend/ally Syria government while displacing the US as the largest power in the ME will play out. But the two seem to be on a collision course without a doubt. Putin may have more levers than direct military response on the border however. And Putin has always seemed like a persistent long game player too.

    • Pete Bungus

      “While he might ‘impose sanctions’ on Turkey, this isn’t going to have any meaningful impact, and as such I suspect that it won’t play terribly well at home. ”
      Say, where do you get these ideas? He doesn’t need to impose sanctions, Russians back away from business with Turkey already. All holidays in Turkey have been cancelled.

  • Nevis07

    I very much agree with the tone of this piece. I think a long term solution and compromise would be to accept Assad as head of Syria, so that Russia gets to keep its ally and basing rights. But in exchange, a new country made up of parts of northern Iraq and Western Syria would be formed by Sunni’s so that Iraq can be a Shia state, while creating an autonomous region for the Kurds in the new country. That creates a middle state power to counterweight Syria, Iraq and Iran, but allows for the difficult ethnic and religious divisions in the region.

    • iconoclast

      Maybe a new division of Iraq and Syria can be done–I suspect the Kurds of Iran and Turkey will have a lot to say about the “autonomous region” though. But given our withdrawal from the ME the USA no longer has the stature to accomplish it. I suspect the new countries will be created the old-fashioned way. We can only hope the creation process doesn’t drag in the rest of the world similar to WWI.

      • Nevis07

        True. Simply announcing the creation of a new state doesn’t necessarily make it feasible or possible. I’m just openly wondering what political solutions would be possible. Turkey might be the least likely to find this solution acceptable, but frankly, I’m very displeased with the direction that Turkey has taken in the past decade or so.

        At any rate, Russia might find this acceptable because they keep their ally and basing rights, and it makes sense for Iraq, which I don’t think can be pieced back together (northern iraq is already autonomous). The Sunni Iraqi’s obviously want to not be ruled by Shia. Iran might find this acceptable if it means they can exert even more control over a Shia Iraq. Meanwhile, the long awaited Kurdistan might be a moderate ME power that the West can actually live with. At the end of the day, Russia doesn’t want ISIS training any of this Muslim minority and moving back to Russia anymore than the West wants extremists returning to our countries.

        • Jim__L

          Could Kurdistan be rich enough to be powerful enough to be a useful partner in the region?

  • adk

    Something like this was bound to happen to either a Russian plane or a sub once they started “probing” other countries’ spaces (not just NATO members, but also Sweden and Finland.) In Syria, I thought the most likely scenario would be some sort of rebel/Islamist group attack on the Russian airbase, but instead this happened first.

    There were earlier reports of Russian plane incursions, from Syria, into Turkey. That Putin would take such risks speaks of his utter recklessness and adventurism, and that alone calls for a firm NATO response, finally. True, Turkey now has a pretty repulsive Islamist leadership, it plays its own games in the region, etc,. but in this case (with the caveat that the their version of the incident holds up), Turkey deserves full NATO support and a stern warning to Putin that there’s indeed a red line for his little military adventures.

    • iconoclast

      The problem with NATO–USA really–stating that there is a firm red line is the obvious one–Obama. Weakness and incompetence encourages adventurism regardless of how things eventually play out.

      • adk

        True, Obama gave red line a really bad name, but the only hope is that he and a bunch of Euros would somehow find some rudimentary spine vis-a-vis Putin. It doesn’t have to be military — eg,a credible threat of further serious economic sanctions. The alternative is an escalating world chaos, even scarier than already is.

        • iconoclast

          What will our lead-from-behind administration do when there are no good choices, only bad and worse choices? But as f1b pointed out, Putin has a weak hand no matter how well he plays it so maybe this will blow over for the time being.

          • adk

            All our choices already are in the range between very bad and awful, with non-existent to boot (like finding a “moderate opposition” in Syria.) To that, our dear leader’s main and only response has been to ignore everything and fight the only enemy he knows, ie, the Republicans. Time will tell how tenable this position is in the last year of his presidency.

          • iconoclast

            One can only hope that the personal weakness displayed by Obama over the last 7 years continues for another year. Instead of being stung by accurate descriptions of his feckless policies, let’s hope Obama continues to withdraw. Turkey doesn’t have a NATO claim that anyone would credit and, unless Putin attacks Turkey–which he will not do–we may just get out of the Obama years in one piece.

    • Pete Bungus

      How has Turkey been of any help to the rest of NATO? Their leadership is causing trouble and embarassment. The government openly sympathizes with Islamist ideas and jails any opposition. Erdogan and his friends are dumb and aggressive. They assist Jihadis and believe the Mossad peed in their tea. Liberal army officers were replaced with dull-headed Islamists. But hey, the sandwhiches at their airports aren’t overpriced, so that’s a plus.

    • Rhan Tegoth

      Americans, as well as Europeans, are rightfully more concerned with the threat of Islamic terrorism than they are with starting a new cold war with Russia. Obama’s policies have provoked Russia and the Russians have been the first nation to do something about ISIS terrorism in Syria and Iraq. Muslim countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and particularly Pakistan are proving to be highly unreliable allies. Israel in particular, is foolish to trust the Turks and the Saudis. The former who have violently anti-semitic, anti-Israel, and anti-western sentiments within their ranks. Turkey is too strategic to be expelled from NATO, and I daresay that regime change is necessary in that country. There are much better things to do in terms of foreign policy than to start another cold war.

  • Pete Bungus

    When I look at Putin’s enemies, I grow Sympathy for him, but it goes away when I look at his friends. Shame on Erdogan, shame on Assad. Maybe Trump should build a great wall around the entire region and open the gates in 50 years.

  • Beauceron

    I really have no interest at all in having Turkey’s back.

    They’re a “moderate” Islamist state that has locked up reporters and rather brutally crushed secular dissent.

    • Jim__L

      I’m beginning test ideas on the basis of whether they indicate “demoralization” on the part of America — the idea that American values, allies, etc, are not worth defending, ceding others the initiative in foreign policy.

      If we’re going to change our relationship with Turkey, it needs to be on our own initiative. A wavering response “will embolden our enemies” as the saying goes, and it’s right.

    • Pete

      Screw Turkey. The Turks are no friend of the U..S.

      The Turks better behave themselves. They are not exactly a world class power in any regard.

    • Avram Cohen

      Turkey has been complicit all along, including another ally the Saudis… Just ask any Christian Armenian!

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    NATO has grown increasingly poor as an alliance, and America should give the required 1 year’s notice that it will leave. Many of the members spend almost nothing on Defense, depending on America to come protect them in the event they need protecting. Others are like Erdogan’s Turkey, who wouldn’t even let America use their territory during the Iraq campaign, and now want America’s support. We should give them exactly as much support as they have given America, but we should still leave NATO.

  • Daniel Nylen

    Although my point doesn’t matter to how the countries will solve the international political dilemma, what matter to international law on who was the aggressor was whether or not the Russian jet was in Turkish airspace when it was shot down. There is no right of pursuit in international law. The plane could have violated Turkish airspace, but if it was shot down while out of Turkish airspace, the Turks are the in the wrong. I’m not sure it matters, but anything that gives both sides the opportunity to righteously dig in their heels is not a good situation.

    Everyone will posture but with how the Turks responded to a provocation, whether the Russians were close to their airspace or playing cat and mouse along it, the Turks just tremendously raised the ante. Does the US exert any control on this supposed ally whose interests are not currently completely aligned with ours in the Syrian conflict? We did not need this escalation and do not want it to continue.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Actually, this is a fairly interesting question. If the Turks fired their missile while the aircraft was in Turkish airspace, and the missile followed the Russian plan, destroying it in Syrian airspace, then the Turks are in the right, as at the moment the action was taken to down the Russian aircraft, it was in in violation of Turkish territorial space. As a side point, the Turks repeatedly warned the Russian plane, and the crew of that plane did not respond, a clear violation of standing norms in international aviation.
      I have little love for the Turks, but it seems clear here that they have attempted to provide adequate warning to overly provocative intrusions into their airspace, and the Russians have simply ignored them. The notion that they are the source of the problem seems to me to be somewhat wrong-headed.

      • Daniel Nylen

        Not so sure you are right. While the cat and mouse that often occurs regarding airspace/seaspace may have traditions, it is not when the Turks fired, but when the missile hit that matters. If the Turks shot the aircraft down while it was in Syrian airspace, then their shot was so close to the border for the few tens of seconds of the missile flight then I think that fault lies with the Turks. However, as politics overshadow everything to do with this issue, I don’t see this ending up in a court deciding fault like two ships. The point I make of this interesting quibble is that the situation gives both a way to stand upon their rights, so the situation is more dangerous than if fault had been obvious. Add the issue of shooting the pilot while in parachute by rebels in Turkish-given sanctuary and we have a crisis.

        • f1b0nacc1

          The standard in international maritime law (which does recognize ‘hot pursuit’ by the way) clearly is that when the shot is fired is what matters. There is no clear-cut case covering airspace, but given the maritime example, a strong case can be made for similar principles being valid. Much more to the point however, is that the Russian pilots ignored clear-cut warnings by the Turks, which leaves them solidly in the wrong.
          With all of that said, your point about shooting at the pilots drifting helplessly in the parachutes is absolutely correct. The destruction of the Russian SAR helicopter, which technically legal, was a truly disgusting act as well. Those individuals engaged in such horrific behavior deserve nothing less than the full retribution of all civilized people. However, those rebels were clearly in Syrian territory, and there is no evidence whatsoever that they were acting in concert with or at the direction of, the Turks. Given the Russian practice of dropping unguided bombs indiscriminately over populated areas (the Russians have provided a great deal of film to provide this themselves), it isn’t hard to imagine that the rebels were (however wrongly) simply taking revenge. This happened often enough during Vietnam with American pilots beaten, even killed, by angry Vietnamese when those pilots were shot down.

          • Daniel Nylen

            I don’t think that there is any doctrine of hot pursuit in maritime law or any international law involving sovereign nations. There are doctrines involving law enforcement, and what the Coast Guard does per US law with drug cartels isn’t necessarily IAW international law for countries and her vessels and aircraft. Fishery violations aside, even UNCLOS article 111 talks about seas and sea-going vessels for law violations has hot pursuit ending when the vessel enters the seas of a third nation. Here, if there was some way to show that customary law for fishery violations apply to airspace and a sovereign nation’s armed forced vessels, hot pursuit had to end when the Russian aircraft entered Syrian airspace. Any rights Turkey had for airspace, ended when the aircraft entered Syrian airspace. However, the political considerations will outweigh international law.

          • f1b0nacc1

            You are incorrect. Since the Russian aircraft was based in (i.e. operating out of) Syria, it never entered the airspace of a third party, i.e. it started in Syrian airspace, entered Turkish airspace, and then reentered Syrian airspace. With this in mind, hot pursuit doctrine does apply, since otherwise all that would be necessary to render it moot would be to base one’s aircraft in a cooperative third party’s territory.
            Please note that during the Vietnam war, this sort of thing happened quite often with American aircraft and the Chinese. There are more than a small number of cases, in fact, where American aircraft were attacked, even shot down, by the Chinese on precisely this pretext.

          • Daniel Nylen

            I don’t think it does. Hostile acts were not made in Turkish airspace so the warfare ROE you are referencing does not apply. There is a right of reprisal in international law that fits the ROE situation you mention. It is not applicable here unless Turkey had a right or reprisal which allowed pursuit into a hostile airspace–certainly not the situation here–Turkey had no rights in Syrian airspace by any reading of international law. They violated the Syrian border and went into Syria and shot down the plane–no different than sending in a team of soldiers to effect an across the border raid– nothing to do with international law.

            I note that the surviving pilot appeals to customary international law when is asks why the Turkish airplanes didn’t fly alongside as a warning and attempt to wave off the Russia planes who I gather think they were operating in Syrian airspace. One report has the a US official noting that the Russian plane was in Turkish airspace for 17 seconds– a very short period of time.

            I looks as if through lack of training,oversight, or deliberate action, Turkey violated international norms and international law to escalate the situation in support of their allies– rebel Islamicists. Not a good situation and one that the US should distance itself from.

            Realize that under international law, meaning things that keep article 5 of NATO from applying, Russia has justifications for actions in Turkey as reprisals and viv a vis the supported rebels who operate across the border in Syria. Such nuances are important because they are reasons to prevent foolish or unwitting support for an aggressor invoking article 5 where it is not in our interests to do so.

          • f1b0nacc1

            The Turks didn’t fire when the aircraft was in Syrian airspace, so your argument that the Russian pilots didn’t contact hostile acts in Turkish airspace is irrelevant. The missile was fired when the Russians crossed the border…and since it was fired almost exactly when this happened (you correctly point that it was only in Turkish airspace for the shortest possible time), it is clear that the Turks had every intention of making good use of poorly thought through Russian provocation. The missile FOLLOWED a Russian aircraft that crossed over the border, it is difficult to imagine a more obvious example of hot pursuit. As long as the missile was fired while the aircraft was on the Turkish side of the border (it was), this act was legal, if not particularly peaceful in origin. As a minor point, Russian pilots who refused to answer repeated Turkish requests for identification have very basis for complaint regarding international norms.
            Look, I am not trying to defend the Turks for what was obviously a hostile action, but given the Russian habit of being provocative and then hiding behind the most transparent technicalities, I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for them. If Putin wishes to push his luck in situations like this, he is going to have incidents like this from time to time. If I had to guess, I would conjecture that he considers the price worth it. As for whether the US should embrace or distance ourselves from this action….lets say that I think it might be entirely healthy for Putin to contemplate the costs involved in escalating things. The Russians have a great deal to lose and very little to gain by pushing things…
            Now, as far as international law goes, you simply don’t have a leg to stand upon. Article 5 of the charter applies quietly clearly here (though remember, I am not a big NATO fan, and would happily endorse telling the Turks to pound sand if they tried to use it), and the Russians have no justification whatsoever for hostile cross border actions in retaliations. They are welcome to impose economic sanctions, cancel military agreements with Turkey (they have already done so), and escalate bombing (with escort) of all forces on the Syrian side of the border…none of these are particularly unreasonable, nor even unexpected. What they cannot do (with impunity) would be to (for instance) attack aircraft in Turkish airspace (unless those aircraft have fired weapons on aircraft in Syrian airspace), etc. Nor will they, they are not fools…
            Now as

          • Daniel Nylen

            There is a big dispute about the facts and they are not at all likely to have occurred as in your fantasy above. There are no reports of firing while in Turkish airspace and the missile following across the border (still wrong on the Turks by the way–there is no hot pursuit) There are reports that the Russian aircraft was only in Turkish airspace for seconds. Looking at the map and area, and that the aircraft was bombing targets in Syria, it appears likely that if it was in Turkish airspace, it was the 17 seconds as reported initially by the US. The Russia pilots’s question of why the Turkish planes didn’t fly up and wave off the Russians is germane to customary law. It looks like Turkey jumped the Russians in Syria while the Russians were conducting operations at the request of the government–i.e. a aggressive provocation by Turkey, not Russia. Russia stands by that it didn’t cross the border and while operating at the border, a momentary crossing isn’t the “bad russian acts” our press is making this out to be. This is an act of aggression by Turkey for political reasons and we need to realize that our supposed ally, who is supporting people we will not support, is very likely trying to derail any Russian-Europe-US coordination against ISIS.

            As for article 5 in NATO, please remember that NATO is not international law, it is an agreement between a few select countries. By the agreement, there are many things that allow the rest of NATO to ignore a request, such as aggression by the requestor, so yes this situation matters. Having a reason to deny a request for article 5 is of course a political decision, not one based on facts, but any cover that has a basis in international law is something that can be used if desired. Aggression by the requestor is certainly a reason.

            The real issue is when Turkish planes are shot down by border, maybe on Turkey’s side, by the Russian anti-air system when they are close to any Russian planes– is it aggression or reasonable self-defense due to the earlier attack in Syria? Russia is going to continue to attack rebel camps along the Turkey-Syria border, but will not be as friendly toward its “allies” giving before flight information as they had here. Realizing that Russia told the US about the sorties and then they get jumped by our allies makes this a very different and much more dangerous kettle for future operations.

          • f1b0nacc1

            The Turks released a radar track, laying out specifically where their aircraft were when firing, and the Russians have not disputed it. This track was further confirmed by the US (a somewhat disinterested party in all of this, as they have no real desire to see this escalate, and would thus prefer to be able to disavow the Turks), so I believe that any suggestion that this is a ‘fantasy’ requires proof on your part. Given Putin’s past of ‘cheat and retreat’, certainly it doesn’t make a lot of sense to give the Russians the benefit of the doubt.
            If the Turks ‘jumped’ the Russians, they did it damn badly. The made 10 radio warnings in under 5 minutes, none of which the Russians responded to. Jumping someone in air combat requires SURPRISE, and to get that, you don’t bother warning your putative opponents. As for the notion of flying up alongside of them, the radio warnings are considered an adequate alternative in civil aviation, and the Russians by refusing to even acknowledge the warnings hardly put themselves in the right.
            As for the Russian’s time in Turkish airspace, the missile wasn’t fired until they entered that airspace, at which point, the Russians were in violation of Turkish sovereignty and were legitimate targets. That the missile followed them is hardly a problem for the Turks….they couldn’t fire ADDITIONAL shots after the Russians fled, but since nothing moves at infinite speed, a legitimate response is based upon the circumstances at the moment of firing, not at the moment of impact. This is a fairly basic principle of any law.
            On Article 5, the Russians did cross the border, and the Turks responded to that. Now it is fairly clear that their response was designed to bloody the Russians and one could certainly argue about propriety here, but given past Russian behavior (the Turks have been complaining about this for weeks), there is no basis to refer to it as aggression, and Article 5 clearly applies. Oddly enough, a very similar example of this was used during the original debates about NATO in the late 1940s when systems were far more primitive. It is possible to refer to this as aggression without any real understanding of the facts (you are doing so yourself), but that would be (as you say) a political, not a legal decision.
            If the Turks cross into Syrian airspace, then shot down by a Russian SAM as they hightail it back into Turkish airspace, it is a righteous kill. The Turks are not the smartest folks on Earth, but I suspect that they will be clever enough to avoid this problem, as that particular escalation won’t too well for them. If the RUssians are really going to tie down an S-400 battery (which is what they claim in their latest statement), they NATO will collect a great deal of ELINT while the Russians drop iron bombs on some Turkmen fighters. I see this as a win-win, don’t you?

          • Daniel Nylen

            I think that we have different sets of facts. I don’t see how the Russians were on the Turkish side of the border for 5 minutes or even more than a few seconds. I also give the pilot’s interview some credence as well as the initial information from the US (17 second cross of point of Turkish land). Add to that the fact that the aircraft, which was engaged in targets on the Syrian side of the border fell in Syria, and I have my opinion of the facts on the ground. YMMV. However, with the international relation nature of the dispute, the actual fact will be known to those high level military and politics, but not to the rest of us. This difference of the basic facts is enough to validate divergent opinions of fault. As far as your international law hot pursuit into a third party territory–well let’s agree to disagree.

            The point about both sides digging in is germane and it will keep the situation on edge for quite some time. I don’t think that having the long-range anti-air system operational at the border and extending well into Turkey is a good thing, it severely increases the airspace problems for all concerned, but the Russians feel they need to defend their aircraft while they are engaged in legitimate operations, so were have escalated. This will cause tremendous problems for US air operations in the area this will be something we will have to live with. So not a win-win.

          • Jim__L

            After this crisis, do you think it would be more difficult to get Russian pilots to play silly games like this, or would it cost their superiors more to order them again?

          • f1b0nacc1

            I would be surprised if Russian pilots (who after all live in a police state, and have very little opportunity for gainful employment outside the clutches of that government) would ‘push back’. They will do as they are ordered, though I think that the second part of your question, would their superiors be less inclined to engage in such behavior in the future will be dependent upon whether or not this is an isolated incident or a constant risk

        • Edward

          The following paragraph represents particularly fallacious reasoning. There are so many fallacies in this paragraph, it could be used as a textbook example of exceedingly poor reasoning, in any logic class.

          “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.”

          • Daniel Nylen

            Not necessarily so. By your argument, two guys in a bar are talking. One starts getting into a heated argument (Russia) so the other guy pulls a gun and shoots the one who started arguing/yelling. Russia, perhaps was guilty of airspace violations–like I alluded, a cat and mouse game. Turkey drastically upped then escalation by shooting the plane down after it left Turkish airspace–meaning it complied with the Turkish requests. One action- violate airspace then leave–does not automatically follow to the next–shoot down in other nation’s airspace–at least not by custom nor international law.

            However, my main point was that the situation was murky and allowed both sides to claim that they were the wronged side which makes it hard for solutions. Trying to assign blame,:”he pushed me, so I pulled a knife; he pulled a knife so I pulled a gun–pretty pointless because in each case there is an escalation beyond what is appropriate (pulling the gun being the unknown Russian next move–assumed to be over the top).

            If you really think that my argument is fallacious– please dissect it logically– or is your logic that whoever starts the chain, is responsible for the entire outcome, regardless of the actions of others???

            My logic is that international law and custom dictate the response for the actions. Violate airspace, warn to leave, then if not leave, force down or shoot down. This is not what appears to have happened here. The reports are that the Russian aircraft was in Syrian airspace when shot down, so by international law and custom, the Turkish airplane was outside of international law. The entire situation may have been started by the Russians, if they entered Turkish airspace (although I can find some justifications for it if turkey is sanctioning rebel bases on their territory– think Pancho villa in Mexico with Pershing)

          • Edward

            Please take the time to read what I actually wrote. The quote to which I referred is the fourth paragraph in Walter Russell Mead’s article, on which this comment section is based, and has little to do with your statement. It was intended to point out inconsistencies in the article and thereby support your argument -although you do make such support difficult.

  • Comrade Pootie

    Of course the NATO-alliance will be respected. Putin knows very well that he doesn’t stand a chance.

    • Fat_Man

      You for got the /sarc tag

  • Anthony

    Referencing George F. Kennan brings to mind his 1947 recommendation about resisting communism’s threats. Cold War ideas (despite Russia’s 1991 dissolution) have never completely vanished from American world engagement – expertise and ideology supplanting rational argument and historical experience.

    “The bipartisan ruling class that grew in the Cold War, who imagined themselves and who managed to be regarded as entitled by expertise to conduct America’s business of war and peace, protected its status against a public from which it continued to diverge by translating the commonsense business of war and peace into a private, pseudo-technical language impenetrable to the uninitiated….Its school solution to ominous events abroad has been and continues to be “to do something,” because “doing nothing” would be dangerous. But then, because they deem defeating the enemy (perhaps even, identifying the enemy) to be even more dangerous than “doing nothing,” they decide to send…believing that questions of war and peace are beyond the American people’s simplemindedness.”

    So, here we are NATO must have Turkey’s back.

  • gabrielsyme

    This incident demonstrates the utter stupidity of allowing an intemperate, imprudent, al-Qaeda-supporting nation to remain in NATO. Turkey is supporting terrorist groups in Syria, which Russia is fighting – at the invitation and in alliance with the internationally-recognized government of Syria.

    Turkey is using NATO as a skirt to hide behind after throwing rocks at the other children. It should be punished by NATO countries, even if NATO needs to deter Russian retribution for the sake of its own credibility. But let’s be clear about one thing: Turkey’s aggressive actions are, in themselves, delegitimizing and undermining NATO credibility. They need to be ejected from the alliance with all deliberate speed.

  • Fat_Man

    Dissolve NATO. It is less than useless. Turkey is Islamist, Anti-American, and Anti-Israel. Like their neighbors in Greece, Turkey has no strategic or economic utility to the US. Turkey has provided no assistance to the US in the last 15 years. Let the Russians do with the Turks as they will.

  • http://www.syalconsult.com Verinder Syal

    You continue to have faith in Mr. Obama’s ability. Or should I say hope? Perhaps prayers might work better. The fellow is in over his head, petrified at making any consequential decision, has no moral compass, and is totally dedicated to self-aggrandizement. We can only hope the clock runs out soon.
    As for Turkey, what kind of an ally is it? Perhaps 30 years ago it was worthy of that statement, but currently, it is a country run by a kleptocrat egomaniac. It has been of no help to the US; I especially remember their stance in Iraq.
    I’d be happy to see Russia and Turkey duke it out from a ringside seat.
    Finally, could your faith in NATO be misplaced? Perhaps Europe needs to start looking after its own security 70 years after the end of WW 2.

    • gvanderleun

      Mead’s just a closet quisling who is shares the mental disease with his cohort.

  • Daniel Nylen

    As more information comes out, and if the view that the Russian aircraft were in Turkish airspace for 17 seconds and shot down in Syrian airspace, international law would give NATO countries a good reason to back away from Turkey as they are the aggressor. I note the surviving Russian pilot asks why the Turkish planes didn’t follow customary law and fly alongside the Russian planes first and warn them away– the two sides were not at war yet and such indications to insure the other understands are quite customary. The Turks are looking more and more like the aggressors here.

  • gvanderleun

    How sweet. Mead still believes that NATO means something. Somebody take him out and detox him.

  • Torguish

    Turkey is claiming the bomber was warned ten times about being in Turkish airspace before it was shot down.

    Did you even fucking look at the flight path? 10 times? Bollocks.

  • Shadow

    A regime like Putin’s needs a hostile relationship with the United States and regime like Obama’s need hostile relationships just as much, US is not better or worse than Russia they are like two sides of a coin and each needs its enemy so that the world balance remains

  • Boston Lion

    Neither NATO nor the U.S. should have Turkey’s back. Turkey is and has been for a long, long time a detestable, backward state that has no place in the EU or NATO. And Turkey is most assuredly not a worthy nation over which the West should go to war. I’m glad that Putin, at least, has the stomach to give the abominable Turks an object lesson.

  • Avram Cohen

    WTH, Turkey has been complicit with ISIS all along, going after Kurds fighting ISIS instead of ISIS itself… wake up Americans, dem or repub it doesn’t matter anymore, were being duped with these so called allies, Turkey and the Saudis are no better tan ISIS! Hell Turkey won’t even admit the Jihad butchery they did on 3 million Christian Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks and now the Kurds!

  • Avram Cohen

    Maybe we just never learn, Islamic Turkey butchered 3 million Christians, Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks and still to this day Turkey denies it and now there bombing ISIS fighting Kurds!? We don’t need BS allies like Turkey or the Saudis who support terror!

  • Justus Kigango

    Men, Turkey is worse than all these corrupt fundamentalist run middle eastern countries in that the EU is actually on their side instead of just being neutral. Even France which was gutted by ISIS is actually PAYING Turkey beacuse of the immigrants that are coming in to the country.
    http://leadfeet123.blogspot.com/2015/12/erdowan-takes-daesh-money.html

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service