More on Turkey-Russia conflict

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
I went out shopping last night for Thanksgiving. I'd already picked up the turkey, but there were a few more things that I needed. Despite the snowfall and the rather cold temperatures, it seemed like a good idea to go get the extra ingredients now, rather than later. One reason was to help walk off the pizza that we'd ordered and eaten. The other was a hedge against recent events. If Tayyip Erdoğan was going to drag my country into World War III, I figured, I at least wanted to make sure that I had an extra bottle of prosecco on hand

All we're trying 2 do is party like it's 1999


If yesterday's events were not already alarming enough, on late Tuesday night it was reported that a Russian helicopter, searching for the pilots of the downed plane, had also been shot down. The apparent killers of one of the pilots and the downing of the helicopter are the Turkmen of northern Syria, finally getting their moment in the sun. 

It's important to keep in mind the Kurdish-Turkic calculus here. As far as the Erdoğan government is concerned, the possibility of an independent/autonomous Kurdish state/statelet being created is far more of an existential threat than ISIS. Their goal is to remove Assad, but Erdoğan doesn't want a Kurdish entity to emerge in Syria. Anything-including, I think, ISIS--would be better than that, in the eyes of Erdoğan & Co. The Turkmen of northern Syria are likewise opposed, it seems, to the creation of a Kurdish state there.  

More importantly--yesterday's events appear to have brought any notions of Russia-NATO cooperation to a screeching halt, something that the decision-makers in Ankara may well have been looking to achieve. Indeed, by stoking tensions with Russia Erdoğan is effectively creating conflict between Russia and NATO. This comes at a time when French President Hollande--speaking at a moment when France had the world's ear--advocated for a Russian-American alliance against ISIS. Vladimir Putin, it seemed, had somehow managed to use the Syria war as a means of scratching his way back into respectable society!  

I think that opponents of Assad would like to see the Russian president stay in the penalty box.

Well, that story certainly has changed fast, no? With one squeeze of the trigger--and the very ugly apparent murder of the two Russian pilots--Russia and Turkey are suddenly at daggers drawn. Only Turkey's conflict with Russia is also that of NATO. 

Just a short time ago it seemed like the attack in Paris had been the best thing to happen to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in years. One day, he's a dictator on the ropes. The next, he's a valuable bulwark against the further expansion of the Islamic state's influence in the region.

Question: would the Turkmen brigades in Syria have shot at those two pilots and downed the helicopter without at least the tacit permission of Ankara? Or were these acts undertaken independently of Turkey?

Ankara's shooting down Russia's jet has changed the conversation re Syria dramatically. Both chambers of the Russian parliament have recommended cutting air ties to Turkey--certainly a swipe at Turkey's tourist industry, which benefits from large numbers of Russian visitors. Putin has called Turkey "accomplices to terrorism," which is never a good thing. NATO, meanwhile, is backing Turkey's side of the story. What just yesterday appeared to be the possibility of some kind of US-Russian understanding re Syria, is today a story of Turkey taking on Russia

And they're taking all of NATO into that fight with them

Also see: 

Turkey Shoots Down Russian Warplane 

Thoughts and Questions re France and ISIS

Thinking about Paris

Nothing to Celebrate 

Responding post-Charlie

10 Questions Regarding Syria


160 librarians can't be wrong! Get yours to order a copy of Turks Across Empires.

More links, commentary and photographs available,
as usual, at the Borderlands Lounge.  

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