If you have just read Emily’s account of Turkey shooting down a Russian warplane, I must say that I am not terribly surprised with this development.
After all, it was only last month when Turkey intercepted a Russian jet that entered Turkish airspace. Following the incident, the Russians said it had been a mistake. At the time, I argued that Russia respects Turkey a lot more than they do the Obama Administration. Today events force me to partially reassess that opinion.
Let me put this way. I think the Russians know that Turkey is a lot more prepared to defend its interests than the Obama Administration. When that Russian general entered the U.S. Embassy in late September and told them to get their planes out of the sky, the Russians knew we would acquiesce. Conversely, the Russians also knew that if it provoked Turkey again there would be a good chance that Turkey would retaliate. In a sense, it was a suicide mission with a long term objective namely the destabilization of NATO of which Turkey is a member.
Emily discusses the implications for NATO in her piece. Does NATO stand behind Turkey? President Obama is close to President Erdogan. But is he close enough to be prepared to cross Vladimir Putin? Even if Obama is willing to go to bat for Erdogan, French President François Hollande might not be so eager to do so if his meeting with Putin later this week bears fruit.
Turkey has been accused of providing “quiet support for ISIS” for some time now. In which case, NATO might come to the conclusion that Turkey is an unreliable ally and with too much at stake, see fit to expel it. However, there is a reasonable chance that Russia and Turkey will make nice in public. But even if they do, will anyone be surprised if Russia again provokes Turkey? Nor should we be surprised if Turkey initiates some kind of hostilities against Russia and her interests. I’m sure the Russians are counting on it.
UPDATE: In an appearance with President Hollande at the White House, Obama stated that Turkey had a right to defend its airspace.
He also stated, “We’ve got a coalition of 65 countries. Russia right now is a coalition of two — Iran and Russia supporting Assad.” Yet it is Putin, not Obama, to whom the Gulf Arab states, Israel and, for that matter, France are turning. Obama’s coalition is a mile wide and an inch deep. Nobody believes Obama when he says, “Make no mistake, we will win, and groups like ISIL will lose.” How is that possible when 75% of the aircraft sent on bombing missions don’t drop a single bomb? As Scott St. Clair puts it, “The president brags about his air campaign against ISIS, but the ugly reality is that it’s likely that the effort is more like using a squirt gun to put out a fire.” By the looks of it, we aren’t even firing the squirt guns.
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