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Friday, November 27, 2015

Turkey escalates tension between NATO and Russia with the destruction of Russian Su-24 bomber.

Link:  Erdogan stands firm in crisis with Russia.

The crisis in Syria continues to make strange bedfellows, with antagonists being forced to put away grudges to accommodate more pressing matters.  When Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan's party won elections earlier this month, there was real concern that Turkey would move further away from NATO and Europe, and possibly adopt a more friendly approach to Islamist parties and organizations.  Those of us who feared just such a development should be thankful, in our own way, to Russian President Vladimir Putin, for Russia's timely intrusion into the Syrian conflict.  The Russian military has a history of not respecting international borders, and Wednesday's development involving Turkish accusations of an airspace violation, came as no surprise. In fact, since the arrival of the Russian Air Force in the region, there have been complaints from just about every direction regarding Russian lack of respect for international boundaries.  Turkey has been  complaining of Russian border violations almost every day over the past week, and not surprisingly, the Russians continued to use the sky as their personal domain.  Now that the Turks have taken down a Russian bomber that allegedly crossed the Syrian-Turkish border, the Russians are indignantly ratcheting up defensive measures, starting with the deployment of the S-400 air defense system at the Russian Air Base in Latakia.  Russia also announced that a Russian missile cruiser sitting off the Syrian coast wouldn't hesitate to destroy any threat to Russian aircraft. 

Interestingly enough, Erdogan has to tone down his recent anti-Europe, anti-U.S. and anti-NATO rhetoric.  With the Russian military force that is just across the border in Syria growing all the time, Erdogan has no choice but to call upon his NATO allies in this dangerous time.  Although Turkey has a very capable armed forces, and the Russians would have to move night-and-day to transport adequate military personnel and equipment to the region, Erdogan has no intention of standing up to Russia alone.  Putin has already demonstrated his willingness to push the envelope, in Georgia, Crimea, and now in Syria.  Actually, the onset of this mini-crisis provides the United States and Turkey with an important opportunity to mend fences, although Turkey has been the bellicose trouble-maker in the relationship lately.  Even though Erdogan was able to solidify his domestic position with the recent election victory, he has been given a reminder that Turkey is not the Ottoman Empire and the year is not 1560 AD.  Turkey not only needs allies in the west, but Turkey needs its membership in NATO to remain healthy and in good-standing.  Everyday it becomes more obvious that Russia is following through on some grand scheme to increase her influence internationally and to rebuild Russia's relationships around the world, in order to isolate and diminish the United States.  Russia continues to aggressively champion Iran's acceptance as a regional super-power, and leaves no stone unturned in its effort to coax away long-time U.S. allies like Egypt and Jordan.

This conflict is beginning to take on so many different dimensions, that it will become more and more difficult to separate the good guys from the bad guys.  Right now, the world is focused on eliminating ISIS, or at least its pretending to be focused; Russia is still the only major military power who has committed itself to the destruction of this monstrous group (as opposed to "containment").  But I'm beginning to wonder if Russia might actually be the more dangerous of the two.  ISIS invaded two countries: Syria and Iraq.  Russia has invaded three countries: Georgia, Ukraine and Syria, and formerly annexed a province of Ukraine.  If the United States had taken the lead and built a coalition that included ground forces, ISIS would have been defeated by now.  But rethinking past decisions is really a waste of time.  We have to come up with a strategy for what we face today.

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