Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Turkey-Russia brouhaha holds dangers for all of us

All sorts of news reports now seem to confirm that Turkey has been buying oil from ISIL in Syria, and supplying it with arms as well.  (That may make Turkey complicit in the Paris terror attacks . . . I wonder if President Erdogan has thought of that?)

This has huge implications for Turkey's current confrontation with Russia.  Turkey is a member of NATO, and theoretically can call upon that organization for assistance if necessary:  but I can't believe other NATO members will go up against Russia in a shooting war if Turkey brought it on itself.

John Schindler comments that "Sometimes political leaders do insanely stupid things, with horrific consequences for millions".

Overt Russian military intervention in the Syrian conflict in late September placed Moscow and Ankara on a collision course, as was obvious to clear-eyed observers. For Turkey, exerting some control over neighboring Syria, particularly its war-torn north, is a vital national security interest, and Ankara made clear it did not appreciate Russian games there. Here, Mr. Putin’s customary bull-in-china-shop methods in international relations were destined to result in a clash.

. . .

It’s not every day you get to see leaders of major countries with large militaries acting like petulant teenagers on the world stage.

. . .

Neither country shows any desire to step back from confrontation, which ought to alarm everyone.

Russia and Ankara have shifted more military forces to the Syrian tinderbox—the former has moved in cutting-edge S-400 air defense missiles while the latter has deployed brigade’s worth of tanks to the border—which does nothing to stifle the crisis. Moscow’s aggressive trade sanctions against Turkey over the shoot-down will cause pain to both countries, while demonstrating that this incident will not be allowed to go away by the Kremlin.

Mr. Erdoğan’s suggestion of a meeting between the leaders to resolve the crisis was rudely dismissed by Moscow, leading to the Turkish prime minister stating his country will never apologize for defending their sovereignty. At the moment, neither country shows any desire to step back from confrontation, which ought to alarm everyone.

No small part of this mess has been caused by the essential similarities of both leaders. Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdoğan are charismatic strongmen with deep nationalist credentials. They have successfully employed faith mixed with chauvinism to handsome political effect, including nostalgia for lost imperial glory that rankles and scares their neighbors. They are popular with many citizens, who credit them with big economic advances among average people. Their political foes have fled the country in fear, while dissenting journalists and activists get arrested or killed in “mysterious,” never-solved crimes. Above all, they have used quasi-democratic ends to establish very un-democratic regimes, personally profiting in the process. Neither man has any history of backing down in the hour of crisis.

If all this sounds alarming, it should. It ought to be noted that neither Mr. Putin nor Mr. Erdoğan has crossed the point of no return yet: for the former, that would be cutting off Turkey’s natural gas shipments as winter sets in, while for the latter the shutting of the Bophorus to Russian ships, as it is permitted under the Montreux Convention of 1936, would have a similar effect, i.e. tantamount to a declaration of war. However, the lack of any signs of crisis de-escalation yet ought to raise concerns.

. . .

If all this—nationalist passions, dangerous border games, entangling alliances—sounds worryingly similar to 1914, it’s not altogether wide of the mark. As a historian I try to avoid bad analogies, which can be hazardous, but there are parallels with the disaster that befell Europe after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Then, as now, an aggressive Russia backed a troublesome proxy—then Serbia, now Syria—into an avoidable confrontation with a bigger neighbor, which led to a wider and unimaginably terrible war.

. . .

Whether reason prevails over passion in this hazardous misunderstanding between Russia and Turkey, who have waged numerous wars against each other over the centuries, remains to be seen.

There's much more at the link.  It makes for worrying reading.



tweell said...

And this showed up at the Washington Post:

It would explain some things, wouldn't it?

m4 said...

I really don't buy it. "Turkish buyers" "going through Turkey" etc doesn't mean that Turkish leadership is complicit let alone responsible. As if greedy people don't act out of greed for their own ends, hiding their methods, flying under the radar or bribing the right people.

Sure, shut the operation down, blow it to kingdom come for all I care. Just be careful about where you point that finger lest you yourself become guilty by association with the precedent you set.

HMS Defiant said...

i'm not worried because I don't care all that much. If Turkey sticks its nose over the Syrian border it will be whacked off by Russians quicker than Obama can say, "er, uh, um, erm" It's not an attack on Turkey and NATO won't lift a finger to help the ONE country that deliberately buried them in refugees. It takes all of NATO to act and can you see Greece going along?

Nope, this is a first class spat. Very much like Cyprus is between two NATO members or Gibralter between Spain and England. It's intramural, not international. I'd be surprised if anything Turkish is flying within 10 miles of its border with Syria or within 30 miles of the Russian cruiser off the coast. Turkey has already demonstrated "hostile intent" and it's fair game outside of its own borders.

richard mcenroe said...

Oh, come on, there is ZERO chance a conflict between Russia and Turkey could lead to a wider war. I mean, that's never happened before, has it?

Anonymous said...

The sooner the U.S. gets out of NATO the better. It should've been disbanded after the Berlin wall fell and the USSR disintegrated. It's been nothing but trouble ever since and it might've saved the U.S. and other European powers from the disasterous and despicable war against Serbia.

As for Turkey and Syria let the Russians deal with it. It isn't our concern. No troops, no bombing, not one damn drop of American blood or treasure. Amazing how all these countries are such a deadly threat to the US that we must go to war with them yet we import as many of their citizens as the establishment can cram through the gates. Until we secure our borders, freeze immigration and deport the people from these countries and regions who are supposedly mortal threats to our national security it makes no sense to be bombing anywhere. The fight is here at home not over there. You've imported "over there" over here. Don't worry about defending someone else's house two towns over from rampaging barbarians when you've invited the barbarians into your own home and they're gang raping your wife and daughters on the kitchen table.

The people running our foreign policy are either functionally retarded or just unspeakably evil. I'm not sure which but I'm thinking the latter.