12/2/15

A week ago Turkey shot down a Russian military bomber that crossed its air space for about 20 seconds.

Indeed, the breach of Turkish air space was so short that by the time the missile fired by the Turkish F-16 jet hit the Russian Shocui-24 bomber it was already out of Turkish air space.

Since it happened, I’ve been racking my brain, why? Why would Turkey take such a hugely aggressive and, frankly, unprecedented move?

Russia has been breaching air space over many countries, as a matter of course. Baltic countries, Sweden, UK, and even the US encounter such breaches regularly—about once a month at least, between them. In all—ALL—these cases the effected country scrambles military jets to PEACEFULLY escort the Russian “invader” out of their air space.

So why would Erdogan take such an aggressive move?

To be clear, the circumstance of this encounter shows beyond doubt that this was a planned act. It was not a trigger-happy Turkish pilot suddenly deciding to shoot down a Russian military jet. It was clearly pre-meditated and thus obviously sanctioned at the very highest levels in Turkey: President Erdogan.

I am no fan of Russia or Putin. I have written few blogs recently describing Russia’s malevolent intentions in the world. Russia/Putin are clearly bad players on the world stage. I have no pity for them. Still, the action by Turkey was so unprecedented, so aggressive, that it had to have a good reason, right?

Why?

I admit that until now I had no idea, but today I had an epiphany.

Some say that Turkey did it because Russia has been breaching their air space regularly in the last few weeks since starting their Syrian intervention. But so what? (See my comment above regarding all the other countries whose air space is being regularly breached by Russia.) That alone is not a reason to shoot a Russian bomber out of the air.

Others say that it is because the Russians—and this specific bomber—are on a mission to attack the relatively moderate opposition group to Assad which is of Turkish ancestry; the Turkmens who are a minority group based in the north of Syria where this incident took place. But if this was the intent, surely it backfired and it should have been obvious that it would, as Russia as a natural reaction has doubled down their efforts and bombing of this group with even less restraint and concern for collateral damage than they had before,

So Why??

While I have not written a specific post on Turkey and Erdogan, I mentioned him in a number of my prior posts and always as a bad player, himself. Erdogan is a very bad player. Starting from the huge damage he caused the US in 2003 by rejecting their request to use Turkey as a launching ground for the pincer movement on Iraq—a rejection that had a material adverse effect on the US fortunes—after the Iraq invasion by allowing the Saddam insurgency to flourish, going through the years in acting mercurially against many of the west allies and NATO members, and culminating with their clear symbiotic relationship with ISIS. All are bad, bad things. While Turkey is ostensibly a NATO member, it is the least reliable one in my view.

So why?

Erdogan is a megalomaniac and is unstable. I guess this is a bit of a tautology but it is still so.

He gave the order to shoot a Russian plane down just because he is Erdogan.

He will show them all.

He is unstable and there is no reasoning process to his decision.

In short, he did it because he could.

I am not sure who is more dangerous: Putin the cool, strategic, and powerful enemy or the emotionally unstable but militarily weaker Erdogan. They clearly deserve each other.

The problem, of course, is that this incident complicates life for NATO, for the US, and for any attempt to resolve the Syrian crisis.

But do not worry, as long as this president is in the White house there will be no attempt to resolve the Syrian crisis beyond photo ops and platitudes, so problem solved…

P.S. Since I wrote this post, Turkey has continued to behave aggressively and mercurially. It has now invaded Iraq. As simply as that. While a low level incursion, they seem to have sent about 700 troops to the area near Mosul without permission from Iraq and ignoring the demands of the Iraqi government to withdraw. To be clear, even the US asks permission from Iraq before it stations troops there. Ostensibly, Turkey has sent those troops in order to “fight” ISIS. There is fighting taking place there for now. In practice, given their symbiotic relationship with ISIS and their obsession with the Kurds, I wonder what their reasoning really is. Or maybe, as I said above, there is no reasoning?