If you’re worried that Turkey’s going to use Article 5 of NATO to drag the U.S. and other western nations into a hot war with Russia, don’t be. Sounds from this response like NATO will fall apart before anyone goes to the mat for the Turks.
NATO ambassadors called on Ankara to show “cool-headedness” on Tuesday following an emergency meeting in Brussels, after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border, diplomats said.
Diplomats present at the meeting told Reuters that while none of the 28 NATO envoys defended Russia’s actions, many expressed concern that Turkey did not escort the Russian warplane out of its airspace.
On the one hand, this wasn’t the first violation of Turkish airspace lately by a Russian jet. Erdogan’s complained about it to NATO before; NATO’s secretary-general said last month that the frequency and duration of the intrusions made it hard to believe Russia isn’t doing it purposefully. Turkey got tired of asking Russia nicely to stay out — and asking, and asking, as they reportedly warned the pilots of the jet that was brought down today 10 times in five minutes to scram ASAP. (Did Russia actually violate their airspace today, though? Moscow denies it.) On the other hand, the point of Article 5 obviously isn’t to trigger a regional war because a Russian jet en route to a target in Syria strayed a mile into Turkish territory or whatever it was. The paradigm case for Article 5 is hundreds of Russian tanks rolling towards Warsaw or Berlin, not one jet being a little too cute about Russia’s new hegemony in western Syria. Show of hands: Who thinks Europe’s militaries are going to spring into action after a long hiatus from major wars to enforce the integrity of Turkish airspace to the last inch?
Putin called the shootdown a “stab in the back” by western allies who are supposed to be fighting ISIS with him and warned of “very serious consequences,” but he might be willing to endure one embarrassment without retaliating in the name of avoiding escalation. Would he be willing to endure two, though?
Turkmen forces in Syria shot dead the two pilots of a Russian jet downed by Turkish warplanes near the border with Turkey on Tuesday as they descended with parachutes, a deputy commander of a Turkmen brigade told reporters.
“Both of the pilots were retrieved dead. Our comrades opened fire into the air and they died in the air,” Alpaslan Celik, a deputy commander in a Syrian Turkmen brigade said near the Syrian village of Yamadi as he held what he said was a piece of a pilot’s parachute.
Turkmen are ethnic Turks in Syria who have no association with the state of Turkey, but that’s not the point. The point is that killing the pilots, while they were defenseless on their way to the ground, will make the affront of the jet being shot down sting even more in Russia. And there’s actually yet another incident in Syria today that the Kremlin can use for anti-western propaganda if it wants, and this one’s on video too. Watch the clip below of Syrian rebels using a TOW missile, presumably supplied by Uncle Sam, to take out a Russian-made helicopter being operated by Assad’s army. RT, a Russian house organ, has already picked it up and claimed that not only was the helicopter on a search-and-rescue mission for the downed jet pilots but a Russian marine was killed in the TOW strike. Why this is circulating so widely online, apart from the gee whiz factor, I don’t know; Russia’s been bombing U.S.-allied rebels since they began flying sorties in Syria so it’s not as if America’s allies attacking Russia’s allies is some strange new escalation of the reality on the ground. The proxy war has been raging for weeks. But between the jet blowing up, the pilots being machine-gunned as they fell to earth, and now U.S. weapons being used to undermine the Russian/Syrian “counterterrorist” effort, there’s ample reason to think things will get worse before they get better. I’m just grateful we’ve got Cool Hand Luke in the White House, laying down “red lines” he doesn’t intend to enforce and issuing warnings that Assad must go which he has no means to follow through on, at the helm of this ship at it enters choppy waters.