Turkey has committed an act of War against the Russian Federation, in its downing of a Russian Su-24 fighter jet.
A Turkish fighter jet shot down the Russian plane. Militia, under Turkish command, have killed the pilot who attempted to surrender. The pilot, being one man surrounded by hostile forces, clearly unable and not wanting to fight, would have followed protocols and Geneva convention proscribed procedures, and attempted to surrender. Instead, he was either killed in the field or executed by the Turkmen militia once captured.
It is highly probable that these actions taken by militia, as a proxy force under direct command from Ankara, carried out these actions with tacit state approval. Turkmen militias have played a supportive role in supporting ISIS border crossings and ISIS oil shipments into Turkey.
Turkey claims the jet violated airspace, and that therefore the aggression was Russia’s. There are numerous problems with this claim, leading to the conclusion that the ‘Act of War’ is Turkey’s.
First, the question here is whether the airspace was in fact violated. The previous Russian response to the October 5th incident should be deemed a short-term diplomatic success, but an overall strategic failure. Russia did not challenge that a technical violation had occurred, but relied on technical-legal factors such as degree of the violation, the intent of the pilot (scope of mission) and that no harm was done. Two stories ran immediately following the October 5th incident – 1.) that the violation was accidental, and contrary to this, 2.) that the violation was a maneuver meant to avoid anti-air activity from the ground in Syria. Instead of sticking to the second story, the first story was more heavily promoted and became dominant. This precludes an ‘easy course’ for Russia to use this pretext in the event of a future incident, which has now happened.
A violation of airspace is in and of itself a legal matter within international law and agreements between states.
The manner and degree in which airspace is trespassed, and the probable intentions of the pilot, are both factors that must figure into a state’s legal and diplomatic justifications in deciding to shoot down a plane that has allegedly violated airspace.
Thus, justifiable responses are largely considered those which contain sufficient elements of parity or mirroring of the initial activity in question. The factors are the degree of the violation (how many km into the territory), which also speaks to the intention itself; The official mission of the pilot(s) and whether an ulterior mission is probable or possible; In connection with this, whether the offending party, in this case Russia, has any actual or possible targets in Turkey if it posed any threat immediate to Turkish national security (immediate threats are dealt with immediately, other kinds dealt with diplomatically, etc.). Finally, if the offending party has any overt goal in an outright provocation
Therefore, the first factors which lead us to conclude that the Turkish response did not mirror the Russian actions are that:
1.) Russia has no formal or informal targets in Turkey- The plane posed no threat to Turkish national security, when construed legally.
2.) Russia has no geopolitical gain to be made from violating Turkish airspace (therefore, incidental).
This means that Turkey’s act can be construed as an act of war.
Turkey is performing NATO’s task – establishing a No-Fly zone in Northern Syria
The No-Fly zone is to protect ISIS supply lines in the north and north-east, including into Iraq as well.
In response to the Turkish aggression, Putin today has openly declared that the Turkish state itself is supporting ISIS terrorism. This follows a major report released last week showing the individuals and private-co-public institutions from certain states (Qatar, Turkey, KSA, etc.) supporting ISIS. Today’s statement from the Kremlin is aimed at disambiguation.
Were Turkey’s actions against Russia a provocation, or a response?
Analysis indicates a bit of both, but tending towards response.
Turkey struggles to maintain its interest in the Syrian conflict, importing oil from ISIS controlled areas. Russia recently dealt a serious blow to ISIS, striking a convoy of oil trucks headed to Turkey. From this perspective, Turkey has retaliated against Russia.
Erdogan’s son Bilal Erdogan is the owner of some 500 of the trucks used by ISIS to transport oil into Turkey. It was these trucks that were struck by Russian attack jets during the past week. Therefore, Erdogan’s decision to shoot down the Russian Su-24 met these important requirements for NATO and Erdogan’s increasingly unstable AKP rule:
1.) Develop a NATO No-Fly Zone in northern Syria
2.) Establish Turkey unabashedly as a supporter of ISIS (to deflate the impact of the Russian investigation)
3.) Force increased NATO official action, possible invocation of Article 5 which would, for France, make independent or even Russian-coordinated anti-ISIS action extremely difficult. It would also openly activate German anti-air batteries located on the Turkish border
4.) Force a Russian response, which regardless of the nature of the response, has the advantage of requiring the opponent to make a move at a predictable time (known time of move is very important in strategy)
5.) Further activate anti-Russian, pro-Atlanticist opposition within Russia. Inside Russia, the 5th and 6th column will use this against the Russian state – the 5th saying this is proof that the Russian activity in Syria produces unwanted consequences. The 6th will say that this is proof that Russia needs to push further (pursue a course of blind entanglement).
6.) Eliminate all positive speculation about Turkish-Stream – push Russia into a one-track solution ‘Nordstream II’, which later can be singled out and attacked by NATO through pressure on Berlin
7.) Retaliate and ‘make a strong statement’ about Bilal Erdogan’s personal business being targeted
8.) Marginalize anti-Erdogan forces within Turkey, shift the national dialogue from internal to external
At the present time it is difficult to order these by significance, except that the last two points are probably secondary or tertiary in importance in the broad geostrategic schemata.
What will Russia’s response be?
Russia’s response, to be sufficient, must address each of the above NATO and Turkey goals. These are ordered in direct relation to the above. Some responses are short term, others more long term, in relation to the actions of Turkey and NATO.
1.) Continue to be active in Northern Syria – it has 4 mandates for this: legal, political, sovereign, and strategic. The loss of this plane, even several others, is militarily and strategically acceptable.
2.) Concretize the discourse – following up on the ISIS finance investigation and Putin’s statements today – that Russian activity in Syria that happens to be anti-Turkish is in fact anti-Terrorist and therefore lawful action. Distinguish between Turkey as a sovereign state, Turkish long term interests, and thirdly the individual players running the Turkish establishment (Erdogan, AKP, et al) in anti-Turkish activities in Syria. Make Turkish support for ISIS a criminal matter of ‘the regime’ and its supporters, and not Turkish security and the Turkish state all together.
3.) Continue to invoke the Paris attacks as further pretext for anti-ISIS actions in Syria: Perpetuate rift between anti-ISIS France and pro-ISIS Turkey, focus and broaden the scope of this obvious contradiction. Create a security related ‘amicus brief’ to the French prosecutors and courts pursuing the Paris attack matter: this should focus on Turkish connections to ISIS. Push the Paris-Berlin axis to oppose Article 5 invocation.
4.) Russia must not be controlled by any forced response, but must forge its own activity. Initial public statements may suffice – further actions should follow the doctrine of mirrored/parity based response. These do not need to be carried out immediately. Again, single plane and the loss of a single pilot is an acceptable loss in purely strategic and military terms. The only possible problems are internal public discourse, as well as diplomatic. Russia must regain control time and timing. Among Turkmen fighters in Syria are Turkish nationals as advisers and leaders: Deploying a Syrian, Iranian, or Russian special force to neutralize or arrest these individuals would be an example of a mirrored/parity based response.
5.) Activated Russian 5th and 6th column threats exist at top levels, but cannot create much political instability in Russia outside of mass media. Thus, their modes of attack in this stage are primarily rhetorical. Therefore, activities to neutralize these should be rhetorical.
a.) The Kremlin must continue its course of public statements. Rule number 1 – never directly address the 5th and 6th columnists, only make statements which are totally based in one’s own policy and proclivities, and never as a response to the critiques of others, which may seem to give the specter of legitimizing such criticisms. The opposition cannot be helped to exist as a viable source of policy formation, in any way.
b.) Neutralizing the 5th column, this is along the lines of acknowledging the risks and responsibilities that go along with military action – emphasizing the need for them, invoking a combination of the Sinai terrorist attack, the Paris terrorist attack, and Russia’s own experience with Wahhabi terrorism from Chechnya.
c.) Neutralizing the 6th column, reaffirm the need and plan for a robust and adequate counter-measure, while emphasizing the need to avoid being ensnared or losing sight of the mission; this will tacitly accuse the 6th column of promoting an irresponsible course without ever addressing them.
6.) Aggressively push Bulgaria back onto a South-Stream course. All options on the table including the complete utilization of the Color-Spring technology: ‘peaceful’ regime change in Bulgaria if necessary
a.) Russia can here capitalize on its successes to thwart NATO attempts at Color-Spring maneuvers in Macedonia and Montenegro. Publicly affirm that Serbia’s course towards the EU is a positive one. Welcome increased security integration of the Serbian military and deep-state into already developing Russian structures in Serbia.
b.) Alternately, Romania can be a surrogate for Bulgaria in South-Stream – at least as a stand-in to push Bulgarian energy and political elites into the course of a pro-Russian oriented power transition. Romania can be brought in with adequate resolution of Moldova and Transnistria issues, as well as other more mundane – but still outstanding – matters relating to grain and real estate.
7.) Publicize Bilal Erdogan’s role in supporting ISIS – engage in a media campaign which personalizes an otherwise state-based, abstracted accusation into a personality based, anthropomorphic version of the same. Publicly connect Turkey’s actions against the Russia to the criminal activities of Bilal Erdogan.
8.) Re-activate the pro-Eurasianist NGO’s which took part in the ‘Turkish Spring’ at Taksim Gezi park in Istanbul. Here is where Russia first showed its ability to utilize the Color-Spring tactic outside of defensive internal counter-operations. Capitalize from the Russian success in getting Dogu Perincek released from prison, along with other pro-Eurasian military leaders, former generals, and members of the Worker’s Party (now called Patriotic Party), following the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy and Sledgehammer cases. Raise the demands – “political reform, anti-corruption, infrastructure, healthcare, education, anti-war/militarism, pluralist and civil rights”. Pursue full support for the active socialist or social-nationalist opposition groups in Turkey today. These are not likely to succeed in taking power, will succeed in creating internal disruptions that make present Turkish regional aims more difficult to pursue.
Other theatres of Russia-Turkey Conflict – Recipe for Total War
Russia does not war. Ultimately, war only benefits the US ruling class, safely across the Atlantic, and supports the needs of both the Military Industrial Complex and City of London and Wall Street based banking elites. To that end, we should expect the following
1.) Increased Turkish support for Tatar extremist groups in Crimea, making a two-pronged attack on Crimea following the recent Kiev backed attack on the power station. These extremist groups exist based on Turkish support, actual Crimean laws in the wake of the constitutional process to re-join Russia have granted minority status rights to Tatars which were denied to them by previous Kiev governments, including rights to language, schools, and plural and civic institutions. Therefore, today’s Crimean Tatar extremist groups cannot exist outside of artificial foreign backing. Moderate Crimean minority leadership is institutional and supports the Crimean government and, by extension, Russia.
2.) Increased support of Turkey for Azerbaijan – supporting their aims in the conflict with Armenia over the contested border regions. Russia will increase its support for Armenia. This will act in connection with the Azeri natural gas project controlled presently by the Shah Denis consortium, now running the Shah Dennis 2 or Full Field Development (FFD) project. This will revive the Nabucco project in the wake of the total freezing of Turkish-Russian stream speculation. This will mitigate the economic/speculative impact on energy markets of this major cooling in Russian-Turkish bilateral relations.
3.) Turkey will collaborate further in supporting ISIS with Qatar and KSA in Khorasan/Kwarazem and Turkmen regions east of the Caspian, broadly speaking, Turkic lands – creating a total or final link between Caucus conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Syria-Iran conflict with Qatar/Israel/Turkey/KSA, and Afghan ‘Al Qaeda’ Mujahideen who will attempt push into Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
4.) Final short-term goal will be breach of security in pro-Russian Kazakhstan, and Russian Dagestan, and Chechnya. Uzbekistan pulled from the CSTO in 2012, but remains in the Chinese SCO: NATO destabilization attempts in the region hold the promise of pushing Uzbekistan closer to Russia (while remaining close to China).
Joaquin Flores is a Mexican-American expat based in Belgrade. He is a full-time analyst and director at the Center for Syncretic Studies, a public geostrategic think-tank and consultancy firm, as well Veritas, a London based private geostrategic consultancy firm, and as as the co-editor of Fort Russ news service. His expertise encompasses Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and he has a strong proficiency in Middle East affairs. Flores is particularly adept at analyzing ideology and the role of mass psychology, as well as the methods of the information war in the context of 4GW and New Media. He is a political scientist educated at California State University. In the US, he worked for a number of years as a labor union organizer, chief negotiator, and strategist for a major trade union federation. He presently serves as the president of the Berlin based Independent Journalist Association for Peace.