The downing of Russia’s Su-24 bomber by the Turkish Air Force is “one of the nightmare scenarios that military planners had envisaged as a result of Moscow’s decision to enter the conflict,” reports The Financial Times.
In turn, The Washington Post believes that “NATO faced being thrust into a new Middle Eastern crisis… The incident marked a serious escalation in the Syrian conflict that is likely to further strain relations between Russia and the NATO alliance.”
The Guardian argues that we’ve witnessed “a nerve-jangling event, that raised the spectre of a direct confrontation between two large powers: one a Nato member, the other nuclear-armed”.
While it’s clear that neither Russia nor NATO wants to go to war against each other, each side is trying to deal with the situation and identify the reasons that provoked the recent crisis and, what’s even more important, to establish who’s at fault.
In this context one cannot help but remember a short report that was published by the Daily Star, citing unnamed sources in the UK government. According to this report all NATO pilots were given clearance to attack “unfriendly” Russian planes if perceived to “threaten the lives” of NATO’s military personnel. For this reason all RAF aircraft were equipped with short-range “air-to-air” missiles, which are to be fired at Russian fighters.
However, to resolve the difficult crisis that followed the destruction of the Russian Su-24 quickly, the West is now searching for those “guilty” of this blatant attack, which is, without a doubt, the Turkish leader – Tayyip Erdogan. It seems that NATO states are not afraid to criticize Turkey for its actions against Russia. Vice-Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and the chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) Sigmar Gabriel expressed harsh criticism of Turkey after the downing of Russia’s Su-24 bombers by labeling it an “unpredictable player”, reports the German Die Welt.
The members of NATO fear that the “impulsive actions” of Turkey’s President will force them into a new major conflict, and NATO is not prepared to fight it yet. These “impulsive actions” may trigger the response that is required by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. No wonder Hollande, while declaring war against ISIL, made no reference of Article 5, by quoting the EU Lisbon Treaty instead.
France is convinced that once the “Muslim Brotherhood” came to power in Turkey, headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has become a major headache for Western politicians, says Le Figaro. According to its journalists, Turkey used to be an ally of the West, however, it is nothing of the kind anymore. Relations with Turkey took a U-turn once Erdogan started systematically “undermining” Turkey’s strategic relations with Israel which were stable since 1949. Anti-Turkish sentiments in the West were aggravated even further by the games Erdogan had been playing during the “Arab Spring”, when he first became a close friend of Bashar al-Assad, and then stabbed him in the back by allowing jihadists from around the world to swarm into Syria by crossing through Turkey’s territory. When the sworn enemies of Erdogan – local Kurds were dying in a heroic defense of the city of Kobani, Turkey did nothing to relieve their suffering, waiting for Western countries to save the population of the city instead.
In this context it’s curious what the former NATO commander of Europe, Ret. General Wesley Clark, has been saying about Turkey : “Let’s be very clear: ISIL is not just a terrorist organization, it is a Sunni terrorist organization. It means it blocks and targets Shia, and that means it’s serving the interests of Turkey and Saudi Arabia even as it poses a threat to them All along there’s always been the idea that Turkey was supporting ISIS in some way… Someone’s buying that oil that ISIL is selling, it’s going through somewhere. It looks to me like it’s probably going through Turkey, but the Turks have never acknowledged it.” Here’s the reason why Russia was stabbed in the back by a NATO member country.
Once Russia began military operations against ISIL in Syria, Ankara’s relations with Washington started deteriorating rapidly. The situation we have on our hands now is further complicated by the fact that it was “defenseless” Turkomans who were shooting Russian pilots as they descended with parachutes, along with bringing down a Russian helicopter that was sent to rescue the pilots. All the recent NATO meetings have been stained by concerns that the Turkish agenda in Syria has little to do with the position of the West. Now that Erdogan’s arrogance has become apparent to everyone, even though he allowed the US Air Force to use a base in Turkey’s territory, he has also been launching attacks against Syrian Kurds that remain the most faithful allies of Washington in the fight against ISIL.
It is, therefore, hardly surprising that a retired US Major General Paul Vallely accused the Turkish government of an attempt to create a new Ottoman Empire. According to him, due to all well-known facts of Ankara’s assistance to the Islamic State, Turkey should be expelled from NATO.
The Washington Times is also questioning Turkey as a member state of NATO, while underlying that the attack on the Russian Su-24 makes this debate particularly relevant and timely. The newspaper notes that Ankara has been providing ISIL units with close air support when the latter was fighting Kurds in Syria and Iraq. Its journalists are convinced that Turkey has been turned into a theocratic Islamist dictatorship, where the freedom of the press is gradually been destroyed.
The conservative American Thinker goes even further by claiming it’s about time to replace Turkey with Russia in NATO, since the West has more in common with Russia than with the Islamist Turkey. To support this position, the magazine notes that when Turkey joined NATO back in February 1952, the advocates of this step argued that they need an Islamic state to prevent Soviet expansion in the region from happening. But it’s clear that this was a deal with the devil. After all, it was the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 that broke the alliance apart, forcing Greece to withdraw its troop from under NATO command. In 2012, Syria shot down a Turkish fighter since it was deliberately violating its airspace. Later that same year, Turkey bombarded government facilities in Syria.
For decades, Turkey has used NATO membership, in order to achieve its own objectives, which, as a rule, do not coincide with the interests of the alliance. In the early 2000s, Turkey chose to demonstrate its support of Islamism, which has always been a more serious threat to the West than the Soviet Union. Therefore, it seems that the American Thinker has expressed the opinion of a larger part of the western public, by urging NATO to get in an alliance with Russia against Islamism, including the “Islamic state of Turkey.”
Martin Berger is a Czech-based freelance journalist and analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook