There’s little doubt now among NATO circles and among the leading countries of the alliance – the US, Britain, France, Germany — that the downing of Russia’s Su-24 bomber was indeed an act of aggression. In fact, the Turkish Air Force has been trying to ambush Russian bombers near border areas for days. Everything was planned, including the presence of professional cameramen from a Turkish TV channel.
Once Washington acknowledged that the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian bomber over Syria, Ankara has been desperately trying to push the blame on Obama in order to hide behind Washington’s protection. On November 26 a number of Turkish TV-stations presented reports that the downing was allegedly approved by Barack Obama at the G-20 summit in Antalya. But it’s way too late, Erdogan is caught at the scene of the murder with blood on his hands. His political career is almost finished – the murderers of a Russian pilot and marine have no place in politics. There’s already a contender for his post – Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who considerably strengthened his positions in recent elections.
Experts from around the the world have been guessing what Russia’s response will be, for now one can already name a number of steps that Moscow has taken:
Complete ban of any tourist trips to Turkey. It will take no more than two weeks. There will be no budget trips, no charters, no nothing. This will result in approximately 3.5 billion dollars lost by Turkey in just one year.
- Preparations for “retaliation” strikes. To fulfill this goal Russia has deployed the high-end anti-air systems S-400 Triumf near Latakia. This has de facto created a no-fly zone over Syria for the Turkish Air Force.
- Russia is reducing the number of Turkish goods being sold at Russian markets. This will affect both food and industrial consumer goods. Turkey will be losing up to 2 billion dollars annually due to this step.
- Russia has closed all projects that were connected with Turkey, including the construction of nuclear power plants. At the same time it will ban the activities of a number of Turkish companies in Russia.
- Russia is beginning to work in close political and military cooperation with Kurdish political forces – the main threat to the central government in Ankara. This will strike a severe blow to Turkey’s political stability. Especially in a situation when Erdogan’s position in Turkey was not nearly as strong as it looks. He faces a number of serious confrontation within the ruling party, not to mention in military circles.
But the most severe blow by far to Erdogan personally is extensive media coverage of his relations with ISIL and the role his family plays in the smuggling business. It has been proven that his son Bilal works for Erdogan’s classmate and childhood friend who delivers stolen oil to Ukraine, Japan and a number of Asian countries. Revenue from these activities amounts to the staggering 5 billion dollars a year, with 2 billion going back to ISIL command structures for them to pay “salaries” to militants and purchase arms.
Moreover, the Erdogan family is involved in the production and trafficking of synthetic drugs. If there’s journalists openly stating that on TV channels, one can be sure that law enforcement agencies have already accumulated all the evidences needed to prosecute all of Erdogan’s family members.
Therefore, as soon as the Turkish society starts associating Erdogan’s family with ISIL, it will associate it with the terrorist attacks carried out by ISIL in Turkey, the attacks that helped the ruling AKP party win the last parliamentary elections.
So Moscow is in no hurry regarding this situation, and there’s no way it can accept Ankara’s apologies now, even if Erdogan were to beg Vladimir Putin for mercy on his knees. As for the wave of terrorist attacks that started in Turkey after the downing of the Su-24, it can mean only one thing – Turkish authorities do not control the situation in the country and cannot protect the lives of Turkey’s citizens or foreign tourists. All this can result in the rapid disintegration of the country with Kurdish areas breaking away, which means that the whole Southeastern Anatolia region will become independent. As for the Hatay province, that is largely populated by Arabs, it can join Syria in the foreseeable future. It seems about time to return Armenian regions in the northwest of Turkey to Armenia as well.
And it won’t be of any use to wait for NATO’s cavalry, it just won’t come. After all, when Turkey joined NATO in February 1952, the West didn’t need this Islamic country, it was but a measure to counter the growing influence of the Soviet Union in the Middle East. But this was a deal with the devil.
This decision was short-sighted and unforgivable. Ultimately, this step created more problems for the West than it solved. Over the years, Turkey has become a spoiled and capricious child for NATO to look after. Its invasion of Cyprus in 1974 caused a split in the alliance, and until 1980, Greece withdrew from the NATO command structure. In 2012, Syria shot down a Turkish plane that demonstratively violated its airspace. And today the Islamists of Turkey use its membership in NATO to achieve its own political objectives, which have nothing to do with NATO’s interests.
Extremism has already bit Europe, striking at its heart – Paris. This resulted in French President Francois Hollande demanding Washington to put aside its differences and disputes with Russia in order to fight the terrorist armies in a united broad coalition. As it was underlined by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Turkey has de facto made an alliance with ISIL by supporting its oil smuggling activities. No wonder there’s a growing number of calls being voiced in the West to exclude Turkey from NATO and establish closer cooperation with Russia, with which the West has much more in common with than Turkey.
In this regard, it’s curious that a well-known French political scientist Boualem Sansal believes that there’s enemies that are way more dangerous than ISIL, since Turkey, the last Caliphate, is in the process of ‘restoring’ the Ottoman Empire. The political scientist is convinced that there’s going to be a bitter rivalry between Ankara and Tehran in the foreseeable future. The ambiguous position of Ankara on the migration crisis and its connections with ISIL, should lead the European elites to a conclusion that a tougher position towards Turkey must be adopted. It’s clear that EU voters will support candidates with specific positions on Islamists and Turkey.
There’s been a number of dramatic changes to be witnessed in the Middle East in recent months. After urging all parties involved in the Syrian conflict to listen to the voice of reason for three and a half years, the Russian government has decided to directly intervene in Syria, which led to a dramatic change in the balance of forces in the fight against terrorism. The situation was, however, extremely explosive, since the Syrian sky was packed with warplanes from four major world powers – the US, Russia, Britain and France, operating without any coordination between themselves.
One shouldn’t forget that Iran is also actively involved in Syria and it will be supporting the legitimate government of Bashar al-Assad till victory or bitter end. On the other hand Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are convinced that Assad should leave no matter what. Allegedly, Israel is not directly involved in the war in Syria, but one shouldn’t forget that the Hezbollah squads have been deployed there, and to this date they remain the most dangerous enemy Israel has been fighting over the last ten years with and will most likely still be forced to fight. But at the same time the sitting Turkish regime is the most hostile regime towards Israel throughout their history of bilateral relations.
All the parties involved in the Syrian conflict have different interests. As Vladimir Putin noted in his speech, there’s a major flow of stolen oil and oil products going into Turkey’s territory, which provides the Islamic State with huge financial resources needed to sustain its fighting capacity. This presents us all with a serious concern – a NATO member has been actively supporting radical Islamic terrorist groups, whether it’s ISIL in Syria and Iraq, or Hamas in the Gaza Strip. To this date for a number of reasons Western countries refrained from demanding that Turkish authorities put an end to their connections with Islamist militants. As for Israeli leaders, all of them, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have repeatedly expressed outrage over the destructive role that the Turkish authorities have been playing in the region. For a long time Turkey has been and remains one of the few countries that provides extensive support to the Palestinian radical Islamists and their efforts to target Israeli civilians.
After the tragedy with Russia’s Su-24 there needs to be a rethink in relations with Turkey that has become apparent to Moscow, which can and should demand NATO to hold those behind this reckless attack responsible for their actions.. A situation when a country can be considered a part of the civilized international community and still be engaged in business activities with the Islamic State could not last forever. If the ruling Turkish elites perceived ISIL as its allies, then the civilized world cannot possibly be an ally of Turkey. The Western double standards are well known across the globe, yet even they cannot hide the fact a NATO member is one of the key supporters of international terrorism. Turkey’s unique location has allowed its leadership to get away with far too much, far too often, but this time enough is enough.
Peter Lvov, Ph.D in political science, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.