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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Always the last to know: Did Turkish government find out about shoot-down of Russian jet after the fact?

Joe Quinn

While it's pretty clear that the Erdogan government is lying about the shoot-down of the Russian jet, and that it was indeed a deliberately planned provocation as Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says, that doesn't necessarily mean that the Erdogan government planned it.

It was the Turkish government's actions in the immediate aftermath of the shoot-down that makes me now think that these guys were caught with their pants down.

Let's take them in order.

1) Running to consult with NATO and firing off a letter to the UN: this seems like a fear-based response by Erdogan's ministers. If they either planned the attack in advance or calmly made the decision after giving 'fair warning' to the Russian jets, surely they would also have considered the fall-out and planned for it, thereby affording a certain composure?

2) No pessimistic bi-lateral energy outlook: Within one day of the shoot-down, which the Russian government condemned in rather serious terms, the Turkish Energy Minister was already entreating Russia to not get so worked up and claiming there would be no problem with Russian-Turkish energy relations: "In the heat of the moment, without all the information, it would be wrong to make unguarded statements", Albayrak said at his swearing-in ceremony in Ankara. "We have close friendly cultural and economic relations with Russia not only in energy, but also across other economic sectors. I am not pessimistic about our energy relations." The minister also assured the Turkish people that they should not fear the coming winter due to concerns that Russia could halt economic cooperation. That's an impressive level of confidence given that the Turks has just shot down and, indirectly, murdered a Russian pilot in cold blood.

3) I personally did it!: If there's one thing I've learned about politicians, it's that they are loath to take personal responsibility for anything, unless it serves their own interests. In the case of an international incident involving the shooting down by Turkish forces of a Russian jet involved in wiping out the jihadi forces that the entire world has come to hate, and which therefore implies significant potential negative attention for the Turkish government, both at home and abroad, you would expect the blame to be placed on as many shoulders as possible, ideally avoiding anyone in the public eye. But in this case the exact opposite occurred:

During a meeting with his AK Party underlings, Turkish PM Davutoglu said "despite all the warnings, we had to destroy the aircraft, the Turkish Armed Forces carried out orders given by me personally."

Why would Davutoglu want everyone to know that he personally gave the order, a claim that in itself is not even credible given that the jet was supposedly in Turkish airspace for a mere 17 seconds, making it very unlikely that Turkish military command would have had time to call, consult and receive a definitive order from the PM's office?  

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