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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Putin makes an example of Turkey's back-stabbing: Why the US and West should pay close attention

Steven C. Wolf
Caravansaray Posts

First the facts: the toll is settled. Two Russians are dead, and a Su-24 fighter-bomber and Russian helicopter that arrived in relief are down. A marine from that effort died, as did the pilot of the jet. The second pilot of the jet was rescued, evidently in a joint effort by Russian, Hezbollah and Syrian forces . When they bailed, the pilots were shot at by the rebel militants. It is not clear whether the Russian pilot was killed in the air or once he hit the ground but either way, "our moderates" committed war crimes. In the gruesome video, someone is reported saying, "We should have burned him before he died." The Russians have followed the downing with massive aerial bombardments of the rebel positions, and the Syrian Arab Army has made further advances.

As for the war of words and images: As my first two posts on this indicate, there was confusion about the path of the Russian jet. The Turkish version emerged first, and this was picked up by al-Jazeera, the Qatari voice of the Western alliance. We may remember that when the Russian passenger jet exploded over Sinai, "ambivalent alliance" bosses Cameron and Obama were practically sure within hours 'whodunnit' and how. The Russians took their time and looked at the evidence — which they have not revealed, it should be remembered. Similarly, when the Russian radar video came out, it fairly convincingly belied that of Turkey. Others have commented that for Turkey's story to be correct the planes had to be flying at stall speed. Turkish reports that 10 warnings in 5 minutes preceded the takedown are refuted point blank by the surviving Russian pilot who said they were flying at 6000 feet, not 15,000, on paths well within Syria he had flown many times. He said they did not even have time to make evasive maneuvers when they were hit in the tail section. Parties from several sides are calling this a planned provocation.

The West has not acknowledged many Russian charges. The US is trying to play both sides, saying Turkey was within its rights, but "made a bad mistake" shooting down the Russian fighters. Western leaders — and Erdogan is Western in spades (especially in his cynical use of religious sentiment) — have isolated themselves and their countries within a propaganda fanfare fortress. Sometimes it is not clear whether they believe their own propaganda. As I mentioned at the time of the UNGA70 speeches by Putin and Obama, the authors of official and slightly-less-than official pronouncements generally do not care how their lies resound around the world, but generally address their own political constituencies, their domestic audience, and their allies.

Putin has ramped up the pressure considerably since the shoot-down, and in some unexpected ways. First, unsurprisingly, with his military in the field. He is now situating S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, the best in the world, such that any similar incident will be immediately followed by the takedown of the Turkish jet, even if it has returned to Turkey. Erdogan takes this as an act of war. It is now clear why he began his Syrian buildup quickly, but actually quite moderately, with a few dozen planes, and no ground forces or other hardware. Evidently he understood the trigger-happy idiots that run the Western alliance — including Erdogan's best friends in the US like Gen Allen former "ISIS czar" and Gen Breedlove, NATO commander — would make some blunder that made a further buildup a foregone conclusion and one that could evoke no complaint. What is more surprising is that Putin is not just blaming Turkey, but the US for the affair, and rightly so. I will come back to that.

Russia's provincial authorities played out the betrayal Russians feel. Thirty-nine Turkish businessmen were arrested, retained a while, and fined for minor visa irregularities. Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev has given the DUMA two days to assemble suggested economic reprisals. Certainly, the Turkstream oil project, Putin's major 'carrot' offering to Turkey last fall, is dead in the water. So is the nuclear power plant deal, and the accelerating upward trends in Turkish-Russian business activity over the last decade. Poof! Thanks, Erdogan, I'm sure many businessmen are saying, echoing German businessmen, who say, thanks, Merkel, for sanctions which cut us off from our most natural business partner and neighbor.

Putin charged Turkey the first day with being an accessory to terrorism and of backing ISIS with the shootdown. Erdogan, who refuses to apologize for the incident ("why apologize if I'm right?"), was "outraged" and deemed this "slander". As he has said before many times, "Everybody knows our commitment in the war against ISIS". (How right he is). But courageous Turkish newspapers continue to dare the ban on publishing untoward information about the Glorious Leader and One-Party "Democracy". Turkish journalists put to shame the US press, which has pathetically cowered before power for decades. The NYTimes wags its tongue as the military-industrial-banking complex wags the dog of government.As mentioned in my last posts, the Turkish press did manage to convey the gist of Putin's complaints.

If Erdogan feels slandered by the charges, then, as Putin said in his press conference with Hollande, it is "theoretically" possible he did not know about the lines of ISIS oil tankers that continually stretch from the horizon to the Turkish border, "a living pipeline". In the same press conference, the leader of another NATO ambivalent alliance member, Francois Hollande announced that he and Putin had agreed to strike only terrorists, and not to strike those who are fighting terrorists. Good, I'm glad they got that far. Practically, it does mean Hollande has promised not to hit Assad's troops, though moments earlier, his eyes glazed over and he pronounced the Western mantra: "Assad must go."He then went on "I authorized strikes against ISIS in September, because I knew the terrorists that hit us in Paris were organizing in Raqqa."(He knew in September?)

As for more duplicitous NATO members, Putin said in the same press conference, "once we had quickly developing economic relations with Turkey, we considered them partners, almost allies". He then walked the audience through Erdogan's lies about the downed Russian jet and the plain fact that ISIS lives on Turkish support and US collusion. "Well, that is their choice" he said as he left the podium.

The Russian press too has steadily released information and reporting on the Turkish ISIS connections. The 'rebels' who were bombed in this region are only a part Turkman, many of these are directly backed by Turkey, and they are led by Turkish officials. They certainly are not "moderate" as the video of their treatment of the dead Russian makes plain, and as usual, the usual murderous takfiri extremists Jubhat al-Nusra, are strong in this area. Or were. They have been bombed into oblivion in the last two days.

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