Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Turkey’s Warning Shot

At the Wall Street Journal, "Putin may be testing NATO’s resolve, and the Turks need U.S. support":
A pair of Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian Su-24 over Turkish airspace on Tuesday, and Russian President Vladimir Putin called it a “stab in the back” that would have “serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations.” This is what we mean when we say the last months of the Obama Administration will be the most dangerous since the end of the Cold War.

Turkish military officials said the Russian pilots ignored 10 warnings over five minutes to return to Syrian airspace before their plane was shot down. That rings true given Ankara’s warnings against previous intrusions. Russian planes twice violated Turkish airspace in early October, incidents NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said did “not look like an accident.” Around the same time a Russian MiG-29 locked its radar on a pair of Turkish jets patrolling the Syrian border for more than four minutes. Next a Russian-made drone entered Turkish airspace and was shot down. Moscow denies it was one of theirs.

More recently, the Turks summoned Russia’s ambassador to Ankara after an attack on ethnic Turkmen in Syria. “It was stressed that the Russian side’s actions were not a fight against terror, but they bombed civilian Turkmen villages and this could lead to serious consequences,” according to Turkey’s foreign ministry. This fits the Russian pattern of bombing enemies of the Assad regime except Islamic State—a useful reminder that Mr. Putin is not a fit partner in the coalition to fight ISIS.

The larger question is why Mr. Putin would risk provoking Turkey, with its powerful military and NATO ties. Part of the answer may lie with Moscow’s alliance with Iran and its Shiite Muslim proxies in Damascus and Beirut, who see themselves as competing with the Sunni Turks for regional dominance.

Mr. Putin may also be testing NATO cohesion. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an impulsive leader who has alienated his allies with his autocratic instincts and Islamist sympathies. If Russia continues to prick Turkey and NATO fails to support Ankara, it will expose the hollowness of NATO’s Article 5 collective-defense obligations.

The Obama Administration failed to invoke Article 5 on France’s behalf after the Paris massacre. And on Tuesday President Obama said that while Turkey had the right to defend its airspace, his priority is to “discourage any escalation.” But what if Mr. Putin retaliates against Turkey? Mr. Obama should have said that the U.S. will stand with its NATO partner...
Good luck with that.

More at that top link.