Erdogan stands anxious as Russian counter-response could come any time

Alwaght- Tensions between Turkey and Russia, has faced The West Asia conditions and Turkey’s security future with many questions. Downing of the Russian SU-24 jet by the Turkish F16s over Syria is a code, heralding the security situation of the region is getting tense. There are some points concerning current developments:

1. The consequences of Turkish audacious action of shooting down a Russian warplane in the Syrian airspace was sensitive enough to be apprehended by Tukey’s army. And exactly because of this reason, it is impossible to buy the idea that Erdogan’s Army has acted arbitrarily without coordinating with any “influential power.”

Although Turkey is a NATO member, with a looking back at the NATO’s background, specifically its performance in Ukraine’s crisis, it would be clear that NATO is not the intended influential power for Turkey. NATO’s chary stance in dealing with the tension and inviting the two sides’ leaders to show restraint have signaled that it was not possible for President Erdogan to target the Russian jet just relying on NATO’s support.

United positions of America and standing firmly by Turkey have made it clear that the US has been aware of the targeting and Washington was coordinated with. But the fact is that after failure of US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US strategy is no longer based on direct involvement, thereby, it can be said that the Americans would not genuinely and operationally have Erdogan’s back, and actually he would be left on his own.

2. Some analysts suggest that the SU-24 incident has nothing to do with Erdogan and it has been carried out by the Turkish army. But there are obvious evidences invalidating this speculation. It is right that there are differences between Erdogan’s government and the Turkish army, but in this division the radical side is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while the moderate side is the army. The army finds Erdogan’s policies in relation to the Syrian crisis wrong, therefore, considering this, how could it be possible for the Turkish army  to act against Damascus and its ally Moscow, despite the Turkish president’s opposition? Trying to raise hustling and bustling, some sides are attempting to secure a safe side for Erdogan, while he, by insisting on his policies, is closing all the windows for the ways out of the crisis.

3. The evidences indicate that Turkey is really scared of the consequences of its military action against Russia. Successive position change from Turkey reveals the depth of this concern. While Erdogan immediately after downing the Russian jet described shooting down the SU-24 as a right job and it was done in line with Turkey’s rights and for the country’s security, Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish Prime Minister, claimed one day later that his country’s air defenses had failed to recognize the downed warplane’s nationality. Then, Erdogan said that he made an effort to talk to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, “Putin has not returned my call”, Erdogan claimed. Just two days later, President Erdogan said that he was “deeply saddened” by the downing of the Russian jet. Davutoglu followed that his country would not respond similarly as the Russian retaliatory measures. The fact that Turkey quickly expressed apology over the incident shows that Ankara was highly concerned about the consqences.

4. Just unlike Turkey’s hasty and fickle behavior following the incident, the Russian government took a series of anti-Turkish measures, showing that the Russian leaders were in control and had administrative capabilities. “We received a stab in the back from the accomplices of terrorism”, said Putin in his initial reaction to downing of the jet. Putin’s reference was to the agreement about air operations over Syria signed between the Russian and Turkish governments on September 7, 2015, dubbed Open Skies Treaty. Under the treaty the Russian fighters flew in the Syrian skies. So, Tukey’s justification that Russian jet violated the Turkish airspace for some seconds or minutes was invalid. President Putin, on the other hand, directed his remarks to the issue of the US’ betrayal, because Moscow had already informed Washington of its flight paths and the types of its fighter jets operating in Syria. This issue determines both the US-Turkey’s coordination concerning downing of the Russian SU-24,and also Putin’s audiences.

In another move, Russia extended its fighters’ flights northward, specifically northwestern Syria to prove that it was not paying attention to Turkey’s sensitivities. Earlier, Ankara had expressed concerns about Russia making flights over Syria’s northwestern regions, calling it a factor speeding up the flow of the Idlib province’s refugees who moved towards Turkish southern territories. Therefore, the Russians were taking into account, to large extent, Turkey’s concerns. But following the Turkish action, Moscow has set aside this security consideration. So, in the Turkish security circles, the criticism has risen against Erdogan’s measure.

Still another move made by Russia was announcing a set of crippling economic sanctions against Erdogan’s government. Moscow has said that it would cut off gas supplies to Turkey. The Russian measures come while Turkey is dependent by %60 to Russia’s gas, and on the other hand, Ankara has the winter season ahead which could put heavy pressure on the government. Additionally, Kremlin has suspended a considerable portion of activity of about 2000 Turkish companies active in Russia. Some of these firms are active in tourism, being responsible for arranging for about three to four million Russian tourists visiting Turkey every year.

Putin’s government has announced that it would wait for Duma’s act to punish Turkey militarily. The Russian Duma’s chief has asserted that they wanted Russia’s counteraction. Dragging the Russian parliament (Duma) into the dispute on the one hand upgrades the Russia’s possible military response level to a Russian national reaction scale and on the other hand exposes the assailant Turkish government to excessive anxiety.

5. Russia would certainly respond to Turkey militarily, because the economic sanctions, which in their place act like a double-edged sword, could not compensate the Turkish security, as the Russian army’s conduct at the first day of the incident signaled that a Russian reaction was to ensue. The Russian leaders have said that they were waiting for Turkey’s apology. At the same time, although the Turkish senior officials have expressed acceding remarks, they did not apologize to Moscow officially. Turkey’s apology would mean accepting the responsibility of mistake made in shooting down the Russian jet. Such an acceptance would bring forth special consequences to Ankara, entitling Russia to prompt counter-response and ask for compensation from Turkey’s government. Taking such a responsibility could undermine Erdogan’s position, putting all the Turkish costs of conflict with Russia on Erdogan’s shoulder.

6. After the incident, the possibility of establishing a no-fly zone over northern Syria has been compounded further. Likely this is the heaviest price paid by Turkey in the Russian warplane’s incident because over the course of past three years, Turkey has persistently insisted on the need for establishing a no-fly zone over Syria’s north and it for times disagreed with the US over the case. Watching the circumstances on the ground in northern regions and presence of different groups which are all armed, Washington estimated the no-fly zone proposal as impossible. In the wake of Paris terrorist attacks, the Americans, all of a sudden, have talked about necessity of a no-fly zone over Syria. The Turkish-American shared purpose of such a plan was to pave the way for ground movement of the militants close to Turkey and the US armies, and on the other hand, to provide a more secure position for the opposition forces loyal to them inside Syria. Downing the Russian bomber has transformed the conditions of northern Syria, throwing a wrench in the no-fly zone plan, making it more difficult to establish. The fact is that while the American officials have talked about possibility of establishing the separating zone, but the hurdles which already existed and caused US-Turkey’s differences over establishing the safe zone are still sanding.

By Alwaght