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Russian Jet Down: Erdogan's Reckless Gamble

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By:Chronicles | November 24, 2015

In his latest RT interview Dr. Trifkovic considers the ramifications of Turkey shooting down a Russian war plane over northern Syria on November 24. ?

RT: For more reaction let’s go to Srdja Trifkovic, foreign affairs editor at Chronicles Magazine. Turkey says it’s taking a tougher stand against Islamic State, and yet it downs a jet of a country waging a war on terrorism in the region. What are your thoughts?

ST: It is perfectly consistent with Turkey’s behaviour since it ostensibly joined the anti-ISIS campaign last July. Over 80 percent of the tonnage of their bombs were dropped on the Kurds fighting ISIS in northern Syria and northwestern Iraq. Turkey has been consistent in pursuing its own agenda, which is to pretend to be fighting ISIS while settling scores with one of the two parties which are actually capable of fighting ISIS on the ground—the other being the Syrian army. This is a reckless move by [Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan to throw spanners into the works of Russia’s increasingly high profile as the only serious player from the outside who is trying to do something, and which is reflected in the consultations between France and Russia. Erdogan has been increasingly prepared to take serious gambles in recent years. He is now trying to up the ante and to force the rest of NATO into a gesture of solidarity with Turkey.

Of course if you have the F-16s ready in the air even before the Russian jet allegedly violated the air space, it was evidently a setup. It was a deliberate trap which Erdogan ordered down the chain of command because he wants to test Russia’s response, and also because he wants to use—more accurately, to abuse—Turkey’s membership of NATO to force the rest of the alliance to adopt an overtly anti-Russian posture, while at the same time sabotaging the war against ISIS, with which he secretly sympathizes. So there’s a number of motives for him to act this way. In my opinion, when you put it all together, it is quite clear why he did it.

RT: In your opinion, how is the downing of this Russian plane going to affect the atmosphere in the anti-ISIL coalition?

ST: First of all, it will poison the relations between Turkey and Russia. Foreign Minister Lavrov is supposed to go to Ankara tomorrow, and I don’t know at this moment whether that visit will be postponed or called off. This is a provocation of such magnitude that it would call for the postponement at least, if not outright cancellation. [NB: Russia’s FM Lavrov did in fact cancel his visit to Turkey two hours after this interview was broadcast]

The atmposphere within the so-called anti-ISIS coalition has never been particularly harmonious, because too many parties have their special interests. First of all you have close American allies Saudi Arabia, the [United Arab] Emirates and Qatar, who have been financing, bankrolling ISIS. They will not move a little finger to harm ISIS, because they see it as a geopolitically important wedge inside the Shiite crescent that goes from Iran and Iraq in the east, across the Allawite-ruled Syria to Hezbollah in northern Lebanon. So they have their own secret little agenda, which is to hit the [Shiite] Houthis in Yemen and not to be serious about any anti-ISIS fight. In the long term Russia is the only serious outside player who is determined to hit them hard. In addition to the Syrian Arab Army, it is really just Hezbollah and the Kurds who are capable of providing some boots on the ground.

RT: Is this really the “nightmare scenario” that everybody has been warning about from the beginning? Was this an accident . . . or was it specifically planned, an act of war in fact by a NATO country attacking a Russian plane and shooting it out of the sky?

ST: I already outlined my views a few minutes ago: I think it is a premeditated, reckless act by Erdogan—not necessarily in consultation with other NATO countries, because there could have been some voices of caution trying to calm him down. It is obvious that the F-16s were already in the air and ready to fire their missiles, regardless of whether the Sukhoi 24 violated the Turkish air space or not. I think that his agenda is clear. One: to poison the relations between Russia and the West, Turkey’s NATO allies, and in particular with France; two: to assert Turkey’s role as the protector of the Turkmen rebels in the north [of Syria], because apparently the Russian plane was in action against the Turkmen rebels against the government of Bashar al-Assad; and three: to provoke Russia’s over-reaction, which would then make the whole set of circumstances surrounding the downing of the plane secondary to the need for NATO to respond forcefully. I think that Erdogan has a multiple game to play, with Byzantine duplicity and mendacity for which he is famous both domestically and abroad.

[VIDEO link]

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