The American Interest

Erdogan’s Ambush

Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian Su-24 bomber over northwestern Syria on November 24 may be a game changer in that strategically positioned Middle Eastern country.  Various parties have been forced to declare their true agendas.  Strategic clarity is finally emerging, which is the precondition for an eventual solution—even though no solution is yet in sight.

According to claims made by Russian President Vladimir Putin—claims belatedly and cryptically denied by the Obama administration—Russia provided advance information about her planes’ flight paths to the United States, and the Americans passed it to the Turks, who then used that information to set up an ambush and shoot down one of the two Russian planes operating near the Turkish border.  Turkey’s claim that the jet violated the border along 1.36 miles for 17 seconds would mean that it was flying at under 300 miles per hour—a physical impossibility for the Su-24.  Even if the attacking Turkish F-16 had just happened to be in the area, 17 seconds would not have provided it with the time needed to issue repeated warnings, take aim, and lock on the missile.

Turkey’s president Recep Tay yip Erdogan, an increasingly unstable Islamist autocrat, had several likely motives for this move.  First, he may have wanted to undermine France’s and other Western countries’ readiness, in the aftermath...

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