Ending the Syrian Civil war has just took a step backward as Turkey, a member of the imperialist NATO military alliance, shot down a Russian warplane on a bombing mission to eradicate ISIS inside Syrian territory.
In the immediate hours after this major military incident, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan furiously defended his position, stating that “I think if there is a party that needs to apologize, it is not us…those who violated our airspace are the ones who need to apologize.”
Russia’s response was calm but with hints of Washington’s involvement in the matter, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stating his country has no intention of going to war with Turkey, while Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted that “the American side, which leads a coalition that Turkey belongs to, knew about the location and time of our plane’s flights”, effectively accusing the US of passing the mission’s details to Ankara.
Moscow also accused Turkey of a ‘planned provocation’ and supporting ISIS (there is considerable evidence showing such) in the fight against Syrian military forces to overthrow President Bashar Al Assad. Putin alleged once again that “we see from the sky where these (stolen oil) vehicles are going. They are going to Turkey (from terrorist controlled territory in Syria) day and night.”
Now that the damage has been done, Russia announced it will strengthen its position in northern Syria, along the Turkish border, by installing highly-advanced anti-aircraft weaponry as well as a series of economic sanction against Turkey.
The sanctions include a ban on goods, cancellation of labor contracts, halting of investment projects, and Russia’s advice to its citizens to avoid holidaying in Turkey because of security concerns. Russia is Turkey’s second biggest trading partner, and a major supplier of energy to the country.
Syria Recap: Who supports who?
Turkey has an interest in carrying out the United States’ declaration of ‘Assad must go’ policy towards Syria, while Russia is interested in maintaining the Syrian regime to be in charge of the country.
As such, with Moscow’s military intervention in Syria since the end of September, Ankara saw this as threat to its grand ambitions in Syria. Turkey tacitly supports ISIS and other ‘moderate’ rebel groups to oust Assad. While Washington openly declares war with ISIS, it is not doing so in such a way that will endanger rebel forces fighting the Syrian government. Indeed, the decision to down a Russian bomber in Syria reflects Turkey’s frustration in the current situation in Syria.
As Moscow steadily weakened Islamic State positions in Syria, policy makers in Washington and its allies became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that a supposedly external power, Russia, is setting the agenda in the Middle East.
For Turkey, which is suspected of doing the bidding for NATO to compromise Russian air campaigns against rebel groups and in fact called NATO first instead of Moscow after downing the Russian Su-24 bomber, its interest lay in derailing the huge steps Russia has made to marginalize and defeat ISIS.
As for the United States, it is not pleased to work with other regional actors, like Russia and Iran, for doing so will show that its influence is starting to erode; that its being the region’s de facto hegemon is steadily being assigned to Moscow and Tehran.