For a few tense moments on November 23rd, the beginning of WWIII looked like a very real possibility. A US-made F-16 fighter of the Turkish Air Force fired a missile that downed a Russian SU-24 fighter bomber over what the government in Ankara claimed was a clear Turkish air space violation. The Russian aircraft apparently ignored several warnings to leave the area before it was shot out of the sky. To make matters worse, one of the pilots was killed by the Syrian Free Army and so was a Russian soldier who attempted a rescue of the other pilot; these are the same rebels that the USA is trying to convince Russia not to attack; good luck now.
At first, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of dire consequences for Turkey as they stood unapologetic for their actions. Putin claimed the aircraft had accidentally strayed into Turkish air space for only a few seconds and was actually shot down over Syria. Things got very intense in a hurry in the region as no one quite knew how the Russians were going to handle the situation. If Putin was not going to back down to America, as he has been defiant over the last few months, he was surely not going to back down to the Turks. The only thing Russia had to really consider was the Turks membership in NATO and the Russian’s dependency on Turkish oil and gas revenue for its already-reeling economy.
To ramp things up even higher, Turkey sought and was granted an emergency meeting with NATO that resulted in the members of the defense pact saying they fully stood by their fellow NATO members right to defend their sovereign airspace and would stand by their ally if attacked. The table had then truly been set for escalation of the crisis.
Would the US and other NATO members have been willing to take on Russia if they attacked Turkey? It’s hard to say, because Turkey itself has been a fickle NATO member at best and typically marches to the beat of their own drum. They have angered the US by attacking the Kurds (staunch US allies in the fight against ISIS) in repeated attacks in the north of Iraq and also by their reluctance at first to let US fighter planes launch attacks from the bases on their soil. Although the Turks finally gave in, it was more for selfish reasons and wanting the demise of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad than the result of being a good NATO team player.
Putin’s only move militarily was the deployment of Russia’s powerful S-400 surface to air missile system. It no doubt was part of the Turkish decision to no longer fly attack missions over Syrian territory as the equipment’s operators sat with their hands on the trigger looking for revenge for what Putin described as a “stab in the back” to Russia. Russia also announced sanctions against Turkey in the form of oil and gas cutbacks and the restriction of Russian tourists from going on once-popular holidays in Turkey.
So far Russia has chosen a calm and measured response, but one S-400 missile hitting a coalition aircraft could ignite the smoldering brushfire in the region into something much worse.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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