While Turkey Blusters, Russia quietly backs down
By Victoria Kelly-Clark
In the 17 seconds the Turkish Airforce utilised to take down a Russian bomber, a 63 year peace between Russia and NATO was destroyed. As the tentative alliance between Russia and the NATO powers splinters, many have been surprised by the restraint Russia has shown in simply placing economic sanctions on Turkey rather than taking military action.
Declaring that Turkey’s attack was a ‘stab in the back’ Russia announced that as of January the 1st 2016 Russia would end charter flights between the two countries; place a ban on hiring any new Turkish nationals and place import restrictions on certain Turkish goods.
It Could Have Been Worse
Certainly it could have been worse; Russia in previous years would have resorted to military action as they did in Georgia. However, extenuating circumstances appear to have caused Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to exercise restraint.
At present Russia is overextended, engaging in two theatres of war. Concurrent with the ISIS campaign, Russia is continuing its activities in the Ukraine where this week it suffered a setback thanks to Ukrainian nationalists.
On Tuesday while Turkey was downing the Russian plane, Ukrainian nationalists blew up several Ukrainian power transmission towers which were providing the bulk of electricity for the breakaway Crimean republic. Although now an independent province, the region still receives all its electricity from the Ukrainian power grid. This resulting state of emergency has caught the Russian government of guard as it cannot afford another incursion into Ukrainian territory to fix the problem.
Russia now faces a challenge; militarily it cannot respond to the Crimean crisis because sending troops in will cause a backlash from western powers, endangering any alliance in the Syrian campaign. Likewise, it will only do so much to Turkey, who, as a NATO member, has the support of 28 European allies and is Russia’s second biggest consumer of gas and oil due to the current energy climate. As Mikhail Kruitkin, a partner in the RusEnergy consulting firm, told Reuters.
‘The loss of such a big market as Turkey would be very sensitive for both the (Russian) state budget and for Gasprom (government owned oil and gas company)’.
A Wayward Turkey?
Turkey is also not getting off the hook. According to recent reports, many of its NATO allies are aghast at its actions this week. France, Germany, Serbia and Greece have all made negative statements about Turkey’s recent behaviour, with RIA NOVISTI reporting that France at Wednesday’s emergency meeting of NATO allies declared that ‘Turkish activities were undermining the operation against the Islamic State militant group.’
But Turkey’s recent behaviour is more about protecting their domestic security and its current frustration with Russia’s involvement in Syria. In recent months Turkey has been successfully playing its own domestic security game in northern Syria. Aiding Washington in its war on ISIS, Turkey has utilised its access to United States military installations to destroy its own enemies who are fighting ISIS in northern Syria, the Kurds.
Currently engaged in an open civil conflict with the 20 million Kurds inside Turkey, the Kurdish forces in northern Syria are regarded by Turkey as a serious threat to their domestic stability. Kurdish separatist have attacked Turkey on numerous occasions and, now allied to Russia, the Kurds are no longer an easy target. Moreover, they are being armed by the United States and Russia and Turkey worries that these weapons may end up in the hands of their domestic terrorists instead of the anti-ISIS militia. If this is the case, Turkey fears it to may have a civil war on its hands causing further instability in the region.
While Turkey Blusters Russia quietly backs down was published in The Vision Times on
Dec 1 2015