Why Did Turkey Shoot Down the Russian Jet? Part 2
Read Part 1 Here.
Erdoğan the imperious sultan
If Erdoğan ordered the downing of the Russian Su-24 independently of the US and for his own purposes then it is not too far of a stretch to label Erdoğan as crazy. Of course by this I do not mean that he is clinically insane and in need of institutionalization (although some would be ecstatic to see him carted off to the loony bin). In fact he is a capable and cunning man endowed with street-smarts who from inauspicious beginnings in a rough Istanbul neighborhood eventually became the de facto ruler of Turkey.
However, Erdoğan is crazy in the sense that his imperiousness and religiously inspired self-belief cause him to do things that are foolish, such as wanting to establish a new ottoman empire or provoking Russia, a nation that is economically and militarily considerably more powerful than Turkey. To normal Western folks such behavior is crazy but to Erdoğan they are perfectly sensible.
Seeing what Putin is doing in Syria with his military intervention and his unraveling of Erdoğan’s plans for the region, there is no doubt that Erdoğan is seething inside. It is an affront to himself as a would be sultan and an affront to Allah that Putin is having his way in Syria. In such a situation Erdoğan must respond against Putin and he has the bullheadedness to do so, even though he is well aware of the might of Russia.
This attitude of Erdoğan is on display in many of his statements pertaining to the row with Russia. He has “sincerely recommend[ed]” Russia “not to play with fire.” With Putin demanding an apology, Erdoğan responded, “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.” He also went on to criticize Russia’s attitude as being “sensational,” not very diplomatic and that “it was also not nice to mention sanctions immediately after the incident.“ While Putin may be the epitome of ruthlessness, Erdoğan is the epitome of obduracy.
This characterization does not mean that Erdoğan does not understand his limitations with respect to Russia. He is already beginning to back track a bit, stating that if his fighter pilots knew the jet was Russian “the warnings would have been different,” whatever that means. Then he expressed some regret saying “We feel really saddened about this incident. We would not like such a thing to happen, we would not want it but unfortunately it did. I wish such a thing will not happen again.” So maybe Erdoğan has realized the gravity of the situation, but he still has not apologized to Russia over the incident and his Prime Minister Davutoğlu has said Turkish economic sanctions on Russia are a possibility.
Why would Erdoğan provoke Russia?
So the question that is before us is to what end would Erdoğan order the downing of a Russian warplane? There are a couple of possible reasons. First of all we should remember that in 2012 a Turkish F-16 was shot down by a Syrian surface to air missile for briefly violating Syrian airspace. Now any sultan worth his salt would not tolerate the downing of one of his warplanes, so it possible that Erdoğan downed the Russian Su-24 as revenge for the 2012 incident. However, I think that Erdoğan’s motives are more grandiose than this.
The second possible reason is that Erdoğan wanted to increase his prestige in the Muslim world. For Erdoğan to re-establish a new Ottoman caliphate of Muslim nations he must command the respect of the ummah. Currently ISIL’s caliphate is being battered by the ‘Crusader’ nation of Russia. What better way to legitimize Erdoğan’s own future caliphate at the expense of the rival ISIL caliphate than by showing the ummah he has the power to down a Russian warplane.
Thirdly, there have been claims that ISIL is selling its oil to Turkey, and that Erdoğan’s own son Bilal is directly involved in this black trade and is profiting greatly as a result. This may seem like quite a scandalous claim, but there is plenty of evidence indicating that ISIL is selling oil on the Turkish black market and that Turkish officials are turning a blind eye to this illicit trade. Whether or not Bilal Erdoğan is directly involved in this racket, I am not sure, but in all honesty I doubt the Erdoğan family is above such dealings.
The Russians have been recently targeting ISIL’s oil convoys, which presumably are destined for Turkey, inflicting significant economic damage on ISIL (reportedly costing them $1,500,000 per day). Now if Bilal is involved in the ISIL oil business then, with Russia ravaging ISIL’s oil industry, he stands to lose significant amounts of money. So it is possible that Erdoğan ordered the downing of the Su-24 to get back at Russia for hurting his families pocket book (this possibility was suggested by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts as well).
It is also possible that Erdoğan is angry with Russia targeting ISIL’s oil because this tactic is financially weakening ISIL. If it is true, as many believe, that ISIL is being opportunistically utilized by Turkey as a proxy army against Assad then if Russia is weakening that proxy army to the benefit of Assad’s regime, Erdoğan’s geopolitical aims in Syria will be undermined, and such a situation cannot be tolerated by Erdoğan.
The fourth possible reason, and the one that probably is most valid, pertains to the Syrian Turkmen population, an ethnic group of Turks who live in Syria numbering around a million. The Turkmen have close ties to Turkey and many Turks see them as ethnic brothers. This close relationship has led to Turkey supporting Syrian Turkmen rebel groups that are fighting against Assad. For example in the northern Syria ISIL-free zone proposed by Turkey, Turkmen fighters were to provide the ground forces needed to clear ISIL from this region, while Turkey would supply the air support.
Now recently Russia has begun bombing Turkmen forces and villages in northern Syria much to the discontentment of Turkey. Davutoğlu reacted as such, “the Bayırbucak Turkmen are our siblings who have lived there for centuries, like other Syrians. We are condemning this barbarian attack against them in the strongest way and once more, calling on everybody to be sensitive to this issue.” He then convened a security summit comprised of Turkish military and political officials to deal with the issue. So undoubtedly the Syrian Turkmen are important to Turkey, one because they are ethnically related, two because they are being used to fight against Assad and three because Erdoğan can use them to expand his ‘caliphate’ into Syria.
With Russia and the Syrian regime now intensely targeting the Turkmen, Erdoğan had to formulate some type of response, which very well could of been to down a Russian warplane. It is probably no coincidence that the downed Su-24 was targeting an area with a Turkmen presence and that when the pilots ejected they came under gun fire from Turkmen rebels. It is possible that Erdoğan thought by downing a Russian warplane bombing his Turkmen proxies that such an action would give Putin the hint to leave his proxies alone or else.
The final possibility is that by downing a Russian warplane, Erdoğan was hoping that Russia would retaliate militarily. Since Turkey is a NATO member, if it was attacked by Russia, then Article Five of the NATO Charter could be activated and as a result NATO would come to the defense of Turkey. For all of Erdoğan’s craziness he is most likely cognizant that Russia is a much greater military power than Turkey. He probably realizes that as long as Russia is in Syria that Assad will remain in power, and he is unable, using his own power to get Russia out of Syria. But if Turkey was backed up militarily by NATO then he could very well be able to thwart Russia and eventually oust Assad.
So while some think that Obama and the neocons are using Turkey for their own purposes, it could actually be the opposite situation that is occurring, that Erdoğan is manipulating Obama and NATO, so as to bring them into conflict with Russia which will help him to achieve his geopolitical goals. The downing of the Su-24 is just the provocation that is needed to instigated his plan.
There are many possible reasons as to why Turkey shot down the Russian Su-24 for at worst a transient and mild violation of their airspace. It is possible that Turkey is being used as a pawn by America to further their geopolitical aims against Russia. Or the shoot down order was entirely conceived of by Erdoğan and his minions, either to get back at Russia for bombing ISIL’s oil or to protect their Turkmen proxy forces in Syria. It is also possible that Erdoğan is using NATO as a pawn against Russia. We should never forget that Erdoğan is devious and rash enough to carry out such a machination. Regardless if it came from Obama or Erdoğan the downing of the Su-24 was an act of recklessness. One can only hope that either of these men are more careful in their future decision making, or else the situation could deteriorate into World War Three.
 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-on-alert-over-attacks-on-syrian-turkmens.aspx?pageID=238&nID=91521&NewsCatID=510 , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkmens-clash-with-russia-backed-al-assad-forces-in-northwest-syria-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=91575&NewsCatID=352