Many have foreseen (20 or even 60+ years ago) a conflict between Greece and Turkey to be a precursor for WW3, with Russia totally destroying Turkey after Greece and Turkey are engaged in acts of war.
I haven’t commented on the Middle East in a while, but a lot has been going on. In particular, Turkey continues to concern me the most, as president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears increasingly unstable, paranoid and tyrannical. The latest example came last month, when his government went ahead and arrested academics merely for signing a petition. Here’s what we learned from the post, U.S. Ally Turkey Arrests Academics for the Crime of Signing a Peace Petition:
Hundreds of Turkish academics are waiting to find out whether they will be prosecuted or sacked for spreading “terrorist propaganda”, after they signed a petition calling for violence to end in Turkey’s southeast, where government forces have been fighting Kurdish separatists.
Turkey’s government has previously clamped down on scientists and students who question its policies, imprisoned scientists charged with terrorism offenses, and restricted the freedom of funding agencies and scientific academies. But the number of arrests and investigations makes the current episode one of the larger Turkish attacks on freedom of expression in recent years, prompting outrage among human-rights advocates.
While this is bad enough, Turkey’s reputation on the global stage had already been severely damaged by the emergence of evidence of government support for ISIS. Throw in the downing of a Russian jet, and you start to see an increasingly chaotic country with the potential to kick off some serious geopolitical fireworks.
With all that in mind, an article I recently read in Al Monitor materially added to my fears. Here are some excerpts from the piece, Will Turkey Risk Military Confrontation with Russia?
Tensions between Russia and Turkey continue to escalate following the downing in November of a Russian Su-24 fighter jet that strayed into Turkish airspace.
Questions are being raised now whether the two countries are heading for a military confrontation. A leading Turkish military expert told Al-Monitor that such a Russian move could spell disaster for Turkey.
Turkey accused Russia of violating its airspace again last week and summoned Russia’s ambassador in Ankara to lodge a formal protest. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also warned Moscow that it was playing with fire and would have to face the consequences.
Tellingly, however, the Russian Su-34 fighter jet was not shot down this time. Despite Ankara’s dire warnings to Moscow, the protest lodged with the Russian ambassador shows that Davutoglu’s government, despite its apparent tough stance, is treading more cautiously to avoid another head-on military incident with Russia.
“Statements by the Turkish side of an alleged case of violation by the Russian Su-34 aircraft of airspace are unsubstantiated propaganda,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement Jan 30.
Talking to reporters prior to flying to Chile for an official visit Jan. 30, Erdogan also said the latest Russian violation was an attempt to escalate the crisis between the two countries. “If Russia continues to violate Turkey’s sovereign rights in this way, it will suffer the consequences,” Erdogan warned.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also weighed in on Turkey’s behalf and called on Russia “to act responsibly and fully respect NATO airspace.” He added, “Russia must take all necessary measures to ensure that such violations do not happen again.” Stoltenberg said, “NATO stands in solidarity with Turkey and supports the territorial integrity of our ally, Turkey.”
Al-Monitor discussed this matter extensively with retired Brig. Gen. Naim Baburoglu, who is currently an adviser to the Ankara-based National Security and Foreign Policy Research Center and a frequent commentator on military matters.
Baburoglu said Russian President Vladimir Putin is not prepared to let this affair go and is trying to draw Turkey into a fight, not just by violating Turkish airspace but also by destroying the Turkmens in Syria and supporting the YPG.
Judging by what Baburoglu says, there seems to be little Turkey can do to respond to the Russian challenge.
“Since the downing of the Russian jet, Turkish F-16s are unable to fly in Syrian airspace. The US doesn’t want them there either in case they confront Russian jets,” Baburoglu said. He pointed out that the Russian Su-35 Flanker-E type jets deployed in the region, which are far more advanced than anything Turkey has, is of concern to Washington.
“Russia is trying to draw Turkey into a fight to avenge the downing of its jet. Putin is confident he can win. He also needs this to counter domestic difficulties. Downing one or two Turkish F-16s will make him a hero at home,” Baburoglu said. “It will also be a serious embarrassment to Turkey and the Turkish air force,” he added.
Baburoglu also doubts that NATO will rush to Turkey’s assistance the way Ankara wants in the event of a confrontation with Russia.
“Decisions are taken unanimously in NATO. The US and UK may support Turkey militarily, but it is doubtful that countries like France, Germany and Greece will. All NATO is likely to do is to deploy Patriot anti-ballistic missiles in eastern Turkey and allocate AWAC [Airborne Warning and Control System] planes to support the Turkish air force.”
With the Saudis now talking about sending ground troops to Syria to defend their al-Qaeda allies, there is simply too much going on in the region, involving too many desperate players, for something not to go wrong. I am becoming increasingly concerned about a wider and more dangerous regional war breaking out, and I have a sneaking suspicion Turkey will be at the center of the problem.
For additional Turkey-related stories, see: