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November 24, 2015



It's starting to look more and more like the Great Power Game from the 19th century out there. What does Russia really want? Control of the Bosphorus, of course.

Peter G

Can't really see Putin retaliating against Turkey in any significant way. The first reason is that he hasn't a significant way beyond military action against a NATO member. The Russians need Turkey way more than Turkey needs Russia. If you're going to own some real estate that pisses off the Russians, the Dardanelles is the stuff to own. I expect the Russians to make noise about rights of passage but then they might have to explain why they ordered, not asked, Lebanon to shut down all of Lebanon's air space for three days. Ordered not asked.

As a technical matter I would point out that the only medium range air defense missiles that could have shot this plane down a significant distance from the Turkish border is the antique MIM-23. Against low flying ground attack aircraft it is largely useless.The more likely weapon to have done this is a Rapier which, if deployed on the border, meant the Russian plane was at least 8 km from the border and inbound.

Somebody just learned a lesson. His name is Putin and what he learned is that he is not going to be able to support Assad by doing ground attacks on what must be the forward operating areas of the anti-ISIS forces near Turkey. There's not a lot Putin can do about it beyond making noise. And he can't risk a second such event because that will expose the fundamental weakness of his position. And it is weak. The performance of the latest Russian weapons systems is abysmal. You can't really call a weapon a precision guided weapon when it hits the wrong country. And then there are the perilous domestic economic conditions Putin's adventurism has been designed to distract the Russian people from noticing. Putin is probably embarrassed as hell.

Peter G

I wish them luck in achieving that goal. Ironically of course. Initial reports were that radar guided SAMs did the job. The Russians counter with ground fire and who knows did that as a face saver? The Turks come back with we did and we want everybody to know we did. And that is what Putin meant when he asserts they stabbed him in the back. Not so much shooting down the plane but rubbing his nose in it. There have been other incursions into Turkish airspace as Putin tests the resolve of NATO. He should have known better than to test the Turks.
If the Duffer were here he could tell you all about Winston Churchill's magnificent victory over the Turks at Galipoli.


Putin has dipped his toe well into the quagmire. His tough guy act might thrill neocons, but it will be interesting to see how the Russian public, who no doubt remember Russian Afghanistan adventurism well, react.

His excuse about oil exports is actually true. IS has been making tens of millions a month in illegal oil sales to Turkey as well as Jordan and Iran. Despite what the Republican candidates wail, the US has escalated bombing in Iraq and destroyed almost 200 targets used in the trade. They presently include tanker trucks and refining facilities, but might expand to oil wells. The US has resisted these actions in the past because of Iraqi civilians working the oil fields and because destroying the oil infrastructure too badly will hamper any legitimate Syrian government that could come to power.

Ummmm, WWII or is it III? I'll have to think on that one, PM.


Gads, I meant I, II or III. Hey, it's early.

Peter G

Not well is already the answer. The Ukraine incursion was popular. The Syrian adventure is not. Fisher has an excellent summary at Vox. He thinks economic reprisals are the most likely consequence and points out that Turkey gets 60 percent of its natural gas from Russia. True. But then Putin gets increasingly difficult to obtain foreign exchange from selling gas. If Turkey really wanted to screw the Russians all they have to do is fund the Trans-Caspian pipeline. That will feed the vast reserves of natural gas in Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan directly and competitively to Europe completely by-passing Russia and under cutting their economic lifeline.

A key Fisher point I agree with is that Putin picked the wrong target to intimidate. Erdogan is almost as big an asshole as Putin. On a bad day maybe bigger. Half the time NATO can't get him to do squat. Russian air incursions in Northern Europe are one thing. They get chased off but Erdogan's domestic support and the reason he was just re-elected was to do what he just did. I don't see what Putin can do about it but sulk.


The only leverage Putin might really have is in propping up Bashar al-Assad, who's beginning to look like the lesser of all the possible evils. This whole thing is starting to make my head hurt.

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