Clash of the Dickheads

Given what’s happened recently I thought I’d try to lighten the mood a bit with a little joke about the Crimea, but then I decided against it because it’s a little too dark.

As if it wasn’t embarrassing enough having Russia’s crown jewel blacked out all because a couple of towers were knocked down, in turn revealing the fact that the peninsula was still dependent on the hated “Ukropy,” Turkey went and pissed all over Putin’s latest attempt to portray Russia as a world military power. And while panic-mongering predictions of WWII were totally unrealistic, believe me, the buttrage is big this time. After all, this is a NATO country shooting down a Russian aircraft with an American-made F16. So while the Russian government, including prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, issued tough statements about consequences for Turkey, the only results we have seen so far are the typical passive-aggressive, more or less impotent economic measures we’ve seen with the EU, Ukraine, and other Russian neighbors who refuse to put up with the Kremlin’s bullshit and treat Russia like some kind of great power.

So Turkish-Russian relations have fallen apart, again. No big deal. They weren’t really that great before. Sure, there’s tourism, but I’ve had Turks tell me about various protectionist measures against their country by the Russian government years ago. When Putin made a big deal about the new “Turkish Stream” pipeline during his state visit to Turkey on 1 December 2014, the Russia press predictably made a big fanfare about it. Putin’s done it again! Another country is turning its back on the West and turning toward Russia! Then, as with their deal with China, the pipeline project immediately ran into serious trouble.

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Obviously Turkey and Russia have a great deal of cooperation, and this isn’t limited to the tourism business. Turkish firms are all over Russia, particularly in construction. Cancelling their projects would hurt Russia just as much, if not more so. But as the “counter-sanctions” of 2014 taught us, this is not a government run by rational, well-informed men. The vatniks are furious and will get even angrier if they don’t see blood. While they won’t be satisfied, Putin is more than capable of making more economic blunders that will dick the country up even more.

The funny thing about Russia and Turkey is that for all their inability to get on well with each other, they have so much in common. I became interested in Turkey and Turkic peoples after moving to Russia, and for me one of the most glaring commonalities is that Turkey occupies a similar role in my heart to that of Russia. I love the countries and the people, but I hate their governments. The resemblance goes deeper, however. What we’re looking at here is a conflict which could arguably be called “Clash of the Dickheads.”

Both countries are run by conservative dictators who make up the rules as they go along to remain in power. Both dictators are extremely corrupt and believed to possess large fortunes of ill-gotten wealth. In terms of electoral fraud and corruption, Turkey often gives Russia a run for its money. Turkey is also much harder on journalists and much more quick to resort to censorship. Turkey famously banned Twitter in an attempt to stop the dissemination of information about a corruption scandal between then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Youtube has been banned numerous times in Turkey, the most recent being in April of this year.

Whereas Russia sees itself as a global superpower, it is only able to act in a very limited way within a very limited area that it sees as its natural sphere of influence. Turkey does not have the same pretensions, but it definitely sees itself as a regional power. Russia intervened in Ukraine because doing so was assumed to be their right. Ditto with Turkey in Syria. Both have justified their interventions by claiming a need to protect ethnic brethren on the other side of their borders.

Erdogan and the AK Party have been notorious for deepening the influence of religion in what used to be a highly secular state. Putin has also been breaking down Russia’s secular legacy, in violation of the constitution’s very clear establishment of separation between church and state. The AK Party in Turkey is associated with the glorification and idealization of the Ottoman Empire. While naive or ignorant pundits constantly characterize Putin as trying to rehabilitate and glorify the Soviet Union, there has been a steady undercurrent of rehabilitating and promoting the Russian Empire. Annexing the Crimea, denying the existence of Ukrainians as a nation, and attempting to partition the country are all the actions of a revived Russian Empire and not a Soviet Union.

In this latest scandal, Turkmen rebel forces essentially executed an unarmed Russian pilot who was unable to defend himself. While these particular rebels are not jihadists like the thugs of Al Nusra and certainly not ISIS, what they did to the pilot was a genuine war crime, and Turkey has been backing them. Likewise, in Ukraine Russia armed and supported thugs like Givi and Motorola, the former being caught on camera abusing and torturing prisoners and the latter claiming in an interview that he executed prisoners. And speaking of illegal invasions and annexations, Turkey has been backing a pseudo-state on Cyprus since 1974, but to Turkey’s credit, unlike Russia they’ve managed to keep their colony supplied with both electricity and water.

Both countries got into this mess because of the dishonest way they have elected to wage war beyond their borders. Turkey had warned Russia about violating its airspace before, but the best evidence outside of Russia suggests that if the SU-24 did indeed violate said airspace, they did so only for a matter of seconds. Turkey would not have been in any danger had they taken a more cautious approach. The rapid decision to engage and fire on the Russian plane has been labeled an “overreaction.” Meanwhile, had Russia’s air force actually been engaged in bombing ISIS positions instead of anybody ISIS, that plane shouldn’t have been anywhere near the Turkish border. I shudder to think what those pilots would have encountered had they been shot down over ISIS territory. Ideally, they’d have been shot down over Ukraine and eject there. Then they’d definitely be alive.

When all’s said and done, I have to say I’m a little surprised by all this. First of all I didn’t think Russia was going to get deeply involved in Syria, given the amount of personnel and equipment they put in the country and the fact that Russia’s own goal in Ukraine is already too much of a burden to start a really decisive campaign. As such, I tended to disregard those predictions that Syria would become another Afghanistan. I could see that eventually happening, but I thought that was a long way off. Hell, I expected that any Russian planes falling out of the skies over Syria would be due to more technical failures rather than enemy action. Now it’s happening a bit more quickly. A Russian helicopter sent to rescue the remaining pilot was destroyed, killing a Russian marine. Grisly videos of the rebels shooting at the ejected pilot surfaced, along with video of rebels gloating over his dead body in an image reminiscent of the Chechen Wars or the US debacle in Mogadishu back in 1993. The Syrian campaign might have begun as just another slick reality show for the cameras, but now it’s definitely gone off script.

Once again, you’re not going to see an outpouring of rage directed at the authorities any time soon, at least not while people can still chuck rocks at the Turkish embassy as they did in Moscow today, but trouble is on the horizon. The vatniks want blood that their master Putin cannot deliver to them. What is worse, Russia has no good exit strategy from this new war. Virtually every possible outcome will look like failure, and indeed whatever the details, it will end in failure because there was never any hope for victory. Russia’s not going to get rid of ISIS, and the rest of the anti-ISIS coalition is likely to stamp them out in the near future. As long as they are there, something is wrong. The best they can hope for is some political decision that leaves Assad in charge of some kind of rump state which will keep the Russian bases already there, but that agreement can easily fall apart very quickly.

Russia’s unlikely to lose a lot of men and material in this conflict, but they stand to lose face. Inability to bring victory or significantly change the situation on the ground may look like impotence. And why not? Russia just got slapped in the face by at best, a second-rate NATO member, and there’s really nothing they can do about it but shake their fists and make threats than Turkey need not fear. Cancel the Turkish Stream? Obviously if the Turks valued that project so much they wouldn’t have been throwing up all kinds of obstacles to its construction.

In the end, the lesson is that if you want to act like a superpower, you’d better be able to back it up with action. Far from opposing what they see as American imperialism, the Kremlin and its supporters admire and envy it. What they don’t understand is that imperialism is fundamentally bad, and even if we ignore that, being an empire has certain prerequisites which Russia simply lacks. The blame can be laid squarely at the feet of Putin and his cronies, because however much they value the idea of a Russian superpower making history all over the globe, they valued stealing and material wealth more.

UPDATE!!!

You know when I wrote this, I was being a bit closed minded and remembered that we need to “question more,” as RT says. And that’s when it hit me. I remembered the totally believable evidence Russia put forth in its many investigations of the MH17 disaster, and I realized that there’s good reason to question the “official story” and conclude that the Russian air force shot its own plane down.

What is my basis for this belief? Well as the long time reader is no doubt aware, Russia’s alternative explanation for the downing of MH17 was that a Ukrainian air force Su-25 was responsible for the crime…except when it was a Ukrainian Buk SAM…but then it was a Su-25 again…but then it was a bomb on the plane…then a Su-25…then a Buk. Well you get the idea. The thing is that the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed there was a Su-25 in the sky in the vicinity of MH17. Nobody else can confirm this, but we can trust a government ministry which has been caught in plenty of lies in the past because this is Russia, not the Pentagon.

As it turns out, there are at least 12 Russian Su-25s operating in Syria, some of them no doubt covering the same territory in which the Su-24 was shot down. So can we rule out that the Russians shot down their own plane as a false flag? If not, why not? I’m just asking questions, folks.

Question more.

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14 thoughts on “Clash of the Dickheads

  1. A.I.Schmelzer

    Erdogan beats Putin in the hypocricy department, and in the backstabbing department.

    One legitimate reason why Russia is so pissed is that there was an MOU (Memorandum of understanding) between Russia and coalition powers explicitly to prevent that kind of bullshit (or to prevent Syrian or Russian fighters from shooting at coalition planes intruding into Syrian airspace). Russia has abided by the MOU, and the last time they actually violated Turkish airspace, they formally apologized and increased military cooperation with the Turks to prevent such accidents in the future.

    The backstabbing thing comes from the fact that Turkey was supposed to follow the MOU, and didnt. The MOU was also the reason why the SU had no fighter escort, and was completely surprised by being fired at from the sky.

    Putin does believe that, for all various bullshit the varying great powers do currently, certain rules of engagement exists, and that MOU was one such rule.

    It also came just when France was willing to reach out to Russia, and when the US was starting to carry its weight in the anti DAESH struggle.

    Concerning hypocracy: Hard to beat the Turks here, even for Putin,
    (Back when Syria downed a Turkish Jet that was violating its territories, note that no MOU between Turkey and Syria existed)
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/24/turkey-plane-shot-down-syria
    Quote Turkey:
    Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gül, said on Saturday that it was “routine” for jets flying at high speeds to violate other countries’ air spaces for short periods of time.

    And as for our sovereignity minded benign western overlords:
    “The foreign secretary, William Hague, said the “outrageous” act underlined the need for Assad’s regime to go. “My thoughts and sympathies are with the families and friends of the missing Turkish pilots. I have made clear to Foreign Minister Davutoglu the UK’s strong support for the Turkish government at this difficult time,” he said in a statement.”

    Syrias decision to shot down a Turkish plane is btw. quite defensible, and would be in line legtimiacy wise with an Ukrainian shootdown of a Russian plane over f.e. Kharkov.

    The situation for the Turks regarding the Russian plane differed from the Syrian situation regarding the Turkish plane, or from a hypothetical Russian plan over Kharkov in several respects:
    1: Turkey is subject to an MOU. While I dont know the MOU (afaik it has not been released), I would very reasonable guess that it would feature the full gamut of the escalation ladder before someone actually fires at a plan. Meaning, optical contact, attempt to escort it out, do warning shots, and only then fire. These were the informal rules for such incidents during the Cold War too (and they happened, at the German German border, on a daily basis). Effectively waiting in ambush and shooting down the plane on a “maybe” 17 second pass (my guess is more like 5 seconds, somewhat in line with what the Pentagon has already said, and that assumes that the Radar was that precise) was very likely not a part of it.
    2: Russia is a clear threat to Ukraine, Turkey is a clear threat to Syria. Turkey has a history of violating Syrian airspace and firing in anger at SAA and Kurd targets, which Russia does not have in regard to Turkey (but plausibly does regarding Ukraine, which would make an Ukrainian shootdown of a Russian plane Ukrainian territory pretty justified). Turkey is also protected by Nato, and the assumption that Russia would attack Turkey and thus Nato with one SU24 is fucking moronic.

    Some other aspect regarding the “Turkish warnings”.

    Turkey has unilaterally declared that it sees a buffer space of 5 or so miles from its border as basically “its airspace”. My guess is that they continously spamm any Russian within those 5 miles with “you are in Turkish airspace we will shoot you!” messages which will be basically treated like Spamm by the Russian pilots.

    Also, there is the “literal ambush” factor. From the video evidence it is apperantly clear that the Russians werent expecting an attack. Second, it strikes me as far fetched that the Turkish plane would, in the 17 or 5 seconds in which the Russian plan was maybe in Turkish airspace, got into position, got a lock and hit the plane without the Russians noticing.

    My working hypothesis is this: 1: The missle was launched by an aircraft, but guided by ground radar. Whatever Russian pilots may think about getting spammed by Turkish Radio messages, getting painted by a Fighter Radar is big news and leads to immidate and rapid reactions by the painted aircraft. Being painted by a ground radar would, probably because the MOU likely says that ground radar painting is OK (since all sides want to know where everyones stuff is, and ground radar is how they do that, and the MOU also means that they are not combatants vis a vis each other), not trigger this response.
    Since an SU24 has no fucking chance at all in a fight with a dedicated fighter (SU-24s are bombers), it would have responded to being aerially painted by trying to get the fuck out even quicker than it actually did.

    2: This means Turkey explicitly wanted blood, and explicitly predicted where a minor violation (seriously, if aircraft at the German German border would have shot eachother over less then a minute violations, we wouldnt be writing posts today) would occur in order to not be completely in the wrong. That, and the MOU angle is why Putin is treating it as a “dastardly ambush”.

    As for Erdogans reasons: It is obvious.
    1: Punish Putin for blowing up Erdogan Juniors little “buy Oil from ISIS and sell it more expensively” scheme.
    2: Throw a huge spanner into Russian attempts to cooperate with Europe.
    3: Punish Putin for alleged or real YPG/PKK support, or for trying to foster a YPG/SAA alliance.
    4: Punish Putin for blowing up Erdogans pet Islamists.
    5: Get mucho adoration by bravely and manfully standing up to evul Christian Russian Imperialism.

    Thing most people dont see:
    Erdogans Turkmen (also inclurding Uighur) support also pisses off China. The Chinese will basically do nothing (why pay Russia for something they do for free?), but they may totally find it a great idea to incite Russia to blow up all Uighurs in Syria, and that incitement may well work.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Trust me, you’ll find no defense of that scum Erdogan here. It looks like the story that’s developing is that the Sukhoi did violate Turkish airspace, but was shot down over Syrian airspace. So this was clearly an overreaction.

      But one thing- you mentioned the missile being controlled by ground radar. I’ve never heard of AA missiles being controlled that way. What sort of missile are they saying it was? Sidewinder or AMRAAM?

      Reply
      1. A.I.Schmelzer

        Made a mistake in translating an article:
        http://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/article149221830/Tuerkische-F-16-naeherten-sich-womoeglich-unbemerkt-an.html

        The gist of that article is that the Turkish plane probably was under full radar silence until the very last moment before it fired, probably from above. Mixed up some technical terms, ground radar was guiding the Turkish plane, and (perhaps) told it exactly when to paint the Russian SU from a likely pretty short range. It was not guiding the missle.

        For me, one unusual thing is that both alleged courses show no deviation slightly before the hit. I can fully buy Russian pilots ignoring Turkish warnings, I dont buy Russian pilots not reacting to being painted. SU-24 also has 2 guys so that the “fuck we are painted” signal will not be overlooked.

        Concerning the Turkish military, Erdogan did very thoroughly purge them. The old Kemal military was playing similiar games with its Soviet neighbours for a very long time, and is still playing such games with the Greeks (depending on how you count, roughly 2000 Turkish violations of Greek airspaces per year, including hundreds of “mock dogfights” no lethal incident), without anything happening.

        I for one think that is is more easily explainable with Erdogan Junior (who is apperantly using the reselling of ISIS Oil as his personal cash cow) pulling some strings because he may be even more nuts then Erdogan, and the old Kemalist military (of which I am not exactly a fan) is no longer there and the new Erdogan appointnees didnt dare to say no.

        The Russian response will likely be to make Erdogan be “less of a liar” when he goes on how he totally isnt supporting ISIS and has no links to ISIS, by permanently removing some of the “personal links” between the Erdogan administration and ISIS forever. No person no link.

        They will likely make a trade with the anti Turkish Kurdish factions, even though certain such “removals of personal links” will be done with tools very clearly but not completely certainly indicating Russian participation, the Kurds will claim “we did it”, and receive supply/weapons/future favors whatever from the Russians in return.

        I somewhat dislike this, because the Kurds are objectively the least bad faction in the Syrian civil war, and they stand a real risk of being torn apart between the West and Russia. Right now, they are a stabilizing actor because the West (minus Turkey of course) and Russia agree that they are a part of the solution, this could perhaps even allow them to try some mediating, but its a long shot.

  2. A.I.Schmelzer

    A kind of interesting question is if Erdogan (whose support for DAESH is real, and meaningfull, but does by no means award him operational control over ISIS) would at some point directly intervene on DAESHs behalf in order to get full control of them while also preventing their defeat, as Putin likely did in Ukraine.

    I do not think this as likely for the following reasons:

    1: Most seperatists are not terrorists. Particpating in Massacres meanwhile seems to be a part of the ISIS initiation rituals (not a very uncommon practice, means there is no turning back for people thus initiated). As such, DAESH is a lot more cohesive and better organized, and thus less likely to be receptive to foreign control.

    2: DAESH literally sees itself as world conquerors. They will bite any hand that feeds them in record time. The seperatists have a lot less lofty goals, and mostly want to be left alone by the Ukropy.

    3: Military defeat of DAESH is quite a long way off currently, so this question isnt acute.

    4: DAESH has a number of trump cards in any negotiation with Turkey. They could easily blow up Turkeys tourism industry (literally), or expose just how much Erdogan was supporting them. The seperatists in August 2014 had no such leverage.

    Reply
  3. EP

    “The funny thing about Russia and Turkey is that for all their inability to get on well with each other, they have so much in common.”

    Isn’t that precisely WHY they can’t get along?

    “The best they can hope for is some political decision that leaves Assad in charge of some kind of rump state which will keep the Russian bases already there, but that agreement can easily fall apart very quickly.”

    I think that ship has long since sailed (and been lost at sea of the coast of England). There is no way anyone who matters is going to tolerate Russian force projection in the region after what they’ve been doing there for the past few weeks.

    “Russia’s unlikely to lose a lot of men and material in this conflict”

    The Putin will find a way to make things even worse. Haven’t we learned that much over the past two years?

    Reply
    1. A.I.Schmelzer

      How do you define anyone?

      Neither most of the EU (minus the anglosphere and the traditional Russophobes), nor Jordan, nor Iraq nor Israel (who vastly prefer a Russian Proxy Assad over an Iranian proxy Assad) have the slightest problem with the Russians. A number of them however have quite the problem with Erdodicks hegemonial ambitions, which are a lot more direct to the region then Putins (situation is reversed in Eastern Europe), because Erdodick is going to stay in the area while Putin is not (beyond a base or two).

      Iran is somewhat a rival to Russia for influence in Syria (Russia is building up the regular armed forces of Syria, Iran is building up the irregular forces, they do not always see eye to eye, but are focused on their mutual enemies), but they of course vastly cooperate because their joint adversary, Sunni Jihadism in all its forms (which includes Al-Nusra and Ahrar al Sham, although the latter could probably recant), is far more dangerous.

      Reply
  4. Dan

    Interesting that Fuat Avni predicted back in October that the Turks would down a Russian plane as a means of strengthening Erdogan’s grip in power.

    There’s a certain irony in that considering that Putin used the bullying of Ukraine as a means of strengthening his own grip on power.

    For all the crying about a stab in the back, another phrase is probably more appropriate: live by the sword, die by the sword.

    Personally I think the tears of a bully’s humiliation are delicious.

    Reply
  5. Asehpe

    “Clash of the Dickheads”. This is so going to be my next t-shirt (superimposed on maps of Russia and Turkey…)

    Of course this is not going to have any big repercussions. Message was sent, message was received, some sort of face-saving retaliation will be carried out, so that Kisselyov can blast on his program about how Russia can reduce Turkey to radioactive dust if it so chooses, and then things will go back to normal.

    Meanwhile, what is going to happen to Ukraine? Apparently even the EU and the US are now willing to put up with it in exchange for anti-DAESH cooperation with Russia. Sigh!….

    Reply
    1. EP

      “Meanwhile, what is going to happen to Ukraine? Apparently even the EU and the US are now willing to put up with it in exchange for anti-DAESH cooperation with Russia. Sigh!….”

      And you figure that how? Based on every important Western figure saying the exact opposite?

      Reply
  6. A.I.Schmelzer

    And now for something completely different!

    A variety of pro Russian bloggers, myself perhaps included, explain Putins action with having a long term plan, being a “machiavellian master strategist” (that is hyperbole, he is however a pretty decent tactician) etc.

    Since bias is bad, I will now attempt to explain the situation concerning the shootdown under the premise that Obama is a Maximum Machiavelli Badass Bismarckian master strategist!
    As far as I know, noone actually claims that so I claim novelty rights.

    Premise: Erdogan shot down the plane because Russia was blowing up Erdogan Juniors revenue stream, which in extension would make Erdogan look weak. Turkey under Erdogan has some seriously feudal elements, if the Erdogan family does not react to their very well known revenue stream being publically blown up, they project weakness and will invite opportunistic moves by other powerfull players (Gülen Network, Kemalists, Davotoglu etc.).
    Erdogan did not do so without what he considered to be US approval. Being somewhat familiar with differences in how US and Turkish military communicate, the US answer to Erdogans hypothetic shoot down request was likely a qualified “Yes, if an unidentified aircraft attacks Turkey or Turkish air space, we will fully support you” (had the SU-24 dropped any bombs on Turkey, Turkey would have been clearly justified in shooting it down, which is probably what the US told Turkey before the shootdown).
    One should add that Erdogan has been heavily on/off flirting with Russia, and thus gained considerable leeway for a number of policies that were gravely at odds with US preferences (to say it politely). Erdogan irreversably blowing up his “annoying Russian option” is, from this perspective, clearly a “win” for America.

    Erdogan dug himself a pretty damn deep hole. Since his US contacts said nothing that would be illegal, he cant exactly come groveling to Putin and say the US put him up to it (say what you will of him, he isnt much one for groveling, and groveling before Putin has some other drawbacks), so Erdogan quietly backpedalling is out. Russia meanwhile is, entirely predictably, stark raving mad at this, and will do its own part to destroy any “Turkish option” for itself.

    Now, lets consider a second order effect: Erdogan has adopted a “give me free reign in Syria or I flood you with refugees” negotiation approach regarding the EU. Some imply that Berlins stance concerning refugees was a pretty bad attempt to call his bluff, but anyway this did not exactly endear him to either Berlin, Brussels or Paris. None of them has any intention to go to war with Russia over Ukraine, one can thus be doubly certain that they have even less of an intention to go to war with Russia over Syria. The unofficial reaction of the EU is “is he fucking mad?”. Followed by “someone seriously needs to put him down a notch”.

    Now, enter Obama the Supergenius!

    Obama could go in, and offer the EU to clip Erdogans wings. Because Erdogan pissed off Russia (Jet), China (support for Uighurs) and the EU (refugees), he has basically zero important non US friends. This makes the USA the last important ally of Turkey, and this gives the US a lot of leverage over it (arguably more then the US ever had since the end of the cold War). As a precondition for this “wing clipping”, he could insist on increased EU support for the stabilization of Ukraine, perhaps going on the difficult to refute argument that cooperating with Russia in Syria requires to reduce Russias possibilities in Ukraine, in order to keep everyone honest and focused on Syria. Even more hilariously, Obama could make reductions of Turkish support for Daesh a precondition for returning into Uncle Sams good graces (it is not as if Russia can credibly invade Turkey, they can do a lot of other things to Turkey/Erdogan using the PKK as proxies, but outright invasion is out) getting an additional win/win (and lose/lose for Erdogan) out of it.

    Bottom line, Obama has, with perhaps one communication, put Turkey and Russia at loggerheads, massively increased his influence over Turkey, could get EU cooperation on other issues in return for controlling Turkey more then before and greatly reduced both Russias and Turkey general diplomatic and political leverage!
    And he did not even do anything “immoral” or “evil” to achieve this!

    This is of course completely speculative, but I do not see it as easily disproven.

    Reply

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