Next Cold War Roundup 11-25-15
M/W/F 10 AM Eastern.
Turkey Shoots Down Russian SU-24, NATO Shrugs
o The international coverage of this event has been nearly non-stop for all of Tuesday and continues today. Fate of the Russian pilots is now known. One video shows “rebels” shooting at fighter jet pilots as they descend in parachutes. Another video shows one of those pilots immobile, presumed dead, on the ground, surrounded by jubilant, self-declared “mujahideen”. The wounded second pilot was rescued by Syrian and Russian special forces and taken to base in Latakia, per Russian Defense Minister Shoigu. One more video has surfaced of the alleged destruction (by an FSA militia group, with a US TOW missile) of a Russian search and rescue helicopter. An RT journalist who was granted the first interview with the rescued Russian fighter pilot says he looks fine, visually.
o “Under the Geneva conventions, pilots ejecting from airplanes are to be treated as non-violent surrendering combatants.” The War Nerd notes that, by contrast, most US pilots who parachuted over North Vietnam territory “reached prison alive” . A frequent commenter on the Syrian war clarifies reports that the fighters in the video with the dead pilot were referred to as “Turkmen” but in the video they call themselves “mujahideen”.
o The Russian response to the shootdown was swift. Putin appeared with a supportive King Abdullah of Jordan in Moscow, saying that the shootdown was a “stab in the back” from Turkey, “accomplice of terrorists”. He later held a press conference, making more very frank statements. This morning, Russian foreign minister Lavrov held another press conference in which he said there is ample evidence that the shootdown was planned. There is increased Russian bombing in the areas where the pilots fell and promises of a change in the rules of engagement, including zero tolerance for Turkish jets in Syrian airspace, and a deployment of Russia’s most advanced S-400 air defense system at Hamemeen.
o An emergency NATO session was convened at Turkey’s request after which Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement in support of Turkey: “As we have repeatedly made clear, we stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey”. He then called for “calm and de-escalation”. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov later revealed that the events of the meeting were known to Moscow and that Stoltenberg had not accurately represented the sentiments of all the NATO members at the meeting, some of whom had expressed harsh criticism of Turkey. Lavrov was dismayed NATO “didn’t express any regret or condolences and in effect were aimed at covering up what the Turkish Air Force did yesterday”.
ISIS in Syraq
o People should be asking a lot more questions about why border crossings, supply lines and things like this weren’t undermined a long time ago: “the source of a substantial and meaningful proportion of ISIS financing has been well known from Day 1 and is visible from satellites and surveillance aircraft: oil”
o Hollande on building a US-Russia coalition: “It’s with this goal in mind that I will meet in the coming days with President Obama and President Putin to join forces and achieve a result that has been postponed for too long,”
Politics and War
You Forgot Ukraine
o US Troops Begin Training Ukrainian Regular Forces. In addition to the training of largely neo-Nazi Ukraine national guard battalions, military exercises in Ukraine, US troops have now expanded the training operations in the west of Ukraine to the regular Ukraine military and special forces. Russia has previously declared that they consider these operations to be a threat to their national security.
o In his weekly interview on the John Batchelor Show, Russian studies expert Stephen F. Cohen said that the nightly news in Russia carried reports of video proving that Syrian anti-government groups “murdered” a Russian pilot. He also drew parallels, timing curiosities between Kiev government’s announcement of stoppage of freight deliveries between Crimea and Ukraine and the bombing of the power lines to Crimea. He believes that these kinds of events, which may seem disconnected, are part of an attempt to sabotage the kind of rapprochement between Europe and Russia that has been happening in the wake of the Paris attacks. Cohen also mentioned, with respect to Syria, “It is madness, recklessness to call for a no-fly zone in Syria”.
Terra Terra Terra
o Media activists FAIR talk about the “weaponization of grief” and how the coverage of terror can help perpetuate its causes.
o Kerry: “Don’t panic”. State Dept: Worldwide terror alert. “Avoid crowded places”. On the same day.
o A good summary of recent events in the Syrian war in a series of tweets beginning here.
o VICE article presents a pretty flawed view of the situation in Syria but also offers some interesting potential goals, motives and outcomes, including a push for substantial numbers of “boots on the ground” by the US coalition.
Some Recent Must Reads
o This article from September, Counting the Dead in Syria, is particularly relevant now in light of the differing claims about the number of civilians killed in Syria and by whom and in light of several dubious rights organizations making claims that are often repeated by US politicians and media (for instance, it’s frequently said that the Syrian government killed 200,000 civilians). The situation and players in Syria make it nearly impossible to get good statistics. Micah Zenko uses figures from an organization called “Violations Documentation Center” which shows, among other things, that the number of civilians killed is in the 85,000 range and that a relatively small percentage are killed by Syrian government air strikes. This should be taken into account by those who strongly propose a high-risk, high-cost no-fly zone.
Parallels in History / References for Context
o In 2012, the situation was reversed. Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet. The responses of the Syria, Turkey, Russia were almost entirely reversed. Erdogan said “”A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack”. Russia said this should not be seen “as a provocation or a premeditated action”. NATO’s response was similar. They convened an emergency meeting, expressed solidarity with Turkey but no military response was invoked.