It’s terrifying how easily Turkey and Russia could take the world to the brink
Any hopes the Paris atrocities would force the world’s leaders to put aside their differences over Syria’s devastating war and focus on wiping out Islamic State were dashed yesterday.
Make no mistake: the potential consequences of Turkey’s decision to shoot a Russian fighter jet out of the sky for allegedly violating its airspace near the Syrian border are profoundly chilling.
This unprecedented act by Turkey — the first time in 50 years a Nato country has brought down a Russian jet — is extraordinarily provocative.
Vladimir Putin is furious, using decidedly undiplomatic language to accuse the Turkish leadership of stabbing his country ‘in the back’ and being ‘accomplices of terrorists’.
Small wonder leaders in Europe are frantically calling for diplomatic channels to be used to resolve tensions.
But rather than seeing cool heads prevail, in the coming days and weeks we are far more likely to witness dramatically escalating tensions between Russia and the Nato alliance, of which Turkey is a key member.
The seeds of this diplomatic disaster were sown long ago.
Islamist-ruled Turkey is strongly opposed to Russia’s ally, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and has been long accused of duplicitously backing Islamic State.
But even those in diplomatic circles will be aghast at the situation’s rapid deterioration.
For adding to Russia’s outrage and humiliation, ethnic Turks inside Syria — who are allies of Turkey, enemies of the Assad regime and fierce opponents of Russian airstrikes — also, it seems, committed a blatant war crime, by shooting dead one of the two Russian pilots as they parachuted out.
These supposedly ‘moderate’ Turkmen rebels proceeded to celebrate by firing their machine guns in the air, while abusing the corpse of the pilot and screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘God is the greatest’) in Arabic.
Moreover, just hours after the shooting down of the Russian jet at the Syrian border, a Russian helicopter was downed in another part of Syria by the Western-sponsored Free Syrian Army, using an advanced surface-to-air missile of the kind supplied to them by the thousand by our Persian Gulf allies. Unsurprisingly, we are now menacingly being told that the Russian defence ministry is ‘devising a set of measures to respond to the incident’.
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