Bad News: Turkey Shoots Down Russian Jet. Good News: Sierra Leone is Ebola-Free

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 08.23.29Turkey has shot down a Russian jet. this was the first time a NATO jet shot down a Russian one since 1952. Those who grasp the gravity of this have broken out in a cold sweat. Yes, it’s as serious as it sounds.

I don’t know exactly what happened, and truly, no one who really does is going to be talking. Given that this is the kind of thing that can — although probably won’t — expose NATO as a paper tiger, crank the current level of geopolitical hysteria up to 11, and even, in extremis, lead to direct superpower conflict, I don’t think it would be helpful for me to opine about what the United States should do, save to say that I hope wisdom prevails, and urge all concerned to back away from the precipice (as if anyone would listen to me).

Here are things others’ have written about this, but Medvedev apart, I don’t think they know more about it than anyone else. They just had deadlines and had to put words on paper.

Putin’s War on Far Too Many Fronts, By Leonid Bershidsky

Has Vladimir Putin finally overreached? The Russian president is confronting several simultaneous crises. Over the weekend, Ukrainian activists blew up high-voltage transmission towers and cut off electricity supplies to Russian-held Crimea. In St. Petersburg, his home city, on Tuesday a column of 600 heavy trucks was crawling toward the city government building to protest tolls on Russian roads (a son of a close Putin friend has a financial interest in the system). And on the Turkey-Syria border, the Turkish air force downed a Russian bomber. …

Ankara defends ISIS, Turkish officials have financial interest in oil trade with group – PM Medvedev

Some Turkish officials have ‘direct financial interest’ in the oil trade with the terrorist group Islamic State, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev said as he detailed possible Russian retaliation to Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane in Syria on Tuesday.

“Turkey’s actions are de facto protection of Islamic State,” Medvedev said, calling the group formerly known as ISIS by its new name. “This is no surprise, considering the information we have about direct financial interest of some Turkish officials relating to the supply of oil products refined by plants controlled by ISIS.”

“The reckless and criminal actions of the Turkish authorities… have caused a dangerous escalation of relations between Russia and NATO, which cannot be justified by any interest, including protection of state borders,” Medvedev said.

Turkey shoots down Russian plane: What could be the consequences for global conflict, Syria and the fight against Isis? By Lizzie Deaden

Will Nato be drawn in? Nato held an emergency meeting of its North Atlantic Council, the alliance’s main decision-making body, at Turkey’s request. Ambassadors from 28 member countries met in Brussels for the briefing and to decide on any further action.

The alliance was expected to attempt to de-escalate tensions over Turkey’s actions, despite strong statements in recent months condemning Russian incursions into member states’ airspace in Europe. “The last thing Nato wants right now is a new conflict with Russia with everything else that’s going on,” Mr Sengupta said. ….

NATO Must Have Turkey’s Back, by Walter Russell Mead: 

The rapid deterioration of global order took an ugly turn this morning and we all moved a little closer to the abyss: Two Turkish F-16s have shot down what appears to be a Russian Su-24 bomber near the Syrian border. Two Russian pilots parachuted out of the plane as it went down in flames. One pilot was captured by Turkmen fighters in Latakia province, with early reports indicating the second pilot did not survive the ordeal. Turkey is claiming the bomber was warned ten times about being in Turkish airspace before it was shot down. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called for a special consultation with Turkey’s NATO allies. …

It’s now critical that Russia not be allowed to intimidate or pressure Turkey over the episode. That means NATO support. Turkey, unlike Georgia and Ukraine, is a full-fledged NATO member, and failing to stand behind it threatens to unravel the alliance. Putin’s number one goal, we must remember, is to break NATO—or at minimum to show that it is a paper tiger. The slow-moving collapse of the political relationship between the other members and Turkey gives him an opening. The lack of trust over ISIS, and the broader disagreements over how to fight the Syrian war, have undermined Turkey’s relationship with its Western allies. But the fundamental element in the divide between the West and Turkey remains the Islamist and increasingly anti-democratic nature of the Turkish government. All this must, for now, be swept aside. If the Kremlin is prepared to engage in a reasonable and cooperative process to determine responsibility for the incident and follow diplomatic precedent and procedures, then we should meet it half-way. But if Moscow attempts to force Turkey into some kind of capitulation, Ankara needs solid backup. …

President Obama sees Syria as a quagmire ready to engulf the United States, and has believed that the less he deals with the Syrian mess the better. Those are reasonable fears, but the longer the war rages unchecked the more dangerous it becomes—and the worse the President’s choices get. Russia, for its part, has long been using Obama’s unwillingness to engage in confrontations as a tool to force American retreat. The Kremlin’s read is that President Obama is so conflict-averse that Russia can engage in behavior that would otherwise be seen as much too risky. Regardless of whether the plane was in Turkish or Russian airspace at the moment of the downing, this incident is typical of a global pattern of Russian planes testing the limits of what is possible and acceptable. Now that this pattern has produced such a clear conflict point, the U.S.—and the West, generally—must not back down.

My intuition is that both powers will climb down, though. Just a gut feeling based on experience. In the absence of detailed insight about what’s really happening in today’s NATO emergency meetings, the Kremlin, and the Palace, my best guess is that we’ll see a lot of bluster — perhaps for a while, and even perhaps for years — but I don’t think the Fourth World War just began. To say much more would only be contributing to a lot of poorly- or half-informed speculation, so I won’t.

If you’ve been reading about this elsewhere and have any questions about what you’re reading, I might be able to help you sort out who some of the players are and what theories are more apt to be true and why. So feel free to ask. But basically, we won’t really know what’s happening now until the archives are open many years from now. (Or absent that, from a Wikileaks document dump, of which I would of course disapprove — even though, as a journalist, historian, and someone who like all of us would be affected by these events if they spin further out of control, I’d give anything to read what our diplomats and analysts are really thinking right now.)

This is obviously serious, and you would be right to be afraid (and in my view, right to be a lot more afraid than you should be by the relocation of vetted Syrian refugees). A direct NATO-Russian conflict has long been one of the world’s worst nightmares. ISIS is a terrifying nuisance to the West; but Russia, by virtue of the weapons it already has — not “might have,” nor “will inevitably seek” — can destroy our civilization tomorrow, through malice, or, much more likely, miscalculation. And vice-versa, of course. Russian patterns or testing our defenses and will, its aggression, and its salami tactics on the borders of NATO are by now a highly proven pattern and pose — bring on the cliché — a genuinely existential threat to the post war security order. By this, I mean that the relatively stable and prosperous postwar order in which we grew up might well disappear if this keeps up.

I don’t think the odds of this are so high that we should be shrieking and panicking (not that this has ever helped a thing), but I do think they’re high enough that if you’re not feeling a bit sick to your stomach, you’re either totally unflappable or in a bit of denial.

But it does no good to feel sick, unless you’re one of the people with the power to effect this, and I’m not. And if you are, you shouldn’t be talking about it on Ricochet, so put down the Internet and get back to work, please.

Given this depressing news, I thought it would be a good day to remind you that not everything in the world is headed straight for hell.

Twenty-two months after the Ebola outbreak began, Sierra Leone is free of the disease.* Sierra Leone was among the three West African countries hit hardest by the deadliest Ebola epidemic in history. It lasted 22 months and killed more than 11,300 people. Guinea — where the epidemic originated — also had good news; its last known Ebola patient has recovered, and if no new cases are reported, it too will soon be declared Ebola-free.

*Almost. As I wrote this, it was reported that a 15-year-old boy died of Ebola in Liberia — less than three months after the country was declared free of the virus. Given that there were 8,704 laboratory-confirmed cases in the year up to November 24, 2015, this shouldn’t diminish our sense that we have cause for great celebration. This kind  of celebration, in fact:

Congratulations, Sierra Leone.

There are 80 comments.

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  1. Yeah...ok. Inactive
    Yeah...ok.
    @Yeahok

    Great, send 11,300 Syrian “refugees” to Sierra Leone.

    • #1
  2. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    I wouldn’t worry too much about any of this since Obama is focuses like a laser on the primary threat, Climate Change. Oh who am I kidding, I am extremely worried for that very reason. The morning news this week looks like a news montage at the beginning of a post apocalyptic movie and this administration is completely unserious and led by a small, petty, thin skinned man.
    The US is on the sidelines for this one Claire and it is shameful.

    • #2
  3. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Very glad to read the news about Sierra Leone.

    • #3
  4. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Concretevol:I wouldn’t worry too much about any of this since Obama is focuses like a laser on the primary threat, Climate Change Republicans.

    Fixed it for you.

    Upon further reflection it should read “Climate Change and Republicans, not necessarily in that order.”

    • #4
  5. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    We didn’t go to war over KAL-007. We didn’t go to war over Malayasian Flight 17.

    Talking in the office yesterday we kind of figured one could shoot down a Russian fighter every other month for a few years before Putin would get more belligerent.

    He lost a helicopter yesterday too.

    • #5
  6. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:but I don’t think the Fourth World War just began.

    No it didn’t – It began on September 14, 2001 with the Authorization of Military Force. At least that is when one of the belligerents woke up to the fact that a state of war existed and elected to do something about it.

    • #6
  7. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: but Russia, by virtue of the weapons it already has — not “might have,” nor “will inevitably seek” — can destroy our civilization tomorrow, through malice, or, much more likely, miscalculation

    Not likely. Look at the 1983 False Alarm incident.

    • #7
  8. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    So far from what I’ve seen in Die Welt and Der Spiegel this morning, Putin is reacting with surprising restraint for him. Watch and wait, since…well, Concretevol already said it. On a related note, is the fact that Merkel’s speech called the continued legal existence of the Schengen Treaty into question being reported in the French press? De facto it’s already gone.

    • #8
  9. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Well now Putin has an excuse to take Turkey if he wishes. As for Ebola, it is good that this outbreak seems to have ebbed, but the nature of the disease seems to be that it fades away only to have an larger outbreak several years later.

    • #9
  10. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Instugator:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: but Russia, by virtue of the weapons it already has — not “might have,” nor “will inevitably seek” — can destroy our civilization tomorrow, through malice, or, much more likely, miscalculation

    Not likely. Look at the 1983 False Alarm incident.

    Yes, I wrote about that in TINA — why do you say “not likely?”

    • #10
  11. Pilgrim Coolidge
    Pilgrim
    @Pilgrim

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: — but I don’t think the Fourth World War just began.

    Did I miss something?  What are you designating as WWIII?

    • #11
  12. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    Pilgrim:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: — but I don’t think the Fourth World War just began.

    Did I miss something? What are you designating as WWIII?

    Cold War? (not sure, just guessing)

    • #12
  13. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    “Those who grasp the gravity of this have broken out in a cold sweat.”

    Those who don’t grasp the gravity of this, work in the White House.

    The next step will be for Russian MIG’s to escort their bombers.  So the next confrontation will have casualties on both sides.  And as long as we have a feckless, fatuous fool in the Oval Office, this can only escalate.

    But Turkey is making a serious mistake if it thinks it can get away with this because NATO will have its back.  NATO is the U.S., and the U.S. cowers, er I mean “leads” from behind.

    • #13
  14. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    lesserson:

    Pilgrim:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: — but I don’t think the Fourth World War just began.

    Did I miss something? What are you designating as WWIII?

    Cold War? (not sure, just guessing)

    She wouldn’t be the first to do so.

    • #14
  15. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Turkey had no choice. It was this or accede to being dominated by Russia.

    • #15
  16. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Zafar:Turkey had no choice. It was this or accede to being dominated by Russia.

    Why did it murder two pilots in cold blood?

    • #16
  17. Pilgrim Coolidge
    Pilgrim
    @Pilgrim

    Larry3435: But Turkey is making a serious mistake if it thinks it can get away with this because NATO will have its back.  NATO is the U.S., and the U.S. cowers, er I mean “leads” from behind.

    As far as I am concerned it is Article 5*

    “* Turkey may not invoke this Article but may apply for protection on the basis of a coalition of the willing”

    Turkey has proven itself an uncertain ally.

    Also, I am wondering if Turkey isn’t defining its “border” ( in the shoot-down ) to include the Syrian Turkmen-held areas which it expects to annex in the realignment of Syria.

    • #17
  18. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Seems Russia is testing all borders these days – like a game of chicken – skirting our shores, Eastern Europe, Middle East – claiming sea resources, they seem to be everywhere testing the waters.  Didn’t you do a big article Claire on the ultimate goal laid out by that dark character behind the scenes in Russia? I forgot his name.  They stir the pot then rush in to rescue. They now have the green light to embolden Iran.  Who would have thought this scenario would be unfolding before our eyes?  It seems everyone is operating from crisis mode. I think Putin is doing what he intends to do – keep staking claims.

    • #18
  19. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Front Seat Cat: Seems Russia is testing all borders these days – like a game of chicken – skirting our shores, Eastern Europe, Middle East

    Doesn’t just seem like it — they are.

    • #19
  20. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Pseudodionysius:

    Zafar:Turkey had no choice. It was this or accede to being dominated by Russia.

    Why did it murder two pilots in cold blood?

    It didn’t, Syrian Turkoman rebels who the Russians had been shooting at did.

    This has been the biggest danger to letting the Syrian civil war fester. As it draws more people in and escalates it raises the possibility of drawing us in too against our wills. Acting early on our terms arguably might be better than being forced to act later on someone else’s terms. To be honest I have been expecting something like this Russian plane being downed, but I expected it would come from a Baltic State responding to Russian incursions.

    Also Claire, how much of what Medvedev said about Turkish politicians profiting from ISIS oil do you think its true. Sound like a real possibility to me.

    • #20
  21. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Pseudodionysius:

    Zafar:Turkey had no choice. It was this or accede to being dominated by Russia.

    Why did it murder two pilots in cold blood?

    Because the Russians had been killing Turkmens, who most Turks consider Turks who got stuck on the other side of the border when the Ottoman Empire broke up.

    • #21
  22. Pilgrim Coolidge
    Pilgrim
    @Pilgrim

    I’ll just say it.  Dump Article 5.  Mutual defense obligations are either dooms-day machines or paper tigers. If the treaty is wrongly considered a paper tiger then it becomes a doomsday machine. The treaty is no stronger than the capabilities and resolve of the allies and both are open to question.

    The Great War (Parts 1 and 2, with an sporting intermission to let Germany raise a new generation of young men and rearm) was ignited by a cascade of treaties, none of which protected vital national interests, and none of which deterred the horror.  In fact, the mutual defense obligations caused the horror.

    • #22
  23. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    Breaking new: Russians are sending their best air defense system (S-400) to Syria.  Seems like a good time for the US to re-deploy the Patriot missile batteries to Turkey.  That will sober the Russians up I am sure.

    PS. Would give us a chance to gather very good intelligence on its electronic waveforms. We jam it, it tries to break jam and we learn a lot that allows us to develop ECCM against it for future exploitation

    PSS. Does Ms. B have an idea what Turkey’s real agenda is regards ISIS?  The former seems to be discreetly aiding the latter.  Aren’t the Turks paying ISIS for their oil?  And allowing cross border traffic to supply ISIS with fighters and goods?

    Hadn’t we better get a clear conception of Turkey’s duplicity if so before we fully back them up.  The word Byzantine may not even be adequate to explain the myriad intrigues and conflicted agendas in this arena.  Was there ever a conflict so jumbled?

    • #23
  24. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Pseudodionysius:

    Zafar:Turkey had no choice. It was this or accede to being dominated by Russia.

    Why did it murder two pilots in cold blood?

    Because the Russians had been killing Turkmens, who most Turks consider Turks who got stuck on the other side of the border when the Ottoman Empire broke up.

    So Christian Anatolia, which became the Ottoman Empire by force (which is how Islam spreads), lays claim to its country men and we in the West have pledged to help them out against Russia, because Turkey (which claims to have abolished the Ottoman Empire (Caliphate) is now part of NATO, because we in the West believe that Turkey has shed its Ottoman past and are now sufficiently secularized that the Ottoman Empire days play no role in its foreign policy?

    Got it.

    • #24
  25. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Zafar:Turkey had no choice. It was this or accede to being dominated by Russia.

    Zafar, that’s just ridiculous.  One plane flies through disputed airspace for a few minutes.  That’s “domination”?  Did the Turks really think that plane was on its way to nuke Ankara or something?

    • #25
  26. Pilgrim Coolidge
    Pilgrim
    @Pilgrim

    Pseudodionysius: So Christian Anatolia, which became the Ottoman Empire by force (which is how Islam spreads), lays claim to its country men and we in the West have pledged to help them out against Russia, because Turkey (which claims to have abolished the Ottoman Empire (Caliphate) is now part of NATO, because we in the West believe that Turkey has shed its Ottoman past and are now sufficiently secularized that the Ottoman Empire days play no role in its foreign policy? Got it.

    Perfect, just perfect.

    • #26
  27. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Zafar:Turkey had no choice. It was this or accede to being dominated by Russia.

    I guess they didn’t consult Obama.

    • #27
  28. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    For Thanksgiving in Russia, Turkey has you.

    • #28
  29. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Thanksgiving Day Humour:

    “If Russia attacked Turkey from behind would Greece help?”

    • #29
  30. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Instugator:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: but Russia, by virtue of the weapons it already has — not “might have,” nor “will inevitably seek” — can destroy our civilization tomorrow, through malice, or, much more likely, miscalculation

    Not likely. Look at the 1983 False Alarm incident.

    Yes, I wrote about that in TINA — why do you say “not likely?”

    Miscalculation is like misreading the situation. Thing is, in the era of New Start (and the other reduction treaties) Nukes have become much more precious and the large scale employment of them against a peer enemy takes preparation, time and the public movement of assets.

    Time to reflect, as it were – which reduces the likelihood of the event happening.

    Neither side can do existential damage without having to think about it first.

    • #30
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