It took almost five years to reach anything resembling an end to the Syrian Civil War and just 17 measly seconds to throw it all away.
Thanks to Turkish President Recep Tayyip “Quickdraw” Erdogan and his itchy trigger finger, Russia and Turkey are pals no more. Erdogan, also known as “Mafia Don Erdogan” in some media circles, ordered his minions to shoot down a Russian warplane under the pretext of an airspace violation.
Despite Erdogan’s insistence that it was all just a terrible mistake, Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t buying what Erdogan is selling. This was no unfortunate mishap, according to Putin, and he is doing everything possible to make Turkey feel the burn.
No more hand clasps and fist bumps for these two. Now it’s cold shoulders, dagger-like stares, and anti-aircraft missiles, as Russian President Vladimir Putin exacts his revenge on Turkey and Erdogan for shooting down a Russian warplane in contested airspace.
In fact, Erdogan’s hasty reaction to the 17-second breach, has all but quashed any hopes of cooperation between the American coalition and the Syrian alliance. Not only has Turkey’s leader drawn the ire of Moscow, he also succeeded in causing Russia to establish a de facto no-fly zone over most of Syria—effectively putting the kibosh on further coalition airstrikes against his alleged partners in crime—the Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh).
In a move of unrivaled impetuousness, Erdogan has torn down the house of cards—uh, peace—that the U.S. and others have tried so hard to build in Syria. The fact the he has also been accused of being a crime boss and head of his own family syndicate, for his part in alleged black market oil deals with Daesh, doesn’t make his case look any better either.
Call it brinkmanship. Call it machismo. Call it what you will, but right now, Putin is calling it a move to protect his interest in illegal ISIS oil and he may be right on the mark. There is mounting evidence that Turkey is doing some dirty, double-dealing and using NATO to shield it. Will NATO call Erdogan out on his mischief, or will it turn a blind eye to what is apparently going on?
Before we go accusing Erdogan, let’s take a really close look at what has happened here:
- Russia has imposed sanctions on Turkey for the shoot-down. These sanctions equate to some serious revenue being lost.
- Moscow felt the need to deploy its most advanced and most deadly anti-aircraft system to the region, which has, at least temporarily, put a kink in coalition bombing of ISIS and, by default, given Russia air superiority in the region. Incidentally, it also saw fit to bring in a guided-missile cruiser as back-up.
- Downing the plane has put a severe strain on an already-taxed relationship between the U.S. and Russia, and also raises the specter of an American or other coalition plane being shot down if the Pentagon decides to conduct more airstrikes, without notifying Russia.
These are only a few consequences brought on by a simple 17-second infraction. What was Erdogan thinking? Are these the actions of a loyal coalition partner or are they the moves of someone serving self-interest?
Furthermore, who is left to clean up this mess? Why the U.S. of course. Even now, the Obama administration is desperately trying to salvage what is left of the possible formation of plans to end the conflict.
Thanks Mr. Erdogan, for razing the last best hope for a peaceful end to the Syrian conflict. Now and henceforth you shall be known as “the 17-second man.” May you be plagued by the unintended, as well as the intended connotations associated with that title.