Are there any good guys involved in the recent downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish air force pilots? As defenders of their nation’s skies, did the Turkish pilots have another option when their Russian counterparts refused to respond to numerous warnings? Anyone who has listened to news of the events has heard recordings of the warnings, yet the Russians claim that they were not warned at all. Is it perceivable that the Turkish forces broadcast on a frequency that the Russians could not receive? That would make no sense whatsoever. Yet assuming the Russians heard the broadcast, their antiquated jets were no match for the modern F17s of the Turkish force. The Turks could have escorted the Russians out of Turkish airspace without incident, or could have forced the Russians to land. Shooting them down seems a bit extreme. Killing the Russian pilot, as has been allegedon numerous news outlets, is not only immoral,but a direct infraction of the Geneva Convention, of which Turkey is a signatory. If indeed it occurred as suspected, it was murder. Even if the Turkish government had legal right to shoot down the aircraft, its deeds seem by every measure excessive.
As reprehensible as Turkish actions were, the Russians remain culpable. Invading a sovereign nation’s airspace is an act of war, and recrimination is not unexpected.
Examining recent history under Putin’s leadership casts grave concern. In the last year Russian forces invaded Ukraine, and weeks later Russia annexed the region. Not too many years ago Putin used unrest in former Soviet republics as an excuse to invade and take control. These days Russia masks it’s attacks on American allies in Syria by claiming it is going after ISIS targets. By observbable measures Putin’s biggest goal is to grow Russian power and to reestablish the Russian empire. To large measure he remains devoted to the standards in which he was inculcated as a KGB apparatchik. His threat to avenge the event is at least troublesome.
Erdogan, the Turkish president, is hardly an angel. A Muslim fundamentalist, he is striving hard to undo decades of Turkish precedent in which that country was uniquely a secular state in a sea of surrounding, Muslim, Arab countries He has all but broken ties with Israel that have been productive to both countries’ economies. Last year he led efforts to smuggle weapons to Hamas in Gaza. He made wild accusations against the Israeli navy when it boarded ships to validate the supposedly humanitarian cargo. He showed himself as a supporter of blockade running, not as a supporter of peace in the region. It is thought that his government may at least be a passive supporter of ISIS. This is not one due American or Jewish respect.
So what do we do? As citizens and voters what should we press our government to do? Thankfully Turkey has not asked NATO allies for support, and happily there has not been greater belligerence between Russia and Turkey. Still what should we do?
Maybe we ought to take a lesson from our forefather Isaac. When he went to Gerar he noted that there was no fear of God in the place. Isaac made self preservation his primary objective. Perhaps as Americans our best option regarding Turkey and Russia is to do nothing at all and let the two adversaries work things out for themselves.