Russian Plane Shot Down, the Analysis not happening

Posted on: November 28th, 2015 by Will Rodriguez 20 Comments

There’s been a tremendous amount written on the startling news of Turkey’s shoot down of a Russian fighter.  Just as surprising is the superficial analysis and stunning lack of discussion of the background events leading to this event.  Numerous media analysts and pundits have characterized Turkey’s shoot down of a Russian fighter as an overreaction or reckless.  It seems they would like the reader to believe nothing has been happening in the world and Turkey just decided to shoot a Russian fighter down.

The facts reported by numerous media sources are that a Russian SU-24 penetrated Turkish airspace and was shot down by a Turkish F16 with a close range air to air missile.  The crew ejected out of the stricken aircraft and the Russian plane crashed about 1.5 miles in Syrian territory.  Russia denies the plane was in Turkish airspace or that it was warned before being engaged.  American and Turkish radar tracks show the SU-24 did indeed cross over Turkish territory for 17 seconds.  The Turks have released tapes supporting their claim that they warned the Russian plane 10 times over a period of five minutes.  US officials confirm monitoring the repeated warnings.  One Russian crewmember was shot at while still in his parachute and later shown dead by rebel forces.  The crewmember was rescued in a joint Russian Syrian operation losing a Russian helicopter and Russian marine in the process.

The overwhelming majority of media reporting ends with the above analysis ignoring a tremendous amount of extremely pertinent information.  Premature and incomplete analysis paints Turkey as over reacting.  The Syrian civil war escalated already existing tensions between Syria and Turkey.  Those relations took a decidedly down turn on November 21, 2011 when Syrian soldiers fired on busses carrying Turkish pilgrims returning through a Syrian checkpoint.  Two pilgrims were wounded.  Five months later Syria fired across the Turkish border killing two and wounding more.  On 3 October 2012 a Syrian mortar round landed in Turkey and killed five civilians.  At that point the Turkish parliament authorized cross border operations.  The Turkish army retaliated with an artillery strike.

Most pertinent to the current crisis though and largely unreported is the eerily similar Syrian shoot down of a Turkish F-4 on 22 June 2012.  The F-4 was shot down over international waters after it had intruded on Syrian coastal waters and was warned away.  A warning the aircraft heeded.  Both Turkish crewmen were killed in the shoot down.  At that point, three years ago Turkey announced that its ROE had changed and aircraft heading towards Turkey would be considered hostile and shot down if they crossed the border.  Since that seminal event, tensions and incidents have greatly increased on the border especially after the Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war.   This includes the Turkish shoot down of a Syrian helicopter and a Syrian Mig-23 violating Turkish airspace.

Since Russia has deployed combat forces into Syria a drone violating Turkish airspace was shot down and Russian combat aircraft have repeatedly violated Turkish airspace.   Most disturbing incident though was in early October where a Russian SU-30 maintained radar lock on Turkish F-16’s for over five minutes.  Radar lock is a required step to launch some missiles and is considered an aggressive action similar to aiming at someone.  The litany of events described above clearly demonstrate all was not quiet on the Syrian front.

The recent events in Syria did not occur in a vacuum of world events either.  Before Russia’s intervention into Syria Russia occupied a prominent position on the front pages of the world’s newspapers for months with its very successful campaign of provocative behavior.  Provocative behavior that has largely left Russia with a free hand in Eastern Europe.  Pertinent to the tensions on the Turkey-Syria border are the widespread and an increasingly common practice of Russian combat aircraft violating its neighbor’s airspace with the goal of intimidating them.  Russia has repeatedly and continuously violated the airspace of other NATO allies: the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.  Couple this with the demonstrated lack of American leadership in the region and Turkish behavior can be characterized quite differently than the “provocative” and “over reacting” analysis the media has been presenting.  Turkey can see itself in the same light as the Baltic states are presently in because of the lack of NATO spine and US leadership as demonstrated in Europe.  That same lack of spine could be a contributory factor to continued Russian provocations and actions against Ukraine. Russia may consider restraint as weakness.

The common wisdom (which isn’t wisdom at all) may be that Turkey over reacted.  Considering the preceding events in the region and recent history surrounding Russia, Turkey’s actions may actually cause a pause in the region.  Unlike the loose nuclear talk following Russia’s actions in Europe, Russia’s characterization of the downing of their fighter as a stab in the back is relatively tame.  Neither Turkey nor Russia wants to go to war with each other.  Besides Turkey being a NATO member and the implications of a major war, Turkey can relatively easily close the Black Sea.  This would all but strangle Russia’s ability to conduct sustained operations in Syria.  Countering that capability would require Russia to wage major amphibious operations and seize Turkish territory.  It’s questionable the Russians have that capability or want to risk another Gallipoli.

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • UPDATE:  Allegedly Turkey has announced it will not conduct missions into Syria.  This may seem as a small victory for the Russians who have moved advanced ground (S300) and naval (the warship Moskova) anti-air capability into the region but according to Turkish media it was a mutual decision.  In exchange for the Turks not bombing targets in Syria Russia has agreed to stop attacks along the Turkish Syria border.
    Hmmmmm, did Putin get his bluff called?
     http://theaviationist.com/2015/11/27/tuaf-suspends-flights-over-syria/

  • KineticFury

    Good reminder. I thought it strange how it’s being interpreted in the media, especially with all the coverage of aggressive Russian military aircraft worldwide. Keep pushing people and eventually someone’s gonna push back.

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …A Russian attack aircraft “violated” Israeli airspace over the Golan.  However, the Russians and the Israelis worked out a protocol for dealing with minor (and generally accidental) violations.  No missile launch… no carnage, no hard feelings.  I may be going out on a limb here, but even if Russian pilots under instructions to ignore warnings from Turkish controllers… I doubt that they would ignore warnings from Israeli ones…  
    .
    …Turkey’s initial response was “drum-beating…” but their Sultan… uh, er… President has since decided to fall back and regroup and has altered his tone.  
    .
    …On SOFREP I ran photo, allegedly of Russian chopper trying to rescue the two downed pilots… but under fire from Turkmen militia.  I can not vouch for the authenticity of the photo…
    .
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-UTve6A75-Uw/TkzC84WD2xI/AAAAAAAAALE/taxcPUB07X0/s1600/road-warrior-470-0308.jpg

    .
    -YP

  • YankeePapa 
    Funny!
    In the FWIW corner, Iran claims six Hezbollah commandos and 18 Syrian commandos under the command of  Quds Commander General Soleimani with Russian air support executed the rescue of the Russian pilot.  They mentioned no casualties which conflicts with the death of a Russian marine.  I’m skeptical, but it does illuminate a repeated point of mine that Syria’s Assad is just a figurehead.

    Ref Russia Israel.  There isn’t a record of shoot downs between the two.  That would denote a lower level of tension.  If it was a Syrian plane all we would have seen is smoking wreckage.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa …Of course back during the “War of Attrition” along the Suez Canal between the 1967 war and the 1973 one… Soviet Air Force and Israeli Air Force did tangle…  
    .
    http://www.zahal.org/groups/ambush

    .
    -Yankee Papa-

  • YankeePapa majrod 
    True.  I should have been more specific in time frame like my article was. I was referring to the current Syrian civil war and the preceding 30 years.
    FWIW those Soviet  pilots of ’67 & ’73 were in Egyptian marked planes.  Much less of a direct conflict between countries that way.  Kind of like the Russian pilots we shot down who were flying Migs in Korea (and likely in Vietnam).

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa …Israel realized way back then… (as Rhodesia did) that you can give a Superpower a bloody nose… when nobody looking.  Just don’t embarrass them.
    .
    …Orders to units crossing into Mozambique during the Rhodesian bush war.  If necessary, kill Soviet personnel (advisers) in combat… but do not take as prisoners.  Words to the effect that if you wind up with some on your hands, give them a canteen and a compass and point them down the road…
    .
    -YP-

  • Michael_mike

    majrod I don’t think I would call it a bluff. Some element of political play but Putin is clearly pissed-off. He just cocked his gun and is waiting for the right opportunity to pull the trigger … just like the Turks did. An EW trap might happen. 

    The more I think about it and the YPG is bigger winner than the Turks. My opinion is that they deserve their own country but that seems to scare the Turks more than ISIS itself.

    That won’t mean WWIII tomorrow but I’d say it’s a serious escalation, one to deal carefully.

  • YankeePapa
  • Michael_mike majrod 
    I’m hesitant to promote the fracture of any nation.  There are quite a few groups here in the States that could or even do make the case for their own nation. Besides the obvious American Indian cases there are extreme groups like La Raza that promote the return of parts of the US to Mexico.
    One has to be careful what causes one supports and why.  That same logic could be turned against one’s self. 

    I have discussed at length elsewhere the problems that arise with the establishment of an independent Kurdistan.  In short it will give the region more reasons for war increasing instability and depending on our role and support embroil us in those conflicts best case at the moral level, worst case much more…

  • YankeePapa

    majrod Michael_mike .
    …I understand your hesitation.  But if all that we have to offer the Kurds is that they will… when and if the smoke clears… be in the hands of Iran… uh, er… I mean Baghdad.  Those same folks who have been starving them of the best weapons while expecting them to die holding the line against ISIS.  
    .
    …Meanwhile, the “darlings” of the Iraqi government… the Shia militias  have announced that they will kill American forces deployed to Iraq.  Waiting for Baghdad to announce that they will crush said militias if they attempt to carry out their threat.   Still waiting… Still… … …
    .
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/iraqi-shiite-militias-pledge-to-fight-us-forces-if-deployed/ar-AAfTNvM?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=mailsignout

    .
    -Yankee Papa-

  • YankeePapa majrod Michael_mike 
    The Kurds actually stopped ISIS before we started supporting them.  The problem comes when we go farther than that.
    The Kurds are pretty equal to their adversaries in the region right now. Making them unbeatable guarantees the establishment of a Kurdish state and all the instability that will mean for the region.  More instability is the last thing we need.

    Our efforts should be directed at making groups work together vs. creating more division.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa Michael_mike “Our efforts should be directed at making groups work together vs. creating more division…”
    .
    …Ah.  A worthy goal.  How is any U.S. administration… (especially this one) going to make the Iraqi government “work together” with the Kurds?  Most especially Baghdad’s Shia militias?  
    .
    …The mere fact that this would be in Iraq’s logical self-interest is irrelevant to them and their desire for an all Shiite Iraq.  Seems like Baghdad can’t even control its militias enough to keep them from threatening to kill American soldiers if they come to aid the country.  
    .
    …The moment that ISIS might cease to be a threat in Iraq is the moment when the Kurds are no longer “necessary” to Baghdad.  If they then decide to “purify” the rest of Iraq by “ethnic cleansing” aimed at the Kurds… would the U.S. prevent that…?  Right.  
    .
    …To the extent that U.S. policy has been to suppress Kurdish independence, it has been as part of our efforts to “keep Iraq intact and to keep Baghdad as an ally…”  Is Baghdad an ally?   If so, what kind, Chiang Kai Shek? 
    .
    … Is it likely to behave as one (other than accepting all of the goodies that we will hand over to them) in the forseeable future?  Will it sit on its Shia militias…  just about the only reliable force that it has?  If and when ISIS is driven from Iraq, will Baghdad be our ally… or Tehran’s?
    .
    …When WWII was over Britain handed over Burma to the same people who corroborated with the Japanese.  The Karens and Kachins who had been truly gallant allies were placed under the political control of those who aided the Japanese and despised the British. 
    .
    …The British salved their conscience by stating that the tribes could secede after ten years if it did not work out.  That was disingenuous at best… There was no vote permitted the tribes… at ten years or any time later.  Instead, attempted genocide in what has proved to be about the longest running insurgency in modern history.  
    .
    …We have helped a lot of people in conflict.  Many have paid us back by kicking us in the teeth.  Some, like the Montagyards, have trusted us.   The tribal Burmese trusted the British.  The Kurds want to trust us… but believe that they may wind up as sacrificial lambs on an altar of expediency.  
    .
    -Yankee Papa-

  • YankeePapa
  • YankeePapa majrod Michael_mike 
    This is not a new rumor.  I used to think wee were bad when it came to conspiracy theories.  The ME takes the cake.  Hey, something has to make up for their complete ineptitude on the battlefield. 

    That said, as ridiculous as it is we should be paying attention but that’s not going to happen with this administration.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa Michael_mike .
    …The United States is always at the wrong end of the rumor curve.  Right after the “Evil Empire” crashed, we were giving them money… while their foreign radio broadcasts continued to claim that the U.S. “invented” AIDS to wipe out Third World populations. 
    .
    …One true story that I have to like for its simplicity, brilliance, and cost effectiveness.  After WW2 the U.S. was sending shiploads of food to all sorts of countries that had been occupied by the Axis powers.  
    .
    …One country in Asia… Large sacks of grain, flour, whatever… being unloaded on the docks.  Local Communist agent paid local boss on the docks to spray-paint over any identifying info on bags, boxes, whatever… and, using a template, spray on (in the local language) the message…   “Gift from the Freedom Loving People of the Soviet Union…”   Went on for quite a while.  Yup… cost effective…
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa majrod Michael_mike 
    That is a great metaphor and seminal story.
    I’m equally incredulous by the number of people that take Russia at its word e.g. the shoot down of that Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. denials Assad used Sarin, t5here were no Russian troops in Crimea, their fighter wasn’t violating Turkey’s airspace…

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa Michael_mike .
    …Now me, anything more complicated than a bayonet or a garrote is beyond me.  But I do have friends who know the difference between a gigabyte and a “self-sealing stem-bolt…”
    .
    …One friend an electronics engineer.  One day back in the 1980s I dropped into his place of work to drop something off.  He was in the break room with a bunch of other geeks…uh, er I mean highly educated “Brownies…”, uh, er… I mean… 
    .
    …Anyway… I walked in on a discussion.  Somehow the subject of the Soviet Union came up.  Out of the five, only my friend was aware that the Soviets never placed a man on the moon.  One was convinced that they had some years after we did… and the others were “leaning” that way.  
    .
    …And these guys made their living “hiring out their slide rules…”  (If someone here doesn’t know what a slide rule is… Google it…)
    .
    -Yankee Papa-

  • engelbrad

    Great write up Will!

  • YankeePapa