Turkish fighter jets downed a Russian fighter jet early morning on 24 November on Turkish Syrian border. The official reason for the assault was given as air space violation and so-called “rules of engagement”. Yet many Turkish officials indicated the hostile political line of Russia against Turkey in Syria and made bullying statements essentially saying “do not test our strength, you will pay for it”. One can also clearly see the real essence of the motive and attitude of the government from belligerent and menacing headlines in media outlets both those government mouthpieces and those that are trying to cosy up to the government: “The Russian crossed the line, and we hit!”, “They have been on the rampage, and got what is necessary”, “We downed it!”, “They tested our patience!”, “Warned, downed”, “Done as necessary”, “Warned 10 times, not our fault”, “Putin escalates tension!”, “Crossed the line, we hit”.
The argument based on air space violation and so-called rules of engagement is nothing but a fake and hypocritical argument to obscure the minds of the public and secure a diplomatic foothold. Just three years ago when a Turkish fighter jet was downed by Syrian air forces with the same justification Erdogan said “you can’t down a jet for just an air space violation of few seconds”. Moreover, a few months ago, a Russian jet violated the air space just the same way and the prime-minister Davutoglu announced that it was by mistake and that Russia had no intention of disrespecting the borders. And it is known that since then there have been many such minor violations occurring and all cases handled peacefully in mutual communication.
It is clear that what is at stake is not the much talked “rules of engagement” whatsoever. This is both a very dangerous show of strength with possible serious consequences and an important development materialising the process of a third world war which we, Marksist Tutum, have been emphasising for a long time. Possibly this event will be called a milestone by those who will write the history of war in the future. Since this is a first direct military assault hitting one of the main poles of the process of the third world war, by another, not minor, state which is openly a side of the war. For the first time in more than 60 years that a NATO country downs a Russian plane.
Turkey has dared to carry out such a risky assault since it has been pretty much backed into a corner by the recent overwhelming direct involvement of Russia in Syria. Turkey under Erdogan has already been making anti-Russian statements for some time and also probably making their misgivings clear to Russia in their diplomatic meetings. This build-up has been creating a favourable ground for a sudden ignition. The latest and most crucial step in this process was the bombings by Russia of the territory very close to Turkey in Syria, where so called Bayirbucak Turkomen supposedly live together with other peoples. Although the pro-government and nationalist Turkish media presented the bombings, in a provocative way, as an attempt at massacring the Turkomen, in reality, Russian and Assad forces took aim at jihadist groups organised and supported particularly by Turkey. It comes out that among these groups there are people from Bayirbucak Turkomen.
It is understood that some vital bases of the imperialist policy of Turkey in Syria are hit by these bombings. That is exactly why the media suddenly made a big fuss. Yet, Russia has already been bombing areas according to its own strategy that are not ISIS base areas. Although the media have not failed to cover these bombings as well, they have never made such a big fuss as in the case of the latest bombings. Such a fuss clearly showed that sensitive nerves had been touched this time around. It is clear that the downing of Russian fighter jet by Turkey is a deliberate and planned act, and its direct motive is to show teeth to Russia in face of Turkey’s retreating positions and the general course of events to the detriment of Turkey.
Although the AKP has made certain changes in its Syrian policy it has not changed the main course of its line and, as this last event showed, it has no intention of changing it. Its insistence is based on contradictions between Russia and the Western imperialist bloc headed by the USA. It makes use of, actually overuse, the contradictions between the West and Russia as space for manoeuvre. With such a provocative aggression that may cause a war situation, it, at the same time, seeks to blow up the partial consensus over Syria between the USA and Russia, which it detested. The fact that immediately after the downing of the fighter jet it summoned the NATO as if it was the party under attack was an expression of this policy. With this move it was forcing the NATO to side with it as one of its allies.
Yet it can hardly be said that it has achieved its goal. The tone of statements from the US side and NATO, while they underlined in general that they were with Turkey, it was clearly felt that this emphasis was not a strong one. The main emphasis was made for an easing of the tension. Moreover, some statements of Western statesmen and comments in the Western mainstream bourgeois media hinted that Turkey was not completely innocent and that it acted on purpose.
As an inevitable consequence of its imperialist policies Turkey has made a risky move. This important development which could bring along serious consequences is a result of inevitable course of the ongoing imperialist process of war on the whole. This course of events has had its moments such as the recent Paris attacks yesterday, and the downing of Russian fighter jet today. All such moves and developments increase the general tension and pave the way for more risky and explosive developments in the next stage. Undoubtedly the downing of the fighter jet will be neither forgotten nor stomached by Russia. Considering that Putin is also a bourgeois leader a-la-Erdogan this is all the more a credible prospect. There is no doubt that Russia will not change its policy over Syria just because it lost one of its fighter jets. It was no surprise that it announced it would continue the military operations in Syria without a break. And it is now sending a missile defence system to the region which means a serious increase in the military build-up in the region.
It is quite possible that in the period ahead Turkey’s collaboration and connections with ISIS and other radical Islamist groups will be disclosed more on an international level and/or some new developments related to this association will be exposed (such as the gendarmerie seizure and disclosure of the arm carrying trucks of the Turkish national intelligence service). Moreover, Russia will also exert pressure through the Kurdish question which it sees as the weak point of Turkey. Thus, the move made by Turkey to save its deteriorating position in the ongoing process of war will very likely bring greater risks and losses.
And this brings us to another important point. Prior to the 1 November election the AKP had intimidated the broad working masses by fear of instability and achieved a majority to set up a single party government. The masses that were paralysed by fear under conditions of general unorganisation could be channelled to the AKP within a short space of 4.5 months after the aborted 7 June election, despite there was no betterment of living conditions of the working masses (in fact there was a worsening). In those days the working class revolutionaries emphasized insistently that the regime was in a general having a hard time and that a renewed AKP government would bring no stability. The present developments prove this clearly. Now the shape of “stability” promised by the AKP can be better understood. Class revolutionaries are obligated to explain this reality tirelessly to workers.
This duty is a hard one since illusions continue to prevail on the part of the broad masses despite it has become clearer that the flames of war are now more likely to ravage Turkey as well. Unfortunately the false polarisation created by the forces of existing order makes itself felt also on the question of the downing of the Russian fighter jet. The immediate public reaction at large to the incident can be summed up as “we have shown the power of the Turk”. Yet, what is at stake is a third world war progressing in its particular fashion, which can blow up the whole world. Class revolutionaries bear responsibility to fight with full strength against this dangerous illusion. The working class needs to take the road of organised struggle as a whole against the forces of existing order before the flames of war bring a greater devastation.
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