Turkey Shoots Down Russian Jet: Part 3

My last blog post recommended amending Article V of the NATO Charter so that only unprovoked attacks on one NATO nation would be considered an attack on them all. If it turns out that Turkey’s shooting down a Russian jet on November 24 was unwarranted, do we really want to start World War III should Russia shoot down a Turkish fighter in a future such encounter?

The mainstream media has presented a picture in which Turkey is seen as legitimately protecting its airspace. That may turn out to be true, but given the consequences and how often our media has led us astray in the past – see my 10 part series on Avoiding Needless Wars for examples – some caution would seem in order before accepting that picture.

This post presents some evidence on the other side that ought to be considered, but is currently being overlooked. I am not saying all of the following allegations are true, but why have they not been looked into?

Major General Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. (USAF, Retired), now the Executive Director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University’s Law School notes that the UN Charter permits the use of force against an armed attack, but goes on to say:

The problem here is that the Turks are not asserting that any armed attack took place or, for that matter, that any armed attack was even being contemplated by the Russians. … In short, it appears at this point that the Turkish case justifying the use of deadly force is, at best, weak.

When the tables were turned and one of his own jets was shot down by Syria in 2012 over an air space violation, then Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan (now its president) complained: “Even if the plane was in their airspace for a few seconds, that is no excuse to attack.”

That quote and several similar ones indicating that Turkey may be using a double standard came from an article by a German defense analyst whom I have found to be a valuable and reliable source in the past, and who goes by the nom de plume of “Moon of Alabama” to protect his career. He concludes:

All this provides [evidence] that yesterday’s incident in which Turkey shot down a Russian jet was not a case of an ordinary airspace violation but a deliberate act to take down a Russian plane. … This then was not legitimate air-defense but an ambush.

Journalist Gareth Porter, who won a 2012 award for reporting that exposes propaganda, also believes Turkey ambushed the Russian jet, and presents evidence to support his belief. That article also explains why Porter believes Turkey wanted to do that.

A TASS press release alleges that Turkey shot down the Russian jet to protect illegal profits that  Erdogan’s son gets from smuggling ISIS oil through Turkey. Coming from TASS, that allegation requires further support before being accepted, but there is a history of related allegations from Western sources. The Guardian had a February 2014 article that stated:

Recordings of phone-tapped conversations leaked on the internet appear to capture Erdogan instructing his 33-year-old son, Bilal, to dispose of large amounts of hidden funds from their private home in the midst of a corruption investigation.

And a more recent Guardian article claims that, “Many, if not most, of the estimated 15,000-20,000 foreign fighters to have joined Islamic State (Isis) have first flown into Istanbul or Adana, or arrived by ferry along its Mediterranean coast.

I should reemphasize that these are allegations, not undisputed facts. But, given what’s at stake, why haven’t we looked into them more carefully before allowing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to state that NATO nations “stand in solidarity with Turkey.”

Let’s not repeat the mistake we’ve repeatedly made in the past, – getting into wars and asking questions later. Especially given Russia’s thousands of nuclear weapons, it’s high time we asked the hard questions first.

Martin Hellman

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About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, for almost 30 years, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." Its soon to open website explains: https://anewmap.com.
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