As Turkey shoots down Russian plane NATO is at least indirectly involved as Turkey is the alliance member. What could/should be role of NATO (if any) in the current situation when probably first all we should find the way how deescalate? Read few comments.
John R. Deni*, Research Professor of National Security Studies, Strategic Studies Institute
NATO isn’t very involved in this incident, at least not yet. The alliance conducted a so-called ‘extraordinary’ meeting of the North Atlantic Council, at Turkey’s request, which seems very appropriate. After all, it seems clear from the flight data presented by Turkey that Russia did indeed — and yet again — violate Turkish sovereignty, apparently flying into Turkish airspace 10 times within a five-minute period along the Syrian border. If the Russians lack the ability and/or the willingness to avoid such violations — recall that the they’ve previously apologized for ‘navigational errors’ when they’ve flown into Turkish airspace — then Turkey is completely justified in defending its territory and airspace.
Do occasional violations add up to an Article 5-like ‘attack’ on a member? That’s in the eye of the beholder and will depend on many factors such as the amount, frequency, and scope of the violations. At this point though, even though Turkey appears fully justified in doing what it did, it does not seem to me that what has occurred to date has crossed an Article 5 threshold, or that the alliance is anywhere close to invoking Article 5.
Instead, the most appropriate action for the alliance right now is standing shoulder to shoulder politically with Turkey. NATO solidarity in the face of Russian aggression is critically important, and needs to be the focus of the alliance for the moment. Meanwhile, I would be surprised to see either side escalate this very much, at least militarily. Both states face a host of security and foreign policy challenges, and it would seem illogical for either Moscow or Ankara to add things to the plate.
What is perhaps most interesting at this time is the effect this incident will have on European attitudes toward easing up sanctions on Russia over Ukraine. There were already media reports indicating that the EU was leaning toward renewal of the sanctions at year’s end. Repeated Russian violations of Turkish sovereignty could stiffen the resolve of many in the EU who want to maintain the sanctions, providing a countervailing impetus to those that wanted to loosen sanctions in the wake of the ISIS attacks against the Russian airliner and Paris in recent weeks.
* These views do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government.
Stanley Sloan, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council of the United States, Visiting Scholar in Political Science Middlebury College, Author of book Defense of the West: NATO, the European Union and the Transatlantic Bargain to be published in 2016
This soon after a new development it is no surprise that some reports are misleading concerning important “technical” details. One of those details is that, even though Turkey is a NATO member, the Turkish F-16s that engaged the Russian aircraft were not operating as part of a NATO mission. They were not being managed by NATO’s Integrated Command Structure, and therefore this was not a NATO use of force against the Russian aircraft. Russia may well attempt to shift some of the onus to the alliance, but NATO needs to make it clear that the incident did not grow out of a NATO activity.
Just as President Obama has done in his press conference with President Hollande, NATO has already backed Turkey’s right to defend its territory against foreign intrusions. This is true even if a Russian aircraft intruding in Turkey’s airspace while attacking anti-Assad forces in Syria does not constitute an “attack” on Turkey and therefore does not come close to warranting invocation of NATO’s Article 5 collective defense provision. The emergency NATO meeting on 24 November requested by Turkey ended, in fact, with Secretary General Stoltenberg making it clear that, while backing Turkey’s actions, every attempt should be made to avoid escalation of the conflict between Turkey and Russia.
NATO allies should, on a bilateral basis, re-double their efforts to convince Russia that its military activities in support of President Assad need, at the very least, to be de-conflicted with those of the US-led anti-Daesh coalition. Going beyond de-confliction, the allies should continue to try to convince Russia to cooperate in finding a path toward new leadership in Damascus while directing its military efforts only at Daesh, not at other opponents of the Assad regime. These are concessions not to be expected from Russia in the near term, but remain arguments that NATO allies should continue making to President Putin.
Finally, while trying to calm the waters with Moscow, the allies should be firm in pointing out that the incident can be seen as a consequence of the provocative activities of Russian military forces in the past few years, to say nothing of their aggressive use against Ukraine. Russia is playing a dangerous game, and now perhaps is when we will learn whether Putin the risk-taker will give way to Putin the realist. Perhaps President Hollande can use his bilateral talks with President Putin to move him in this direction.
Sean Kay, Professor, Department of Politics and Government, Ohio Wesleyan University
Overall, NATO’s role is to support the principle of respect for airspace and do what it can to help de-escalate the situation. I do not see much likelihood of additional NATO involvement in this, though Turkey could request additional support for its defensive position, especially near the that border with Syria. Russia has been doing a wide range of irresponsible things with its air planes – at that border, but also around Europe and the U.S. It is not conducive to a country wishing better relations. On the other hand, the NATO allies also would understand well that their is not going to be a solution to the Syria crisis that does not involve the Russians and so how to get to that diplomatic endgame, is at the end of the day, the key question. But Turkey too has serious interests in seeing any additional tensions with Moscow de-escalate and fast, given their deep dependence on Russia for energy supplies.
The NATO Secretary General did a good job of signaling this support for principle on airspace while emphasizing the importance of de-escalation. Probably the key meeting is between Holland and Putin, later this week.
Garret Martin, Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, Editor at Large at the European Institute, American University
In my view, NATO only has a limited role to play in this incident and it will try to maintain a balancing act. On the one hand, NATO will want to reassure Turkey and to express general solidarity, especially over the question of the violation of Turkey’s airspace. On the other hand, there is no desire to see this situation escalate further, since Russian cooperation, despite its differing goals in the region, could be an asset in attacking ISIS and ending the Syrian conflict.
Bill Park, Senior Lecturer, Department of Defence Studies, King’s College, London University
It seems to me in what is still an unfolding situation that Erdogan has met his match, that his NATO allies don’t trust him so much and are reserved in their support, and that Putin is using the opportunity to destroy Turkey’s proxies in Syria. The fear is that there is another incident. The likelihood is that if Russia is reckless enough to provoke one (a possibility) Turkey will be more cautious next time around.