The probably deliberate shootdown of the Su-24 over Syria by Turkey has underlined that Russia in Syria is vulnerable, despite Russia's great power. Russia is for one hobbled by geography, and Russia is also vulnerable to relative local superiority of forces of opposing nations like Turkey.
Recent events have highlighted Russia's problem of supply, and its problem of supply in light of attrition, and attempts to open up new fronts to distract Russia from its main objectives.
♦ Threat to Russian lines of communication
There are basically two ways for Russia to supply its operations in Syria - one is by sea, or more precisely, from the Black Sea through the Dardanelles, the Mediterrean Sea - and the other by air and land over the Caucasus region (Azerbaidjan), through Iran and then Iraq. All these supply lines are long, and run east or west around Turkey which sits in the middle - an obstacle when it wants to.
Under the Montreux convention the Bosporus is open to Russian naval vessels in peacetime. In times of war the Turks could close it to Russia - bottling them up in the Black Sea and/or trapping them in the Mediterranean. Replenishment by sea or reinforcement to the Mediterranean would then have to come from the Baltics, which would take weeks, entirely through NATO controlled waters.
Had the shootdown resulted in the successful invocation of NATO's collective defence clause under Art.5 the resulting state of war would have allowed Turkey block the Dardanelles for all Russian naval vessels.
♦ Crimean diversions - Tartars!
Crimea is Russia's main port of supply and HQ of the Black Sea Fleet - most of the Russian reinforcements to Syria originated there. The electricity lines that run from Ukraine into crime have been sabotaged by Crimean Tartars, who also obstruct reconstruction.
The Crimea blackout also left, as collateral damage, parts of south-eastern Ukraine without electricity - apparently worth it. The incident shows the weakness of Ukraine's central government in face of rabidly rightist forces, since apparently the saboteurs enjoy political cover. For Putin, the incident is a distraction - a small defeat which may hurt him in the polls, hands him yet another problem to solve, at a cost - and it gives a small petty victory to the Ukies, the Tartars (and their probable Turkish backers), gets Crimea back into the news, and it hurts Russian operations at least somewhat.
Crimean tartars were subjected to brutal persecution under Stalin for their real (there was a Tartar Waffen SS unit) and alleged cooperation with the German invaders. Turkey also sees them as 'unredeemed' Turks. Their cause resonates in Turkey also, as an estimated 5 million Crimea Tartars (who went there since the days of Catherine the Great) are said to live in the diaspora in Turkey.
I had Turks tell me to my face that, as far as they are concerned, Crimea is rightfully Turkish. Turkey lost Crimea 232 years ago when Catherine the Great annexed it. It's been a while since.
I assume that such views are more widespread. Maybe someone should tell their Ukie friends about that angle, because if they don't like Russian control of Crimea, they or their descendants probably won't like Turkish or Islamist control of that 'integral part of Ukraine' all that much either, but if what passes as strategic thinking is short term enough ...
♦ Neo-Ottomanism compromises three themes
Erdogan's and Davatoglu's foreign policy has been characterised as 'neo-ottoman'. IMO that 'neo-ottomanism' is in essence a blend of three pre-existing themes that stand out to me as having particular relevance for reading Erdogan's and Davatoglu's foreign policy:
I for my part had for long dismissed, probably out of ignorance, pan-turkism as a secular-nationalist thing but I didn't see the pan-Islamic angle so clearly on display in Erdogan's version of it. The US/Saudi project to inspire Muslims for Jihad against Russia over Afghanistan perhaps changed that? I wonder. To come back to the Crimean tartars - there have been reports of Islamist proselythising in Crimea by groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Turkish nationalists have never really accepted the formation of new nation states in the former southern Ottoman provinces. Attatürk himself led a long fight against outside powers of the day - France, Britain and Greeks - to retain and restore s much of the old Ottoman empire as possible. His last act in that war was the annexation of Hatay as a province in 1939 - precisely and symbolically the area near where the Russian Su-24 has been shot down.
If the Turkish plan had gone up, and NATO had joined the fray, the state of war would have allowed the Turks to strangle the Russian contingent in Syria by closing the Bosporus, and then to perhaps inflict a humiliating defeat on Russia, eventually get their desired dismemberment of Syria, the removal of Assad and the 'redemption' of formerly Turkish territories.
And as for humiliating defeat: The Slava crusier off the Syrian coast is a potent ship but just one ship in a small flotilla off a hostile shore and it can only last so long in face of defermined and coordinated naval and air attack. Think Tsushima.
Those NATO hawks who want to embrace conflict with Russia - to increase NATO's relevance, for their own geopolitical ends, to cut Russia down to the size of a 'mere regional power', perhaps not remove but at least weaken Putin - may be at least tacitly supportive of such a scheme, or the warning the attempt implies, even when they distrust Erdogan's motives. They would probably leave him some room, or Erdogan could expect them to.
And there is good reason to question Erdogan's good faith - he is after all apparently trying to pull off a Turkish equivalent of the Liberation of the Sudetenland, an action of a type generally being frowned upon amongst neocons if their frequent invocations of the evils of Munich 1938 are any indication.
On of the things Erdogan has in common with IS certainly is the utter disdain for the colonial Sykes/Picot borders at Turkey's expense.
As far as removing what Erdogan clearly sees as lingering injustices of the settlement of World War I when the colonial powers imposed new borders on the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, his and ISIS objectives align fully, just as they align on denying the Kurds statehood, anathema for Erdogan the Islamist and Nationalist and simply idolatry for ISIS' jihadis.
When watching the clip I couldn't help but wonder how Erdogan could possibly condemn their actions, given that he blasted the Sykes-Picot agreement as the root of pretty much all conflict plagueing the Middle East today and T.E. Lawrence, Allenby, Sykes and Picot are to blame. Ataturk fought back, but could only do so much.
To Erdogan, Assad and Putin are forces that try to cling to a detested status quo which he seeks to change in Turkey's favour, and in his mind, to the benefit of the region proper. Just like the US perceive themselves to be global benevolent hegemons, so apparently do the neo-ottomans over their to-be-restored sphere of influence.
~ by confusedponderer