FARIA: The Turkish-Russian conflict - converting adversity into opportunity

The downing of a Russian jet by a Turkish F-16 fighter plane is a distracting development for the war on ISIS, as well as an event that could have ominous repercussions for the NATO alliance. Turkey says the Russian plane, a Su-24 aircraft, was shot down while violating Turkish airspace. The Russians deny this and affirm their jet did not stray from Syrian airspace. Turkey, a member of NATO, is supported by the Western alliance that asserts the Turkish claim that the Russian warplane violated Turkish airspace, flying over a tongue of land stretching into Syria.

What is lost here is the fact that despite political disagreements about the Syrian government, both the Russian Federation and Turkey should be cooperating on the war on terror and the defeat of ISIS — instead they are responding in a historic and adversarial manner that could lead to a major and potentially catastrophic war in Europe involving not just old historic enemies — i.e., Turkey and Russia — but also NATO and the U.S. with calamitous consequences for Europe.

Defiant Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should be reconsidering Turkey's rules of engagement in alleged Turkish airspace and territorial violations. This is especially true when his country stretches into a hotbed of terrorist activities directed by ISIS. Moreover, both Turkey and Russia are being assailed and destabilized by ISIS and terrorism. Just last month a Russian plane was blown up by Islamic terrorists in Egypt. Russian President Vladimir Putin has a right to be fuming and asking questions. But both the Russian and Turkish presidents should be placing aside centuries-old historical distrust and animosities stemming from old conflicts in the Balkans, the Black Sea and the Crimea, from the time of Catherine the Great (reigned 1762-1796) and Nicholas I (reigned 1725-1755) — and instead reconsider the present situation and the future of Europe.

It took a great American, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, to arbitrate and bring an end to the disastrous Russo-Japanese War of 1905 (for which he won a Nobel Peace Prize). It may take another trusted and eminent person to settle this new dispute and avoid war, but it is essential that this situation be settled before it escalates to the benefit of ISIS and the calamity of the rest of the civilized world. The British no longer have Margaret Thatcher, and we no longer have Ronald Reagan. Nicholas Sarkozy no longer rules France. Are President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry up to the task of sheathing gently the Turkish scimitar while taming the Russian bear?

What needs to be done? Simply, friends and foes must be clearly identified. Intelligence must be shared between the two countries, and Russian planes must be allowed to use Turkish airspace with the blessing of NATO.

Written by Dr. Miguel Faria

Dr. Miguel A. Faria is an associate editor in chief and world affairs editor of Surgical Neurology International and the author of "Cuba in Revolution — Escape from a Lost Paradise." His website is www.haciendapub.com.

This article was printed in the Macon Telegraph on November 30, 2015.

This article may be cited as: Faria MA. The Turkish-Russian conflict — converting adversity into opportunity. Macon Telegraph, November 30, 2015. Available from: http://www.haciendapub.com/randomnotes/faria-turkish-russian-conflict-converting-adversity-opportunity

Copyright © 2015 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD

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