We all knew it would happen, whether off the coast of Alaska, over the Baltic Sea, or in the Middle East. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been routinely challenging the NATO airspace for months, well before entering the Syrian conflict. Military experts warned that Russian aircraft flying in crowded airspace with transponders off is a recipe for disaster.
That disaster has occurred, only not in the form of the anticipated accident. Rather the Kremlin misjudged Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who responded to Russia’s provocations by shooting down a Russian fighter plane over its territory, after warning the Russian fighter to leave its air space 10 times. An enraged Putin responded with threats and accused Turkey of being “an accomplice to terror” and “stabbing him in the back.” Turkey has vigorously defended its actions, declaring that it gave ample warning to the Russian jet to leave its air space. Russia’s controlled media released a withering barrage accusing Turkey of being the main sponsor of ISIS and Islamic terrorism.
Meanwhile, Moscow is seething and planning. Russian commentators note that the country is not without leverage over Turkey. Russia could threaten to support Turkey’s Kurdish rebels, but Russia’s military option remained the center of attention. Well-known Russian military Pavel Felgenhauer opined that the two sides “will most likely fight.”He predicts that such a war would consist of long-distance air battles, where “Russian warplanes will attack the Turkish ones to protect our bombers.” Felgenhauer also predicts sea battles between the navies of the two countries, which could result in the closing of the Bosporus by the Turks. Such actions would surely draw the other NATO countries into the battle, and “in such a conflict Russia would have few chances without using nuclear weapons.”
Felgenhauer’s clear message: If Turkey activates NATO’s Article 5, Putin will resort to nuclear blackmail. What is unknown is whether the West will cave.
The world is in for a tense time of possible nuclear brinksmanship. If the United States and the other NATO countries blink, NATO is no more, and Putin has achieved his major goal. We must worry whether the Western world is led by leaders up to the task. There should be some sleepless nights in Berlin, London, Paris and Washington D.C.
Full article: If Turkey And Russia Continue Fighting, It May Threaten NATO’s Existence (Forbes)