Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Warplane – My Tuppence-Worth

Russian Warplane
The Russian Sukhoi SU-24 in question.

 

A Russian warplane cruised the fringes of Syrian airspace yesterday, as has become ordinary since Russia jumped on the Syria bomb-wagon some weeks ago, but attracted an extraordinary response from Turkey.

Official Turkish military sources provided the following account: after warning the jet “10 times in five minutes” to exit Turkish airspace, which it hadn’t yet violated, the Russian SU-24 jet then entered Turkish airspace for a total of 17 seconds before reentering Syrian airspace, where it was then intercepted by Turkish F-16s.

Turkish warplanes violated Syrian airspace in their pursuit, firing upon the Russian jet 1km departed from the infringed territory, causing it to crash some 4km from the Turkish border. Both pilots ejected: one was rescued, the other killed by (Turkish-backed Turkmen) Syrian rebels.

Russia contests the Turkish account: it denies that its jet ever encroached on Turkish airspace and claims never to have had contact with Turkish military authorities, by way of warning or otherwise, before the jet was downed.

NATO’s Secretary General has (unsurprisingly and somewhat unconvincingly) confirmed that Turkey’s account is consistent with “assessments we have got from several Allies” and Obama has voiced his nation’s support of Turkey’s “right to defend its airspace”.

The official Russian reaction was unbridled: President Vladimir Putin branded it “a stab in the back” knowingly committed by the “accomplices of terrorists” and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has since told Russian TV that it “looks very much like a planned provocation”.

Let’s retreat from the heat of the event and see if there’s a backdrop with which to contextualise this incident.

Minor, short-term violations of NATO members’ airspace is a Russian thing: there were 39 violations in an eight month period last year alone (notably without any such incidents). Turkish airspace has been no exception since Russia (overtly) entered the Syrian war. Turkey has complained, Russia has apologised; it’d all been quite considered and cordial. Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davtoglu even declared that, “Russia is our friend and neighbor. There is no tension between Turkey and Russia in this sense.”

 

Russian-su27-v4
Russian infringement of Swedish airspace (captured from a Swedish fighter jet cockpit).

 

In point of fact, Turkey is big on airspace violations itself: US cables released by WikiLeaks have exposed the “inflammatory” inclination of Turkey to impress its power over Greece by flying up to “40 aircraft a day… to make its political point”.

Three years ago Turkey lost one of its own warplanes over the Syrian airspace it was coolly violating, causing Prime Minister Erdogan to proclaim: “A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack”.

In view of the above, we can discern Turkey’s motive for responding in such a fashion isn’t because Turkey feels the Russian infringement is extraordinary and/or threatening. We know that Turkey doesn’t give a flying shit about international law in respect of airspace (or anything else for that matter). And Erdogan put himself firmly on the side of the Russians some time ago as the above quote shows. So why the double standard?

Inspection of Russian military actions in relation to Turkey’s interests may reveal agenda-driven justification/s for shooting the bomber:

  • Russia is providing airpower for Assad. Turkey wants Assad gone.
  • Russia is bombing Sunni militias. Turkey is predominantly Sunni with a despotic Sunni leader that directly and indirectly provides many such Sunni militiamen, their weapons and other supplies through its porous border.
  • Russia is bombing ethnic Turkmen Sunni militiamen. Those of Turkmen ethnicity are seen as de facto citizens (Russia takes a similar view with Russophones in its former and current spheres of influence – see Ukraine).
  • Russia is bombing on behalf of a Shia government backed by the Shia regional power, Iran, which Turkey fears for its growing influence in Iraq and Syria.
  • (Oh, and Turkey imports 90% of its oil, 60% from Russia. The same Russia that’s currently bombing Islamic State convoys exporting oil on the cheap to Turkish companies (allegedly including companies owned by Erdogan’s son) – just sayin’.)

 

Russia-targets
Islamic State oil exportation in Russian crosshairs.

 

This is the first time a NATO member state has shot down a Russian plane since the height of the Cold War in the 1950s – at no point in the last half century has any NATO member broken rank and done so. Erdogan doesn’t care for 17 seconds of airspace ‘violation’: this was a premeditated play – “Russia, back the fuck off.’” Why else would he not apologise?

At the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, Turkey put its cards on the table: it wanted Assad gone and it put a motherload of resources in to securing that prospect. That prospect has become little more than a wish, now we’re half a decade in to the definitive clusterfuck of civil, proxy and religious wars all multiplied and magnified by the War on Terror. Russia is hurting Turkish interests on several fronts and Erdogan, in that unfathomably stupid and excessively violent way of his, is likely sending a shot across the Russian bow. Perhaps it seems too obvious?

One mightn’t have ever conflated good’ole Turkey with the theocracies and reactionary elements of the Middle East: Turkey has a(n alarmingly thin) secular and democratic guise, NATO membership, shiny American-made warplanes and explicit US backing in situations such as this – Turkey’s ‘legit’.

Only it’s not: Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey is a repressive, authoritarian and ruthlessly ambitious regional power that’s overflowing with the ideological bedfellows of Islamic State (and the other detestable Islamic states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar) in government and society.

 

Erdogan-angry-600x360
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s more than prone to recklessness.

 

To consolidate the point: when thinking Turkey, one shouldn’t think NATO and Europe and freedom and rule of law, one should think what NATO and Europe purport to fight against.

NATO champions freedom of speech, supports the Kurds in their heroic struggle and is fighting a war against the Islamic State and other regional fuckwits.
Turkey, just somewhat antithetically, is comprehensively repressing free speech at home, indiscriminately bombing Kurdish territory and tacitly supporting the Islamic State and Jahbat Al-Nusra (AKA Al-Qaeda).

Hell, let’s just fucking say it: Turkey is in large part the reason behind the Islamic State and the reason it manages to continue fighting multiple fronts in Syria at all.

It beggars belief that NATO should count its tyrannical Eurasian garrison among its members, let alone excuse its reckless provocations and turn a blind eye to its sponsorship of the current NATO bogeyman. Read that back: Turkey is all but the enemy here, but of course, isn’t.

Sort of.

Well, at least a fitting alliance in a nondirectional and ultimately, as is, pointless war of power plays in which, as fucking usual, the innocent have, do and will continue to suffer the most.

 

Happy Wednesday x

Dystoparis

Guns spray their barbarous showers

Wounded pray in this darkest of hours

But it is men, sat up high in ivory towers

Guarding treasure, foreign resources they devour

It is these faceless fuckers who should cower

For exerting ‘humanitarian’ firepower

If only they would wilt, and not our free flower

Perhaps it is us that they will overpower

 

Dystoparis

 

JD Weaver – Where Eagles Fly

‘Making’ it in music isn’t easy. One lad from Cheshire, who picked up the guitar in his late teens, certainly knew he didn’t – and wouldn’t – have the path laid before him.

Jason Weaver, the 19-year-old behind JD Weaver’s semantically Native American release, ‘Where Eagle’s Fly’, wants to send a message of subgroup solidarity and strength: vibrancy and colour contesting the depressive banality of exclusion – being the ‘other’.

JD Weaver’s inaugural EP, recorded in just one day at a studio, is the product of an inspiring young man who, despite having a degenerative condition that’s rendered him wheelchair-bound, is chasing his dream to make it in music with a humbling passion and vigour.

“I’ll take the physical side of disability any day”, JD tells me in his broad northern drawl, “I know I’ll never walk or kick a football again, but I  know I’ve got something with my music.”

The right people listened and agreed, one even funded the recording of ‘Where Eagles Fly’, but still JD’s encountered “a lack of respect” due to his disability. “If they can’t market you, they want nothing to do with you”, JD says, as our discussion turns toward the commercialisation of music and the societal obsession with money.

JD’s lack of ‘marketability’ has been disheartening but not discouraging: he’s been further spurred to set the trend for disabled artists who’ve no mainstream exposure, which he believes is in great part due to their disability.

I took a second to think of disabled musicians I knew. I came up with Tony Iommi, former lead guitarist for Black Sabbath who lost the tips of his fingers, and Stevie Wonder, the blind American singer songwriter, who so aptly said that “just because a man lacks the use of his eyes [it] doesn’t mean he lacks vision”. And that’s it, isn’t it?

JD in his hometown of Cheshire
JD in his hometown of Cheshire

An issue lies in JD’s ability to gig: wheelchair accessibility isn’t top priority for music venues which in turn severely limits his ability to promote his music effectively. “Access is the reason why I don’t gig much now”, JD tells me bluntly. “The last gig I ever had were in Brighton; Brighton’s my favourite place actually, it’s where I hope to make enough money making music to live.” (Potential Brightonian/Brighton-based collaborators take note.)

“I get to the gig and there are steps going down to the stage.” Having been told the venue was wheelchair accessible, it was hugely frustrating for JD to then be told, “’It’s alright mate, we’ll get someone to lift you’”. JD continues, “That’s not the point! I didn’t want to be lifted and didn’t ask to be lifted, now I’ve got three people I’ve never met before lifting me up in my chair”.

Though easy to sympathise, it’s difficult to empathise when you’re not in a position where people think it’s appropriate to advise of a venue being accessible to find out it isn’t and be lifted like a product or other piece of equipment on to a stage.

As a result “it’s just these four walls and a disabled toilet” for JD at the moment, hardly the creative atmosphere one would wish for as an up and coming artist.

Pfft! Totally undeterred, JD has managed to churn out his concept EP and build a modest following that’s swelled promisingly from the exposure he’s afforded by the internet, radio and now newspaper.

While by no means an accomplished artist (yet) and with but a day (his maiden) in a studio, JD’s music still carries meaning, power and (crucially) potential, fully demonstrated  by ‘Where Eagles Fly’.

Where Eagles Fly
Where Eagles Fly

A longing folksy soundscape is laid by the opening track, ‘Eagle Song’, that sounds positively country: the acoustic guitar’s subtly layered by an ambient lead that pines harmoniously with JD’s vocals. It’s melancholy, pretty music.

The pace quickens in ‘Native Man’: propped by thrilling drums, the lead emboldens, opening the track with a whirring, western riff leading to JD’s intensified and impassioned voice. The lead gently fluctuates before resurging for a distorted, storied solo cutting for a breakdown in which you can feel JD’s frustration.

‘Tiger Tiger’ is a rockier, anthemic amalgamation of the two: comprising lyrics that read as emotionally fraught as their delivery; a wider percussive backing with tricky drum fills; a more overdriven, slidey lead guitar; galloping together to an appropriately warm but melancholic conclusion. “I’m feeling so estranged”, “You and me, we’re just one of the same”.

JD, speaking words as wise as Mr. Wonder, tells me, “the one thing we share is disability”.

And he’s right. Whatever stripe or severity of disability – be it an inability to consume dairy, to walk, sing or see – it shouldn’t scupper your chances of living a life like that of more-abled human beings where it can be helped.

 


 

You can check out JD Weaver’s EP, ‘Where Eagles Fly’, on SoundCloud, and follow JD on Facebook and Twitter @JDWeaverMusic. x