• Recent provocative U.S. moves in Ukraine and Syria threaten to escalate tension between U.S. and Russia.
By Patrick J. Buchanan —
Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane was a provocative and portentous act. That Russian jet, a Sukhoi Su-24, which the Turks say intruded into their air space, crashed and burned—in Syria. One of the Russian pilots was executed while parachuting to safety. A Russian rescue helicopter was destroyed by rebels using a United States TOW [Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided] missile. A Russian marine was killed.
“A stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin of the first downing of a Russian warplane by a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nation in half a century. Putin has a point, as the Russians are bombing rebels in northwest Syria, some of which are linked to al Qaeda. As it is impossible to believe Turkish F-16 pilots would fire missiles at a Russian plane without authorization from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, we must ask: Why did the Turkish autocrat do it?
Why risk a clash with Russia?
Answer: Erdogan is probably less outraged by intrusions into his air space than by Putin’s success in securing the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, whom Erdogan detests, and by relentless Russian air strikes on Turkmen rebels seeking to overthrow Assad.
Imperiled strategic goals and ethnicity may explain Erdogan. But what does the Turkish president see down at the end of this road? And what about us? Was the U.S. government aware Turkey might attack Russian planes? Did we give Erdogan a green light to shoot them down?
Putin was not at all cowed. Twenty-four hours after that plane went down, his planes, ships, and artillery were firing on those same Turkmen rebels and their jihadist allies.
Politically, the Turkish attack on the Sukhoi Su-24 has probably aborted plans to have Russia join France and the U.S. in targeting Islamic State (ISIS), a diplomatic reversal of the first order. Indeed, it now seems clear that, in Syria’s civil war, Turkey is on the rebel-jihadist side, with Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah on the side of the Syrian government.
But whose side are we on?
As for what strategy and solution President Barack Obama offers, and how exactly he plans to achieve it, it remains an enigma. Nor is this the end of the alarming news. According to The Times of Israel, Damascus reports that, in late November, Israel launched four strikes, killing five Syrian soldiers and eight Hezbollah fighters, and wounding others. Should Assad or Hezbollah retaliate, this could bring Israel more openly into the Syrian civil war. And if Israel is attacked, the pressure on Washington to join her in attacking the Syrian regime and Hezbollah would become intense. Yet, should we accede to that pressure, it could bring us into direct conflict with Russia, which is now the fighting ally of Assad. Something U.S. presidents conscientiously avoided through 45 years of Cold War—a military clash with Moscow—could become a real possibility. Does the White House see what is unfolding? Elsewhere, yet another Russia-NATO clash may be brewing.
In southern Ukraine, pylons supporting the power lines that deliver electricity to Crimea have been sabotaged, blown up, reportedly by nationalists, shutting off much of the electric power to the peninsula.
Repair crews have been prevented from fixing the pylons by Crimean Tatars, angry at the treatment of their kinfolk in Crimea. In solidarity with the Tatars, Kiev has declared that trucks carrying goods to Crimea will not be allowed to cross the border.
A state of emergency has been declared in Crimea.
Russia is retaliating, saying it will not buy produce from Ukraine, and may start cutting off gas and coal as winter begins to set in. Ukraine is as dependent upon Russia for fossil fuels as Crimea is upon Ukraine for electricity. Crimea receives 85% of its water and 80% of its electricity from Ukraine.
Moreover, Moscow’s hopes for a lifting of U.S. and European Union sanctions, imposed after the annexation of Crimea, appear to be fading.
Are these events coordinated? Did the U.S. government give a go-ahead to Erdogan to shoot down Russian planes? Has Obama authorized a Ukrainian economic quarantine of Crimea? Putin is not without options. The Russian army and pro-Russian rebels in southeast Ukraine could occupy Mariupol on the Black Sea and establish a land bridge to Crimea in two weeks. In Syria, the Russians, with 4,000 troops, could escalate far more rapidly than either the U.S. or our French allies.
As of today, Putin supports U.S.-French attacks on ISIS. But if we follow the Turks and begin aiding the rebels who are attacking the Syrian army, we could find ourselves eyeball to eyeball in a confrontation with Russia, where our NATO allies will be nowhere to be found.
Has anyone thought this through?
Patrick J. Buchanan is a writer, political commentator and presidential candidate and author.
War on Terror Creating Even More Terror
By former Representative Ron Paul
The interventionists will do anything to prevent Americans from seeing that their foreign policies are perpetuating terrorism and inspiring others to seek to harm us. The neocons know that when it is understood that blowback is real—that people seek to attack us not because we are good and free but because we bomb and occupy their countries—their stranglehold over foreign policy will begin to slip.
That is why each time there is an event like the killings in Paris earlier this month, they rush to the television stations to terrify Americans into agreeing to even more bombing, more occupation, more surveillance at home, and more curtailment of our civil liberties. They tell us we have to do it in order to fight terrorism, but their policies actually increase terrorism.
If that sounds harsh, consider the recently released 2015 Global Terrorism Index report. The report shows that deaths from terrorism have increased dramatically over the last 15 years—a period coinciding with the “war on terrorism” that was supposed to end terrorism.
According to the latest report: “Terrorist activity increased by 80% in 2014 to its highest recorded level. . . . The number of people who have died from terrorist activity has increased ninefold since the year 2000.” The world’s two most deadly terrorist organizations, Islamic State (ISIS) and Boko Haram, have achieved their prominence as a direct consequence of United States interventions.
Former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn was asked recently whether in light of the rise of ISIS he regrets the invasion of Iraq. He replied: “Absolutely. . . . The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. . . . Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from.”
Flynn is no non-interventionist. But he does make the connection between the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the creation of ISIS and other terrorist organizations, and he at least urges us to consider why they seek to attack us.
Likewise, the rise of Boko Haram in Africa is a direct result of a U.S. intervention. Before the U.S.-led “regime change” in Libya, they just were a poorly armed gang. Once Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown by the U.S. and its NATO allies, leaving the country in chaos, they helped themselves to all the advanced weaponry they could get their hands on. Instead of just a few rifles they found themselves armed with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns with anti-aircraft visors, advanced explosives, and vehicle-mounted light anti-aircraft artillery. Then they started killing on a massive scale. Now, according to the Global Terrorism Index, Boko Haram has overtaken ISIS as the world’s most deadly terrorist organization.
The interventionists are desperate to draw attention from the fact that their policies contribute to terrorism. After the Paris attacks, neocons like former Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey actually pinned the blame on National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden. He claimed that because of Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance, the terrorists were using sophisticated encryption. He even called for Snowden to be hanged because of it.
But it was untrue: The Paris attackers did not use encryption, and other groups had used encryption long before the Snowden revelations.
Terrorism is increasing worldwide because of U.S. and Western interventionism. That does not mean that if we suddenly followed a policy of non-interventionism the world would become a peaceful utopia. But does anyone really believe that continuing to do what increases terrorism will lead to a decrease in terrorism?
Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his column “Texas Straight Talk” for the Foundation for Rational Economics and Education.