I walked out of my hotel room this morning, past a newspaper stand and saw the shocking images of a flaming Russian warplane, shot down by Turkey no less. History tells us that it is the incidental – but strategic – assassination that causes war. I can only be grateful for Putin’s measured comments that it was a “stab in the back” and not “an act of war”.
Turkey is NATO, and so this is serious.
The truth is, I believe we have been engaged in a World War since 9/11. The events that have transpired in the Middle East since that fateful day have involved dozens of nations. The difference has been that the target was “terrorists”, powerful but stateless organisations, mostly the detritus of decades of geopolitical shenanigans. In my opinion the most recent Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns were mostly still about national interests and, to some extent, attempting to put the “hydra” back in the box.
Syria is very different.
In my (wholly non-expert) opinion, Syria is significant because it presses the boundary conditions between major powers that, until now, have approximately behaved like children trying to carve out their own corner of a messy and complex sandpit. What Syria – and ISIS – has done, is create extreme polarity between forces and when something like this most recent Russia-Turkey incident happens, it can be cataclysmic.
I am hoping good sense will prevail. I am hoping that this is more about a lack of judgment than a signal that the boundaries of power sharing and regional cooperation have been irrevocably drawn.
This would be a good time to say “sorry”.