erdogan putin
Almost seven months to the day, Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan has finally apologised to Russia for shooting down an SU24 bomber on 24 November 2015 over the skies of Syria while it was engaged in fighting the terrorism that has engulfed Syria for the past five years.

The Russian reaction to the shoot-down of its bomber was swift, but measured, imposing economic sanctions designed to punish Turkey. Russia could have imposed significant military pain with its military machine, which has been so effective in Syria, particularly considering it is a very modest contingent operating there. But foolhardy recklessness is not the way of the current Russian leadership. It is playing the long game and was never going to be dragged into a NATO confrontation by this outrageous provocation. Russia knows how to conduct itself within international norms, unlike others who resort to military force to solve conflicts and impose their will on those who refuse to buckle to demands.

In a letter sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan seems to satisfy all the diplomatic and moral requirements of a sincere apology which may go a long way to mending Russia/Turkey relations. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov,
Erdogan said that Turkey "shares the pain of the downed Su-24 pilot's death with his family" and "sees it as Turkey's pain" ... Turkey is ready to take all steps required to "relieve the pain and severity of damage" to the deceased Su-24 pilot's family, Erdogan writes in his letter to the Russian President.

"In the letter, the Turkish President also says he has always seen Russia as a strategic partner and a friend", Peskov said.
Erdogan said "I want to express my deep condolences to the family of the killed Russian pilot, and to say: I am sorry."

Stand by for the die-hard Russia haters in the groupthinkistan media to downplay this apology to the hilt. It will be spun as really meaning regret over the loss of a life in an attempt to ease Russia-Turkey tensions rather than an apology for the criminal shoot-down which cost the life of a Russian fighting terrorism in Syria and threw Russia-Turkey relations into crisis.

Our friends in groupthinkistan know this is a body blow to the West's propaganda war against Russia. Russia- and Putin-bashing has reached monumental levels, prompting respected writer Stephen Lendman to label it a virtual cottage industry. When lies and fabrications are told about Russia their impact lies in the immediate propaganda value. Headlines will proclaim the latest dastardly deed by Putin and his cronies and will be indelibly printed on the minds of the masses. Should the accusations later be proven false, it doesn't matter; what matters is the immediate story of Russian "aggression" and "propaganda." There will be no retractions or corrections of the story, it will disappear down the memory hole and the original lie will become an intractable "truth." This is a basic, but very effective technique in the information war against Russia.

The shooting down of the SU24 is a perfect case of this "lie for impact, ignore the truth" technique. While there were acknowledgement and details given of Russia's claims (backed by satellite data) of not violating Turkey's airspace in news reports of the incident, the overall impression intended to be communicated was that the SU24 did violate Turkish airspace, with Turkey perhaps being a bit rash in taking the decision to shoot it down. The fact the SU24 would have to have been travelling at about 390KM/hour for Turkey's claims to be true (at this incredibly slow speed the plane would stall and plummet to earth) was largely ignored by groupthinkistan media, leaving it to less Russophobic media to show some journalistic integrity. The other impression left was of a slinging match between Russia and Turkey, trading insults and accusations - eventually drawing in Turkey's illegal oil smuggling trade with ISIS - with no clear blame or responsibility apportioned to either side.

Erdogan was apoplectic over the fierce Russian bombing campaign of ISIS oil tankers smuggling oil over the border into Turkey. The lucrative illegal oil trade was threatened, as well as the survival as a fighting force of Erdogan's ISIS allies. The Syrian-Russian coalition was advancing towards the border with Turkey, wiping out many of the territorial gains made by Turkish-backed Islamist rebels in the preceding four years. In Latakia province, Turkmen allied with the Free Syrian Army were suffering setbacks and being driven from the province. This led Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to say his government will "not hesitate" to take the required measures on Syrian soil to protect the Turkmen people. In reality the Turkmen are another variety of jihadists, their extremist leanings plain to see in the video of their fighters gleefully shooting at a helpless parachuted Russian pilot. Erdogan was desperate, seeing his dreams of toppling Assad going up in smoke, so he had to engineer an audacious act to turn the tide. Perhaps even an extremely provocative move to draw the US and NATO directly into the conflict. The Russian bomber became the victim of his malice.

Russia must capitalise on this wonderful opportunity to dismantle the narrative of Russian "aggression." For Western powers, this story was supposed to disappear down the memory sinkhole, along with fanciful stories such as the Russian "invasion" of Ukraine or its "annexation" of Crimea. But no, this story has been dug up from its grave, the horrible reality of a NATO member's aggression against Russia while it fights terrorism laid bare for all to see. Russia needs to make US-led NATO squirm in discomfort. It has patiently defended itself against outrageous accusations which are multiplying and intensifying in a full-scale US led psyops operation. Its dignity in the face of the murder of an SU24 pilot and another military serviceman in the rescue operation was laudable. However, Russia was rightly very angry, Vladimir Putin describing it as a "stab in the back," and on top of this had to contend with lies propagated by Turkey and reinforced by a thoroughly discredited NATO. This is why Russia needs to use this apology to deliver a blow to the reputation of NATO and score some points in the US-led Western-instigated hybrid war.

NATO unequivocally backed Turkey. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: "We stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey." He went on to say intelligence sources confirmed Turkey's version of events, quickly discounting Russian statements that the SU24 had not violated Turkish airspace.

US President Barack Obama did not allow objective evidence or discretion to stop him from his all too familiar aggressive attitude to Russia, saying Turkey had the right to defend its airspace.

Considering Erdogan accused Russia of violating Turkish airspace, therefore Russia should apologise for the shoot-down, as well as Erdogan's immediate running to NATO for diplomatic protection rather than discussing the crisis with Russia, we are entitled to ask why the about-face by Erdogan now.

Geopolitics lies at the heart of the matter, as Turkey seeks to mend relations with Russia, desperately needing to revitalise its foreign policy, which has staggered from failure to failure. Erdogan is becoming increasingly diplomatically isolated, watching his European dream threatening to slide away, facing international pressure on his crackdown on media freedom, bewildered at the failure to topple Assad in Syria. He has launched a prolonged, brutal crackdown on Kurds in Turkey and has watched with dismay as the US supports his Kurdish foes in Syria.

The targeted sanctions against Turkey have had significant negative impact, providing motivation and impetus for a rapprochement with Russia. The hit on tourism was so immediate and hard that by February 2016, 1300 hotels had been put up for sale due to a sharp downturn in Russian tourist numbers. Hotels in resort towns stared bankruptcy in the face. The ongoing losses will only magnify in the summer tourist season, giving Erdogan food for thought on the apology demanded by Moscow before relations could be healed.

In Syria, frustration and dismay at US support for Kurdish-led SDF forces making significant ground on ISIS in the northeast and northwest has caused Erdogan's ire to elevate, accusing the US of siding with what he calls the terrorists he is fighting. The US was unable or unwilling to stop the Kurds from crossing Erdogan's "red line" west of the Euphrates and they now are on the verge of capturing the key town of Manbij from ISIS. If the Kurds can capture the 100 kilometres that separates their western and eastern enclaves, then Erdogan not only has to kiss his Syria vision goodbye, but will have to contend with his worst nightmare: a possible Kurdish state right on Turkey's borders.

A turn to Russia, while very unlikely to bring immediate benefits in Syria, can assist Syrian Army-led forces to thwart Kurdish plans of controlling unbroken stretches of territory from the northeast to the northwest. While an avowed enemy of Assad, perhaps this is the lesser of two evils for Erdogan, at least until a new strategy can be devised to retain the pursuit of his ultimate goals. Erdogan would like Russia to abandon its alliance with Syrian Kurds. Russia is of the view Syria should maintain its territorial integrity, and that its people should decide its future government, with inclusive political reforms vital to a reunification of the country. Russia has pushed for Kurds to have a seat at the peace talks' negotiating table, wants their interests promoted, but has shown no sign of supporting a separate Kurdish state. All this is consistent with international law and the concept of national sovereignty, something quite foreign and mysterious to Turkey, the US and its proxy army-supporting allies.

Perhaps this about face by Erdogan may be able to achieve some results in rebuilding economic ties with Russia, arresting economic decline in Turkey and curtailing Kurdish ambitions. Saying sorry may be the first step.