Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Response to BBC: Was Putin Deflecting Criticism in His Speech on the Downing of a Su-24?

The shooting down of a Russian Su-24 fighter jet by Turkey sent shock waves across the world. Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, was quick to respond in the harshest of words possible.

“This incident stands out against the usual fight against terrorism. Our troops are fighting heroically against terrorists, risking their lives. But the loss we suffered today came from a stab in the back delivered by accomplices of the terrorists” he said, blaming Turkey.

BBC’s Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford had an interesting explanation to Putin’s statement. “After all, Vladimir Putin launched airstrikes in Syria arguing that it would make Russia safer; instead, 224 people were blown out of the sky last month in a bomb attack. And now this. By rounding on Turkey he is in part deflecting any suggestion that his own policy has backfired”, Rainsford said.

So, was Putin deflecting criticism? Was he wrong in saying that Russia would be safer if the Islamic State of Ira and Syria (ISIS) is defeated is Syria?

Putin went into Syria to bolster his ally Assad there. One can never deny this reality. Nevertheless, his argument of defeating ISIS is Syria to make Russia safer is fundamentally not wrong.

One reason for the success of the ISIS is that it has a firm base in Iraq and Syria. Western indifference helped its rise in Syria. The ISIS entrenched itself firmly in parts of Syria at least a year before it became a world-wide phenomenon by sweeping across large swathes of Iraq. ISIS can now boast about its accomplishments in controlling a large area across two countries, giving it much needed credibility as a potent force. The ISIS has created a de facto state, which has started advertising itself as an Islamic Utopia state to recruit cadres across the world.

Russia is one of its target areas for recruitment and potential attack. The ISIS fighters are not targeting Russia because it started pounding them in Syria. Although most people do not realize, Russia has a large Muslim population. One seventh of its people profess Islam, and this could be turned in to a potential recruiting ground.

It was in December 2014 that Al Jazeera described this situation in an article written by Olga Khrustaleva titled “Russia’s Burgeoning ISIL Problem”. Months after sweeping across parts of Iraq, ISIS turned its focus on Russia’s Caucasus, starting to release videos targeted at Russia. “We will … liberate Chechnya and the Caucasus, Allah willing. The Islamic State is here to stay,” said an ISIL [ISIS] fighter in the first such video, released on August 31, Al Jazeera pointed out.

Tanya Lokshina, Human Rights Watch's Russia programme director, told Al Jazeera in late 2014 that there is "definitely [ISIL] recruitment happening" in Russia (ISIL is an alternative name to ISIS). Furthermore, “[ISIL] is becoming, I would say, increasingly popular in the northern Caucasus, in a situation where people are disillusioned with the secular government,” she further said.

Recruitment attempts were also being made through Russia’s popular social media site There were, and still are, various groups within VK carrying out ISIS propaganda. Recruitment attempts were also taking place. A favorite tactic was using a good looking male recruit to lure females in to the ISIS trap.

Suggesting that 224 people died after Russia attacked the ISIS is an indirect request to keep out if one needs to be in peace. However, as Putin understood the problem, such devastating attacks could have taken place sooner or later. If Russia was to be silent now, it would face an even stronger ISIS outfit later. The stronger the ISIS seems to be, the higher the likelihood of recruiting more people from foreign lands.

Therefore, Putin was correct in saying that Russia would be safer if the ISIS is defeated in Syria. Whether the ISIS can be defeated in Syria is another matter.


  1. The cold war of the West against Russia is fought on many fronts. America wants regime change in Russia as they wanted it in the Ukraine. Any way to humiliate Russia is just fine for the West.

    If the fight of Russia against ISIS has backfired so it has backfired against the West. Because of the war in Iraq nobody is safe in the world.

    Cool heads are required by all but I doubt Turkey is not causing wilfully problems. It is said the Russian plane was only 10 seconds over Turkish territory but received warning over a period of 5 minutes. How so?

    1. Of course, at the end of the day, the Turkish government will have a lot of explaining to do. Evading the battle against terrorism in fear of backlashes is a debatable policy. If ISIS is serious in seeking world domination (as it seems to be) the battle against it must be equally resolute. Half measures will give half results.