Times of journalism for peace
The military build-up over the Syrian civil war has spread to a wider area covering the East Mediterranean and now the Black Sea, as the tension between Ankara and Moscow over the downing of the Russian jet on Nov. 24 grows into wider Russia-NATO tension.
On Dec. 4, France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier appeared off the coast of Syria, adding to the already existing picture of military escalation in the region since Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to send war planes to set up a base in Syria to support the Bashar al-Assad regime, with the justification of hitting the targets of ISIL (or “Daesh,” as governments now prefer to use). Before that, the U.S. had already sent its F-16’s to Turkey’s İncirlik air base near the Syrian border for the coalition campaign against ISIL. After more Russian planes and warships were sent to Russia’s Tartus navy base in Syria, the U.S. sent F-15s, A-10s and a missile ship to the region.
The Western military alliance NATO also started to come into the picture after Turkey reported border violations by the Russian and Syrian planes. And after the shooting down of the Russian Su-24 by a Turkish F-16, the build-up gained momentum. Russia announced the deployment of more ships (including a missile cruiser, the flag ship of the Black Sea fleet) and S-400 missile systems to Syria, as well as S-300s to Iran, its main ally over Syria and Iraq. The NATO response included sending German and Danish ships to deploy off of the Turkish coast and sending Canadian, Spanish and Portuguese ships to the Black Sea.
According to Turkish sources, Turkey now has 34 ships in the East Mediterranean, while Russia has 13, France has five, and Italy has two.
Meantime, the U.K. has started to hit ISIL in Syria from its bases in Cyprus, Germany has applied to Ankara to use the İncirlik base for reconnaissance flights and troops, and Turkey has opened its air space to French jets and now the French aircraft carrier.
To complete this summary only for today, (since it seems there will inevitably be more to come), another dimension of the tension should be mentioned as a particular risk factor: Despite all major EU countries siding against Russia in support of Turkey over the Syria tension, the Greek Cypriot government is sticking to its military agreement with Russia, which permits the use of its ports by the Russian navy. Greece, despite being a NATO member, is also siding with Russia, which makes the situation in the East Mediterranean and the Aegean even more fragile.
When such a pile-up of air forces and navies is in question in such a concentrated space, where a major civil war and a major terrorist organization have been operating, the environment is open to any kind of accident - if not intentional moves by parties that could turn the tension into open conflict.
At times like this a responsibility falls on the shoulders of journalists as well as politicians, soldiers and diplomats. These are the times for peace journalism. Journalists have to find a way to report the story and present it in a way that does not further antagonize the public and decision-makers; instead promoting political and diplomatic solutions to contribute to efforts to protect the region’s people from further devastation.