The Truth Behind Russian Airspace Violations

In Regional Analysis by David Mark

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With tensions rising around the region on an almost daily basis, it was reported in the Israeli news that Russians have violated Israeli airspace in order to pound rebel positions in the Eastern Golan Heights occupied by Syria.  This space is high up and is buttressed by the Golan Heights to the West and Jabal al Druze (Druze Mountain) to the East.

The fact is there have been these infractions, but when it comes down to it, the IAF (Israel Air Force) has largely ignored them. If infringing on another’s airspace is so outside the international norm then is Israel just plain weak, or is the Obama and Erdogan’s reasoning flawed?

Infractions on Airspace Sovereignty Have been Increasing

A NATO report released this past June showed an alarming increase in the rate of airspace infractions between 2014 and 2015.  NATO claims 85% of the infractions are from Russian aircraft. Russia for its part says the NATO report is vague and inconclusive.

airspace-infractions-2014

airspace-infractions-2015

The data seems to indicate that Russian violations, while still the majority, have lowered this year. While the proof is not in the number of infractions posed by another country, the question really is the legality of these infractions coupled with the fact that Russia seems to share the border with some very nasty locations.

 

Air Traffic Control Is Not Connected to Sovereignty

While Turkey certainly has what to be angry about in relation to a Russian violation of its airspace, the claim by the Obama administration and Turkey that the Russian fighter jet was shot out of the sky to protect Turkish sovereignty is erroneous.  Below is the executive summary of the International Civil Aviation Organization from March 2013. The key point is bolded at the end.

“Under the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention), each State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory. While national sovereignty cannot be delegated, the responsibility for the provision of air traffic services can be delegated. And, we are reminded by Assembly Resolution A37-15 (see Appendix) that a State which delegates to another State the responsibility for providing air traffic services within airspace over its territory does so without derogation of its sovereignty.”

To critics who say that Turkey was just defending itself, the flight path clearly does not indicate a situation where the SU-24 fighter jet was intending to attack Turkey.

 

Turkey Is A Culprit, Just Ask Greece

While Turkey seems keen on painting its actions behind the veil of innocence, Turkey has been a repeated violator of Greece.  According to Statista, Turkey violated Greek airspace 2,244 times in 2014.  Of course this is nothing new, back in 2005 Greece complained of Turkey’s infractions on its airspace to the tune of 40 times a day. Then again none of this was stated in NATO’s report since Greece and Turkey are NATO members. Let’s put it another way, Turkey out did Russia on airspace infractions by 5 times the amount in 2014.

 

The Meaning Behind Israel’s Announcement

All of the above begs the question on why Israel announced or better yet leaked to the press that Russia has flown over its airspace to attack rebel and ISIS positions. Pay attention to the fact that Israel released this information the same week PM Bibi Netanyahu announced that Israel is breaking ties with European institutions over the product labeling fiasco. Bibi’s moves seem to indicate that a pivot is underway.  Both announcements are saying that Israel is no longer bound by the strategic decisions of the EU and NATO Alliance.  Where is Israel pivoting to?  Your guess is as good as mine, but whomever the leadership decides to ally themselves with next, the key component is a realization that the first ally is the Almighty above.


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