I have been scratching my head for the past week over the reason behind Turkey’s downing of the Russian jet. I understand why it would make sense theoretically, but it just didn’t make sense why they would have the balls to do it. So here is my understanding of it. Basically, the Turks played it really clever. The Turks want to tell the Europeans that the ISIS question is more or less in their hand, that they want to deal with it without having to compromise their position on the Kurdish question, and they want to use this as a bargaining card (among other things) to enter the EU. They know that if they shoot a Russian plane down, it can only get them closer to Europe through NATO that faces its own security dilemma.
But it is also possible that NATO is closer to Russia than they think? In which case, it may only justify why Turkey would react in such a spectacular way, hoping to produce a reaction from NATO. Turkey after all wouldn’t want to fall under what could become a Russian security zone.
Yet one last scenario, a bit more far fetched I agree, would be that it is NATO that gave the green light to the Turks to bring the plane down. In which case we may be witnessing a bit of a competition over how to conduct the war against ISIS or the rest of the non-state actors.
In all these cases the point is that Turkey realizes that by having such an ambiguous policy towards ISIS it also has the possiblity to turn it into a bargaining card at the international level.