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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Turkey, Syria tensions continue to mount

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 26, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: We continue to follow the situation closely and with great concern. NATO allies will remain seized of developments on the southeastern border of NATO. And let me make this clear -- the security of the alliance is indivisible. We stand together with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: NATO secretary-general speaking today about standing up for Turkey after a Turkish military jet was shot down by the Syrians. The Syrians are saying now publicly that it was an act of self-defense. Turkey is not saying that. They are obviously increasing the tension between the two countries as violence continues in Syria at amazing rates. We're back with the panel. Charles, the fighting rages on. And it seems like this tension adds another development, another side to this. 

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: And I'm impressed by the way the president [sic] of Turkey, Erdogan is handling this very slowly and methodically. When his plane was shot down he could have retaliated in an open way, but he was smarter than that. What he has now done, he made a declaration today that any approach of Syrian troops, Assad troops to the border of Turkey will be seen as provocation and will be met presumably with a military response. Assad is already losing control of the northern areas of the country. And what this is doing, it allows Turkey to essentially proclaim the northern parts of Syria, which are on its frontier, a protectorate of Turkey, a little bit like the Kurdish area was a protectorate of the United States in between the two Iraq wars. 

And what that has done is it allows him to move the insurgency headquarters, Erdogan this is, from inside the Turkish border where it is now in the camps, into northern Syria itself. And you've got to understand that Erdogan thinks very long range. He is nostalgic for the sway of the Ottoman Empire over the Arabs, which was 400 years. And if he -- if Syria ends up in a revolution that brings Assad down and the Sunni rebels win, he will then be the patron of the new Syria, which will make him the strong man in Syria, in Lebanon, have influence in Jordan, and begin his aspiration to be the hegemon of the Sunni-Arab. It's a long-range strategy and he's very methodical and clever in beginning it now. 

BAIER: Chuck, Prime Minister Erdogan says that he's going to defend Turkey at all costs obviously, but the situation inside Syria, it suggests that the U.S. is not doing and cannot do anything. Is that the sense? 

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: I think so. I think we are pretty much out of the picture with the exception of the covert machinations you hear. I think part of what Erdogan was trying to achieve by going to NATO was to bring the U.S. and the other western countries kind of more on his side in this. And send a little message to Russia, which is obviously the biggest power on the other side, that if you mess with me you are messing with the United States and so forth. 

But I think we are a long way from seeing any kind of U.S. intervention. Notably, he did not go to NATO under section V of the treaty, which the mutual self-defense, but the other article IV, which is simply a matter of mutual consultation. And so he hasn't really ratcheted this thing up as high as he possibly could. 

BAIER: Bill? 

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I talked to two veteran foreign policy experts today, who served in government, and they had two totally contradictory views of what is happening there. One was sort of appalled at our failure of leadership, that we are sort of letting Turkey pursue its own agenda here. And where is the U.S.? Can you imagine, he said to me, Henry Kissinger or Jim Baker or even Madeleine Albright being this absent from a major crisis in a nation where we have a real interest in toppling the government, an ally of the greatest threat to us and to the region, Iran? So this veteran was appalled by our sort of doing nothing. 

The other one is also somewhat appalled, but he said, look, getting NATO involved is very important. Erdogan is not just speaking as prime minister of Turkey. And that was the NATO secretary-general we saw there. NATO was the entity that ultimately intervened in Libya, NATO was the entity that ultimately intervened in the Balkans. And this fellow thinks that it's quite possible that within a month or six weeks we'll have a NATO intervention in Syria that will follow from what Charles described from Erdogan, for now, just sort of securing the border, and that we could end up with Assad being gone quite quickly. So I have no idea whether we're being feckless and pathetic or whether we're subtly working with our NATO allies to get rid of Assad. 

BAIER: Ten seconds.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, subtly we're making Erdogan our proxy in the region, our agent in the region. But there's one problem. He's not a reliable ally. He's thinking of Syrian hegemony, and it could be a problem in the future. 

BAIER: That is it for the panel, but stay tuned for the continuing search for a campaign slogan.

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