On November 24 the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian SU-24, which was carrying out sorties against terrorists in the Syrian province of Latakia, near the Syrian-Turkish border. It’s reported that both pilots managed to eject, but one of them was shot dead in the air as he parachuted down, while the other is reported to have been successfully rescued by the Syrian army. The bomber was brought down by two Turkish F-16 fighters.
Turkey claims that Russia’s SU-24 was warned over 10 times that it is violating Turkish airspace, but refused to cooperate and was shot down.
According to Russia’s Ministry of Defense, the aircraft did not invade Turkish airspace, which is clear considering the fact that it fell within Syrian territory. In the evening, after a meeting with the Jordanian monarch, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin publicly confirmed that the plane was shot down half a mile away from the border and crashed 2 miles away from it. Russian leader called this attack a “stab in the back” carried out by the supporters of terrorism, stressing that this tragedy would have “very serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations.” Hours before that statement, Ankara declared that Turkey was going to hold a meeting with NATO and the UN. Putin underlined that it was not Moscow that brought down a Turkish aircraft, in fact, the situation was quite the opposite.
Well, Moscow can and should demand the UN Security Council condemn the downing of the plane, which was engaged in an anti-terrorist operation.
So far, the members of the Russian government have shown a lot of restraint while commenting on the situation. A spokesman for the Russian President, Dmitry Peskov, at a press-conference refused to comment whether and when Russia would be discussing this situation with Turkish officials, since Turkey, he believes, should have contacted Russian authorities immediately after the attack. He also stressed that there’s no way that Turkish media sources, that published reports that Russia’ Security Council had an urgent meeting, know when Putin summons the members of the Council better than he does.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has made a number of statements in which he tried to push full responsibility for the incident onto Russia. Of course, it is too early to draw conclusions, but even if one is to assume that Russia’s airplane violated Turkish airspace, despite the fact there’s no evidence to support this version whatsoever, the Turkish Air Force would still have no reason to shoot down it. For more than a month Russian warplanes have been engaging terrorist groups in Syria, while posing no threat to its neighbors.
In the meantime, Ankara has been busy helping Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States instigate ‘revolution’ in Syria, by assisting extremists and giving them shelter, along with arming and training militants. Recep Erdogan used the situation in Syria to his advantage too, by destroying his own Kurdish population in the border areas, while simultaneously launching strikes against the positions of Syrian Kurds who have been struggling to repel the Islamic State. Moreover, Turkey is actively engaged in smuggling operations, buying stolen oil that was extracted in Syria. That means that Ankara is profiting from the Syrian conflict, while allocating a part of these profits to sponsor international terrorism, and taking advantage of its status of a NATO member. As for the United States, Britain, France, Germany and other Western countries, they all turn a blind eye to this fact. Yet, such actions are a direct violation of a number of international conventions that prohibit the financing and sponsoring of terrorism.
Periodically, Ankara voiced calls to establish a no-fly zone over northern Syria, paired with claims that it’s going to send troops to Syria to finalize the overthrow of the legitimate government of Bashar al-Assad. And now Russian warplanes, together with the French and US aircraft have begun to purposefully destroy columns of oil trucks, thereby undermining the profitable “business” of Erdogan’s accomplices.
However, Turkey haven’t had the courage to bring down American or French fighter planes yet.
Of course there is another possibility. Everyone knows that Turkish military bases are usually packed with Pentagon and CIA operatives. It’s not a secret either that the Turkish military hates their Islamist president, so they could have created this provocation to set him up. The deterioration in bilateral relations between Russia and Turkey could as well be the end of Erdogan, and Washington will only benefit from this since it’s fed up with the stubborn Turkish president. The EU won’t be too sad either, since Erdogan sent hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees, financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which allowed ISIL to infiltrate a number of European countries while disguised as among them. The direct result of this move was the inhuman terrorist attacks in Paris. Qatar could play a role in all this too, after blowing up Russia’s A321 over Sinai, it’s safe to assume that Doha won’t hesitate to bribe Turkish pilots to bring down an SU-24, which did not even try to fight back, likely assuming that it was safe in the Syrian sky from the strikes of Russia’s “ally”.
The question here is – what should Moscow do next? No matter what explanation Ankara is going to give, a Russian military plane that was engaged in the fight against international terrorism has been brought down. Mere apologies won’t do, but there’s a chance that Turks, who have gone irrational in the Erdogan era, won’t apologize at all.
As it was with the downing of A-321, Moscow is simply bound to take actions. This, of course, doesn’t mean there’s going to be a military response, even though Russia has the capacity to level all military facilities in Turkey with minimum effort. However, these are bad times for emotions. First, there must be a thorough investigation. It is also imperative to stop the flow of Russian tourists to Turkey, which receives billions of dollars in profit from them. After all, today they brought down a military aircraft, and tomorrow they can start shooting airliners down in broad daylight.
Next step – the utter and complete ban of all kinds of products that are produced in Turkey, since Russia can easily replace those with the agricultural products from Iran and Central Asia.
And, of course, it’s high time to halt all infrastructural gas projects that involve Turkey. Moreover, on November 23 in Tehran at the summit of the GECF Vladimir Putin has already announced his intention to triple Russia’s LNG exports to Asia. As for Europe it will be supplied with the second string of the Nord Stream pipeline. It’s safe to say that Turkey, under the sitting regime, is as unreliable a partner as Ukraine is.
It will also be appropriate to reduce the level of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Russia by recalling Russia’s ambassador to Ankara. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already canceled his trip to the Turkish capital.
And, of course, it’s about time to double or triple the efforts to find those who planned the bombing of Russia’s airliner over Sinai. These will reveal the countries that are sponsoring terrorism, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. And then Russia will bring those responsible to justice. There should be no surprise if we are to find some Turkish officials in the dock at a trial in Moscow. The world has to know who is responsible for the ongoing chaos and the spread of terrorism in the Middle East and Europe.
Aleksander Orlov, a political scientist, expert-orientalist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.