Strain between Russia and Turkey: War of Words

Tension is escalating between Russia and Turkey after the latter shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber this past November. According to Press TV one of the pilots was rescued while the other one was killed by Takfiri militants after parachuting from the plane. Turkey claimed that the jet had entered its airspace. Russia, on the other hand, denies this allegation, with Russian President Putin claiming Turkey’s actions to be a “treacherous war crime.” Sergie Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Russia, also criticized Turkish leaders for “[crossing] the line.” Some argue that the action of Turkey was pre-planned as the two countries have an opposing stance on the current Syrian regime. Amos Yadlin reported to the Jerusalem Post that the radar images showed that Russian aircraft’s penetration only lasted 10-15 seconds and “clearly reflected no hostile intent toward Turkey.” In addition Alexander Nekrassov, a former Kremlin government adviser told Press TV that “violating the airspace of countries has happened in the region many times, but there are several ways of avoiding shooting down a plane.”

Russia has responded to Turkey’s action with different measures including bans on some Turkish fruit, vegetables, and construction projects including the cancellation of joint projects to build gas pipelines that would carry Russian gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey and to the European Union. However, President Putin has made it clear that this will not be the end as he stated that “if someone thinks they can commit war crimes, kill our people and get away with it, suffering nothing but a ban on tomato imports, as well as a few restrictions in construction or other industries, they are delusional.” According to Putin, Russia’s response will be “measured and would avoid military threats” warning that Turkey will regret its action “more than once” and Russia will not ignore turkey’s “aiding of terrorists.”

John J. Xenakis reported to Breitbart that in less than a month “any veneer of friendship between the two countries has been wiped away, and we are seeing a trend of bitter, vitriolic words, backed by punitive actions that worsen almost every day.” Russia escalated tensions when it claimed that it had evidence proving that president Erdogan and his families are involved in the illegal smuggling of oil from territory held by ISIL.  Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister accused Turkey of being “the main consumer of the oil stolen from its rightful owners, Syria and Iraq.” According to him, oil loaded trucks crossing into Turkey from parts of Syria, controlled by ISIL, have been seen from US drone footage. Erdogan vehemently denied these accusations arguing that “turkey has not lost its moral values as to buy oil from a terror organization… those who make such slanderous claims are obliged to prove them. If they do, I would not remain on the presidential seat for one minute.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Associated Press that division and tension between these two countries, which are fighting the terrorists, will affect further global commitment “towards stopping extremism and terrorism.” In line with this President Erdogan stated that they “are truly saddened by [the] incident” and claimed that “something like this [wouldn’t]  occur again.” This speech of the Turkish President, although not presented formally as Russia needed,  gives one hope that the existing tension will not extend further than a war of words.

Yeshihareg Abebe