Claiming a Russian plane had repeatedly violated Turkish airspace and ignored warnings from Turkish air defense, two Turkish Air Force F-16 fighters attacked and destroyed a Russian Sukhoi (Su-24) “Fencer” attack aircraft over the Syrian-Turkish border on Tuesday morning.
An unnamed Turkish official explained two Russian aircraft had breached Turkish airspace and one had been shot down.
Bolstering Turkish claims of a violation of its airspace, Turkish Ulusal TV channel reported debris from the downed aircraft injured two Turkish citizens and the Turkish government released a tracking image of the alleged path of the Russian aircraft.
Accounts vary as to the fate of the second crewmember; Sky News reported both aircrew were dead.
Speaking from Sochi, where he is expected to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated:
“Today’s loss is linked to a stab in the back delivered to us by accomplices of terrorists. I cannot qualify what happened today as anything else. Our plane was shot down on Syrian territory by an air-to-air missile from an F-16. It fell on Syrian territory 4 kilometers from the Turkish border. It was flying at 6,000 meters 1 kilometer from Turkish territory when it was attacked.”
Representatives from both nations traded incendiary rhetoric and attempted to lay blame on the other.
Mr. Putin added the action would have “serious consequences” for Russian-Turkish relations.
Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, Serdar Kilic, tweeted:
“Understand this: Turkey is a country whose warnings should be taken seriously and listened to. Don’t test Turkey’s patience. Try to win its friendship.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced it would call an emergency meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels at 5 p.m. on Tuesday to address the matter.
Sajjan Gohel, international security director for the Asia-Pacific Foundation remarked:
“This is a very significant escalation. It’s very much the last thing that’s needed right now, especially in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, when there was hope that Russia could form an alliance with France and with the United States against ISIS. This is going to complicate things. This is going to add unnecessary tensions that really weren’t required at this critical juncture.
“This is a situation that unfortunately was almost inevitable at some point, because Turkey has long been accusing Russia of interfering in their airspace. They’ve threatened them in the past. And even though economic relations between the two countries are strong — politically, there have been tensions recently.”
This is the result of competition instead of cooperation over Syria.
Although sharing a common goal, the destruction of ISIS, the refusal of the White House and the Kremlin to fuse an alliance precludes effective cooperation.
While nothing could guarantee such an incident as Tuesday’s downing of the Russian aircraft from occurring, effective liaising involving NATO, the Americans and the Russians and allowing the Russians to exploit Turkish airspace would have likely prevented the incident and the deaths of the two Russian aviators.
Unfortunately, both the White House and the Kremlin appear to view one another as a mere annoyance rather than civilized nations accepting the weighty responsibility of defeating blood-drenched political movement.
This disarray leaves ISIS mocking us.
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