In Focus: Russian Fighter Jet and Turkey

Originally posted on t! magazine at:

Russia SU-24 fighter jet has been shot down close to Turkey’s border with Syria after Turkey said it violated their airspace. Footage has shown two pilots parachuting from the plane, and though one pilot has returned to Russia, the other has died after being shot by Syrian rebel fighters. 

The reason for a Russian jet being in Syria is Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. As an ally of President Assad, Russia conducts these airstrikes to target “terrorists Western-backed rebels are typically hit by the strikes. 

Whereas Turkey states the jet crossed their border, Russia’s Defence Ministry maintains that the plane remained over Syrian territory. Flight radar images have been released by Turkey which seem to show the Russian jet briefly flying over southern Turkey just before it was shot down. The Turkish military said they sent several warnings before firing, but Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, the Russian pilot who survived, said no such warnings were received. 

Russia and Turkey’s differing stance on the incident ha caused conflict between the two countries. Russia have accused Turkey of supporting the so-called Islamic State, with Vladmir Putin describing what has happened as “a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists”. The “significant consequences” Putin warns of include a variety of economic sanctions. As Russia is Turkey’s second largest trading partner, these sanctions will ffect the country’s economic as well as its relationship with Russia. Though LavrovForeign Minister, has also stated “We have no intention of fighting a war with Turkey”, it is clear that the relations between Turkey and Russia are going to change significantly

As Turkey is a NATO member, there are also much wider consequences as other countries have been declaring their stance. The North Atlantic Council, which is the main political decision-making body within NATO, has had a meeting to discuss the events. This meeting le Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to state that “We stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally”. This is one of the most serious disagreements between a NATO member and Russia, which has only been by the claims of terrorist involvement and support.

The position of the United States has also been questioned, as the US have been working to prevent clashes with Russia over Syria. Officials are using the word “deconflict” to make sure that US and Russian forces do not target each other during their overlapping air campaigns in Syria. What has happened with the shooting of the Russian jet suggests these attempts at “deconflict” will prove difficult over the coming months.


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