WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Russia and Turkey are at odds after a Russian fighter jet flying over Syria was shot down by Turkish military on Tuesday.
Turkey stands by the claim that the fighter jet had violated its airspace and failed to respond to multiple warnings. U.S. officials confirmed the Russian plane was in fact in the country’s airspace and while it was “close,” it did cross the border.
The Turkish Defense Ministry told Reuters that the Russian jet was warned 10 times within five minutes before being shot down. The ministry also released radar images reportedly showing the flight path over the southern tip of Turkey’s Hatay province.
Russian President Vladmir Putin says the incident will have “significant consequences” for Russian relations with the country of Turkey, calling it a “stab in the back.” Putin said the Russian plane remained in Syria’s skies when it was shot down.
An enraged Putin appeared on state television condemning the incident and Turkey’s course of action following the accusations.
NATO held a meeting Tuesday at the request of Turkey to discuss the incident, according to an alliance official. The meeting was called to inform the 28 member states of the details.
“Instead of discussing the incident with Moscow, they turned to their NATO partners as if it was us who downed their jet,” Putin said. “It’s as if Turkey wants to put NATO at the service of ISIS.”
The incident and NATO’s involvement prompted experts to evaluate the implications for international relations. Article V of the NATO charter dictates that all member nations defend each other and that an attack on one ally is considered an attack against all allies.
Matthew Kroenig, professor of government at Georgetown University and Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at The Atlantic Council, explains that Article V mandates only consultation and that the United States has a few options at this point.
“The United States could choose, therefore, to provide only token support. This, however, would be a mistake. If Moscow can test Washington’s NATO commitment to Turkey, the credibility of America’s alliance commitments everywhere would be called into question. Obama must make it clear, therefore, that the United States stands behind its allies and will defend Turkey from outside aggression,” Kroenig told CBSDC.
On Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on all parties to be prudent and to contribute to reducing tensions.
“I doubt this would be treated as an attack. The last time Article V was invoked was after 9/11. The gravity and scale does not really amount to an armed attack,” Dr. Natasha Kuhrt, Lecturer in International Peace and Security, Department of War Studies, King’s College London, told CBSDC. “Russia is just testing defenses.”
While the United States has helped Turkey with missile and air defenses in the past, Kroenig says it is unlikely this will occur again as a reaction to the warplane being shot down.
“President Obama has been loath to get dragged into another Middle Eastern conflict and it is difficult to foresee a significant U.S. intervention to protect Turkish airspace in the near term,” Kroenig explains.
Other countries have also complained that Russian military aircraft have markedly increased flights close to their airspace since 2014, when relations between Russia and the West significantly deteriorated amid the Ukraine crisis.
“The number of great powers drawn into the Syrian civil war makes for a dangerous cocktail. It would have been much better for the United States to have intervened years ago, but Obama rejected the advice of his top advisers on this score, and as a result we are left with the much more perilous situation we find ourselves in today,” Kroenig told CBSDC.
NATO said there was a 50-percent increase in 2014 in the number of times its member nations intercepted military aircraft flying near its borders, but there was no immediate tally of how many of those incidents involved Russian aircraft.
Tuesday’s event could also have an impact on global cooperation fighting Islamic State militants, Ian Kearns, director of the European Leadership Network told CBSDC.
“Post-Paris, there was developing momentum for a much closer Russia-West cooperative effort on ISIS and this could be derailed by this shoot-down,” Kearns said.
On Wednesday, Putin ordered air defense missile systems to be deployed at a Russian air base in Syria following the downing of its warplane. Officials say the latest move raises the threat of military confrontation between the NATO member and Moscow and could lead to further escalation.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country does not intend to escalate tensions with Russia, while also defending his country’s decision to shoot down the plane.
“No one should expect Turkey to stay silent to border violations or the violation of its rights,” Erdogan said while speaking at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in Istanbul.