Tensions are already on the rise between Russia and Turkey following the downing of an Su-24 bomber by Turkish F-16s on Tuesday.
Russia sends in the “Moskva” missile cruiser
Numerous news sources are reporting that following the downing of a Russian plane today, Moscow intends to suspend all military cooperation with NATO-member Turkey indefinitely. Sergey Rudskoy, a top official with the Russian General Staff, in a strongly worded statement today called the attack on the bomber in Syrian airspace (Turkey insists it was shot down after entering Turkish airspace) “a severe violation of international law. While the plane did come down in Syria, Turkey maintains that two Russian planes violated its airspace.
In addition to the suspension of cooperation, Russia is sending its Moskva missile cruiser closer to both the Turkish and Syrian coasts.
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The Moskva began its commissioned life in 1983 as the Slava, it’s construction began in 1976 and was first put into service in 1979.
Following years of service, the Slava returned to Shipyard 445 of the 61 Kommunara Shipbuilding Plant in Nikolayev (where it was built) for a refitting in 1990.
She was recommissioned as Moskva in April 2000, when she became the flagship of the Black Sea fleet. In late August of 2013, the Moskva was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in response to a buildup of American warships joining the fight against ISIS. Just last week, the cruiser was given the task of assisting the French following the ISIS attacks in Paris.
Now, however, assisting the French has seemed to take a back seat to its new job, a simply worded job really, “destroy any threats to Russian planes.”
Turkey claims Russian planes were in Turkish airspace
A letter today from Turkey’s U.N. Ambassador Halit Cevik said, “two SU-24 planes, the nationality of which are unknown,” and moved into Turkish airspace in the Yayladagi-Hatay region.
The letter, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, said the two planes were flying at 19,000 feet, disregarded warnings and violated Turkish airspace “to a depth of 1.36 miles and 1.15 miles in length for 17 seconds” just after 9:24 a.m.
“Following the violation, plane one left Turkish national airspace,” the letter said. “Plane two was fired at while in Turkish national airspace by Turkish F-16s performing air combat patrolling in that area in accordance with the rules of engagement.”
Russia continues to dispute these claims claiming that the Turkish Air Force shot the planes down in Syrian airspace.
Putin’s earlier statements about the incident
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the downing of the Russian plane would have “serious consequences for Russia’s relationship with Turkey.”
He then took it a step further saying the downing “represents a stab in the back by the terrorists‘ accomplices. I can’t describe what has happened today in any other way. Our plane was downed over Syrian territory by an air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16 jet.”
Putin then gave details refuting Turkish claims, “The plane fell on Syrian territory 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away from the Turkish border. It was flying 1 kilometer away from the Turkish border when it was attacked. In any case, neither our pilots nor our jet posed any threat to Turkey. That is obvious. They were carrying out an operation fighting against ISIL in Northern Latakia,” continued Putin.
Obama defends Turkey’s right to defend its airspace
“Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace,” Obama said during a joint news conference with French President Francois Hollande at the White House. The two were meeting to discuss how the two countries would escalate their fight with ISIS and how best to accomplish their goals in tandem. Hollande has, since the attacks in Paris, repeatedly told France and the world that his country is at war.
Obama then went on to suggest that Russia continues to attack the rebels that oppose the regime of Syrian leader Assad rather than ISIL.
“If Russia is directing its energies towards Daesh and ISIL, some of those conflicts or potentials for mistakes or escalation are less likely to occur,” said Obama. The president continued his use of Daesh, an alternation name for ISIS and a name that ISIS clearly can’t stand. The use of the word Daesh in ISIS controlled territories is punishable by the removal of the offender’s tongue.
“Our view from the start has been that Russia is welcome to be part of this broad-based coalition that we’ve set up. … The challenge has been Russia’s focus on propping up Assad rather than focusing on ISIL,” Obama said presumably with Hollande’s permission.
NATO calls emergency meeting, issues statement
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the beginning of his statement called for “calm and de-escalation” in today’s Turkey-Russia situation.
“I have previously expressed my concern about the implications of the military actions of the Russian Federation close to NATO’s borders,” the NATO leader said. “This highlights the importance of having and respecting arrangements to avoid such incidents in the future.
“As we have repeatedly made clear, we stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey,” added the Secretary General.