By Penza News
Russia will neither forgive nor forget Turkey the deaths of military personnel stationed in Syria and collusion with terrorists, said the Russian President Vladimir Putin in his annual Address to the Federal Assembly on December 3.
The ceremony began with a moment of silence to honor the memory of pilot Oleg Peshkov, who died on November 24 when the Russian Su-24 frontline bomber was downed en route back to Hmeymim Air Base after the airstrikes on encampments of radical Islamists in Syria close to the border with Turkey; and marine Alexander Pozynich, who was killed by terrorists during a rescue mission that followed.
“Today here in the St George’s Hall, a historic hall of Russian military glory, we have combat pilots and representatives of the Armed Forces who are taking part in the anti-terrorist operation in Syria. Gelena Peshkova and Irina Pozynich, who lost their husbands in the war against terror, have joined us too. My deepest respect to you and the parents of our heroes,” Vladimir Putin said.
Russia does not equate the Turkish people themselves with the certain part of the current ruling establishment in Ankara directly responsible for “a heinous war crime.”
“We will never forget their collusion with terrorists. We have always deemed betrayal the worst and most shameful thing to do, and that will never change. I would like them to remember this – those in Turkey who shot our pilots in the back, those hypocrites who tried to justify their actions and cover up for terrorists. I don’t even understand why they did it. Any issues they might have had, any problems, any disagreements – even those we knew nothing about – could have been settled in a different way. Plus, we were ready to cooperate with Turkey on all the most sensitive issues it had; we were willing to go further, where its allies refused to go. Allah only knows, I suppose, why they did it. And probably, Allah has decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by taking their mind and reason,” stressed the Russian President.
He also harshly criticized the double standards policies.
“We know who are stuffing pockets in Turkey and letting terrorists prosper from the sale of oil they stole in Syria. The terrorists are using these receipts to recruit mercenaries, buy weapons and plan inhuman terrorist attacks against Russian citizens and against people in France, Lebanon, Mali and other states. We remember that the militants who operated in the North Caucasus in the 1990s and 2000s found refuge and received moral and material assistance in Turkey. We still find them there,” said Vladimir Putin, adding that Russia does not and will not react to this in a nervous manner or by “rattling the saber.”
The downing of Russian Su-24 bomber, an event that caused great shock among politicians, experts and the media, remains one of the most popular topics for discussion even nearly three weeks since the attack. In particular, Pepe Escobar, Brazilian roving correspondent for several news agencies, suggested that the November 24 incident could have been a geopolitical maneuver.
“The real target was not a Su-24, but the evolving possibility, after the Paris attacks, of a real coalition – the US, Britain and France on one side, the ‘4+1’ (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah) on the other side – finally converging their interests into a unified fight against Islamic State (terrorist organization banned in Russia, also known as IS, or Daesh in Arabic),” he pointed out.
From the expert’s point of view, Ankara is openly exploiting the Turkmen in Syria and a multitude of terrorists groups, including Daesh, to suppress the Kurds, topple the government in Damascus, and control new territories.
“The strategic importance of these Turkmen lands cannot be emphasized enough. It’s exactly in this area, reaching as much as 35 km inland, that Ankara wants to install its so-called ‘safe zone,’ which will be in fact a no-fly zone, in Syrian territory, ostensibly to house Syrian refugees, and with everything paid by the EU, which has already unblocked 3 bln euros starting on January 1 via the European Commission. The now insurmountable obstacle for Turkey to get its no-fly zone is, predictably, Russia,” Pepe Escobar stated.
With that taken into account, he said, the decision of the Turkish Presidnet Recep Tayyip Erdogan to open fire became a “suicide” attempt to stop Russian pilots from “turning its profitable assets into ashes.”
In the meantime, Han Ten Broeke, Dutch MP and Foreign Affairs Spokesman for the VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), described the news about the downing of the Russian Su-24 as an unpleasant surprise.
“I have no reasons to doubt the assessments of NATO. Therefore, Turkey has the right to defend itself. Nevertheless, it is a shame that this incident has taken place, because ever since the attacks in Paris the international community has tried to form a united front against ISIS. […] The last time this occurred was about 60 years ago, when the US sent F9F aircrafts to intercept Russian MiGs [on 18 November 1952],” the politician noted.
In his opinion, the situation is further complicated by the fact that Ankara, Moscow and Washington continue publishing reports on the incident that contradict each other, while the Turkish-Syrian borders is difficult to make out precisely even with the necessary radiolocation equipment on the ground.
Han Ten Broeke called for a solid investigation of both the Su-24 downing and the allegations that Daesh terrorists are cooperating with the Turkish authorities.
“There are different signs that indicate this. I have already stated in public that we suspect Turkish trade with ISIS, oil trade, trade with terrorist fighters and poor border controls with not only Syria, but also with Europe,” stressed the Dutch MP.
From his point of view, even though Russia and Turkey are now in a serious political deadlock on several issues, Moscow and Ankara must shift their attention towards the objective of forming an anti-Daesh international coalition instead.
Meanwhile, Kamal Sido, Head of Middle East Department of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), criticized the Turkish strategy in the region that had no place for a peaceful solution in Syria on the first place.
“Before 2011, Turkey was supporting Bashar Assad, but then the Turkish government began supporting primarily the Islamic terrorists – Islamic State, Al-Nusra Front, Ahrar ash-Sham, all these terrorist groups. They were arriving through Turkey, leaving for Syria and Europe. Money from various countries – Saudi Arabia, Qatar – for Islamic terrorists come through Turkish banks. […] In these hours, these very moments, Islamic terrorists are striking the land where I was born, attacking the Kurds, the Christians, the Armenians, the Yazidis,” noted the human rights activist who was born and raised in the Kurdish region of Afrin in Syria, but moved to Germany in 1990.
The countries that publicly call for the same objective must not conduct any acts of aggression against each other, he stressed.
Also, the member of the Society for Threatened Peoples urged to disrupt the supply channels of radical Islamists in Syria.
In his opinion, it is now the imperative to hold talks between all parties involved, including Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other states.
“It is vital that the Vienna talks continue through joint efforts, and with participation of the Kurds. Turkey is against it,” Kamal Sido remarked, adding that the current President of Syria Bashar Assad “is also responsible for this war.”
“One day he must go, but he must not be replaced by a Turkish henchman. Assad must be replaced by a democratic ruler, not by a Muslim fundamentalist,” the human rights activist stressed.
In turn, John Laughland, Director of Studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in France, said he was profoundly shocked by the news about the downed Russian bomber jet.
“The Russian plane clearly posed no threat at all to Turkey – it was flying over Syria. Turkey has no responsibility to police the airspace above Syria,” the expert stressed, adding that the November 24 incident might have been a planned act of provocation.
In his opinion, Ankara is providing overall support to terrorists and Islamists in Syria using its NATO membership as a cover, and this situation is outright unwelcome.
Moreover, John Laughland suggested that the radical Islamists cannot be classified as terrorists per se, because their main objective is control over territory rather than acts of terror themselves, while Ankara does not shun exploiting them to undermine the stability of Iran and the “Shiite Crescent” [a term coined in 2004 by King Abdullah II of Jordan to denominate the crescent-shaped territory from Iran through Iraq to Lebanon, a prospective area of Shia dominance].
“Turkey, yes, is guilty of double standards in supporting at least some of the rebels in Syria. I suspect that the claims are true that it gives indirect financial support even to Islamic State,” the expert said.
He also approved of Moscow’s intention to avoid any military retaliation, stressing that Russia was the victim in that incident.
In the meantime, Kenneth Kristensen Berth, Member of Folketing for the Danish People’s Party, Vice-Chairman of the European Affairs Committee in the national Parliament, stated that the downing of the Russian bomber jet radically changed the background for the Syrian anti-terrorism operation.
“I think it is a very poor situation, because right now we are at war with Islamic State, and I think that this might interfere in what is necessary, and what is necessary is a coordinated strike against Islamic State,” the Danish MP pointed out.
Discussing Ankara’s unwillingness to apologize for the November 24 incident, the politician called it “a typical type of Turkish pride.”
“Turkey has very big difficulty acknowledging mistakes. That is also the case with the Armenian genocide, for instance, which the Turkish government has been denying for years, even though it is evident for all of us,” Kenneth Kristensen Berth stressed.
He also suggested that the allegations against Turkey in regards to contacts with IS and other terrorist organizations call for a very thorough review of all facts available.
“I’ve known about these allegations for some time, and I know also that other media has brought these things to light. I think that’s exceptionally worrying if it’s the case that a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is aiding and advancing a terrorist organization. I think it’s very important that we find out whether this is correct or not, because, of course, if Turkey is not doing everything in its power to stop Islamic State, then I think Turkey is on a breach with the NATO treaty,” said the Vice-Chairman of the European Affairs Committee in the Danish Folketing.
However, he said he was unable to comment on possibilities for situation’s development in the future, pointing out that this situation “the Russians and the Turks have to sort out for themselves.”
Meanwhile, Edward Lozansky, President and Founder of the American University in Moscow, suggested that Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his close allies likely forgot to analyze all consequences of attacking the Su-24.
“A series of self-contradicting statements from despot Erdogan shows that he is somewhat confused. It’s easy to see that while downing the Russian jet, he relied on at least moral and political backing from Washington and NATO. But it seems he did not account for all consequences of his reckless action. Obviously, Barack Obama and NATO authorities in their public statements supported Turkey’s right to defend the airspace, yet apparently the private phone and other talks with no journalists or witnesses present went by without too much words of praise at all,” the analyst suggested.
He also pointed that Washington and NATO finally supported Moscow’s initiative to lock down the Turkish-Syrian border for terrorists and arms smugglers, something that did not happen before.
In his opinion, the Russian-Turkish relations will recover only after a public apology, a material compensation to the families of the killed military men, and obligations to prevent such incidents in the future by all means necessary.
In turn, Bashdar Ismaeel, London-based journalist, political analyst, expert on Iraq, Turkey, Syria and the Middle East, pointed out that the incident took place at the very moment when a real sense of greater coordination in strikes against Daesh and other terrorists between Russia and the US-led coalition was starting to form.
“Turkey clearly wanted to send a strong message to Russia. This message carried a number of elements. Russia has been bombing Turkmen rebels in northern Syria that Turkey had already warned about, Russia intervened at a vital time in Syria and have somewhat revitalized Syrian President Bashar Assad, who for Turkey remains first priority before the removal of IS. And, of course, Turkey wanted to show that it remained the key regional player and that Syria was its sphere of influence, that the Syrian war could not be concluded without Turkey as a key voice and party,” the analyst suggested.
He also pointed out that the Syrian Kurds could easily lock down the terrorist supply routes with the help of Turkey and other armed groups, if it were not for Ankara’s aggressive opposition.
“Turkey has already shown that it prefers an IS regime that it can contain than a strong Kurdish area,” the expert explained, adding that the difference between the extremists and the so-called moderate opposition had become too hazy.
Discussing the consequences of the Russian Su-24 downing, he highlighted the fact that Turkey had to pay a big price for the incident.
“NATO will feel somewhat obliged to defend Turkey but they will hardly welcome such an escalation at such a sensitive time. It is counterproductive to all the efforts in trying to find middle ground with Russia. The incursion would have lasted seconds only and Turkey could easily have held fire for those few seconds and opted for a strong diplomatic protest whilst safeguarding political, strategic and economic relations with Russia,” Bashdar Ismaeel stressed, saying he was not surprised to see the measures Moscow replied with.
In addition, in his opinion, international tensions that spiked with the Su-24 downing still continue to rise, with yet another such incident threatening to lead to a completely unpredictable outcome.
“The Syrian skies are certainly crowded and there was always a danger that an ‘accident’ may happen but in this case the facts were clear. A Russian place is alleged to stray into Turkish airspace and there is no mistaking the Turkish action or the fact they must have known it was a Russian plane. It’s an action that could have very much been prevented,” the expert concluded.
On 24 November 2015, the Russian Air-Space Force Su-24M frontline bomber in the Syrian operation air group was downed by an air-to-air missile launched by a Turkish Air Force F-16C fighter, in an incident that took place at the altitude of approximately 6,000 km by the Syrian-Turkish border. The jet crashed in Bayir Bucak area of Latakia province in Syria.
The Russian Air-Space Force Lieutenant-Colonel Oleg Peshkov, who was piloting the plane, was shot by terrorists in the air after he has ejected. An attempted rescue mission using a helicopter resulted in another victim of the incident, as Mariner Alexander Pozynich, one of the members of the helicopter crew, was killed in the shootout that ensued. The air navigator Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, escaped by landing outside the attack zone, and later returned to Khmeymim Air Base thanks to a joint operation conducted by Russian and Syrian special forces.
On the same day, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the national Security Council meeting made a statement that the Su-24 allegedly has incurred into the country’s airspace, and the pilots had been warned 10 times within the span of 5 minutes. However, shortly after the Western media reported that the Russian plane spent only 17 seconds in the Turkish airspace. At the same time, the Russian Ministry of Defense says analysis of objective monitoring data shows that the Su-24 bomber did not cross the border at all, while the F-16 fighter jet made a 40-second incursion into Syrian airspace, while the downed plane received no warnings at all.
The actions of Ankara were met with a stern reaction by Moscow and resulted in a severe decline in Russian-Turkish relations.