Putin sends air defense missiles to deter Turkey
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered state-of-the art air defense missile systems to be deployed at a Russian air base in Syria following the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey, a move that raised the threat of a military confrontation between the NATO member and Russia.
The S-400 missile systems, which will be sent to the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia, located just about 50 km south of the border with Turkey, are capable of targeting Turkish jets with deadly precision. If Russia shot down a Turkish plane, NATO would be required to intervene.
Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber Tuesday, saying it crossed into its airspace from Syria despite repeated warnings. One of its two pilots was killed by militants after bailing out, while his crewmate was rescued by Syrian army commandos and delivered in good condition to the Russian base. Putin said the Russian plane remained in Syria’s skies when it was shot down. On Wednesday, Putin ordered the military to deploy the S-400s to Hemeimeem and took other measures that “should be sufficient to ensure flight safety.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the shooting down of the Russian plane as a “planned provocation.” He said the Turkish action came after Russian planes successfully targeted the oil infrastructure used by Daesh, alleging that Turkey benefited from the oil trade.
Lavrov also said that Turkish territory was used by “terrorists” to prepare terror attacks in other countries, but offered no details.
He said that Russia “has no intention to go to war with Turkey,” but added that Moscow will re-consider its ties with Ankara.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that his country does not wish to escalate tensions with Russia over the downing of the plane.
Speaking in Istanbul, Erdogan said that Turkey favors “peace, dialogue and diplomacy.” He defended his country’s move to shoot down the plane saying: “no one should expect Turkey to stay silent to border violations or the violation of its rights.”
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also sought to ease tensions, saying that Russia is Turkey’s “friend and neighbor” and insisting relations cannot be “sacrificed to accidents of communication.”