Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet is a grave error
By : Maria Dubovikova
During last week’s G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that according to his country’s intelligence, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is financed by private individuals from 40 countries, some of them G20 members.
He highlighted the scale of the illegal trade in oil and petroleum products. “The motorcade of refuelling vehicles stretched for dozens of kilometers, so that from a height of 4,000 to 5,000 meters they stretch beyond the horizon,” Putin said, comparing the convoy to gas and oil pipeline systems.
Turkey is using its involvement in the fight against ISIS to hit the Kurds, whose militias are among the most effective forces against the group in Syria. Turkey’s weakly controlled 565-mile southern border is the main gateway for foreign extremists from all over the world to join ISIS. In Turkey jihadists get all they need, even fake ID cards and passports.
Ankara violated international law, as the jet should have been escorted away from Turkish airspace, not shot down
Ankara apparently does little to stop these dangerous activities. The passports of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks were fake and made in Turkey. Turkish businessmen make deals with ISIS oil smugglers, providing the group with billions of dollars.
After the G20 summit, Russia launched a true war against ISIS’s oil infrastructure and the caravans of trucks transporting oil to the Turkish border. This has made Ankara nervous. Last week, following intense Russian bombing in Syria along the Turkish border, Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador, warning that bombing Turkmen villages could lead to “serious consequences,” and urging Moscow to “to immediately end its operation.”
On Nov. 24, Turkey went from threats to deeds. According to a leaked letter of the permanent mission of Turkey to the United Nations, revealed by WikiLeaks, the Russian fighter jet that was shot down by Turkey had been violating its airspace for only 17 seconds.
In 2012, when a Turkish F-4 Phantom was downed by the Syrian military for entering Syrian airspace, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that “the slight violation of the border could not be a pretext for an attack.”
Now, however, a 17-second violation appears to be enough of a pretext. Ankara violated international law, as the jet should have been escorted away from Turkish airspace, not shot down. The latter measure should only be taken in case of a real threat to the state.
According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the plane was hitting areas with a high concentration of militants from the North Caucasus who joined ISIS in Syria. Almost all ISIS supporters from Russia get into Syria via Turkey, so they are mainly stationed near the border.
Putin’s description of what happened as a “stab in the back” by “supporters of terrorists” is the first official acknowledgement of Turkey as a state sponsor of terrorism
Moscow will not stop its operation in Syria – on the contrary. The more Russia is poked, the more hawkish it becomes. Most likely it will target ISIS oil facilities with greater vigour. Moscow will not answer Ankara militarily. It has warned its citizens against travelling to Turkey under the pretext that it is unsafe for them. This will be a huge blow for Turkey’s tourism industry.
If Russia decides to do so, it will reveal all its intelligence regarding Turkey’s dirty games, to ruin its reputation on the world stage. Russia could start ignoring Ankara’s warnings against arming and supporting Syrian Kurdish forces fighting ISIS. Russian and U.S. support for Kurdish militias could be a true headache for Ankara.
Putin’s description of what happened as a “stab in the back” by “supporters of terrorists” is the first official acknowledgement of Turkey as a state sponsor of terrorism. This raises a lot of questions that Ankara will not be able to answer. It has hugely miscalculated, and will have to pay a high price.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme
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