Two Turkish F-16 fighter jets have attacked and downed a Russian warplane that had invaded Turkish airspace from Syria. At least 10 warnings were issued within a 5 minute period before action was taken. Both pilots of the Russian craft were seen to have ejected and parachuted. It is believed no lives were lost.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called this a “stab in the back that will have serious consequences for Russia’s relationship with Turkey.” Some Russian lawmakers are calling for retaliation by evacuating Russian tourists from popular Turkish vacation spots.
The North American Treaty Organization (NATO) is holding an emergency meeting at 11am (ET) today to discuss. Turkey is a member of the NATO alliance, its members are pledged to defend Turkey should hostilities arise.
The border of Syria with Turkey is very active and dangerous. Russian officials have claimed the fighter was still in Syrian airspace where Russia supports the current embattled regime of President Assad.
This is not the first incursion of Russian planes into Turkey. A couple of weeks ago another fighter invaded Turkish airspace, an act officially condemned by NATO. In March 2014, Turkish f-16’s shot down a Syrian fighter which had crossed the border. Some claim an incident of this sort was inevitable.
Author’s note: I believe this is part of a dangerous game on Putin’s part, attempting to establish dominance and probe the weaknesses of NATO. The incursions would likely have gotten worse until Turkey was forced to act.
This kind of provocation can easily get out of control. Tensions are already high in the region, with very unwise proxy war in Syria. But Turkey is a NATO ally and conflict there means conflict with all 28 NATO Allied countries. However it appears Putin has already signaled military escalation will not occur at this time.