Turkey may face Russian military pressure following downing of jet

The three areas in which Turkey may face retaliatory acts from Russia, according to the report, are the Black Sea where both countries have a coastal line, the Eastern Black Sea and possible Russian support to be offered to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting a bloody war against Turkey since 1984.

A Russian SU-24 was shot down by a Turkish jet near the Turkish border in Syria on Tuesday over allegations of violations of Turkish airspace.

According to the report by the İstanbul-based company, the biggest risk Turkey faces is regarding possible Russian support to the PKK, which may also include prevention of Turkish airstrikes against bases in northern Iraq of the terrorist organization.

Russia, Iraq and Iran jointly established last month a coordination center in Baghdad in the fight against the terrorist the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Arguing that Russia would have a say, based on this cooperation, in Iraq’s air defense, the report said Russia is in a position to prevent Turkish air force from striking PKK targets in northern Iraq.

But analysts find such an eventuality highly improbable given that Russia neither has a military base in Iraq to make such a scenario possible, nor time and energy, as it is already busy enough on the Syria and Ukrainian fronts.

“Russia may strengthen its ties with the PKK, while increasing its support to the PKK’s Syrian offshoot, the pro-Kurdish Democratic Union Party [PYD],” Yasar Yakıs, a former minister of foreign affairs, told Today’s Zaman.

Yakıs, who is now the president of the Ankara-based Center for Strategic Communication (STRATİM), does not expect Russia to take action against Turkish Air Force’s strikes in northern Iraq.

But he strongly feels that possible Turkish military actions on Syrian territory will risk a confrontation with Russia.

He said, “Russia would not allow Turkish jets to fly over Syrian airspace.”

As part of the international coalition against ISIL, Turkish jets are soon expected to strike ISIL in Syria.

Russia, a staunch supporter of the Bashar al-Assad regime, which Turkey has been working to topple, has recently built a strong air defense system in Assad-controlled parts of the country.

Turkey openly supports the rebel groups fighting against the Syrian government, which therefore sees Turkey as an enemy.

Should a Turkish jet enter Syrian airspace, Russia may take this “opportunity” to get revenge for its downed jet.

“It is now too risky for Turkey to get engaged in any air operation alone in Syria,” said Hasan Selim Ozertem, an analyst on Eurasia and energy security at the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK).

He added, “Turkey will have to fly in joint operation with coalition forces and strike [ISIL] targets indicated.”

The Turkish government said the Russian jet was downed as it had violated Turkish airspace, but Russia denied the allegation, saying the jet was shot down in Syrian airspace.

In a strike which may be taken as retaliation, Russian jets hit on Wednesday evening 20 trucks that entered Syria from Turkey’s border province of Kilis.

Seven people were killed, while 10 are wounded, according to reports in the media.

It was also noted in the assessment by the consulting company that Russia had previously provided the PKK with some anti-aircraft guns.

Ozertem does not believe Russia would open a new front in Iraq to prevent Turkish airstrikes against the PKK, as Russia does not have the necessary military infrastructure in Iraq and it is already busy in Syria and Ukraine.

But he added, “Russia may provide the PKK with intelligence, logistics and arms support.”

Yet another area where Turkey may face increasing Russian pressure is Eastern Mediterranean, according to the assessment.

Russia started in recent months to enlarge its naval base in Syria’s port of Tartus.

It has also deployed several big warships in the region in the past couple of months.

According to the assessment, Russia should be expected to restrict the activities of the Turkish navy and air force in this part of the Mediterranean.

Turkish jets that fly near Syrian airspace will feel under threat, the assessment said.

The Russian jet downed by a Turkish F-16 fighter violated Turkish airspace for 17 seconds, and it turned out the jet was shot down over Syrian airspace.

Russia, analysts say, would be all too willing to punish any violation of the Syrian airspace or territorial waters by Turkish armed forces.

“Russia may implement its rules of engagement as rigidly to the country which downed its plane,” Yakıs said.

The downing of the jet has also put Turkey’s naval and air activities in the Black Sea under risk, according to the assessment.

Arguing that Russia would attempt in the future to enlarge its territorial waters and airspace in the Black Sea as far as Crimea is concerned, the assessment said the area where Turkey can become militarily active would get seriously restricted in the Black Sea.

But analysts do not think Russia would take such a step in the Black Sea as that would push Turkey to take similar steps.

“If the balance [of power] in the Black Sea is damaged, that would also harm Russia,” Yakıs said.

Such a step would push some world powers such as the US to exert pressure on Turkey to increase its presence in the Black Sea, which is the last thing Russia wants.

The Montreux Convention gives Turkey control over the Bosporus and the Dardanelles and regulates the transit of naval warships, restricting the naval presence of the countries without a coast in the Black Sea.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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