When the news about Turkey downing a Russian jet started emerging in the media, the first reaction of the Turkish public was neither celebration nor condemnation. An overwhelming majority of the public was asking, “What caused this?” The last time a NATO state shot down a Russian plane was in the 1950s.
Russia and Turkey have been known to be on different sides of the Syrian conflict since 2011, however the two countries managed to keep the relations warm. Lately the Russian air force had been bombing the regions in Syria populated by Turkmens – an ethnic Turk minority – under the pretense of fighting terror. Turkmens are not a violent group of people but mostly civilians who had to take up arms due to the shift in the status quo regarding the civil war. Apart from the Turkmen villages, Russian aerial campaign has not been sparing civilians and children and women casualties were reported since the operations began.
The people of Turkey expect more respect from the Russian side regarding our borders, and more patience from the Turkish military before taking lethal action.Ceylan Ozbudak
Hiding behind the media mantra of fighting ISIS while hitting moderate rebel positions and civilian populated areas by and large, Russia has been shifting the conflict into a binary war between ISIS and the Assad regime.
Continuous violation of Turkish airspace
Russian jets have been violating Turkish airspace since Russia deployed troops to Syria in October. Inside the country, there was a pressure building against the unlawful actions of Russian airpower. There were prior incidents of Turkish military warning the Russian jets for their violations.
If we go back to October 3 and 4, we will remember Russian jets violated Turkish airspace repeatedly. Russia also admitted that a Russian fighter jet actively locked on its radar to the Turkish F-16s sent to intercept it for 4.5 minutes.
Notifying Turkey about the codes of the aircraft in the campaign would help reduce the stress of Russian violations over the Turkish airspace. All coalition reportedly forces notify Turkey about any aircraft which is going to be close to or inside its borders for a limited amount of time. Had Russia followed the same discipline, this could help Turkey overlook the violations.
The new rules of engagement were clear
I personally do not support shooting down planes and threatening neighboring armies. There should be a peaceful way out of these incidents. However, I have to say that Turkey’s actions were fully in line with the new rules of engagement adopted after Syria shot down a Turkish jet in 2012. According to the new rules, all elements approaching from Syria are considered an enemy threat and Turkey is entitled to warn the aircrafts that are within 10 miles of Turkish airspace. In case the warnings are not responded to, the aircraft in question is to be shot down. Russian military was aware of these rules and did not comply with them. This left Turkish military with this undesired choice.
"Everyone must know that it is our international right and national duty to take any measure against whoever violates our air or land borders," Prime Minister Davutoglu said in Ankara, making it clear this action did not target Russia as a state but the reckless jet, violating the rules. These kinds of unfavorable incidents are not entirely alien to Russia as well. We all remember Russia downed a Korean Airliner in 1983, mistaking it for a warplane due to problems in communication.
Russian Authorities not entirely truthful?
Even though Russia keeps claiming their jet was flying over Syria, Turkey proved with satellite images and radar recordings that the Russian fighter was in its air space.
The surviving pilot claimed that they were not warned but the Turkish military also provided the audio recordings of the warnings they issued prior to the downing of the jet. According to these recordings, the Russian pilots were warned over a span of five minutes before an F-16 shot the jet down with a missile.
In a show of support to Turkey’s actions, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg declared: "We stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally." This statement was followed by support from the U.S. and EU countries.
Thankfully, Turkish intellectuals called for de-escalation in tensions. Turkish author Adnan Oktar wrote for Russian, Chinese and Iranian outlets, saying: “It wouldn't be reasonable to raise tensions due to the unwelcome incident between Turkey and Russia, but it should be evaluated with moderation and tranquility.” President Erdogan has said that Ankara has no wish to escalate the incident, also saying “Turkey is not on the side of tension, crisis and animosity.”
In the wake of such an unwanted event, I believe the people of Turkey expect more respect from the Russian side regarding our borders, and more patience from the Turkish military before taking lethal action.
Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. As a representative of Harun Yahya organization, she frequently cites quotations from the author in her writings. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak
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