Tuesday morning, Turkish F-16 fighter jets shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 warplane. Turkey claims the jet had repeatedly violated their airspace, and they had repeatedly tried to contact it, but received no reply from the Su-24. Russia disputes this claim. Recent media reports are saying one pilot was killed and another was captured on the ground. Other reports have local rebels in the Turkmen Mountain region claiming to have shot both pilots as they parachuted to earth.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the plane was inside Syrian airspace when it was attacked. According to a Reuters article, Putin went on to warn of ‘”serious consequences” for what he termed a stab in the back administered by “the accomplices of terrorists”. He also declared, “We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today”.
In the same article, a Turkish official is quoted as saying, “We warned them to avoid entering Turkish air space before they did, and we warned them many times. Our findings show clearly that Turkish air space was violated multiple times. And they violated it knowingly.”
In an interview with The Daily Signal, the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Fellow Luke Coffey answered questions about what this means for NATO and other countries involved in the region.
When asked if this action by Turkey, which is a NATO member nation, meant NATO was at war with Russia, he replied, “Not at all, but it shows that Russia remains an on-going threat to the security of the NATO alliance…So far all sides are calling for calm and trying to ascertain the facts. Regardless, this incident shows how complex and dangerous the air campaign against ISIS has become since Russia started its intervention in Syria.”
His response on how NATO should respond? “Turkey has a right to defend its air space when it is violated just like the U.S. or any other NATO member does. In this particular case, Turkey has been dealing with Russian and Syrian incursions for some time… NATO needs to support Turkey’s right to self-defense and provide Turkey will any help it might require to secure its air space. This might include increased air patrols and the deployment of air surveillance capability.”