Another Russian bomber violates Turkish airspace
If we are to believe the Turkish Foreign Ministry, it looks like another incident has occurred in the skies over Turkey. According to them on Friday a Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber violated Turkish airspace, in spite of numerous radio warnings by Turkish officials. Fortunately the subsequent Turkish response was only to summon the Russian Ambassador in protest. On the other side of the coin, Russian officials have denied the Turkish claim that their plane entered Turkish airspace and dismissed it as “proof-less propaganda.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded with his usual bluster saying “Russia will have to bear the consequences if the violations continue,” and that “the airspace that is violated is not only Turkish airspace but NATO’s as well.” While the head of NATO Jens Stoltenberg warned “Russia must take all necessary measures to ensure that such violations do not happen again.”
I am sure everyone remembers what happened the last time that a Russian bomber ‘violated’ Turkish airspace. One wonders why Turkish forces didn’t respond to the most recent Russian aerial incursion in a similar way? Maybe it is because Russian Su-34’s are now armed with air-to-air missiles or that they were possibly escorted by Su-30SM fighter jets. Or maybe it is due to the presence of the formidable S-400 surface-to-air missile system in Syria. It could also be that Turkey is smarting from Russia’s economic retaliation to the downing of the Su-24. Whatever the exact reason, it looks like Erdoğan is not completely insane after all.
Yet Erdoğan is still full of it, as his protestations against Russia are rather hypocritical. Just two days ago two Turkish F-16’s violated Greek airspace for a minute over the island of Kalolimnos. What is most galling about this incursion is that it occurred while Greek Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos was also flying over the nearby island of Imia to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Imia crisis.
I wonder if Erdoğan will bear the consequences of repeated incursions into Greek airspace? Or will Stoltenberg say anything about the violation of the airspace of a NATO member nation? Shouldn’t Turkey “take all necessary measures to ensure that such violations do not happen again” with respect to Greece? Unfortunately, I highly doubt it.
Regardless of Erdoğan’s hypocrisy, at least cooler heads prevailed in the most recent Russian incursion into Turkish airspace. However, further such incidents are bound to occur and, even if neither side desires a conflict, a mistaken or severe reaction could easily lead to a serious conflict between Russia and Turkey.