On Tuesday, November 24, a Russian warplane was shot down near Turkey’s border with Syria. Both Moscow (the Russian capital) and Ankara (the Turkish capital) gave conflicting accounts of the incident and which country was at fault.
Turkey claims to have warned the plane ten times within a span of five minutes not to violate Turkey’s airspace, but Russia denies that the plane ever crossed the Syrian border. Russia’s Defense Ministry stated that the plane crashed within Syria and was only flying through Syrian territory. The U.S. is still trying to determine definitively where the plane was hit, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared that the plane crashed in Syria, 2.5 miles from the border, and that it was hit about 0.6 miles from the border. However, a spokesperson of the Free Syrian Army’s 10th brigade has claimed to have seen the warplane infiltrate Turkish airspace 4 times. The U.S. is looking into available radar data in order to figure out the truth, but the Turkish Ministry of Defense has released an image that is allegedly the flight radar track of the warplane, which does show the path of the plane to have passed the border and flown within Turkish airspace.
Following the incident, Turkey called for an emergency NATO meeting to discuss what had happened. Both the downing of the plane and the calling of the meeting has caused the tension between NATO countries and Russia to increase considerably. While most doubt that this incident specifically will lead to further military escalation, it is undoubtedly a few steps backwards in NATO’s attempts to persuade Russia to withdraw their support of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
President Obama has said that Turkey has the right to defend their airspace, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed NATO’s support for Turkey, disagreeing with any propositions that this may happened outside of Turkey’s borders, based on information given to the council by Turkey and other ally countries.
The Russian Defense Ministry believes that the pilots of the warplane ejected themselves following the incident. Russia’s General Staff confirmed that one of the pilots had died in air due to being shot at by ground forces, and the other pilot’s fate is currently unknown.