So Much for Russian-Turkish Rapprochement

Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane near Syria ends any hope of improving relations.

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey address a news conference in Ankara, December 1, 2014
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey address a news conference in Ankara, December 1, 2014 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

When Turkey shot down a Russian military jet near its border with Syria on Tuesday, it also ended any hope of improving relations between the two states — much to the relief of its allies in the West.

Russian president Vladimir Putin called the shooting down of an Su-24 warplane that had veered into Turkish airspace a “stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorism.” His foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, canceled a planned trip to Turkey.

Less than a year ago, Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, were shaking hands in Ankara after agreeing to expand their energy relations. The Russian leader announced a 6-percent discount on the sale of natural gas as well as plans to build a new pipeline through Turkey to supply his European market.

A year earlier, Russia had become Turkey’s second trading partner, after Germany.

The Atlantic Sentinel reported at the time that this rapprochement between the two old rivals could pose a threat to Turkey’s Western allies.

As NATO’s southeastern anchor, Turkey acts as a check on Russian ambitions in the Black Sea. Since it controls the Dardanelles, it can prevent Russia from projecting power into the Mediterranean. It also enables pro-Western republics in the Caucasus — mainly Georgia and to a lesser extent Azerbaijan — to deepen their own relations with Europe.

A Russian-Turkish coalition, by contrast, would allow Russia to dominate both the Black Sea and the Caucasus region.

It seems unlikely anything will come of that now.