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 deliver a news conference in Ankara, December 1, 2014
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey deliver 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.

“Stab in the back”

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.

Threat to the West

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.

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