Putin sends air-defense missiles to Syria to deter Turkey

Yahoo News – By Vladimir Isachenkov/Associated Press – Nov 25, 2015thPGJEYZKW
Photo: Downed Russian military jet by Turkey.

In a move raising the potential threat of a Russia-NATO conflict, Russia says it will deploy long-range air defense missiles to its base in Syria and destroy any target that may threaten its warplanes following the downing of a Russian military jet by Turkey.

The incident, the first time in half a century a NATO member shot down a Russian plane, may put Moscow and the alliance on the verge of a direct conflict. If Russia shoots down a Turkish plane, Turkey, a NATO member, could proclaim itself under attack and ask the alliance for military assistance.

The situation is even more alarming as Russian and Turkish presidents are strong leaders reluctant to back down and seek a compromise. Most observers believe that while a direct military confrontation will be unlikely, the shooting down of the plane will further fuel the Syrian conflict and complicate international peace efforts.

The S-400 missiles, which Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to be sent to the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia just 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from the border with Turkey, are capable of striking targets within 400-kilometer (250-mile) range with a deadly precision. The military also moved the navy missile cruiser Moskva closer to the shore to help protect Russian warplanes with its long-range Fort air defense system.

“It will be ready to destroy any aerial target posing a potential danger to our aircraft,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting with military officials. He added that from now on Russian bombers will always be escorted by fighters on combat missions over Syria, and announced the severance of all military ties with Turkey.

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of the German Marshall Fund in Ankara, said the downing of a Turkish plane by Russia is also a possibility.

“Turkish planes violate the Syrian border daily, either for reconnaissance flights or for anti-IS operations,” he said. “In the same way that Turkey argues it has rules of engagement, Russia could also declare its own rules of engagement saying it has right to protect the skies of its ally.”

The Russian plane’s downing marked a dramatic turnaround in relations between Russia and Turkey, who have proclaimed one another “strategic partners” in the past and developed booming economic ties despite differences over Syria.

Putin described the Turkish action as a “crime” and a “stab in the back,” and called Turkey an “accomplice of terrorists.” In a sign of escalating tensions, protesters in Moscow hurled eggs and stones at the Turkish Embassy, breaking windows in the compound. Police cleared the area and made some arrests shortly after the protest began.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has often been compared to Putin for his authoritarian ways, said Wednesday that his country doesn’t wish to escalate tensions with Russia.

Speaking at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey favors “peace, dialogue and diplomacy.” He defended his country’s move to shoot down the plane saying: “No one should expect Turkey to stay silent to border violations or the violation of its rights.”

Putin has dismissed Turkey’s claim that the Russian warplane intruded its airspace, voicing particular annoyance about Ankara turning to NATO instead of speaking to Russia, “as if it were us who shot down a Turkish plane.”

Read entire article here

posted by Teri Perticone

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