Russia-Turkey relations moving towards tension or truce?  

By Nasurullah Brohi

The Cold War styled insulation erupted once again after Turkey allegedly shot down a Russian jet violating its airspace and brusquely after the incident, the NATO’s emergency meeting with the result to stand with their ally further aggravated the situation. This is the first time over last 50-years that any NATO member shot a Russian warplane and moreover; any possible parallel reprisal by the Russian side pushing Ankara to seek assistance from allies would ultimately further aggravate the situation and provoke the chances of conflict between the Russia and NATO.

The crisis between Russia and Turkey has also created a serious strategic and political breakthrough as both powers and their respective allies are operating on the same grounds, though divided on President Assad’s rule, but however, both sides’ operations target the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria. Besides few common objectives, there is a wide range of diversity of interests in the region, particularly, the fight against the ISIL is a commonly shared goal for many, but the powers like Turkey and its NATO allies who do not want to see Bashar-Al-Assad in the regime, whereas, Russia and Iran enthusiastically pursue the path to support the President Assad’s regime through steps to completely cut-down the flow of resources and the penetration of rebels from Syria to any other neighbouring state.

The striking turnaround in relations between the two countries who once proclaimed each other close partners shared common strategic and economic interests despite their different stances over the Basher-al-Assad regime nonetheless, the shoot down of the Russian jet has seriously affected the relationship. Russia on its part is committed to investigate and respond the Turkish allegations of violating its territories and trying to recover the black box data whose 13 chips out of 16 were badly destroyed. The recent controversial developments march towards the escalation of a threat to arise a conflict between the NATO and Russia. Russia will deploy long-range air defence missile system to target any possible threat to Russian warplanes in the future.

The conflict between the two states would also bring disastrous consequences for the regional and international peace as both the sides deeply engage in the fight against the ISIL but divided on the issue of President Assad’s regime would consequently transform from a war against ISIL into a war between the states that engaged in the restoration of peace by following their respective modes and models and would definitely, undermine the international peace efforts for Syria. In the aftermath of the jet shot down, many strategic analysts believed this would demoralize the Russian efforts for supporting the president Basher-Al-Assad’s regime, but after the Paris terror attacks, the French president François Hollande’s emphasize for the enhanced cooperation with Russia against the Islamic State has been a reason to bridge the gap between the Moscow and the NATO for achieving a common goal.

Previously, Russia and the Turkey had been in good friendly terms, but the incident now has created bitterness in the relationship. Russia has imposed serious trade sanctions on its Black Sea neighbour along with the ban on the package holidays that has been a reason of gradual decline in the tourism of the two countries and Russia has also asked its citizen to avoid visiting Turkey as they would risk serious threats there. The Russia’s embargo of industrial and agriculture goods from Turkey and the suspension of the natural gas supply will further worsen the situation. To overcome the trade difficulties, Turkey is engaged in exploring a variety of other options through its regional partners like Qatar, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

Historically, both the countries have fought 12 times since the 16th century, but ultimately, the conflicts were settled down through the negotiations and peace pacts which brought the two countries very close to each other that both often considered each other as close partners and virtual allies.  In the ongoing apprehension two sides must realize the significance of diplomatic and political options. The charismatic leaders of the both countries need to demonstrate their effective skills and the leader’s wisdom to ease the tension by avoiding further indulgence in the controversies and aggravating the situation by showing an attitude of compromise and concession based on the principle of mutual respect and creating confidence building measures in order to safeguard the regional peace and collectively fight against the menace of the terrorism.

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Nasurullah Brohi

Nasurullah Brohi works as a Research Fellow at the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad and can be reached at [email protected]

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