Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/19/2015 15:15 -0400
Last Friday, Turkey shot down what the US said at the time was likely a Russian drone.
Russia, of course, said that all of its aircraft returned safely to Latakia.
As we noted when the news hit, it wouldn't be at all surprising if Ankara did indeed down a Russian aircraft given the tension surrounding a series of recent incursions into Turkish airspace by Russian fighter jets as they conduct bombing runs on anti-regime targets in Syria. Turkey is a NATO member and on top of that, Erdogan has domestic political considerations to take into account. Here’s how we summed up the situation last week:
Ultimately, it isn’t about Turkey’s airspace. It’s about Ankara wanting Assad gone and Moscow wanting Assad to remain in power and indeed, the US is already using a Turkish air base as a kind of forward operating center for bombing runs, meaning NATO may well use Turkey to float conflict trial balloons to see just what the West can get away with in terms of challenging the Russians in Syria (incidentally, Erdogan has an election coming up in two weeks and a key part of the push to restore AKP's absolute majority in parliament is scaring the public into believing that Turkey is under attack and only a strong government can save it).
Given all of the above, and given the fact that the US is flying from Incirlik (i.e. coordinating directly with the Turkish military), it’s just as likely as not that the craft which Turkey “reduced by fire in the frame” was Russian.
As we outlined in "Pipeline Politics: Russia, Turkey Clash Over Energy As Syria Rift Shifts Focus To German Line," heightened tensions between Ankara and Moscow over Syria are set to derail billions in trade and energy deals between the two countries, a fact which speaks volumes about just how steadfast each side truly is with regard to their position vis-a-vis the Assad regime. "Incidents" like this one won't do anything to help the situation.
On Monday, Turkey confirmed that the drone was indeed “of Russian origin”, but amusingly, Moscow claims it does not belong to Russia. Here’s Reuters:
A drone shot down by Turkish warplanes in Turkish air space near Syria on Friday was Russian-made, but Moscow has told Ankara the unmanned aircraft did not belong to Russia, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday.
The drone was downed on Friday after it continued on its flight path despite three warnings, the Turkish military said.
Earlier this month, Russian jets violated Turkish air space on two occasions and Ankara warned it would respond if such incursions recurred.
"The downed drone is Russian-made but Russia has told us in a friendly manner that it doesn't belong to them," Davutoglu said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster AHaber.
"I hope Russia, whose friendship and neighborliness we value, will adopt a more careful stance and Turkish-Russian relations will not be negatively affected."
Obviously, this is all just a charade for public consumption.
What most likely happened here is that a Russian drone flying recon ahead of Iranian ground ops ventured into Turkey's airspace and Ankara, which has had just about enough of the fighter jet incursions, saw this as an opportunity to send a message (on behalf of NATO) to Moscow without killing anyone or starting a world war, so the Turkish army simply blew the thing out of the sky.
For now, it appears as though The Kremlin is going to take this one in stride, but that may be "strike one" so to speak, meaning NATO might have one or two more drone pot shots it can take before Erdogan gets a slightly less "neighborly" call from Moscow.
Then again, who knows, maybe it was just Amazon delivering some negative free cash flow to Turkish investors...
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For those who may have missed it, Turkey spared no expense in making a spectacle out of the entire thing. Here are some of the visuals from the "crash site":