Earlier today, NATO rejected Russia’s explanation that its warplanes violated Turkish air space by accident over the weekend. The organization also confirmed that Russia was building up its naval presence in Syria as well as sending more ground troops to the region.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan stated earlier this week that he was upset by Russia’s violation of his country’s air space and acknowledged that he would not accept any other incidents as “mistakes.” He continued to emphasize his frustration and loss of patience with Moscow’s actions as Russia conducted recent air strikes against the Syrian city of Palmyra (which borders Turkey). Erdogan warned that, “An attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO.”
Russia maintains that the incident over the weekend was an accident and that its SU-30 warplane entered Turkish air space “for a few seconds” – a mistake caused by poor weather conditions. Russia said it is looking into NATO’s allegation that a Russian warplane crossed into Turkish air space on Sunday.
When reporting on Russia’s military build-up in Syria, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that, “I will not speculate on the motives . . . but this does not look like an accident and we have seen two of them.” He noted that both “accidents” “lasted a very long time.”
NATO describes Russia’s moves as “unacceptable” and “extremely dangerous.” It notes that Russia’s intervention could further escalate an already intense Syrian civil war.
Stoltenberg said that NATO has not received “any real explanation” from Moscow regarding the incidents and the United States believes that Russia’s claims of an “accident” are far-fetched.
Conversely, Russia’s NATO envoy claims the United States-led coalition is twisting facts to distort Moscow’s aims of combating ISIS in addition to other “terrorists.”
Alexander Grushko told reporters in Brussels that, “The impression is that the incident in Turkish air space was used to plug NATO as an organization into the information campaign waged by the West to distort the aims of the operations carried out by the Russian air force in Syria.”
Russian and United States warplanes are flying combat missions over the same country for the first time since the second World War and, despite its misgivings, the United States wishes to avoid an escalation of tensions with Russia.