Elements and Consequences of Russia’s Response to Downing of Su-24 by Turkey

Expect Moscow’s response to downing of Russian aerospace force’s Su-24 warplane by Turkish F-14 to be strong, though not necessarily symmetric, even if Davutoglu comes out to claim there is what he defines “360 degree difference” between downing of the Russian bomber and downing of Turkish RF-4 plane over Syria in 2014 (while RF-4 ventured into Syrian airspace, Russian bomber was most likely outside the Turkish airspace when shot down – the plane went down inside Syria and so did the pilots, who ejected from it). The question is what elements will constitute this response.
My bet is that one element could be intensification of bombing of positions of ethnic Turkish rebels inside Syria [11.25.15 update: already happening] (Turkey has recently complained about Russian bombing of Turkic village in Syria. Also if claims that Free Syrian Army members have destroyed one of Russian gunships sent to the site of the crash prove to be true, then Russia’s interaction with FSA (from which, according to Putin, Russia has sought and received info for targeting ISIS and which Russia has identified as one moderate force that could participate in talks on peaceful resolution of the conflict) will change from token cooperation to relentless bombing.
Neither can I rule out that more Russian military assets could be deployed to the conflict area [11.25.15 update: already happening] and that one Russia’s air defense systems in or off (naval systems) Syria may be employed to shoot a Turkish warplane patrolling the border with subsequent claim that the plane has ventured outside the Syrian airspace, but then exited it as the missile chased it (won’t be unlike Turkey’s claim on Su-24). However, I believe that it is unlikely that the Kremlin will resort to such a tooth-for-tooth measure in its response. Even less likely would be cover supplies of Russia’s Igla or Strela MANPADs to Kurds in Syria, given the threat of proliferation
In addition to such direct targeting, Russia can also take other military measures to send strong signals to Turkey just like Turkey has shot down the Russian plane for purposes of signaling to Russia [There was no military need for Turkey to shoot down a plane that even Western sources admit to have has spent some 30 seconds to fly some 4 km over Turkey, especially given that it had already left the Turkish airspace when the missile hit it. But Turkish leadership probably saw plenty of need to come up with a way to send a strong signal to Russia: after all Ankara had earlier complained about alleged bombing of Turkic villages by Russian planes in November and violations of Turkish airspace in October, but to no avail. Ankara may have hoped it could send a strong signal by shooting down a Russian plane, but letting pilots escape – after all pilots often note incoming missile on radar and eject before impact, and even if they don’t, air-to-air heat-seeking missiles sometimes fly right into the engine of the plane, allowing pilots from the armored capsule of the Su-24 to eject safely. But those hopes were ruined by rebels on the ground shot one of the pilots dead as he parachuted down. Erdogan overplayed his hand – Russia would not heed his signal. Moroever, it is likely to up the ante],
Russia could signal back to Turkey to refrain from shooting down Russian planes in a number of ways. It could for instance deploy longer-range air defense systems to cover the entire conflict area to discourage Turks from shadowing Russian planes across the border.  It could also have Russian multi-role fighters escort the bombers (and that’s something GenStaff has already ordered). Further down the road I can also see massive maneuvers of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, Southern Strategic Command and Russian forces in Armenia (impact of Russian-Turkish tensions on which merit a separate analysis [[11.25.15 update: already happening – Duma calling for criminalization of denial of Armenian genocide]) in areas adjacent to Turkey to remind Turkey which country remains the superior military power in the region in spite of the break-up of the Soviet Union. (Speaking of late USSR – recall Soviet Russia’s support for PKK).
In the economic domain one immediate consequence of the incident could be a ban on Russian tourists’ travel to Turkey [11.25.15 update: already happening – self-imposed ban by Russian travel companies after government’s call to do so] under the pretext that it is not safe to do so (Turkey led among foreign destinations with more than 3 million Russian tourists in the first nine months of 2014, so it would be quite a tangible loss for Turkish tourism industry). I also cannot rule out that Gazprom will launch some major technical repairs (perhaps preceded by an accident) of the gas pipeline to Turkey, which depends on Russia for 60% of its needs for natural gas. And, of course, Turkish companies, which are well represented in Russia’s construction sector and retail sector, may soon start to discover that their tax filings and safety certificates are not quite in order [11.25.15 update: already happening – Russia to stop import of Turkish poultry from Dec. 1].
Now, of course, Turkey won’t sit still if some of these measures are implemented. It could, for instance, cancel Turkish Stream and cancel Russia’s contract for building of NPP in Turkey. One could also, for instance, recall that as of 2004 Turkish citizens were most numerous among foreign members of networks of insurgency and terrorism in the North Caucasus, according to S. Ivanov’s estimate. 10 years later, however, that insurgency has waned to such an extent, than no Turkish reinforcements can revive it to the levels seen in the early 2000s. Hopefully, it won’t come down to that, though if does, Russia can indeed seriously examine pros and cons of Moscow’s aforementioned support for PKK in Soviet times.
Rising of tensions between Ankara and Moscow coupled with deployment of additional military assets in the conflict area by Russia and Western countries increase the risk of an accident that could lead to a conflict between Russia and NATO. Such a conflict will represent a net loss for both sides, but a net gain for ISIS and al-Qaeda.


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