Turkey suspends flights over Syria, Russia launches electronic warfare against Ankara
The bitter verbal and military clash between Moscow and Ankara spiraled further Friday, Nov. 27. Russian Lt.-Gen.Evgeny Buzhinsky announced that following the downing of the Russian jet by Turkey, “Russia will have to resort to electronic jamming and other warfare equipment, including special aircraft with special equipment on board to protect our pilots from being struck by missiles.”
This was after Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned Vladimir Putin “not to play with fire.”
The tension between Moscow and Ankara was further ramped up by the following steps:
1. Turkey suspended its flights over Syria as part of its partnership with the US for air strikes against the Islamic State. According to debkafile’s military sources, Ankara decided to avoid the risk of being shot down by the highly advanced Russian S-300 and S-400 anti-air missile systems newly deployed to Syria.
2. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that visa-free travel for Turkish citizens would be suspended starting from Jan. 1.
Thursday, the Russian police detained 39 Turkish visitors attending an agricultural exhibition on the grounds that they had no licenses to contract business in Russia. Moscow also announced tightened controls on Turkish imports of food and farm products, and advised Russian holidaymakers to give Turkey a wide berth.
3. More than 1,000 trucks loaded with Turkish farm produce and industrial products for the Russian market are stuck at the Georgian-Russian border.
4. While threatening the Russian leader, Erdogan also asked to meet him at the climate conference in Paris next week. He must first apologize for the downing of the Russian warplane, Putin’s aide Yuri Ushakov said Friday. Ushakov added that In Paris, Putin will meet Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss the Syrian crisis and Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He will also meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks about Syria and Ukraine.
On Thursday, the Russian leader said at a press conference with visiting French President Francois Hollande, "The American side, which leads the coalition that Turkey belongs to, knew about the location and time of our planes' flights, and we were hit exactly there and at that time."
Such incidents are “…absolutely unacceptable," he went on to say. "And we proceed from the position that there will be no repeat of this, otherwise we'll have no need of cooperation with anybody, any coalition, any country."
In the last two days, Putin has been found saying one thing and doing another: Although he declared that Russia would not go to war with Turkey for “stabbing it in the back, debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that since Wednesday night, Nov. 25, Russian heavy bombers and warplanes have been hitting every Turkish vehicle moving or stationary inside Syria.
They bombed the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, located on the Turkey-Syria frontier, as well trailers and tractors parked in an area belonging to the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, on the Syrian side of the border.
It was this group (a terrorist association in disguise) that five years ago organized a flotilla to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. The lead-ship the Marmora was boarded by Israeli troops and 12 “aid workers” were killed in a clash, an incident that sparked a major clash between Ankara and Jerusalem. Erdogan then insisted he had never heard of the organization although their strong links were uncovered.
Putin has made no allegations. He simply sent his bombers to destroy the organization's vehicles and plough up their parking area on the Syrian side of the border. He also refuses to take calls from Erdogan.
All these circumstances are features of a very active war waged between the two countries – albeit on Syrian soil – since Turkish warplanes downed the Russian Su-24.
In addition to punishing the Turkish leader, Russia’s massive military operations in Syria aim to degrade the rebel groups fighting the Assad regime. Heavy bombing sorties this week on the Syrian-Turkish border are cutting off tens of thousands of rebels from their only source of fresh supplies of weapons, ammo, food and fighters, leaving them without a line of retreat and nowhere to send their wounded.
After a week or two of intensive Russian air strikes against Turkish supply convoys crossing into Syria, debkafile’s intelligence and military experts expect Syrian army, Iranian and Hizballah forces to use the rebels’ plight for an all-out offensive to destroy them.
Still, there is hope in some quarters that the Russian leader may change course. After meeting Putin at the Kremlin on Nov. 26, President Hollande touted their agreement to confine themselves to striking ISIS targets in Syria, not rebels. However, Russian military actions in Syria this week again showed Putin saying one thing and doing the opposite.
His bombers are not only settling accounts with Erdogan, but continuing to attack the Syrian rebel groups which received military aid from the US, France, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel, both in northern Syria and also in the south, only a few kilometers from Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.