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Evaluating the Fighter Jet Crisis in Turkish-Russian Relations

Turkey and Russia developed very close relations throughout the 2000s. Yet, their growing differences about the Syrian civil war dragged the two countries into a serious crisis on November 24, 2015, when the Turkish armed forces shot down a Russian SU-24 fighter jet violating Turkey’s airspace near the Syrian border. In the following seven months, political, economic and cultural links between the two countries were almost completely frozen within the framework of Russia’s sanctions against Turkey. This article aims to discuss the impacts of the fighter jet crisis on Turkish-Russian relations. Although Ankara and Moscow normalized relations following President Erdoğan’s letter to President Putin in June 2016, it is important to understand the main factors that led to the crisis in order to make sound predictions about the future of the Turkish-Russian rapprochement process.

Evaluating the Fighter Jet Crisis in Turkish-Russian Relations
Presidents Erdoğan and Putin shake hands after a joint press conference following their meeting in Ankara on September 28, 2017 where they agreed to push for the creation of a “de-escalation” zone in Syria’s province of Idlib to help end the civil war. A

Introduction

 

Turkey and Russia enjoy more than five hundred years of diplomatic relations with each other. Yet, this long history has been dominated by rivalries and conflicts rather than cooperation and partnership. Since the 15th century, the geopolitical struggle between Ottoman sultans and Russian tsars over the Black Sea and the Balkans resulted in many Ottoman-Russian wars. Even the simultaneous collapse of the two empires during the First World War did not radically change the picture in the Turkish-Russian relations. Although the Soviet Union and the newly founded Republic of Turkey attempted to develop a strategic dialogue in the 1920s, this came to an abrupt end with the start of the Second World War. Stalin leadership’s demand of territory in Eastern Anatolia as well as greater control in the Turkish Straits in the post-war period compelled Turkey to join NATO in 1952 and strategically align with the Western bloc during the Cold War. Still, particularly from 1960s onwards, Ankara and Moscow gradually improved their economic ties in the fields of trade, industry and energy despite political and ideological differences.

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