Putin: Turkey supports Radicalism & We may have to Respond, hence Tourism Ban

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday explained his rationale for asking Russian tourists to leave Turkey, and it is ominous. He anticipates that there may be further “incidents” between Turkey and Russia over Syria policy, and that Moscow may be constrained to “respond.” In that case, Putin does not want large numbers of Russian tourists in Turkey lest they become hostages.

At the same time, Russia refused to back off its bombing campaign in support of the Syrian Arab Army in northern Latakia province. It flew 12 bombing missions up there, in the same area near the Turkish border where the plane was shot down on Tuesday. The air missions were in support of infantry fighting al-Qaeda in Syria and Turkmen militias in the Kurd Mountain and Turkmen Mountain regions of northern Latakia.

Putin’s remarks were of a somewhat different tenor than those of his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who said that Russia has no intention of going to war with Turkey over the downing of an Su-24 fighter jet, continues to seek good relations with Turkey, and was not being vindictive in instituting a tourism ban. On the other hand, the foreign ministry site does say he dressed down his Turkish counterpart.

Putin said,

Question: Yesterday, the Foreign Ministry gave the recommendation that Russian tourists should not travel to Turkey. What is your view on this recommendation, given that hundreds of Russians are holidaying in Turkey?

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: We don’t have much choice. After such a tragic event as the downing of our plane and death of our pilot, we have no choice but to take such measures. The Foreign Ministry is right to warn our citizens about the dangers.

You see, the problem goes beyond the tragedy that happened yesterday. It is a much deeper problem. We see, and not only we, but people all around the world see that Turkey’s current government has been following a domestic policy of quite conscious Islamicisation throughout the country for a number of years now.

Islam is one of the world’s great religions and it is one of Russia’s traditional religions. We support Islam and will continue to do so. But the problem here is one of support for more radical currents, which creates an unfavourable environment that is not so evident at first glance.

After what happened yesterday, we cannot rule out the possibility of other incidents. If such incidents happen, we will have to respond one way or another. Our citizens in Turkey could face substantial risks, of course, and the Foreign Ministry has a duty to say this.”

Putin stressed that the Russian government “supports Islam” and that the faith is one of Russia’s ‘traditional religions.’ But, he said, the Turkish government is supporting a radical strain of the religion.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of president Tayyip Erdogan is not in fact a movement of radical Islam, and it has promoted relatively few policies that could be characterized as specifically Islamic. In the last decade, it functioned as a center-right party that had a strong religious constituency and promoted pluralism. In the past three years, however, Erdogan has acted more and more dictatorially and has deployed a strident religious rhetoric. He has been accused by his enemies of supporting fundamentalist and even radical Muslim movements abroad. It is hard to judge the accuracy of these charges, which involve covert operations inherently designed to be opaque to the public.

In any case, Putin’s answer to the question about ceasing Russian tourism in Turkey is disconcerting. It seems clear that he thinks it entirely possible that there will be more hostilities, and that the next time he may reply more forcefully, in which case he doesn’t want a lot of Russian citizens sunbathing on the beach at Antalya.

Putin said that both pilots of the downed jet had been recovered, contrary to initial reports. He said he intends to install S-300 anti-aircraft batteries a the Russian base in Latakia Province in a bid to avoid a repeat of the shoot-down of the Russian plane. But note that this step implies that it might be Turkish planes that are shot down if they enter Syrian airspace (which apparently they do all the time).

The foreign ministry site makes Lavrov sound more forceful than did his news releases, as well:

“Lavrov expressed indignation at Turkey’s unfriendly actions. It was stressed that, by shooting down the Russian aircraft that was out on a mission as part of the antiterrorist operation of the Russian Aerospace Forces and had not breached the boundaries of Turkey’s airspace, the Turkish leadership in effect took the side of ISIS. By all appearances, the action was premeditated and planned in advance, and moreover it pursued quite clear objectives. In this connection, the minister recalled Turkey’s participation in ISIS’ illegal trade in oil, which goes though the area where the aircraft was brought down, as well as the terrorist infrastructure deployed there, arms and ammunition depots and control centres. Lavrov particularly noted that this step would have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations and would not go unanswered.”

Accusing Turkey of siding de facto with Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) is pretty serious. But then the current situation is pretty serious.

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Related video:

AFP: “Putin backs advice for Russians not to travel to Turkey”

24 Responses

  1. Russia is Turkey’s second biggest trade partner after EU 28. Import to Turkey from Russia was in 2014 worth over EUR 18 billion and export to Russia EUR 4.3 billion. In tourism Russians are the second largest customer group (4.5 million in 2014) and they bring USD 4 billion in revenues to Turkey. Russia is building a nuclear power station in Turkey worth billions. Turkish building companies have tens of large building projects around Russia. So the Turkish plane downing move was literally a huge economical risk which will hurt badly the development of the country.

    Can Erdogan find the gas and other raw materials coming from Russia or find new customers and markets to compensate the Russian trade and tourism. If not angry unemployed Turks will demand a more rational leadership.

    • No, they’ll demand no such thing. They will become ever more nationalist, cheering the war in the southeast (as they do), and ever more militantly religious, desecrating moments of silence for people killed by ISIL (as they do). Meanwhile, there is no government to replace. PM Fieldmouse and his minions are so much window dressing … you might have noticed their entire absence from G-20 and other fora, and their lack of input into policy.

  2. Professor, you seem to be confusing terrorists with the free Syrian army. Numerous Countries are supplying the FSO with weapons, funds and logistics and are doing it quite openly. This includes America, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and other middle East Countries, and of course Turkey. The fact that the free Syria army no longer really exists is irrelevant, as the Countries listed above use this name as an excuse to arm the various terrorist factions in Syria. There are thousands of terrorists from all over the world, including my Country, Britain, using Turkey as a conduit to join the terrorists. Obviously Turkey is arming and facilitating the free movement of terrorists through their Country and Russia was quite right to accuse Turkey of aiding terrorists. Lets face it, were’r all at it as it seems the only thing that matters to the West is the defeat of the Assad and the current Syrian state.

  3. As noted on this site, there is considerable evidence that Turkey is defending ethnic Turkmen groups in Syria, and opposes expansion of Kurdish territory, as well as Assad, “siding de facto with Daesh.”

    The US right wing web of deceit and covert arming of insurgents to serve a rich minority in the US, has led to more NATO-Russia confrontation as predicted, and as in Ukraine, at the instigation of a local power pursuing local interests.

  4. A prescient comment or was it that “plane” to see? : ‘Tsar Peter I [Putin’s favorite Russian leader – KR] used to say: “…don’t trust a Turk…”

    ‘Turkey has always, throughout history, played on the contradictions of the interests of Russia and the West. And the sudden concern of Erdogan about accidental trespassing of a Russian fighter jet into Turkish airspace from Syria should not be taken as NATO’s sincerity. Such situations arise almost daily on all border territories worldwide. What can we say about those occasions, where there are military operations in those areas…’

    link to fortruss.blogspot.com

  5. Your article said Accusing Turkey of siding de facto with Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) is pretty serious. But then the current situation is pretty serious.
    correct me if i am wrong but hasn’t Russia provided evidence that the Syria stolen oil is being to Turkey? Surely that is clear evidence that Erdogan’s snout is in the trough!

    • Of course

      “While the graphic shows the crude going directly from Ceyhan to Ashdod, it’s worth asking whether ISIS crude is also “laundered” (as it were) through the same Malta connection utilized by those smuggling “illegal” Kurdish crude (which also ends up in Israel). We ask that because as it turns out, Bilal Erdogan owns a Maltese shipping company. “The BMZ Group, a company owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son Bilal alongside other family members, has purchased two tankers in the last two months at a total cost of $36 million,” Today’s Zaman reported in September. “The tankers, which will be registered to the Oil Transportation & Shipping company in October — an affiliate of the BMZ Group set up in Malta — were previously rented to the Palmali Denizcilik company for 10 years.”

      This gives chapter and verse link to zerohedge.com

  6. Russia is correct to say that Turkey is effectively siding with Daesh. It’s well known that foreign fighters headed for Syria have entered in droves from Turkey while Turkey looked the other way. Erdogan cares only about keeping the Kurds in check, which puts him in conflict with the US, but this does not prevent him from working with the US against Russia. The US pursues its “interests” without regard for the big picture. It is content to prolong the mayhem there while trying to position itself favorably for the eventual outcome. It is playing the same dangerous game it played in Afghanistan in the 80s, and the result will be the same.

  7. Turkey is behaving unpredictably and Putin’s response is sensible and will doubtless be appreciated and supported within Russia. We’ll see what happens but so far he has shown statesmanlike restraint. Imagine the ballyhoo if this had been a US aircraft.

    Here’s the DOS spokesman on Tuesday being uncharacteristically cautious.

    . We’re still trying to determine what happened. It’s easy to rush to judgments and to make proclamations and declarations after an incident like this. You need to gather the facts, you need to be clear about what happened, what occurred,

    link to state.gov

  8. Issuing a tourist advisory in response to Turkey’s dangerously aggressive action is a very mild response. Surprised to see it hyped as ominous.

    The Russian bomber posed absolutely zero threat to Turkey even if it was in Turkey’s airspace for 17 seconds as claimed by Turkey. What more reasonable response would you recommend? It is hard to get less reactionary than a tourist advisory.

  9. ozdenocak

    right now two journalists are on trial in Turkey for making news about Turkish intelligence owned trucks carrying arms to jihadists

  10. In the past three years certain Western apologists for the AKP have awoken from their slumber of postcolonial reason to discover what Erdogan had been doing along. Many have since conceded that, yes, all that EU-friendly democratization was a brilliant way to gain Western support for replacing the old deep State with the New and Improved Deep State.
    Other have an unaccountable theory that one day the Great Democrat (and former Erbakan acolyte) woke up and inexplicably became an Islamist.
    As for Putin’s claim, it’s well documented.

    • Krmcn, I almost always agree with your comments a 100%.

      What I cannot figure out is what the end game might be. Is it the overthrow of Assad? And if it is… What is the purpose?
      Is this another “only Israel matters” move where that little country’s interests are furthered at all costs? Is the whole thing just to cut the aid to Hezbollah?

      Why work so hard just to push Russia and Iran out of the region while risking the deaths of 1000s of Western civilians by maintaining a territory of terror?

  11. Islam is one of the world’s great religions and it is one of Russia’s traditional religions. We support Islam and will continue to do so. But the problem here is one of support for more radical currents, which creates an unfavourable environment that is not so evident at first glance.

    Putin has a point here. Consider the Pequot Massacre of 1637 as described by then Governor Bradford:

    “Of this event, Governor Bradford said,

    Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire…horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them.” – link to counterpunch.org In other words, “God is great.”

    Who would have thought then that that religion-obsessed mob, every bit as fanatical and barbarous as ISIS, would be one of the seeds that would help give birth to the United States and continual war ever since in the pursuit of Empire. And, we ain’t done yet, folks.

  12. I have never been pro-Russian but I find myself being so in light of recent events.

    Yes my country has been forced towards radical Islam. I’ve warned any Westerner I know about this for years and they called me a radical secularist.

    There are ISIS training camps in Turkey. There are hospitals just for their fighters.

    And now Turkey downs a Russian plane to protect the radical Sunni Turkmen groups they themselves have created.

    I must remind that Turkey refused to help any Turkmen who is a Shii. Erdogan’s sectarian politics has brought us to the brink of war. If NATO refuses to defend Turkey, I will not blame them one bit.

    • “There are ISIS training camps in Turkey. There are hospitals just for their fighters.”

      This is almost certainly not true. There have been sporadic reports on Daesh/ISIS fighters receiving medical treatment in Turkey, but nothing of the scale you alledge. Officially sanctioned Daesh/ISIS camps are out the question. Erdogan may be ambivalent towards the “right” kind of terrorist but he isn’t stupid.

      • When you talk to locals in the Southeast they direct you towards the ISIS safe houses they’re aware of. Places like Urfa and Gaziantep.

        They used to walk into the country freely. The corpses of Turkish ISIS fighters are returned to their families in a day… while leftists who die fighting for Kobane aren’t given back for weeks.

        ISIS led Friday prayers in İstanbul a couple of times. They’re there. They recruit… AKP liked these people and thought they could control them.

        • Yep, that sounds about right. Clearly tolerated while not officially sanctioned. The kind of duplicity that NATO should not tolerate. I wished Turkey was expelled from the alliance ASAP.

  13. These escalating series of events, in the case of Russia’s involvement in Syria, suggest–an almost too neat of–a pattern headed in the direction of greater, more costly catastrophes for it in Syria and perhaps elswehere.

  14. Russia is moving it most advanced anti-air weapons system the S‑400 to its base in Latakia. It’s a long range missile system that even has Israel worried, since they also want to be able to intervene in Syria if they feel threatened.

    Clearly Russia is preparing to respond in kind if another of their planes is attacked.

  15. Mr. Cole. I’m confused as to your vagueness about Turkish support for isis and likeminded groups. I thought leaked reports and other statements of officials to investigative reporters about direct Turkish involvement of funding and arming as well as buying isis oil was solidly established by now. Is this incorrect?

  16. I wonder if Turkey advised their supposed staunch ally Washington they were about to down a Russian plane. (not likely: hard to imagine the US would have been happy at the possibility of being put in the awkward position of a NATO ally risking starting a hot war with Russia).

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