We talked to Caucasus Institute Director Alexander Iskandaryan about the influences of the crisis between Russia and Turkey.
On November 24, Turkey downed a Russian warplane along the Syrian border because it violated the border.
After the incident, President Erdoğan said, “We warned it several times. There are Turkmens in that region, not ISIS. They cannot fool us.” And Prime Minister Davutoğlu made a statement: “It is our international right to take any measure against border violation.” Russian President Putin’s response was sharp. Putin said: “We are stabbed in the back by the accomplices of the terrorists. Our relations will be affected seriously.” Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov cancelled his visit to Turkey and made a call to his citizens advising them not to go to Turkey. The day after the incident, Lavrov said that the downing of the Russia’s plane was a planned provocation. Davutoğlu responded this accusation by saying that they have no intention to create a tension between Turkey and Russia. Western countries have been making calls for calm.
On Wednesday, Russian news agency RİA reported that Sergey Mironov made a statement via his twitter account: “We brought in a bill about the denial of the Armenian Genocide.”
In Syria, how does interest of Turkey and Russia conflict?
There is a conflict indeed. Russia tries to protect Beşar Esad and helps him in his struggle against different radical Islamist groups. Of course, ISIS is not the only radical group. On the other hand, Turkey has a somewhat different attitude. In recent months, I think, the relation between Russia and Turkey hasn’t been that good; we can even say that it will get worse. We can see this from the statements of both Erdoğan and Putin. Syria is the major reason for this.
What will Russia’s reaction be about the downing of the plane and how will Western countries react to Russia?
Russia has already reacted. As far as I understood, there will be some measures in terms of economy; there might be different measures of course. Especially, they will take some actions about Syria, but for now, it seems that their actions will be in economic level. Both Russia and Turkey have representatives in Syria. This might cause some troubles. Russia might act more actively and this might cause a tension between two countries. However, I don’t think that there will be a war.
It is obvious that Western countries and NATO try to cool the situation off. Since there is a major risk, they try to create a calm environment in order to prevent the situation from getting more serious. Turkey is a NATO member and Russia’s policy became more active recently; so, there is a major risk. However, we don’t know if these efforts would bring positive results.
Lately, Turkish media has been saying that Putin’s image is damaged. Do you agree?
No, I don’t. I speak Russian, I follow the Russian media and I don’t think that Putin’s image is damaged. Putin will surely react. His reaction might come a bit later, because there are thousands of Russian tourists in Turkey now and Medvedev and Putin weren’t in Russia when this incident happened. They need some time.
In what ways will these events affect Armenia?
There is no doubt that Armenia would be affected in a negative way, if the relation between Russia and Turkey gets worse, since Turkey and Armenia are neighboring countries, though they don’t have any diplomatic relations. Turkey and Russia have great importance for Armenia and if the tension increases, Armenia would be affected in a negative way.