Dramatic changing relationship between Turkey and Russia

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Courtesy i.ytimg.com


Less than a year back in the month of November 2015 the world witnessed an event which was going to be a face changer for it. It was on 24th November 2015 that Turkey’s F-16 combat aircraft shot down a Russian SU-24 fighter jet near the Russia-Turkey border. This even resulted in the bilateral relations of Turkey and Russia going through a complete 180-degree change in a snap.

Historically Turkey and Russia have had many ups and downs in their bilateral relationship. When Turkey joined NATO in the year 1952 and got aligned with the West, its relations with the then Soviet Union had got strained. Almost 4 decades later, following the dissolution of Soviet Union in 1991 the relations between Turkey and Russia improved quickly eventually leading to greater mutual trade. Although Turkey was always known to be a NATO and US ally, in the year 2009 the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Russia, met Russian President Vladimir Putin and signed many trade deals defining a new phase of bilateral relations.

Turkey's President Celal Bayar addressing US Congress in year 1954
Turkey's President Celal Bayar addressing US Congress in year 1954



But this warmth of relations ceased to exist with the downing of Russian fighter jet by Turkey. This lead to the Turkey-Russia bilateral relations to be at their all-time low. Russian President Vladimir Putin described the incident as, "a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists" and warned Turkey of grave consequences. The speculation was prominent that Russia could have attacked Turkey but which did not happen. However after 24th November 2015 the relations of Russia and Turkey turned from being friendly to being extremely hostile within a day.

Further, till July 2016 this rivalry went to a great length and there were multiple skirmishes at various levels which could have resulting in a full-scale war.

But just before the fire could turn ravaging Turkey apologized to Russia for downing its fighter jet.  In June 2016, President Erdogan reportedly wrote a letter to Putin in late June with the apology and expressed sympathy and profound condolences to the family of the Russian pilot who was killed in the SU-24 shootdown. All efforts to reset the Turkish-Russian relationship seemed to be underway and expected to achieve desired outcome.

Later, on 15th July 2016 a major coup was attempted in Turkey in which few divisions of military conspired to overthrow the hardline regime of President Erdogan. Bursting the coup swiftly, Turkey accused cleric Fethulla Gulen, presently residing in US of instigating and plotting the coup against the Erdogan government. Turkey demanded extradition of Fethulla Gulen from the US. The Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also warned to go to war against any country supporting Fethulla Gulen. The warning of Prime Minister Yildirim seemed to have been directed at the US. It was clear sign of strained relations between not only US and Turkey but also NATO and Turkey. This fact was further underlined when Turkey lead a police siege to NATO airbase at Incirlik inside Turkey where NATO had also stationed its nuclear weapons. This resulted in NATO-member Germany withdrawing its fighter-jets and also the NATO flowing out its nukes from Incirlik.

Experts feel that Russia may go for a long-term, game-changing move and lure Turkey away from the West as part of a broader geopolitical reconfiguration. Going a step further, the Russian government recently lifted the travel restrictions of Russian citizens from visiting Turkey and ordered normalisation of trade ties signalling positive developments in the bilateral relations.

Friends can turn into enemies and enemies can become friends in a matter of not just a few days but rather minutes in the current geo-political situation. With reference to this reality I would like to quote a paragraph from the book, “The Third World War” written by Dr. Aniruddha Joshi way back in the year 2006. The paragraphs goes as follows – “In the coming times, the equation of today might not be valid tomorrow and what was valid at seven in the morning, might be flung right out of the window after its purpose is served, and at five minutes past seven.”


Considering the dramatically changing relationship between Turkey and Russia over less than a year the above statement absolutely gets confirmed.

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