By: Jonathan S. Hogue ~Opinions & Editorials Editor~
More than two weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris, President Obama and world leaders have a new international conflict that requires immediate attention.
On Nov. 24, Turkish military officials shot down a Russian fighter jet flying in Syrian airspace after supposedly sending off a warning to the aircraft. In a show of strength, Turkish officials immediately defended the downing of the Russian jet, arguing that Russia violated airspace and threatened national security.
Russian President Vladimir Putin insists Turkey has a darker motive for downing the military jet. During the Paris conferences on climate change, Putin used his time in the international spotlight to state the reason he believes Turkey downed the jet.
“We have every reason to think that the decision to shoot down our plane was dictated by the desire to protect the oil supply lines to Turkish territory,” Putin said during a recent press conference in Paris.
The United States and other powers in the region hope that Russia and Turkey deescalate their rhetorical jabs in order to focus the region’s battle with ISIS. Turkey and Russia have a rocky history.
Russia famously has been an ally to the Assad regime during most of the country’s civil war. Turkey, a fierce adversary, has repeatedly called for Assad to resign and has cut off most diplomatic ties with its sparring neighbor.
The Obama administration and world leaders worry that the downing of the jet and death of two Russian soldiers may be a catalyst for the powers to ultimately exchange fire if diplomatic efforts fail.
For now, Russia has placed sanctions on Turkish food imports and Putin is encouraging Russians to limit travel to the popular vacation destination. The Obama administration worries that continued sparring between Turkey and Russia may complicate diplomatic ties needed in order to mobilize forces against ISIS.
Turkey has upped its involvement in the coalition designed to “degrade and destroy ISIS” as stated by President Obama. Only time will tell how Turkey and Putin will address the tension in future talks that are bound to take place this week and beyond.