Turkey shot down a Russian military aircraft after the plane, according to Turkey, ignored ten warnings from the country. The two pilots ejected from the plane. Russia’s state-run news agency, RIA Novosti, reported that the one pilot was killed mid-air by ground fire while the second pilot’s condition has not been revealed.
Russians led an operation in an attempt to save the pilots. However, a Russian marine was killed in the operation.
The events on Tuesday caused fears that the Syrian conflict could escalate to a global situation. Turkey is a member of NATO, whose Article 5 says that an attack against one member is to be considered an attack against all members. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (then-Prime Minister) has weighed invoking Article 5 in the past as a response to the Syrian Civil War.
Russia’s military campaign in Syria has been to support the Assad regime. Many NATO allies have expressed a desire for Russia to instead focus on the war on ISIS and to not prop up the regime.
The Syrian Civil War has been turned into a sort-of proxy war. On one side is Russia, and to a lesser degree, China, supporting the current government of Assad. On the other side is most of the West, backing the rebels.
Russia’s air strikes against the rebels has put them at direct odds against Turkey. Not just opposed to Assad, Turkey has militia forces in northern Syria and has armed rebel groups. Recently, the air strikes have been used to assist the Syrian army in their fight against Turkey.
The location of the Russian aircraft is up for debate as well. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the aircraft was in Syrian territory, not Turkish airspace. A BBC analysis of Turkey’s radar map says the aircraft was possibly passing through Turkey. Turkey has a small isthmus of land that goes into Syria.
While some may look at these events at two nations inching towards war, it is quite possible the world will move on from this event. The West has prioritized the fight against ISIS over the Civil War, although further back-and-forth between Turkey and Russia could cause the united forces of NATO to get involved.