Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Moscow’s Retaliation for Downed Sukhoi-24M Will Depend on What Ankara Does Next
November 25, 18:42 UTC+3

MOSCOW, November 25. /TASS/. Turkey’s air-to-air missile that downed Russia’s Sukhoi-24M frontline bomber over Syria on Tuesday morning also hit decades-long mutually beneficial trading and economic relations. Moscow’s retaliation will now depend on what Ankara does next, polled analysts have told TASS.

On Tuesday, shortly after the incident Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Turkish F-16 fighters’ attack against the Russian plane was "a stab in the back dealt by terrorists’ accomplices" and warned that the effects of that tragic event would be very serious. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev believes that "this criminal act by Turkey’s Air Force may spell the end of a number of major joint projects and strip many Turkish companies of their gains on the Russian market." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov promptly canceled his visit to Ankara and advised Russian holiday-makers against travelling to Turkey.

Yaroslav Lisovolik, a member of the expert council under the Russian government, believes that the terrorist risks will cause a slump in the flow of tourists from Russia to Turkey. In January-September 2015 an estimated 3.3 million Russian vacationers enjoyed themselves at Turkish resorts to have spent two billion to three billion dollars in that country. "Turkey, which after the terrorist bomb attack against Russia’s A321 over the Sinai Peninsula, looked a sensible alternative to Egyptian itineraries for many Russians, will now have to brace for a massive fall in revenues from Russian tourism," Lisovolik told TASS.

"Russia’s refusal to import Turkish foods, first and foremost vegetables and fruit, may deal another painful blow on Ankara. Russia may easily compensate for the short fall with domestic produce," he believes.

Lastly, Moscow may seek alternative ways of cooperation in the region and this will cause the most serious effect on bilateral relations. "Russia will surely consider the possibility of building more economic alliances in the Middle East bypassing Turkey, for instance, those involving Iran as the nuclear program-related sanctions are lifted," Lisovolik said.

"Russia and Turkey had a vast potential for building up mutually beneficial cooperation up to $100 billion a year from the current $30 billion. There were plans for creating a bilateral free trade zone.

The attack on the Russian plane, which had just dealt strikes against Islamic State militants and was of no threat to Turkey, has indefinitely postponed the implementation of the free trade zone idea and upset other joint plans," Lisovolik said.

The general director of the Russian Council for International Affairs, Andrey Kortunov, believes that Moscow and Ankara shared quite a few joint projects of fundamental importance to Turkey.

"Russia and Turkey have two major projects in the power industry. Firstly, the Turkish Stream gas pipeline. Now, after the attack against the Russian plane it may be suspended indefinitely. Secondly, there is what might become Turkey’s first nuclear-powered plant Akkuyu. Russia’s nuclear power concern Rosatom was to build that. Both are multi-billion projects. If they are frozen, Turkey may face major problems," Kortunov told TASS.

He speculates that Moscow may tighten the rules Turkish businesses have to abide by in Russia. This measure may concern Turkish building companies, repeatedly criticized in the past. Also, Ankara may suffer from the severing of trading relations with Moscow.

Political measures might constitute the core of Russia’s response to the Turkish Air Force’s provocation. "So far Russia has turned an attentive ear to Turkey’s opinion and declined the pleas for help various Kurdish groups were addressing to Moscow. In the wake of the latest events Russia may reconsider its stance on the Kurdish issue. If so, Ankara’s interests may suffer a lot," Kortunov said.

"It remains to be seen if Moscow will opt for an aggravation of relations with Moscow. This will depend entirely on what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will do after the Sukhoi-24M incident. If he tries to ease tensions and present apologies to Russia, there will be one type of response. If Erdogan dares escalate tensions with Moscow further and use NATO resources for the purpose, Russia’s response will be harsh.

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