Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped up his attacks on Turkey’s government. Tensions started flaring after Turkey shot down a Russian jet flying over Syria last month. Ankara says this step was taken because the jet violated Turkey’s airspace and because its pilots ignored as many as ten warnings.
Although Washington has backed the Turks, Putin tells a completely different story. According to him, the plane didn’t violate Turkey’s airspace at all. He also says the pilots received no warning whatsoever, arguing that it was planned.
Ever since, Putin and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have been at loggerheads. Putin has ordered several economic sanctions against Turkey intended to hurt the country’s economy. He has also accused the Turks of secretly buying oil from ISIS, thereby enriching the organization and enabling it to survive and even thrive in Syria and Iraq.
In his annual state of the nation speech to ministers, parliamentarians and other state officials broadcast on public TV channel Rossiya 24 last Thursday, Putin took his criticism of Turkey’s government one step further. According to the Russian leader, the decision to shoot down the Russian jet proves that “Allah decided to punish the governing clique in Turkey by depriving them of sense and reason.”
On Wednesday, Putin also criticized Turkey’s Islamist leaders, saying: “We observe…that the current Turkish leadership, over a significant number of years, has been pursuing a deliberate policy of supporting the Islamization of their country.” He added: “We ourselves support Islam and will continue doing so, but the point at issue is the support of a more radical branch. And that in itself creates a very unfavorable environment.”
The accusation that Allah is punishing Turkey’s government will undoubtedly not be appreciated by Turkey’s Islamist leadership. President Erdogan is a devout Muslim who, as the Daily Mail reported earlier this year, “is increasingly touting himself as a leader” of the Islamic world. It is to be expected, then, that Turkey in turn will also step up its rhetoric in the days and weeks ahead. This means that a resolution to the crisis between the two regional powerhouses seems further away than ever.