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Russians Reprimand US, Can Not Understand Why Washington Fails to Control Turkey

Russians are convinced Turks used flight path information Russians shared with the Americans to ambush the downed Russian jet

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider

A question that is repeatedly brought up concerning the Turkish shoot down of the Russian Su-24 is how did the Russians let it happen?

The Russians have deployed advanced Su-30 fighter aircraft to Syria, and the Su-34 fighter bomber aircraft they have also deployed there are also fully of capable of operating in an air to air role.

Whilst there are only 4 Su-30s and 6 Su-34s in Syria, these powerful aircraft with their advanced radars can outmatch Turkey's F16s.  

It seems however that none of them were anywhere close to the area where the Su-24 was shot down, despite this being close to the Turkish border.

The Russians have in fact provided an answer to the mystery.

It seems that they were relying on the technical agreement they reached with the US in October to coordinate movement of the respective air forces over Syria.  

Since the US heads an anti-Islamic State coalition of which Turkey is nominally part, the Russians appear to have assumed that this agreement covered the Turkish air force as well.

By contrast Israel, which is not a member of the anti-Islamic State coalition, has a separate bilateral air forces’ coordination agreement with the Russians.  

In a recent meeting with Putin Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu pointedly referred to this agreement and said that it is working well. His exact words were:

“I’m very satisfied by the fact that our militaries have been very careful to coordinate with one another and will continue to do so."

The fact that the Russians were relying on the technical agreement they had reached with the US to coordinate the movement of their air force with the Turks has led some people to think the Russians are accusing the US of engineering the shoot-down of the Su-24 by leaking information about its flight path to the Turks.

That is not how I read the Russian statements.  

The key statement is the one that Putin made to journalists following his meeting in Moscow with France’s President Hollande:

“This does not in any way contradict what we are doing with the coalition headed by the United States. 

We are exchanging information with it, but we are very concerned by the nature of the exchanges and the results of our joint work.

Just look: we warned our US partners in advance about where our pilots would be operating, when, and at what flight levels. 

The American side, which heads the coalition that includes Turkey, knew about the location and time of the flights. And that is precisely where and when we were hit.

So I ask you: why did we provide this information to the Americans? Either they cannot control what their allies are doing, or they are handing out the information left and right, without understanding the consequences. 

Naturally, we will need to have some serious consultations with our partners on this matter. But the air defence system is not in any way directed against our partners, with whom we are fighting terrorists in Syria.”

This does not read to me like an accusation that the US deliberately engineered the shoot-down of the Su-24 by leaking details of its flight path to the Turks.

Rather it looks to me like a criticism that the US is failing to control its allies - specifically Turkey - properly.

The muted response from the US to these criticisms suggests that it privately agrees.

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