Why Turkey and Russia should be working together

After Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian Jet both countries have been experiencing their biggest crisis in relations since the Cold War. A number of sanctions have been placed on trade between both countries, but could they be better off putting the incident aside, and working together for the benefit of both national and international interests?

After Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter jet on 24 November 2015, both countries entered into a period of tense relations. Russia responded to the event by referring to is as “a stab in the back” and by placing sanctions on its trade with Turkey. Turkey defended its actions by claiming it warned the Russian jet that it was approaching Turkish airspace for five minutes before shooting it down for violating its airspace for 17 seconds.

After the incident, relations between both states began to rapidly decline, causing Turkey to issue Russia with a warning not to “play with fire”. However, it has been suggested that Turkey and Russia should put their differences aside and continue to work together in defeating what US President Barack Obama calls their “one common enemy”. President Obama has attempted to diffuse the situation by highlighting that Turkey had a “right to defend itself and its airspace” and has urged both countries to focus on the defeat of the Islamic State.

Yet still, there are a number of reasons besides common threats and both countries’ desires to defeat the Islamic State that should encourage Russia and Turkey to de-escalate current tensions – such as Turkey’s reliability as a strong import and export market for Russia’s international business. After economic sanctions were placed on Russia by the United States and other Western countries, due to its role in the Ukraine crisis, Ankara carried on trading with Moscow and planned to boost the volume of trade with Russia to 100 billion USD by 2020.

One year prior to the disagreement, both countries also signed a series of strategically important energy deals with plans to build a new pipeline to carry Russian gas to Turkey, and build Turkey’s first nuclear power station in Russia. As tensions between both states escalate, sanctions could be placed on both of these projects.

In the aftermath of Turkey’s downing of the Russian jet, President Vladimir Putin, advised Russians not to visit Turkey. This has the potential to cause a lot of damage to Turkey’s economy as Russian visitors are crucial for Turkey’s tourism industry with around 4.5 million Russians having visited the country in 2014 – making Russian tourists Turkey’s second biggest group of tourists after the Germans.

It is clear that both countries would be better off putting differences aside and working together for a combination of factors including political and economic gains. Both countries are currently suffering economically and tensions could cause further decreases in their GDP’s. French President François Hollande said, in reference to the situation, that “we can only regret” the downing of the Russian jet, and “must prevent any escalation” – further highlighting international desires for both countries to work together.