“Russia will resist” if its “interests and security are threatened” by Turkey, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the German daily newspaper BILD in an interview last week.
“Everyone needs to know that,” he added.
The Russian leader was responding to questions about the spat between Turkey and Russia that emerged after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that purportedly violated Turkish airspace in November.
Putin rejected the notion that the NATO alliance, of which Turkey is a part, has been justified in defending Turkey’s decision to shoot down the plane.
“Turkey is part of NATO, but it was not attacked,” Putin said. “NATO therefore does not have to protect Turkey, and our problems with Turkey have nothing to do with the NATO membership of that country.”
Putin is still insisting that Turkey should apologise for the incident.
“The Turkish leadership had better apologise for shooting the plane down, which was clearly a war crime, instead of calling NATO’s headquarters. It’s strange, isn’t it? If Turkey is pursuing its own interests in the region, neither Germany nor NATO have to support the country, correct?” he said.
But Turkey has not apologised, defending its decision to down the plane on November 24 — on the grounds that the plane was in Turkish airspace and had been warned repeatedly before it was shot down by Turkish F-16 jets.
Putin has said the plane was destroyed by a Turkish missile while flying in Syrian airspace, roughly a mile from the Turkish border.
It wasted no time in retaliating for the incident. Shortly after the plane was shot down, Russia announced it would be suspending its visa-free-travel agreement with Turkey. Days later, Putin approved a decree that would place wide-ranging sanctions on Turkish imports and services in Russia.
Russia also reportedly equipped its warplanes flying in Syria with air-to-air missiles for self-defence after the incident, which are capable of hitting targets at a distance of up to 37 miles. The missiles apparently supplemented the state-of-the-art S-400 missile systems Russia says it deployed to the Russian Hemeimeem air base near Latakia, Syria, about 30 miles south of the Turkish border.
All of these moves were evidently meant to deter Turkish aggression in the future.
“Russia would like to cooperate with NATO again,” Putin told BILD. “There are plenty of reasons and opportunities. But it is like in real life: A happy love needs to be reciprocated. If one does not want to cooperate with us, then fine, we will leave it.”
Referring to Turkey’s downing of the plane, he added: “I very much hope that such events do not grow into large military conflicts.”
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