Fears of World War 3 are on the rise as the United States has stepped into the fray over a Russian jet being shot down by Turkey, with tensions between Russia and NATO nations nearing the breaking point.
This week, the Turkish military shot down a Russian SU-24 fighter that passed over Turkey’s airspace. Russia has vehemently denied the claim, saying the flight never left Syrian airspace.
“During all flight time, the plane was flying only within the borders of Syrian territory,” Russia’s defense minister said. “Objective monitoring data shows it.”
The United States has publicly backed Turkey, saying the country has a right to defend its sovereignty, but privately, sources say Barack Obama has blamed Turkey for what is seen as a “minor violation” of its airspace, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Turkish officials claim that Russia was warned 10 times about its encroachment before the plane was shot down.
“The data we have is very clear. There were two planes approaching our border, we warned them as they were getting too close,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters. “Our findings show clearly that Turkish air space was violated multiple times. And they violated it knowingly.”
Officials in the United States believe the jet was shot down in Syrian airspace, and radar of the flight path showed that the Russian aircraft was inside Turkey’s airspace only very briefly.
— CNN Türk ENG (@CNNTURK_ENG) November 24, 2015
The fears of World War 3 are also being stoked by new reports from the pilot of the fighter jet, who insists that he never crossed into Turkey’s airspace.
“It’s impossible that we violated their airspace even for a second,” Konstantin Murakhtin told Russia’s Rossiya 1 channel (via RT.com). “We were flying at an altitude of 6,000 meters in completely clear weather, and I had total control of our flight path throughout.”
Murakhtin also said he heard no warnings from Turkey before the plane was shot down.
“In actual fact there were no warnings at all. Neither through the radio, nor visually, so we did not at any point adjust our course. You need to understand the difference in speed between a tactical bomber like a Su-24, and that of the F16. If they wanted to warn us, they could have sat on our wing,” said Murakhtin.
MORE: Rescued pilot of downed Su-24 says his plane didn’t cross into Turkey’s airspace https://t.co/649F83MEzR pic.twitter.com/5gnvC77n0x
— RT (@RT_com) November 25, 2015
There have already been fears that Russia is fighting a proxy war in Syria, where a coalition of nations have converged in the fight against ISIS. Syria is in the midst of a civil war, with Russia backing President Bashar al-Assad and others, including the United States, backing rebel groups.
Russia has entered a shaky alliance with the United States and France to fight ISIS.
While many fear that World War 3 could be brewing, the New York Times compared the situation more to the Cold War.
“The tensions immediately took on Cold War overtones when Russia rejected Turkey’s claim and Ankara responded by asking for an emergency NATO meeting, eliciting more Russian anger and ridicule. After the meeting, the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, called for ‘calm and de-escalation’ and said the allies ‘stand in solidarity with Turkey.'”
While it appears that Russia and Turkey may be able to ease tensions, there are still fears of World War 3 should any further actions take place between Russia and NATO countries. Russia remains very clearly angry over the plane being shot down, which Vladimir Putin called a “stab in the back delivered by the accomplices of terrorists.”
[Picture by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]