Is it possible that Turkey downed the Russian jet because they did not want Russia to be attacking ISIS (and maybe the Syrian Rebels)?

It is quite clear that Turkey is the one who buys Oil from ISIS and it is also clear that Turkish border is freely used for movement in and out of Syria(and thus Iraq). Also Turkey is against Kurdish people, who are a major force fighting against ISIS(probably the most successful one on the ground).

Is it possible that Turkey believes that attacking russian plane (likely inside Syrian territory) will stop Russia from conducting more attacks close to it's border and hence it will be able to continue sending more fighters to Syria and continue to buy oil from ISIS?

I source many of these comments from military experts (retired military officers) in India, which in my experience are very neutral towards both NATO/USA and Russia.

  • 4
    Possible? Yes. Probable? Possibly. It's all rather speculative, and proof of motive for these things are rarely released into the public domain until it's long in the past. Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 12:08

4 Answers 4


This question comes from several claims which are, at minimum, unproven and, at maximum, are untrue. Here they are:

Claim: Russia is attacking ISIS


  1. This time, the Russians most certainly were not bombing ISIS.
    This picture (in Russian language) explains it all.
    The title says: "WTF have you forgotten there?", red arrow points: "You've been downed here", two grey arrows point: "ISIS is out there". Russian jets hit over Turkey airspace Note, red points are Assad's, green points is Syrian opposition, grey points are ISIS, yellow are Kurds.

  2. In general, only less than 10% of Russian bombings target ISIS. The rest of Russia's targets are Syrian opposition who fight against Assad:

    More than 90% of Russian airstrikes in Syria have not targeted Isis, US saysThe Guardian

  3. Even more; Due to Russians using ancient WW2-age air bombs, only a small fraction of those actually hit military targets (of any side of the conflict).

    Stone-age russian bomb

    Picture: A typical bomb the Russians use in their assault. The inscription says, "For Paris" (meaning terrorist attacks on 13 November 2015). Source: Voice of America

    The rest of the Russian bombs fall in desert (if Syrian civilians are lucky) or hospitals (if those Syrians aren't lucky).

Claim: Turkey downed the Russian jet because of revenge


  1. There are numerous violations of countries' air space by Russian fighters and bombers;

    • Including those carrying weapons (see the definition of Act of Aggression);
    • Including those carrying 1950's bombs that could fall on countries' territory just because they are loosely attached;
  2. Russian planes violated the airspace of NATO member Turkey on Oct. 3 and 4 during strike missions against Syrian opposition targets in Syria.Reuters

  3. Turkey has filed warnings to the Russians, and October, 5:

    A spokesman for Russia's defense ministry dismissed any idea that the incident was anything nefarious, stating flight patterns that change "under certain weather conditions" might help explain what happened.

    "This current incident is a result of bad weather conditions in this region," spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters. "You shouldn't look for conspiracy theories."CNN

  4. Every country has the right to defend its air space, including elimination of any violators.

    Obama: 'Turkey has the right to defend its airspace'BBC

Claim: It is quite clear that Turkey… buys Oil from ISIS


It might be clear for the asker. It might be also clear to Putin of Russia who claimed this recently. But reality is,

  • There are no proofs of Turkey to buy oil from ISIS; Some left-wing papers also claim that, but again — no valid proofs are provided:

    Turkish businessmen struck lucrative deals with Isis oil smugglers, adding at least $10m (£6.6m) per week to the terror group’s coffers, and replacing the Syrian regime as its main client. Over the past two years several senior Isis members have told the Guardian that Turkey preferred to stay out of their way and rarely tackled them directly.The Guardian

  • There are symmetric claims (again, mostly in left-wing papers) that Assad, the only ally of the Russia, has financial deals with ISIS, including oil supplies:

    The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is even selling fuel to the Assad government, lending weight to allegations by opposition leaders that it is secretly working with Damascus to weaken the other rebel groups and discourage international support for their cause.

    The Nusra Front and other groups are providing fuel to the government, too, in exchange for electricity and relief from airstrikes, according to opposition activists in Syria’s oil regions.NY Times

Claim: Turkish border is freely used for movement in and out of Syria


Turkey is a (surprise, surprise!) sovereign country. If some groups are allowed to cross its borders, it's up to Turkey's gov't. I'm not aware about any facts that actually happened, but they can exist.
Russians have been warned numerous times — not to cross the border of Turkey, or they will get eliminated.

Claim: Kurdish people, who are a major force fighting against ISIS


There are hundreds of armed groups in Syria, fighting each other. Some of them unite into groups, this is how ISIS has been established. Kurds, indeed, fight against some ISIS-associated groups, but they do also fight against Assad and also against FSA.

However, Kurds can't be considered "the major force fighting against ISIS".

Further reading about Kurds:

  • Why Turkey Is Fighting the Kurds Who Are Fighting ISIS — NY Times;
  • Syrian Kurdish–Islamist conflict (2013–present) — Wikipedia

Claim: Russian jet was "likely" hit inside Syrian territory.


  1. Turkey Downs Russian Jet After Repeated WarningsBloomberg;

  2. Excerpt from this video (Youtube):

    "This is Turkish air force speaking on guard. You are approaching Turkish air space. Change your heading south immediately."

  3. Russians ignored warnings and entered Turkish airspace;
  4. Missiles have been launched into the second jet;
  5. Air-to-Air missile is not a laser gun someone may have seen in computer games. It takes time to reach its target.
  6. Here's the map of the incident, it looks pretty much self-evident. (NY Times).
    Green square is the place where the missile hit the jet.
    Compare to ISIS location: it is ten screens to the right. Turkey airpace


  • Russians are fighting Syrian opposition in order to keep Assad in power;
  • Russian jets have committed numerous violations of Turkey air space in the past;
  • Turkey has filed numerous warnings that any further intruders will be eliminated;
  • Russians did it again;
  • What happened must happen — sooner or later;
  • It is difficult to talk about "revenge" in this case.
  • 1
    but the jet didnt threat turkey,is it worth for turkey do do this step just becauase an aircraft crossed its border ? especially russia is attacking 'so called opposition" because they didnt want to join the fight against Daesh the guardian Putin would back moderate Syrian opposition in Isis fight
    – Moudiz
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 15:14
  • @Moudiz, «the jet didnt threat turkey» — you mean something like a civil, unarmed aircraft, better if it were a Boeing-747, occasionally intruding a country's air space and not being a military threat, correct? Something like Korean Air Lines Flight 007, correct? Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 15:28
  • putin said that "Our pilots and our plane did not in any way threaten Turkey. It is quite clear," also why the turks didnt call the russians before attacking them? the airplane didnt entered deeply in the turkish airpace just only the borders. why there isnt an airstrike aggrement between russia and turkey the same as usa and russia
    – Moudiz
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 15:37
  • @Moudiz: «why the turks didnt call the russians before attacking them?» — "Turkish air force speaking. You are approaching Turkish air space. Change your heading south immediately." — Youtube Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 15:46
  • @bytebuster more like flight 655, correct?
    – lowtech
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 15:48

I don't think that Turkey really believes that they can stop Russia from attacking IS in Syria by shooting one of Russia's fighter jets. But I think you are right assuming that it is a sort of revenge, at least expressing their disagreement with Russia's military action in Syria and giving Russia a warning.

As Turkey is actively supporting the western idea of overthrowing the Syrian government by all means and clearly supports IS, it's obvious that they try show their muscles against Russia.

It seems Turkey wanted to intimidate Russia by immediately calling its NATO allies.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, one of Turkey's first moves following the incident was to call its NATO allies while ignoring Russia's requests for communication. The alliance expressed support for Turkey. “We stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after an emergency meeting.

President Barack Obama has expressed US support for Turkey after it shot down a Russian warplane near Syria-Turkey border, saying Ankara has the right to defend its airspace.

Apparently, in Obama's opinion a member of NATO has the right to shoot a Russian fighter jet and it is then on the side of the victim not to escalate the situation.

Obama and Stoltenberg did not comment on the fact, that the fighter jet was downed over Syrian territory.

The Russian Foreign minister Lavrov said, that it seems to have been pre- planned.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the downing of the Russian jet appears to have been a premeditated provocation.

“We have serious doubts that this act was unintentional. It looks very much like a preplanned provocation,” Lavrov said. He went on to cite Turkey’s failure to maintain proper communication with Russia, the abundance of footage of the incident, and other evidence. (

Lavrov is not the only person making such speculations. Former Vice Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, told Fox News: “This airplane was not making any maneuvers to attack the territory...it was probably pressing the limits, that's fair. But you don't shoot 'em down just because of that.”

“I don’t really trust President Erdogan in what he is doing,” he added. “I think it was an overly aggressive maneuver and at NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense] command region we would not use this kind of rules of engagement. That had to be preplanned.”

Cited from: https://www.rt.com/news/323469-russian-jet-turkey-facts/

  • The situation is not as black and white as you are trying to paint it here. 1. Russia is not attacking IS in Syria. 90% of their attacks are against rebel groups. 2. Turkey is not "clearly supporting IS". They also had some skirmishes with IS troops. The relation between Turkey and IS is quite ambivalent.
    – Philipp
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 10:50
  • A research paper of the Columbian University in New York lists 9 points how Turkey supports IS. huffingtonpost.com/david-l-phillips/research-paper- isis-turke_b_6128950.html
    – Noor
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 21:36
  • This answer cites only Russian sources who are, at minimum, biased. Are there anyone else explaining how repeated intrusions of russian jets to Turkish air space on Oct/03, Oct/05, Oct/07, and Oct/17 can become "premeditated (Turkish) provocation"? Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 23:10
  • Are American or British or any other western sources not biased?
    – Noor
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 10:38
  • @Noor, I see some difference between (a) occasional mistakes (followed by apologies and delivery of updated/corrected information) and (b) blatant, deliberate, ridiculous lying and brainwashing in the majority of publications. Google for "crucified russian-speaking infants", for example. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 14:39

Well, the point is who do you take as IS, and who don't. The target of Russian strikes in this area is so-called Jabal al-Turkman terroristic group sponsored by Turkey.

Jabal al-Turkman is an ally of Jabhat al-Nusra and IS. So Russia says that they are fighting against IS there. But Turkey insists on those guys (same who mercilessly killed captured pilot, as we all saw) being kind of "good rebels".

In short, Turkey provides the cover for Jabal al-Turkman. And Jabal al-Turkman can (and does) do all the dirty work of cooperating with IS.

  • -1: «Jabal al-Turkman is an ally of Jabhat al-Nusra and IS» — Any proof besides yellow press? Also, «mercilessly killed captured pilot» — law of war: captured pilots (and also snipers) almost never remain alive. Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 10:06
  • 4
    @bytebuster 1. That same region is controlled by Jabal al-Turkman, Jabhat an-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham alliance; you should perfectly know that as you're so interested in warmaps 2. It's definitely a war crime; the fact you think it to be a war law is very disgusting.
    – Matt
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 10:57
  • @matt Do you refer to the pilot from Jordan, who was put in a cage and burnt alive?
    – Noor
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 17:36
  • @Matt, in this video, Russian occupants have mistakenly downed their own Su-25 during the Russian armed invasion to Georgia on 08/08/2008 and then opened gunfire on Russian pilot who ejected. I find it disgusting, too. Have you filed a request to General Prosecutor's office of Russia on this case? Just wondering. Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 11:49

It seems to me that Turkey tried to stop Russia from attacking the Turkmen rebels near its border. Turkey had protested about such attacks a few days before this incident in vain. But Turkey's attempt backfired badly with Russia having escalated its attacks at the border, a Turkish aid convoy was hit without that generating much of an outrage in the international community.

Then given that the Turkish shoot down of the Russian bomber has moved Turkey a lot farther away from implementing its agenda (protection of the population on Northern Syria using safe areas, setting up a no-fly zone there etc. etc.), one can ask why Turkey went about shooting down the Russian bomber, given that the violation of its air space was rather minimal?

I think that Turkey miscalculated the support it would get from NATO. While NATO formally accepted the Turkish perspective on the incident, it called for a de-escalation of this conflict. Britain has said that Russia and Turkey should discuss this incident. That's a rather muted response, it probably falls way short of a very strong condemnation of Russia that Turkey had hoped for.

So, instead of moving closer to a situation where Russia is more pressured to stop it's military attacks on non-ISIS targets, Russia has dramatically escalated such attacks. Also, Russia has announced that it will install the S-400 SAM system in Latakia, so if anyone is going to impose a no-fly zone it will likely be Russia.

Turkey has thus played the card of violations of its sovereignty rather badly, considering also that this was the only card left in its hands. Russia, on the other hand, has many such cards yet to play. Russia is intervening on the behalf of the Assad regime; violations by the US, France and others of Syrian sovereignty have been so far tolerated by Russia, something that Russia can always revoke in the future (when more Russian air defense assets arrive in the region) without that being an act of military aggression.

The bombing of the aid convoys is a good example. US planes would never have bombed aid convoys (consider e.g. a suspicious aid convoy near Raqqa, the US would be very careful to first verify that it's not an aid convoy, warn the drivers and take the convoy out only after multiple warnings). The US would also be legally obliged to act that way, because it is an intervention outside of its territory.

For Russia the legal situation is different, because it can make the case that the Turkish convoy violated Syrian sovereignty and was therefore justifiably taken out. Russia doesn't care about whether or not the convoy was in fact a civilian convoy or not, just that it was not cleared with them or the Syrian authorities to make sure it didn't contain any weapons for the rebels operating in the area.

  • 3
    Since when is US careful about not targeting civilians. How many civilians died nearly daily because of US drone strikes. And what about the MSF hospital in Kunduz?
    – Noor
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 23:29
  • 1
    You cannot say US is careful and Russia is careless in this regard.
    – Noor
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 23:31
  • a Turkish aid convoy was hit without that generating much of an outrage in the international community Actually it was done after SU24 downed. Moreover, there are split opinions on that matter in the international community, as there's a strong belief that that cargo was not really of humanitarian nature.
    – Matt
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 9:40
  • «if anyone is going to impose a no-fly zone it will likely be Russia» — well, Russia has imposed no-fly zones over Baghdad (1981) with 14 AirDef brigades plus 3 separate AirDef divisions; Beqaa valley (1982) with 19 AirDef divisions, and Beirut (1982). No big success, I would say. :) Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 10:23
  • @Noor Neither Russia nor the US deliberately targets civilians, but they operate using different rules of engagement, focus on different types of targets and also use different weapons systems, types of bombs etc., which makes it more likely that civilians get hit in a Russian attack. Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 16:42

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