Russian strategist claims US soldiers at İncirlik ‘involved in jet crisis’

Russian strategist claims US soldiers at İncirlik ‘involved in jet crisis’

Cansu Çamlıbel – ISTANBUL
Russian strategist claims US soldiers at İncirlik ‘involved in jet crisis’ The director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), a think tank directly linked to the Kremlin, has claimed that U.S. troops deployed at Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base were involved in the downing of a Russian jet last year.

Leonid Reshetnikov said Russia had obtained information that U.S. soldiers stationed in Turkey were involved in in the downing of a Russian jet last year.

"There are some groups that do not want Turkish-Russian relations to develop. Among them are people linked to the U.S. or the Gülen movement,” Reshetnikov said, referring to U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, a one-time ally of Ankara who the government now accuses of orchestrating the July 15 coup attempt.  

“We believe that those who were effective in the downing of the Russian air craft were first and foremost Erdoğan’s enemies, and at the same time were linked to the U.S. We also have such information that U.S. troops deployed at İncirlik were involved in the realization of [the downing of the Russian jet],” added Reshetnikov, who for 33 years until 2009 worked at Russia’s Foreign Intelligence department. 

On Nov. 24, 2015, Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 aircraft on its border with Syria on the grounds of an air space violation. Relations between Moscow and Ankara plummeted following the incident, with Russia issuing economic sanctions on Turkish goods and a ban on traveling to Turkey.

Relations between the two countries started to be restored after Erdoğan penned a letter to his Russian counterpart Vladimit Putin in June. The two leaders have met three times in person since then, leading to the lifting of the travel ban as well as most of the economic sanctions. 

Upon a question on the issue during a press conference after the weekly cabinet meeting, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş on Nov. 7 said that Ankara had no such knowledge that U.S. troops were involved in the coup attempt. 

Reshetnikov said the aim of downing the Russian jet was to bring Turkey and Russia against each other and destroy the “success that the two neighbors have had over the past 10 to 15 years.” 

“According to their plans, they thought that Russia would definitely respond militarily [to the downing crisis]. They expected that from Russia, but their plans went wrong,” he added. 

Around 250 people were killed after a group inside the Turkish army tried to stage a coup and topple the government and kill the president late on July 15, against which Erdoğan called on people to take to the streets. The Turkish government accuses Gülen and his Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) of planning and organizing the attempted putsch, a claim that Gülen denies. 

Turkey has launched a crackdown on suspected FETÖ members in the aftermath of the coup attempt, with over 100,000 people either arrested, detained, suspended or dismissed from their jobs, and hundreds of private companies taken over by the state.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story falsely quoted Mr. Reshetnikov as saying that U.S. soldiers based in İncirlik were involved in the July 15 failed coup attempt. The Daily News regrets the error and apologizes to its readers.