Russian President Putin has given his yearly address to the Russian Federal Assembly. In the context of terrorism and the shooting down of the Russian fighter in Syria he addressed some very harsh words to the Turkish President Erdogan:
The Turkish people are kind, hardworking and talented. We have many good and reliable friends in Turkey. Allow me to emphasise that they should know that we do not equate them with the certain part of the current ruling establishment that is directly responsible for the deaths of our servicemen in Syria.
We will never forget their collusion with terrorists. We have always deemed betrayal the worst and most shameful thing to do, and that will never change. I would like them to remember this – those in Turkey who shot our pilots in the back, those hypocrites who tried to justify their actions and cover up for terrorists.
I don’t even understand why they did it. Any issues they might have had, any problems, any disagreements we knew nothing about could have been settled in a different way. Plus, we were ready to cooperate with Turkey on all the most sensitive issues it had; we were willing to go further, where its allies refused to go. Allah only knows, I suppose, why they did it. And probably, Allah has decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by taking their mind and reason.
But, if they expected a nervous or hysterical reaction from us, if they wanted to see us become a danger to ourselves as much as to the world, they won’t get it. They won’t get any response meant for show or even for immediate political gain. They won’t get it.
Our actions will always be guided primarily by responsibility – to ourselves, to our country, to our people. We are not going to rattle the sabre. But, if someone thinks they can commit a heinous war crime, kill our people and get away with it, suffering nothing but a ban on tomato imports, or a few restrictions in construction or other industries, they’re delusional. We’ll remind them of what they did, more than once. They’ll regret it. We know what to do.
That was strong stuff from someone who usually stays very cool. These were not even threats but direct declarations that Russia will take revenge and will follow through.
What are “all the most sensitive issues” Turkey had and on which Russia was ready to cooperate? What has enraged Putin so much to declare Erdogan out of “mind and reason”? Was it only the ambush of the fighter plane? Or was there another, deeper provocation?
At the end of last week there were some rumors that Russian ships crossing the Bosphorus between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea were unreasonably delayed. Someone claimed that Turkey was holding them up but the issue soon vanished again. I filed that under “false rumor” but I was wrong. It apparently happened:
Turkey is creating obstacles for Russian ships without technically violating the right of free passage through the Turkish Straits, the online newspaper Vzglyad reports.
According to an online vessel tracking system, Russian ships moved in zigzags and circles on Nov. 29, waiting for hours for permission to enter the Bosphorus.
For instance, the Bratsk waited for permission from 10.00 to 19.00, and the Volgobalt from 3.00 to 17.00. However, as stated by the Ukrainian Center for Transport Policies, vessels belonging to the other countries passed through the straits without a delay on that day.
The Haberler.com news website reports that the transport ship Yauza was met by a Turkish submarine as it was passing through the Dardanelles on the morning of Nov. 30.
The Istanbul media reported the same day that at least two Turkish submarines were located in the vicinity of the Moskva missile cruiser (covering the Khmeimim Russian airbase in Syria).
Back in September Pat Lang posted this at his site:
It seems that Obama administration had developed the idea to delay Russian ships without directly violating the Montreux Cenvention that covers free passage through the strait. Erdogan used the trick last week to put additional pressure on Russia. But there was nothing in the wider news about this standoff.
So did this really happen and how was this resolved? Joanne Leon asked that question today and two answers from knowledgeable people were offered: