One day after Turkish forces shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border in an incident that set the U.S. and NATO on edge, Moscow has rolled out a multi-prong response.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered advanced air defense missiles systems to be deployed at the Russian air base in Latakia, Syria, which is roughly 30 miles from the Turkish border. The S-400 missile can protect aircraft from aerial threats within a range of 250 miles.
Russian fighters will also now be accompanied by Su-30SM Flanker jets during airstrikes within Syria. The moves bolster Moscow’s earlier decision to move the Moskva guided-missile cruiser, which also boasts anti-air systems, off the coast of Latakia.
“It will be ready to destroy any aerial target posing a potential danger to our aircraft,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting with military officials, the Associated Press reported.
Those moves make up only part of Russia’s response to the incident that Putin has called a “crime” and a “stab in the back,” despite multiple reports that the aircraft was warned at least 10 times to leave Turkish airspace.
A further military escalation appears unlikely, as neither Russia nor NATO have reason to want the incident to spiral into war, but Putin’s government is also taking steps to put a financial squeeze on Anakara. Russia has launched an informal tourist embargo on Turkey, and many of Russia’s biggest travel firms have reportedly stopped selling trips to Turkish resorts. More than 4 million Russian tourists visit Turkey each year; a prolonged boycott could be a major blow to the country’s tourism sector and its overall finances.
The Kremlin hasn’t expressly banned companies from selling Turkish vacations but the Foreign Ministry has advised Russian citizens, in stark terms, to avoid the country for safety reasons.
Putin said the warning was necessary.
“After what happened yesterday, we cannot rule out other incidents, and if they occur one way or another we will have to react. And our citizens in Turkey, of course, could be exposed to considerable danger, and the foreign ministry is obliged to talk about that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that Russian lawmakers have introduced legislation to hold to account anyone who denies the Armenian genocide. The bill is meant to embarrass Ankara on the global stage for its continued refusal to acknowledge the massacres, which lasted from 1915 to 1917 and are believed to have killed more than 1 million Armenians, as a genocide.
Only 18 countries label the event as a genocide, including France, which has started to coordinate with Russia’s war machine in Syria after the recent ISIS attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. French President Francois Hollande is slated to visit Moscow on Thursday as part of a global tour to press allies to do more in the fight against the extremist group.
It’s possible that Russia’s response to the shooting could expand into other economic areas like trade. In a televised briefing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would “seriously reassess” relations with Ankara.