Turkey has every right to respond to airspace violations by Russia, Georgia’s defense minister has said.
“Violation of an independent, sovereign state’s airspace is the same violation as if entering with tanks. There is not much difference. Countries have every right to respond to those violations,” Tinatin Khidasheli told a small group of journalists on Friday in Berlin.
She said Russia had deliberately violated the airspace of NATO and EU member states in recent months, despite repeated warnings.
“I think that would be a good experience for Russians to know that those kinds of activities don’t go on unpunished,” she said.
On Tuesday, Turkish F-16 fighter jets on aerial patrol intercepted an unidentified warplane within engagement rules when it intruded into Turkish airspace near the Syria border.
The intruding aircraft was warned about the violation 10 times within five minutes before it was shot down.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry later announced that the crashed plane had been a Russian SU-24 jet.
Khidasheli said Turkey was right in its response to air intrusions.
“Turkey is a serious country who will make you pay for the abuse and this is why it is an important and respected partner and player in today’s world,” she said.
“I think this recent incident raised even more confidence and more appreciation towards the Turkish government from most of the countries who respect basic underlying principles of international law,” she added.
It was not the first time Russian fighter jets had violated Turkish airspace. In early October, Russian warplanes breached Turkish airspace.
Russian officials apologized and pledged that no such incident would be repeated. Turkey had also renewed its warning on engagement rules, including a military response against violations of Turkish airspace.
Khidasheli urged NATO countries to continue strong solidarity with Turkey.
“NATO member states should make it clear that such violations won’t be tolerated,” she said.
“It’s not just Turkish airspace but also the NATO airspace. In the future it’s very important because it keeps happening in the Baltic, in the northern parts of Europe,” she added.
Russia has also been accused of deliberately violating the airspace of Baltic states, the U.K. and Sweden in recent months.
Khidasheli accused Russia of pursuing an expansionist policy, casting doubt on the success of an international coalition against Daesh in Syria if Russia played a leading role in such a pact.
“You cannot build a coalition with a country like Russia which is violating the sovereignty of independent countries on a daily basis,” she said.
Khidasheli said the lack of strong international stance against Russia after its war with Georgia in 2008, encouraged Moscow’s leadership to continue an aggressive policy later towards Ukraine.
Georgia fought a five-day war with Russia in 2008 over the Moscow-backed breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia has lost its control of both regions, while Russia recognized both South Ossetia and the Abkhazia as independent states.
Russian soldiers are still deployed, both in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Khidasheli warned Western countries about normalizing relations now with Russia due to the Daesh threat and embracing Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
“It is very easy to project what the Kremlin might think about under the circumstances when everybody says there is no solution to a big conflict without Russia. Tomorrow, when it is over, then Russia is going to come back with a completely different agenda,” she said.
Khidasheli argued that NATO can play a leading role in fight against Daesh.
“I believe that NATO is capable of dealing with international terrorism. If it is not the case then the world is in much bigger problem than we think it is today. Then, we might call North Korea to help us tomorrow,” she said.