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Russia turns on Turkey in retaliation for downed jet

Russia has turned on its former ally and trade partner Turkey following the downing of a Russian warplane in disputed circumstances on Tuesday, warning that diplomatic and commercial relations between the countries are at risk.

Investors around the world are closely watching rising geopolitical tensions between Russia and NATO member Turkey after a Russian SU-24 warplane was shot down by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet on Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Turkey's actions could result in the scrapping of joint projects, Russian news agency Interfax reported, and said Turkish companies could lose Russian market share.


Sasha Mordovets | Getty Images

Medvedev didn't elaborate on which projects could be scrapped but there are a number of major bilateral trade and infrastructure deals between Turkey and Russia that could be affected, including the construction of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and Akkuyu nuclear power plant.

Responding to the incident on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the downing "a stab in the back," and warned it would have serious consequences for the Russian-Turkish relationship.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to calm tensions on Wednesday, saying Turkey had "no intention to escalate this incident." In a televised address to business leaders Wednesday, Erdogan said Turkey was defending its own security "and the rights of our brothers" in Syria.

Moreover, Russia sent an advanced missile system to Syria on Wednesday for what they said was an effort to protect its jets operating there, according to a Reuters report. Russian forces also launched a heavy bombardment against insurgent-held areas near where the jet was downed.

There are still conflicting accounts of what really happened on Tuesday but relations have been severely dented by the incident. While the authorities in Ankara claimed the SU-24 warplane had entered Turkish airspace, Moscow rejected the allegation, saying that the plane had come down 4 kilometers inside Syria.

Erdogan insisted that the plane had been shot down over Turkey but had crashed inside Syria, although a part of the plane had landed inside the Turkish border, injuring two Turkish citizens.

Later on Tuesday, Russia's state tourism agency, Rostourism, recommended suspending sales of tour packages to Turkey following the incident, according to Reuters, and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister who was due to visit Istanbul on Wednesday, canceled his trip, according to Russian media.

The fate of the two Russian pilots, who ejected from the plane as it descended to the ground, remains uncertain and could have an impact on the strength of Russia's reaction. Reports suggest one was killed but another is alive. On Wednesday, the Russian defense minister said one of the pilots had been returned to a Russian base in Syria. The surviving pilot indicated that he had not received any visual or radio warnings from Turkey before the plane was downed, according to the RIA news agency.

On Tuesday, the Turkish Military released an audio recording of what it says was a warning to the Russian jet before it was shot down. According to a Reuter's report, voices on the recording can be heard saying, "change your heading," repeatedly.

The Turkish Military also said it held discussions with Russian Military attaches, according to Reuters. The Turkish military told the attaches that rules of engagement were implemented when the Russian jet did not respond to the military's warnings and that it worked hard to find and rescue the Russian pilots who were ejected from the plane.

The 'fog of war'

Alongside an alliance of Western nations and Turkey, Russia has been conducting airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State which operates in areas of Syria and Iraq. Unlike the alliance, however, it has also been attacking Syrian rebel groups that oppose the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. It is believed that on Tuesday, Russia was targeting an anti-Assad group of Turkmen rebels who are supported by Turkey.

Muddying the geopolitical waters further, the international community has been unsure who was in the wrong over the incident although markets clearly felt that Turkey's actions would increase instability, and fell sharply Tuesday.

An unnamed U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday that the U.S. believed that the plane had indeed been hit inside Syrian airspace. U.S. President Barack Obama called into question Russia's strategy in Syria.

In fact, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with Lavrov, urging calm dialogue between Turkey and Russia. He also emphasized the importance of not allowing this incident to escalate tensions between the two countries or in Syria.

After talks with Turkey Tuesday afternoon about the incident, the military alliance NATO also said it supported member country Turkey. Turkish lira dropped 1 percent against the dollar and the Borsa Istanbul fell 1.4 percent Tuesday.

Analysts are keen to point out that the incident highlights the lack of unified strategy between Russia and the West in Syria, and they expected a reaction from Russia.

"My take is that in a war zone with lots of ordnance flying around bad stuff does happen sometimes and I sincerely hope that this incident does fall into this category. But it does throw the spotlight on the fact there is no total agreement on who the bad guys are in Syria," Nick Carn, founder of Carn Macro Advisors, told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box" Wednesday.

Calling the aftermath of the incident as akin to the "fog of war," Alastair Newton, co-founder and director of Alavan Business Advisory, said in a note Wednesday that "some sort of Russian retaliation against Turkey is very likely."

"Pursuing a military option would be extremely dangerous (for Russia), especially given Turkey's Nato membership. So, economic measures of some sort seem to be much more likely. At minimum, I would expect to see a drastic reduction in the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey. On this basis, the 24 November slide in the lire and the Istanbul stock market are entirely justified."

— Reuters contributed to this report.