The Russian Ministry of Defense warned Turkey against launching a military incursion into Syria last week, announcing on Thursday that it had seen “growing signs” that Turkish forces were preparing to intervene to bolster rebel forces battling pro-regime troops in the north. Some experts say, however, that Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be trying to bait Turkey into entering the Syrian battlefield in order to retaliate for Ankara’s decision to down a Russian warplane in November.

“Russia is trying to draw Turkey into a fight to avenge the downing of its jet. Putin is confident he can win,” retired Brig. Gen. Naim Baburoglu, an adviser to the Ankara-based National Security and Foreign Policy Research Center, told al-Monitor last week. “He also needs this to counter domestic difficulties. Downing one or two Turkish F-16s will make him a hero at home,” Baburoglu added. “It will also be a serious embarrassment to Turkey and the Turkish air force.” READ MORE