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Russian Pilot: "No Warning" Turkey Would Hit Plane; NATO: We Stand With Turkey; U.S. Security Prepares for Busy Holiday Travel Season, Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 25, 2015 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And now, President Hollande is going to go to Moscow tomorrow to meet with President Putin.

Ivan, thanks very much.

Still ahead, the surviving pilot of that fighter jet downed by Turkey says that he received no warning at all before the plane was hit. Turkey has just released audio of that warning, however. We are going live to Turkey and Russia when we come back.


BLITZER: Now to the developing and worrisome situation between Turkey and Russia. Russia is sending anti-aircraft missile systems to their base inside of Syria, in response of the Turkey downing of a Russian jet they say strayed into Turkish air space. Today, Russia's foreign minister said they that are not prepared to go to war over the incident.

Let's discuss and to get the latest from both countries. We have Becky Anderson is in Istanbul, and Matthew Chance is in Russia.

Becky, the Turkish military says it's just released an audio recording of the incident, and tell us about it.

[13:35:01] BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no official reaction of the Russian foreign minister's suggestion that it is planned provocation, but you are right to point out that Turkey's military has released this audio of what it claims is their warning to a Russian warplane before they shot it down. Now, we have listened to it, and listened to it again, and in one portion of the audio, a voice is heard saying, "This is Turkey air force speaking on guard. You are approaching Turkish air space, change your heading south."

Now, Wolf, it is poor quality, which may be standard in the recordings, but under two minutes of audio, you do keep hearing a voice saying, "This is Turkish air space and change," dot, dot, dot, because we can't make out what was said next. And Ankara says they were shot down in self-defense. Now, this is not the first time, and they have cited four instances since the air campaign has begun that Russia has entered Turkish air space.

BLITZER: Matthew, what are you hearing about the surviving Russian pilot? MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's

been speaking on t the state television. He's been awarded a Russian medal of, you know, of bravery, the hero of Russia award, and the highest military honor. And he has been talking on the state television, and giving the account of what happened to the plane SU- 24. And he says that there was no communication by the Turkish military with the aircraft, and he denies they crossed the Turkish border into the Turkish air space. And he is the navigator and he had the read out right in front of him, and he said they had the line right there and they never crossed it.

He also said no visual communication. And he said, look, we are in an SU-24 and they are in F-16s and they are much, much quicker, and come up alongside us and made visual contact and got their attention, but the first they knew a Turkish rocket blue off their tail on the aircraft and then came streaming down in a fireball. So it's very much an appeal by him on Russian TV.

BLITZER: And, Becky, in this entrance into the Turkish air space it was very brief, under 30 seconds, and United States says they understand Turkey's complaints about them going after Turkmen's positions in Syria, but it was a very brief encounter, and very brief encounter of the air space that did not justify shooting down that plane.

ANDERSON: Well, Ankara has been warning Moscow that they would retaliate if their border security was threatened by the operations against the anti-Assad Turkmen, whose cause is championed by the Turkish government. Look, President Erdogan has no intention of escalating the matter, he says, but he says that Turkey has been consistent, that, according to the military rules of engagement, if aircraft does not heed warnings, and it continues the fly over Turkey, it has the right to protect its sovereignty. And if it happens again, once again, it will be the same. And today, the Turk, and Ankara is very insistent that it is not the first time and as many as four incursions have been going on since this air campaign has been started by Russia over Syria.

BLITZER: And, Matthew, are will the Russians continue to bomb the Turkmen positions, the rebel positions as opposed to Bashar al Assad's regime, and not far from the Turkish border if they don't violate the Turkish air space, will Russia continue to bomb those sites, as Becky just said, and the Turks are opposed the that?

[13:39:41] CHANCE: Well, I don't know the plans, but I cannot imagine for one second they will deviate from the plan they have got. Maybe they are will intensify the strikes against the Turkmen positions. It is the same Turkmen who would film themselves illegally against international law gunning one of the pilots parachuting to earth after he had ejected from the plane that had been shot down by the Turkish military and he didn't make it to the ground, but he was killed before he arrived and a 12-hour Special Forces rescue there resulted in another death. So despite what the Russian foreign minister says there is no war to go to war with Turkey, but the idea that Russia is going to be letting that slide, and OK, you know what, that is fine is unlikely to say the least. They will be bolstering their forces in Syria, and they're already doing that, in fact.

BLITZER: And what worries the U.S. officials is if Russia continues to hit the Turkmen positions, and rebel positions inside of Syria, not far from Turkey, will Turkey respond and come to the defense of their fellow Turks, if you will, which could set the stage for a serious, serious confrontation.

All right. Guys, thank you very, very much. We will stay on top of the story.

Coming up, we will have much more on the downed Russian fighter jet. Is this the biggest threat to NATO since the Cold War ended, given Turkey's -- a serious member obviously of NATO? Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is live in Washington, standing by to join us live.


[11:45:41] BLITZER: A day after that the Turkish military jet shot down a Russian jet, U.S. President Barack Obama called the Turkish President Erdogan to talk about the need to proceed slowly now, and to talk about their NATO partnership at the same time.

And joining us now is our CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Roberson. He has been doing a bunch of work on this.

Thanks so much for joining us.

NATO, where is NATO? They were involved after 9/11 and involved after Afghanistan, and now missing in action with this war on ISIS? Where are they?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, if you go become a year ago in wails, they resolved to tighten the noose on ISIS and double-down on the intelligence sharing and diminish and degrade is, but trying to do it from the sides, and NATO has not come in as a unified entity, and it has been this way pretty much because the national politics in countries back home like Britain where the Prime Minister David Cameron cannot get the government to agree to air strike, so they are hobbled by their own politics. That is part of the problem when you try to bring together this coalition.

BLITZER: Because when the president of the United States says that 65 nation nations are involved in the coalition, many of the nations may express rhetorical support for this coalition, but are they doing anything?

ROBERTSON: Well, sole of the Gulf States had a bigger role, and not so much now. And the UAE, the United Arab Emirates, is still there along with Saudi Arabia, and Jordan is still there. And the Turkey is playing a role, and it's giving the use of Incirlik Air Base to the U.S. forces. There was a trade off where we gave support to the Kurdish YPG to fight ISIS inside of Syria. We got to use the Turkish air base, and then we weren't backing the Kurds so much. Now we will see the imperative, because ISIS is launching attacks way outside of Syria. And we have gone back to backing the Kurds. We are saying that we

will increase the backing for them. And that has to be a worry for Erdogan when you see the plane shot down, and when you look at it in the big round, you have to wonder, as President Erdogan on a short fuse here with Russian involvement? Is he concerned about the direction the fight is going? Has he got broader concerns of where the Russian aircraft are? Is he losing direction and control over what is happening in Syria?

BLITZER: Well, if the Russians step up the air strikes against these Turkmen inside of Syria, who are opposed to the Bashar al Assad's regime, but they're allied with the Turkish government, they don't violate the Turkish air space, what are they going to do? The air force? Will they try to protect their fellow Turks and go the war against Russia?

ROBERTSON: Well, if they do, it is a much tougher fight. Russia is doubling down and putting up the ante, and going to the surface-to-air missiles, which is less than a couple of kilometer, and less than 150 miles from that particular border area that we are talking about. The sophisticated s-400 surface-to-air missiles have a large variant and capability to fire 300 miles with accuracy. So if Turkey does decide to ramp up, Russia is also doubling down, so there is a potential for a serious escalation. And if you want to look at the groundwork being laid, then look no further than the surface-to-air missile is systems brought in right now.

BLITZER: Because if a Russian missile brings down a Turkish F-16 or another Turkish plane, who knows what it will lead to.

ROBERTSON: NATO has said that it will stand behind Turkey, but you have to realize, at this point, that NATO built the alliance during the toughest times of the Cold War. That steely nerve of capitals all around the NATO nations meant that during a massive nuclear build-up, when there was Armageddon unleashed on the world, those leaders held their nerve, not for seconds but for days and weeks and months. And here in 30 seconds, Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft, in a moment, in a week when there was an opportunity for huge diplomatic progress, potentially, because of everything that's transpired over the last few weeks. In terms of NATO leaders sitting around a table, they must look at the Turkish leaders right now and wonder where that steely nerve is, not rush into action like this.

[13:50:21] BLITZER: They're worried about the President Erdogan of Turkey, what is he going to do about this. He's facing a tough challenge from President Putin of Russia right now.

ROBERTSON: It's different strategic objectives.

BLITZER: The world is watching pretty much on edge.

Thank you, Nic, for your excellent work. Welcome to Washington.

Still ahead, today is one of the busiest travel days in the United States. But the latest attacks in Paris have people worried. Military and terrorism analysts are standing by to weigh in on the security situation in the West. Where the fight against ISIS is headed.


[13:55:01] BLITZER: It's one of the busiest travel days here in the United States. Many Americans are deeply worried about terror after the terror attack in Paris more than a week ago. President Obama addressed the nation last hour to try to reassure the country.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want the American people to know, entering the holidays, that the combined resources of our military, our intelligence, and our Homeland Security agencies are on the case. They're vigilant, relentless, and effective. In the event of a specific credible threat, the public will be informed.


BLITZER: Let's bring it our next two guests, our military analyst, retired Colonel Cedric Leighton; and our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank.

A tough message for the president to deliver, no credible specific threats, but at the same time be prepared, watch what's going on. We're strengthening security precautions in major cities, airports, elsewhere out of an abundance of caution.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Wolf, that's exactly right. What you're dealing with is that a Morpheus piece of intelligence. You know something could happen, but you have nothing precise to say it is going to happen. That is why it becomes very critical for the president to say some things but he has no other information that he can actually share with the American public as so specific threats so he's left with giving a very nonspecific response.

BLITZER: When ISIS puts out a slick propaganda video, Paul, as they have over the last few days one saying we're going after times square, herald square in New York, another video saying we're going after the White House, the monuments in Washington, D.C., why is that not considered a specific credible threat? Because in the past they've actually delivered on their threats.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, they threaten all sorts of things in the United States. They're trying to get attention. They've just had these Paris attacks so they know that all of us in the media are going to focus on their statements much more than usually. But there is a threat from ISIS. They've put the United States on notice. They've said, we're going to attack you.

This is the richest terrorist group in history. They've got more western recruits than any terrorist group in history. The terrorist safe haven in Iraq and Syria is the most dangerous than we've seen, including Afghanistan at the time of 9/11. And they're really ratcheted up this international terrorism. And the top target is the United States. They're taking the al Qaeda playbook where they're training these European and Western recruits that have got passports who can get back into the West and sending them back. And the concern is that, rather than the attack in Paris next time, that people could get on planes and come to the United States.

BLITZER: The other concern, Cedric, is that ISIS, unlike al Qaeda, has a ton of money. They've got a billion dollars maybe, according to some estimates, oil revenue, the gold they've stolen from the banks in Mosul and other places, all the cash they've taken over, whether they control an area of size of Indiana, maybe five or six million people are there. They can spend that money to launch terrorist strikes against the West outside of that area.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely, Wolf. You can buy anything with money. You can buy people's allegiance, equipment, explosives, weapons. Those are things that have to worry the intelligence and law enforcement communities because that's the kind of stuff that you can't always predict is going to happen. You don't know when the purchasing is going to take place or how they're going to implement things like that. So the fact that they're the richest terrorist group in history, as Paul said, make it's very important nor for us to be extra vigilant.

BLITZER: Their social media skills and their slick propaganda video are impressive.

CRUIKSHANK: It is. And that stuff is can inspire the lone Wolf terrorists here in United States. We've seen 50 arrested linked into Islamist terrorism in the United States, 15 of those individuals linked to a plot in the United States. A lot of the concern is around the holidays. We saw that with the July 4 weekend. And the worry is they may want to do something again this Thanksgiving.

BLITZER: Very quickly, when Turkey decided to launch air-to-air missiles to bring down that Russian plane, Pentagon officials say they only were violating Turkish airspace for 30 seconds if that. Was that justified by the U.S. NATO ally?

LEIGHTON: No, not at all in this case. You need a much longer period for an incursion to take place before you do something like a shoot- down.

BLITZER: And a lot of, by the way, Syrians and Russia maybe, for that matter, they think this violation, if it happened, was in disputed territory to begin with, going back to World War I, if you will, when they drew that line dividing Turkey and Syria.

Guys, we'll leave it there. Thank you for joining us.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's it for me. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room." Much more news then. Full coverage of what the president said today, the secretary of Homeland Security.

In the meantime, NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin -- she's in Paris -- that starts right now.

[14:00:12] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening. 8:00 local time here in beautiful Paris.