Russia Is Paying a Price for Vladimir Putin’s Napoleon Complex

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Russia says its pilot received no warning before Turkey shot down one of its fighters on Tuesday. Turkey says it gave plenty of warning. Here’s the New York Times today:

A United States military spokesman, Col. Steven Warren, confirmed on Tuesday that Turkish pilots had warned the Russian pilot 10 times, but that the Russian jet ignored the warnings….At the emergency NATO meeting, Turkish officials played recordings of the warnings Turkish F-16 pilots had issued to the Russian aircraft. The Russian pilots did not reply.

The fact that the US says this doesn’t automatically make it true. On the other hand, I wouldn’t believe Vladimir Putin without checking for myself if he told me the sky was blue. So while it’s entirely likely that both sides have been testing each other for the past couple of weeks, my best guess at this point is that Russia has flown over the Hatay peninsula repeatedly and been warned about it, but continued doing it anyway. This kind of provocation is pretty common in Putin’s Russia. This time, though, he did it to a country headed by a guy much like himself, and he paid the price for it.

So what happens now? “We’re not going to war against Turkey,” the Russian foreign minister said today, but Russia will probably announce some kind of symbolic reprisal soon. And that will be that. Putin is discovering to his sorrow that Syria is not quite the same as Crimea or South Ossetia. It’s all great when you can show off your shiny new cruise missiles on the nightly news, but this isn’t a war that will be over in a few weeks because there’s nobody to fight back. It’s a never-ending quagmire, and there’s not really much in it for Russia.

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