This is obviously an interrupted break from our normal Monday publishing schedule, but when a NATO state shoots down a Russian fighter jet while on combat operations, one must break schedules.
There is going to be a great deal of responsible and irresponsible speculation and reporting on this event. As that happens, there are key questions worth asking that go beyond the media narrative of “OMG World War III???”
Hopefully, by Monday, they’ll be answered, and we can have a proper analysis. Until then, they are:
1). Will the Russians escalate or retaliate? There are numerous options – though bombing Turkey really isn’t one – that include hammering U.S.-aligned rebels, deploying more Russian troops to Syria, or, most alarmingly, aiming nuclear weapons at Turkey.
2). Will either side leverage this incident as a way to demonize the other? The Turks, along with the U.S., could use this as more propaganda to demonize Russia and try to rally the rest of NATO to a more unified line against Moscow. Putin could use this as domestic propaganda to show how dangerous NATO is to Russia.
3). Or, more optimistically, will one or both sides see this as a dangerous and foolish accident that could be prevented by further cooperation? They may even conclude that the danger of these kinds of incidents is such that they must cooperate sooner rather than later to end the Syrian civil war.
4). Or will they ignore it, as Turkey did after Syria shot down one of its jet fighters? Will the wider geopolitics prevent anyone beyond the media from capitalizing on this incident?