After two Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian Su-24, which Turkey claimed violated its airspace, the Russians have been put in a difficult strategic position. On the one hand, it is vital for the Russians to prove to the world that its forces are potent and that its support is meaningful. Not responding would make the Russians look weak, even though one of the goals of Russia’s involvement in Syria is to demonstrate strength. On the other hand, Russia’s deployment in Syria ultimately pales in comparison to the kind of force that Turkey could bring to bear if it was so inclined. Therefore, the Russian retaliation for the downing of its fighter should be measured, or else risk antagonizing the Turks even more.
Russia’s response is already becoming clear and now places the ball back in Turkey’s court. In public statements, Moscow is emphasizing that it believes Turkey is to some degree in league with the Islamic State and that Turkey’s moves reflect this. In terms of military readiness,