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Bordering on War


slate articleThe following is an excerpt from Lucian Kim | November 24, 2015 | Slate.com |

The anger was written on Vladimir Putin’s face as he confirmed the news Tuesday that a Russian Su-24 warplane had indeed been shot down by a Turkish F-16—and not, as Russia’s defense ministry initially indicated, by ground fire from Syrian fighters. The Russian jet was inside Syria, one kilometer from the Turkish border, when it was hit, the Russian president said in televised remarks from Sochi.

“In any case, our pilots—our plane—in no way threatened the Turkish Republic,” Putin said. The warplane was carrying out a mission to hunt down Russian volunteers fighting with ISIS, which was the primary goal of Russia’s nearly two-month air campaign in Syria, according to the Russian president. He warned of “serious consequences” for Turkey’s “stab in the back.”

If anything is clear, it’s that Putin was genuinely surprised by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s temerity to make good on threats made after Russian warplanes violated Turkey’s airspace twice in early October. Erdogan insists the Su-24 repeatedly flew over Turkish territory and ignored 10 warnings before it was shot down. Just on Friday, the Turkish government protested that Russian airstrikes in the area were killing ethnic Turkmens, not terrorists.

For Putin, the Russian jet is the third downed plane to warn of the unintended consequences of armed intervention in a little more than a year.

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