Putin and Erdogan in happier times
How interesting it would have been to be a fly on the wall at today's emergency NATO meeting. One cannot imagine that the big dogs in NATO's European branch were happy with the crisis unleashed by Turkey's rash decision to shoot down a Russian fighter-bomber which had supposedly strayed into Turkey's airspace for seventeen seconds.
The international blogosphere is awash with speculation that Russia will hit back hard. I'm not so sure; at least about the hitting back hard happening in the spotlight. There are many ways for Russia to hit back well out of the spotlight.
First off, I suspect we've seen the last of Turkey's air attacks on targets in Syria. Turkey only very recently "joined" the war on Islamic State, and by most accounts its infiltrations of Syrian airspace have targeted the Kurds, not IS. After today's unfortunate miscalculation, any Russian air defence unit on the ground or fighter jet in the sky over Syria will consider a Turkish target fair game.
Secondly, as the entire world is well aware, the Erdogan regime has many enemies, within and outside of Turkey. More than a few of them, within and outside of Turkey, have picked up arms to confront the Turkish state. They'll be picking up many more and more potent arms in the weeks and months ahead. That's a simple enough task for the Russians to facilitate through the usual back channels.
Erdogan presides over a pressure cooker of divergent interests, with a rabid core of ultra-nationalists making up the back-bone of his base. Until now, he's managed to keep a lid on the pressure cooker, at least for the most part.
That's about to change.