Turkish warplanes have shot down a Russian military aircraft on the border with Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Su-24 was hit by air-to-air missiles fired by Turkish F-16s while it was flying over Syrian territory.
But Turkish military officials said the plane was engaged after being warned that it was violating Turkish airspace.
Mr Putin described the incident as a "stab in the back" committed by "accomplices of terrorists".
It’s a tough day for Moscow. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that Syrian fighters destroyed a Russian helicopter with a missile, shortly after they forced it to make an emergency landing in a nearby government-held area in Syria’s Latakia province.
A Syrian insurgent group, which receives US Tow missiles, said its fighters hit the helicopter with an anti-tank missile while it was in the air and put out a video showing the helicopter being blown up after one of its fighters struck it with another missile.
Regarding the pilot of the Su-24:
Shadi al-Ouwayni, an activist in rural Latakia Province, where the pilot’s body was recovered, said one pilot was shot as he drifted to the ground in his parachute while the other was captured by a local militia called the 10th Brigade. He said the pilots landed in different rebel-controlled, locations. His account could not be independently verified.
“One of the Russian pilots was shot as he was trying to land,” he said. “The other was injured and captured.”
A tape of one bloodied pilot lying on the ground began circulating on the Internet, with an activist saying that, “This is a Russian pilot and killer of men, women and children who was killed today after his plane was shot down in Syria.”
And the helicopter?
General staff spokesman Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, added that rebels in Syria fired on a Russian helicopter that was searching for the two pilots of the Su-24.
The shooting killed one crew member on the Mi-8 helicopter and forced it to land in neutral territory, he says.
I'm not the one you want to turn to for expert geopolitical analysis of all this. But I'm recalling that American conservatives regard Vladimir Putin as an omnipotent demigod, a strongman able to walk into any situation and enforce his will against lesser, weaker men.
Bill O'Reilly told us last year, "Putin sees himself as a macho man who's going to do pretty much what he wants. The president sees himself as a renaissance man who wants to accommodate." Sarah Palin said, "People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates." Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle wanted Putin to become president of the United States for 48 hours, because, as she said, "I just want somebody to get in here and get it done right so that Americans don’t have to worry and wake up in the morning fearful of a group that’s murderous and horrific, like ISIS." (This is assuming that Putin actually might want to take on ISIS.)
But there's been no heavy breathing about Putin's manliness to equal Victor Davis Hanson's:
... there is a value for us in Putin.... I refer to Putin’s confidence in his unabashedly thuggish means, the brutal fashion in which a modern state so unapologetically embraces the premodern mind to go after its critics....
... what is Putin? He is a constant reminder to the postmodern Western mind that the human condition has not yet evolved beyond the fist....
Bare-chested Putin gallops his horses, poses with his tigers, and shoots his guns -- what Obama dismisses as “tough-guy schtick.” Perhaps. But Putin is almost saying, “You have ten times the wealth and military power that I have, but I can neutralize you by my demonic personality alone.” Barack Obama, in his increasingly metrosexual golf get-ups and his prissy poses on the nation’s tony golf courses, wants to stay cool while playing a leisure sport. It reminds us of Stafford Cripps being played by Stalin during World War II. “Make no mistake about it” and “Let me be perfectly clear” lose every time. Obama’s subordinates violate the law by going after the communications of a Fox reporter’s parents; Putin himself threatens to cut off the testicles of a rude journalist....
Putin is a reminder not just of our dark past, where raw force, not morality, adjudicated behavior, but, more worrisome, perhaps of a dark future as well, in which we in the West will continually overthink, hyperagonize, and nuance to death every idea, every issue, and every thought in terror that it might not be 100 percent fair, completely unbiased, absolutely justified. We will do anything to have the good life above all else; Putin prefers the bad life on his own terms.
... Putin is the evil hired gun, Jack Wilson (“Prove it!”), in the movie Shane, whose only law is what he believes he can get away with. We are the Hamlet-like sodbusters who one day are ready to pack up and leave, the next terrified lest we really have to....
For Putin, being weak is worse than being wrong.
Does Putin look weak right now? He certainly doesn't look like the ubermensch American conservatives have told us he is. If those shot-down aircraft were American, right-wing pundits would be proclaiming (triumphantly) that Barack Obama looks fatally weak at this moment. But they won't say it about Putin -- because love is blind.
UPDATE:Jeffrey Czerniak has a point: