Best Defense

Turkey to Putin: Welcome to the bigs

Best of Best Defense: Number 19 in our list of the most viewed posts of 2015. This post ran originally on November 25.



Best of Best Defense: Number 19 in our list of the most viewed posts of 2015. This post ran originally on November 25.

It’s one thing to be a KGBeastie stylin’ around Dresden, East Germany. It’s another to ignore warnings from a NATO country about its sovereignty. That’s what Vladimir Putin has learned in the last day or so, I think.

The Turkish-Syrian border may seem obscure to many Americans, but it is well-known to NATO forces, especially to Americans. For years the no-fly zone over Northern Iraq was patrolled out of the air base at Incirlik, Turkey. I’ve flown out of there on an Air Force jet, and remember how much attention USAF officials paid to the Syrian border, which was just to our south, within our sight at one point. I am confident that Americans monitored the entire confrontation yesterday.

Indeed, I wonder if Turkey first warned Russia privately, then publicly, and finally, before acting, advised NATO that it intended to actively defend its airspace.

As far as I know, this was the first time a NATO aircraft downed a Russian since the Korean War, when I think U.S. aircraft had some dogfights with the Soviets along the Soviet-Korean border. Is there a Cold War incident I am forgetting? I know the Soviets knocked down plenty of American planes, but I am thinking of the opposite — that is, the Soviets getting hit.

Photo credit: Alexander Mishin/Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at

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