The Russians claim they were warning shots to avoid a collision. Mayhap they were, mayhap they weren't. But it's just one more spark just waiting to ignite all that Middle East tinder and plunge NATO into a war it cannot win:
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday one of its warships, the destroyer Smetlivy, had been forced to fire warning shots at a Turkish vessel in the Aegean Sea to avoid a collision and that it had summoned the Turkish military attache over the incident.
It said in a statement that the Turkish fishing vessel, which it did not name, had failed to respond to earlier warnings, but had sharply changed course after shots were fired before passing within just over five hundred meters of the warship.
The incident, which occurred on Sunday morning, is likely to heighten tensions between the two nations who are seriously at odds over Syria and the Turkish shooting down of [two] Russian military [aircraft in as many] month[s].
As I've said many times, Vladimir Putin is a grand master geopolitical 3-D chess player. He's been preparing for war with NATO for a long time now, most definitely including the United States, But one thing we've learned about the "Russian strongman" is that he never approaches his objectives directly, head-on; he always uses misdirection. He could have simply invaded Georgia back in 2008, but instead he made ample use of psych-ops and political intimidation. You could argue that that was back when America had an American president and thus Vlad was deterred from being more direct, but the same pattern held in Ukraine a year and a half ago, where the presence of ethnic Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine were cited as justification for the annexation of the former and the invasion of the latter. The "Sudetenland" strategy, in other words.
But that was merely table-setting, the rebuilding of the old Soviet "near abroad". And neither Georgia nor Ukraine were/are members of NATO.
But Turkey is. And by the act of occupying western Syria under the pretext of coming to Bashar al-Assad's rescue, Putin has pocketed a two-fer: (1) Gained a forward base near the heart of the Middle East from which to replace the former American sphere of influence with his own, and (2) surround Turkey on two sides and provoke them, and therefore NATO, into the war Vlad needs to avenge the U.S.S.R.'s Cold War defeat and fully restore the old Evil Empire at a stroke.
And the best part for him is that no matter how Barack Obama were to react, Vlad wins. Either the Russians regain all their lost provinces ("Soviet Socialist Republics") including all the former Warsaw Pact countries minus East Germany in a quick and brutal war in which their nuclear weapons are either directly threatened or are outright, if selectively, used against non-nuclear NATO members (more of Putin's divide & conquer psych-ops). Or Obama preemptively surrenders, throws Turkey under the bus, the Turks angrily quit NATO, and the Atlantic Alliance is effectively destroyed by being exposed as the meaningless, impotent, cowardly paper tiger it is. After which Ukraine, the Baltic States, and all of eastern Europe would inevitably come to "understandings" with Moscow about their "new relationships" with the Russians, and whatever remaining forces the U.S. has in Europe would be withdrawn under cover of citations of "budget cuts," and, well, you can project the cascade collapse of the West from there.
And remember: the window of opportunity for the realization of Putin's ambitions may be as narrow as the next calendar year.
If 2015 has been the year of the Global Jihad, 2016 may be the year that has us looking back on 2015 as the good ol' days.
UPDATE: Russia test-fires another new SLBM.