Today a Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkey. The pilots were captured by Syrian rebels. At least one appeared to be dead in a video in which the rebels chanted “Allahu Akbar” – “God is great” – over his body.
Turkey, a member of NATO, claims that the Russian plane invaded Turkish airspace and was warned 10 times before it was shot down. Russia, on the other hand, claims that it was in Syrian airspace. Russian president Vladimir Putin called it a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists” and said that there will be “serious consequences.”
After hearing the news, social media almost immediately lit up with ominous warnings that this is the beginning of World War III.
But is it?
Thus far, the minimal consensus is that this incident will not be a catalyst for WWIII.
According to Ian Shields, a professor of international relations at Anglia Ruskin University, Russia does not want to risk further economic sanctions:
“Russia can lose on this, and can be hurt again if she overplays her hand and USA and Europe further increase economic pressure... we are far more economically interdependent than we were before.”
Dr. Mark Galeotti of NYU, writing for Business Insider, also does not believe things will escalate:
“I suspect neither Moscow nor, at the very least, the other European NATO powers will want to let this go too far. Russia cannot fight hot diplomatic wars on too many fronts, and Europe clearly wants Moscow to be part of the solution in Syria and maybe Ukraine, too. And, frankly, there is in many capitals concern about Turkey, its agenda and its role in the region.
Much will depend on where Washington falls, of course, but if Moscow can get even a crumb of contrition from Ankara or sympathy from Europe, then we can expect this to be splashed on Russian TV and allow the Kremlin to let this slide a little.”
We shall see if cooler, more diplomatic heads prevail, or if this incident turns out to be a catalyst of Franz Ferdinand proportions.