Drawing by Dmitry Divin
Once established that a terrorist act was indeed responsible for bringing down the Russian passenger airliner in Egypt, Russian President Vladimir Putin affirmed that "Russia's business in Syria is correct." Revenge for the deaths of the 224 passengers has now become a matter of national principle.
"The murder of our people in Sinai is among the bloodiest crimes in terms of numbers of victims. This will remain with us forever. But it will not prevent us from finding and punishing the criminals," said Putin, citing Article 51 of the UN Charter on a country's right to self-defence. Russia has announced an unprecedented reward of $50 million for information leading to the capture or death of the terrorists responsible for the tragedy.
Although Putin was careful in his use of the words "revenge," "chastise" and "punish" in reference to the terrorists, his press secretary Dmitry Peskov was less discreet, saying that the special services had received an order to "destroy" everyone involved in the terrorist act. Moreover, by citing Article 51 and by using a hard tone, Putin made Russians understand that the terrorists' "punishment" will be similar to the actions of the Israeli special services, which in their time hunted down the Palestinian terrorists who captured and murdered Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics in Munich and killed them without any judicial hassles.
Russia’s next steps
What consequences could Moscow's official recognition of the terrorist act have? It is unlikely that this will become a reason to immediately cut air communication with other countries (as was done with Egypt) that pose a significant terrorist threat. Several Russian parliamentarians have already voiced such thoughts. This extreme measure is likely only in case of a more dangerous escalation of terrorism. For now Russia’s federal air transport agency has recommended increase in levels of air security on flights to 47 countries, including some European countries and the United States.
Concerning Syria, the expected and announced increase in the number of strikes on terrorist targets will not lead to a Russian ground operation. A single anti-terrorist front will also not be formed, for now. Yet coordination between Moscow and the West will doubtless intensify after the terrorist acts in Paris and the G20 summit in Turkey, where the subject matter was discussed in a new context. Relations between Russia and the West in light of the new recognized threat are obviously better today than they were a year ago.
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