The Russian defense ministry said that one of its destroyers in the Aegean Sea had to fire small arms warning shots Sunday at a Turkish fishing vessel to prevent a collision.
The ministry said its guided missile destroyer Smetlivy was unable to make radio contact with the approaching Turkish seiner, a fishing boat equipped with nets, and it failed to respond to visual signals and flares. Moscow said the destroyer fired the warning shots when the fishing boat was 600 meters away. It quickly changed course and passed within 540 meters.
Moscow said it summoned the Turkish military attache over the incident.
“Fishing vessel” is often a nice disguise for what is actually a spy ship. The Soviets were notorious for sending “trawlers” bristling with radio listening gear to international waters just off American shores.
So were the Turks spying on the Russian destroyer? It doesn’t seem unlikely. Were the Russians aggressively defending their “turf” near Syria? That doesn’t seem unlikely either.
Syria has drawn in forces from all over — some, like those from Turkey and Russia, with long histories of bitter relations. So there’s going to be friction.
That friction probably suits Vladimir Putin just fine. His strategic vision seems to be to grab what he can, and sow chaos everywhere else. Chaos is something of an geopolitical equalizer for a country with Russia’s economic and demographic weaknesses. It’s impossible for the West to put out every fire Putin lights, but the effort sure keeps us busy. It also helps to expose political and military weaknesses in NATO.
Eventually though — and this exposes Putin’s weakness as a strategic thinker — one of those fires may eventually going to burn Russia, and badly.