“The Russian forces now in place make it very, very obvious that any kind of no-fly zone on the Libyan model imposed by the US and allies is now impossible, unless the coalition is actually willing to shoot down Russian aircraft,” says Justin Bronk, research analyst at RUSI, the military think-tank.
“The Russian’s are not playing ball at deconfliction — they are just saying, ‘keep out of our way’. The coalition’s operations in Syria will be vastly more complex from a risk assessment point of view and from a mission planning point of view.”
Even surveillance missions above Syria by US and coalition aircraft will be complicated. One Nato air force officer said the organisation expected to start seeing the kind of “cold war tactics” and brinkmanship Russia has recently been using in the Baltics. Pilots will be briefed to expect powerful Russian radar systems “lighting up” their aircraft in shows of strength, he said.Maybe it should have been done sooner, but now is clearly too late. Professor Dan Drezner, in a column headed "The 10 things that worry me about Russian air strikes in Syria," lists "A military clash between Russian and American air forces over Syrian airspace" for all but two of the ten worries. He's right. That's how wars spiral out of control -- and we don't ever want that between nuclear powers.