Beijing: Russian President Vladimir Putin, who termed the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey as a stab in the back, would be under pressure to make Turkey pay a price for its act and his personal prestige and Russia's tough image will be tested, a state-run Chinese daily has said.
A Russian Su-24 fighter jet was shot down on Tuesday by Turkey near the Turkish-Syria border. Turkey claimed responsibility, saying the warplane had violated Turkish airspace and the move was "within engagement rules". Russia insisted the plane was in Syrian airspace on a mission to strike at the Islamic State targets.
Vladimir Putin called the downing "a stab in the back delivered by accomplices of the terrorists".
An editorial "Putin faces tough choice after jet downed" in the Global Times on Wednesday said this could be "one of the most critical moments since the end of the Cold War".
"Its potential severity and associated risks could be a climax of geopolitical crises over the past decades. This is the first time that Russia has suffered such big losses," it added.
The daily said: "Putin is faced with a choice that carries more risk than when he considered whether or not to annex Crimea. After calling Turkey's move 'a stab in the back' for Russia, he apparently would be under more pressure to make Turkey pay a price for the downing and his personal prestige and Russia's tough image will be tested."
The daily went on to say that "Moscow can retaliate against Turkey in many ways, but this means it will face a Cold War-style confrontation with NATO. Turkey didn't seem to rush to this decision".
"Ankara must be well aware of what it means to shoot down a Russian warplane. Next it will be careful enough not to give Russia a chance to down one of its warplanes in retaliation. Moscow probably has to cross the Syrian-Turkish border to implement retaliation, which however risks escalating military confrontation," said the editorial.
The daily said that if Russia strikes down a Turkish warplane in Turkish airspace, or strikes a Turkish air base, it will touch NATO's nerve.
"If NATO takes no action, its pledge to protect smaller alliance members will be discredited. However, if NATO adopts substantial action toward Russia, Europe will confront an unprecedented turbulent situation not seen since World War II."
It added: "We can sense the antagonism from the incident as NATO's eastward expansion triggered Russian countermeasures while Russia's strategic reaction prompts NATO to incrementally intend to constrain Russia. The US and Russia are clearly aware that their every reaction will send signals about the future order of Europe and the Middle East."
The editorial said that currently the most burning issue in the world is to counter terrorism and it hoped that "peace can prevail".