Reprinted from Counterpunch
"You can pay me now or pay me later" is an American expression that means that you can either deal with a particular problem immediately at minimal expense or wait until the problem gets really bad and the costs go through the roof. This is the message that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to get across to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for more than a week. In fact, the whole smear campaign connecting Erdogan to the ISIS oil smuggling racket was designed to shame Erdogan into "doing the right thing" and apologizing for the downing of its Su-24 warplane. What Putin wants, is quite simple. He wants Erdogan to admit that what he did was wrong and take the necessary steps to make amends.
What Putin is doing is no different than what any parent would do if their son was throwing sand in the face of some other child on the playground He would take little Johnny by the arm, tell him to stop what he was doing, and make him apologize to the person he hurt. This basic learning experience provides the moral foundation for broader human interaction. If people are allowed to simply run roughshod over others -- even to the point where they are willing to kill them to achieve their political objectives -- then none of us are ever going to be safe. So Erdogan needs to face the music, apologize, and take his medicine like a man.
But, of course, an apology doesn't change the fact that a man is dead. And not only a man, but a Russian soldier. That means something. That puts the onus on Putin to seek justice for a hero who died while fighting for his country. Americans don't understand this because America is always at war. In fact, American history is one long 240-year carnage-generating bloodbath from Bunker Hill to Baghdad, from Wounded Knee to Haditha. As a result, America has to conceal its casualties from public view to the extent that even photographing the flag-draped coffins delivered to Dover Airbase has been banned. That's how Sparta prevents the people from seeing the enormous costs of its so called interventions.
Russia is different. Russians don't like war, and war is not a permanent feature in Russian life. So when a pilot is killed in action, the entire country grieves which is exactly what happened when the remains of Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov were returned from Syria to Moscow. It was a day of national mourning.
Now the ball is in Putin's court. Now it is incumbent on him, as a responsible and moral leader, to seek justice for Peshkov, which means that, first of all, he must persuade Erdogan [that he] must acknowledge his mistake and apologize. Secondly, there has to be some tangible effort to make amends. It's Putin's responsibility to demand accountability, not revenge. And that's what he's doing. Putin has already stated in blunt terms that he is NOT going to let this thing slide. There will be payback, that much is certain.
In order to understand how strongly Putin feels about the matter and, also, how strongly he feels about Russia's mission in Syria, here's an excerpt from the State of the State speech he gave just this week:
"Russia has demonstrated immense responsibility and leadership in the fight against terrorism. Russian people have supported these resolute actions. The firm stance taken by our people stems from a thorough understanding of the absolute danger of terrorism, from patriotism, high moral qualities and their firm belief that we must defend our national interests, history, traditions and values.
"The international community should have learned from the past lessons. The historical parallels in this case are undeniable. Unwillingness to join forces against Nazism in the 20th century cost us millions of lives in the bloodiest world war in human history.
"Today we have again come face to face with a destructive and barbarous ideology, and we must not allow these modern-day dark forces to attain their goals." (Russian President Vladimir Putin's Annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly, St George Hall, Moscow)
Does that sound like a man who is waffling about his commitment in Syria? Does that sound like a man who has any reservations at all about the moral righteousness of his cause?
Again, Russia is not America. The war on terror is not a scam to enhance presidential powers, to curtail civil liberties, to perpetuate America's wars around the planet, and to reduce the public to quivering, malleable, propagandized imbeciles wailing for the protection of the all-powerful state. Russia's approach to terrorism is entirely different. It's constructive and, more important, it's rational. Putin doesn't divide terrorists into good terrorists and bad terrorists, moderate terrorist's and radical terrorists. If they're terrorists, they're terrorists regardless of their pedigree and regardless of whether they serve the geopolitical objectives the state or not. They're enemy and they're going to be killed. End of story. Here's how Putin summed it up:
"The terrorists must not be given refuge anywhere. There must be no double standards. No contacts with terrorist organizations. No attempts to use them for self-seeking goals. No criminal business with terrorists.
"We know who are stuffing pockets in Turkey and letting terrorists prosper from the sale of oil they stole in Syria. The terrorists are using these receipts to recruit mercenaries, buy weapons and plan inhuman terrorist attacks against Russian citizens and against people in France, Lebanon, Mali and other states. We remember that the militants who operated in the North Caucasus in the 1990s and 2000s found refuge and received moral and material assistance in Turkey. We still find them there." (Russian President Vladimir Putin's Annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly, St George Hall, Moscow)
So Putin has known all along that Erdogan's group of fanatical Islamic zealots were overseeing a vast criminal enterprise, but he kept his mouth shut.