Truth is the first casualty of war and in the downing of the Russian Su-24 jet on Tuesday at least one of the parties involved is lying. Either the Turkish government, which said two of its jets warned the supposed intruder in its airspace at least 10 times in five minutes, or Russian President Vladimir Putin, who insists the jet never left Syrian airspace.
That leaves Berlin caught between a rock and a hard place as it seeks good relations with both parties involved in the current crisis.
The incident in the Hatay border region between Syria and Turkey immediately prompted a flurry of incendiary responses.
“We reserve the right to take any necessary measure in reaction to border infringements,” said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Mr. Putin, speaking on Russian television, warned of “serious consequences” for what he termed a stab in the back administered by “the accomplices of terrorists.”
In general, the events unfolding in Syria have placed the German government in a quandary. It threatens Berlin’s role as mediator between the West and Mr. Putin, and also endangers the desired alliance between the main powers against the terrorists of Islamic State.