Daniel Greenfield: THE RUSSIA-TURKEY MESS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE US DOESN'T LEAD

The story of the Turkish downing of a Russian jet is still developing, but the Russians have a history of testing American and British airspace in very aggressive ways.

Two Russian bombers intercepted by U.S. fighter jets off the California coast on July Fourth could be seen as having raised a metaphorical middle finger to the United States.

"Good morning, American pilots. We are here to greet you on your Fourth of July Independence Day," they said, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

U.S. fighters also intercepted two other Russian Tu-95 bombers the same day off the southern coast of Alaska. In both instances, American fighter jets flew up to intercept the Russian bombers, and the aircraft turned away.

The Americans and the British didn't do anything about it. Turkey, whose megalomaniacal Islamist leader Erdogan is on a mission to rebuild the Ottoman Empire, opened fire.

Russia and Turkey are on opposite sides of the Syrian Civil War, with Turkey backing Sunni Muslim Jihadists and Russia backing Shiite Muslim Jihadists. Unfortunately for us Turkey is also a member of NATO and ran right to a NATO meeting to talk about the downing of the jet.

This mess is yet another reminder that Turkey should not be in NATO, let alone the EU, but if Russian jets were in Turkish airspace and refused warnings to leave, then legally Turkey may be in the right.

Russia set out to show how impotent America was by humiliating Turkey. Instead Turkey showed how impotent Putin is. For all the Russian propaganda about how Putin is going to destroy ISIS, his response was mild. But in the real world, Russia's power in the region is limited. Certainly too limited to get into an actual war with the maniac in Istanbul. Let alone NATO.

Putin tried to call Erdogan's bluff. Instead Erdogan called his bluff.

Russia will no doubt find a way to get its revenge, but it isn't dealing with the United States here, but with an eastern mentality that is all too good at playing vendetta and dragging the other side into a quagmire of retaliation which never ends. And unlike the Americans, the Russians know it.

The underlying disaster is that the United States is caught in a tug of war over which it has no control. Obama is leading from behind while acting as if he's running the show. In fact he's in the middle of a vicious game in which the various sides, all of which support Islamic terrorists, are going at each other.

And American soldiers are in the middle of it.

In the worst case scenario, Turkey will actually succeed in dragging us into a war with Russia. That's unlikely. But even in the best case scenario, we've become the UN, standing around in the middle of a battlefield and waiting for the other players to tell us what to do.

This puts American soldiers on the ground in serious danger. It puts us in serious danger.

Candidates need to stop calling for No Fly Zones or troops on the ground. Not unless they have a much better plan than just, "Stick some soldiers there and wait for the shooting to stop". Because that's Obama's plan and it neglects the fact that there are major players here, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, colliding on the battlefield here and all of them are a lot more ruthless than we are.

That's the message Turkey sent by shooting down the Russian jet. Putin will have to find some way to show that he's equally ruthless or lose face. Meanwhile Obama is dropping leaflets 45 minutes before he bombs ISIS to give them time to escape.

This isn't a game. It's a bloodsport. This latest incident reminds us of that. Both sides play the soft power game, but they have teeth. We don't have teeth anymore and if we don't lead, then we're going to end up following.