Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s intelligence services, announced today that investigators have concluded that the crash of the chartered Russian passenger plane over the Sinai several weeks ago was caused by homemade explosives. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed up the announcement with a bloody-minded speech: “[Our anti-terror campaign] must not only continue, it must be strengthened in such a way that the terrorists understand that retribution is inevitable”, he said. “We are going to look for [the terrorists] wherever they are hiding: we will find them in any place on earth and punish them.”
Evidence has been building—independently—for several weeks now that the plane was brought down by a bomb. At some point, then, it was probably going to be impossible for Putin to pretend there was any serious doubt about the cause of the crash. Still, the timing of the announcement is convenient, as it affords Russia the optics of standing firm alongside France as it continues its strikes against ISIS targets in Syria. French newspapers reported that Russia launched cruise missiles into Raqqa—ISIS’ headquarters—earlier today. And, late this morning, the Associated Press reported that a Russian ship positioned in the Mediterranean Sea has been ordered to cooperate with French military on Syria operations.
For the better part of the past year, Putin has been positioning Russia as a global power which cannot be ignored. He could not be happier to have countries like France—which has a GDP 30 percent greater than Russia’s—dialing up Moscow for much-needed assistance.