President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was very clear and blunt when he asked at a press conference on Wednesday evening who had invited the Russians into Ukraine. "The Russians when they were entering Syria said they were invited into the country by the Syrian regime, so if this is a fact then the Russians should say who invited them to occupy Ukraine... Where does all this fit regarding international law? This is the logic of ‘I am strong so I am justified.' Here there is no justification." Erdoğan was speaking at a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Proshenko.
Erdoğan stood up and talked like a leader and said what he had to say openly and he is on record.
So what did Russian President Vladimir Putin do? He hit back, but as usual he did not speak up on the record and had his press quote him throwing a threat at Turkey.
According to Russian press reports, Putin told a group Ukrainians who have cooperated with him in the occupation of Ukraine that he will teach the Turks a lesson and that he will finish off what the Tsarist Russia could not do and turn Istanbul into a Christian city and control the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits.
Erdoğan and Proshenko held officials talks in Ankara on Wednesday and later Erdoğan said, "Turkey has never recognized the annexation of the Crimea [by Russia]and will never do in the future. Turkey will continue to support the territorial integrity of Ukraine that also includes Crimea and will continue to back the political integrity of this country."
Of course all these would send President Putin through the roof and it seems that is what exactly happened. Putin was clearly furious and made his threat to occupy Istanbul as well as the Turkish straits. But he has done it in a rather cowardly manner putting out the threat through his press so that he can always deny he ever uttered these words.
Putin has to face the realities of the world. He has to come to terms that his Russian empire is nowhere near the Tsarist Russia, his economy is in shambles, he has no place in Ukraine or Syria and he cannot threaten a NATO member country like this.
Turkey can cope with the Russian menace on its own as it has done when the great world powers tried to invade our straits in World War I and were dealt a heavy defeat. But Moscow has to remember that neither NATO nor the United States will stand for jeopardizing the straits, which are the territories of the western Alliance. Turkey is no Ukraine or Syria.
Turks see the Russians as friends. Turks have no hard feelings toward the Russian people despite the fact that Putin is helping the PKK create violence in eastern and southeastern Turkey.
What is expected of Putin is to digest the downing of the Russian plane as a flop that he himself created and thus forge proper relations with Turkey. Just at a time when the international community was trying to encourage rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow, such threats only show Putin still has a long way to go to understand that today's world is no longer the world that the Tsarist Russia lived in. A war will be harmful for Turkey but it will be fatal for a Russian federation that is already being kept together through threats and tyranny.