Putin: Metrojet crash was a terror attack

Vladimir Putin announced last night what most people assumed for the last couple of weeks — that the Metrojet charter carrying Russian tourists back home from Sharm el-Sheikh was brought down by a terrorist bomb. Putin called it the bloodiest act aimed at Russians in a long time, and pledged to track those responsible no matter where they were or how long it takes. “Vengeance,” Putin declared, “is inevitable”:

Russian investigators formally concluded that traces of explosive had been found in the wreckage. Putin’s government has put a $50 million bounty on the heads of those responsible for the terror attack. They also issued a demand that echoes the US position after 9/11:

Putin also said that Russia would invoke its right to self-defense under the United Nations charter and called on other countries to aid Russia in its search for the culprits.

“Anyone who tries to supply help to the criminals should know that the consequences for trying to harbor them will lie squarely on their shoulders,” he said.

In other words, this is the Bush doctrine — states that harbor terrorists will suffer the consequences of terrorism. It’s the only rational manner in which to deal with terrorism, as it forces states to police themselves, especially given the nature of these groups to attack superpowers. However, in this case it’s not much of a threat. ISIS has claimed responsibility, and they mainly operate in failed states with no effective government to punish (Libya), or in a state run by their own ally (Syria). Putin may be serious about tracking down these terrorists — in fact, he’s obviously deadly serious about it — but this last part is nothing but bluster.

Meanwhile, Egypt announced that it has detained two airport employees as part of its probe into the terror attack, the Washington Post reports:

Meanwhile, in Egypt, authorities Tuesday detained two employees of Sharm el-Sheikh airport in connection with the downing of the Russian jet, two security officials told the Reuters news agency. The doomed airliner was traveling from the Sinai resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg, Russia when it exploded in mid-air and crashed into the desert.

“Seventeen people are being held, two of them are suspected of helping whoever planted the bomb on the plane at Sharm el-Sheikh airport,” one of the officials said.

Egypt has still not yet confirmed that a bomb was responsible, saying it wants to wait until all investigations are complete.

It’s getting pretty late in the day now to drag heels on the way to that conclusion. One can understand the reluctance in Egypt in admitting that terrorists penetrated their airport security, but until they do and fix the problem, no one’s going to want to fly into or through Egypt. The military government will have to eventually bite the bullet and admit their failures before beginning the process of regaining the trust of international airlines.

In the meantime, Russia plans to go after the perpetrators, which sets up an interesting moment. Will Putin reprioritize his desire to prop up Assad and go after ISIS, or will he just issue threats while sticking to his game plan in Syria? Russia may not have the resources to do both at the same time, especially with oil prices dropping so low. The next few weeks may be very telling for Putin and his pledge to wreak vengeance on the terrorists responsible for the Metrojet bombing.

Update: At least for the moment, Putin is as good as his word: