Washington( CNN) The cool, calm, clear thinking that kept the NATO alliance intact as it weathered the Cold War with the Soviet Union has been shattered.A A

Decades of careful diplomacy and nail-biting inactivity during the potentially world-annihilating nuclear arms race of the 1950 s, 60 s and 70 s appears to have been sacrificed in a few brief seconds by Turkey.

In those moments when Turkish Air Force jets shot down a Russian fighter plane Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin was also given a strategic goal: Destabilize and divide NATO.

And more may have been sacrificed too. Any chance of a quick objective to the war in Syria seems now to have gone up in smoke.

Putin has been trying to undermine the unity of NATO for years. Whether it's been Russian planes flying in Baltic airspace, aging bombers buzzing the coast of Britain, the destabilization of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, he has needled NATO, testing its resolve and probing for division.

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