Launching 25 bombers on one mission is an impressive undertaking.... America’s bombers often sortie alone or in pairs, only rarely coming together in large numbers. Seven B-52s flew together to launch cruise missiles at Iraq in the early hours of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and a group of eight of the giant warplanes repeated the feat on the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003.The comparison is a little off, since there were 504 sorties during the opening phase of OIF 1. Even if only eight flew together at one time, we fielded dozens of heavy bombers in that campaign in a sustained manner.
Nevertheless, it clearly shows that Russia wants to make a point -- and not just with ISIS, which couldn't take down far less capable aircraft than they deployed. They're wanting to make a point about the improvement of Russian military capabilities, which they have also been doing in Syria, where their naval gunnery has been far better than we knew they could manage. Putin's investments have been paying off, and so the real message is for us: if he's capable of this, what other cards does he have that he isn't showing?
The lesson we're meant to draw is that we're better off working with him than against him. Accepting clear Russian (and Iranian and Chinese) zones of hegemony is the deal he wants in return for this cooperation against terrorists like ISIS: give up on the idea of humanity living according to what President Obama calls "our universal values," and accept that large sections of humanity are going to live under the domination of very different systems.
It's a deal I suspect the world will prove only too eager to accept. We'll help put the Iron Curtain back up, as long as they promise to keep a heavy hand on those living on their side of it.