Competition between Washington and Moscow for a say in any peace deal is increasing the danger of a wider war starting by accident

Not for the first time there are dire warnings of a direct US-Russia confrontation in Syria that could escalate, in the worst case, into a third world war. What is going on has echoes of the proxy conflicts fought by the superpowers during the latter stages of the cold war, but with added elements of risk because the accepted rules and formal channels of communication to a large extent no longer exist.

The latest alarm sounded after US forces shot down a Syrian government warplane and Russia said it would in future treat any US plane flying west of the Euphrates as a potential target. Russia also announced that it was cutting the Russia-US hotline designed to prevent accidental clashes in the Syrian airspace. The US said it had acted in defence of opposition forces fighting Islamic State. Russia asked on what authority it was striking against the government of a foreign state.

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