Newspaper headlines: 'World on a knife edge' after Russian jet downed

It takes a powerful picture to adorn virtually every front page, but the image of a Russian fighter jet with flames streaming from its fuselage does just that on Wednesday.

The papers are also united in worry about what happens next - particularly to the fight against so-called Islamic State.

The Daily Star goes as far as to say "the world was on the brink of war last night" after Turkey shot down the Russian plane, while the Independent likens the situation to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But Richard Haass, in the Financial Times, thinks Cold War comparisons are "deceiving". "This is not yet a crisis, and if what took place is allowed to fester - or worse yet escalate - Isis will be the big winner," he writes.

Image copyright AP

Given that wider context, "Why would Turkey do this?" asks Patrick Cockburn, in the Independent. "Probably because Ankara has become increasingly furious... that Russian jets were routinely invading their airspace." Nevertheless, he says, "Turkey must have been eager to shoot down a Russian aircraft" because this latest incursion could only have lasted seconds.

The Sun says Vladimir Putin - "the Kremlin bully" - "cannot say he wasn't warned" against entering the airspace of other nations. But it goes on: "Trouble is, we need Russia alongside us against IS. So the West must urge Putin not to overreact."

The Daily Telegraph agrees the incident "bore the hallmarks of tragic inevitability" - given the increasing busyness of the skies over Syria and Russia's history of territorial "violations". But it also agrees with the Sun that the incident must not "escalate into a confrontation between Russia and Nato" because all sides must unite to defeat IS.

RAF at risk?

There's a degree of optimism from Simon Tisdall, in the Guardian, who thinks matters will stop at a war of words. Turkey depends on Russia for natural gas and trade, and that "economic dependence is one powerful reason, among several, why [Turkey's President] Erdogan will not want this latest incident to escalate", he writes.

Indeed, the Times thinks some form of economic punishment - the cancelling of trade contracts, for example - is the likely outcome.

Finally, the Daily Mirror sees a lesson for David Cameron, given his desire to involve UK aircraft in the anti-IS fight in Syria. He "has a responsibility to demonstrate that RAF pilots would not risk being shot out of the sky by pilots of other nations also fighting ISIS", the paper says.

Osborne's 'Big moment'

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The Russian jet story manages to push the big UK event on Wednesday - the Autumn Statement - into second place on the news agenda.

We know there'll be more money for the NHS, defence and housebuilding, and we're expecting less for the police, social care, further education and local government.

There'll no doubt be one or two surprises too - the proverbial rabbits from the hat - although the Daily Mail, for one, doesn't seem pleased at that prospect.

"Spare us any sham Father Christmas act, with bad news buried under gimmicks and repeats of past spending pledges..." it tells Mr Osborne. "Britain voted Tory in the knowledge that only by slimming down the state could we hope to bequeath prosperity to our children and grandchildren."

Young vs old

Daniel Finkelstein, in the Times, says Mr Osborne's cuts have been described as "a vicious and unnecessary ideological attack on the state" - an assertion he dismisses.

In fact, he argues, the government "is too respectful of sensitivities about state spending, not too disrespectful". Older people, for example, are again protected while the young bear the brunt, he says, but he acknowledges that going after pensioner benefits "would be politically very hard".

That sentiment is echoed by the Guardian's leader column. The NHS gets more money, it says, while its "biggest users", older people, "are also the most privileged in the tax and benefits system". The paper argues: "It may make more sense to give them less in cash in order to make sure that health and social care is there for them and everyone else who needs it."

On a slightly different note, John Rentoul, in the Independent, focuses on the significance of the statement for George Osborne's prime ministerial ambitions. "This is his big moment," he writes. "This is his chance to show Tory party members around the country that he is an election winner."


Eye-catching headlines

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Eye-catching hemlines

The height of fashion or a fatal blow to feminism? There's no escaping the debate in Wednesday's papers over the merits, or otherwise, of some very revealing dresses.

Image copyright Getty Images

Harriet Walker, in the Times, sees the "flesh one-upmanship" at the British Fashion Awards as an indicator of one's tribe. "The fashion crowd... wore black or Gucci", while "the celeb posse... barely wore anything at all". The pinnacle, she says, came with model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley - above left - who exposed "an amount of breast usually reserved for the shower".

"Has flashing the flesh gone too far?" asks the Daily Express. "It used to be the smiles that were flashed on the red carpet, which caught the attention. These days though, it seems there really isn't much left for the imagination to work on."

Jan Moir, in the Daily Mail, goes much further, arguing that such outfit choices "betray women". "These women are, to varying degrees, intelligent, talented, smart and admirable human beings... However, if you are repeatedly willing to reduce yourself to your mere physicality, don't you also demean yourself, too?"

While it might be the case that "freedom of expression must always advance feminism", Moir continues, "can they really expect this message to filter down correctly to impressionable fans?"

The Sun, for its part, eschews these academic arguments - even if it does refer to the debate as "the hottest scientific issue of the day" - and instead devises a helpful barometer by which a reader can judge the amount of flesh exposed.


What the commentators say?

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Media captionPolitical commentator Miranda Green and Chris Hope, chief political correspondent at the Daily Telegraph, review the newspapers on the BBC News Channel.

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