BREAK POINT SYRIA. Russia’s recent moves in Syria have made this put up or shut up time for the United States, The Washington Post reports, citing a growing number of experts within and outside the administration. Putin’s moves to bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appear to be working, Russian strikes against areas where the Islamic State does not have a foothold are going unchecked, and if the pattern continues, the United States is going to have a difficult time expanding its air campaign against the Islamic State unencumbered – not to mention have trouble promoting its view that the only post-war Syria that can survive is one that incorporates the leadership of moderate, non-Assad groups.

BUFFERING EUROPE. If Russia can change the game in Syria so quickly, what is to prevent it from running similarly roughshod over Europe? Hopefully a projection of Western force, the New York Times reports, as NATO leaders are stepping up military exercises, deploying new troops to eastern European border states with Russia and generally conducting the most significant reinforcement of defense systems since the end of the Cold War, according to NATO’s secretary general. Fears of a Russian incursion into the parts of Europe formerly behind the Iron Curtain have been percolating ever since Russia moved to annex Crimea, and have only been ramped up by Moscow fast and widespread air campaign in Syria, which is providing support for a ground offensive.

APOLOGY FOR AFGHANISTAN. President Obama apologized to Doctors Without Borders on Wednesday, The Washington Post reports, but that may not put an end to the organization’s call for an independent investigation to determine whether there should be criminal charges filed over the strike that killed 22 people in a hospital in Kunduz – a city recently taken over by the Taliban that U.S.-backed forces have been trying to retake, with the help of U.S. bombardments. There were different reasons given in the days after the strike about what the purpose behind it had been, and there are remaining questions as to whether the strike violated the United States’ own rules of engagement in Afghanistan.