It seemed like a Cold War episode. A T-90, one of Russia’s most advanced battle tanks, was hit by a US-made “tank killer” – a tube-launched, wire-guided BGM-71 TOW missile.

The tank withstood a lightning-like explosion without igniting, and one of the crew members hastily got out of the turret.

 The episode may have pitted weapons produced by Cold-War rivals, but the scene took place in Aleppo in February. The tank was operated by Syrian government forces, and the TOW was launched by Hawks Mountain Brigade, an opposition group that got the TOW via Saudi Arabia or directly from the CIA, a military analyst said.

The whole episode was “a chance to see what happens when state-of-the-art hardware from two major world powers violently collide in the Middle East”, Robert Beckhusen wrote for the National Interest magazine.

It was also a perfect commercial for Russian arms producers.