Until last Tuesday, America and Britain were the only countries with a proven ability to fire cruise missiles at land targets from submarines.
Then a salvo of missiles burst through the placid surface of the Mediterranean and soared into a cloudless sky, demonstrating that Russia had become the third member of this elite club.
The cruise missiles launched from a Kilo-class submarine provided visible proof of how President Vladimir Putin is using his intervention in Syria as a showcase for Russian military prowess.
Advanced warplanes – never previously used in combat – are being dispatched into Syrian skies, the best tanks in the Russian army are fighting on the ground, and flights of cruise missiles are soaring overhead.
Yet the Syrian rebels on the receiving end have no air defences and precious little advanced weaponry. There is no obvious military reason for why Russia would employ the heaviest sledgehammers in its arsenal to crack some relatively small nuts.