Warren also dismissed criticism that the failure to get the planes to Maliki was slowed by Pentagon red tape. "We don't believe our process is any slower and more deliberate than it needs to be," he said.
This delay allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin - who has historically shown little interest in Iraq - to step in. Putin ordered 12 Sukhoi Su-25 combat fighter jets to Iraq, with five arriving on Monday.
Read MoreIran and the US: Can frenemies unite over Iraq?
The plan was for Iraqi pilots to fly the planes. However, most Iraqi fighter pilots aren't trained to fly the Sukhoi; they were trained to fly F-16s. Russia has now sent pilots to Iraq to fly the Sukhoi, according to reports.
This creates an uncomfortable environment, because American planes still patrol Iraqi airspace. It's not out of the question that Russian and American jets could confront each other in the skies above northern Iraq.
The arrival of Russian jets also represents the latest example of Russia's refusal to confront the U.S. directly. In essence, Russia has started a proxy Cold War with the United States, opposing American interests around the world, most notably in Iran and Ukraine.
Read MoreIraq battle rages on, alarming world powers
Iraq is the latest confrontation.
"It is apparent the Putin government is looking at any opportunity not to confront the U.S. directly but to find openings to demonstrate that it is still a power that can play the game," Edward Goldberg, a professor in international political economy at Baruch College, said in an interview. "In some respects it is a game of grudges – 'you can throw us out of the G8 but I can still make life difficult for you.'"