On Friday, the Kremlin lashed out at Donald Trump’s decision to initiate an America military response to the chemical attack that killed droves of civilians earlier this week. President Bashar al-Assad had authorized the attack on Syrian citizens.
President Donald Trump expressed outrage at the chemical attack and proceeded to turn American foreign policy objectives in Syria to focus on Assad instead. Many have labeled the new approach as an active move towards regime change.
Former President Barack Obama’s approach to Syria’s war has been widely criticized as too soft, choosing to support Russia in counterterrorism efforts against the Islamic State (ISIS) instead of a direct attempt to unseat Assad. Critics also condemned Obama’s failure to uphold “red lines,” which is a weakness Trump has this week exploited to justify America’s strategy shift, as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced in a press briefing this week.
“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world. These heinous acts are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.”
Donald Trump ordered the first of what might be many counteroffensive assaults with a blitz of 59 Tomahawk missiles targeting a Syrian military base. This direct attack on Bashar al-Assad’s regime is the first American intervention in the relationship between allies, Russia and Assad.
On Friday morning, a spokesman for the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed President Vladimir Putin’s anger at America’s actions and noted that it had placed even greater pressure on the already strained America-Russia relations.
“President Putin considers the American strikes against Syria an aggression against a sovereign government in violations of the norms of international law, and under a far-fetched pretext. This step by Washington is causing significant damage to Russian-American relations, which are already in a deplorable state.”
Putin has triggered the process of withdrawing from an agreement between Russia and America that was aimed at preventing aircraft accidents while sharing Syrian airspace. Russia has placed forces on the groud, a move America has so far avoided, and has positioned air-defense technology that is capable of bringing down American aircraft and missiles.
The terms of the America-Russia agreement, signed in 2015, provided for the exchange of valuable flight information which attempted to avoid mid-air collisions between military aircraft. The importance of this agreement could not be overstated considering the sheer amount of military air traffic in the skies above Syria.
The Kremlin is particularly concerned about developments as Russian troops have merged with Syrian forces, thus creating the possibility that Russian soldiers have been lost. Russian officials have requested an urgent meeting with members of the United Nations Security Council, citing America’s attack on a Syrian military base as a direct contravention of international law.
Captain Jeff Davis from the Pentagon issued a statement that noted America’s military planning included measures to avoid as many Russian casualties as possible.
However, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has rejected the notion that America’s attack was a retaliatory response to Assad’s chemical bombings. It does not bode well for Trump’s attempts to form a beneficial allegiance with Russia and could lead to allegedly damaging data the Kremlin has on Trump to be released into the public domain.
Apart from the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 American elections, the U.S. and Russia have been at odds since the start of the Cold War. Russian-American relations have not improved and suffered particular damage after the Kremlin decided to invade and annex Crimea and the Ukraine.
Of great concern is the fact that any attempts from Russia and Assad to retaliate to Trump’s attack could result in American aircraft being shot out of the sky. If this were to happen, America would be dragged into an all-out war in Syria with the risk of scores of American casualties and will direct focus away from the fight against ISIS.
[Featured Image by Valentina Petrova/AP Images]