How the incident in Syria changed the relationship between Russia and the United States

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Three Tweets of Trump

President of the United States Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon, Moscow time, published in his Twitter account a series of reports in which he directly threatened Moscow to send missiles to Syria. In the first message, the American president wrote: “Russia promises to shoot down any missiles fired at Syria. Prepare, Russia, they will fly. They will be good, new and “smart”! “” We should not support an animal that kills its citizens with gas and enjoys it! “He explained .

In the second tweet, Trump changed rhetoric, stating that Russian-American relations were going through a worse period, even if compared to the times of the Cold War, and added that there was no reason for such a bad relationship. “Will we stop the arms race?” Trump asked. In the next message, he explained that relations between the countries are deteriorating because of a fake investigation about Russia’s interference in the American elections.

The investigation is conducted by the special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Since the beginning of the week, the American media referring to sources in the administration of the US president have reported about Trump’s desire to fire the special prosecutor. Trump insists that his election campaign has nothing to do with Russian interference.

Three tweets of Trump: what is behind the threats of the US president

On the severe consequences for Syria, Trump warned since Sunday, when non-governmental Syrian organizations reported the use of chemical weapons in the city of Duma, in a suburb of Damascus . The investigation of the incident by international experts has not yet been carried out, however, the US president does not doubt that government forces have used chemical weapons against civilians. Russia Trump considers responsible, as Moscow provides military support to Syrian President Bashar Assad. In the evening of April 11, Moscow time, 48 hours have elapsed, which Trump took to work out a response for Syria.

Crisis of a new type

Russian officials of Trump’s proposal were met with skepticism. The Kremlin “does not participate in Twitter-diplomacy, ” said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian president (quoted by Interfax). In Russia, he added, they advocate a serious approach to the situation around Syria and urge to refrain from steps that could “harm” the state of affairs in that country.

“Trump says that we must stop the arms race, but we must stop everything, including blaming Russia for all deadly sins and using fake news to make global decisions,” RBC First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Jabarov said.

The next round of confrontation between Russia and the United States because of the allegedly used chemical weapons in Syria, has intensified the relations between the countries, states politicians and experts. “Relations between the two countries are not just in the worst state, as Trump stated: they came to the most dangerous point. In many respects this is a logical consequence of that spiral of confrontation that has been twisting for the past two years and has acquired the most grotesque forms in the last few months, “says Maxim Suchkov, an expert of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs. The difference in the intonations of Trump’s tweets suggests that he is not entirely sure whether the power solution to the Syrian problem is optimal, believes Suchkov.

Trump’s rhetoric is as inconsistent as it is reckless, while Trump’s Twitter messages are more aimed at his electorate, James Churr, an expert at the London Chatham House Institute, notes in a conversation with RBC. Relations between the US and Russia are indeed at a very low level now, but they are no worse than during the Cold War: the very situation of “cold” confrontation in the past is different from the current one, says Geoffrey Edmonds, a researcher at the Center for Naval Analysis and the Kennan Institute. The Cold War was largely an ideologically conditioned conflict between the two powers, stresses Edmonds. In his opinion, the current conflict not only has nothing to do with ideology, but is not limited to the participation of only two powers in it.

“What we have today is a relationship of growing discord and antagonism. The Cold War was worse in terms of antagonism, but the current situation is perhaps more dangerous, since it can lead to conflict, “Sherr said.

Where missiles will fly

The statements of Donald Trump and the European leaders related to a possible chemical attack in Guta practically repeat their last year’s statements after the incident in Khan Sheikhun. Then, on April 4, 2017, there were reports that the Syrian city was fired using chemical weapons (after an investigation, the OPCW confirmed that it actually used sarin or its analogue of nerve-paralytic action). Two days later, on April 6, Trump announced the possibility of military measures against Syria. On the night of April 7, two American destroyers Porter and Ross attacked Tomahawksat the government airbase of Shayrat in Homs province, from where, it was believed in Washington, and a plane with chemical munitions took off. The main purpose of the attack was the fleet and the infrastructure of the base, but as a result, several servicemen and civilians were killed. At the attack, according

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o the Syrian Human Rights Monitoring Center (SOHR), killed at least 72 people, including 20 children and 17 women.

Trump attack: what is known about the US missile strike at the airbase in Syria
At the same time Trump accused Russia of supporting Assad, and he, as now, was called an “animal”. “If Russia did not speak in favor of this animal [Assad] and did not return it [to the political arena], there would be no problem,” he said in an interview with FOX Business, published April 12 last year.

The American analytical portal Stratfor writes that, most likely, the US is attacked by objects associated with the Syrian chemical program, in particular, the Dumayr, Marge Rukhail and Mezzeh air bases (located in the province of Damascus). The missiles can be launched from the destroyer Donald Cook – the ship headed for the Eastern Mediterranean on Monday, April 9, after calling at the Cypriot port of Larnaca, the Washington Post reported . On April 10, the destroyer approached the Syrian Tartus, where the base of the logistics of the Russian Navy, a distance of 100 km, wrote Turkish newspaper Hurryet.

“Since there used to be a precedent when Trump attacked Syria after the alleged hematoca, there is a high probability that Trump will do it again, especially given that he announced his intention to strike Syria publicly,” Edmonds does not doubt in his military response.

Cosmetic blows

If Washington applies the “military force against Syria, where Russian troops were deployed at the request of the legitimate government of the country,” this “can lead to serious consequences,” the Russian representative to the organization Vasily Nebenzia warned in the evening of April 9 at the UN Security Council meeting. In fact, the same Russian ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, said to the Lebanese TV channel Al-Manar : “If there is an American strike, we can point to President Putin’s statement, as well as the head of the Russian General Staff, that these missiles will be shot down and even the sources of launching missiles” . At the same time, the ambassador did not specify whether this applies to all missiles fired over the territory of Syria, or whether this will be the answer only in the event of a threat to the Russian military.

Most likely, the US military will strike only on Syrian targets where there are no Russian soldiers, said US military expert, an analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis Samuel Bendett. He recalls that on April 7 last year, the US warned Russia about the impending strike and, possibly, if Russian specialists were on the base, they managed to evacuate.

Military expert Colonel of the Reserve Andrey Payusov considers the US statements about the preparations for the attacks on Syria “escalating the situation” through diplomatic channels. “If the blows are – it’s purely” cosmetic, “according to secondary, pre-announced objects. Although now there are 33 NATO ships in the Mediterranean Sea, and their total combat potential is 145 Tomahawk missiles, there will not be a big collision, “the military expert said. According to him, “muscle flexion” is a continuation of the US policy to restore the shaken influence of the United States in the Middle East because of Russia’s successful actions.

Probably, just now there is a work on the selection of objects that could be hit without hurting the Russian military and their facilities, believes Vasily Kashin, a senior researcher at the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics at the Higher School of Economics. “I’m not sure that in case of attacks on Syrian targets we will defend Syria itself from the United States. The technology and people that Russia has deployed in Syria are designed to cover our bases and fight Islamists, and not to fight the United States, “the expert explained.

The Americans will not intentionally bomb on Russian targets, but Russian servicemen can potentially suffer from the attacks by Tomahawks, if the US decides to strike in the southwestern de-escalation zone, where the positions of the Iranians are in close contact with the positions of the Russian military, said the expert of the Russian Council for Foreign Affairs Anton Mardasov. “Either if the US wants to hit targets in the Euphrates Valley area, where the Russian military recently built a bridge across the river, they could potentially catch Russians who are still there,” the expert said.

It is impossible to completely rule out the clashes between Russia and the United States in Syria, experts warn. “The situation is now much worse than at any time during the Cold War, and there is a real threat of war, which, quite possibly, may begin because of some accidental clash. This is one of the most dangerous moments in the history of mankind, “warns professor of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent, Richard Sakwa.

“Direct military clashes between the US, its allied forces and Russia no longer seem unthinkable,” adds Sherr.

Translated from RBC.

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