Wag the Dog? Russian Reaction to Syrian Strike Suggests Sudden Split in US-Russian Relations



Russia is mobilizing itself today in response to President Trump‘s decision to launch dozens of missiles into Syria last night.

The airstrike was conducted as a response to the chemical weapons attack that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched against his own people earlier this week. While some have accused Trump of a shrewd, “wag the dog” play to distract from the investigation into his ties to Russia, that country’s reaction Friday suggested otherwise.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already offered a personal response, insisting that Syria does not possess chemical weapons, and that the missile strike was an aggressive violation of international laws. Putin’s sentiments were echoed by Russian Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, who said that the development would cause Russian-American relations to further deteriorate.

Beyond the political responses, the Russian government has already started taking up countermeasures in light of the developing situation. Multiple reports indicate that the Russian Foreign Ministry would suspend a 2015 agreement that was drafted to help minimize the chances of midair clashes between Russian and American aircraft.

To this point, Russia has suspended a communications channel they set up with American pilots after several close calls years ago.

The Russian Defense Ministry also announced that they will help Syria improve their air defense system following the attack. A ministry spokesman told reporters that the goal was to help preserve crucial elements of Syrian infrastructure in addition to strengthening measures for aerial defense.

“It is regrettable that all these causes do more harm to the already damaged relations between Russia and the United States,” said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “Hope remains that these provocations will not entail irreversible effects.”

Separate government officials have also commented that the strike will throw a wrench into discussions with the U.S. about how to deal with terror attacks in the Middle East. Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev wrote online that a proposed Russian-American anti-terrorist coalition is now unlikely to ever be realized.

UPDATE – 12:45 a.m. EST: American and Russian officials have decided that they will keep their pilot hotline open to avoid plane collisions.

[image via screengrab]

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