When President Trump ordered the launch of 59 tomahawk missiles into a Syrian military air base on Thursday night, he may have also (intentionally?) torpedoed all rosy feelings between himself and the Kremlin. This won’t stop the ongoing investigations into Trump-Russia ties by the FBI and Congress. Still, the immediate (and natural) response was to wonder how Russia would react to Trump’s strike — especially given the warm feelings between Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who thanked Putin last year for “helping to liberate Aleppo” — and we didn’t have to wait long.
CNN reports that Vladimir Putin has swiftly condemned Trump’s strike as an “act of aggression.” As such, Victor Ozerov (head of Russia’s Defense Committee in the Federation Council) warned that this strike may “shut down” military cooperation between Russia and the United States. Ozerov also stated that Trump’s actions will “undermine the efforts in the fight against terrorism” in Syria. The Washington Post adds that Russia has already “pull[ed] out of a pact with Washington to share information about warplane missions over Syria,” which may hamper U.S. military ops in the country that have included airstrikes on the Islamic State.
Clearly, Trump meant for this strike — framed as a response to the deadly chemical strike (via the nerve agent Sarin) against Syrian civilians earlier this week — to send a message, and it has been characterized as a “symbolic” move. This conclusion arrives after word that Russia received warning (even before Congress knew) of the impending attack. In turn, Russia must have warned Syria, whose military was able to largely evacuate the air base before the strike.
By the way, many Trump tweets that were critical of Obama’s actions in Syria have come back to haunt the current president. Here’s a relevant one.
In the wake of the chemical attack, Trump placed blame squarely upon Bashar al-Assad. Like Russia, Syria has lashed out at the U.S., and the Washington Post relays unconfirmed reports by Syrian state-run news outlet SANA, which claims that the airstrike killed at least nine civilians (four of them children) in close proximity to the air base.
We’ll provide continuing coverage of the unfolding events in Syria, which will (obviously) present complications for the upcoming scheduled visit to Russia by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.