The infamous red line drawn in the sand between U.S. and Russia has been crossed. In his brief address to the nation last night, President Trump elucidated upon his targeted airstrike as a response to the chemical weapons assault on Syrian citizens by President Bashar al-Assad. Reverently, President Trump decreed, “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
Tactical success aside, where does this military action leave U.S. relations with Russia? We understand what prompted this decisive strike against Syria. What is in question is the immediate response from Russia to the U.S. airstrikes, and what that may mean for diplomatic relations with Russia moving forward.
The outlook is not promising. In support of al-Assad, Russia immediately suspended an agreement with the U.S. that was created to prevent in-air collisions over Syrian airspace. American and Russian pilots have credited the ‘deconfliction line’ with keeping them safe in the heavily military traveled corridor. The memorandum, of tenuous cooperation, in sharing information has been shredded; clearly putting American military efforts in the region, in intensified harm’s way.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a vocal and staunch supporter of al-Assad, called the attacks ‘illegal’, violating international law, which seriously damaged U.S.-Russian relations. The Kremlin immediately condemned the strikes as an ‘act of aggression’ with potentially dire consequences:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meanwhile said Moscow would demand an explanation from the US over the air strikes.
Speaking at a news conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Mr Lavrov described the attack as “an act of aggression with an invented pretext”, adding that he hoped the “provocation” would not lead to irreparable damage to Russia’s ties with the US.
Speculation is high that urgent meetings at the United Nations are being requested by Moscow officials to address the attack—claiming it was, in effect, an assault against a U.N. state. If an emergency meeting with the U.N. is imminent, perhaps it will be in hopes of quelling any further escalation between the two super powers.
The uncertainty and provocation of this attack by al-Assad, on his people, leaves the Trump administration, Putin, and Russia in a quandary. As delicate advances and progress has been made, the humanitarian and military response to Syria’s civilian assault has reverberated across diplomatic lines. The future is uncertain as to whether these two world powers will remain amicable allies.
Perhaps the chief upshot of this tragedy will be the uniting of Americans for a cause greater than political ideology. Democrats, such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) praised Trump’s decision – not to mention admiration from Trump’s harshest GOP critics Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). In fact, the president’s swift and decisive action may be what binds this country after the great divide of rancorous partisan discontent in the 2016 election. Regardless, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been introduced to this administration’s principles vis-à-vis using chemical weapons on men, women, and children and it’s swift response to impede such heinous crimes in the future.
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