Syrian President Bashar al Assad is a close ally of Russia, so all eyes are turning to the Russian government in the wake of Donald Trump’s missile attack on a Syrian airfield. A few minutes before the bombing, a top Russian official warned the Americans of “negative consequences” if Trump bombed Syria and evoked Iraq.
Trump ordered the launching of 59 American cruise missiles on April 6, targeting the airfield that he says Syria used to stage a chemical weapons attack that killed men, women, and children. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of Syria several hours before the Trump attack, supporting Syrian President Assad, and the Russian official who warned of “negative consequences” to America a few minutes before the bombing compared the situation to Libya and Iraq.
Russia state TV contradicted the Americans by claiming that people were killed in the Trump Syrian attack. In the hours after the Syrian missile strike, Russian President Vladimir Putin had yet to weigh in on the attack, but a statement from Russia was expected soon.
ABC News reports that Russia has ground troops in Syria and was warned in advance of the attack. “A U.S. official said that Russia, which has troops on the ground in Syria, was notified of the airstrikes in advance,” ABC reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Russia of being either “complicit” or “incompetent” in stopping Syrian chemical weapons, as the rhetoric between the Trump administration and Russia heated up.
According to ABC, “Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy representative to the United Nations told reporters in New York that Russia was receiving signals of an attack being prepared and warned that people were not asking about possible consequences.”
The Russian response raises concerns about whether the Syrian action could ignite a chain of events that escalates conflict between the U.S. and Russia (with some on Twitter even evoking the term “World War 3,”) at a time when Trump has been under fire for alleged links to the Russian regime.
According to The Guardian, several hours before Trump bombed Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin “doubled down on his support for the Syrian government despite the release of postmortem results by Turkey that confirmed chemical weapons were used in an attack that killed at least 72 people in north Syria.”
Trump explained his bombing of a Syrian airfield on April 6 by saying that Assad “choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children.”
Putin called accusations that Assad was behind the deaths “groundless accusations” and said he wanted a “detailed and unbiased investigation” into them, the Guardian reported. According to the Guardian, Russia claims that “Syrian planes were destroying chemical weapons, not deploying them,” a contention dismissed by experts.
Reuters reports that Safronkov warned of “‘negative consequences’ if the United States carries out military strikes on Syria over a deadly toxic gas attack.”
According to Reuters, Safronkov also said: “We have to think about negative consequences, negative consequences, and all the responsibility if military action occurred will be on shoulders of those who initiated such doubtful and tragic enterprise.” Reporters pressed him on what he meant by “negative consequences,” and he responded, “Look at Iraq, look at Libya,” Reuters reported.