Russian President and Presidential candidate Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a rally and concert marking the fourth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region, at Manezhnaya Square in central Moscow, Russia March 18, 2018. – Alexander Zemlianichenko | POOL | Reuters
Russia responded angrily to a U.S.-led strike against Syria on Friday, warning of unspecified “consequences” that stoked fears the conflict could escalate.
President Donald Trump ordered targeted military action in the country, following an alleged chemical weapons attack that reportedly left dozens of citizens dead.
Russia, which has backed the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has joined Damascus in denying an attack even took place — even though U.S. authorities have declared it did with near certainty. The dispute over Syria was the latest wedge between the West and Russia, which has been embroiled in conflicts on multiple fronts with western governments.
In a statement released on Twitter, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. said the country was being “threatened,” and issued an ominous warning that reprisals could follow.
In the near term, the military strike appeared to ramp up a searing war of words between Washington and Moscow, which regarded the action as a attack on Russia itself.
The Associated Press, citing a Russian media outlet, quoted a top Russian official as likening Trump to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Alexander Sherin, deputy head of the State Duma’s defense committee, said Trump “can be called Adolf Hitler No. 2 of our time — because, you see, he even chose the time that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union,” the AP reported.
Trump has singled out Russian President Vladimir Putin for his support of Assad, as well as Iran. In his speech announcing military action in Syria, Trump pointedly asked: “What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?”
Since 2011, the Assad government has been locked in a deadly and protracted conflict with resistance fighters, and elements of ISIS, and has been backed by Russian forces.
The strikes were “quite measured, the administration wants to mete out punishment” without getting embroiled in a long-term conflict, said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Noting that Trump extended “an olive branch” to both Russia and Iran in his speech, Taleblu added that “the question for the US and the coalition is how long are they prepared to sustain this,” he asked.
“Fundamentally the U.S. is going to have to prove does it have a goal in Syria,” and that it has an endgame in mind, Taleblu added.