Russia appears to be open to the possibility of conflict against the United States, according to reports from the Kremlin:
The Russian Foreign Ministry said following Donald Trump’s decision to fire 59 cruise missiles at a military target in Syria on Thursday, Moscow was suspending a memorandum with the US that prevented incidents and ensured flight safety.
Under the memorandum, signed after Russia launched an air campaign in Syria in September 2015, Russia and the US had exchanged information about their flights to avoid incidents in the crowded skies over Syria — where Russia has several dozen warplanes and batteries of air-defence missiles.
The so-called “deconfliction line” between the US and Russia has been credited by a number of US pilots with helping keep them safe. While the US air campaign in Syria tends to steer clear of areas where Russia is in operation, ending such co-operation is seen by activists in the region as a worrying turn.
The US-side of the information sharing exercise is based in the al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which is also the forward base from US Central Command, which takes the lead in co-ordinating coalition strikes. The US maintains radar coverage and other means of scanning the skies, but without being able to share coordinates and other data with the Russians, the chances of a confrontation increases.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, condemned the US strikes near Homs, saying they broke international law and have seriously damaged US-Russia relations.
A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry read: “The very presence of US troops and other countries on the territory of Syria, without the consent of the Government or the decision of the UN Security Council is a gross, obvious and unwarranted violation of international law.
“If before it was due to the task of combating terrorism, now there is a clear act of aggression against a sovereign Syria. US Actions taken today further destroy the Russian-American relations.”
Thankfully, the Russian government seems to be avoiding conflict — for now. While they admit that the United States came close to engaging the Russian military, they claim that such a development will not occur as a result of the latest attack.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said the US air strike on a Syrian air base came “within an inch” of militarily clashing with their forces.
He said the action taken by the Americans was in breach of international law and their own internal procedures, and accused Washington of “barely avoiding combat clashes with Russia”.
In a post on Facebook, Mr Medvedev said the air strike had “completely ruined relations” between the two superpowers.
However, the US says it warned Russia one hour before it fired 59 tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat air base.