The Guardian, April 11, 2018 - Donald Trump has warned Russia in an incendiary tweet to “get ready” for US missile strikes in Syria after a UN security council meeting failed to stave off the prospect of military confrontation over the chemical weapons attack outside Damascus at the weekend.
“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria,” the US president tweeted. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
The Kremlin has warned the US and its allies that a military strike against Syria could lead to further instability in the region. Responding to Trump’s tweet, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman said “smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not [a] legal government”.
Russia and the western allies were unable to compromise on a concerted international response to the use of chemical weapons at the UN on Tuesday evening.
The US, UK and France continue to make preparations for military action intended to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which they say is responsible for the latest chemical weapons attack, on the Damascus suburb of Douma on 7 April, which killed more than 45 people.
Syria: 500 Douma patients had chemical attack symptoms, says WHO
On Wednesday the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged restraint. “With regards to what could happen in the case of any kind of strike, we still want to hope that all sides will avoid these kinds of steps, which first have not been provoked by anything real, and second which could appreciably destabilize an already fragile situation in the region,” he said.
Russia previously said there was no evidence of a chemical attack in Douma, let alone Syrian government involvement.
Peskov sidestepped questions about Russia’s concrete reaction to the expected strike on Syria, saying Russia’s official position had already been put forth by its ambassador the UN, Vasily Nebenzia. Russian military officials have said they will shoot down any US missiles and counterattack against launching platforms if they are seen as a threat to Russian service personnel in Syria.
Earlier on Wednesday, a Moscow envoy to Lebanon told local media that the Russian military would shoot down missiles if they threatened Syria, and that their launch sites would be targeted, a step that could trigger a major escalation.
“The situation is tense,” Peskov said, adding that Russia was calling for an “unprejudiced and objective investigation before making judgments” on the suspected use of chemical weapons.
Peskov said the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, did not have plans to speak with leaders from the US, France or UK.
At the UN on Tuesday, Russia and western allies voted against each other’s proposals for setting up a body dedicated to investigating repeated poison gas use in Syria. The US delegation said it had done everything possible to accommodate Russian views and that the abortive council session marked a “decisive moment”. Russia said the issue was being used by the US and its allies as a pretext to attack Syria.
Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May held phone consultations on Tuesday. Macron told reporters in Paris later that a decision would be made in the coming days following “exchanges of technical and strategic information with our partners, in particular Britain and America”. He said that if airstrikes went ahead, they would target Syrian government chemical facilities.
Macron made the remarks at a Paris press conference alongside the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who offered his country’s support for US-led military action. “If our alliance with our partners requires it, we will be present,” the Saudi leader said, wrapping up a three-day visit to Paris.
The rising tensions and the risk of a clash between the major powers were evident in the eastern Mediterranean, where Russian warplanes overflew US and French naval vessels armed with cruise missiles.
Inspectors from the watchdog the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were planning to travel to Syria after receiving an invitation from the Assad regime, but it was unclear whether they would be allowed to reach Douma, and whether their presence there would delay US-led military action.