- A top Russian general has threatened to retaliate against the US if it makes good on its promise to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for bombing Syrian civilians.
- The US said on Monday it would attack Syria again if unacceptable levels of violence continued, and the Russian general said that if that attack endangered Russian servicemen, Russia would fight back.
- The US has plenty of military options for striking Syria, some of which would be harder to retaliated against, and Russia’s aggressive foreign policy may be more about signalling intentions than actually fighting.
A top Russian general has threatened to retaliate against the US if it makes good on its promise to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for his alleged role in bombing his own people.
General Valery Gerasimov was reported by multiple Russian news outlets as saying he had information that rebel groups in Syria would carry out a chemical weapons attack on civilians and then blame that attack on the Syrian government as pretense for another military strike.
Gerasimov went on to say that if the US attacked Syria, and any Russian servicemembers’ lives were at risk, Russia would retaliate against any missiles or launchers used in the attack.
The last time the US attacked Syria, it was in response to a massive sarin gas attack that killed civilians and linked to government airstrikes. The US used guided-missile destroyers to pull off the attack.
Now, the US has a considerable and heavily-armed presence in Syria, but in the country’s east, not where the Assad government’s main targets are in the west. It’s likely the US would again have to line up naval assets to strike Syria again.
If the US feared Russian reprisal for the attack, it could simply use a submarine that can fire missiles while submerged and then speed off.
US called out Russia and threatened to strike Syria
Gerasimov’s threat comes a day after US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley trashed Russia as she alleged they negotiated loopholes into a UN ceasefire agreement that allowed them to continue bombing civilian targets like hospitals and schools when aid convoys were meant to reach a besieged Syrian town.
International war monitors support Haley’s assertion that Russian and Syrian jets have struck civilian targets.
Haley concluded her speech by saying that Russia made a mockery out of the UN, and that the US was prepared to strike Syria if the behaviours continued.
Russia has placed air defences around key Syrian airfields, and air assets represent a likely target for any US strikes looking to punish chemical weapons or human rights violators.
Russia’s air defences in Syria are regarded as very capable, and if the US tries to attack sites protected by Russian defences, it could meet the conditions Gerasimov set for a counter attack.
Despite the uptick in tensions lately, the US and Russia have operated near each other in Syria since October 2015. Experts tell Business Insider that Russia, a militarily strong but economically weak state, would not enter outright fighting with the US over Syria.
In February, the US reportedly killed as many as 300 Russian paramilitary officers and blew up a Russian-made tank in fighting between pro-Syrian government forces, that Russia backs, and rebel forces, that the US backs.