Russia: If the US isn't careful we could wind up at war in Syria

After years of Syrian civil war, Russia is suddenly terribly concerned that U.S. provocation could lead to war. Russia didn’t specify who would be involved but said it couldn’t rule out a war between the U.S. and Russia. Reuters reports:

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia urged the United States and its allies on Thursday to refrain from military action against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack and said he “cannot exclude” war between Washington and Moscow…

“The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war,” he told reporters. “We hope there will be no point of no return.”

When asked if he was referring to a war between the United States and Russia, he said, “We cannot exclude any possibilities, unfortunately, because we saw messages that are coming from Washington. They were very bellicose.”

So, apparently, Russia’s position is that we either wink at their support for Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people or we invite war with Russia. But if we’re once again at the brink of firing cruise missiles into Syria, it’s largely because Russia has a) failed to secure chemical weapons they agreed to secure and b) blocked every other means of dealing with the problem.

Putin’s Russia has stood in the way of all attempts to hold Assad accountable for his crimes, including just two days ago when it blocked a UN resolution that would have created an independent investigation into chemical weapons usage in Syria. Russia continues to treat Syria as its personal sandbox and now that the US and other nations are threatening to enforce a red line against the use of chemical weapons, Putin’s regime is making thinly-veiled threats.

Given the chemical attack last week, which appears very similar to the one Syria launched last year, a strong message needs to be sent that the use of chemical weapons will not be politely ignored or tolerated. Frankly, we’re already politely ignoring Assad’s frequent use of chlorine barrel bombs. The line has to be drawn at nerve agents. If we don’t respond to video of toddlers being murdered by sarin (or some similar agent) for fear of provoking Russia, you can be certain Russia will repeat the exercise.

And don’t forget, it’s not just Syria where Russia is expanding the use of chemical weapons. They attempted to assassinate a former spy in a British suburb last month using their own personal brand of nerve agent. As a British intelligence agent said recently, Russia is becoming increasingly reckless:

In his first speech after a year as director of the Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the National Security Agency, Jeremy Fleming said the threat from Russia had “never gone away,” but had become impossible to ignore after the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter, cyberattacks on Ukranian infrastructure and other actions.

“They’re not playing to the same rules,” he said at a cybersecurity conference in Manchester, England. “They’re blurring the boundaries between criminal and state activity.”

It’s time to re-establish some boundaries. Weakness now will only necessitate a worse confrontation in the future.