As President Donald Trump announced military action on Friday night by the U.S., France, and Britain to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons, Mr. Trump directly criticized Russian leader Vladimir Putin for not doing more to rein in Syria’s use of chemical weapons, once more calling on the Russian government to change course on the Assad regime.
“In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons,” Mr. Trump said in a nationwide address to announce the attacks by U.S., British and French forces.
“Assad’s recent attack, and today’s response, are the direct result of Russia’s failure to keep that promise,” the President added.
“Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path, or decide if it will join with civilized nations as force for stability and peace,” Mr. Trump said.
While the Russians had threatened to respond to any military attack on Syria, the immediate actions by the Kremlin were limited only to words.
“Russia condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack against Syria, where Russian military personnel are assisting the legitimate government in its counterterrorism efforts,” a Kremlin statement said from Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who warned of global repercussions.
“The current escalation around Syria is destructive for the entire system of international relations,” said Putin. “History will set things right, and Washington already bears the heavy responsibility for the bloody outrage in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya.”
In Washington, the Russian Ambassador made clear the Kremlin’s displeasure about the President’s clear message to Putin.
“Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.”
At the Pentagon, top military leaders said the targets selected by the coalition stayed away from possible collateral damage to any Russian military assets in Syria.
“Assad and his enablers in Russia and Iran need to know that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD).
The President’s direct public challenge to Putin and Russia over chemical weapons in Syria was markedly different from how Mr. Trump has dealt with the Russian leader since entering the White House, where the President has often gone out of his way to avoid any criticism of Putin.
Earlier in the week, Mr. Trump had all but taunted the Kremlin via Twitter, telling them that U.S. missiles would soon be on their way to Syria, no matter the Russian vow to shoot down those missiles.
“Get ready Russia,” he said.