Two weeks ago, the Kremlin expressed major concern about US-Russia relations, describing them as “maybe even worse” than they had been during the Cold War. Since that time, they’ve gotten dramatically worse, with US missile attacks on Syria fueling soaring acrimony.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis sought to downplay the situation, however, saying that he was certain the situation “will not spiral out of control,” a belief he appeared to rest on the idea that Russia wouldn’t dare retaliate against further US attacks against Syria, as they have threatened to.
“I’m confident the Russians will act in their own best interests,” Mattis insisted. Yet he also threatened further US strikes on Syria, and Russia has made clear in recent days that they would respond with force to any additional such US strikes.
The administration appears to be gambling heavily that the Russia talk of a “red line” in US attacks on the Syrian military is a bluff, but with US-Russia relations so bad that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is visiting Moscow and the Russian president won’t even see him, the nations are increasingly in uncharted waters with respect to one another.
Russia responded to last week’s attack by deploying additional warships to the Syrian coast, and has announced plans to bolster Syria’s air defense, as well as their own air defense forces deployed within Syria, in an attempt to deter future strikes.