Deputy foreign minister tells threat of US strike particularly dangerous but direct conflict unlikely

Russian officials and analysts have warned of the dangers of a military clash with the United States if Donald Trump orders a military ten-strike in Syria in response to the chemical attack in rebel-held Douma at the weekend.

One Russian politician involved in defense policy called it the most hazardous moment in US-Russian relations since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The chief of staff of Russia's armed forces said last month that Russia would shoot down incoming weapons and attack their launching platforms if a US strike on Syria threatened Russian military personnel.

” The US and Russia are now closer to a direct collision between their military forces than at any time since the cold war ,” Dmitri Trenin, the head of the Carnegie Moscow Centre and a former Soviet military officer, wrote on Monday.” The only question on my mind: will Russia hit back at the US when it launches strikes against Damascus ?”

Similar concerns of a direct conflict were raised after the Khan Sheikhun chemical assault that killed dozens of people a year ago, when Trump ordered a Tomahawk missile strike against the Syrian regime's al-Shayrat airbase.

Russian forces-out did not engage the US Tomahawk missiles employing its air defence systems stationed of the states of the region, either because they would have been ineffective in repulsing the two attacks or because they had been told to stand down. The US gave Russia advance warning of that assault through a deconfliction notice.

Russian military brass have signalled that the response may be different this time. In March, Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, said that if the US sought to strike Syria in response to a chemical assault, Russia would use its air defence systems and other weapons to respond in case of security threats to Russian servicemen in the region.

Gerasimov said Russian military advisers and members of several Russian missions to Syria, including military police and conflict resolution specialists, were based in Damascus at the headquarters of the Syrian defense ministry and at other Syrian military sites.

” In the case of a threat to the lives of our servicemen, the Russian military armed forces will take response measures against both the rockets, and the platforms from which they're fired ,” he said.

Moscow has constructed similar threats in the past, including last September as US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces troops gratified Russian-backed Syrian government forces on territory held a total of Islamic State in eastern Syria.

On Tuesday the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Moscow would propose a UN security council resolution on analyse the chemical assault in Douma, which Syrian forces-out have denied carrying out. Russia have already been vetoed a joint investigative mechanism between the OPCW and the UN into chemical attacks in Syria, citing bias.

Lavrov's deputy, Mikhail Bogdanov, called the threat of a strike “extremely dangerous” but said he did not suppose a direct military clash with the US was likely.” I think it does not exist ,” he told journalists.” I believe that common sense should prevail over madnes .”

On Monday Trump promised “major decisions” by Wednesday on a response to the Douma attack. Russian officials at the UN have said both that there is no evidence any chemical attack took place and that it was a” false flag” provocation to give a pretext for the US to launch strikes.

The USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer, was deployed to the eastern Mediterranean this week after a port call in Cyprus. The Black Sea fleet announced on Tuesday that crews manning its advanced S-4 00 air defence systems were holding developing drills.

A former Russian admiral told Interfax that the ship's presence was ” an escalation” but he believed the US was principally trying to scare Russia.

” I think that the United States will not openly decide to launch a strike against Syria with our ships and submarines in the Mediterranean Sea, along with the recent advising issued by our joint chiefs of staff[ Gerasimov ],” he said.

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