The tension was raised after the UK accused Russia of taking part in the bloodshed in Syria and foreign secretary canceled his visit to Moscow while Russia replied with counter blames, in a new deterioration of their mutual relations over the Syrian issue.
In a sharp escalation of the U.S. military role in Syria, two U.S. warships fired dozens of cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at the airbase controlled by Assad regime forces in response to the deadly poison gas attack in a rebel-held area on Tuesday, U.S. officials said.
Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles were launched from the USS Porter and USS Ross around 8:40 p.m. EDT, striking multiple targets – including the airstrip, aircraft and fuel stations – on the Shayrat Air Base, which the Pentagon says was used to store chemical weapons.
Trump ordered the strikes just a day after he pointed the finger at Assad for this week’s chemical attack.
“Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.”
“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump said on Thursday.
Britain backed this move and said the US action was an appropriate response to the “barbaric chemical weapons attack” launched by the Syrian government, according to a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May.
“The U.K. government fully supports the U.S. action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime and is intended to deter further attacks,” a British government spokesman said.
The British government also made declarations against the Russian intervention in Syria, raising tension with Moscow over the Syrian issue for the second time in a few months.
Russia is partner in bloodshed
Russia is directly complicit in the bloodshed taking place in Syria and must act immediately to help bring an end to the country’s long-running conflict, the UK defense secretary, has said.
Russia must “show the resolve necessary to bring this regime to heel”, said Michael Fallon in remarks.
“The Russians have influence in the region,” Fallon wrote in the Sunday Times. “They helped broker the original deal to put chemical weapons out of commission. This latest war crime happened on their watch. In the past few years, they have had every opportunity to pull levers and stop the civil war.”
“It’s time for Russia to be part of the solution and engage constructively with the UN-mediated peace talks. Together we can bring an end to the needless suffering of the Syrian people,” Falon added,
Russia was the main backer of Bashar al-Assad, Fallon said, adding: “By proxy Russia is responsible for every civilian death last week.
“If Russia wants to be absolved of responsibility for future attacks, Vladimir Putin needs to enforce commitments, to dismantle Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal for good, and to get fully engaged with the UN peacekeeping progress.”
Canceling a trip to Moscow
Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, has canceled a planned trip to Moscow after the US launched missile strikes on Syria and in the wake of “Russia’s continued defense of the Assad regime”.
The British foreign secretary had been due to fly to Russia on Monday for talks with his direct counterpart, the first such meeting since 2012. But the Foreign Office confirmed on Saturday that Johnson would no longer make the trip because “developments in Syria have changed the situation fundamentally”.
Johnson said: “My priority is now to continue contact with the US and others in the run-up to the G7 meeting on 10-11 April – to build coordinated international support for a ceasefire on the ground and an intensified political process.
“We deplore Russia’s continued defense of the Assad regime even after the chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. We call on Russia to do everything possible to bring about a political settlement in Syria and work with the rest of the international community to ensure that the shocking events of the last week are never repeated.”
Russia slams the UK move
Russian officials have launched a scathing attack on the UK over Johnson’s decision, threatening to bring relations to a new low.
The Russian foreign ministry and embassy in London belittled Britain’s role in the crisis.
The move showed a “fundamental misunderstanding or lack of knowledge of the events in Syria, Russia’s efforts to settle that crisis and the general objectives of diplomacy”, the Russian foreign ministry said. “The decision to call off Johnson’s visit to Moscow confirms once again doubts in the presence of added value in speaking to the UK, which does not have its own position on the majority of present-day issues, nor does it have real influence on the course of international affairs, as it remains ‘in the shadow’ of its strategic partners. We do not feel that we need dialogue with London any more than it does.”
Russia’s embassy in London, meanwhile, said it was “deplorable” that Johnson felt unable to meet his counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. It tweeted mocking polls, including one that sought views on Donald Trump “as a wartime leader and Johnson as his lieutenant”.
Alexey Puhskov, a senator and former leading foreign policy official, said: “The cancellation of Johnson’s visit to Moscow is just proof that London has nothing to say to us except the standard accusations. An empty waste of time.”
On Sunday, Putin spoke on the phone with the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. According to a Kremlin summary of the call, the two leaders noted: “The aggressive US actions against a sovereign state, which violate international law, are unacceptable.”
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.