After months of a hot-and-cold relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, it seems like U.S. President Donald Trump has finally picked a side — for now, at least.
The latest suspected chemical attack in Syria garnered more unpredictable reactions from the U.S. president as he condemned Putin by name on Twitter.
"President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad," Trump tweeted, indicating Russia's support of Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad. "Big price... to pay."
Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
....to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
Ian Bremmer, president of geopolitical-risk firm Eurasia Group, thinks if the strike is confirmed as a chemical attack, Trump will probably order a strike like he did in 2017.
“I think he's probably going to engage in strikes against Syria. He's made very clear both then and now that he's not going to tolerate use of chemical weapons by Assad's regime,” said Bremmer.
Although, Trump’s stance on Putin and Russia is forever changing; not too long ago he called the Russian president “smart” and congratulated him on re-election, even though he was strictly advised not to, and then defended his call on Twitter. Trump initially refused to condemn Russia for the poisoning of the Russian double spy in the U.K., but, later, decided to expel 60 Russian diplomats. The U.S. president was also allegedly not willing to send aide to Ukraine in fear of agitating Putin and only agreed to do so after his national security advisers convinced him for months.
Bremmer also questioned Trump’s approach on the issue and his “strange” hesitation in calling out Russia and Putin previously.
"None of us know why it is that Trump decided he was going to be so nice individually to Putin. It's not like he cares about being nice to people. Why was he being nice to Putin, and why is he suddenly shifting? Anyone that tells you they know the answer to that question is lying,” Bremmer said.
The latest, probably most direct, condemnation from Trump could also be a result of pressure from his colleagues on both sides with Sen. John McCain suggesting Trump’s plans to withdraw U.S troops from Syria were the reason Assad felt “emboldened” to launch yet another horrific attack.
"Trump was quick to call out Assad today, along with the Russian and Iranian governments, on Twitter. The question now is whether he will do anything about it. The president responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons last year. He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes,” McCain said in a statement.
Even though Trump openly condemned Putin, he also immediately blamed the situation in Syria on former President Barack Obama.
If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
Bremmer also said Trump’s footing on Syria is one of the few shifts in U.S. foreign policy that were supported worldwide but many fear this tweet could just be words without action.
"If it becomes a tweet without meaning, then he has hurt himself in North Korea. If he doesn't follow through and live up to that tweet, he's going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran. So this is a defining moment, Mr. President. You need to follow through with that tweet. Show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
U.S Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley tweeted “strong action is needed” amid horrific escalating conditions in Syria.
We along with 8 other members have called for an emergency Security Council mtg tomorrow in reference to the horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians in Syria. This is becoming all too common. Strong action is needed. pic.twitter.com/Vt3L5fjVla— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) April 8, 2018
After the U.N. meeting, Bremmer thinks it is a possibility the U.S. and France could engage in a collaborated attack against Assad’s regime but that would mean deteriorating U.S.-Russia relationships, something that Trump, apparently, is not keen on.
"We're not heading to a nuclear war with the Russians, but this is a dangerous period. If the Americans engage in direct strikes against Assad given their direct support by the Russians and the Iranians — it is a dangerous thing to do, but I do think that it's an appropriate thing to do in this environment,” said Bremmer.
Time will reveal whether Trump’s tweet holds any substantial meaning and could finally give a slight understanding of what his position is with respect to Russian and Putin.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah