MOSCOW – How will Russia respond to Western strikes against Moscow-allied Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime?
For all of the Kremlin’s big talk and bluster, a military response is unlikely, with Moscow expected to stick to a barrage of diplomatic protests, experts say.
President Vladimir Putin “severely” condemned the strikes on Syria, adding that Washington was already responsible for the “bloodbath in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya.”
But the Russian leader did not announce any retaliatory measures and Moscow simply called an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council.
Fyodor Lukyanov, the Kremlin-friendly editor of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine, ruled out the prospect of a direct military conflict between Moscow and Washington.
“As expected, the main objective was a show of force,” Lukyanov told state news agency TASS, referring to the strikes carried out jointly by the U.S., Britain and France.
“The targets were chosen quite carefully to keep the situation under control.”
Alexei Malashenko, head of research at Moscow’s Institute for the Dialogue of Civilizations, struck a similar note.
“We do not hear anything about retaliatory strikes, this subject has disappeared,” Malashenko said.
“Practically everyone believes that a military response from Russia is not possible, this is very dangerous and can have the opposite effect.”
Alexander Shumilin, director of the Center for the Analysis of Middle East Conflicts at the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, also said that a military response was not on the cards.
“The strikes were targeted and no direct damage was inflicted on Russia and Russians,” Shumilin said.
“Retaliatory steps can only be taken in the domains of politics and propaganda — which is what’s happening,” Shumilin added.
“There’s nothing else you can do.”
Malashenko added: “There will be a lot of noise, a litany of speeches but no firm action will be taken. And then again, Russia cannot do anything.”
He added that more strong rhetoric was expected from Russia at the United Nations. “But that does not mean anything,” he said.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, set the tone when he called for “legal” consequences, in one of Moscow’s first comments after the strikes.
“I am absolutely convinced that our response to the situation should be legal and not military — as long as our military installations in Syria are not affected,” state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Kosachev as saying.
“This is of course an immediate session of the United Nations Security Council.”