President Donald Trump promised a military strike against Syria this morning, and in the process explicitly threated a confrontation with Russia.
"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!'" tweeted Trump this morning. The tweet references Russia's support for Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, who stands accused of using chemical weapons against the rebel-held town of Douma.
Trump has been hinting at a military response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons since Sunday, promising that he would respond "forcefully" and saying Monday morning that a "major decision" on Syria would be coming within 48 hours.
The president has also been trying to work out a coordinated response to the chemical weapons attack with French president Emmanuel Macron and British prime minister Theresa May. Both Britain and France have expressed an openness to use military force.
Hawks in Congress have also urged action, with Sen. Lindsay Graham saying Monday the U.S. should "destroy" the Syrian air force. On the other side of the issue, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) has protested that the president lacks the legal authority to attack Syria without congressional authorization.
As the president's tweet acknowledges, any U.S. military action against the Syrian government risks escalation with Russia. According to a Reuters report this morning, Russia's ambassador to Lebanon has promised to shoot down any missiles fired by the U.S. at Syria.
Trump ordered a missile strike against Syria last April, also in response to a chemical attack. His promise to strike Syria again stands in contrast to his expressed desire to pull U.S. forces out of Syria, as well as his campaign-trail pledges not to announce military action publicly.
Needless to say, threatening escalation with a nuclear power via intemperate tweets is a sloppy and dangerous way of conducting foreign policy, particularly when the U.S. has so little to gain from any increased involvement in the now seven-year-old Syrian civil war.
The U.S. currently has about 2,000 troops in Syria, where they are engaged in anti-ISIS operations.
@walaa_3ssaf No, dopey, I would not go into Syria, but if I did it would be by surprise and not blurted all over the media like fools.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2013