Throughout the evening of 9 April (Syria time), even as the UN Security Council spoke on the subject, the US Navy Destroyer Donald Cook appeared to be en route to Syria, something later confirmed by the Pentagon. At the same time, reports abounded that multiple Russian fighters were buzzing the Cook in a clear warning sign regarding the US encroaching on areas where the Russian military is operating.
While the US denied reports of Russian Sukhoi fighters buzzing their ship, there has clearly been a great deal of Russian aerial and naval activity in the region lately, including several prominent bombing raids against terrorist targets in Idlib between the evening of the 9th and the morning of the 10th.
Russia appears not to be taking a ‘restrained’ position in the face of renewed US threats against Syria, in so far as the anti-terrorist fight is currently proceeding as normal and if anything, it has somewhat intensified in recent days. Now, according to reports in US media, Russia is blocking US drone singles in Syria in what is being reported as a ‘serious disruption’ to US activity in the country.
Against this background, one must remember that throughout the duration of the conflict in Syria, Russia has only ever threatened military retaliation against the US if Russian troops and assets come under attack in Syria. At no time has Russia promised retaliation in any other circumstance. While Russia is not likely to extend its anti-terrorist mandate in Syria into one which explicitly defines defending the Syrian government from all forms of attack as a part of the Russian mandate, what Russia can do is to spread its personnel and presence in the country so deep and wide that any major US attack on Syria would run the risk of engendering Russian lives.
This in fact could be the only assured way for Russia to stop the US from conducting a new attack on Syria. At this stage in the conflict the US and its ally “Israel” are keen to both intimidate and do actual damage to Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, while anything done to the direct detriment of Syrian forces would be considered a bonus for the Amero-Zionist axis. However, while the United States wants to embarrass, belittle and isolate Russia, it does not ultimately want a direct confrontation. This reality is even more true for “Israel” which isn’t even particularly interested in humiliating Russia.
In this sense, the US and “Israel” will likely not hit targets where there is even a small indication of a Russian presence. Therefore, if Russia were to spread its presence more widely throughout areas of western and southern Syria, this could be the key to forcing the US and its allies to think twice before attacking. It is a risky move to be sure, as at one level it reduces Russia assets and personnel in Syria to “human shields”, but interpreted another way, it could allow Russia to demonstrate the scope of its operations in Syria so as to ward off any hostile power from attempting to “take on Russia” in a mad quest to attack perceived “Iranian assets” and of course Syrian assets.
The world is still less than twenty-four hours into the forty-right hour deadline for “action” that Donald Trump boasted above and thus, anything could happen. However, if Russia shows its presence in a manner that cannot be mistaken by would-be US aggressors, it may be enough to force a de-escalation of tensions, at least for the time being.