WASHINGTON (AP) — Defying Russian warnings against U.S. military strikes in Syria, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that missiles “will be coming” in response to Syria’s suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people.
“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria,” Trump tweeted. “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!”
Trump did not detail what a strike would look like, or whether these would be U.S. missiles. U.S. officials have been consulting with global allies on a possible joint military response to Syria’s alleged poison gas attack. Trump canceled a foreign trip in order to manage a crisis that is testing his vow to stand up to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that his threats are “reckless” and endanger international peace and security.
Trump’s tweet also drew a quick response from Russia’s Foreign Ministry. Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Facebook that “smart” missiles would destroy any evidence of a chemical weapons attack.
The term “smart” missile dates to the introduction decades ago of weapons with advanced guidance systems — for example, using GPS — to achieve greater precision in targeting. The term was meant to contrast with “dumb” bombs lacking such technology. Virtually all U.S. missiles now have advanced guidance systems.
Russian lawmakers have warned the United States that Moscow would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime and that it could trigger a direct military clash between the two former Cold War adversaries. Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon said any missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launching sites targeted — a stark warning of a potential major confrontation.
Shortly after warning that missiles were coming, Trump tweeted that the U.S. “relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War.” Then, striking a more conciliatory tone, he said: “There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”