A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, recently said the US had built up its naval forces in the Mediterranean and accused it of “once again preparing major provocations in Syria using poisonous substances to severely destabilize the situation and disrupt the steady dynamics of the ongoing peace process.”
But the Pentagon on Tuesday denied any such buildup, calling Russia’s claims “nothing more than propaganda” and warning that the US military was not “unprepared to respond should the president direct such an action,”
Naval monitors suggest Russia may have up to 13 ships in the region, with submarines on the way.
International investigators have linked Syria’s government to more than 100 chemical attacks since the beginning of Syria’s civil war, and Russia has frequently made debunked claims about the existence or perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria.
Since President Donald Trump took office, the US has twice struck Syria in response to what it called incontrovertible evidence of chemical attacks on civilians. Trump’s White House has warned that any further chemical attacks attributed to the Syrian government would be met with more strikes.
Looks like war
This time, Russia looks as if it’s up to more than simply conducting a public-relations battle with the US. Russia’s navy buildup around Syria represents the biggest since Moscow kicked off its intervention in Syria with its sole aircraft carrier in 2015.
But even with its massive naval presence, Moscow doesn’t stand a chance of stopping any US attack in Syria, Omar Lamrani, a military analyst at the geopolitical-consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider.
“Physically, the Russians really can’t do anything to stop that strike,” Lamrani said. “If the US comes in and launches cruise missiles” — as it has in past strikes — “the Russians have to be ideally positioned to defend against them, still won’t shoot down all of them, and will risk being seen as engaging the US,” which might cause US ships to attack them.
“To be frank,” Lamrani said, “the US has absolute dominance” in the Mediterranean, and Russia’s ships wouldn’t matter.
If Russian ships were to engage the US, “the US would use its overwhelming airpower in the region, and every single Russian vessel on the surface will turn into a hulk in a very short time,” Lamrani said.