Putin Looks Elsewhere to Retaliate Against U.S. Acts in Syria

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On June 18, a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 fighter bomber near the town of al-Tabqa in eastern Syria.  According to coalition sources, the Syrian aircraft had bombed anti-Assad militias fighting Islamic State forces in the region and was shot down as part of “collective self defense” of the United States’ Syrian partners.  The incident took place a little more than two months after the U.S. fired 59 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles at Shayrat Airbase in Syria. U.S.-led coalition forces have also shot down three Syrian government drones operating in contested areas of Syria in recent weeks. 

Russia immediately condemned the shooting down of the Syrian aircraft as an act of aggression, and Russia’s Defense Ministry threatened to target “All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates…”  Russia also announced the suspension of the deconfliction “hot line” used to avoid collisions of aircraft operating in the air space over Syria.  Following the April 7 cruise missile attack, Russia vowed to strengthen Syria’s air defenses, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said the act of aggression had put the U.S. on the “cusp of war with Russia.”  An important question to consider now is whether and how Russia will respond to the latest military incident involving ally Syrian President Basher al-Assad.

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