In an interview with Russian media on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow warned U.S. forces not to bomb certain areas when it led airstrikes on Syria last week to punish dictator Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons.
“Before the plans for the strike of the Western trio started to take shape, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Valery Vasilyevich Gerasimov clearly stated that if any military action taken by the so-called coalition harmed Russian army forces, it would be met by a tough and clear response. And we would not only see the rockets but also their carrier as legitimate targets. It was said clearly and explicitly,” Lavrov said.
If Lavrov meant to say “aircraft carrier,” he was presumably referring to the USS Harry S. Truman, which did not actually reach the Syrian theater of operations until Wednesday. He might have been talking about the ships and aircraft directly involved in the strike. That would include the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey, the guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins, and the USS John Warner, the first Virginia-class attack sub to launch missiles in combat.
Lavrov went on to lament that Western leaders misinterpreted Russia’s previous blustery threats as a vow to make war against the U.S. and Europe if “just one missile flew over Syrian territory from the coalition forces.” Instead, he insisted high-level contacts were made between the Russian military and the U.S. coalition to ensure the conflict in Syria would not escalate.
“They were informed of where our ‘red lines’ were, including the red lines located on the territory, geographically. And, in any case, the results show that these red lines were not crossed,” Lavrov said.
The Foreign Minister went on to challenge U.S. assertions that Russia’s air defenses in Syria were unable to intercept any of the incoming cruise missiles.
“If somebody states that all the 105 rockets reached their targets, they should present their stats. At least, proof that our analysis, our count has a basis in fact, which will be revealed by our military forces very soon, as I understand,” he said.
Russia has claimed Syrian air defenses were able to intercept 71 of the missiles fired by the United States and allied forces. Contrary to Lavrov’s assertions, sources within the U.S. government said on Wednesday that Syria was only able to launch two interceptor missiles while the coalition strikes were in progress, and neither of them found a target. The vast majority of the ineffectual air defense fire put up by the Syrians occurred after the U.S. strike was over.
Russian media claimed on Thursday that Syrian forces were able to capture two unexploded cruise missiles in “rather good condition” and hand them over to the Russian military.
Lavrov complained at length about America and its allies persecuting Russia for pursuing its allegedly legitimate interests and trying to force Western values on Moscow. He grumbled that international inspectors will frame Russia and Syria for using chemical weapons in Syria, just like the United Kingdom framed Russia for using nerve agents in an unsuccessful attempt to liquidate former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. He accused the U.S. government of picking fights in a vain effort to prove it remains a global hyper-power.
“I find Russia’s composure and the self-restraint of Russia sincerely inspiring,” the interviewer hilariously interjected at one point during Lavrov’s tale of geopolitical woe.
“Speaking about the risk of a military confrontation, I feel absolutely confident in assuming that the militaries will not allow this, and of course neither will President Putin or President Trump. They are leaders, after all, elected by their people and responsible for their peace,” Lavrov said.