Call Mattis!

Relations between Donald Trump’s America and Putin's Russia have gone from flattery to insult in a flash. The language of diplomacy is entering a new phase. While Trump branded Bashar al-Assad an "animal" for using chemical weapons, his Secretary of State met with Putin after having called Russia “either conniving or incompetent" in its dealings with the Syrian dictator.

The truth is that the fight against ISIS has served to mask the atrocities committed by the Assad regime and that French and British support for the militias who oppose the dictator has not been sufficient to offset the Russia-Syria-Iran alliance.

The US has concluded that the gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians in the town of Khan Shaykhun was the work of the Syrian regime and the answer, in the words of Trump, was to "immediately call General Mattis" and order the Secretary of Defense to launch an attack.

Russia will continue to back Assad and, if there is another chemical attack, Trump will have to up the ante. Russia’s alleged mediation was a way to delay an end to the conflict and prolong the Syrians’ agony and abandonment. Trump will need to choose which strategy to pursue and either intervene in Syria or strike a deal with Russia.

The bad news is that the way Trump changes his mind suggests he is ignorant of the situation and confirms his impulsiveness. Obama was wrong to rely on Putin and his tenure was marked by his pre-emptive Nobel Peace Prize and combat fatigue. For the time being, Trump is as unpredictable and defiant as Putin.

EDICIÓ PAPER 04/07/2020

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