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Response to Syria strikes suggests US and Russia lack hunger for fight

Perhaps the biggest take-out of the past 24 hours is the insight into how hungry for full-blown war the sparring nations of the world are – or are not, as the case may be.

In the days leading up to the inevitable air strikes on Syria, people discussed how things could spiral horribly out of control pitting America and its allies against Syria’s main backers Russia.

It was always clear Donald Trump had enough going on in his own backyard without a fresh conflict.

And we assumed Vladimir Putin was similarly busy meddling in other people’s countries, trying to keep the economy going and preparing for the World Cup to commit to a conflict he realistically couldn’t win without it going nuclear.

Vladimir Putin is still open to talks, his deputy foreign minister said.
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Mr Putin denounced the airstrikes as an ‘act of aggression’

At every twist and turn of the past 24 hours the Americans have made it clear they have tried to do all they can to avoid Russian military casualties in Syria. That, there is no doubt, would solicit a serious response from Russia.

In turn, the Russians could easily have used the strikes against Syrian chemical facilities as a pretext to dig in militarily against America. But they haven’t – so far at least.

So everything rests on what Russia will do next.

All the signs are they want to draw a line under events after the Syrian President Bashar al Assad has taken his punishment. They would never take a beating for him.

A picture of Bashar al Assad along the road to the main airport in Damascus
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Russia would not take a beating for Bashar al Assad, says Lisa Holland

We do, however, know that Assad has been warned to stop using chemical weapons before and didn’t listen. The question now is, will the Russians tell him to?

It sounds utterly hollow when the Russians describe the Syrian President as being on the “front-line” against terrorism – glossing over the horrors of the hundreds of thousands killed and millions who’ve fled Syria or been displaced.

None of that seems to bother Vladimir Putin.

On Russian television it’s wall-to-wall news about the Syrian air strikes, even bigging up the importance of the Soviet missile defence systems used by the Syrians.

The world is by no means out of the woods in terms of a total military meltdown.

But only hours after the missiles were fired, it looks like both America and Russia – in spite of the rhetoric – have taken every precaution not to put each other in a corner that they have no option but to fight their way out of.

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