With the retaliatory strike against Syria, U.S. President Donald Trump put back in place red lines in U.S. foreign policy, Estonian Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna found.
"This was a very clear resumption of the red line policy," Tsahkna said during an appearance on Postimees Live on Friday. "The use of chemical weapons has never been acceptable."
What happened Thursday night showed that neither Russia nor Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be allowed to cross certain boundaries, said the defense minister. In his words, this served as a confirmation that Article 5 of the NATO Treaty stands as well — that the West would respond when adversaries overstep boundaries. "This is a clear situation for us," he stressed.
Speaking to BNS on Friday morning, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser also noted that the U.S.' rapid response to what was happening in the world was a positive message to Estonia as well.
"We are now awaiting the responses of the rest of the world," he said. "First the reaction of the sides involved in the Syrian conflict, and certainly a long-term plan from America and its allies as well."
Mihkelson: Strike will make U.S.-Russian relationship more critical
"The chemical weapon which the al-Assad regime once again used against its own people and as a result of which more than 100 people died, according to latest information, was a clear challenge to the new U.S. administration," Marko Mihkelson, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, told BNS on Friday morning.
Mihkelson recalled when, in 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama famously said that he would establish a "red line" in Syria and that if Assad crossed it, the U.S. would do something, but when the Syrian president did so again, the U.S. did nothing. "Now when an attack — basically a war crime — happened, it was a question to U.S. President Donald Trump about what his answer would be to such behavior in Syria," he explained. There was a question regarding whether the U.S. president would go further than simply criticizing Obama, he said, adding that Trump had reproached Obama for Assad having the capability he currently does in Syria. Now everyone saw that Trump's response to war crimes was fast and strong.
According to Mihkelson, the airstrike also changed the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. "Although immediately following the U.S: presdential election Trump had high hopes that the U.S. and Russia could have a normal relationship, there has been a realization that the U.S. and Russia are total opposites," he said. "The airstrike in Syria will make the relationship between the U.S. and Russia more critical. It can be assumed that Russia will strongly raise the issue of international law but, as we know, a U.S. Army representative informed Russia immediately prior to the airstrike."
The international security political situation had changed now, said the committee chairman. "It is the first time since 2011, when al-Assad launched a civil war against his own people in Syria, that the U.S. has interfered in such a strong manner," he observed. "It will be interesting to see now what Russia's response will be one. One risk is that Russia has created a very strong antiaircraft capability in Syria. Although it was not used during the night's attack, it is extremely important that Russia not shoot down a U.S. aircraft as punishment.
On Thursday night, the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against an air base in Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack against civilians, U.S. officials said. This was Washington's first direct military attack against the Syrian government and President Trump's most forceful order since becoming the U.S. head of state.
Editor: Aili Vahtla