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Luik: With US attacks, possibility of further de-escalation gone

Jüri Luik.
Jüri Luik. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Director of the International Centre for Defence and Security Jüri Luik finds that after the air strikes against Syria's Shayat air force base, the new U.S. administration's position is clear, and that it is clearly against Bashar al-Assad's regime.

“The attack was a natural and understandable decision of the USA,” Luik commented, pointing out that Assad’s use of chemical weapons and thus weapons of mass destruction had been a clear violation of international law. “In that sense, what the USA did was entirely adequate,” Luik said in an interview with ERR’s Vikerraadio on Friday.

Luik also pointed out that such a military strike did not take place in a vacuum, and that its reasons could be found in international developments as well as before the backdrop of American domestic politics.

Luik finds that the Trump administration needed to demonstrate the USA’s new and clear foreign policy line. “We know that the USA were undecided in the matter of Syria for a long time. It is completely clear that the U.S. administration has now made its decision and taken a position opposing al-Assad. This means in a broader sense that their position in any of the negotiations is now connected to the demand that al-Assad needs to go anyway.”

Luik pointed out that the arguments surrounding the situation in Syria had long revolved around the question what was to happen to the current regime. Now it was finally clear that al-Assad needed to go, and do so as quickly as possible.

In terms of American domestic politics, Trump was solving the problem of how the public and the media saw him in connection with Putin’s Russia. “Taking into account the several Congressional investigations into people close to Trump and their Russian connections, now Trump has broken through all those topics and taken a position in direct confrontation with Russia,” Luik said.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has already called the American air strike an “aggression”, which in Luik’s assessment is a serious statement, and one with consequences in terms of international law.

So far the most important reaction from the Russian side had been that it had given up its call for a deescalation of the conflict, Luik said. “There is no possibility for deescalation anymore. If you fire, then you know that you are very likely firing at Russian soldiers as well, which amounts to a direct military strike against Russia or its military personnel,” Luik said.

Luik also stressed that the actual situation in Syria had not changed with the destruction of the air force base. What remained was to wait and see what Trump would do in the negotiations. Whether he wanted to invest in them at all was questionable, Luik opined, as they would not likely produce results anytime soon.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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