This is offered since it is known that Russia is interested in the opinions of independent analysts.
The posture of the Russian government after the U.S. missile strike on Shayrat Airfield is expected. It’s what is called “boilerplate”, the repetitive material of a document that so closely follows form as to have no information content. At least, we hope that is all it is.
The Laws of War have been violated in Syria to the tune of 500,000 dead. To Bashar Assad, the arithmetic of a little sarin, of perhaps 80 more dead, is too small to matter. Perhaps it was inevitable that the choices of the West to ignore the the conduct of the Chechen wars, of the previous U.S. administration to ignore violation of the “red line”, and Rex Tillerson’s misstep, would encourage Russia to vigorously shield and possibly abet Assad’s actions.
We gave you a special pass on the Chechen wars. We knew your survival was at stake. Syria is too distant for that.
We have our Syrian frenemies, you have Assad, and the Syrian people have nothing. We are bound together by our common enemy, jihadism. What separates us, which is why you are interested in notes such as ours, is the degree to which we balance military advantage against the preservation of civilian lives. You have your calculus, and we have ours.
Our idea is that deterrence of chemical weapons use saves a meaningful fraction of lives in the Syria conflict. What’s a few thousand of 500,000? To us, it’s a lot.
There is danger to Russia in complicity with Assad. If it becomes viral in the Islamic populations of Russia and Central Asia that Russia is complicit in gas attacks, it could boomerang on Russia. This could easily happen, even if by your own standards, your hands are clean. Standards of personal hygiene vary widely.
Such a viral idea could not be controlled even by state media. In your justified fear of the potential for jihadism in Russia, do not make your problems worse by creation of a viral myth.