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Vladimir Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Joshua Yaffa argues in the New Yorker that Russia’s threats of retaliation in advance of U.S.-led strikes in Syria may have prevented direct confrontation with the U.S. “for now.”

What Russia was doing, per Yaffa: Delivering “a measured dose of faux insanity…to make up for a gaping disparity in conventional military and economic strength.”

Russia's threats, per Yaffa:

  • “Russia’s top military officer, warned that Moscow would shoot down missiles fired at Syrian territory — and, what’s more, if Russian forces came under threat, would strike back by targeting launch facilities and platforms.”
  • "Other Russian officials were more muted, saying Russia would act only if its forces sustained a direct hit."
  • “Then, last week, Russia’s Ambassador to Lebanon said that any and all American missiles would be shot down, and their launch sites targeted."
  • “That whipped up fears of a direct U.S.-Russian military confrontation.”

Result:

  • “An official close to the Assad regime told Reuters, ‘We had an early warning of the strike from the Russians.’”
  • “The Syrian military bases and facilities struck by the United States, United Kingdom, and France, were not targets of particular significance to Russian military operations in Syria or locations that housed Russian troops or equipment.”

What’s ahead:

  • Potential U.S.-Russia conflict: “The latest air strikes do nothing to change the battlefield dynamics in Syria or the course of the war—which is to say, a U.S.-Russian showdown over Syria has most likely been delayed rather than avoided entirely.”
  • Sanctions: “For now, the immediate theatre for U.S.-Russian confrontation will likely shift to sanctions" — although this week Trump hit pause on new sanctions and Russia slowed potential countermeasures.

Read the article in full: “Russia’s ‘Madman’ Routine in Syria May Have Averted Direct Confrontation with the U.S., For Now

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Report: Pentagon watchdog finds Ronny Jackson drank on duty and harassed staff

Rep. Ronny Jackson walking through the Canon Tunnel to the U.S. Capitol in January. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) allegedly made "sexual and denigrating" comments about a female staffer, drank alcohol and took sleeping medication while working as White House physician, according to a report obtained by CNN Tuesday night.

Driving the news: The Department of Defense inspector general's report stems from a years-long investigation. Jackson has called the allegations "false and fabricated."

DOJ pressed to enforce Al Jazeera foreign agent ruling

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Justice Department is being pressed to enforce its own demand that the U.S. arm of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera register as a foreign agent.

Why it matters: The launch of Al Jazeera's new right-of-center U.S. media venture, Rightly, has refocused attention on the media company's alleged links to Doha, and DOJ's efforts to crack down on media outlets viewed as foreign interest mouthpieces.

Poll: Immigration is America's most-polarizing issue

Data: The American Aspirations Index/Populace; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Immigration was found to be the most polarizing issue in America based on new polling from Populace.

Why it matters: Americans have surprisingly similar priorities for the U.S., but immigration stands out as one of the few issues with clear partisan differences. It underscores the challenge for advocates and lawmakers hoping to pass immigration reform in the coming weeks amid narrow margins in Congress.

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