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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 2 hours ago - World

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison

An anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar.Photo: Hkun Lat/Getty Images

A Myanmar court sentenced the country's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Monday to four years in prison on charges of "inciting public unrest" and breaking COVID-19 protocols, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: It's the first of several verdicts that could result in the 76-year-old Nobel laureate being imprisoned for the rest of her life. The 11 charges she faces have been widely criticised as politically motivated.

5 hours ago - World

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."

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