A recent chemical weapons attack, which killed up to 75 people in Syria, including children, and was estimated to impact approximately 500 people, triggered an international outcry. Believed to be the work of the Assad regime, the attack on the city of Douma was a point of conversation among the US and its allies as they determined what they believed would be the best way to respond to this threat.
On Friday the United States took part in a joint operation with British and French forces, launching strikes against specific targets within Syria – a scientific research center in Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs and a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and command post near Homs. Explaining that the allies took every measure necessary to hit only the intended targets and avoid any collateral damage, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White stated, “We met our objectives. We hit the sites, the heart of the chemical weapons program. So, it was mission accomplished.”
The question now, in the days that follow the attack, is whether this particular decision will have long-term consequences. The biggest concern for many following the situation is Syria’s ally Russia. Vasilly Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the UN referred to the attack as an ‘illegal military venture.’ He read a statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Russia condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack against Syria where Russian military personnel are assisting the legitimate country and their counterterrorism efforts.”
In response to the events, Russian television channel Vesti-24 instructed its viewers on the recommended steps to take in order to prepare themselves for the possibility of war with the United States following the airstrike. The report, titled ‘Inviolable Stock: What Should I Take with Me to the Bomb Shelter’ (as translated into English), stated that it would instruct its viewers on what they should actually spend their money on, rather than overspending due to mass hysteria in relation to the event.
The newscaster referred to a hysteria that he said was felt across the world. “It should be noted that real panic isn’t here but across the ocean,” he stated, making the claim that bomb shelter sales ‘took off’ in the United States following the election of Donald Trump in 2016. However, he had a number of specific recommendations for those that were looking to stock their bunker in the event of war, including medication, more than 30 liters of water for drinking, and cleaning needs. He warned people to be practical about their choices, explaining, “Sweet tooths will have a hard time: Chocolate, candy, and condensed milk will have to be left in your past life.”
Is this simply feeding into the current mass hysteria, or is there an imminent threat on the horizon? On Thursday The Kremlin announced that there was a crisis communications link currently ‘active’ between Moscow and Washington, being used in an attempt to avoid an accidental clash over Syria. However, whether or not the Syrian attack has pushed this further will remain to be seen.