The fear imbalance
One notable aspect of the Syria drama is the imbalance in fear levels between the United States and Russia. The Russian media has been full of warnings about a US-Russian military clash and the impending outbreak of World War III. Russian professional analysts have likewise been very alarmist. To cite but one example: Dmitri Trenin, a prominent Russian foreign policy specialist and director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote a piece for the Foreign Policy website subtitled, “Trump’s latest airstrikes are a new U.S.-Russian missile crisis that risks devastating escalation.”
By contrast, I don’t remember a single reference to World War III on American television, or even to the possibility that Syria could lead to a major conventional or nuclear war with Russia. American specialist and security officials are rather more alarmed, but as Trenin suggests, most still appear confident that the risk of a major U.S.-Russia war breaking out in Syria is low because the United States and its allies have such a preponderance of force in the eastern Mediterranean.
My take is the same as it has been for some time with respect to the risks of war between Russia and the United States: a significant risk of something catastrophic is worth worrying about, and it would be a terrible error to sleepwalk into disaster. But the point I want to make here is that I have the impression that the fear level about Syria in the American public is quite low. It seems to be somewhat higher in the U.K., France, and other European countries, but still much less than in Russia. Continue reading