The strikes have been supported by NATO’s general secretary, but Russia, China, and Iran have condemned them. Vladimir Putin has demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday denounced the missile strikes in Syria by the US, France, and the UK as an “act of aggression” that will exacerbate the humanitarian catastrophe in the war-torn country.
Putin was backed up in condemning the attacks by Iran and China, but other countries — including Germany and Turkey — backed them, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also expressed his support.
The Pentagon described the strikes, which were carried out against three Syrian targets to punish President Bashar al-Assad for the apparent use of chemical weapons on his own civilians, as a crippling blow to his regime’s chemical weapons program.
President Trump later took to Twitter on Saturday to describe the missile strikes as “perfectly executed.”
“Mission accomplished!” he wrote.
In a statement on Saturday, Putin reiterated the Russian claim that the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that killed dozens of civilians was fake: “Russian military experts, having visited the place of the alleged incident, did not find any traces of the use of chlorine or other poisonous substances. No local resident confirmed the chemical attack.”
In a later statement, Moscow said it would consider supplying S-300 missile systems to Syria following the strikes, which the US and its allies said were aimed at sites linked to the development and use of chemical weapons: a storage and production facility, a research center, and a second storage facility and military bunker.
The Russian military claimed that Syria shot down 71 out of 103 cruise missiles launched, and that the targeted facilities only suffered minor damage.
The Defense Ministry in Moscow said that a dozen cruise missiles targeting Dumayr base had been downed using Soviet-made air defense systems. In an apparent slight at Trump, who claimed this week that the new missiles would be “nice and new and ‘smart,'” Moscow said some of the equipment was designed as long ago as the 1950s.
However, in a press conference on Saturday morning, the Pentagon said that it had destroyed the targets and crippled Syria’s ability to make chemical weapons for years.
“Last year the focus was on the delivery. This time, we went — the strikes went to the very heart of the enterprise, to the research, to development, to storage,” said chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White. “So we are very confident that we have significantly crippled Assad’s ability to produce these weapons.”
Lieutenant General Kenneth F. McKenzie told reporters that 40 missiles were fired by Syria — mainly after the strikes took place. He said that the US cannot confirm where they landed since they were not precision-guided, suggesting they may have caused civilian casualties.
“The Syrian response was remarkably ineffective in all domains,” McKenzie said. “They had no material impact on the strike.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May also said she was “confident” the strikes had been successful. Her defense secretary, Gavin Williamson, told BBC Radio 4: “Our service personnel have played an important role in terms of degrading the ability of the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons in the future, but also it sends a clear message to the Syrian regime that they cannot continue to use chemical weapons with impunity.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on TV that the mission’s goal “was attained,” but warned that there could be another attack if France’s “red line is crossed again.”