April 16, 2018

Trump’s tweet on “nice missiles” might have been a result of imprecise translation

US president Donald Trump caused a stir with his belligerent tweet: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia,  because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” Only an hour later Trump published another tweet, in a rather different tone: Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?” After that, US president mentioned Russia in his tweets three more times, outside of military context this time: he criticized “Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation” headed by special counsel Robert Mueller on Trump’s associates alleged collaboration with Russia.

Vasily Kashin of “Higher School of Economics“ national research university thinks the reason for “nice missiles” tweet was a Reuters and AP publication: they quoted an interview with Alexander Zasypkin, Russian ambassador in Lebanon conducted by “Al-Manar”,a Hezbollah TV channel. Zasypkin said Russia will intercept missiles and attack launch sites in case of USA aggression against Syria. In the experts opinion, what took place is most likely the channel imprecisely translated ambassadors words from Arabic into English, and the words were taken out of context or were not expressed clearly enough.

In fact Zasypkin reiterated a statement of Chief of Staff Valeriy Gerasimov, who warned mid-March of missile interception and attacking launch sites in case USA strikes on Syria endanger lives of Russian military personnel. Yet, the news agencies report was quoted in Fox News, a channel Trump is known to watch and, in about half an hour he fired off a missile tweet, notes the expert.

Moscow’s official reaction has been modest. “Smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not legitimate government”, Maria Zakharova, Foreign Ministry representative stated. Dmitry Peskov, Presidential Press Secretary noted: “We do not take part in Twitter diplomacy. We prefer a serious approach. We still consider it important to refrain from steps which can harm an already delicate situation” Tactical Department of the Joint Staff Deputy Chief Gen. Victor Pozinhir suggested that US “rather than proclaim their readiness to deliver missile strikes against Syria, take part in rebuilding the destroyed city of Raqqa. The general also said that Russia is aware of US aircraft carrier “Harry Truman” strike group relocating to Persian Gulf “scheduled to arrive in the beginning of May”: “This is a routine part of US Navy presence in the region”.