Moscow has only four options: close your eyes to what happened, detract from it to the attention of the international community, to go to the escalation of or seek detente with the United States.
The golden rule of public administration is the need to avoid bluffing, but if this does not work, you have to be prepared for the fact that the bluff may expose. Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin came across this in Syria since the US missile strike on the country was not just a demonstration of Washington's military strength. Donald Trump's decision has put on its head the logic of the military "adventures" of Russia in Syria, and for the calculation of the night in Moscow on the Middle East was no longer so optimistic, writes Peter B. Doran in an article for The National Interest.
The author notes that in 2012, former President Barack Obama has gone on a bluff, stating its infamous "red line" on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. In fact, no features were not. When Syrian President Bashar Asad opened the bluff, he has shown that Washington's words do not mean anything. Unable to conjugate the words and deeds, Obama made it clear that formed a power vacuum in Syria, which was subsequently filled by Vladimir Putin. In the absence of the United States the Kremlin was able to take on the role of arbiter in Syria to support Assad and his client to demonstrate that Washington said, and Moscow acted. All this, according to the author, has also proved a bluff, as the Kremlin just used crudity "red line" of Obama. Moscow was never going to risk to go for a direct military conflict with Washington over Assad or the Middle East.
Initially, an ill-conceived "red line" was attractive Russian, because as long as the US has been pushed aside, Russia could go through a military escalation in the Middle East with a relatively low risk and low cost for their interests. This course was also paired with a large number of side benefits. For example, in Syria, Russia could try out their new high-tech weaponry and equipment, demonstrating the success of military modernization. In the end, the United States might be interested in the official cooperation with Russia against LIH (organization, whose activities are prohibited in the Russian Federation) in the region. In such a scenario the US events might recognize - even reluctantly - that Assad has a future. Moreover, in the framework of cooperation with Russia against LIH (organization, whose activities are prohibited in Russia) Washington could be forced to sideline his opposition to the war in the Ukraine. Syrian party by all accounts was a win-win.
However, the problem with small states is that they can involve a major power in the war, which she does not want, and which she did not win. According to the author, using chemical weapons against civilians, possibly with the assistance or inaction Russia, Assad has once again demonstrated disregard for the "red line", the United States carried out. Only this time, the president of Trump did not turn a blind eye. Blow to the Syrian air base was the break with the established trend. Unlike Obama, attacks on Syria was a demonstration of the fact that Trump is ready to project its power in Syria, and that Russia would no longer have the advantages of the Middle East.
After the attack on the base of "Shayrat" Russia is in a difficult situation, making the conflict in Syria is extremely risky undertaking. And Russia is now four ways in which it can go.
First, Moscow can close their eyes to the problem. Inaction is also an option, but in this case it would entail a weakening of confidence in Russia from China, Syria, Iran, and other Middle Eastern countries. An additional disadvantage of ignoring the problem is a loss of face in domestic politics.
Second, the Kremlin may also go for an escalation that is nihilistic best option for Moscow, as well Russia is moving toward a major conflict with the US. Russian military doctrine seeks to avoid such a scenario, and the probability of such a collision with the escalation will only increase.
Third, Russia can agree on the intermediate option between escalation and ignoring the problems and try to distract from the incident. To do this, Russia needs to redirect the world's attention to other regions. According to the author, the most obvious option would be an intensification of the conflict in eastern Ukraine or provocation defense of NATO forces in the Baltic or the Black Sea. However, this approach does not solve the reputational problems in Syria.
Finally, there is an option of discharge, that is, the author stresses, the best way to Russia. So less likely to unwanted conflict, and the apparent weakness of the Kremlin can be transformed into the wisdom of public administration. An example for discharge may become a confrontation between Moscow and Ankara, brought down a Russian bomber in 2015 year.
Now, the author concludes, should be no doubt that the US missile strike on Syria was a thoughtful, balanced and necessary. By all indications, the team to ensure the Trump National Security triggered an exceptional way. The next step for Vladimir Putin.