Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has warned that the United Kingdom must take precautionary measures to protect itself from possible Russian retaliation following the recent US-UK-French airstrikes on Syria, where Moscow is helping the government in fighting foreign-sponsored terrorists.
Johnson made the remarks in an interview on Sunday, a day after the armed forces of the US, Britain and France launched a barrage of cruise missiles on three different targets in Syria, saying it was the right thing to do to deter the further use of chemical weapons.
Johnson accused Russia of having a track record of launching cyberattacks on infrastructure and interfering in the democratic processes of other countries, probably referring to the alleged Russian interference into the 2016 US presidential election.
The US and its allies had been threatening Damascus with military action since April 7, when a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, reportedly killed 60 people and injured hundreds more.
Russia said the chemical attack was staged by desperate militants to provoke further intervention in the conflict by the West.
Moscow had said that threats by the US, France and Britain to launch a military aggression against Syria violate the UN Charter, calling on the West to “seriously consider” the consequences of such intimidation.
But the three countries went ahead with their threats and launched airstrikes against the Syrian government targets on Saturday morning.
Johnson said on Sunday that following the military action in Syria contact between himself and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had gone cold.
Asked about the possibility of “revenge attacks” by Russia against the UK, Johnson said, ”You have to take every possible precaution, and when you look at what Russia has done, not just in this country, in Salisbury, attacks on TV stations, on the democratic processes, on critical national infrastructure – of course we have to be very, very cautious indeed.”
“But I want to stress, we in the UK do not seek an escalation, absolutely not,” he added.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has sharply criticized Prime Minister Theresa May for following the orders of US President Donald Trump in launching missile strikes against Syria, saying “bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace.”
Corbyn, a veteran anti-war campaigner, said Saturday that May should have sought approval from the UK Parliament before ordering the attack, which he said could escalate the conflict.
“Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm’s way,” he added.
Corbyn said the only acceptable legal basis to legitimize such a military strike would either have to be self-defense, or the authority of the UN Security Council.
Syria, Russia, Iran as well as many other countries and organizations, condemned the illegal attack as a flagrant violation of international law.