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."
UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson later said that global powers would not "turn a blind eye" to "vile, sick and barbaric" use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.
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."
Yet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the strikes had only strengthened the regime's resolve to "crush terror" in the country, and accused Western countries of supporting terrorism.
"This aggression will only increase Syria and the Syrian people's determination to continue to fight and crush terror in every inch of the country," Assad said in a phone call to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, according to the Syrian presidency's Twitter account. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the strikes as a "crime," according to reports.
Officials with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that they would continue their mission in Syria. The international inspectors had been set to travel to Douma to definitively determine if chemical weapons were used — but they were not tasked with investigating who used such weapons.
Russia called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on Saturday. After two hours of debate, the Security Council rejected a Russian resolution condemning the airstrikes, with only Russia, China, and Bolivia voting for the resolution.
“The United States and its allies continue to demonstrate blatant disregard for international law,” said Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia.
But Nikki Haley, the US ambassador, said the US had given diplomacy "chance after chance after chance" to no avail.
“When our president draws a red line, the president enforces the red line,” she said.
Earlier this week, Russia used its veto in the UN body to block a US resolution to send inspectors to the site.
UN Secretary General António Guterres described the use of chemical weapons as "abhorrent," but stressed that member states must act in accordance with "international law in general."
"I urge all Member States to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people," he said.
"I have repeatedly expressed my deep disappointment that the Security Council failed to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria," he added. "I urge the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and fill this gap. I will continue to engage with Member States to help achieve this objective."
Reading a statement on Syrian televison, Syrian Brig. Gen. Ali Mayhoub said that the scientific research center in Barzeh near Damascus was hit, while three people were injured in Homs when a missile was targeted.
Iran, which has also backed Assad since the conflict began in 2011, also warned of "regional consequences."
"The United States and its allies have no proof and, without even waiting for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to take a position, have carried out this military attack ... and are responsible for the regional consequences," said Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Bahram Ghasemi.
China said it is opposed to the strikes in a statement published by its Foreign Ministry.
"Any unilateral military action bypassing the Security Council runs contrary to the purpose and principles of the UN Charter and violates the principles of international law and the basic norms governing international relations, and will further complicate the Syrian issue," it said.
A senior official in a pro-Assad regional alliance told Reuters that "all military bases were evacuated a few days ago" after an early warning from Russia about the strikes.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly said the Russians were warned "ahead of time" — despite claims from the Pentagon that Moscow was not notified.
"We did not do any coordination with Russia on these strikes, and neither did we pre-notify them," Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday night.
When asked whether the UK had communicated with Russia ahead of the strikes, May said: "This is not something that the United Kingdom has been involved in."
The Syrian government posted a video of Assad walking into his offices the morning after the strikes. The footage could not be independently verified.