Putin Has Theories About Why Syria Used Chemical Weapons

by Lani Seelinger
Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As one of the Syrian government's only major allies, Russia has the unenviable task of justifying that allegiance. At least — that's what you might think. However, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has two theories about why Syria used chemical weapons, the Russian president said Tuesday. Both of them hinge on the idea that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad did not, in fact, use chemical weapons — despite piles of evidence to the contrary.

Russia's first theory about the Syrian chemical weapons attack last week was that the Assad regime had used dropped normal bombs, which then hit chemical agents stored by ISIS or Syrian rebel forces. The chances of this being true are pretty much nil, for a couple of reasons. First of all, examinations of surviving victims have shown that the attack used a nerve agent, and chemicals like those are too unstable to be stored after they've been mixed together. If you ignore that evidence and still claim that it was a bomb hitting a stored nerve agent, though, you're still facing the fact that chemicals let out by a bomb would have dispersed differently — plus, the attack appears to have occurred in the middle of the street, and not at a storage facility.

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So, you can rule that theory out, even if Russia hasn't. The second theory is even worthy of conspiracy-leaning Trump himself, although he probably doesn't like it too much. Putin's other assertion is that the attacks were faked, and he's also gone on to say that the U.S. is planning to fake more attacks in order to justify more missile strikes there. Unsurprisingly, Putin failed to give any proof of that, although he seems to believe that this is an explanation that works for all of the chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian war so far.

This is a conspiracy theory along the same lines as "Barack Obama is not an American", so Trump might even like it if it weren't about him. However, even staunch anti-Trump partisans are not likely to contend that the Trump administration dropped a nerve agent on a Syrian town. It's unclear which story Putin will stick to, but it does seem as though Russia is unlikely to stop backing Assad.

If that's going to be the case, they're going to have to keep denying that he's behind the murders of hundreds of his own citizens — and these sorts of theories allow them to continue doing that.