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Exclusive: Russia doesn't have firepower to retaliate against Trump, says ex-Putin aide

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
Russia has boasted it is practising shooting down missiles as the country’s parliamentary hardliners demanded a military response to any US air strike on Syria. (Reuters)

Russia doesn’t have the financial capability to retaliate to a military intervention in Syria by the US.

That’s according to a former senior aide to Vladimir Putin, who has told Yahoo Finance UK that threats from Moscow of a ‘backlash’ against the US are completely unfounded.

On Wednesday, Donald Trump warned – in a tweet – that military action in Syria would be is imminent, declaring missiles “will be coming”.

That follows a round of provocative statements from both Washington and Moscow that has made the prospect of any diplomatic solution increasingly unlikely.

The President said: “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!”

He added: “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?”

US President Donald Trump today warned Russia about supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria and said US missiles “will be coming”. (AP)

Trump has been in talks with Britain and France to secure a joint response to the suspected chemical weapons attack in the rebel- held town of Douma.

But Russia has warned against military action and said it will shoot down rockets fired at its ally.

Alexander Zasypkin, Moscow’s ambassador to Lebanon, warned that the federation’s military will shoot down missiles and “even the sources that launched them”.

And Russia’s UN envoy Vasily Nebenzia said Washington would “bear responsibility” for any “illegal military adventure” it carries out.

However, according to Andrei Illarionov, Putin’s senior economic adviser for six years, Russia’s warning against US military action will not be backed up with military might.

‘Don’t take seriously all the statements,’ he told Yahoo Finance UK. ‘It’s part of a propaganda campaign.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with his former chief economic advisor Andrei Illarionov (Getty)

‘What kind of backlash? I don’t see it. The military expenditure of Russia is about $60bn. The military expenditure of the United States is up to $700bn. With all military expenditure with NATO the relation is maybe one to 20.

‘How many battleships does the US and Nato have in the Mediterranean compared to Russia. It’s incomparable.’

The UK’s position

Theresa May has agreed with her American and French counterparts that the international community needs to respond.

The Prime Minister spoke to Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday and Downing Street said the three leaders agreed that the international community “needed to respond to uphold the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons”.

Theresa May held separate calls with the two leaders on Tuesday. (Getty) 

A spokeswoman said Mrs May held separate calls with the two leaders on Tuesday and that they agreed the reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria were “utterly reprehensible” and that they would “continue working closely together”.

However, on Wednesday, General Sir Richard Barrons, Commander Joint Forces Command from April 2013 until April 2016 said any strikes needed to be “at scale, with allies and if necessary repeated until conditions change”.

He said: “Well I think the likely outcome is that action will be taken because it must be taken.”