In Russia and Syria on Tuesday, people woke to the news that missiles had been launched from the Mediterranean Sea. It turns out to have been a missile defense test, conducted by Israel with assistance from the United States. Did anyone tell Moscow?

Syria, of course, is under constant threat of military retaliation by the United States for the alleged use of chemical weapons. U.S. Navy vessels have been reportedly maneuvered in the Mediterranean in position to strike. Russia has been Syria’s main backer and the whole conflict has raised the potential for a proxy war.

Here’s how Russians got the news, as reported by The New York Times:

In Russia, the missile launch was first reported by the RIA Novosti state news agency, which announced early Tuesday afternoon that Russian radar had detected the launch of what it called two ballistic missiles in the Mediterranean Sea, giving no further clarification.

The announcement set off breathless conjecture on Russian news sites and social media networks of an American strike against Syria. Sergei K. Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, was reported to have briefed President Vladimir V. Putin about the missile launch, even as the lack of details in state media reports raised the question of whether Russian officials knew precisely what had occurred.

We can only hope that the American and Israeli governments warned Moscow about this ill-timed and easily misinterpreted exercise.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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