A statement in Washington and another in Moscow give us proof that international politics has reached a stage where “fake news” and hyperbole are becoming an unwelcome part of international politics. While propaganda has existed since politics began, yesterdays statements are tactics for a future that nobody reasonably wants to see happen.

History lesson

In his daily press briefing White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made what can only be described as an “inappropriate” comment on the use of gas weapons on civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoum by Syrian Dictator Bashar Al-Assad.

As reported by many sources Spicer in referring to Al-Assad stated that “You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” This comment surprised the journalists present and when asked to explain his statement Spicer further complicated the case by saying “He (Hitler) was not using gas on his own people in the same way as Assad is doing,” before saying “(Hitler) brought them into the Holocaust Centres.”

These comments soon spread via the social media where they were met with derision but also with calls from the Anne Frank Centre and Democrat House Leader Nancy Pelosi for Spicer to be fired for the comments.

Many others called for him to be given a lesson in history as the phrase “Holocaust centre” was an unusual way of describing the concentration camps where millions were gassed by Hitler’s special units.

While the gaffe by Spicer may have only been an aberration it clearly shows that the White House is struggling to give reasons why it has broken its campaign promises not to intervene in foreign conflicts.

At the same time in Moscow, another player on the world stage also made a contribution that showed that using words as weapons is an international pastime.

Putin and the black flag

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was winging towards Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella. During the traditional press conference he was asked if the expected further attacks in Syria by the United States.

As reported by Reuters the Russian President replied, “We have certain information that a similar provocation is being prepared...in other parts of Syria including in Southern Damascus suburbs where they are planning to again plant some substance and accuse the Syrian authorities of using (chemical weapons).”

These comments are not only a reply to the White House’s accusation of a Russian cover-up of the gas attack on Khan Sheikhoum last week but also an accusation of using so-called “black flag” operations to justify what Russia considers as illegal American attacks on the legal government of a sovereign country.

This statement also gives the Kremlin an explanation for its intention to supply the Al-Assad regime with anti aircraft batteries to protect Syrian cities from aerial attack, presumably from the United States.

Next phase

It would be logical to presume that the next attacks will not come in the immediate future. The White House will want Secretary of State Tillerson to complete the task that began at the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Lucca in Italy where those present stated their preference for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis.

In any case, Spicer’s statement and Putin’s declaration gave us a firm grasp of the mentality of the two protagonists as we proceed to the next round of this dangerous international game of diplomacy in which neither country is willing to be seen to stand down from its stated position on Syria.

We can only hope that the world will not see what von Clausewitz stated was the logical extension of diplomacy as no country wishes to be embroiled in a war that nobody will win.