'This is a dangerous period': Trump is finally calling out Putin by name, and experts are anxiously watching what he'll do next

  • President Donald Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin out on Twitter Sunday after a suspected chemical attack in Syria killed at least 40 people.
  • Ian Bremmer told Business Insider on Sunday that the US will probably soon strike Syrian forces if it can confirm that chemical weapons were indeed used.
  • Lawmakers are encouraging Trump to act, and hold Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for his actions.
  • Bremmer also said he agrees with the potential strikes, but also says there are downsides to the proposition.

After months of praise — calling him "smart", congratulating his reelection, floating forming a "Cyber Security unit" — President Donald Trump finally called out Russian President Vladimir Putin by name on Twitter Sunday for the first time since taking office.

Trump placed part of the blame on Putin for the suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people in Douma, Syria on Saturday. Putin's government has backed Syrian government forces for years, while the US has sided with the opposition rebels.

"President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad," Trump tweeted, referring to Russia's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "Big price ... to pay."

Ian Bremmer, president of geopolitical-risk firm Eurasia Group, said that if the US can get confirmation that chemical weapons were indeed used, Trump will probably order a strike like he did in April 2017 after the US concluded Assad's regime was behind another chemical attack.

"I think he's probably going to engage in strikes against Syria," Bremmer told Business Insider on Sunday. "He's made very clear both then and now that he's not going to tolerate use of chemical weapons by Assad's regime."

Lawmakers from both parties have encouraged Trump to make the call. Sen. John McCain of Arizona went so far as to say that Trump's pledge to withdraw US troops from Syria "emboldened Assad."

"Trump was quick to call out Assad today, along with the Russian and Iranian governments, on Twitter. The question now is whether he will do anything about it," McCain said in a statement. "The President responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons last year. He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes."

'A defining moment'

Bremmer said Trump's "strange" unwillingness to criticize Putin, and Russia in general, finally changed on Sunday.

"None of us know why it is that Trump decided he was going to be so nice individually to Putin. It's not like he cares about being nice to people," Bremmer said. "Why was he being nice to Putin, and why is he suddenly shifting? Anyone that tells you they know the answer to that question is lying."

The Trump administration is already imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs and entities, and has expelled dozens of Russian diplomats. Bremmer said the US could decide to impose harsher sanctions on the country, conduct cyber attacks, or even release embarrassing information on Putin.

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Trump and Putin meet at APEC
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Trump and Putin meet at APEC
DA NANG, VIETNAM - NOVEMBER 11, 2017: Russia's president Vladimir Putin (L) and US president Donald Trump during a photo session of world leaders on the closing day of the 25th APEC Summit. Mikhail Metzel/TASS (Photo by Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk as they make their way to take the 'family photo' during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV (Photo credit should read MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
DA NANG, VIETNAM - NOVEMBER 11, 2017: Russia's president Vladimir Putin (L front) and US president Donald Trump before a photo session of world leaders on the closing day of the 25th APEC Summit. Mikhail Metzel/TASS (Photo by Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) chats with Russia's President Vladimir Putin as they attend the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV (Photo credit should read MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) chats with Russia's President Vladimir Putin as they attend the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV (Photo credit should read MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and US President Donald Trump talk as they attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV (Photo credit should read MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk as they make their way to take the 'family photo' during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. World leaders and senior business figures are gathering in the Vietnamese city of Danang this week for the annual 21-member APEC summit. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JORGE SILVA (Photo credit should read JORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk as the make their way to take the 'family photo' during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. World leaders and senior business figures are gathering in the Vietnamese city of Danang this week for the annual 21-member APEC summit. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JORGE SILVA (Photo credit should read JORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin walk together to take part in the 'family photo' during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. World leaders and senior business figures are gathering in the Vietnamese city of Danang this week for the annual 21-member APEC summit. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JORGE SILVA (Photo credit should read JORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk as they make their way to take the 'family photo' during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. World leaders and senior business figures are gathering in the Vietnamese city of Danang this week for the annual 21-member APEC summit. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JORGE SILVA (Photo credit should read JORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images)
DA NANG, VIETNAM - NOVEMBER 11, 2017: Russia's president Vladimir Putin (CL front) and US president Donald Trump (CR front) before a photo session of world leaders on the closing day of the 25th APEC Summit. Mikhail Metzel/TASS (Photo by Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk before a session of the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Donald Trump, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quangand and Chinese President Xi Jinping arrive for the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk during a break in a session of the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
(Front L to R) Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, (back L to R) Russia's President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha pose during the 'family photo' during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. World leaders and senior business figures are gathering in the Vietnamese city of Danang this week for the annual 21-member APEC summit. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JORGE SILVA (Photo credit should read JORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images)
(Front L to R) China's President Xi Jinping, Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, (back L to R) Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump, and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha pose during the 'family photo' during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. World leaders and senior business figures are gathering in the Vietnamese city of Danang this week for the annual 21-member APEC summit. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JORGE SILVA (Photo credit should read JORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Former President Barack Obama didn't escalate into this territory, Bremmer said, because Obama "recognized there was a potential for escalation that was quite dangerous."

Trump also criticized Obama in a follow-up tweet on Sunday, saying that his predecessor should have "Drawn A Red Line In The Sand."

"There's one thing we know is that Trump absolutely wants to show that he is the opposite of Obama," Bremmer said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that Trump has the opportunity to "reset the table" in Syria, and suggested bombing Assad's air force and setting up so-called safe zones to achieve peace.

"If it becomes a tweet without meaning, then he has hurt himself in North Korea. If he doesn't follow through and live up to that tweet, he's going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran," Graham said. "So this is a defining moment, Mr. President. You need to follow through with that tweet. Show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right."

What the international community plans to do about Assad

"One of the few things that Trump has done in foreign policy that really the international community widely supported was the strikes that he engaged in last April," Bremmer said.

The US, along with France, the UK and other nations called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to be held on Monday "in reference to the horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians in Syria," UN Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted Sunday afternoon.

"This is becoming all too common," Haley wrote. "Strong action is needed."

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April 2018 Syria attack leaves dozens dead
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April 2018 Syria attack leaves dozens dead
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian child receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian man receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian kid waits to receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: Affected Syrian kids wait to receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian man lies on a stretcher as he waits to get medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: Affected Syrian kids wait to receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Fadi Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - APRIL 08: A man holds a photo of a victim baby as he and other demonstrators gather to protest against Assad regime forces' allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta, in Saraqib town of Idlib, Syria on April 08, 2018. (Photo by Mahmut Bekkur/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'SYRIAN CIVIL DEFENSE (WHITE HELMETS) / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Affected Syrian kids receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Douma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. At least 78 civilians dead, including women and children, according to the initial findings. (Photo by WHITE HELMETS / HANDOUT/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 08: An affected Syrian kid receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 08, 2018. At least 78 civilians dead, including women and children, according to the initial findings. (Photo by Mouneb Taim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 08: An affected Syrian kid receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 08, 2018. At least 78 civilians dead, including women and children, according to the initial findings. (Photo by Mouneb Taim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The US could partner with France in the strike directly. Bremmer said French President Emmanuel Macron "recently put out his own red lines against Assad, saying that he would strike any base that lethal chemical attacks were launched from. He said he'd do it by himself."

Bremmer said "given that Macron and Trump have both made those statements, I think strikes against Assad do make sense," adding that the US would need to be careful not to hit Russian forces.

One potential downside is that Russia could execute more cyber attacks in response, Bremmer said, which could further deteriorate relations between the US and Russia.

"We're not heading to a nuclear war with the Russians, but this is a dangerous period," Bremmer said. "If the Americans engage in direct strikes against Assad given their direct support by the Russians and the Iranians — it is a dangerous thing to do, but I do think that it's an appropriate thing to do in this environment."

NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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SEE ALSO: There's already talk the US could respond with missile strikes after Trump accused Putin and 'Animal Assad' of being behind a chemical attack in Syria

DON'T MISS: Trump calls out Putin by name after at least 40 'suffocated to death' and hundreds more injured in suspected chemical attack in Syria

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