Russian Military Buildup in Syria has US Concerned

The Russians are leaving Moscow for Syria. Moscow. Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

The Russians are leaving Moscow for Syria. Moscow. Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

The Americans are watching as Russia moves weapons and military personnel into Syria to assist the Bashar al-Assad regime in that nation’s civil war, and they’re concerned by what they’re seeing. In comments to Fox News, US officials called the Russian move “unprecedented”. Dozens of Russian marines are reportedly on the ground with armored vehicles already, with Fox News reporting that the Russians built 100 more housing units at a Syrian base.

The Russians won’t be the first foreign military in Syria, as the US-led coalition has been battling ISIS (ISIL) with airstrikes. But it’s the Russian motives that have given the US Department of Defense “some concerns” according to US spokesman Peter Cook. In comments to reporters posted on the Pentagon’s website, Cook said, “We welcomed anyone into the anti-ISIL fight… our primary concern here, [is] that it’s not going to bolster the fight against the Islamic State. Our focus is on fighting ISIL, and we think that further support for the Assad regime could actually be counterproductive.”

The situation is serious enough that US Secretary of State John Kerry has now spoken more than once with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the Russian moves, including on Wednesday.

“He reiterated our concern about these reports of Russian military activities—or buildup, if you will—in Syria and made very clear our view that if true and if borne out, those reports could lead to greater violence and even more instability in Syria,” US spokesman John Kirby said in comments released by the State Department.

Kirby noted that they are “not surprised” albeit “clearly disappointed” by reports that Iran has given Russia overflight permission to enter Syria. Reporters pointed out that Iraq would also need to give the same permission, as they sit between Iran and Syria.

Kirby said the US has asked other nations in the region to “to ask for themselves the Russians some tough questions about what they’re doing and what their intent is.”

The US has long insisted that the Assad regime has lost legitimacy in Syria for their brutality against Syrian civilians in the conflict, arguing the regime should give way to a political transition. This has put the US on opposite sides with Russia on Syria, as Moscow considers Syria a regional ally.

And now, both nations are intervening militarily in Syria—but for very different reasons.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, September 9, 2015)


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