Russia is expanding its military support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom it has supported throughout a brutal conflict that has taken the lives of over 250,000 people.
Secretary of State John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on September 15, expressing the United States’ concern that a Russian military build-up in Syria could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows, and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL Coalition operating in Syria.
Russia claims its military support for Assad is aimed at defeating terrorists like ISIL. President Barack Obama said September 11 that Russia and the United States’ common view of the ISIL threat creates a potentially converging interest. But, said President Obama, “The bad news is that Russia continues to believe that Assad…is somebody that is worthy of continuing support:”
“It has been my view and the view of the United States Government that as long as Assad is there, he has alienated so much of the Syrian population that it will not be possible to arrive at a peaceful cease-fire and political settlement, and you’ll continue to have this vacuum that’s filled by extremists.”
President Obama said, “You can’t continue to double-down on a strategy that’s doomed to failure.” If, however, the Russians “are willing to work with us and the 60-nation coalition we’ve put together, then there’s the possibility of a political settlement in which Assad would be transitioned out, and a new coalition of moderate, secular, and inclusive forces could come together and restore order in the country. That,” said President Obama, “is our goal.”