The Russian government sent humanitarian aid to Syria over the weekend, only a few days after officials demanded U.S. cooperation to avoid “unintended consequences.”
The Associated Press reported Russian military planes landed in Syria with humanitarian aid for over 1,000 refugees. According to Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, planes contained items “for setting up a tent camp, including beds, mattresses, stoves, water cisterns and food.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin jumped to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s aid when the country dived into a civil war four years ago. The Syrian National Coalition lashed out at the move because they believe it is a “direct Russian military intervention.”
“The direct Russian military intervention will not lead to the regime’s rescue, give it legitimacy or rehabilitate it,” declared the coalition.
The group also said this behavior “puts Moscow in a position that is ‘hostile to the Syrian people and turns its forces in Syria to occupation forces.’”
But tensions remain high between the U.S. and Russia since Syrian television broadcasted Russian troops alongside Syrian troops earlier this month. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the phone two times to discuss the matter.
On Friday, Russia told the U.S. to talk with them about Syria to avoid any “unintended incidents.” The Mediterranean island of Cyprus confirmed the Russian government “informed it of live-fire naval exercises to be conducted off Syria.” The U.S. and Russian forces in Syria are not speaking to each other, even though both admit radical jihadist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) are their common enemy.
“Coalition forces are focused on conducting counter-ISIL operations, and so to my knowledge there is no military-to-military contact at this point,” explained Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, adding:
We’re keeping an eye on the Russian situation there, but right now again there’s really no deconfliction to do. I think what you’re getting at is: [deconfliction] in the event there’s some type of Russian military or air activity, but again, I’m not going to speculate or talk about hypotheticals. Certainly, we have very professional air forces, and the coalition is going to ensure the safety of those forces where we operate.
President Barack Obama claimed Russian movements will not change “strategy in countering Islamic State fighters.”
“But we are going to be engaging Russia to let them know that you can’t continue to double-down on a strategy that is doomed to failure,” he announced.