On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin remarked that, instead of funding Syrian rebels, the U.S. should have just given the money to Russia. The U.S. halted its training program after many rebels defected and U.S. weapons landed in the hands of al-Qaeda.
“It would have been better to give us $500 million,” quipped Putin. “At least we would have used it more effectively from the point of view of fighting international terrorism.”
Al-Qaeda kidnapped or killed multiple “New Syrian Force” fighters, which left American weapons in their hands. The Pentagon also provided vehicles and ammunition to Nusra Front, a radical Islamic group linked to al-Qaeda, for safe passage, but officials quickly lost track of the items.
Putin said Russia’s campaign in Syria is more effective than the U.S.-led coalition. He insisted his government’s actions “are legal and reasonable because it followed a Syrian request for assistance.”
“The simplest solution for them would be to join us and, in that way, legalize their actions on Syrian territory,” he stated.
The airstrikes began on September 30, only a day after Obama and Putin discussed Syria in New York. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the UN Security Council that the Kremlin received a request from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to start the strikes.
Russia is Assad’s largest ally and spent all summer pleading with other nations to join forces with Assad to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), but most declined. The majority of the world, including the U.S., wants Assad out of power.
“Our task is to stabilize the legitimate government and to create conditions for a political compromise, by military means, of course,” continued Putin. “The units of international terrorists and their ilk have no desire to negotiate with the Syrian government, who is almost sieged in its own capital.”
Putin met with Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday. Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that “Assad must depart after a political transition.” He previously stated “that Assad’s departure was a precondition to any settlement.”
“We have closely cooperated with Saudi Arabia for years on the crisis in Syria,” declared Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “The two parties confirmed that Saudi Arabia and Russia have similar objectives when it comes to Syria. Above all, it is to not let a terrorist caliphate take over the country.”
A source told the media that Saudi officials warned Moscow that their growing military invention will have “dangerous consequences.” The same source also said the oil-rich kingdom “will continue to strengthen and support the moderate opposition in Syria.” While Russia claims it only targets ISIS, many insiders maintain the airstrikes target all of Assad’s enemies.
“The Russian intervention in Syria will engage them in a sectarian war,” said the source. “The recent escalation will contribute in attracting extremists and jihadists to the war in Syria.”