In a world of growing dangers and strengthening enemies, one would think that our government would begin to act decisively and with purpose. This has continued to not to be the case. Russia has sent warnings to the Administration that there could be unintended encounters between Russian forces and American forces in Syria. And, as much as Obama wants the Dictator Assad removed from power, Ol’ Putin wants him to remain. And now, right on time, the Russians are showing their resolve and their muscle in the region.
Russia has positioned about a half dozen tanks at an airfield at the center of a military buildup in Syria, two U.S. officials said on Monday, adding that the intentions of Moscow’s latest deployment of heavy military equipment were unclear.
Moscow has come under increased international pressure in recent days to explain its moves in Syria, where the Kremlin has been supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a 4-1/2-year war.
As I reported, this support is not completely unfounded. The Russians seem to have a logical reason to back Assad’s Syrian Army.
Russia denies it’s trying to build up Assad’s military and instead has claimed its increased military presence is part of an international effort to help defeat the Islamic State. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on world powers to join Russia in that pursuit, arguing that Syria’s army is the most efficient force to fight extremists in the Middle East.
So, what exactly is going on here? Is this two states seeking their own interests and speaking past one another? Are the Russians picking a fight with America because of our interference in Russian affairs? Whatever is really going on, it seems that both sides are saying the right things.
Both Moscow and Washington say their enemy is Islamic State, whose Islamist fighters control large parts of Syria and Iraq. But Russia supports the government of Assad in Syria while the United States says his presence makes the situation worse.
Now, the problem is that these are mutually exclusive opinions. Both the United States and Russia cannot be correct. If Assad is further exasperating the situation in the Syrian conflict, then the Russians are wrong. But, If Assad is the only leader who can keep the country out of the hands of ISIS or another Islamist group, then the administration is wrong. But, who is it?
After 4 1/2 years of fighting, it seems unlikely that Assad is going to unite the Syrian people suddenly. Many have no intention of allowing him to continue what they think is a horrible and ruthless regime. At the same time, there are no other valid fighting forces that one can point to as a replacement for the Syrian army.
One must hope that this is not the beginning of a downward slope that no one can stop.