As Putin Slams NATO, Russia loses Patience with US-Backed Rebels in Syria

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

On Wednesday President Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian parliament on the 75th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s attack on his country. He said Russia would have to increase its military preparedness given NATO’s “aggressive” actions on Russia’s borders. (He was talking about NATO defensive moves in Poland and the Baltic states). Putin lamented that it would have been possible for the West to find a way to cooperate on security with Russia in the face of the threat from terrorism, but that it hadn’t tried.

At the same time, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu made a surprise visit to Damascus. Speculation ran rife as to the reason for the visit.

BBC Monitoring translates from Trud, “The Russian defence minister’s visit was somewhat of a surprise to experts, although he does visit Syria regularly,” Boris Dolgov, senior scientific assistant at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Oriental Studies Arab and Islamic Research Centre, explained to Moskovskiy Komsomolets. “But the meeting with Al-Asad was important. Of course, it was connected to the memorandum from the State Department officials, who were demanding that the US authorities undertake more resolute actions against the Syrian government army, and to the US complaints about the actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces. In my view, Shoygu saw for himself on the spot the plane on which the Russian Aerospace Forces’ operations are proceeding and what the situation in Syria is like. One further point about the visit: It is the continuation of the process of the signing of the agreement on a cease fire by the armed groups which are operating against Al-Asad’s army but which are not radical. In my view, that was also within the sphere of what Shoygu was inspecting.”

The deputy Minister of Defense, Gen. Valery Gerasimov (also the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia) implicitly hit back against US Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry had warned last week that the US was losing patience with the Syrian regime’s attempt to take east Aleppo, in violation of the cessation of hostilities arrived at in February. On Wednesday, Gerasimov said it was Russia who is losing patience, with US-backed rebels who are sometimes making tactical battlefield alliances with radical groups.

Gerasimov said that for the past three months, Russia has been supplying the US with detailed information on the locations and movements of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) and al-Qaeda in Syria (the Nusra Front), but that the US appears to have made no use of this information in its bombing raids at all. He blamed American refusal to cooperate for the ripostes that Daesh has been able to make against the campaign of the Syrian Arab Army to retake a military base in al-Raqqa province, a campaign that has failed.

The Russian press is also suggesting that there is a split between President Obama and John Kerry on Syria, inasmuch as Obama is said to be tired of the State Department’s requests that he expand US military operations in Syria. This week some 50 hawkish State Department employees called for Obama to bomb the Syrian government, which is said to have alarmed Moscow (which is backing the regime of Bashar al-Assad.)


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Posted in Featured,Syria | 17 Responses | Print |

17 Responses

  1. “He was talking about NATO defensive moves in Poland and the Baltic states”

    NATO’s massive military exercise in the Baltics is intended to be defensive in nature, but it should not surprise that Russia sees it as an aggressive stance.

    The country has been invaded too many times, to be sanguine of such a massive troop presence at its doorsteps.

    • Given that the objective of the NATO war maneuvers was to prepare for the seizure of Russian Kaliningrad, I’m not surprised Russia sees these provocations as more than “defensive”.

  2. Putin has always been sincere in his efforts to cooperate with the US in fighting against the Isis. Sadly the US has another agenda. That is to provoke Russia into a war.

    • America’s support of jihadi factions and its unwillingness to coordinate with Russia vs. ISIS are clear indications of its unwavering aim to get rid of al-Assad. The Americans failed to get Sevastopol in the Ukraine, but are still determined to get the Qatari pipeline.

    • The US? Not entirely. There are some USAmericans who want to maintain peace with Russia. The two biggest voting blockloads of us that I can think of are the Sandernistas and the Stormtrumpers. (Unless the Stormtrumpers don’t even know that Trump and Putin have expressed respect for eachother and eachother’s country and interests/positions.)

      The Clintonites and the Brand Name Republicans support causing a war with Russia.

      And the uncommitted uninterested amorphous mass blob part of the public doesn’t know and doesn’t care, and has survival problems of its own . . . day to day and often hour to hour.

      So does anyone have any ideas on how the peace with Russia group can derail the war with Russia group’s plans?

  3. Divisions within the US are inevitable as the notion of US global authority fades. It’s too late to bomb Assad. If they wanted to do that they should have done it a couple of years ago. That, of course, would likely have led to another Iraq/Libya etc. but they might have gotten away with it then. Obama is in an impossible situation since the threat to the fading dream is not Russia or China as contenders for the global crown but the very idea of a single global authority, and that’s tough for US ‘exceptionalism’ to take on board. I recall a, doubtless apocryphal, story told after WWII of an English traveller arriving in New York and gazing around in some confusion until he enquired of an official: I see American citizens go through there, and foreigners over there, but where do the English go?

  4. Nato is not acting defensively at Poland – aggression is the neoCon only way
    A state Dept that advocates physical hostility is a war Dept.
    ¡Defund the usa dod!

  5. All these wars in the middle east just to make the neighborhood safe for Israel…. When will we ever learn?

  6. The cry is ‘Assad must go’, but even if he did go, would the US, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia accept ANY Syrian government that is allied with Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah?

  7. THank you, it’s been hard to find information on this recent visit and what is going on. That is dismal because it seems if we all got together on this – we could squash Isil from opposite directions but it seems the will to wipe out ISIL in Syria is not there on our side and that is rather alarming

  8. “He was talking about NATO defensive moves in Poland and the Baltic states” – That’s a good one, Juan. Too bad Russian annexed Crimea, or NATO could be making some “defensive” moves there, too. What could Putin possibly have to worry about?

    • Prof. Cole is profoundly anti-Assad and hence, anti-Russia, its main ally — accordingly, the scare quotes for ‘NATO’s “aggressive” actions’.

  9. I wouldn’t want to go up against no Russian. I’ve known a few. I love to hang out with them but I’ll never argue with them. It’s just not worth it. They won’t give up. Besides, most of the time they’re right.
    No, I don’t want to mess with no Russians. First off I like them, secondly I know that pushed to the limit, they won’t shirk. You couldn’t have a better friend or a worse enemy.

  10. Russia hates wars, Russia doesn’t start wars, she puts an end to them. Russia military is ready for war if invaded. The scariest thing is that the Russian people are ready for war.
    Remember what the poor peasants told Tsar Alexander I; We are with you, we will all die, but we will win, which brought tears to his eyes. Also remember that they drove two greatest armies to their respective capital where the order to invade Russia were given – Russian march to Paris 30 March 1814. Russian march to Berlin 1 of April 1945. Would the next capital be Washington DC ?
    Montgomery’s rules of war
    1. Don’t march on Moscow.
    2. Don’t go fighting with your land army on the mainland of Asia.

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