Following global concern over Russia’s growing military involvement in Syria, the U.S began dialogue with Moscow on Sept. 18 as to ascertain what exactly Russia’s military objectives in Syria are.
Following an hour—long phone call between U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, little information was shared between the two nations, something various news sources have attributed to this being the first conversation between both militaries in over a year.
According to CBC, Russian’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested more direct talks with U.S. officials during a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier in the week. Eventually, this call was followed up by Shoigu who called Carter Friday to begin dialogue between the two countries.
Despite the renewed conversation between the U.S. and Russia, Russia has done little to halt its military involvement with the Bashir government sending aircrafts, troops, tanks and other military equipment to Syria.
While no one denies that Syria needs increased military support in its fight against ISIS, the international community is critiquing Russia for aiding Assad’s forces, who have been accused of various war crimes carried out against their own citizens.
This is contrary to America’s plan, which is to actively prompt Assad’s resignation from office in order for a new government to be formed.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in an interview with a British news channel stated that he hopes that America’s campaign can continue and that, “we need to make sure those don’t conflict with Russia’s efforts against ISIS.”
“We welcome their help to get rid of ISIS and to have a legitimate political transition, but you will not end the crisis of Syria as long as Assad remains this magnet for people to come in and fight. We have to find a way forward on a political transition,” stated Kerry.
Canada’s views on Russian involvement in Syria
Prime Minister Stephen Harper voiced his opposition to Russia’s increased military involvement in Syria, calling it “dangerous”.
“The Russian government and Putin remains a government that complicates, in dangerous and unhelpful ways, security situations all over the world,” stated Harper while at a campaign rally in Victoriaville, Quebec.
Harper additionally reassured Canadians that he would keep our military out of Syria as the country continues to fall to pieces.
Currently, Canada is engaging with ISIS forces as part of the U.S.-led coalition, bombing key ISIS positions within Syria.
According to the former senior United Nations official, Mokhtar Lamani, Syria cannot simply win the war against ISIS by relying on Western support.
“That’s why so much of our efforts in Afghanistan were about building up their armed forces and their police and security agencies. That’s why we are in the north of Iraq, we were actually working with very closely and helping to train people who are actually effectively fighting ISIS in those regions,” Lamani said.
“The fact that there remains a lack of that capacity is obviously a significant challenge, but in the meantime it is important that we continue the air campaign against ISIS and make sure that they are put under pressure and not able to spend all of their time planning attacks against us in Canada and the rest of the West,” stated Lamani.
According to Reuters, Russia has begun flying drones in Syria for the purpose of surveillance. This is Russia’s first official military operation in Syria apart from bulking-up a military base from which they will be conducting much of their operations.
In an interview, Reuters spoke with a U.S. official on the condition of anonymity, who stated that it is unknown how many drones Russia is employing within Syria and what their use will be.
With Russia now operating in Syria, many questions have been raised as to wither Russia and America will be able to operate in Syria’s limited air space.
In response to these concerns, U.S. and Russian defence ministers had a lengthy phone conversation on Sept. 18 to explore ways to avoid “deconfliction” or accidental military engagements in military operations.
Despite both the U.S .and Russia opposing ISIS in Syria, America openly opposes Russia’s support of President Bashar al-Assad, viewing him as responsible for four years of political turmoil and massive atrocities committed against its civilian population.
Russia however, may end up engaging opposition fighters located within Syria who are currently backed by the U.S. army, seeing them as threat to the stability of the government, and therefore Syria.
Currently Russia’s drones are stationed outside of an air base near Latakia where it is moving heavy military equipment including helicopter gunships and naval infantry forces.