The Russian Parliament has effectively put to rest all speculation whether or not Russia will deploy troops in Syria by unanimously voting in favour and giving heft to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agenda to do so.
Significantly, the Russian Parliament’s decision in all likelihood could further exacerbate the tense relations between the US and Russia. The two nations have been discussing ways to reduce conflict in the region by preventing unintended military engagement in Syria.
Mr Putin who met US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 28 discussed Syria and, Russia’s intentions in Syria. The two leaders had differed over how to deal with the growing presence of IS in Syria at the UN meeting in New York, with US emphasising on fighting with ideas and Russia urging a coalition force with the Assad regime, as the best way to combat the Islamic State.
While the two leaders disagreed on the issue of support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Washington categorically stated that if Russia intends to send troops to fight the Islamic State, it will welcome the decision but if it sends troops to protect the Assad regime it will not support it.
Kremlin sought to play down the decision of the parliament, saying it will only use its air force there, not ground troops. Mr Putin has to request parliamentary approval for any use of Russian troops abroad, according to the Constitution.
After the vote in the Federation Council, the Russian parliament’s upper chamber, the head of the Kremlin administration, Sergei Ivanov said: “It is about Syria.”
The Russian Parliament’s latest decision shows that talks between Mr Obama and Mr Putin may not have yielded any positive result.
With Russia deciding to go ahead and support the Assad regime and the US firm in its opposition to the regime, there is every possibility of heightening tensions between US and Russia in the next few days.
Russia has been building its military presence in Syria, where it supports the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad against the Islamic State and the rebels backed by the West.
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