Russia sends troops to Syria, US warns of more instability


As Syria continues to bear the brunt of the ongoing conflict, Russia has sent its troops to Syria to take part in combat operations. Confirming the latest development, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement: “There are Russian military experts in Syria who are instructing (the Syrians) on the use of the military systems being delivered to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close Moscow ally”, said spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. Russia “has long been supplying arms and military equipment to Syria in accordance with bilateral contracts,” she added.

The US has reacted sharply to Russia’s move and aired apprehensions that it could lead to greater instability and violence in Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry called his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and “reiterated our concern about these reports of Russian military activities, or buildup if you will, in Syria and made very clear our view that, if true and borne out, could lead to greater violence and even more instability in Syria,” according to US Department of State spokesperson John Kirby.

While the US has been vocal about the ouster of the Assad regime, Russia and Iran have been propping up the beleaguered Assad regime. As the US tries to figure out the real intent of Russia’s plans in Syria, speculation are rife about probable steps that Russia would undertake. The possibilities range from attack on the terror outfit Islamic State’s positions to attacking the moderate Syrian rebel forces fighting the Syrian military. The US has given limited support to the Syrian rebel forces, who also want the Assad regime ousted.

The US is watching the situation closely and will press for more specifics, but with Russia not giving any clear answer about its intentions in Syria one could expect the tensions to escalate further between Russia and US. According to Mr Kirby, the United States has asked its allies in the region “to ask some pretty tough questions of the Russians” about their intentions.

The next few days would remain crucial with Syria grappling with multiple issues ranging from the exodus of its citizens to the Assad regime losing control over most major territories in the country. Unless Russia’s intentions are made clear it is unlikely to help improve the situation in the strife-torn country and could also worsen the situation if it takes only unilateral action without cooperating with the international community.