Pentagon says Russian jets are targeting rebel groups in order to support the regime of President Bashar al-Assad
MADRID: US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said Monday that Russia is pursuing a “losing strategy” in Syria and that it must live up to its commitments in Ukraine.
Speaking in Madrid at the start of a five-day trip to Europe, Carter told Spanish military officials that by carrying out bombing in Syria, Russia had only worsened the 4.5-year-old conflict.
Russia last week started air strikes in Syria. Moscow claimed it was hitting Islamic State (IS) militants, but the Pentagon says Russian jets are targeting rebel groups in order to support the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
“Russia has escalated the civil war, putting further at risk the very political resolution and preservation of Syria’s structure of future governance it says that it wants,” Carter said at the Center for Strategic Studies and Defence.
“It remains my hope that Vladimir Putin will see that tethering Russia to a sinking ship is a losing strategy, and will decide to confront the threat presented by IS instead of continuing its unilateral airstrikes against Assad’s opposition.”
Carter’s trip is aimed at acknowledging allies in the 60-plus member US-led coalition that is carrying out daily drone and plane strikes against IS militants in Iraq and Syria.
Europe is struggling to deal with the refugee crisis sparked by the Syrian conflict, which has uprooted millions of people.
Carter also is attending a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday, where several items including Russia’s stance in eastern Ukraine will be discussed.
“We will continue to make it clear that if Russia wants to end its international isolation and be considered a responsible global power, it must stop its aggression in eastern Ukraine, end its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, and live up to its commitments under the Minsk agreements,” Carter said.
“We will take all necessary steps to deter Russia’s malign and destabilizing influence, coercion, and aggression, including its efforts to undermine strategic stability and challenge the military balance in Europe.”