Not long after asking for a “military-to-military de-confliction” with the U.S., Russian warplanes attacked Syrian resistance fighters on Wednesday morning.
“It completely bypasses every bit of legitimate discussion we've had with them so far,” a defense official told POLITICO.
In a deliberately devious move, Russia contacted the U.S. before the airstrike occurred and asked for lines of communication to remain open to ensure that American and Russian military units remained entirely separate.
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The defense official explained to POLITICO that instead of using these lines of communication, “a Russian general appeared at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad this morning and announced that the first Russian air operations would begin shortly.” The general then went on to warn American units away, but his warning fell flat as U.S. warplanes “continued to fly as normal.”
Just last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin went before the United Nations General Assembly to say that the Russian airstrikes were aimed at attacking the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but the U.S. officials went out of their way to emphasize that there are absolutely no ISIL fighters near Homs where Wednesday’s airstrikes occurred — so what was their true aim?
According to Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergey Ivanov, the attacks were prompted by a request made by President Bashar al-Assad himself, with Russian's parliament giving their overwhelming support in a 162-vote approval, CNN reports.
A second official has stated that it is unclear whether the Russian military intends to follow through with an intense campaign against the Syrian rebels or pause after the first airstrike.
Considering that this airstrike was aimed at anti-government rebels, this campaign could easily be seen as a way for the Russian government to support Assad. This could also be seen as a smokescreen for the media to cover the airstrikes instead of the territorial gains Russia has been making in Ukraine.
Peter Cook, a spokesman for the White House, explained that America and Russia have common ground in the fight against ISIL, but warned that “the goal should be to take the fight to ISIL and not to defend the Assad regime.”
It is true: the U.S. and Russia have at least some common ground in the fight against ISIL, but they also have a startlingly similar attitude toward the UN. The U.S. has often been seen as a "rogue state," ignoring UN guidelines from time to time, usually in order to compete with other states, including Russia.
If the U.S. and Russia could open a dialogue about this similarity, there might be some real progress between these two superpowers which would create some real peace talks instead of these empty PR schemes.