John Kerry Confronts Russia On Military Buildup In Syria

On Saturday, John Kerry made a phone call to Russia to explain that their military buildup in Syria was “concerning.” The brief discussion with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov follows leaked intelligence reports about Russia’s growing presence.

Although some previously speculated that Moscow may finally bring the long conflict to an end, Kerry insists that direct military force would only make a bad situation worse.

The State Department released a statement about John Kerry’s call, according to Reuters, using a synonym for the terrorist group ISIS.

“The secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL coalition operating in Syria.”

The Los Angeles Times recently cited unnamed sources in the government who said Russia was increasing its military presence. Likewise, video footage floating around the internet showed Russian soldiers fighting beside Assad’s forces, according to the Telegraph. The reports prompted President Vladimir Putin to comment on his country’s military role in Syria.

He shied away from saying they would engage in direct military intervention, according to quotes from state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.

“To say we’re ready to do this today – so far it’s premature to talk about this. But we are already giving Syria quite serious help with equipment and training soldiers, with our weapons. We really want to create some kind of an international coalition to fight terrorism and extremism.”

Putin added, “To this end, we hold consultations with our American partners – I have personally spoken on the issue with U.S. President Obama.”

Russia has long been an ally of embattled Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. The country has repeatedly vetoed U.N. security council actions against the regime in Syria. Likewise, Assad’s government accounts for 10 percent of Russia’s total international arms sales according to estimates reported on BBC News.

On the other hand, John Kerry and the State Department have condemned Assad for using chemical weapons.

CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott says that the U.S. and Russia have been trying to figure out a political solution for Syria, but that a military buildup would “complicate” matters.

Although Russia may just be preparing to launch airstrikes against the terrorist organization ISIS — a common enemy with the U.S. — analysts worry if they’ll push further to help Assad.

On the other hand, close U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey are backing the government’s opposition in Syria. That puts John Kerry in a difficult situation, one that will likely involve plenty more phone calls to Russia.

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