Russia is engaging in strong rhetoric by cautioning the United States from starting a proxy war in Syria. The statement from Russia was in direct response to President Barrack Obama’s announcement that the United States would send special forces into Syria. The United States ground troops will be deployed into Syria in order to assist in the fight against ISIS. In the past, President Obama has been clear in saying that the United States would not have “boots on the ground” in regard to the fighting taking place in Syria. Now that Washington has agreed to deploy soldiers to be on the ground, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claims this maneuver could trigger a proxy war that could cause a larger rift between the two world superpowers. Sergei Lavrov commented on this potential new conflict.
“I am convinced that neither the United States nor Russia of course wants any kind of slide into a so-called proxy war. But to me it is obvious that this situation makes the task of co-operation between the militaries even more relevant.”
The United States has been holding combat missions in Syria, but only by air. The military units that were on the ground were only there in order to train Syrian fighters to take on ISIS on their own. The United States abandoned that initiative due to its high cost and ineffectiveness.
Recently, Russia began to conduct military operations in Syria, in which they have been attacking the forces who are against Syrian President Assad and ISIS. Back in early October, Russia was directly attacking forces that are looking to overthrow Assad and his government. United States based analyst, Michael Kofman, commented on how Russia was flexing their military might last month in Syria.
“These are the primary threats to Assad, and the areas where Syrian ground counter-offensives are likely to take place. The campaign is therefore a softening of these groups and elimination of their weapon caches.”
Due to the actions of Russia in both Syria and Ukraine, the United States, according to a military official, views Russia as an enemy. This new viewpoint is giving fuel to the proxy war chatter.
What is a proxy war? A proxy war is a war in which two countries are not in direct combat with each other, but both have clear goals that would hurt the other country. In Syria, the United States does not feel that Assad should be in power. The Russian government, however, is in favor of keeping in Assad in power. Iran is also supporting Assad’s government, allying itself with Russia. The allies that the United States has that want Assad gone are Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Josh Earnest, White House spokesperson, has gone on the record saying that “there are now moderate opposition forces that are 45 miles (72km) outside [IS stronghold] Raqqa. The president is prepared to intensify the elements that have shown promise. This is an intensification of a strategy he discussed a year ago.”
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