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White House: Russia Is Acting Out of Weakness in Syria

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speeches in the Haidarabad Palace on December 11, 2014 in Delhi, India.
Credit Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images

As Russia launched its first airstrikes in Syria, the White House asserted the country is acting out of weakness to protect a longtime client state.

“This is a client state in utter chaos,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday. “Russia is not flexing its muscles when it comes to Syria, but it’s propping up an investment about to go south.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin speeches in the Haidarabad Palace on December 11, 2014 in Delhi, India. Credit Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are at odds about Syria and whether its dictator Bashar Assad should remain in power. Russia supports the regime, while Obama has reiterated frequently that Assad — whose forces have dropped barrel bombs on opposition strongholds — "must go."

While Russia said its airstrikes were directed at Islamic State targets, U.S. officials said the areas do not appear to have struck the militant group. John Kerry said the U.S. would welcome Russia's help, as long as it was indeed striking Islamic State positions, not opponents to Assad.

 

Earnest insisted the move by Russia was not a surprise to the White House, which merely sees it as ramping up an old policy. But he added that Obama and Putin agree on “de-conflicting” Syria and on battling the Islamic State in the country. He even talked about dialogue between the military commanders of both countries regarding Syria.

“The Russians have made clear they are not interested in provoking a conflict,” Earnest said. “That is what they have said and their actions thus far indicates that’s what they believe.”

“The problems that ISIL has caused will not be solved over the long term until a political solution is reached,” Earnest said. “What that means is that Russia is not going to be successful in imposing a military solution inside of Syria. They will be no more successful in that regard than the United States was in imposing a military solution in Iraq in the last decade, certainly no more successful than Russian efforts to impose a military solution on Afghanistan three decades ago.”

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