(NationalSecurity.news) The Russian military buildup taking place in Syria is the fault of a “feckless” Obama Administration that has shirked America’s global engagement responsibilities in favor of a more isolationist foreign policy, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Sept. 14.
“Russia is now engaged in a dangerous military buildup in Syria, which has been supported by supply flights through Iranian and Iraqi airspace, despite expressions of ‘concern’ from Secretary [of State John] Kerry and other administration officials,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.
“Russia’s doubling down on the murderous Assad regime is yet another example of how this administration’s feckless foreign policy has emboldened our adversaries and diminished our standing in the world,” he added.
McCain’s criticism came amid revelations that Russian aircraft were using Iranian and Iraqi airspace to deliver supplies to the Syrian military and to transport Russian troops and gear to an airbase in Syria.
Earlier in the day, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said Russia’s military buildup in Syria in support of that nation’s president is “unhelpful,” but said Defense Secretary Ash Carter has no plans to speak with his Russian counterpart, The Washington Examiner reported.
He added that all communications with Russia are taking place solely through diplomatic channels, noting that Kerry has had two conversations recently with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Davis also said the Defense Department was monitoring the situation closely and has noted indications that Russia seeks to establish a forward operating air base near Latakia, Syria. However, he would not get into specifics for reporters who sought clearer information, other than to say the Pentagon had not yet discovered any Russian fighter aircraft on the ground in Syria.
“We have said before that we would welcome Russian contributions to the overall global effort against [the Islamic State], but that things that continue to support the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, particularly military things, are unhelpful and risk adding greater instability to an already unstable situation,” Davis said.
Meanwhile, Lavrov said the Russian government had no plans to end its assistance to the Syrian government, despite increased U.S. and global pressure, Reuters reported.
“There were military supplies, they are ongoing and they will continue. They are inevitably accompanied by Russian specialists, who help to adjust the equipment, to train Syrian personnel how to use these weaponry,” Lavrov said.
Additionally, the foreign minister said that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was traveling to New York for a U.N. General Assembly meeting later in September, planned to address the world body on the topics of Syria, the ongoing civil conflict in Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and the general stature of the global economy.
“He (Putin) will touch specific aspects, such as Syria, the Ukraine crisis. All these crises arise from systemic problems regarding attempts to freeze the process of forming polycentric world,” Lavrov said.
Moscow has said that its assistance to the Syrian government is within established precedence of international law, adding that Russian military personnel have been in Syria offering training and support for many years, including before the current civil war began, Reuters reported.
Fox News reported further that U.S. defense and intelligence officials had discovered that Moscow was shipping highly sophisticated Russian tanks, along with more troops, into Syria.
One defense official told the news network the shipments amounted to the “first clear sign of offensive weapons arriving in Syria.”
Fifteen artillery pieces also accompanied the tanks, the Fox News report said.