Shortly after a unanimous parliamentary vote, Russia launched its first round of airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, eight ISIS positions were targeted including arms, communications, transportation and control positions. U.S. officials are skeptical of Russia’s true intentions however.
U.S. Defense Secretary Carter Ash spoke out against Russia’s claim.
“I want to be careful about confirming this information, but it does appear that [Russian airstrikes] were in areas where there probably were not [ISIS] forces” he stated.
Reports of casualties from Russia’s airstrikes range from 28 people according to the London-Based Syrian Observatory for Human rights, to as high as 36 people according to the Syrian National Coalition. Both reports state that civilians, women and children were among the fatalities.
There is speculation that Russia’s true intentions are to back the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, strikes occurred in areas controlled by moderate rebel forces.
Regardless of Russian’s motivations, U.S. officials agree that the airstrikes were a dangerous move by Russia and only serve to further complicate the Syrian civil war.
Defense Secretary Carter further aired this concern, stating “By supporting Assad and seemingly taking on everybody fighting Assad, [Russia is] taking on the whole rest of the country that’s fighting Assad.”
The “everybody” that Carter refers to may include American backed rebel groups fighting ISIS who are in opposition to Assad’s regime. Russia’s militant support of Assad could interfere with American efforts to fight against ISIS terrorist groups.
Despite obvious opposition to the strikes, American forces had no intention of preventing Russia’s Wednesday airstrikes. Russian planes did not fly through areas where the United States is currently operating.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov have both confirmed that military talks between the two countries will occur soon. Lavrov maintained that it was essential for the two nations to “get in touch and establish channels of communication to avoid any unintended incidents”. The United States is also conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
While Russia has been a firm supporter of Assad’s regime in Syria, the United States believes that he must step down in order to bring a resolution to Syria’s five-year civil war.