Some of Russia’s international partners have “oatmeal in their heads” because they don’t understand clearly that its military campaign in Syria seeks to help the fight against terrorism, President Vladimir Putin said.
Russia notified the U.S. and the European Union in advance “out of respect” that it intended to begin airstrikes against Islamic State and other militants in Syria, Putin said at an annual conference organized by VTB Capital in Moscow on Tuesday. This showed Russia’s ready to cooperate on Syria, while nobody ever warned the authorities in Moscow about their operations, he said.
Russia’s military intervention “has changed the whole dynamic of the situation,” though it must not distract from efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy on Syria, said at talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
Putin’s colorful phrase, normally used to describe someone as confused, to characterize relations with the U.S. and its allies on Syria comes amid deep tensions over the Russian bombing campaign and cruise-missile strikes that began Sept. 30. The EU demanded on Monday that Russia stop targeting moderate groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned that Russia’s actions “will have consequences” and the bombing “will only inflame” Syria’s four-year civil war.
Putin said Russia’s military and the U.S.-led coalition that’s also conducting missions over Syria are cooperating on air force communications and using friend-or-foe systems to avoid incidents. Russia proposed high-level talks in Moscow and is ready to send a large delegation to Washington to discuss a resolution of the Syrian crisis, he said.
Russia “received no answer” when it asked its international partners to provide information on terrorist targets in Syria, or to say at least where its planes shouldn’t bomb, Putin said. “It’s not a joke, I’m not making any of this up,” he said.
U.S. air drops of weapons and ammunition intended for the Syrian Free Army, which is fighting Assad’s regime, could end up in the hands of Islamic State instead, Putin said.
Russia’s very concerned at efforts by some states to delay the formation of a wider coalition against terrorists in Syria, Lavrov said. “We’re at a critical phase,” for a political resolution of the crisis, though more and more preconditions are being placed in the way, he said.
“While there is an acceleration of military activity, there should also be an acceleration on the political side,” and Russia should use its influence on the ground to promote a settlement, de Mistura said.
“I fully agree with you that there is no military solution to the conflict,” Lavrov said. “But fighting terrorists is something else and this doesn’t have any national boundaries.”
Russian planes flew 88 sorties, hitting 86 Islamic State targets, in the past 24 hours in Raqqa, Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo provinces in Syria, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said on Twitter.