The U.S. has been watching Russia’s movement of military personnel with concern for several days.
U.S. officials are still trying to determine the true intent behind the Russian moves in Syria.
The U.S. has been watching Russia’s movement of military personnel with concern for several days, though the Foreign Ministry only confirmed the buildup Wednesday.
There are “Russian military experts in Syria who are instructing (the Syrians) on the use of the military systems being delivered” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close Moscow ally, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
Russia “has long been supplying arms and military equipment to Syria in accordance with bilateral contracts,” she said.
That confirmation follows repeated warnings from Secretary of State John Kerry to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about how such activity could intensify the raging civil war there.
In a call to Lavrov Wednesday, Kerry “reiterated our concern about these reports of Russian military activities, or buildup if you will, in Syria and made very clear our view that, if true and borne out, could lead to greater violence and even more instability in Syria,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
The United States has called for al-Assad to go, but with help from Russia and Iran, al-Assad has been able to hold onto power. Yet both Moscow and Washington oppose ISIS, which has rushed to fill the vacuum caused by the extended civil war.
America, meanwhile, has been offering limited support to moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against ISIS, though they are also trying to push out al-Assad.
U.S. officials are still trying to determine the true intent behind the Russian moves in Syria, but they say the possibilities range from preparations to attack ISIS positions to the more likely scenario of attacking moderate Syrian rebel forces fighting the Syrian military.
Another possibility includes advance efforts to help Russia control what happens inside Syria if and when al-Assad falls.
One official watching the situation closely said the United States will continue to press for more specifics, but that Russia has still “not provided a clear answer” about its intentions in Syria.
U.S. officials said two amphibious ships have unloaded gear at the Syrian port of Tartus, though the exact nature of the cargo is unclear. U.S. satellites have also seen more than 100 Russian naval infantry troops …Read More