The State Department said tonight that Secretary of State John Kerry picked up the phone today and attempted to talk tough to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Moscow’s military movements in Syria.
“Secretary Kerry made clear that Russia’s continued support for President Assad risks exacerbating and extending the conflict, and undermining our shared goal of fighting extremism if we do not also remain focused on finding a solution to the conflict in Syria via a genuine political transition,” press secretary John Kirby’s office said.
“Secretary Kerry also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to fight ISIL with a Coalition of more than 60 countries, of which Assad could never be a credible member, and emphasized the U.S. would welcome a constructive Russian role in counter-ISIL efforts. The Secretary stressed that there is no military solution to the overall conflict in Syria, which can only be resolved by a political transition away from Assad.”
Russia has been the chief weapons supplier to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, prompting a years-long congressional battle to disentangle the United States from contracts with their state-owned arms giant Rosoboronexport.
The White House said Friday that it’s not really sure what Russian forces are doing in Syria, but they’re definitely going to have a talk with the Kremlin about it.
Asked today if it was time yet for an Obama-to-Putin conversation about the situation, press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that “when the president has determined that it would advance our interests to have a conversation with President Putin, then he’ll pick up the phone and try to set up that call.”
“You know, the president has made quite clear that the decision of the Russians to double down on the leadership of Bashar al-Assad is a losing bet, and the reason for that is that we have seen over the years that because of his failed leadership and because of his willingness to slaughter innocent people using the mechanics of that country’s military, he’s lost the legitimacy to lead that country,” Earnest said.
At a troop Q&A at Fort Meade in Maryland on Friday, Obama acknowledged that “Russia has, for many years now, provided financial support, sold arms to Assad.”
“I remember a conversation I had with Mr. Putin four or five years ago, where I told him that was a mistake, it would make things worse as long as he continued to support Assad,” the president said. He did not take my warnings, and as a consequence things have gotten worse.”