The White House insisted Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing a much weaker game than he appears.
Press secretary Josh Earnest noted that “President Putin has obviously cast his lot with Bashar al-Assad.”
“We believe that’s a losing bet, and unfortunately, the Russians have made a decision to carry out the kind of military action that makes clear that they’re prepared to double down on that bet,” he said.
But it was pointed out to Earnest that there’s no action going on to reinforce the White House’s stated point of view on the faultiness of Russia’s actions.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said yesterday that he’s still waiting for a response from Russia.
“Well, on the military-to-military talks, I would not rule out that there are follow-ups relatively soon to those initial conversations that took place last week,” Earnest said.
He took issue with a reporter’s question on whether Russia is stalling talks as a matter of “playing for time and tilting the chessboard towards their guy.”
“I don’t think President Putin is playing chess, he’s playing checkers, and I say that because he’s making a series of tactical decisions that are leading to a starkly negative strategic conclusion, which is that by making the tactical decision to ramp up their support for the Assad regime, Russia is being sucked into a sectarian civil war, essentially a quagmire, that poses a whole set of risks to Russia’s interests not just in the region, but back at home,” Earnest replied.
“And whether that is being further isolated in the international community, pushing off a political solution that even the Russians themselves acknowledge is necessary, and certainly making Russia the target of Sunni Muslims in Syria and in Russia that are quite angry that the Russians have backed up the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad.”
The Kremlin said today that Putin met with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to discuss “the Russian Aerospace Forces’ operation in Syria,” and released a photo of the two huddling.
“The Russian Aerospace Forces are currently carrying out missions to support Syrian government troops in combatting terrorists and are launching airstrikes against the Islamic State’s positions in Syria,” the Kremlin said.