This past Saturday Secretary Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to express ever so politely “U.S. concerns about reports suggesting an imminent enhanced Russian military build-up there.” Kerry went so far as to “ma[k]e clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL Coalition operating in Syria.” Strong stuff.
We can say this much for Kerry. He called Lavrov based on reliable information.
Two U.S. officials who have reviewed the latest intelligence told Fox News that satellite imagery reveals more flights of massive Russian An-124 “condor” military cargo planes landing in Syria. They are offloading troops, including just under 50 Russian marines, and armored vehicles.
U.S. officials said the Russian activity in Syria is unlike any they’ve seen since the start of the Syrian civil war four years ago.
“This is definitely a build-up straight out of Russia’s military doctrine,” said one official.
The Russian government is not denying the build-up.
The United States is asking countries between Russia and Syria to deny overflight rights. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the United States’ requests to Greece and Bulgaria to close their airspace for Russian flights to Syria amount to “international boorishness.” That remark seems calculated to hurt Kerry where he lives.
The White House is not taking this lying down. White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Wednesday that the administration is concerned about reports Russia may have deployed military personnel and aircraft in Syria. “He said the administration is monitoring the situation closely.”