US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has accused Russia of spreading global instability and questioned whether Moscow genuinely seeks a ceasefire in Syria. In a speech at Oxford University in England on Wednesday, Carter downplayed hopes of reaching an agreement with Russia regarding peace in Syria.
Carter expressed deep skepticism about Russian intentions in Syria even as US Secretary of State John Kerry is working with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to reach an agreement about a ceasefire in the Arab country. Russia supports the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and their joint military operation has sometimes targeted US-backed militants.
Russia has repeatedly said that foreign-backed militants use ceasefires in Syria to regroup and launch attacks. “Unfortunately so far, Russia, with its support for the Assad regime, has made the situation in Syria more dangerous, more prolonged and more violent. That has contributed to what President Obama this weekend called the ‘gaps of trust’ that exist between our two countries,” Carter said.
The Pentagon chief urged Moscow to work with Washington toward a political transition in Syria, though he sounded less than optimistic. “Today’s news out of Syria is not encouraging,” he said. “The choice is Russia’s to make and the consequences will be its responsibility.”
“Despite the progress that we made together in the aftermath of the Cold War, Russia’s actions in recent years – with its violations of Ukrainian and Georgian territorial integrity, its unprofessional behavior in the air, in space, and in cyberspace, as well as its nuclear saber rattling – all have demonstrated that Russia has clear ambition to erode the principled international order,” Carter said.
Since late September 2015, Russia has been assisting the Syrian government to launch attacks against terrorists across the country. Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict.