Russian Aggression Complicates Obama’s Options in Syria

Even before Russia began intervening in Syria’s civil war, President Obama was under increasing pressure to change his approach to the conflict.


Now things have become more urgent.


Russia this week added cruise missiles to its growing military campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — the man Obama says needs to leave office before there can be peace. Russia has said its aim is to target ISIS, but its bombs have also hit other rebel groups fighting Assad, some of whom are backed by Washington.


That escalation has prompted calls for Obama, who thus far has been reluctant to get more involved in the civil war beyond efforts to counter ISIS, move quickly to outmaneuver Russian President Vladimir Putin — or at least try to defrost their diplomatic relationship.


So far, the only significant move has been away from the battlefield. The Pentagon was expected to announce Friday that it would end its failed $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels and move ahead with a far less ambitious plan that involves no American ground troops.


“Putin acts in this way in part because he thinks circumstances allow it,” Stephen Sestanovich, a Russia analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday. He blamed the United States for encouraging Putin through “several years of policy confusion” and called on the Obama administration to limit Russia’s intervention.


Read More: Russian Aggression Complicates Obama’s Options in Syria – NBC News