“There were military supplies, they are ongoing, and they will continue,” Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday. “They are inevitably accompanied by Russian specialists, who help to adjust the equipment, to train Syrian personnel how to use this weaponry.”
The Russians have not sent attack planes to the airfield, and the Kremlin has not said whether they will. But the military buildup by Russia, which has been supporting Mr. Assad throughout the four-and-a-half-year Syrian civil war, adds a new friction point in its relations with the United States.
“I don’t believe Western governments are prepared to do very much to slow down or block the risky course the Russians are going on,” said Andrew S. Weiss, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is a former Russia expert for the National Security Council, the State Department and the Pentagon.
Indeed, efforts by the United States to stop the flow of supplies have fallen short. At least 15 giant Russian Condor transport planes have in the past week used an air corridor over Iraq and Iran to ferry military equipment and personnel to the base, said American military officials who agreed to speak about confidential intelligence assessments on the condition of anonymity.
Bulgaria closed its airspace to the Russian flights last week at the request of the United States. But Iraq did not, even though American diplomats raised concerns about the Russian flights with the Iraqi government on Sept. 5.
Although the Obama administration’s warnings to the Russians have been made public, American officials have refused to openly discuss their appeals to the Iraqis. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq assumed his post with the support of the United States but is still trying to establish his authority at home, and American officials are wary of undercutting him.
Full article: Russian Moves in Syria Widen Role in Mideast (NY Times)