US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has threatened Russia, saying the US will take all necessary steps to counter Moscow’s “malign influence” in Syria.
“We will take all necessary steps to deter Russia’s malign and destabilizing influence, coercion and aggression,” carter said on Wednesday.
He further said as long as Russia pursued a “misguided strategy” in Syria, “we have not, and will not, agree to cooperate with Russia.”
The US continues to accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of focusing on the opposition groups that are fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow, however, has repeatedly assured that Russian jet fighters were targeting Daesh (ISIL) terrorists.
Carter’s harsh remarks came amid efforts by Washington and Moscow to reach an agreement over their military flights in Syria to avoid any clash over the country’s airspace.
While reports said the two sides are getting close to finalize a memorandum of understanding on the issue, Russia said that the United States rebuffs its overtures for high-level consultations.
Putin said on Tuesday that he wanted to send a delegation led by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to the US. Washington, however, rebuffed the overtures for high-level consultations.
“Literally today, we got an official reply,” Lavrov said Wednesday. “We have been told that they can’t send a delegation to Moscow and they can’t host a delegation in Washington either.”
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, also said, “Given the current situation in Syria, refusing dialogue does not help to save the country and region from [ISIL].”
Russia launched its air campaign against terrorists in Syria on September 30. The US has also been carrying out its own airstrikes in Syria, allegedly pounding Daesh positions inside the country.
Military experts warned over the last few weeks that a major conflict could be triggered between the US and Russia as the Syrian airspace has become increasingly crowded.