The United States and Russia are attempting to de-escalate the growing tensions over Syria, knowing that any further escalation could lead to a military confrontation between the two countries, a political analyst in Virginia says.
“What appears to be happening here is that the Americans and the Russians are attempting to prevent an escalation of conflict with one another,” Keith Preston, chief editor and director of AttacktheSystem.com said in an interview.
A landmark two-week ceasefire, taking effect on February 27, urges the “cessation of hostilities” by the warring sides of the years-long conflict in Syria.
The truce deal was announced Monday following negotiations between Russia and the US, both of which been conducting airstrikes in the Arab country.
“I think the two nations both understand that a serious confrontation between Russia and the United States would not be in the interest of either country, certainly if such a conflict were to escalate to the point where an actual war would break out,” Preston said.
“The problem is that in Syria the two countries have essentially been fighting on different sides; the Russians have been attacking what the Americans call the ‘moderate opposition,’ that is something of an oxymoron,” he continued.
“Meanwhile, the Russians have intervened on behalf of President Assad and the Americans have as their primary objective the removal of President Assad,” he noted.
In remarks after a rare meeting with his national security team on Thursday, President Barack Obama called on Russia and the Syrian government to honor the negotiated ceasefire, warning that the “world will be watching.”
Obama renewed his call for the Syrian president to step down, saying there was no alternative to his removal. “It's the only way to end the civil war and unite the Syrian people against terrorists.”
On Friday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner warned Russia about a potential breach of the ceasefire, and that it was time to either “put up or shut up.”
Toner said Washington had received assurances from Moscow that it would stop bombing the so-called “moderate opposition.”
Preston said it was “a standard practice” for US officials to resort to such rhetoric whenever Washington makes an agreement with an adversary.
“They’ll throw in some rhetorical barbs to try to make it look like that they are still in charge, if you will, or make it look like they really have the upper hand in the conflict even if their hands are actually tied,” he noted.