Pentagon to open ‘lines of communication’ with Russia over strikes in Syria

An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington © Jason Reed
The US will open “lines of communication” with Russia to avoid “misjudgment and miscalculation” as a US-led coalition conducts strikes against ISIS in Syria. Moscow is assisting government forces in their fight against the terror group.

“This morning, [Defense] Secretary [Ashton] Carter directed his staff to open lines of communication with Russia on deconfliction,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters at a press briefing.

Pentagon officials have stressed the need for “deconfliction” with regards to the coalition and Russian forces. The two sides are set to discuss their respective actions in order to reduce the risk of accidents.

“The purpose of these deconfliction discussions will be to ensure that ongoing coalition air operations are not interrupted by any future Russian military activity, to ensure the safety of coalition air crews and to avoid misjudgment and miscalculation,” Cook said.

So far Russia’s activities on Syrian soil have been limited to supplying weapons to the Syrian government, training personnel and providing humanitarian aid for the Syrian people.

“We act based on the United Nations Charter, i.e. the fundamental principles of modern international law, according to which this or that type of aid, including military assistance, can and must be provided exclusively to the legitimate government of one country or another, upon its consent or request, or upon the decision of the United Nations Security Council,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ on the eve of his visit to New York for the UN General Assembly.

Defense Department officials have been ordered to work out the details of conversations with Russia “in the coming days.”

“We expect the details of those conversations, including the exact timing of those conversations, will be worked out in the coming day," Cook told reporters.

The importance of clear communication between Moscow and Washington has increased recently as Russia is readying to launch its own air strikes against ISIS, independently of the US-led coalition.

Despite there being major disagreements between Russia and the US on possible solutions to the conflict in Syria, both sides have agreed that collaboration on the issue is possible and should be explored.

READ MORE: ‘Constructive & surprisingly frank’: Putin meets Obama on UNGA sidelines

Speaking at the General Assembly, President Putin stressed that the participation of the Russian military in a ground operation in Syria was out of question.

At the same time, Russia is ready to consider other options to support those fighting terrorists on the Syrian soil, such as the Kurdish militia and, first of all, the Syrian national army, Putin said on Monday.

In his address to the General Assembly, President Obama said that the US is willing to work with Russia and Iran to solve Syrian crisis as the US “by itself, cannot impose stability on a foreign land, unless we work with other nations.”

One of the major issues between Moscow and Washington is the way that they each view the legitimacy of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

From Russia’s point of view, President Assad is still the legitimate head of the government and he should be fully involved in finding solutions to the four-year long civil war.

“I have great respect for my colleagues – the US President, as well as the French – but they are, as far as I know, are not citizens of the Syrian Republic, and therefore [it is] unlikely [that they] should be involved in determining the fate of another state’s management,” Putin told reporters after a bilateral meeting with Obama on the sidelines of the UNGA.

The West, however, does not recognize President Assad as Syria’s leader, with Obama calling for Syria’s president to be replaced with a new leader and an inclusive government. The US has condemned the bombing of civilians and civilian infrastructure across Syria, along with its the regime’s alleged use of barrel bombs.