In his first major comments on the Russian airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, President Obama condemned Russian involvement in the war as a “recipe for disaster,” ruling out cooperation with Russia on the strikes and saying that there would continue to be tensions between the two nations.
In the first couple of days of Russian airstrikes the US was seen sending a number of mixed signals on the matter, mostly centering around questions about whether Russia was striking ISIS or striking pro-US factions. Obama insisted today, ironically in the wake of Russia attacking obvious ISIS targets around Raqqa, that the Russians don’t distinguish their targets at all.
Obama went on to mock Putin for not having as big of a coalition as he has, and insisted Russia’s involvement in Syria “won’t work” and is “going to get them stuck in a quagmire” because Syria’s Sunni Arab neighbors don’t support Russia.
Interestingly, Russia has been couching their strategy in Syria, attacking ISIS and other Islamist factions, particularly al-Qaeda in Idlib, as a mirror image of America’s own air campaign in Syria, with the major difference from their perspective the coordination with Syrian military forces on the ground.
To the extent that the airstrikes probably “won’t work,” it reflects that the strategy is flawed, though the White House seems content to continue with materially the exact same air war in Syria at the exact same time as Russia, predicting doom for Russia and eventual victory for themselves.