Days after Russia had already denied media reports of a military buildup in Syria, aimed at helping in the fight against ISIS, Secretary of State John Kerry confronted Russian officials on the matter, expressing “concern” that Russia might be increasing involvement in the war.
The evidence so far, apart from unconfirmed media reports, are that Russia sent some temporary housing to Syria, which US officials are just assuming was to allow Russia to house a bunch of Russian troops that might get deployed at some future date.
Bizarrely, Secretary Kerry warned Russia that, if the rumors are true, they risk a “confrontation” with America’s anti-ISIS coalition, even though all the reports suggested Russia’s entire motive was to fight ISIS as well.
Russia has been an ally of the Syrian government for decades, and is keen to ensure that they remain an ally, as they host Russia’s lone naval base in the Mediterranean. The US interest in Syria, while at least in part also anti-ISIS, comes with an understanding that they want a regime change, and are very much keen on the new regime being pro-US, likely meaning they’d expel Russia.
As the war drags on, neither the pro-US rebels nor the government is faring particularly well, and ISIS controls more than half of Syria now. Russia has sought to unify the anti-ISIS factions recently, fearing the alternative would be an outright ISIS victory. Though the US has given some lip-service to supporting this plan, they also have publicly maintained their support for regime change.