Russia’s recent military buildup in Syria is consistent with protecting its own forces in the country, Secretary of State John Kerry said during a press conference on Tuesday.
“It is the judgment of our military and most experts,” Kerry said, “that the level and type represents basically force protection.”
Kerry’s remarks came after reports that Russia had added aerial support — including drones, attack helicopters and aircraft — to its forces in Syria’s Latakia province.
Moscow and Washington disagree on how to solve Syria’s four-year civil war, which has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions. While Russia has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad for years, the U.S. believes Assad’s abnegation of power is critical to peace.
“If they are there to shore up Assad and to simply stand there in a way that provides Assad with continued sense that he doesn’t have to negotiate,” Kerry said about Russia, “then I think it’s a problem for Syria and it’s a problem for everybody who wants to bring an end to this conflict which has gone on for too long now.”