Russian Ground Forces Join Syria Fight
Russian Ground Forces Join Syria Fight –
NYT – Ratcheting up the confrontation over the Syria war, Russia said Monday that its “volunteer” ground forces would join the fight, and NATO warned the Kremlin after at least one Russian warplane trespassed into Turkey’s airspace.
The saber-rattling on both sides reflected a dangerous new big-power entanglement in the war, as longstanding differences between Russiaand the United States over President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his opponents increasingly play out not only in the halls of the United Nations but on the battlefield in Syria.
Russia squared off with Turkey and its NATOallies, calling the air incursion on Saturday an innocent mistake because of foul weather — a claim American officials rejected.
A Russian ground force could fundamentally alter the conflict, which has left 250,000 people dead and displaced half the country’s population since it started in 2011.
Although President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said he would not put troops in Syria, the plan for so-called volunteers was disclosed Monday by his top military liaison to the Parliament, Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov. It seemed similar to Russia’s stealth tactic in using soldiers to seize Crimea from Ukraine in March of 2014 and to aid pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Moreover, American military officials said they believed that more than 600 Russian military personnel were already on the ground in Syria, not counting aircrews, and that tents for nearly 2,000 people had been seen at Russia’s air base near Latakia, in northwest Syria near the Turkish border.