Russia and US Sign Memorandum on Syria Airspace, Tension Rise
WASHINGTON — The United States and Russia signed a memorandum regarding Syrian airspace Tuesday in an attempt to reach an agreement about operations in the region, according to a Pentagon press release.
Senior officials from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Russian ministry of defense signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) in an attempt to minimize the risk of inflight incidents in the region.
Russian authorities allegedly urged the DoD to keep the names of those who signed it confidential, according to various other news outlets.
At the end of September, Russian jets began striking targets in Syria and allegedly gave coalition forces an hour notice before they began, according to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
The DoD has been highly critical of Russia’s involvement of the region, comparing their actions to “pouring gasoline” onto a fire.
The MOU only specifies safety protocols and does not establish zones of cooperation, intelligence sharing or any target information in Syria, according to the press release.
The department has also made it clear that the MOU is not a show of support or cooperation with Russia’s policies or actions in Syria and continue to condone the airstrikes. However, a U.S. and Russian working group are planning to discuss further issues that may arise.
Carter urged Russia to join the coalition, Operation Inherent Resolve, if it wishes to fight ISIL but the DoD believes Russia is trying to protect the Assad regime in the region and is bombing rebel targets instead of ISIL fighters.
The United States as well as NGOs have claimed that recent Russian airstrikes and other operations in the region have been targeting the rebels armed and supported by the DoD. These rebel groups are anti-Assad while Assad is an ardent ally of Russia. Russian military forces are building airports and currently operate a naval-base on Syrian territory.
The United States and 300 coalition forces are continuing to train Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the region as well as other rebel groups who have taken anti-Assad stances and are most likely the targets of Russian airstrikes.
A similar problem has been occurring with a NATO ally as well, Turkey.
Turkey, a member of the coalition, has had long standing tensions with the Kurdish population. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey even called Turkey’s bombing of the PKK “unhelpful” diplomatically.
Turkey is the only Middle Eastern country currently in NATO and Dempsey stated he plans to urge the country to not only to continue fighting ISIL but also to assist in addressing the threat of an “assertive Russia.”
The Turkish military claims to be fighting ISIL in the area but some in the Kurdish community believe they are using ISIL as an excuse and the PKK declared the 2013 ceasefire null after airstrikes intended for ISIL targets struck PKK positions in 2014.
As of September 15, 2015, the total cost of Operation Inherent Resolve is $4 billion and the average daily cost is $10 million. The U.S. has conducted 5,948 of the 7,603 airstrikes conducted in Syria and Iraq.