Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the United States was "weak" on its foreign policy in Syria, as talks continued on how the U.S. and Russia can effectively share airspace in the war-torn region. Russia has stepped up is military presence in the Syrian conflict throughout the past several weeks, conducting airstrikes allegedly targeting the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS.
“I don’t really understand how the U.S. can criticize Russia’s actions in Syria if they refuse to have direct dialogue,” Putin told a group of reporters Thursday in Kazakhstan, as reported by Bloomberg. “The basic weakness of the American position is that they don’t have an agenda, though we’re keeping the door open,” he said.
Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have been running high throughout the past several weeks as both nations pursue a course of action in war-torn Syria. The U.S. has helped train and arm certain rebel groups in the region to fight ISIS while Russia has sided with controversial Syrian President Bashar Assad. Assad is accused of having employed chemical weapons in warfare and slaughtering his own people en masse. Putin maintains that Assad is the rightful leader of Syria as well as the first defense against terrorism in the region.
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Putin's comments on U.S. "weakness" came after the White House reportedly rejected an offer from Russian authorities to meet and discuss both countries' plans for establishing peace. While the White House refused those talks, they have allowed for Pentagon officials to meet with Russian defense officials to establish rules for sharing airspace in Syria, and those talks reportedly made progress Wednesday.
After Russia began airstrikes in Syria Sept. 30, Russian military have increased strikes allegedly targeting ISIS. The U.S. and other foreign powers in the region said that Russia appeared to be targeting other groups beside ISIS. Controversy over Russia's presence in Syria grew to a breaking point after U.S. and Russian aircraft flew within miles of each last weekend.