WASHINGTON - Russia's latest military moves in Syria have sharpened divisions within the US administration over whether Russian President Vladimir Putin genuinely backs a UN-led initiative to end the civil war or is using the negotiations to mask renewed military support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Russia has repositioned artillery near the disputed city of Aleppo, several US officials told Reuters. Despite withdrawing some fixed-wing aircraft in March, Russia has also bolstered its forces in Syria with advanced helicopter gunships, and renewed airstrikes against moderate opposition groups, said US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Russian reassertion of military backing has prompted some US officials to warn that a failure to respond would be seen by Moscow as a fresh sign of American timidity. That, they say, could encourage Russia to escalate challenges to US and allied militaries through more provocative Russian air and naval maneuvers.