Secretary of State John Kerry met with President Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow late Thursday night to discuss a proposed extensive military cooperation agreement that for the first time would coordinate American and Russian air attacks on the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
Both men said they were hopeful of reaching an accord. “I hope after today’s consultations you’ll be able to advise him of the progress made and possible headway for us to make,” Mr. Putin said, referring to conversations between Mr. Kerry and President Obama. Mr. Kerry responded: “Hopefully, we’ll be able to make some genuine progress that is measurable and implementable and that can make a difference in the course of events in Syria.”
The proposed agreement calls for the creation of a joint military command center staffed by military and intelligence officers who would share information so as to permit “integrated operations.” It has generated deep unease at the Pentagon and in some quarters of the State Department, where it is seen as too conciliatory to both the Russians and the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
A top State Department official said in an interview on Thursday that critics of the agreement were being alarmist, pointing out that the proposal requires Syria’s Air Force — which has routinely bombed civilian areas — to be largely grounded.