Senator John McCain said on Sunday the US was now engaged in a proxy war with Russia in Syria, as a result of “an abdication of American leadership” on the part of the Obama White House.
The chairman of the Senate armed forces committee also said Russian president Vladimir Putin was “treating the United States with disdain and contempt” over Syria, carrying out airstrikes and “inserting himself into the Middle East in a way that Russia has not been since Anwar Sadat threw them out in 1973”.
On Friday, discussing Russian airstrikes against both Islamic State militants and non-Isis forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, which began on Wednesday and which he called “a recipe for disaster”, President Obama said: “We’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia. That would be bad strategy on our part.
“This is not some superpower chessboard contest.”
Appearing on CNN on Sunday, McCain said: “Of course it is [a proxy war], and when the president says we’re not going to have that strategy, we don’t have a strategy. Excuse me? We don’t have a strategy.”
Last weekend, McCain said, Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry had watched Russia implement a “military build-up including anti-aircraft batteries and fighter aircraft”.
“Isis doesn’t have fighter aircraft,” he said. “So that was kind of interesting.
“But more importantly, John Kerry called [Russian foreign minister Sergei] Lavrov three times to find out what was going on, the president had a 90-minute meeting with Vladimir Putin, then 48 hours later a Russian general shows up at our embassy in Baghdad to give us an hour’s warning that strikes are commencing.
“That is treating the United States with disdain and contempt and of course they’re hitting the Free Syrian Army enclaves and places which have had some success. This is the CIA-run operations, and they want to take them out.”
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