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Putin: Russia not planning to take part in field operations in Syria

September 29, 2015, 6:47 UTC+3

The Russian president noted that certain forces are using Islamic State to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

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Militant website via AP

Militant website via AP

MOSCOW, September 29./TASS/. Islamic State has become a unique terrorist organization as it is going global, Russian President Vladimir Putin told US journalist Charlie Rose in an interview with CBS and PBS, noting that certain forces were using Islamic State to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"It (the terrorist organization) has become unique because it is going global. They have set a goal, which is to establish a caliphate on the territory stretching from Portugal to Pakistan. They already lay claims to the sacred Islamic sites like Mecca and Medina. Their actions and their activities reach far beyond the boundaries of the territories under their control," the president said in the interview.

In reply to the question about strategy recommended by Moscow in fight against that evil, Putin said "I have already said, we should help President al-Assad's army."

"And there is no one else at all who is fighting ISIS on the ground but President al-Assad's army. So, I want you, your audience to finally realise that no one except al-Assad's army is fighting against ISIS or other terrorist organisations in Syria, no one else is fighting them on Syrian territory," the Russian leader repeated.

"Minor airstrikes, including those by the United States aircraft, do not resolve the issue in essence; in fact, they do not resolve it at all," he said. "The work should be conducted on the spot after these strikes and it should all be strictly coordinated," he explained.

"We need to understand what strikes are needed, where we need to strike and who will advance on the ground after these strikes. In Syria, there is no other force except al-Assad's army," Putin noted.

"Russia will not take part in any field operations in the territory of Syria or in other states; at least, we do not plan it for now," he stressed. "But we are thinking of how to intensify our work both with President al-Assad and our partners in other countries," he continued.

"…Our armed forces will not take part in hostilities directly and they will not fight. I mean war, combat operations on the territory, the infantry and motorised units," the Russian leader explained.

"There would be no war if these terrorist groups were not supplied with arms and money from the outside," Putin said. "It seems to me that somebody wants to use either certain units of ISIS or ISIS in general in order to overthrow al-Assad and only then think about how to get rid of ISIS. This task is difficult and, in my opinion, practically impossible," the Russian leader said.

Putin said he directly connected a growing flow of refugees with the strengthening of terrorists. "Why do you think that the Syrian refugees flee only as a result of President al-Assad’s actions to protect his country? Why don't you think that the refugees flee from the atrocities of terrorists, from ISIS, who decapitate people, burn them alive, drown them alive and destroy cultural monuments?" he asked.

"People flee from them too, they flee mainly from them. And from the war - this is clear," Putin added.

Power vacuum in Syria might evolve into terrorism

According to the Russian official, the power vacuum in Syria is extremely dangerous as it might entail transformation of anarchy into terrorism.

"It is only up to the Syrian people living in Syria to determine who, how and based on what principles should rule their country, and any external advice of such kind [on President Bashar Assad’s resignation - TASS] would be absolutely inappropriate, harmful and against international law," Putin said in his interview.

The Russian leader stressed that "the issues of political nature should be solved in any country, including in Syria, primarily by its people - in this case by the Syrian people themselves."

"But we are ready to provide assistance both to the Syrian authorities and the healthy opposition for them to find some points of contact and agree on the political future of their country," he said, adding that for that purposes Moscow had organized a series of meetings between representatives of the Syrian opposition and the government. "We took part in the Geneva Conference on this issue," he reminded. "We are ready to further act in this direction, urging sides, the official authorities and the opposition leaders, to agree with each other exclusively through peaceful means," the Russian president underscored.

He said he did not share the point of view that Moscow was seeking to step "into the vacuum of American leadership." "We are not stepping into the vacuum of American leadership, we are trying to prevent the creation of a power vacuum in Syria in general because as soon as the government agencies in a state, in a country are destroyed, a power vacuum sets in, and that vacuum is quickly filled with terrorists," he said, adding that this was the case in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and some other countries. "And challenging American leadership is not at stake," he pledged.

"I mean that if there was no government at all, there would be anarchy and a vacuum, and the vacuum and the anarchy would soon evolve into terrorism," Putin said. "For instance, in Iraq, there was a famous person, Saddam Hussein, who was either good or bad. It was at a certain stage (you might have forgotten, haven’t you?) that the United States actively collaborated with Saddam when he was at war with Iran: weapons were supplied, diplomatic and political support was provided and so on. Then the US fell out with him for some reason and decided to do away with him," Putin said. "But when Saddam Hussein was eliminated, the Iraqi statehood and thousands of people from the former Baath party were also eliminated. Thousands of Iraqi servicemen, who were part of the state's Sunni elite, found themselves thrown out into the street. No one gave a thought about them, and today they end up in the ISIS army."

"We are not against a country exercising leadership of any kind anywhere, we are against thoughtless actions that lead to such negative situations that are difficult to rectify," the Russian leader said.

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