October 2016 – WASHINGTON/MOSCOW – U.S. and U.K. leaders on Sunday threatened Russia with sanctions and other measures to pressure it to change course on Syria, saying the onus is on Russia to help bring an end to violence in the more than five-year-long conflict there. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson didn’t rule out military action in Syria’s civil war but came close, emphasizing there is little appetite in Europe or the West for it. For now they suggested that diplomatic talks would continue for the foreseeable future to end fighting that has killed more than 400,000.
“I think the most powerful weapon we have at the moment is our ability to make President Putin and the Russians feel the consequences of what they are doing,” Mr. Johnson said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin after a meeting of “like-minded” European and Gulf Arab countries on the Syria conflict. “They’re starting to feel the pressure and it is vital that we keep that pressure up, and there are a lot of measures that we’re proposing to do with extra sanctions on the Syrian regime and their supporters, measures to bring those responsible for war crimes before the international criminal court,” Mr. Johnson said.
Mr. Kerry said the U.S. was considering sanctions and President Barack Obama hasn’t taken any options “off the table,” but said the international mood was against stepped up military involvement. “I haven’t seen a big appetite in Europe for people to go to war. I don’t see the parliaments of European countries ready to declare war. I don’t see a lot of countries deciding that’s the better solution here,” Mr. Kerry said Sunday. U.S. officials have said they are considering the possibility of more lethal weapons to rebels, limited military strikes on positions of the Assad regime and sanctions. But Mr. Obama is wary of increasing the U.S. military role in Syria and the strikes are considered unlikely.
Mr. Kerry said he knew it was frustrating that he and other diplomats kept meeting rather than announcing concrete results. Sunday’s gathering follows a Saturday meeting in Switzerland that included Russia and Iran, without the Europeans, which produced no breakthroughs. Russia has demanded that the U.S. separate opposition fighters from militants affiliated with the Syrian Conquest Front, formerly known as Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. It has said U.S. failure to do so helped undermine a September cease-fire deal. Russia has continued to press the U.S. on this issue and has denied that it bombed a humanitarian aid convoy near Aleppo.
On Sunday, Mr. Kerry said the U.S. and others were trying to avoid “lighting a fire under a larger war” that sparks greater sectarian or proxy confrontations. Mr. Kerry and Mr. Johnson met Sunday with diplomats from the EU, Germany, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and the United Nations. –Wall Street Journal
Russian reaction to growing antagonism with U.S. – Russian military man Lt Gen Yevgeny Buzhinsky laid the blame at the door of the West for provoking the anger of the Motherland. The retired general said: “Of course there is a reaction. As far as Russia sees it, as Putin sees it, it is full-scale confrontation on all fronts. If you want a confrontation, you’ll get one. But it won’t be a confrontation that doesn’t harm the interests of the United States. You want a confrontation, you’ll get one everywhere.” –The Daily Star