Russia is defending its sale of attack helicopters to Syria saying they are “not violating any international law in performing these contract.” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also accused the US of supplying rebels with weapons to fight against the Syrian government.
Russia’s statement followed an accusation made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, suggesting that Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, and the shipment “will escalate the conflict quite dramatically”.
Bloomberg News suggested that the helicopters in question are part of a four-year-old contract to refurbish 20 Mi-24 gunships that Syria bought from Russia long ago. However, whether these choppers are new or refurbished is irrelevant. At a time when the regime in Damascus has just started using combat helicopters to attack its domestic opponents, it’s troubling that Russia would be choosing to send more.
Syria is becoming a wider global, regional proxy war, according to Reuters news. US maintains that it is not providing direct military support to the opposition Free Syrian Army, but has pledged “non-lethal” support. Some believe it may be helping facilitate arms deliveries from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and perhaps others. There are also growing signs al Qaeda-linked militants may be entering the fray against Assad, worrying Western states. In some ways, the face-off already has more than a flavor of Cold War era confrontations.
Meanwhile, France has called on the United Nations to authorize using “all means” necessary to end the carnage in Syria, bringing the civil war closer to the edge of a proxy war between Russia and the Western alliance.