NATO’s secretary general fears Russia intends to enhance military effort in Syria

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that a Russian naval battle group heading for Syria could be used to intensify Moscow’s aerial campaign against the besieged city of Aleppo, calling into question the Kremlin’s commitment to working on a political solution to the Syria conflict. The battle group, which passed through the English Channel on Friday, is made up of Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, as well as a nuclear battle cruiser, anti-submarine warships and support vessels, likely escorted by submarines.

“The battle group may be used to increase Russia’s ability to take part in combat operations over Syria and to conduct even more airstrikes against Aleppo. And this raises serious questions and concerns over Russia’s commitment to working to a political solution to the conflict in Syria and more airstrikes by Russian planes will exacerbate the humanitarian suffering in Aleppo and therefore we call on Russia to contribute to a political solution, to implement a ceasefire and to stop the bombing of Aleppo,” said Stoltenberg.

The naval deployment, a rare sight since the end of the Soviet Union, is carrying fighter bombers and helicopters and is expected to join around 10 other Russian vessels already off the Syrian coast. Stoltenberg also announced that the Alliance had started deploying Airborne-Warning-and-Control-System-surveillance-planes out of Turkey to help the US-led coalition to fight against the Islamic State. The NATO Secretary General noted that they will be used for reconnaissance in support of air strikes against Islamic State targets.