The ongoing civil war in Syria has been a hotbed of tensions for the United States and Russia. The controversy between the two nations recently heightened after the negotiated cease-fire came to an abrupt and violent end.
Now that the fighting has resumed, the Syrian city of Aleppo has been subjected to numerous deadly bombings. The bombings have been carried out by the Syrian Air Force in an effort to target rebel combatants.
However, U.S. suspicions of Russian relations with the Syrian government have led to accusations that the Russian military is also involved in these bombings. As a result of these suspicions, the U.S. has taken a decisive step by suspending talks over the Syrian conflict with Russia.
Russian president Vladimir Putin is taking big steps in retaliation by violating a landmark arms control agreement. The agreement stipulates that the U.S. and Russia must each dispose of 34 tons of plutonium, a material necessary for the development of nuclear weapons. These developments represent a sudden turn-around from negotiations between Secretary of State John Kerry and the Russian government, which promised newfound cooperation until recently.
Kerry and Sergey V. Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, had been on the verge of coming to a cooperative agreement aimed at reducing violence in the war-torn nation, providing humanitarian aid and targeting jihadist groups.
However, the deal began to fall through when an American-led coalition accidentally bombed Syrian troops. Relations further deteriorated when the U.S. accused Russia of utilizing its aircraft to deliberately attack a humanitarian convoy bound for Aleppo. The tactics of Russian and Syrian aircraft in their attacks, which have mainly been focused on Aleppo, have raised alarm bells with the U.S,
Their aircraft use bombs that scatter a cloud of explosive particles that have proven more deadly by expanding the blast areas. However, this technique is dangerous to civilians in the targeted areas, where hundreds of people have been killed in the past week alone, according to international humanitarian groups.
While the U.S. has taken decisive action in halting talks with Russia, it is unclear what further steps may be taken. There has been no mention of the imposition of any consequences on Russia in response.
The Obama administration has only announced its intention to weigh various options, likely in an effort to keep the U.S. from inadvertently becoming involved in a confrontation with Russia. Former White House expert on Russia, Andrew S. Weiss, fears that the U.S. is blacksliding into Cold War status tensions with Russia.
Weiss warns that the current climate is ominous because, “The mistrust and hostility toward the U.S. by the Russian government is real and growing. It is going to be the driving force behind Russian external behavior for years to come.”