Putin acknowledges Russia aiming to help Assad in Syria

Putin acknowledges Russia aiming to help Assad in Syria
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Russian President Vladimir Putin this weekend appeared to confirm allegations that his main goal in intervening in Syria was to prop up embattled leader Bashar Assad.

"Our task is to stabilize the legitimate government and to create conditions for a political compromise ... by military means, of course," Putin said in an interview with Russian state television, according to a translation from CNN

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"The units of international terrorists and their ilk have no desire to negotiate with the Syrian government, who is almost sieged in its own capital."

Putin’s comments will come as little surprise to watchers of the region, who have noted Moscow’s recent support for Assad, a longtime ally.

In recent weeks, Russia has begun and dramatically increased a military campaign to support Assad — at the expense, according to reports, of CIA-backed rebels and other groups trying to force him out of power.

The Kremlin has insisted that any rebels fighting against Assad’s government are “terrorists” similar to al Qaeda or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The White House has opposed that narrative, though its attempts to support moderate rebels in the region have been decidedly unproductive.

The Obama administration has said that “greater than 90 percent” of Russia’s airstrikes have been against opposition groups, not Islamic extremists.

Last week, the Pentagon called off a $500 million plan to train and equip Syrians fighting ISIS, acknowledging that the effort had largely failed to create a robust fighting presence. The administration has previously admitted that some of the equipment given to those rebels had been passed along to al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, called the al-Nusra Front.

"I wish they gave us $500 million,” Putin said in his interview. “We would have spent it better in terms of fighting against international terrorism.”