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Russia Forcing de facto Coordination with U.S.

Nov. 18, 2015 (EIRNS)—The Russian Defense Ministry is forcing the issue of military coordination with the United States in Syria, despite the protests from Washington otherwise, and it is using the communications channel agreed on with the US Defense Department on Oct. 20 to do so. The Russian Defense Ministry, in its release, yesterday, on the cruise missile and other strikes carried out by long-range bombers flying from southern Russia, reported that it had informed the US and other military commands about the strikes beforehand.

The Russian notification was confirmed by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook yesterday.

"They did give us advance notice through the Memorandum of Understanding," Cook said, and he admitted that "those airstrikes, at least from our vantage point, did appear to strike in ISIL-held territory." But, he insisted, "there’s been no additional talk of further cooperation or—or coordination with the Russians at this point." This is because of their policy of supporting Assad, and "until they alter that policy, we don’t see much of an area for—for further cooperation." When pressed by reporters on that point, Cook said that the door to US military cooperation has always been open for Russia, but on condition that they abandon their support for Assad and join the US strategy against ISIS. In other words, the policy, at least from the Pentagon standpoint, remains, "It’s our way or the highway."

But clearly, it’s the Russians who are forcing matters, not the US, and even the Pentagon admits this to some degree. That communications channel is going to become a de facto channel of coordination, even as Cook says there won’t be any coordination with Russia on air strikes in Syria. Clearly, when the Russian notification arrived at US Central Command’s combined air operations center in Qatar, US and coalition aircraft in the area were told to get out of the way. Michelle Baldanza, a spokesperson at the Pentagon, told Sputnik that coalition pilots were instructed to "be prepared to adjust [activities] as needed on a case-by-case basis." She added that

"Coalition pilots were told to maintain a heightened level of awareness, continue planned missions. We were not surprised by the Russian activities."

As the Russian Defense Ministry is planning to continue to launch air strikes from southern Russia, this de facto coordination will continue.