Russia Tells U.S. Only Their Troops Are Welcome in Syria

Moscow has hit back at a Pentagon report criticizing the actions of Russian troops in Syria.

It follows an assessment to U.S. Congress about the international campaign against ISIS, Operation Inherent Resolve, which accused Russian troops of violating "deconfliction processes" established in the northeast of Syria.

The analysis, covering the first quarter of 2021, said that Russian violations included "the addition of an extra vehicle to pre-arranged patrols," as well as "not providing proper notification of military transport and fighter aircraft moving from Russia to Syria."

"While Russian forces largely adhered to the de-confliction processes, violations increased slightly compared to the previous quarter," said the lead inspector general report, which added Russian actions "did not pose a threat to Coalition forces."

Russian troops in Syria
Russian troops pictured near al-Qahtaniyah, in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province on February 4, 2021. Russia has said that the U.S. presence in Syria was “primarily illegal.” DELIL SOULEIMAN/Getty Images

The report said greater numbers of Russian forces were working in closer proximity to coalition forces, and that Russia "seeks to harass and constrain U.S. forces with the ultimate goal of compelling U.S. forces to withdraw from northeastern Syria."

The document also said that Russia "continued to try to assert its influence" with the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] and engage with the local population.

Russia also looked to present itself as a broker for tensions between the SDF and Turkish-aligned forces, the report added, although it noted that this had been rejected by the SDF.

However, Russia's embassy in Washington said that its country's troops were in Syria at the request of Syrian authorities, unlike American troops.

We would like to remind: 🇺🇸 military presence in #Syria is illegal in the first place. So the #US does not have any right to criticize legitimate actions of the Russian Armed Forces which operate in #Syria on the invitation of 🇸🇾 Government.

— Russian Embassy in USA 🇷🇺 (@RusEmbUSA) May 6, 2021

It tweeted that "we would like to remind" the U.S. that its "military presence in Syria is illegal in the first place."

"So, the U.S. does not have any right to criticize the legitimate actions of the Russian Armed Forces, which operate in Syria on the invitation of the Syrian government," the embassy said in the tweet, which included an image of an excerpt of the report.

Along with coalition troops, America's military has operated inside Syria to assist Kurdish and Arab rebel forces fighting ISIS in the north and the east of the country.

Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has helped him gain the upper hand in a bloody civil war, has long insisted that the U.S. military presence in Syria is illegal.

The Syrian government controls most of the country, and about a third of it is in the hands of the SDF.

The state Russian news agency Tass, in reporting the latest Pentagon assessment, reiterated the Kremlin's take on Moscow's presence in Syria.

It described Russia's role in the country as one of "assistance to the legitimate government" and giving "assistance to the Syrian parties in starting a political dialogue."

"The United States, unlike Russia, is in Syria without an invitation from the government of that country," Tass reported. Newsweek has contacted the Pentagon for comment.

Last month, Assad thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for military and economic support as Damascus faces political isolation from the west.