Photo by Lex Van Lieshout/AFP/GettyImages
So, about those Russian attack helicopters heading to Syria: Turns out, Hillary Clinton may have been overstating the reality of the situation just a bit when she suggested earlier this week that Moscow was arming President Bashar al-Assad's regime in its fight against opposition forces.
The New York Times did some digging after the secretary of state's rather alarming remarks, and found that the helicopters in question were most likely not a new shipment to Syria but rather the return of aircraft that had been sent to Russia for routine maintence per an existing contract with a Russian company.
Although decidedly less alarming, the full Times report also shows the depth of interdependence between the two allies as international pressure mounts for Assad to step down.
On Tuesday, Clinton said that the United States was "concerned" about reports of the shipments, adding that if true, the move "will escalate the conflict quite dramatically." Russia denied that they were arming the Syrian regime for a civil war on Wednesday. It looks like her remarks were meant to put pressure on Russia, or as one Defense official told the Times, to "put a little spin on it to put the Russians in a difficult position."
The Russian arms monopoly Rosoboronexpor told the Times that they plan to continue to fulfill their contracts with Syria, and that there aren't any sanctions preventing them from doing so. Russia has blocked any U.N. attempt to impose sanctions on their ally in the Middle East, where the country's only naval base on the Mediterranean is stationed. The company said that the helicopters were likely being repaired as part of a contract, but wouldn't confirm anything.
You can read the full story in the New York Times.