Russian President Vladimir Putin did Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's "dirty work" with airstrikes against rebel forces — and "it's a classic example of the Russians treating the United States with complete contempt," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain told Newsmax TV
"They didn't even attack other targets or try to camouflage it," McCain, the Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential candidate, told "The Hard Line" host Ed Berliner. "The Russian attaché in Baghdad informed the United States an hour before the strikes began.
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"This is an incredible display of American weakness, and obviously will ratchet it up the conflict in Syria rather than have it in any way diminished," he said. "This is really a remarkable point in American history."
Putin, who claimed to have been attacking Islamic State terrorists with the airstrikes, is merely solidifying Assad's position, McCain said.
"They now have a major place in the Middle East that they haven't had since Anwar Sadat threw the Russians out of Egypt in 1973. They are protecting their base on the Mediterranean — and obviously have the United States reacting rather than acting."
"They believe we aren't going to do anything and that we're weak."
McCain expressed fears that the strikes were moving the Middle East closer to full-scale war.
"They kill off the Free Syrian Army, ISIS spreads more and more throughout the region because we have no strategy against ISIS — and Russia assumes a major role in the Middle East, which is an aspiration that Vladimir Putin has had for a long period of time."
"What should the United States be doing?" the senator asked. "First thing we should be doing is we should be launching our aircraft and saying, 'We're going to fly anyplace anytime and anyhow we want to — and don't get in the way.'"
But that's probably not going to happen, McCain told Berliner.
"It's because of the weakness and feckless foreign policy of the president of the United States," he said. "This didn't happen by accident nor immediately. It's a result of a feckless foreign policy."
"You can go back to his failure to accept the advice of his national security advisors to arm the Free Syrian Army. You can go back to the red line in Syria, where he said that he was going to act and didn't."
"You can go back to a pattern of behavior that rejects American leadership and displays American weakness. Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are taking advantage of it."
He accused the Russian president of "rewriting the maps" to build a coalition with Iran and Syria to "gain significant control of the entire Middle East."
McCain pointed to the nations' disclosure on Monday that they would start sharing intelligence.
"They announced that without telling the United States of America," he told Berliner. "The country that sacrificed hundreds of American lives, killed and wounded in trying to preserve Iraqi freedom."
"It is beyond anything that I have ever seen in my involvement in national security issues."
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