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With US focused on vote, Russia steps up efforts to secure Syria's Assad in power

On Tuesday, Donald Trump's vice-presidential running mate Mike Pence split from his candidate's admittedly vague position by calling for air strikes against Assad's forces. Photograph: (Getty)

Chicago, Illinois, United States Oct 06, 2016, 03.45 AM (IST)

US officials say Russia is using US President Barack Obama's last days in office, and the intervening months before an administration with a tougher policy on Syria could possibly take charge, to help strengthen Bashar al-Assad's hold on power in Syria, AFP reported.

Russian President Putin's strategy, according to US officials, is to use this time -- when Obama will not be able to intervene in Syria's escalating conflict -- to consolidate gains in the war-ravaged country. 

It is still not certain however what the new, if any, US policy on Syria will be. 

Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence on Tuesday described Putin as a “bullying leader” whose provocations need to be met with “American strength”.

“The United States of America should be prepared to use force to strike military targets of the Assad regime,” Pence added on Russia's alleged goal to help Syria retake the besieged city of Aleppo.

His potential boss, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, however seems unsure of his relationship with the Russian leader.

"I don't love Putin, I don't hate. We'll see how it works. We'll see," Trump told supporters on Wednesday in Nevada. 

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has also called for stronger action on Syria by suggesting the US military enforce a no-fly zone to protect civilian areas.

Russia has supported Assad, sending him troops and warplanes, in the bloody conflict that has killed over 300,000 people over the past five years.

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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