Russia has dispatched two warships and a unit of marines to secure its naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus, and it is delivering anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles to help Syrian President Bashar Assad defend his regime, Sen. John McCain said Monday.
“Clearly, this is not a fair fight,” Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank.
Russia’s Interfax news agency, quoting an unidentified Russian naval source, first reported on Monday that the warships were “preparing for a non-routine departure” for Tartus.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week accused Russia of sending helicopter gunships to the Assad regime, engaging in a war of words over the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“To say they are ‘leading from behind’ is too generous,” he said. “That suggests they are leading. They are just behind.”
President Obama is likely to discuss the situation in Syria when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Mexico on Monday.
Over the weekend, the United Nations announced it was halting monitoring operations in Syria because of the worsening security situation in the country.
More than 14,000 people have died since the start of the anti-Assad uprising 15 months ago, according to activists.
The senator proposed multilateral action in Syria, which would include working closely with Arab and European allies, especially Turkey, and not require putting U.S. boots on the ground.