WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Leandra Bernstein — On Monday, Putin ordered the withdrawal of the main part of the country's air forces from Syria, beginning Tuesday, noting that the objectives of Russia’s nearly 5.5-month operation against terrorist groups in the country had been met.
"[President Putin] got the accomplishment that he wanted. He took out the forces who were opposed to the person that is in power in Syria right now. He is their ally, he…will be seen as the guy who stood by his ally," Rounds said.
Rounds, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was critical of the lack of US engagement in Syria, and referred to the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreement as a "surrender agreement" for US interests in the country.
The announcement of Russia’s withdrawal came on the same day the Syrian government and opposition representatives sat down to renew peace negotiations in Geneva. The talks restarted under UN auspices, after a Russian and US-sponsored ceasefire agreement had largely held for over two weeks.
Russian Military Option in Syria Remains Credible Despite Withdrawal
Russia maintains the option of using military force in Syria, despite the announced withdrawal of its air group from the country, US Senator Lindsey Graham told Sputnik.
"I am 100 percent confident that if [Syrian President Bashar] Assad needed [Russian] military help to survive, they would provide it, until they believe that it’s a lost cause," Graham stated on Tuesday, noting that Russia will maintain a presence at the Tartus naval base and Hmeimim air base.
The former Republican presidential candidate added, "I don’t think anybody takes this [Russian pullout] as a game-changer, I think that would be a mistake."