Obama turns up pressure on Putin over Syria

US President Barack Obama warned Russia faces fierce international rebuke if it continues to make common cause with Syria’s brutal regime, signalling a renewed push to end the bloody five-year civil war Thursday.

Obama said Russia risked casting itself as an “irresponsible actor” on the world stage, after meeting with top aides at the Pentagon.

Eying a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo — the besieged northwestern city of 250,000 people that was once Syria’s commercial hub — Obama said it was “time for Russia to show that it is serious” about bringing peace.

For five years Russian President Vladimir Putin has steadfastly supported the regime of Bashar al-Assad, offering international cover, military aid and in the last year carrying out its own strikes in anti-Assad areas.

Without material Russian and Iranian support it is doubtful Assad could have held on to power.

Putin has shown little sign of ending that support through multiple rounds of international talks.

“I’m not confident that we can trust the Russians or Vladimir Putin,” Obama said. “Which is why we have to test whether or not we can get an actual cessation of hostilities.”
Hopes in renewed ceasefire in Aleppo

The United States hopes renewing a failed ceasefire would prevent a bloodbath in Aleppo, allow humanitarian aid missions to resume and open the door for negotiations that would end the civil war and turn the focus to defeating the Islamic State.

The White House is betting that Putin’s preoccupation with Russia’s position on the world stage could lead to a rethink before he travels to the G20 in China and UN General Assembly in New York next month.

Putin’s decision to annex Ukraine’s Crimea and support separatist forces in the east of that country have led to international sanctions and to Russia being expelled from the G8, much to the Russian leader’s chagrin.