Russian leaders are sending mixed messages about their take on the United States’ airstrikes in Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted to Secretary of State John Kerry that the United States must respect Syria’s sovereignty after President Barack Obama announced the United States would conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State. Yet, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia may join the fight against the jihadist group.
On Sunday, Lavrov asked the nations involved “to strictly comply with the United Nations statute, norms of international law and unconditional respect of Syrian sovereignty.” But Russia changed its tune on Monday. Ilya Rogachev, an official in the foreign ministry, said Russia does not expect the countries involved in airstrikes to invite Russia to participate. Russia considers Syrian President Bashar al-Assad an ally. The country sent weapons and military equipment to him when the civil war began three years ago. Putin discussed involvement with his Security Council and everyone “exchanged opinions on possible forms of cooperation with other partners on a plan to counter Islamic State in the framework of international law.”
The Islamic State is also a threat to Russia. In early September, the jihadists released a video and vowed to liberate Chechnya and Russia’s North Caucasus.
“We will, with the consent of Allah, free Chechnya and all of the Caucasus!” said the fighter. “The Islamic State is here and will stay here, and it will spread with the grace of Allah! Your throne has already been shaken. It is under threat and will fall with our arrival. We’re already on our way with the grace of Allah!”
The terrorists argue that Chechnya needs to be liberated from Putin, but the pro-Russia government installed in Chechnya in 2003 is very close to Putin. Ramzan Kadyrov –Putin’s close friend with whom he even shares friendships with some of Hollywood’s powerful stars—was elected head of state in 2007. Kadyrov dismissed the Islamic State’s claims on his Instagram.
“These jerks have nothing to do with Islam,” he said. “They are the blatant enemies of Muslims all over the world. Naive people decided to threaten Chechnya and all of Russia with two aircraft. They can sit in 2,000 aircraft and still not make it to Russia.” He then asserted, “I declare, with all responsibility, that whoever gets it into their heads to threaten Russia and speak the name of President Vladimir Putin will be destroyed as soon as he says it,” adding, “We won’t even wait for him to sit at the helm of a plane.”