The New York Times reports: The United States on Tuesday moved to head off preparations for a suspected Russian military buildup in Syria as Bulgaria agreed to an appeal from the Obama administration to shut its airspace to Russian transport planes. The planes’ destination was the Syrian port city of Latakia.
The administration has also asked Greece to close its airspace to the Russian flights, Greek and American officials said, but Greece has not publicly responded to the request.
The apparent Russian military preparations and the Obama administration’s attempt to block them have escalated long-running tensions between the White House and the Kremlin. Although the United States and Russia agree that the Islamic State is a threat, the new dispute shows that they remain far apart on how best to combat the militant group and on the political future of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria — divisions that are likely to be on display when President Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin speak to the United Nations General Assembly this month. [Continue reading…]
AFP reports: At least three Russian military transport planes have landed in Syria in recent days, US officials said Tuesday, as Washington worries about the sort of assistance Moscow is providing to Damascus.
The aircraft have landed at the airport in Latakia on Syria’s Mediterranean coast over the past several days, US officials told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Two of the aircraft were giant Antonov-124 Condor planes and a third was a passenger flight, one of the officials said.
The Russians have installed modular housing units — enough for “hundreds” of people — at the airport, as well as portable air traffic control equipment, the official noted. [Continue reading…]