Skip to main content

Top US general pumps brakes on sending more forces to confront Russia in Syria

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley suggested there's little the US can do to stop Russian fighter pilots' free rein over Syria's skies but warned American forces will defend themselves if they detect "hostile intent."
US soldiers in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) patrol the countryside of al-Malikiya town (Derik in Kurdish) in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province July 17, 2023. (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP) (Photo by

Washington’s top general on Tuesday threw cold water on questions about the need for additional military deployments to the Middle East to fend off a series of tense encounters with US aircraft initiated by Russian pilots over Syria.

“There’s been an uptick, but I wouldn’t overstate it too much,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley said during a press briefing alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon. “We’ve got adequate capabilities to defend ourselves.” 

Why it matters: The Pentagon is aiming to maintain an edge over the Kremlin’s pilots in Syria without dragging them into an escalation cycle by amassing more forces just yet.

Milley’s comments came one day after Washington announced plans to send high-end F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to the Middle East on the heels of a short-term rotation of super-advanced stealth F-22 Raptors to Jordan. Both deployments were intended to dissuade Russian pilots from harassing US forces.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.