Nato is poised to discuss Russia's growing military involvement in Syria as defence ministers of the alliance will meet in Brussels. Moscow has been pounding Islamic State (Isis) targets and recently fired 26 cruise missiles from warships stationed in the Caspian Sea. The US has, however, expressed doubts over Russia's targets.
Russia's involvement in Syria will dominate the agenda at the Nato meeting. This comes at a time when alliance member Turkey has accused Russia of violating its airspace. US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who will also participate in the talks, said: "We believe Russia has the wrong strategy. They continue to hit targets that are not IS [Isis]."
Expressing concern over Russia's military build-up in the region - comprising of artillery, attack helicopters, and air defence mechanisms - the US ambassador to Nato reiterated the West's doubts on Moscow's intentions. Douglas Lute told reporters ahead of the Nato meeting: "We will see what they intend to do. Some of the capabilities brought to that Russian base in Latakia suggest more than simply base protection.
At least four warships, stationed in Caspian Sea, have launched 26 rockets on targets inside Syria, Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin during a joint television appearance. He said: "In addition to the air force, four warships of the Caspian flotilla have been involved. The intensity of the strikes is increasing."
Since Russia began its aerial campaign in the Arab country on 30 September, warplanes carried out 120 sorties destroying 110 targets, according to Russian defence ministry figures.
Further, reports suggest that Russian forces coordinated their strikes with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. If confirmed, this would mark a new chapter in Russia's military cooperation with the embattled Syrian leader and would reinforce the Western nations' concerns that Moscow, under the pretext of fighting IS, is targeting Assad's adversaries including rebel fighters.
Meanwhile, President Putin in a television appearance has insisted that Russia's campaign "will be synchronised with the actions of the Syrian army on the ground and the actions of our air force will effectively support the offensive operation of the Syrian army".