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In Madrid, Carter Says Russia's Strategy in Syria 'Way Off Track'

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 05, 2015 — Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who is visiting Spain as part of a four-nation European tour, said today Russia’s approach to Syria is not well thought through and is doomed to fail.

Carter spoke in a joint press conference in Madrid with his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Morenés.

Russia is seeking to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and fight all the opponents of Assad, Carter said. The Russian strategy will only inflame the situation and "pour gasoline on the civil war in Syria," he said.

The U.S. approach, he said, is to pursue the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant while seeking a political transition.

Carter said if Russia were to adjust its approach and pursue the defeat of ISIL while seeking a political transition in Syria, the U.S. may be able to "build a bridge to their position."

“But right now, they're way off track,” the secretary added.

U.S.-Spain Commitment to Peace and Security

Carter applauded the strong ties between the United States and Spain.

The two nations share a commitment to regional peace and global security and are looking for new areas of cooperation, he said. Washington and Madrid share a desire to see a "Europe that is whole and free and at peace," Carter said.

Morenés said Spain is doing its best to respond to the refugee crisis. He commended the United States for all it has done for refugees over the years and for its efforts to maintain and enhance peace and security.

Carter said he and Morenés discussed a wide range of ways the alliance is operating and strengthening, and how the partnership can do more together.

The United States and Spain, Carter said, are committed to countering the threats on Europe's southern flank, and seeking peace and security in Europe.

"Spain has looked outward to the east by playing an active role in the enhanced Baltic air policing mission," he said. "It's also looked outward to the south by contributing to humanitarian missions and to the global coalition to defeat ISIL."

Spain has supported NATO's Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.

"The United States greatly appreciates all of these contributions," Carter said.

Carter thanked Spain for the warm hospitality it has shown to U.S. troops in Morón and Rota. On Tuesday, Carter is to visit U.S. Marines at Morón Air Base.

Carter is on the first leg of a tour that will also take him to Italy, Belgium and England.

Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD