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Biden accuses Trump of ignoring Russians ramming US troops in Syria

Joe Biden delivers remarks during a campaign speech. (Joe Biden/Released)
September 01, 2020

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden accused President Donald Trump of staying silent on an incident in Syria last week in which Russian military vehicles rammed into a U.S. military Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle and injured four service members.

“It’s been reported that Russian forces just attacked American troops in Syria injuring our service members,” Biden said during a campaign event Monday. “Did you hear the president say a single word? Did he lift one finger?”

The incident between U.S. and Russian troops happened on Tuesday, Aug. 24. Videos showed several Russian military vehicles harassing U.S. vehicles before ramming into a U.S. MRAP. The four U.S. service members in the vehicle were reportedly diagnosed with mild concussion-like symptoms. No other altercations between U.S. and Russian troops have been reported in recent weeks and Biden’s remarks make specific references to details reported from the ramming incident.

In his Monday remarks, Biden said, “Never before has an American president played such a subservient role to a Russian leader. It’s not only dangerous — it’s humiliating and embarrassing for the rest of the world to see. It weakens us.”

Reporter Joyce Karam tweeted video of the encounter, saying, “Video of US-Russia troops confrontation in Northern #Syria this week. Politico reporting now that 4 US troops were injured as result.”

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman did condemn the incident in a statement published by the Department of Defense on Thursday after videos of the incident emerged.

“We have advised the Russians that their behavior was dangerous and unacceptable,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman added, “We expect a return to routine and professional deconfliction in Syria and reserve the right to defend our forces vigorously whenever their safety is put at risk.”

Hoffman also credited the U.S. forces involved in the incident with deescalating.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the incident in a Monday radio interview with Washington radio station WMAL.

“We saw the incident last week where a Russian vehicle intentionally rammed an American vehicle,” Pompeo said. “These are the kinds of things that we work closely with the Russians to say this is unacceptable behavior — that America will respond.”

Russian forces have maintained a presence in Syria in recent years, assisting the Syrian government regime, led by Bashar Al-Assad. U.S. and Russian-backed forces have had similar encounters in the past. A February incident saw a U.S. MRAP try to run a Russian vehicle off the road after it cut in between U.S. military vehicles driving in a convoy.

In another incident in February of 2018, a force of around 500 pro-Syrian government forces, including members of a Russian mercenary group crossed over a deconfliction zone separating U.S. and Russian-backed forces in Syria. U.S. led airstrikes drove off the pro-Syrian forces and initial estimates indicated the U.S. strikes killed around 100 combatants. Later estimates suggested as many as 300 combatants, with some reports claiming 218 Russians were killed, while Russian officials said five Russian nationals may have been killed and “several dozen” more Russian nationals were wounded.