WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) -- This week's announcement by President Barack Obama that the United States will commit an additional 250 special forces to Syria has been met with condemnation from Russia, Syria's ally, and a prominent Democratic senator.
But as was pointed out by both the Russians, who are backing the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the country's long-running civil war, Syria has made no request for U.S. intervention. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state-owned news outlet TASS the deployment is a violation of international law.
"If we are talking from the position of the foreign minister, we -- of course -- [must] be concerned over the fact that the U.S. carries out such actions without coordination with the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic," Ryabkov said.
The same concerns were echoed on Capitol Hill this week, when Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a prominent backer of Obama generally, blindsided Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Kaine pointed out the only outside actor in the Syrian civil war with any claim to be there under international law is, in fact, the Russians. The Syrian government has asked for the Russian military to intervene in its effort to eliminate rebel forces that have taken up arms in the country. The two sides are now engaged in a five-year-long civil war.
Kaine likened the U.S. involvement in Syria to the Russian incursion into Ukraine, saying the U.S. military is "carrying out military operations in a sovereign nation without the support of that sovereign nation."
Carter responded, saying the difference between U.S. special forces in Syria and the Russian military incursion in Ukraine are different because of the motives -- the United States is seeking "to fight real terrorists. We're not trying to destabilize a stable situation, so we're trying to return order and decency, not the other way around."
Kaine, who has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, said he could not see the distinction and criticized Obama's decision.
"And basically, we've decided that if our motives are OK, we can incur into the sovereignty of another nation because we're doing the right thing. But then that takes away our ability to effectively criticize other nations that get into the sovereignty of other nations, as Russia is doing in the Ukraine."