TAPPER: Did President Obama and President Putin at all discuss the military support that Russia has been giving to the Syrian government? There are conflicting reports of different kinds of aircraft that have been taken into Syria. And also the Interfax report from this morning about two ships — two amphibious ships apparently headed to a Russian base in Syria.
BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Well, I’ll start. I don’t think that specific report was discussed as a general matter. They discussed Russia’s relationship with Syria, including its arms relationship. We have expressed, and expressed again today, our belief that continued arms sales to the Assad regime only perpetuate the conflict. Given the behavior of the Assad regime, we would like to see those arms sales come to an end. President Putin, as Russia has said publicly as well, suggested that these were kind of longstanding relationships that weren’t focused on the current conflict. Again, our view is that the Assad regime needs to be denied the resources that allow it to carry out its crackdown. That’s why we have sanctions in place to choke off its economic resources. And you see the economy very much weakening, and the resources that government has and the revenue the government has weakening. That’s one of the pillars of the regime that is the most tenuous right now. Similarly, we’d like to see arms sales to the Assad regime come to an end, because we believe they’ve demonstrated that they will only use their military against their own civilian population.
TAPPER: What can you tell us about the two ships, the two Russian ships?
RHODES: We obviously are aware of the reports. The Russians have a facility. They have a port in that part of the world. They have said that these ships are there to provide additional support to their people of that facility. We’ll have to monitor it very closely and determine whether they’re doing anything beyond that. Again, as of now, this is just them providing additional resources to a facility that they do have. But what we would like to see separate and apart from that is an end to arms shipments to the Assad regime. That’s where our concern is, and that’s what we’ll continue to raise with the Russians.
– Jake Tapper