The top U.S. general says he has "no doubt" that Russian intervention in Syria propped up the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
"With respect to Russian activity in Syria, there's absolutely no doubt that they stabilized the regime, and they have put themselves in a position to influence the political solution," General Joe Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Dunford said the Syrian government was "reeling" in July and August of last year but is now in "much better shape." Russia's withdrawal from Syria "calls into question" their true purpose for entering into the Syrian conflict, he added.
"The stated intent was to go after ISIL," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. "They've now announced the withdrawal. From my perspective, there's still some work to be done against ISIL."
New military methods needed
The general said one of the "most significant challenges" the U.S. military is dealing with is the need for "more effective methods" to deal with Russian behavior in Georgia and Crimea, malign Iranian influence across the Middle East and Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
The traditional U.S. military approach, he explained, is to either be at peace or at conflict, but Dunford said that method is "insufficient" to deal with players advancing their interests while avoiding U.S. military strengths.
"The adversary knows exactly what the threshold is for us to take decisive military action, so they operate below that level," Dunford said. "They continue to advance their interest, and we lose the competitive advantage and frankly our interests are adversely affected."
The general said he will make recommendations to Congress in the coming weeks for significant changes to the military's command and control in order to be more "suited" for the character of current conflicts across the globe.