Russian President Vladimir Putin will launch a full-scale military assault on rebel-held eastern Aleppo this week, according to Western intelligence officials.
Security services reported early last week that President Putin plans to take advantage of political paralysis in the run-up to the US presidential election to break the stalemate in Aleppo and deliver a decisive victory for his ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia has sent a flotilla – including the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, seven other warships, and three submarines – that is expected to have arrived within striking range of Aleppo by the end of last week.
The naval reinforcements will add to the already significant Russian military presence in war-torn Syria.
It is believed that 275,000 men women and children are still trapped in eastern Aleppo.
Speaking in London last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the enclave runs the risk of being “bombed into smithereens” unless a new ceasefire agreement can be reached with President Putin.
Experts believe the unprecedented levels of virulence and divisiveness which have characterised the 2016 US presidential contest have seriously curtailed meaningful policy debate, both foreign and domestic.
In an essay published by Foreign Policy last week, US independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin wrote: “Unsurprisingly for a presidential campaign that has been consumed by investigations into the leading candidates’ deception and self-dealing, there has been no substantive debate about Syria.”
Mr McMullin lambasted Republican nominee Donald Trump for being “smitten with the Kremlin’s strongman… Trump ignores the fact that Russia is now a full participant in the atrocities inflicted on civilians by the Assad regime.”
Mr McMullin also lamented Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s steadfast willingness to negotiate with President Putin, claiming: “This approach tells Putin that he will face no consequences for either Russian atrocities in Syria or the deliberate violation of ceasefires.”
Secretary Kerry labelled the presidential race as “downright embarrassing” and said: “I could never imagine debates that were not focused on real issues.”
He vowed to press on with diplomatic efforts with Russia to restore a ceasefire in Aleppo.