Russia President Vladimir Putin defended his efforts to prop up the government of war-torn Syria, telling a United Nations audience Monday that it was the only way to curtail ISIS and stem the overwhelming flow of refugees.
In his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly in a decade, Putin spent a good portion of his time on ISIS, calling for an "international coalition against terrorism" similar to the partnership that defeated Nazi Germany. That coalition, he said, should include the Syrian government.
Putin said the Syrian military deserved support because they were among the only forces fighting ISIS "face-to-face."
"It would be a mistake not to cooperate with the Syrian government," Putin said.
His remarks were an apparent retort to those of President Obama, who addressed the General Assembly less than two hours earlier, calling for a "managed transition" away from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and blaming him for sparking a civil war that led to the rise of ISIS there.
Obama and Putin were to meet later Monday in their first face-to-face discussion in nearly a year.
Putin supports keeping Assad in power at least temporarily in order to focus on defeating ISIS. He has increased military support for Assad and negotiated an intelligence-sharing deal with Iran, Iraq and the Syrian government that took the United States by surprise on Sunday.
The Russian president scoffed at warnings among American politicians who have warned of Russia's "growing ambitions" in trying to take a stronger role in the Syrian conflict.
"This is not about Russia's ambitions, but about the recognition of the fact that we can no longer tolerate the urgent state of affairs in the world," Putin said.
Providing military and economic assistance to Assad's regime, Putin said, will help strengthen government institutions and improve the quality of life for ordinary Syrians, and will hopefully dissuade more people from joining the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing the country for the West.