U.S. sanctions against Russia have resulted in pushback from Moscow. The Russians and Chinese have pledged to strengthen their bilateral military and political ties to challenge U.S. interests everywhere but especially in the Middle East. Moscow has one of its biggest allies in Syria and the Russians are surprisingly taking the side of Iran as well in this latest development.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met Tuesday with Air Force General Xu Qiliang, deputy vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, and other regional military officials as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in the eastern city of Qingdao. As increasingly powerful Russia and China build up their clout on the world stage, they sought a more united front against the U.S., which frequently challenged their rise.

“Time changes everything,” Shoigu said, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. “But, fortunately, it does not change our relations both personally between us and between our states, and the very close, friendly relations of the heads of our states serve as a guarantee of this.”

Shoigu praised “the privileged character of intergovernmental ties” evidenced by numerous meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, both of whom secured enough national support to extend their terms last month. He said the two nations were continuing “their strategic course toward further boosting friendly and trustworthy ties in the defense sphere,” calling this relationship “an important factor for maintaining global and regional security.”

The U.S. and its allies have accused Assad of using chemical weapons in rebel-held territory, and President Donald Trump has twice ordered missile strikes against Syrian government facilities. The U.K. and France joined in the latest and most intense round earlier this month, despite warnings not only from Russia and Iran, but China as well, all of whom doubt Assad’s role in alleged toxic gas attacks. China has also joined Russia, Iran and other countries in investing in the war-torn country’s reconstruction.

The Russians characterized the recent gas attack and resultant Allied coalition response as “Western Style”, in a play on words that may mean their dropping the pretext of no gas attack happened to the U.S. and coalition did it to allow a missile attack.

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