U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Wednesday that the Pentagon had reason to believe that Russian airstrikes in Syria, launched hours earlier, were hitting areas not occupied by ISIS.
"It does appear they were in in areas where there probably were not [ISIS] forces," Carter said. "The reason why the Russian position is contradictory is the potential for them to strike, which they may well have, are in areas where ISIL is not present."
"The Russian approach is doomed to fail," he said.
He added that by staging airstrikes in Syria, Russia was "pouring gasoline on the fire."
Carter did not confirm the extent of the Department of Defense's specific knowledge, but he did acknowledge that the U.S. had been "observing Russian activities."
On Wednesday morning, Russia's rubber stamp parliament voted unanimously to give President Vladimir Putin authorization for the airstrikes in Syria. The first bombs hit hours later.
Russia said the strikes were meant to aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's fight against ISIS. But the strikes also included attacks on areas held by Western-backed rebels who are fighting the Assad regime.
The next step for the U.S. in the conflict, Carter said, would be to hold military-level meetings with the Russians. He said the U.S would be to continue to engage in talks with Putin's regime to "see if we can get the Russians in a position where they can understand the contradiction in the position they now have."
When asked if he believed Russia was acting in good faith with its airstrikes, Carter said he has taken them at their word.
"They are exceptionally clear about what they're saying. My problem isn't that I don't understand what they're doing," he said. "My problem is that what I think they're doing is going to backfire."