Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who has increasingly clashed with President Barack Obama on national security, suggested Tuesday that the president’s decision to send American fighter jets on the Syrian-Turkish border “to target Russian planes” could lead to nuclear war with President Vladimir Putin.
“Russia’s installation of their anti-aircraft missile-defense system increases that possibility of — whether it’s intentional or even an accidental event — where one side may shoot down the other side’s plane,” the two-term Hawaii Democrat told Defense Secretary Ash Carter at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. “And that’s really where the potential is for this devastating nuclear war.”
She added that Obama’s longstanding opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Moscow, could also exacerbate the situation, National Review reports.
Gabbard, 34, a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard who has served in Iraq and Kuwait, has openly opposed President Obama on Syria, especially after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks by the Islamic State that left 130 dead and 368 wounded.
She has argued that Assad should be left in power to help destroy ISIS and has introduced legislation to defund efforts by the United States to overthrow the dictator.
In response to Gabbard’s remarks, Carter said that U.S. disagreement with Russia was more of a diplomatic problem, not a military danger, National Review reports.
“We have a different view, a very different view from Russia about what would be constructive for them to do in Syria,” Carter said. “That’s not the same as the United States and Russia clashing.”