tv Center for the National Interest Discussion on Syrian Conflict CSPAN November 6, 2018 3:04pm-4:42pm EST
country. hear victory and concession speeches from the candidates and wednesday morning at 7:00 a.m. eastern we'll get your reaction to the election, taking your phone calls live during "washington journal." c-span, your primary source for campaign 2018. congress returns for a lame-duck session. the house will work on legislation and funding the federal government past system december 7th. and it will take a session on coast guard programs and the nomination for the federal reserve board. see the house live on c-span. watch the senate live on c-span2. >> up next here on c-span3, a conversation on the syrian civil war from the center for the national interests, this is about 90 minutes.
good afternoon. welcome. >> i'm director of middle east studies at the center and we have a special panel to discuss russian intervention with syria and u.s. policy in the region. the executive director for the national interest and the member of the center's board of directors and an expert on russia's foreign policy, he's written extensively about russia's policy in the middle east. mr. saunders served in the bush administration from 2003 to 2005, as senior adviser for undersecretary of state for global affairs. colonel retired dr. robert e. hamilton with the u.s. army war college and the research institute and the 30-year career in the u.s. army, he's spent primarily as the foreign you're asia officer, and he served in iraq, belarus, qatar, afghanistan, republic of george apac stan and kuwait.
colonel hamilton was the first director with russian forces in syria in 2017. michael kaufman is a wefellow a the woodrow wilson center in d.c. previously served as program manager and subject matter expert, advising senior military and government officials on military and security issues in russia, eurasia and pakistan. with that, paul? >> thanks very much, and thank you very much, everyone for coming. let me say a few things briefly, actually, most of what i'll say briefly will be about what i think are russian objectives in syria and then at the end i'll say just a couple of words about what i see is the implications for u.s. policy. you know, i think russia really had two objectives in going into
syria. one, i think was to prevent the fall of the assad government there and the second as president putin has said repeatedly, kind of paraphrasing actually president george w. bush better to fight them there than to fight them here. in reference, of course, to the extremist terrorists in syria. so i think those were really russia's two objectives in going in with from a russian perspective, a side benefit of hopefully forcing the united states into some kind of political dialogue with russia at a time when, you know, a year and a little bit after the annexation of crimea, the
political dialogue between the united states and russia had really broken down. of course, once russia got into syria in a significant way, then i think the russian government and the russian military developed some addition interest there, and i would point particularly to, i guess, a couple of things and one is the russian military presence became increasingly significant and particularly the basing arrangements became far more developed than they really were prior to russia's intervention. i think the base and the future of the base or bases became a much more significant issue than i really think it was in advance, and secondly, i would
say having gone into the whole situation in syria, russia needed to have a way out like the united states and others who get involved in those kinds of situations. there had to be an exit strategy. in russia's case as in most of these cases that required a political settlement between, the assad government and opposition forces. and we've seen a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns in the negotiating process over the last few years, but obviously as the syrian government's position has become stronger with help from russia and from iran, syria is in a much stronger position to get what it wants at the end
of that process. as we get further along in the military campaign, and i assume mike will talk about the military campaign, but as we get further along in that and again, the syrian position is stronger and stronger and the opposition and isis are in weaker and weaker position, then russia needs to start thinking not just a political settlement, but what is syria going to look like after that settlement and that starts to raise a variety of other issues. reconstruction, return of refugees and what happens to any remaining isis personnel or
extremist terrorists who are in syria, where do they go and particularly the ones with an origin in russia or the former soviet region, where do they go and how do you move forward the political process in syria to try to set up some kind of sustainable consensus arrangement? and i think as we've been looking at russia's statements and behavior over the last few months you see them increasingly turning in this direction and putin talking just a couple of weeks ago at valdai actually about the syrian government having created conditions in syria that would allow for the return of up to 1.5 million
refugees to the country. obviously, a greater focus reconstruction and actually, i think the discussion of the return of refugees in some ways helps to push forward the discussion of reconstruction, particularly in a situation where the u.s. congress and some other parliaments are not too enthusiastic about contributing to reconstruction of syria under assad's continued leadership. and we've seen by putin and others and for that matter being iranian, as well of and the people who they describe as extremists in the idlib area and
the fate of those people and i think this is basically the direction that russia is pointed in at this point. from an american perspective, and speaking just very briefly about the policy implication, my view is that the united states has considerably more leverage in this situation than is generally appreciated and i understand why from the perspective of perhaps moscow or iran or syria they may feel that they've won or largely won a victory on the battlefield than are in a position more or less to dictate the political outcome, but from a practical perspective, as i look at it no political settlement in syria is going to be a sustainable
settlement without very major international investment in reconstruction of the country, reconstruction of infrastructure and assistance returning refugees and creating jobs and all kind of things like that, and so long as assad is in his current position, i strongly suspect that not just in the u.s. congress that none other of the western parliaments would contribute to syria's reconstruction. it's not immediately obvious that there are a lot of others that would be both willing and able to do that. certainly, whenever i have raised that issue with russian
interlo interlocutors they make it clear that they are not interested in making that kind of investment in syria's reconstruction. i don't think iran can do it and i was just in china last week and asked a number of people there whether china would be interested in doing something like that, and i didn't get any indications that they were and that really leaves significant sources of outside investment and the gulf countries who are trying to oust assad who also seem unlikely to do that so it strikes me that actually we're in a pretty good position to negotiate with russia and iran and others about the shape of post-war syria and that if russia and iran and the assad government don't want to engage
in a negotiation like that they're unlikely to be able to find a sustainable outcome on their own and that's kind of a tough position to take and, you know, i certainly have a great deal of sympathy for the people in syria. they need a lot of help, but you know, we've got to balance that, obviously, against this broader objective of having a sustainable syria with a leadership that's much more respectful of the people wo live in the country, and i suspect that if we take that kind of a strong position we may meet with some success, and if we don't,
then i suspect that within probable i a couple of years, mr. assad would be facing another internal rebellion as unattractive as that would be for everyone. so why don't i wrap it up there and turn it over to my colleagues on the panel? mike? >> thank you, paul. great survey of the landscape. my goal here would be to just focus on the military campaign, and sort of briefly give some of the big picture takeaways and what we can learn about russian capability, and in general, we can talk about the future and we'll talk about the details and we'll dive briefly into the weeds and climb out of them. >> yeah. so it's not too much time on the minutia. so i think just the way we
should look and understand, with the relevance of syria, for the forces and fundamentally, syria is the principal transformative concept for the russian military. and it is driving a great deal of experience, innovation and for the russian forces and it is the happy war. no matter what happens in syria, the russian military is going to stay there and quite comically, even after three times announcing withdrawal to finally building real revertments and the people who say good-bye and never leave and it's digging in and building a more permanent base there. >> and so the reason why is that much of the russian senior officer core is going through three-month stints in commanding syria. it is a place where all military district commanders and army commanders are all going to serve to get promoted, to get their rank. probably more than two-thirds of russian tactically and the
rotated to syria have gotten combat aviation and syria has become the russian pipeline for the military to get command experience and this is talking about the structure of the force and these people are becoming a transformative force in the russian military because they're coming back with lessons they learned and they're driving the lessons and even a few years ago you would find that much of the russian military had thinking from world war ii. if you think big picture, strategy always learns and looks back to the past, rooiight? you can look back on all sorts of wars and the fact that you're driven by technology and the future and that's why we don't fight the way we did in the 17th century, the 18th century and the 19th century. we were quite limited up until this point so syria beyond world
war iu is the next generation transformative conflict because the senior commanders were fought in syria who are now coming back to take top positions on the russian military and how it should be done and how it should look at exercises, right? so that will drive tactical innovation and russia has not had that kind of experience in many years and an experience we have had were field wars and you cannot have the failure and what should be done and you cannot come back from the conflict and said i learned a lot of things and this should drive innovation and that's what's happening today. that's why syria is very different from the -- or even russia-georgia although that was the last war in the russian military. those thing his been decided before then on the future reforms. finally, to answer about power projections.
well, so the answer on the russian power projection and what we learned from syria is that on the one hand, russia was successful in winning the sort of great power and not great power argument. if you look from a military perspective, one of the defining elements of the great power's ability to project power outside of the region is somewhere else and you have to reach your borders and you have to project military power elsewhere. so the answer is yes, and very few countries in the world today can successfully conduct military operations on their own without u.s. assistance and it's a very short list from reality and even if it's not that far away from where they reside and yes, they are successful and they show they're limited with what they can do in the end of the day and military power is quite strong and it rapidly diminishes in terms of projection and which makes sense and certainly nobody today that can remotely rival the united states in terms of global power projection because it's based on a tremendous amount logistics, a
huge amount and nobody has invested in them and that's one of the things that makes the united states so successful and the base network and infrastructure and all of these things you have to get. so in short, in terms of real capacity, yes, they're quite constrained, but they can also do more than this. i think people were not sufficiently innovative with looking at how fast you can compensate for having standing sea lift to basically press commercial vessels into service and so one should not believe that just because russia and syria, they cannot go to libya. understand that this is all uncontested power projection and they can project power to where it can be contested in the real power. they can do more than this, and they have the capacity to serve more assets than what you see here and however, syria has more
than what you would like to take on. so the operations are seeing a reflection in that they will moderate to keep a small, manageable footprint, 4,000 to 5,000 people on the ground and in general, the contingent there is around 30 to 50 aircraft at any time with the mixture of helicopters and 30 aircraft and 60 helicopters and sometimes more and sometimes less and they rotate them out and put new things in. when they were there withdrawing and they very quickly arrived and be it new helicopters and new aircraft. they are rotating people, crews and equipment and the relative amount stays the same and they're not keen to expand mission. the only thing expanding is that for a long time was basically a watering hole where no real service can combat and conduct and they're building it into a naval base with major service combatants and as opposed to what it was when russia first
arrived in 2015. so in general, we can learn high rates and two crews for all of this and for the limited contingency they had, they were able to generate a lot of genuine military impact and power and the reason why is they suffered from and even russian and military and it was maintenance and logistics and one of the phenomenal things and most of the soviets had aircraft and they were regularly shown on tv and there was a whole village defense supporting them and taking what's happening and maintaining them and et cetera, et cetera, and most of the work has been done by soup 24 and soup 25 workforce and the thing is that it never fell out of the sky and there were exceptions and the ability of russia to sustain operations and one, to not have the kind of actions that traditionally happened whether they have the war in
afghanistan and the russia-georgia conflict and more likely four of them to friendly fire and to be able to have three or four and the reality and the minority was lost in hostile fire and so this is sort of a night and day transformation in that respect and looking in the far less time. but when we look at real limitations and so these are success stories of actually being able to seeing them and not have some of these major disasters and have strong -- and figured out, well, they never significantly invested in the kind of capabilities that would allow them to fight this conflict more effectively and we know about precision-guided munitions and they had very few munitions exp munitions expanded in 1990 stocks and they lacked small munitions in general so it's overkill to the munitions that
had moving targets and they had to stand still, and right? three, we're not really with the kind of munitions that would be appropriate for that fight where you are dropping 500 giant kilogram bombs which is a large percentage of what they are doing and part of that they simply doesn't have the stocks and they have precision-guided munitions and they leave a lot to be desired and they went to the conflict with export variance with pgms so that the quality wasn't that good to begin with because they never invested the money to have it themselves up front. a lot of it has changed so the russian military force in 2018 is not the same one that intervened in the conflict in 2015 and you can see that. you can see both the change in performance and capabilities and how effective they are and drones which have become quite popularized and for forces fighting in 2008 it would be science fiction to believe that
even with older israeli drones they would be doing battle damage assessment and all such things. so drones have had a great utility e utility even in the rudimentary way with how they use them. with the capabilities that russia has learned, increasingly in syria, this is visible and it's becoming more than the sum of its part which is is the big evidence by russian forces in george abu as anyone who has worked with the military says that even if you give the command and control and even if you put people in theory to work together, they necessarily won't. services like to have their own war and they came to syria to fight their own war and they were very excited because they feel they won in syria and it created problems because it was to actually be able to do the joint warfare like the united states does it, right? in syria, you saw that despite
having some ground operations and despite having lots of air operations it wasn't planned together and it was going to be a long, hard road to culturally break the air part of russian military power to dominate the land force. and the aerospace forces has landed the land force commander to get the russian military to get it together now that they have the technology and the drive. and big, major drawbacks in how the russian navy performs and everybody has that sort of journey of russian carrier strike for syria and it ended up being one giant act of sabotage and the carrier killed far more a aircraft than were lost in combat and the russian navy itself did present to russia something new in the conflict that they haven't had in asia and to directly affect the conflict on land and fire into
it. even if it's not created a real time. for the rugd military for air power and sea power to fire to things on land and frankly, it was quite new and you had the other elements of russian military power and whether it be tier 1 special forces that performed there or a lot of higher instances and capabilities, but you know, on the whole we can see elements of this campaign comparable to the other things they might be able to do in the early to mid-90s and it's a bit of a generalization, but it's a big thing because to be honest neither has evolved technological leaps to where they can do in the 1990s and the military capability and that reflects quite a bit in terms of how russia was able to catch up in a limited sense. >> there is the operation, right? beyond the actual conflict and the thing that they developed there. >> one. they're using it as a great opportunity to interact with
u.s. forces and to the extent they can at the collect site to build the coalition aircraft and the platforms and trying to know how well does russian radar actually perform across the western aircraft and if there is no play to get their opportunity and that's why they wait. this is one of the reasons they like syria and want to stay in syria, they can't get a real matchup against the united states technology in the ground. >> everyone has capabilities there and for russians in particular and then it reveals a whole sort of things that are obvious. russians need standoff munitions and precision artillery and this is fundamental and it has been for a long time and with an army with lots of tanks and getting more precision cap ability is a very important thing and armed
drones for a long time it was a debate whether or not russia needed drones, and it's clear they do. essential things that they knew they were missing. targeting aircraft and armor redesign for some of the vehicle's greater surviveability and i'll close out with two comments. one on supporting forces, so wagners and pmcs really came into their own and russians have been using them in the classic utility role and you put them in the lead there to take casual tees and auxiliaries and the essence for how they prefer to fight in conflict is that local forces or proxy forces, take most of the casuallies provide staying power which is really essential because when they show up to syria, they said they had led the way, and they didn't exist in anything other than name and they had huge issues, one, low morale, terrible training and no staying power on
the battlefield and as soon as there was a counterattack, they rode back and a couple of battalion tactical groups being fill in the gap while russian forces could have the assault corps on the ground and in that regard, wagner has been quite used with the form and they're in the conflict and are fairly small and we can calculate 30% to 40% and just with the two transport air cast alone. >> so mercenaries have taken the bulk of the russian water casualties in the war and it's to keep them all military power, but that doesn't define it from the operations and the counterattacking force and to pulse on to the battlefield, and have other people's ground forces really, really take the damage and attrition out. in being looking back on the conflict i sum raise it as one, as a classical waterfall of
operations for the russian military. they do do very well if they have time for the operational pause to plan an operation, execute it, talk a pause, regroup and plan another operation and execute that again and at that level, the russian military has been pretty effective with the strategic level and that's why i said syria is very important because the things that come out of it, and the whether it's recon fire complex and combined arts maneuver and the integration of these things is now a driving and shaping force across the whole russian military, but in general, the conflict was very much on its perspective, and not expanding the footprint and being owned to have the battle space to the extent they can. >> there is a cool message ask component there for the united states and i won't say the rest is for q and a and i want to make sure i don't run over my time. >> thanks, michael.
i'm the guy with the slides because after 30 years in the army, although i can talk without slides, i prefer not to. so i'll say the title slide reads prospects for syrian and u.s.-russian relations. i can be the shortest speaker by saying, neither of very good. are there any questions in three things, the history and process of deconflicting with the russian military in syria, what i believe or what i observed as the russian tactics and methods in syria and paul talked a little bit about their strategic objectives and what we see them doing on the ground to achieve those objectives and the third part is what i see is the remaining challenge for russia and syria. i will say that to start that the opinions are my own. they don't reflect policy of the u.s. army. the army war college or the department of defense. so if you go to the third slide, the one with, again, 30 years in
the army and you have to have an organizational chart. i won't dwell on this one because this really just shows the three-star headquarters which sits right below u.s. centcom is where the ground decon fli deconflictonand it's responsible for iraq and syria. if you go to the next slide, that shows the deconfliction process actually works. the russian deconfliction, and the bottom center and the slide and that consists of four interpreters and three to four interpreters and usually a fairly senior army foreign area officer. it was me and then i think we're on our fourth person now. they tend to do three so six-month rotations and that cell is responsible for all ground deconfliction in syria. so the relationship forces it has, clearly, obviously into the
russian reconciliation center which is later they named it for the center of deconfliction and escalation headquarters and they work directly for the three-star group of russian forces and also amir air base. we also have close relationships with the special operations task force because those are the u.s. folks that are embedded with the syrian and democratic forces and the u.s. partner force that's operating generally north and east of the euphrates and is conducting the isis fight there and we had daily, mail and face to face interaction with them and we had daily interaction with the battle cab and the russia analysis center which is at the u.s. air headquarters and ied air base in qatar and so they have the ground deconfliction effort where the
russians intervened and they do all of the air to air deconfliction. you have two pair deconfliction headquarters. if you go to the next chart and that's the process. why do we call it deconfliction? because congress told us to call it that. there was language in the department of defense that prohibited the dod from doing any sort of cooperation or coordination with the russian ministery of defense, but allowed for tactical deconfliction in syria. so the ndaa acknowledged that we had it talk to the russian military in some ways since we were both physically present in syria, but it prevented us from doing any sort of advanced planning with the russians, coordination, cooperation or anything of that sort. the origins of the ground decon
fli deconflideco deconfliction. when the russians gave us 48 hours to pull our forces out which i'll show you later on the map and implied that there would be a strike on those forces if they weren't out in two hours in a subsequent phone call and u.s. and russia were talking and the russian three-star said, by the way, you're down to two hours and the planes will be in the air and the u.s. commander said, so, and this calls over because i have to -- i'm going to hang up the phone and i'm going to get on the line with my subordinate commander and tell them to prepare to defend themselves so would you rather talk or would you rather fight and the response was let's continue to talk about this. so that was a near miss. the escalation was high enough and the risk was high enough that the u.s. commander on the
ground said he needed his deconfliction, at that time it was being run through the air deconfliction center in the air base and that caused the u.s. to stand up its its own ground on the deconfliction cell. there was and is daily conflict via e-mail and some phone calls and every once in a while there would be face-to-face meetings if there was an escalation that needed to be de-escalated and intel was in contact with russian military head quarters every day and sometimes it was e-mails and checking the phone line and sometimes it was leadership calls every week or so, but the deconfliction line has open and has stayed open since it was established in since july 2017. every once in a while you will hear the russian military say they closed the line down
because they were upset about something we've done in syria. to my knowledge the line has never actually been closed. they've used it less, but the phone line has always stayed open and the e-mail accounts have always stayed open and when they say the deconfliction line is closed and the high-level contacs are still talking. >> if you go to the next slide, i'll talk briefly about what we observed as russian tactics and methods in syria, all of which are really intended to achieve the strategic objectives that paul laid out and what have they started to do? they started about a year, a little over a year ago to challenge the legality by saying, the isis fight is over or ending soon, and therefore the united states has no legal rid to be in syria and we do because we have the united states and syria and therefore the united states needs to leave.
these attempts to sideline the u.s. and the u.n. in the process and the process that the russians, turks and iranians stood up and have been running for a couple of years now is really an attempt to resochl the conflict without the united states and the united nations being involved and in this latest apartheid meeting between russia, turkey, germany and france i think is an attempt to lend a little more legitimacy and credibility to the process by implying that germany and france are part of it. this information, was there a lot, almost daily, if you subscribe to the russian ministry of defense and the ministry of foreign affairs and facebook and twitter feeds, there's almost daily, just a drumbeat of disinformation of u.s. support for isis in syria, and the last slide in the deck here is i put in there, this was kind of the more comical
instances of this, and they released -- they released in november of 2017, the russian ministry offense released the photo on the left claimed that that was a u.s. vehicle leading a convoy of isis fighters out of abu kamal, syria, and into safety in iraq and some air force officer or enterprising gamer said that photo looks exactly like an image from the ac-130 gunship simulator special ops game, and so you know, that was publicized that this is the same photo. it's a screen grab and the russians said, yeah, that was a mistake, but the u.s. still supports isis and then they just move on, right? because they're not -- they're not emotionally invested in the lie. it doesn't cost them very much in terms of time and effort and costs them nothing in terms of money to gin these things up and put them out in the information space and they understand that we will then have to respond to that come does cause us to chase
our tails for a little bit and put staff to find out where the photo came from and refuting it. so there is a way to dominate the information space. every once in a while, you see them strike the u.s. partner force and the syrian democratic forces. they did it a couple of times when i was there in the fall of 2015. they've done it a couple of times since. often, it's just an attempt to strike near or very close in front of the u.s. partner force to deter it from moving forward and the russians don't want it to move. the time thing is the land grab and you see the euphrates and the general agreement with the russian federation is that the euphrates is the deconfliction line so we stay east and north and they stay south and west. in september 2017, they stayed across the euphrates. the deconfliction agreement
allowed them to maintain that foothold east of the river, but they had munition from the u.s. and the coalition was stay in that box and they'll come out of that box. they claim they needed to be on that side of the refer to help with the relief. in february of this year is when the wagner group came out of the box and they attempted to strike the u.s. partner force and u.s. forces which is what engendered the u.s. response that killed a couple of hundred of the wagner group fighters. so -- next slide talks about what i see. so the russians have done a good job and i think everybody agrees and in destroying the military adversary in syria, however they define it and the problem is they're running into the same problem the united states has gotten familiar with in terms of afghanistan and iraq. how do you have the adversary
and the political objectives that made the war worth fighting in the first place and that's where i think they're struggling. if you look geographically, there are three places where i think russia is going to struggle it turn military success into a political outcome that they're comfortable with. the first is if you go two slides back it's idlib and idlib province and so, the russians have been as they've been reducing opposition strongholds all of the way back to eastern aleppo and andharra, they've been allowing opposition fighters and civilians and they've been establishing what they call humanitarian corridors and they've been allowing them to leave opposition-held cities and idlib is a petrie dish of everywhere from stf which is the
old al qaeda affiliate in syria to what we call the moderate opition and and the non-islamist opposition to the assad regime and they're all there kind of together and have been there together now, so it's very difficult to separate the u.n. designated terrorist organizations like hds and like isis from some of the moderate opposition groups with the 2254 that actually established the cease-fire in syria in early 2016. i think if the regime and the russians had their way there would be a fairly indiscriminate operation in idlib that would kill probably all of the hdf fighters and most of the other fighters and a lot of civilians. the problem for russia is that turkey has relationships for some of the groups concentrated in idlib and the turks have been clear that they don't want to see an upon raisioperation and
have is a russian effort to kick the can down the road for a while, although the russians and the syrian regime have been very clear that the de-escalation zone in idlib is temporary. in other words, they still see the solution as a military operation to defeat their adversaries in idlib, but turkey is physically present militarily around the outskirts of idlib province so that presents a problem. >> the next is if you look at the next slide. it sits on the triborder region and all of the maps is the weird little half circle that's usually green from opposition groups to the assad regime. the reason it's a problem is the united states is there and they were bombing fairly regularly in 2016 and early 2017 and so the united states protected those groups and declared a 55-kilometer group around it and threatened to strike any vehicle or aircraft that entered the security zone.
it has a couple of times since then spoep they want us and the assad regime want its groups out of atant. the u.s. to this point has stayed partially because that's also where the idp camp sits and there's somewhere in the order of 60 to 65,000 internally displaced persons there and they claim it's full of terrorists and fighters and so the fear, i think, is if the united states withdraws from the scarce that there will be a bombing. they'll be fairly consistent and deliberate and indiscriminate bombing of the refugee camp and that will cause a crisis. it sits on the border with jordan. jordan closed the border a weil ago because they were letting people come over and processing them as refugees, but then some militants came over with them and killed seven or eight
jordanian forces. now the camp is hemmed in and they can't cross the border into jordan and they can't leave the security zone and it's a problem that there's no easy solution for and then the final area where i think russia's been frustrate side the entire northeast of syria and if you look at the map it appears yellow and that's the sdf and the u.s. partner force. the assad regime regularly promises to liberate every inch of syria by military force. the problem is with the u.s. and the sdf still there, the sdf is a significant military force and more significant because it has air power and long-range fire at its disposal and so unless the russians and the assad regime can find a way to peel the sdf off from its partnership with the united states and come to some sort of agreement, i don't think they have the military capability to liberate, in their
words, northeastern syria from the sdf themselves. there's no simple delusion to that problem from the russian perspective either. the final thing and the final slide is other challenges, not perspective. the final slide kind of other challenges, not geographically related, it's just coalition management. unras, this is their first experience in a long time, in managing a coalition. i heard somebody say recently it sums it up fairly well, russia is now past the point where it can keep telling all partners what they want to hear without delivery, right? so it's kind of made a soft promise to iran that it will support the shia crescent idea. the iranians have an idea of a shia crescent from iran to beirut. to bring it into being would probably engender a conflict with israel and possibly even the united states. lebanese hezbollah, the assad regime. so the saudis have made a lot of
promises to their partners, now it's time to pay up. i think they'll struggle to manage that coalition. finally, just dealing with the other players in the conflict, primarily the u.s., israel and turkey. that have the potential to frustrate russia's ambitions, i think they'll struggle, i think they'll struggle to deal with those three players and i think you saw that, it was fairly clear recently when the syrian regime accidentally shot down the russian io 20 and although the ministry of defense and the general staff continue to blame israel, putin after a talk with netanyahu was very quick to say this was a tragic, a tragic series of events that no one was really at fault for. i think the reason is that this is while the idlib confrontation with turkey was going on. the last thing russia needed was
a confrontation with turkey and israel at the same time. tried to defuse at least the political leadership has, i'm not sure about the general staff. the military seems to be very upset about the io 20 incident. i think that was an attempt by russia basically to push both of those problems, idlib and the relationship with israel down the road a little bit. because they can't deal with both of them at the same time. i'll end it there. >> thank you all. i'm going to lead off with a pair of questions and open up the floor. we have plenty of time here. to your last point there, sort of cross the panel. we've spoken largely about russian operations in a bit of a vacuum. what do you all think from the strategic down to the tactical level have been russian successes and friction points in working with a whole range of allies and co-belligerents across syria. what have they learned and what are the impacts on russian policy going forward?
>> the answer is 42. >> i'll lead off. >> well in sort of first intervening, i think russia was quite effective and successful at the course of diplomacy shaping the policies of all external actors intervening in syria. to stress to them their existing plans would not work. they didn't have a viable military option and they first had to deal with russian and russian partnered up early on with the right people, like israel and others in order, if you have to intervene in the middle east and you're going to be israel's new neighbor across the border, that's something you have to deconflict and coordinate right off the bat. they knuckled under turkey and some other states and they did a pretty good job with the united states which quickly moved off to fight a complementary counterterrorism campaign.
against isis. in that sense, they were effective early on at claiming their part of the conflict and slowly starting to work on it. with respect to terms of friction and putin, there's some inherent problems in any coalition, plus it's the middle east so you're going to have some pretty big contradictions no matter which region nal partners you pick. if your partners are iran, turkey, israel. you have a deconflict line. you're going to have a lot of issues. i think on the whole, probably the biggest problems for russia came more some years back in that they had advanced themselves on an aspirational role as a great power broker, on behalf of the coalition. the reality was that both because of the realities of the middle east, no external power can successfully change the policy of local actors when it comes to their core interests, you cannot tell israel what to
do and russia cannot tell iran what to do with its core interests. the reality is that beyond that, they intervene in such a manner as to not keep the leverage down. that meant that their ability to actually influence and negotiate with other actors in syria, with the operational objectives would be and the pacing of the operational goals would be very limited. that was the price of not wanting to pay a substantial military and economic price for this intervention. so they would regularly get caught particularly in negotiating with the united states. the fact that they couldn't deliver syria and they couldn't deliver iran in a number of agreements, whether it was a nationwide cease-fire or other things, particularly when john kerry wouldn't negotiate with them. in some respects, russia was representing a more aspirational role. that's something that came to the fore over and over again. and today i think i sort of summarize my view, a larger
share, perhaps there's small differences, the russia outlook on syria, is syria is broken up into three wars today, two of them are okay. but one of them is bad. the first one is the reco recon quista campaign, that one for russia is going fine. multiple objectives are achieved, keeping the syrian regime in power, establishing themselves there. they're fairly confident with that. and they're not unhappy with the way the conflict in syria is going. the campaign may go quickly or slowly, russia could care less how fast syria retakes idlib. the second one is a conflict between turkey and the kurds. that's a nuisance, a problem to manage. but fundamentally complementary conflict because it creates a major wedge issue between the united states and turkey. if you're talking about fundamental problems and coalition partners, russia has a
lot less of them than the united states. looking at the conflict in terms of could interests in conflict. none of russia's coalition partners have a co-interest in the conflict here, unlike the united states. it's a problem, but it's manageable. the third one is the open war of attrition that erupted between israel and iran in syria. it's a giant liability in mitigation risk which will only breed casualties and problems for them. it is not one where they're able to effectively position themselves between iran, israel at all. nobody can. those two states are very hot and they see each other through a straw. like that's it. you talk to israelis, the conversation can last for five minutes before it somehow touches iran and hezbollah. it will always circle back. so object this issue because because i mean the reality is that israel is the big loser, from the sort of whatever you may call or believe to be the success of the russian military
accomplishment in syria. and israel is not willing to live with that at all whatsoever. and so now they are revisionist actor in this conflict. in the maximum objectives fundamentally. believe that they've achieved a dream which was to have both the united states unconditionally support them. and russia, the only other major actor in the middle east across the border from them, also support them and have a great relationship with moscow. and this to me is probably one of the biggest things that will create problems for russia moving forward. how to manage what is a defacto war of attrition between iran, israel and syria. that's going to be a real delicate act. >> i bought you time to think of comments, come on. >> i guess i would just add to that. that you know on one hand,
russia has been quite successful in establishing a regional role for itself. and creating this image that moscow successfully defended the assad regime. on another hand, there's still all of these unsolved problems, i alluded to some of them, others alluded to others, how is it going to end? i think that's, that's a big question, ultimately for how russia's role in the region evolves. >> can i just say that it's often fundamentally an american question of how it's going to end and the middle east it often does not end. there's no, there's no, that's it. this is the end of the movie, it ended, right? like there's, russia is very comfortable with the fact it's not going to end. there's not going to be two years from now a deal in syria.
syria will be great. however it is, it breaks up, and it's over and it ends. i'm very skeptical it will end. it can go on and it will. >> success is, i would say, we kind of alluded to this. it bears repeating, russia has successfully to this point managed a coalition for the first time in a long time. in 2008 in georgia we had some of the chechen militias on their side. in some of the post soviet wars they dealt with using nonstate militias, this is the first time in a long time that russia is managing a coalition that includes iran, and lebanese hezbollah and assad regime and it includes sometimes some of the shia militias out of iraq. they've managed to fairly successfully do that friction points, i agree with michael. two big ones are the israeli/iranian conflict. with which i think both sides
see as existential and is playing out in syria. and there's a very, very high risk of actual military confrontation. the russians have a deconflict shun line. israel notifies them when they're going to strike inside of syria. i, so the russians are very keen to avoid an escalation with the israelis. i don't think the iranians, are either that professional or that, they're more risk-tolerant i think than the russians are in terms of what they're willing to do to or with the israelis. and then the assad regime and this insistent promise to reunite or to liberate every inch of syrian territory by military force is going to bring the regime, if it tries to make good on their promise into conflict with the sdf, bring on a military conflict with the united states, that the russians obviously don't want. they've got a couple of allies,
the iranians and the assad regime that i think are a little more risk-tolerant than the russians are, could drag them into conflicts that they would rather not get into. at the risk of asking, tell me how this ends question, care to hazard a quick guess on the prediction and how you think idlib is ultimately going to be resolved. >> so i agree in general terms with michael that the russians are not in a huge hurry to resolve it. it does parts of idlib are uncomfortably close to lataquia province. my first deal with the russians over syria was in 2016 at a syria support group this was when there were a couple of rocket attacks and things like that on their air base. that they claim emanated out of
idlib where people moved south toward the air base, launched rockets and they were extremely worried. they really don't want kind of a mass casualty event at the base. the latest disinformation, piece of disinformation claiming that a u.s. poe siden controlled the 13 drones that hit a drone swarm attack on their air base a couple of days ago. this is -- the hardest thing with the russians in syria is to disentangle things that they say that they really believe. and they believe things that aren't true and they believe things that we wouldn't believe. but that doesn't mean they don't believe them we chalk it up to disinformation and propaganda, that's dangerous. >> to disentangle that, it backfoots the u.s. they know it's not true. but nevertheless, why not.
>> that's this. they knew this was not a u.s. vehicle leading isis fighters, but it will give them a couple of days of press coverage and cause the u.s. to expend 30 man hours, staff hours, refuting it and still 50% of the people will still believe it so -- >> add briefly. i think the challenge russia has with turkey, is turkey originally was supposed to avoid this whole thing. and somehow organize this systemic regime opposition in idlib in its own region of control and sort these people out from the undesirables, what not and if you talk about countries in the conflict who consistently fail to deliver what they promised, turkey is very high at the top of the list. people where they promise to the united states something they're going to promise to russia. something they'll deliver all that well and the russian and iranian patience ran out so it would be hard for me to see, it's a bit hard to predict, i
think in some ways the way that idlib is shaping up is a bit of diplomacy. where this entire campaign is creating a lot of pressure on turkey. understanding if they don't, there's always plan b and for russia plan b is almost a preferred plan a. yeah, it's a suspended campaign. it's not a canceled campaign. i tink their job is to motivate turkey to deliver on things that turkey promised syria in the first place. try to keep it short in the form of a question. george? >> i have a question about whether there might be a mismatch in assumptions between what the russians are trying to do and what we think the russians are trying to do. mike you've explained the situation where essentially the
russians are okay with the status quo. there's some problems to be managed. in particular the friction between israel and iran. but overall, they're in this for the long haul. don't have any particular urgency about getting out or achieving some sort of political settlement. the united states appears to be in a position to deny russia the ability to get out or to deny the ability to reach some sort of political reconciliation in reconstruction, but beyond that, if that's when we're trying to do if we're trying to say we're going to bleed you, impose higher costs on your operations here, prevent you from resolving the situation and the russians are saying that's okay. we're fine with the situation as is. is this a case where there's a mismatch between what we think we're doing and what the russians think they're up to? >> u.s. naturally assumes any
power intervening in the middle east would have leaving it as the objective. don't ask how it ends, expeditionary powers, expeditionary powers ask how it ends so they can leave and go home it does end for them, you get to leave the conflict and go home and maybe start a different conflict somewhere else. but be honest, you know it's inherent assumption that any power in the middle east must want to leave the middle east in a conflict. right? that's not really the case, the russian position is that the rest of the things are good things to happen. they're other people's priorities. most people are not allies, unless you want to tell me that russia and iran are glorious allies together. russia does not stay up wondering whether or not iran will achieve its objectives in syria. in fact consistently throughout the campaign when the people on the ground were pursuing things not really russian operation objectives, you can see that
russian no way increased its support for them. it doesn't match some pushes throughout the conflict in syria. because russians were not going to give them more aircraft in pursuit of their objectives. it was clear. so i agree, i think russia would like obviously in reconstruction. not necessarily from the united states, they could easily blackmail europeans into it. by saying look, refugees if you do reconstruction, refugees will come back it will help solve your migrant problem and eventually they might come in with germany and europe to do it because that's a real question. as far as denying russian objectives, i don't think we're not selling necessarily in the position to do that. but we don't have to i've seechb a misnomer and juxtaposition in the belief that any sort of success victory for russia and syria is inherently. it's not at all. we don't share interests, but in
many ways russian campaign was complementary and ultimately the united states has not lost anything in syria at the end of the day. nor has the united states successfully lost opportunity on those things. so i think it's false to posit like any success for russia is some sort of failure for the united states. it wasn't zero sum. >> thank you very much. thank you for your comments. let me quickly ask paul whether he thinks russia would cooperate with at least an american interest in splitting iran out of the syrian equation? how much cooperation would russia have with that for colonel hamilton, a term i'm hear something also the major roadblock on the iranian highway from tehran to the coast.
there's that as well if you were invited to help write the terms of reference for jim jeffreys political agenda, what would you contribute to that, in terms of political goals that the military can help support and from sir hoffman thank you for pointing out all of the physical advances in russian military arts, i didn't hear you mention anything about no strike lists, bba, or any kind of policy behind russian use of weaponry. whether the syrians did it or whether they did it themselves. there was a study by the think tank in town that showed that the russians bombed 27 hospitals, including restrikes. i'm sure that the u.s. chain of command would be brought up on charges of the u.s. code of military justice and court-martialed at a time when congress is looking at munitions used in fighting in yemen, i guess i'm pushing back that russia is nowhere near the u.s. in 1990s or '70s or '60s, ever
since we passed the arms export control act. the whole political side of military force, i don't see any discussion of that and i think they've got a ways to go. >> starting with russia and iran, i don't think we're going to get very far trying to split russia. and iran. i don't mean to suggest that russia and iran are incredibly close allies. i don't think that's true, either. but moscow is quite careful in how it handles its relationship with tehran. i met some time ago with the senior russian official and this question came up during the course of the conversation. what he essentially said to me was look, you know, our relationship with iran is a little bit better than a
contractual relationship. but, you know, don't expect us to do things that are going to lead the iranians to think that we have betrayed them. because we have too many important interests at stake you know where iran's decisions can really have a major impact. i don't see much scope for trying to split the two of them. apart. now we have to be kind of precise also about what we mean when we talk about things like that. are there specific decisions where the united states or for that matter, israeli, can influence russia to take decisions that are more in line with our preferences, and less in line with iran's?
i'm sure there are. but if we're talking about trying to enlist in kicking iran out of syria or something like that, no way. >> i'll address the general's points. there's a good solid set of like normative talking points on that of how you conduct war and deal with civilian casualties and all that and were i a policy person i could have 100% syria presentation and all the horrors of the russian intervention. but you already knew that as i judge from your question. so i led elsewhere. what i will say is that one, there was a clear issue of russians fundamentally don't care about certain aspects of civilian casualties. two, if they did care, they don't have the equipment to necessarily deal with it, anyway. but it's a matter of choice. it's not like russia had a giant back-up of precision-guided
munitions when they first intervened. but even if they did have them, i don't think they would have cared all that much. this was for them a more effective, cheaper way to intervene. and they did have a fairly sort of serviceable for themselves cynical position. which was they basically said, here's a pro assad systemic opposition, they're okay. here's a large slice of this pie and these people are all terrorists, whether they be moderate syria opposition, they clear for themselves a large targeted list of essentially almost everybody fighting in syria. and dealt with them in this matter. on the issue of hospitals and restriking hospitals this was a cynical aspect of policy. and there are people who have a strong point and use of cluster munitions, some anti-personnel cluster munitions.
we don't supporting people who do use, right? i will push back a little and say we're in terms of the ethical way, in the nature of our countries and our systems are very different, right? that reflects itself in how we conduct ourselves in military operations, that's a very valid point. it's not clean cut. it's important, it's important to have some degree of introspection, remember how long it took us to arrive to our own normative position in vietnam after vietnam and how we conduct warfare. >> i think three main reasons that the u.s. is still. two is protect to idp camp and three because from looking at the map, it's clear it complicates iran's shia crescent idea. because it sits in the tri-border region. so some of the routes from iraq
into syria, in fact when the russians started pressing us to get out of atant it was the summer of 17 and they argued that every country has the right to control its own borders, you're preventing syria from doing that, so you need to get out. >> as far as how the military can achieve, contribute to ate che the achievement of a sustainable political solution. that's how i understood the question. we used to hear from the russians a lot. i heard it in geneva, i heard it when i was running the decon flicks cell they would say we don't like the iraq model. they mean we don't like they know that the u.n., the dima stewart would call for free and fair elections, 15 to 18 months
after the achievement of a sustainable cease-fire. the russians believe that in the aftermath of what are we at, seven years now, seven-year war with half a million people killed. 11 million people displaced, that's drawn in basically every regional and most of the global powers and has been fought on ethnic and sectarian grounds, if you let people to go to the polls. 15 to 18 months after the end of the war they're going to vote ethnic and sectarian identities. so either so sunnis, if you, the arabs and kurds together, the sunnis comprise 74% of the population. so the russian fear is free and fair election that elects a government that actually represents syria will not be an ally and a friend to the russians. so, so they certainly want to prevent that outcome. which is why they support the u.n. process to try to undermine it in practice.
and the other thing is that they see free and fair elections in the aftermath of a war like that as a recipe for renewed civil war. they believe that fair elections in the aftermath of a war like this can't possibly hold itself together. the only model i have in my head for a sustainable political settlement for syria as imperfect as it is, is the, the 1995 dayton accord and the bosnia model which is i'll say up front completely, it's a fantasy in the context of syria. but it's the only thing i think could possibly work because it's a fantasy, because it would take half a million or more international peace-keeping troops, a 20 or 30-year international administration and the model would have to be a kurdish and arab model in the
east that the sdf area now controls and some alowites and other minorities. so you have a country that's still, it's a single unitary state inside its current international borders, that's always been u.s. policy. but you i think have to have some sort of international administration of rotation to power tied to the ethnic groups of the country. you know rotational presidency. rotational ministries and things like that. i don't see any other way for a sustainable settlement. even a victory by assad. as michael said, i don't think ends the war. the war just goes to a tout, a pause and a couple of years later starts again. i know that was an unsatisfactory answer, but i
don't think there's an easy solution to the war. >> jacob? >> question for all three panelists. or all four. all three. do you expect the united states will be stationed in syria for decades to come? >> officially or unofficially? you can find us all over the world where we're not. >> i would say i guess it depends on what syria looks like politically when the war, this phase of the war ends, if it is some sort of international, internationally administered bosnia model, then i think we would probably continue some
sort of training and advising role with the sdf in the same way that the russians have a training and advising role. in bosnia. i don't know. i don't see, i don't see a case where we have 2,000 people in syria for a decade. i don't think the war is going to continue kind of the stasis it's in now for that long. something will change. and that will change how we define our interests, what level of military commitment we have there and of course it, it depends upon what happens in iraq. does iraq stay stable as well? the whole, syria is part of a larger military footprint. the chart i showed you with the three-star headquarters, that headquarters has responsibility for both iraq and syria. we could draw down in syria but maintain a capability in iraq that would allow us to rapidly return if we needed to. i guess that's the most likely
long-term outcome. we'll be president in iraq some way. even if it's just a robust military assistance mission with some sort of quick reaction force, i think we'll be present there for a long time. >> if we withdraw it will only be under such terms that we have the capability to secure interests in syria by a presence in iraq. at the very best it won't be too far across the border. >> i'm jay pollock, i want to understand better i guess the question is primarily addressed to michael kaufman, about your view that russian and u.s. interests in syria or actions in syria have been complementary. i don't see that at all.
the russians prevented what we said was what we said was our preferred, in fact our required outcome in syria, which was the ouster of eye sad. and the russians helped iran and hezbollah, they entrenched themselves in syria in a way that threatens american interests and the interests more directly of our closest allies in the region. jordan, israel and others. and the russians contributed almost knoll to the campaign, to the defeat such a it is of isis. so what did you mean by saying that our interests and our policies in syria are complementary? but beyond that, that's a comment more than a question, actually. >> we're going to stop right there. >> what i would like to hear
from each of you is what should the united states do? not what you expect the united states to do or what russia is doing. but what should the united states do in your view in syria. not in the next decade, who knows, but in the next couple of years. >> well, those are great series of points, i highly welcome your disagree, let me clarify what i meant. which is while there are some core conflicts, in syria, it's not a finished written story. it doesn't mean the game is over for the united states. either with respect to what happens with iran and hezbollah or what happens with the syrian regime, it's a story where if you look at it over the course since last 2011, it may seem one way. this soefr and it's not going to end and i don't see it ending any time in the future. i don't think that the russian intervention has necessarily
foreclosured in the long term a whole number of american objectives. to the extent that your points on wealth was there anything that russia did that was at all complementary. i will have to disagree with you, first i think you're wrong that russia did not contribute anything to u.s. campaign. it's not because russia came to fight isis in syria, it's because the russia campaign proved to be the anvil with respect to u.s. campaign against isis in syria. so in counterfactuals are a bit difficult to do. if i was to paint you a picture, eliminate russian intervention, two years down the line the united states in its campaign against raqqah finds that all of remainder of syria is occupied by isis. what would have thought the rest of the multi-year campaign. you're welcome to jump in and correct me what would the picture look like in syria
without the russian intervention? i have to disagree with you. the factually that's not the reality. the reality is that we no not like to end the outcome of the russian intervention, but it did save the united states a lot of time. >> i would add if you look at the current situation map, if this is from the ua live map. the great thing about the ua live map, it's on the internet. you can go back in time to august or july of 2017 this little gray triangle which represents current isis-controlled territory extended deep, deep into central syria. about july mid july or early august, of 2017, the russians of the regime started a campaign and they fought their way across central syria and liberate d de
astore. they bumped into our forces and also the fact that everything west of the river now is red, means that isis isn't there. so had the u.s. and the asdf fought their way down the east bank of the euphrates and isis controlled the west bank, that would have been messy. >> coming across the river at us that are not coming across or much less now. because the regime and the russians control it. so i don't think their intent was to help the united states at all. their intent was to liberate der astore. it was like a stollalin grad ty story. this blitzkrieg across the syrian desert to rescue der astore. they had people embedded. they had a 90-minute video out within two days of recapturing der astore.
it ended up helping us. >> and let's go -- [ inaudible question ] >> jabba al nusra. >> the interest that the u.s. had or has in syria is to defeat jihadi terrorists, then yeah. but actually no. >> actually you're also wrong on policy objective. >> what about israel. what about jordan. what about declared american policy that the russians effectively preempted? and i don't think that syria is a counterterrorism campaign and that's all there is to it. it's a much, much bigger geopolitical problem for the united states. because of russian intervention. >> i'm sorry, let's go back to the beginning.
>> so a question for michael i would love to get thoughts on this. so like right at the start you're saying syria is this new transformative conflict for the russian military and i think you made a great case that it's been transformative in the military technical sense for the russian military. but the question i have is, is this the right transformation for the russian military? in terms of russia's broader military strategic goals not just inside the russian syrian theater. or is it taking them down some strange expeditionary warfare, but that's not what they need path. >> is it the right path according to who? if i can interpret your question, i think one of the big challenges here is, is the russian military even learning the right lessons from syria.
given this the russian general staff spends most of its time doing is planning and preparing for a high had been end conflict with nato united states or peer power. are they learning things from syria that aren't going to end up being true. >> my first reaction is well, in general a conflict that takes the russian military away from being so heavily influenced by world war ii. and sort of into a modern age of warfare. it's not great for us, but good for them. >> tactically, they learned a tremendous amount of lessons about combined arms and jointness which is really hard to do there. we'll have tremendous impact on a force. and you see it being integrated in a lot of exercises and driving us to the russian military. it's adapted for more their style of warfare. are they learning some things from syria. not necessarily going to serve
them well all military conflicts learn thing that end up not being true. transformation of russian military needs. they're making generational leaps, i don't think it's necessarily things that will allow them to affect expeditionary warfare. the real challenge for us is these are the things that will have big influences on the russian military down the line at the tactical operational level which is where historically they have been weak and create real problemes if it proliferates successfully. are they able to buy the technology which you need in order to conduct this warfare and they continue to exercise, in it, yes, they will achieve a qualitative level of improvement. so that part is not a good news story for the united states.
>> i guess i would add, it's a great question, it's actually i think a version of the question the u.s. military is struggling with now. and that's what the future of character of warm going to be? we've been fighting an insurgency in the last 17 years. we've been fighting primarily. with air power, special forces and a lot of local indigenous allies. now we've decided that our skills in large-scale conventional maneuverable warfare against a peer competitor may have atrophied. we're worried about it and are addressing that. the russians may be finding themselves in a similar situation. they exercise the air power and special forces, they've exercised working with a coalition that includes indigenous forces, nonstate actors and things like that. when they look at at least if you read their national security documents, the greatest military threat to russia comes from nato. so has this made them better at fighting nato?
not that nato wants to fight russia or russia wants to fight nato? that is the high-end greater than peer competitor that russia i think is most worried about. so the question is has syria made them better at that war? i think that's, that's a legitimate question. the answer may be it's, the answer may be probably not. it's made them better at doing, as michael said concurrent air and ground operations but not really joint operations and even those operations don't involve any sort of high-speed maneuver forces on the ground. so it's a great question. >> one point you made is the ew, the electronic warfare piece and the russian ability to use that theater to perfect that, to you know keep tabs on us is also a piece of that equation, too. >> the conversation with us on long-range stand-off
conventional weapons, which su know for a very long time, russian journal snapped the long-running dialogue. cruise missiles defacto have strategic effects, the united states has tremendous advantage. russia doesn't have anything remotely to parity. syria is where they began having this conversation with us by using cruise missiles of all types no the just to tempt test them there was no value to having the conflict. the big part was to show parity capability and to have this conversation with the united states to show us in syria. what he can do to u.s. forces in europe, that's the reason for demonstrating this capability. sir? >> my question follows on the answer to the last one as well. when the russians appeared in syria for the first time 2015,
august september, the conversation about russia but its motives were connected to ukraine. so it was the theory was that russia was gaining leverage for some kind of settlement in ukraine or that black sea strategic problems in russia had led them into the mediterranean and altered the calculus. i noticed that variable was missing or not important this afternoon. you just touched on that a moment ago by saying this is a demonstration effort for nato and there's a link between the two conflicts. are these two conflicts no longer linked? or is there a remaining link between the two of them? >> i think what i would say there is i would make a distinction between the reasons that russia went into syria and what they hoped they might get out of. of their intervention in syria. what i tried to say in my opening remarks is that the
reasons that russia went into syria were primarily about keeping the assad regime from falling and about dealing with these extremists whom they feared in some cases could come back to russia. but what i said they also hoped that this would allow them to restart some sort of dialogue with the united states which had been halted because of what happened in ukraine. certainly at that time, i think there was a connection, but i would put it in the category of hopes rather than motives. by now so much water is under the bridge, i'm not sure that there's quite the same connection. at this point other than what you described.
i mean there's always sort of a general message that you can draw from a situation like this. >> i think that although it was a territory areary objective, and not one of the primary ones. tertiary objective, they felt forced by the situation and the risk capitalists they were willing to take on that risk than they were before. but there was always the hope that it could somehow one break out the isolating and force the administration here. into some sort of counterterrorism, what-not campaign in syria that would allow them to have a real conversation on ukraine. to walk over any cooperation with the united states and the western and syria to what they care about, obviously profoundly more. which is we can always debate how much syria or assad matters to moscow and we can say that ukraine matters infinitely more and there's always one of the core issues at play so i think they were optimistic. clearly that did not happen. it did not take place and it
ceased to be an objective of foreign policy, i think. >> it became clear to moscow that any hope that something would happen between them and the united states and syria. rescinding sanctions and a conversation on ukraine was not going to materialize. yes they had those hopes, it did come through. their status as one of the guarantors of usndr 2254 and support group of the u.s., they there were even talks in the summer and fall of 2016 of setting up a joint intelligence center where the u.s. and russia would rent a shachalet in genev. and coordinate their strikes that all fell apart because of the russian regime offensive
against eastern aleppo. so the u.s. pulled out of that. i think there was less a direct linkage with ukraine than there was a hope that it would, it would spawn some sort of pragmatic u.s./russian cooperation that allow them to transcend ukraine. when that didn't materials, i think in the minds of many russians, the analog to syria now is afghanistan for them. they see us doing something they don't like in syria in supporting a -- a militia that's fighting what they see as the legal government of syria and so what they're doing in afghanistan is supporting the taliban to make trouble for the united states. if there's any trade to be made. the russian was see afghanistan in syria now. they don't really, i don't think they're willing to trade much in