Russian President Vladimir Putin would like to work with the U.S. lead coalition in defeating ISIS in Syria. But Mr. Putin first has to ridicule the government and the coalition before he meets with President Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly on Monday.
It would be an ideal situation to see two of the world powers working together in crushing the ISIS. However, conflict arises in the fact that Mr. Putin is a supporter of the Assad regime while U.S. wants to oust the current Assad government.
In an interview with the CBS’ 60 Minutes ahead of his speech at UN Assembly, Mr. Putin said he support the legitimate government of Syria, hinting that U.S.’ objection of the Assad regime further destabilizes the region.
“It’s my deep belief that any actions to the contrary in order to destroy the legitimate government will create a situation which you can witness now in the other countries of the region or in other regions, for instance in Libya where all the state institutions are disintegrated. We see a similar situation in Iraq. And there is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism,” Mr. Putin explained.
As for countries that want to oust the current Syrian president, Mr. Putin recommends for them to leave the decision to the Syrian people. “They should send this message to the Syrian people. It’s only the Syrian people who are entitled to decide who should govern their country and how,” the Russian president said.
Mr. Putin also clarified rumors that he had deployed Russian combat troops on Syrian grounds. He said his country will not participate in any troop operations Syria or in any other states, adding that “at least we don’t plan on it right now.” What his government is considering at present is to intensify its working relationship with both the President Bashir al-Assad and Russia’s international partners with regard to combating terrorism.
The Russian president also scoffed at reports that U.S.-trained rebels betrayed the Pentagon by giving away the U.S.-issued weapons to the terrorists. “It turns out that just 60 were properly trained, only four or five with weapons are fighting, while the rest of them simply took the American weapons and ran over to join ISIS,” Mr. Putin said.
Elsewhere, analysts are saying that Mr. Putin’s moves in Syria are aimed at putting Russia at the center of the world stage. Intelligence officers who have spoken with The Washington Times in condition of anonymity said Mr. Putin is viewing Syria “as an opportunity to build a significant presence in the region and establish Russia as the lead player.”
Anna Borshchevskaya, a researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Mr. Putin has an ulterior motive. She said Mr. Putin’s real intention is to end sanctions and isolation imposed upon Russia in relation to the Ukraine crisis.
Bruce Riedel, a former career CIA official, believes that Mr. Putin’s real intention is to safeguard Russia’s sole naval base located in the Syrian city of Tartus. “Putin is building a Russian- and Iranian-supported enclave where Assad’s forces can defend a rump Syrian state,” Riedel said.