Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Keith Preston: US, Russia tensions over Syria can escalate into confrontation

Press TV. Listen here:

The United States and Russia are pursuing “polar opposite objectives” in Syria which can lead to a serious military confrontation between the two powers, an American political analyst based in Virginia says.

Keith Preston, the chief editor and director of, made the remarks in a phone interview with Press TV on Thursday while commenting on a joint statement by the United States and Russia on the situation in Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, attended a joint conference after a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday. Lavrov said the two countries were working to “avoid any unintended incidents” and adopt a “safe approach” while conducting airstrikes in the Middle East region.

“It’s clear I think that the United States and Russia really do not want to have a confrontation with one and other. And it seems to me that the purpose of this statement is to avoid such a confrontation,” Preston said.

“I don’t think that either nation really regards a confrontation between the United States and Russia as being in their own interests,” he added. “However, it is a difficult situation, because both nations have entirely different, in fact polar opposite objectives in Syria.”

“In President Obama’s speech to the United Nations [on Monday], he mentioned that the Assad regime needs to go, that’s precisely the opposite position that the Putin government and Moscow takes,” the analyst noted.

Russia sees Assad govt. as bulwark against terrorists

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Preston said that the Russians consider the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a “bulwark” against Takfiri terrorists wreaking havoc in the Middle East.

“The Russian position is that the Assad regime must be allowed to stand at all costs, and the reason for that is they see the Assad regime as a bulwark against ISIS terrorists and against other comparable terrorist organizations in the region,” he said.

“And Russia regards the existence of these terrorist groups as a threat to their own national security,” he stated. “They are concerned about these movements growing and expanding. They are concerned about them spreading into the nations that are border nations with Russia. They are concerned about the terrorist incidents sponsored by these kinds of organizations within Russia.”

“That’s the position of the Russians. They want to keep Assad in power as a bulwark against these terrorist organizations,” the analyst stated.

Assad’s Syria not a US client state

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Preston said that “the United States has a polar opposite objective, and that is to remove Assad from power as a primary objective, and the reason for that is that… [the Assad government] is not a client state of the United States and is opposed to Israel.”

“For nearly half a century or longer, the primary objective of the United States in the Middle East has been to eliminate regimes that offer opposition to Israel or offer opposition to the American hegemony,” he observed.

“So the removal of Assad is the primary goal that the Americans have and the preservation of Assad is the goal that the Russians have. So they have polar opposite objectives,” he stressed.

“So it will be interesting if the United States and the Russians are able to pursue polar opposite policies and yet manage to avoid stepping on each other’s toes in the process. So it’s a very tense situation and it is certainly something that can escalate into a much more serious confrontation between the two powers,” Preston concluded.

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