Former NATO Ambassador discusses Syria missile strikes and other foreign affairs

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Kurt Volker, former NATO ambassador, talks about the U.S.’s first and foremost policy to get rid of ISIS, the Syrian missile strikes and how Russia plays a part in the Middle East.

Russia doesn’t want to look weak, Volker says. When America does something, Russia feels the need to react in some way. They warned last week that they would shoot down any American missiles fired at Syria. Missiles were still sent days after the warning, but there was no action from Russia.

“[Russia] didn’t shoot down the missiles,” Volker says. “There was no parallel action somewhere else. After the strikes, they went out and said it wasn’t very much, there were only three [missiles] and no civilians killed.”

Russia is currently becoming a major player in the Middle East, a position they haven’t help in the last three decades. Volker explains that the country’s main interest in Syria has to do with the base access. It would give them an air base, naval facilities and ground forces. This gives them the opportunity to have influence in the Middle East.

“Russia and Iran are working together to support the Assad regime,” Volker says. “To keep that regime in power means letting the U.S. go after ISIS while it goes after the rest of the resistance inside Syria. Iran also has interests in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria itself.”

Iran already has a considerable amount of infrastructure in Syria. Some are concerned that it is a scheme for Iran to get closer to Israel for military action. Volker doesn’t see it that way. He says that move would be “an escalation of war that Iran frankly doesn’t want.” However, if it a fight were to break out, the former ambassador predicts that the U.S. would side with Israel.

“We already have a number of issues that the U.S. government has had with Iran for some time,” Volker says. “I think it would be very little hesitation about supporting Israel… I think Russia will be calculating what the U.S. does. If we act strongly, I think it will be less likely for them to get involved than if we don’t.”

The U.S. benefits from stability, security, peace and trade, Volker says. Russia benefits from the opposite because it gives them the chance to exercise their influence.

It’ll be a waiting game to see what happens next. The people in President Donald Trump’s foreign affairs team aren’t built so much around ideas and parties but by “loyalty, personality and leadership.”

Kurt Volker: Former NATO Ambassador; Executive Director, McCain Institute

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