WASHINGTON, 24 July, (RIA Novosti), Mark Hirst – Robert Baer, a retired CIA Officer, told RIA Novosti Thursday that Russia saved the United States from a foreign policy catastrophe in Syria.
“I think Russia saved us in Syria. If we had rushed in surface-to-air missiles to the Syrian opposition and they were then stolen by ISIS and they were now shooting down civilian airliners it would have been a different story,” Baer said.
He also pointed to the success of ridding the country of chemical weapons which, it was alleged, were used against civilians during the civil war.
“Syria was much too complicated for us to deal with unilaterally. I think it was a great Russian and American victory to get rid of the chemical weapons,” Baer added.
“It didn’t make the war go away but it certainly saved the United States another foreign policy catastrophe,” the former intelligence officer said.
Baer, who worked for the CIA for twenty one years, including field assignments in Iraq, Lebanon and North Africa, also said the average American struggles to understand US foreign policy.
“Americans and foreign policy do not, cannot deal with complexity,” he stated.
Baer said that despite Russia effectively getting the Americans off the hook in Syria that didn’t mean the US were going to back away from involvement in Ukraine. But although the former CIA officer confirmed his country had played a “minor role” in the crisis, he didn’t believe they had contributed to the conflict.
“You don’t get things in your plus column that pay off later for the Russians,” Baer added. “Putin can’t say ‘hey, now that we saved you in Syria you owe us in Ukraine. Back off’”.
“The idea that Victoria Nuland, (Assistant US Secretary of State) or the US contributed to the problems in Ukraine is just not sincere. The US had a role in it, but a minor role, but still a role. But that is more complexity,” Baer underlined.
He conceded that Russia had reacted to a challenge to its national interest and pointed to fears over an expanding NATO influence in former Soviet Union states.
“The part of the narrative that people are definitely missing here is the whole idea of bringing the former Soviet Union, whether Georgia or Ukraine, under some sort of NATO alliance or missile defence system,” Baer explained. “This was a direct challenge to what Russia considers its national interest in the near abroad.
“But that is forgotten in the US; that Russia believes, rightly or wrongly, it has this interest in Ukraine and that it simply can’t have some sort of defensive alliance set up on its border,” Baer concluded.