JERUSALEM—Two of the world’s most authoritarian leaders – Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad, who are responsible for the 21st century’s bloodiest wars – met in the Kremlin Thursday to discuss an expansion of Moscow’s military presence in Syria.
The pact between two of America’s top foes raises new questions about whether the Biden administration is in a defensive posture and rapidly losing its influence in a critical region of the world.
“We think that expanding the Russian presence in Syria is a good thing,” Assad told Russia’s state-controlled news agency RIA in an interview. “Russia’s military presence in any country should not be based on anything temporary.”
When Putin intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2015, it helped tip the balance in Assad’s favor, ensuring the survival of the Syrian strongman despite Western demands that he be toppled. Assad has waged a war against his population, resulting in the killing of over 500,000 people, including the murder of Syrians with the use of chemical warfare.
The prospective beefed up presence of Russian troops and military bases in Syria would present another challenge to the Biden administration’s Middle East policy. U.S. national security experts see China and Russia outmaneuvering the United States in a region where Washington has historically wielded great influence.
Rebekah Koffler, a former analyst at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, told Fox News Digital that Putin started to outmaneuver the U.S. in the Middle East with President Obama, when Biden was his vice president.
“Putin tricked Obama and by proxy Biden into letting the Russians transfer chemical weapons out of Syria, back in 2013. Instead, the Russians saw an opening and seized the opportunity to build up its military presence, trying to tip the balance in the Middle East in Russia’s favor. Putin is building an anti-U.S. coalition: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Syria,” she noted.
Koffler, who authored the book “Putin’s Playbook,” added that the Russian leader “wants the Biden administration to think that he can help with the Iran nuclear deal, a peace settlement in Syria, but in reality, Putin will not do anything that aligns with U.S. strategic interests, especially now that U.S. is backing Ukraine. U.S. and Russia’s security interests are diametrically opposed.”
This week, America’s three main adversaries – Russia, China and Iran – plan to hold combined naval military drills in the Gulf of Oman. Just over a week ago, China brokered a rapprochement deal between archenemies Saudi Arabia and the Iranians.