Mark Katz, George Mason University Russian and Eurasian Studies professor, joined Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer to discuss Russia’s recent bombing campaign in Syria.
Although the bombings seemed surprising, Katz said he thinks the intelligence community saw signs that this was going to happen.
“When the people up on top are distracted, or simply don’t want something to happen, there’s a tendency not to see or hear these signals,” he said. “So I would imagine that when the history of it is written, that there will have been several points in which warning was made but was ignored.”
He said he disagrees with Bernie Sanders, who suggested that Putin ordered the bombings to bolster his credibility.
“I think Putin really is genuinely popular with the increasingly Russian nationalist public over there,” Katz said. “On the other hand, I don’t think he needs to bolster his popularity by intervening in Syria. That just wasn’t necessary for him to do.”
As for Russia’s relationship with the U.S., he said that he thinks as long as Putin is the Russian President, the nations will continue to have a strained relationship.
“I think that he is locked into a policy of hostility that I think that we’re going to have to wait until after he departs, and that might be quite some time,” he said. “So I think that it’s a very sad situation.”
He said not only is Russia’s policy hurtful to the U.S., but it harms Russian interests as well.
“What always strikes me as odd is there they are bordering China, with its huge population and its growing military, and they think that the West is their main enemy?” he said. “It seems to me that the greatest beneficiary of Russian-western hostility is actually the Chinese.”
He also said that Russia’s tendency to “overfly” on certain missions, such as when they flew into Turkish airspace, is a dangerous one that could lead to backlash in the future.
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