On Friday, the defense chiefs of the United States and Russia held their first talks in over a year. The topic? Syria. Andrew Weiss spoke with Warren Olney on To The Point about what this means for the future of the U.S.-Russia relationship, and for the situation in Syria.

Andrew S. Weiss
Weiss is the James Family Chair and vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, where he oversees research on Russia and Eurasia.
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Regarding the new Russian air base in Syria, Weiss said that one motivation for this conversation between the defense chiefs was a desire to clarify Russia's intentions in Syria. Weiss saw this recent activity in some ways as a public relations gesture that allows Putin to come to the UN General Assembly and direct the conversation towards Syria and away from Ukraine. 

In response to the claim that by stepping up its activity in Syria, Russia is trying to replace the United States as a factor in the Middle East, Weiss argued that while the Russians are definitely more active in the region than they have been in decades, and that Iraq, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia see Russia as a useful friend, the center of gravity for the international system is still the United States, and Russia is not in a position to replace Washington in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Listen to the full interview on KCRW’s To the Point.