On January 14, 2019, the Hizbullah-affiliated Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar published an interview with Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin, in which the ambassador expressed concern about the great dangers looming in the international arena because of the irresponsible actions of the West, headed by the U.S. Amb. Zasypkin argued that Russia's activity in Ukraine and Georgia, and recently also in Syria, are a response to "the American rampage" that he said is fostering support for coups, for Nazi and extremist sectarian – i.e. terrorist – groups, and for the thwarting of international agreements such as the INF Treaty – and that the end result may be nuclear war. He said that the U.S. and some Arab countries are trying, illogically, to dismantle the Syria-Iran alliance, and called on Arab countries to unconditionally revive their relations with Syria and contribute to its reconstruction. Stressing that Russia would continue to cooperate with Iran in Syria in order to support Syria's sovereignty and the fight against terrorism, he added that Russia seeks to develop and deepen its relationship with Lebanon, and predicted that a Russia-Lebanon military agreement would be signed after a new Lebanese government is established.
Amb. Zasypkin (Source: Newlebanon.info, January 15, 2019)
The following are translated excerpts from the Al-Akhbar interview:
"As far as Amb. Zasypkin is concerned, 2018 was packed with events that validated the Russian position that 'the legitimate international principles must be preserved, the sovereignty of countries must be respected, terrorism must be fought, and the creation of points of tension in the world must be prevented...'
"According to him, the Russian positions based on [Russian] President Vladimir Putin's Munich 2007 speech still determine the general outline of Russia's policy, which is aimed at bringing about an end to the unipolar [world order] – that poses a danger inside the U.S., in light of the heated disputes within the American administration on foreign and domestic issues because of America's policy of expansionism... at the expense of other countries...
"He said that there is no escaping the fact that the American imperialism, which has sown destruction in the world, would also impact the U.S. [itself, as manifested] in various kinds of crises and conflicts among centers of power – and that this will increase in 2019.
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"Noting several points in Putin's Munich speech on Russia's opposition to the unipolar [world order] because of American expansionism [underlining] that 'Russia's enemies, not Russia, will be the ones to start the conflict,' [Zasypkin added] that the Western commentary on Putin's famous speech – i.e. that it was a declaration of war and conflict – is wrong, and is part of a 'campaign of demonization' against Russia led by the American deep state. He stressed that Russia's activity in Ukraine and Georgia, and recently in Syria, is a response to the American rampage.
"Zasypkin reviewed American conduct from the dawn of the Putin era, especially in Eastern Europe: the U.S. efforts to bring about coups against regimes in order to bring anti-Russia regimes into power; its activation of extremist groups that remain from the Nazi era, as well as sectarian extremists; its nurturing of the right-wing trend in Europe [that is gaining strength] on the pretext of the refugee crisis; its support for terrorist organizations in the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa; the split in the Orthodox Church [i.e. the 2018 Moscow-Constantinople schism]; the deployment of missiles at Russia's border; and the thwarting of international agreements one after the other – the most recent of these being the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. He said, 'It is as if we are in a new and dangerous arms race. Today the Americans are thinking only about how to strengthen their military industry, in order to raise the threshold of the rivalry with Russia.' He pointed out that this behavior was 'of concern because it is irresponsible, and that it would cause Russia to respond harshly.'
"Zasypkin revealed that there are fears in the world's major decision-making circles that the behavior of the U.S. and its allies in the West – some of whom were being forced to adopt [U.S.] policy against their own interests – 'is pushing towards irresponsible war, to the point where the talk of a possible nuclear war could become reality because of a mistake, which threatens all of humanity'...
"According to the ambassador, the past year's events in Syria have proven the benefit of Russia's position and role in defending it. First of all, the terrorism emanating from Syria and threatening the world must be fought. Second, Syria must be defended and must be restored to normalcy, and its relations with the Arab countries [must be renewed]. Third, Syria's sovereignty and unity must be protected. This is what is being done now, despite the U.S.'s repeated attempts to cantonize Syria.
"The ambassador sees the U.S. decision to withdraw from northern Syria as an important development towards restoring Syria's unity, and stressed that the negotiations now underway regarding northern Syria will undoubtedly bring about a situation in which the Syrian state will again control the areas that the U.S. occupied. He said that Turkey's role is limited, and that ultimately the Turkish forces will withdraw from Syria, and all Syria's territory will be restored to the bosom of the state.
"With regard to the U.S. pressures [aimed at] preventing Arab countries from renewing relations with Damascus, the ambassador said that the U.S. and some Arab countries have a clear demand – the dismantling of the Syria-Iran alliance. This [demand], he said, is illogical. He called on Arab countries to unconditionally renew relations with Syria, to ease the tensions in the region, and also to unconditionally take part in rebuilding [Syria]. This, he said, is because Syria's allies – Russia, China, India, and Iran – will launch a rehabilitation drive [involving] whoever is there.
"With regard to Israel's attacks on Syria, and Russia's role in defending Syrian sovereignty, he said that Russia condemns Israel's interference in Syria because it is aiding terrorism, at Syria's expense. [He said that] Russia is acting to strengthen Syria's sovereignty, and has already equipped it with S-300 antiaircraft and antimissile systems, [adding that] it is Syria's leadership and army that need to assess when to use these highly developed weapons. Israel, he added, is using the Iranian presence in Syria as an excuse to attack... giving as an example the Russia-sponsored Southern Syria agreement that, according to Putin, everyone has implemented. He also stressed that [Russia's] activity with Iran in Syria was ongoing in order to support Syria's sovereignty and the struggle against terrorism.
"Zasypkin criticized the attack by the Western media and diplomats of Russia's role in Lebanon, and said that the West was blowing the role of Russia in Lebanon out of proportion in order to prevent improved relations between the two countries. With regard to the Russian grant [of military aid], he said that we [Russians] are hearing suggestions that we should transfer it to [Lebanese] internal security forces [that are identified with Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'd Al-Hariri] instead of to the Lebanese army. [But] Lebanon needs to carry out several bureaucratic and logistical moves for this suggestion to [be elevated to] official Russian circles. He stressed that his country was determined to develop its relations with Lebanon by means of implementing the [Russia-Lebanon] technical military cooperation deal and the economic [and trade] agreements, and also to promote the signing of new agreements. [He added that] we [the Russians] expect that an agreement for military cooperation will be signed after a new [Lebanese] government is established, and the [Russian] presence in Lebanon will be upgraded in 2019, despite the objections."