Richard Weitz: "It is important for the West to talk with Moscow directly"

Today the VI Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS-2017) began. It was attended by Russia's top military officials, as well as Russian and foreign experts in the field of security. On the sidelines of the event, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at Hudson Institute (USA), Richard Weitz, discussed the prospects of cooperation between the Russian Federation and the West in ensuring international security in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.

- What can you tell about the contribution of this annual Moscow conference to the security?

- For many of us, representatives of the West, it's important for several reasons. First of all, we get a better understanding of the Russian leadership's position. Second of all, what's even more important is that we can get a better understanding of the position of the Russian experts, academicians, defense industry workers and the media, in other words, the position of a much larger number of people than we usually meet. For me, it's useful because I usually don't have opportunity to talk with Iranians, North Koreans and representatives of some other groups - but I can do it here. In other words, MCIS-2017 is a really useful event. I visit it for the 4th or even 5th year in a row, and each time it's really helps to understand Russia's views on a variety of issues.

- Will it be possible to establish cooperation between Russia and the NATO bloc under President Donald Trump?

- I think it's possible. While right now I don't see changes that are being talked about recently, moreover, I think that the previous policy in relations with Russia will continue under Trump. However, our cooperation is possible at least in the key areas, where our interests meet - ensuring European security, resolving problems of the Middle East, fighting against terrorism, cooperating with Iran.

- Should we expect Russia and the West to agree on Syria?

- Right now situation has worsened, as the US position on the Syrian issue has become stricter, and the Russian leadership doesn't agree with it. So it's quite hard to talk about any cooperation in Syria. However, I my opinion, the Syrian issue is not as important as some other issues, in which we could interact, although it's a more urgent topic.

- Is the Caucasus region important for the West?

- Absolutely, it's important for several reasons. In addition to fighting against the terrorist threat in this macroregion, it's also important to look at the economic side of this issue. If we try to build transport routes between Europe and the Caspian region or China, most of them will pass through the republics of the South Caucasus or through Russia's North Caucasus. Of course, this region plays an important role in the process of understanding of Russia's foreign policy, of how Russia forms its position on the Middle East, on Syria. So I'm glad that we have an opportunity to discuss the Caucasus at today's conference.

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