Russia: Syria Shot Down Some Missiles During U.S.-Led Airstrikes
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The Trump administration is expected to announce a new round of sanctions against Russia today for its support of the Syrian government. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, made the announcement yesterday and spoke about it on CBS' "Face The Nation."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")
NIKKI HALEY: They will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use.
MARTIN: The U.S. sanctions are the third round against Russia in the past month, and they come just days after the U.S. and allies launched airstrikes into Syria. This came in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma. Russia has called the airstrikes a, quote, "blatant disregard for international law." Here to help us understand how all this is looking from Russia is Russian journalist and our frequent guest Vladimir Pozner on the line from Moscow this morning.
Thanks so much for being with us.
VLADIMIR POZNER: My pleasure.
MARTIN: How will this newest round of sanctions go over?
POZNER: I think most people are just shrugging their shoulders. It's now pretty much to be expected. What else can you expect from the United States? That's the way they're acting now. We can't do anything about it, so just disregard it as much as possible.
MARTIN: What about the government? I mean, is Vladimir Putin feeling now an uncomfortable level of pressure from the U.S. and the Trump administration?
POZNER: That's hard to say. Economically, certainly, the sanctions overall - I mean, they've been going on now for a long time - have certainly hurt Russia economically - there's no doubt about it - and have also hurt the average citizen because the wages have gone down. The price of oil has gone down. It's difficult to get any kind of money from foreign banks because of these sanctions. So they can feel that. But at the same time, the general feeling is, it's not fair; they're picking on Russia; decisions have been taken without any furnishing of proof; all of this is simply anti-Russian, and so we can stand up to it.
MARTIN: But the sanctions are in response to Russia's support of the Syrian regime, of Bashar al-Assad. And that is unequivocal. I mean, Russia does support Bashar al-Assad. Do the Russian people support that?
POZNER: I don't think the Russian people care much about Mr. Assad. And I think that the real point here is this. The Russian - at least, the official point of view is, look, nobody really likes Assad. Let's get together, and let's talk with Mr. Assad. We may get him to resign, even. But your side should not be supporting so-called rebels who are actually religious fanatics to the same extent as the Islamic State, and we will defend Mr. Assad if you're going to support those rebels. Let's together work on this and not work against each other.
MARTIN: Do you think the coordinated U.S. strikes into Syria with the U.K. and France are changing Vladimir Putin's calculation in Syria?
POZNER: I don't think so. And as a matter of fact, you know, those strikes were very minimal, to say the least. They did not touch any of the physical Russian presence that is in Syria. And I think the United States is very careful to see that would not happen, that nothing happened to the Russians out there. So I really don't think so. To me, the problem is this. There could be people who would like to see Russia and America really confront each other militarily. So I can see a group of terrorists getting hold of some kind of chemical weapons and using it against the so-called rebels and making it seem as though it was Assad. And that would really provoke the next step. I mean, this is really an opening for all kinds of terrorists to get involved in ways that are really detrimental to both the United States and Russia.
MARTIN: That's Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner talking to us on Skype from Moscow. Thanks so much, Vladimir.
POZNER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.