"Interviewer: Mr. President, Russia is opposing the US and EU policies, especially with regards to Syria. What would happen were Russia to make a compromise now? Is such a scenario possible?
President al-Assad: Russian-American relations should not be viewed through the context of the Syrian crisis alone; it should be viewed in a broader and more comprehensive manner. The US presumed that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was perpetually destroyed. After President Putin took office in the late 90s, Russia began to gradually recover and regain its international position; hence the Cold War began again, but in a different and subtler manner.
The US persisted on many fronts: striving to contain Russian interests in the world, attempting to influence the mentality of Russians closer to the West both in terms of culture and aspiration. It worked diligently to eliminate Russia’s vital and powerful role on many fronts, one of which is Syria.
You may be wondering, like many Russians, why Russia continues to stand by Syria. It is important to explain this reason to the general public: Russia is not defending President Bashar al-Assad or the Syrian government, since the Syrian people should decide their president and the most suitable political system – this is not the issue. Russia is defending the fundamental principles it has embraced for more than a hundred years, the first of which is independence and the policy of non-interference in internal affairs. Russia itself has suffered and continues to suffer from such interference.
Additionally, Russia is defending its legitimate interests in the region. Some superficial analysts narrow these interests to the Port of Tartous, but in reality Russia’s interests are far more significant. Politically speaking, when terrorism strikes Syria, a key country in the region, it would have a direct impact on stability in the Middle East, which would subsequently affect Russia. Unlike many western governments, the Russian leadership fully understands this reality. From a social and cultural perspective, we must not forget the tens of thousands of Syrian-Russian families, which create a social, cultural and humanitarian bridge between our two countries.
If Russia were to seek a compromise, as you stipulated, this would have happened one or two years ago when the picture was blurred, even for some Russian officials. Today, the picture is crystal clear. A Russia that didn’t make a compromise back then, would not do so now."