0834 GMT May 22, 2019
Keith Preston made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Sunday after US Secretary of State John Kerry warned of "an imminent enhanced Russian military buildup" in Syria, Press TV reported.
A New York Times report Saturday claimed that Russia has dispatched a military advance team to Syria and is taking other steps to expand its military support for the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
According to US intelligence analysts, Russia has also sent prefabricated housing units for hundreds of people to a Syrian airfield as well a portable air traffic station, the Times report said.
During a phone call to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday, Kerry raised the issue, saying, “These actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL coalition operating in Syria."
Preston said, “The principal concern that the United States has always had in the Middle East is to prevent the establishment of stable governments that act independently of Washington.”
“For a while now, the United States in particular has been trying to undermine the Assad regime by encouraging and fomenting terrorist activity and a guerrilla insurgency within the Syria itself,” he noted.
“Russia is clearly concerned about this destabilization process,” Preston said. “Because Russia sees Central Asia as part of its legitimate sphere of influence and this is a standard component of Russian foreign policy.”
“But, Russia is certainly in favor of stability in Central Asia. They see the Assad regime as a stabilizing force. They don’t want to see the Assad regime undermined,” he added.
Preston went on to say that “the United States does not want Russia to have any kind of influence in the Middle East.”
“That’s part of the reason why the United States has expanded NATO right up to Russia’s border in Eastern Europe. It’s the reason why the US is trying to encircle Russia with American military bases in Central Asia,” he continued.
“It looks like the intensity of the conflict or the diplomatic conflict between Russia and the United States is continuing to escalate,” he said.
“The US-Russia dispute over the Crimea damaged American and Russian relations quite a bit, and it looks like Syria may well be another issue of the same type,” Preston concluded.