Charles Krauthammer pointed out the problem with American officials thinking that they know more about Russia’s interests than the Russians do, and he also said that such thinking has had negative consequences in the Middle East:
I am always a little bit wary about American secretaries of state or defense trying to instruct the Russians on what’s in the Russian national interest. I would think that the Russians have a better idea of that. It brings me back to John Kerry telling the Russians it was a mistake to go into Ukraine and to take Crimea. I think it has worked out rather well for the Russians. The reason that the Russians are in there is not in affection for Assad, but because as a result of their involvement, they now have a naval base in warm-water Mediterranean, they have an active, very powerful air base in Syria, they have a presence in the Middle East. They are the power. They have displaced the United States, and their entire foreign policy under Putin is to recover the glory and the territory and the influence of the old Soviet Union one piece at a time. And it does that by taking away from the United States. It is a zero-sum game. So the idea that we’re going to persuade them, “It is not in your interest to stay with Iran and Hezbollah and Assad,” who are we to say? Of course it is in the Russian interest. They have succeeded in doing it, and unless we show them a reason to abandon it, they are not going to leave.
They went in in 2015, they are now ensconced, and we have to worry. If we are going to establish, for example, a safe zone, which we could have done for years. Now we have to worry about engaging with the Russians, which we are not going to do, so we are deterred from that. This is all a plus for the Russians, and the idea that we are going to tell them what is in their interest is almost amusing.