The 19th annual International Conference on Central and Southwest Asia concluded on Thursday evening with the keynote presentation by Dr. Amr Al Azam, professor of Middle East History and Anthropology at Shawnee State University.

Dr. Azam, a native of Syria, appeared on the KGVO Talk Back ‘Global Hot Spots’ program on Thursday and provided his views on how the world has allowed Russian Premiere Vladimir Putin to use chemical weapons in Syria, and eventually to invade Ukraine.

“Because of my Syrian roots and origins, I'm going to look at this conflict through a Syrian lens, and what we see today happening in the Ukraine was essentially for me foreshadowed by events in Syria in 2015 and 2016,” said Dr. Azam.

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Dr. Azam commented that in his view, only one nation dared to oppose Russia in its many invasions throughout the region, and it wasn’t the United States or NATO.

“The only country that really tried to push back against this Russian intervention and saw it for what it was, was Turkey,” he said. “If you recall in 2015, the Turks shot down a Russian plane which they claimed had entered into their airspace and had been repeatedly warned. But when they realized that Turkey might try to push back against the Russians, NATO pulled those out and left Turkey, a NATO ally, exposed, to try and take on the Russians by themselves.”

Dr. Azam said the Biden Administration did not want to get involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in his view, because they were afraid of getting too deeply involved.

“President Biden actually sent a message to Zelenskyy that said, ‘I'm sending you a plane to get you out.’ Yeah. And Zelenskyy said, ‘What? I'm not leaving. We're not giving up’,” he said. “Why? It was almost like we wanted this problem to just go away. We're going to wring our hands. Okay, the Russians are going to win once again. Listen, we didn't do this willingly. I mean, we the governments of Europe and the US government. We were dragged kicking and screaming into this. We did not want this.”

Dr. Azam said he completely understands the reluctance of any government to challenge the Russians in their brutal expansionism.

“Russia is a very large and potentially or theoretically powerful state with a very large army and has access to nuclear weapons and chemical weapons and so forth,” he said. “That doesn't necessarily mean they're definitely going to use them, but you should definitely also have ‘handle with caution’ sort of stuck all over. “Hasty actions also have consequences, just as inaction has consequences too.”

The conference was sponsored by the Central and Southwest Asia Program at the University of Montana.

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