NEW YORK – Former Head of NATO Admiral James Stavridis sat down with The Cats Roundtable to give his take on the latest news out of the Middle East, including a peace deal in Afghanistan between the U.S. and the Taliban, tentatively ending America’s longest war. He also broke down the tensions rising between Turkey and Russia in Syria, and explained the necessity for international and domestic cooperation to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The coronavirus, COVID-19, first appeared in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and is suspected to have been spread by animal to human contact. It has infected an estimated 88,000 people worldwide, with 3,000 reported deaths.
While Stavridis emphasized the need for nations to continue to conduct quarantines and share vaccine information, he stressed perhaps the biggest blind spot of the virus: travel.
“We’ve got to control the international travel, better than what we’ve done globally,” he said.
In the US, Stavridis called for inter-agency cooperation and approved of the President’s decision to put Vice President Pence in charge of the Administration’s response..
“I think he’s the right guy to head the effort,” Stavridis told The Cats Roundtable, adding the Vice President’s management with a top medical staff affords the best possible response.
“Now we need to put around him the absolute top medical talent in the country,” he said, adding ”this is not going to be the end of the world, but we’re going to have to deal with it—it’s going to be a bumpy three or four months for sure.”
This Saturday, the Taliban and the US agreed to a peace deal. The historic peace deal arrived after a seven-day ceasefire. As part of the peace deal, the Taliban has promised to have direct talks with the Afghan government, which it has refused to do in the past. On its end, the US has agreed to reduce troop levels in the country.
As the former commander of the NATO mission to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2013, Stavridis is cautiously optimistic. “I think there is some good news here,” he said.
“We’ve got to keep it condition based—we’ve got to keep supporting the Afghan security forces, but I think there’s a possibility here of peace.”
In Syria this week 33 Turkish soldiers and 18 Syrian Army soldiers were killed in tit-for-tat violence along the Syrian-Turkish border. 1 to 3 million refugees are being crushed by the violence, a situation Stavridis called “a complete disaster.”
“We’re inching towards a state of war there,” he explained. “Certainly between Turkey and Syria, and possibly between Turkey and Russia.” Russia, one of Syria’s strongest allies, has thousands of troops on the ground in the country.
The fear is that Turkey, a NATO member, could lead the other 28 nations in the treaty into a potential conflict with Russia, with Stavridis calling it the most major confrontation “since the Cold War.” He called on the United Nations and leaders of both Russia and Turkey to sit down and alleviate the humanitarian crisis and reduce tensions.
He criticized Turkey for violating agreements with the EU about stopping refugee traffic from Turkey into the EU, with Stavridis saying “it’s not going to be helpful to the situation at all.”
Amid the growing tensions, crises, and fevers pitching around the world, Stavridis is optimistic about the US position now and into the future.
“Our nation has a leadership role to play,” he reflected. “I think we will play it.”