Defense Secretary Ash Carter's 50-minute telephone conversation Friday with his Russian counterpart over Moscow's military buildup in Syria "is a reflection of what we have not done with regard to the Syrian crisis over the last three to four years," retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden told Newsmax TV.
"We have got to talk to these folks now because of the Russian military presence there," Hayden, who directed both the CIA and the National Security Agency, told "Newsmax Prime" host J.D. Hayworth. "But you have to step back and think what could we have done differently over the past several years to prevent the Russians from returning in force to the Middle East for the first time since 1973?"
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The telephone meeting was necessary, Hayden said, despite the declaration by Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina during Wednesday's second GOP debate that Russian President Vladimir Putin "is someone we should not talk to."
"If nothing else than to make sure we understood one another with regard to our military forces in the region," Hayden said. "That was regrettable that we had to do it, but I understand it.
"Now talking at the political level with the Russians is something else," he cautioned to Hayworth. "I'd pause and make sure I knew exactly what I wanted and exactly what I believed I could get from the Russians before I began that process.
"We have made it our policy all along that there is no political solution with Bashar al-Assad still as president. If the Russians have the contrary view, I don't see the point in any discussions with them at the political level."
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