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​Russia’s goals in Syria are to keep Bashar al Assad in power and to demonstrate Russia is a global power, the former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia told reporters Wednesday. It’s important for Russia to prevent regime change in Syria in part because Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that if political movements to get rid of “horrible, autocratic” governments succeed, he could be next, said Evelyn Farkas at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C. “He’s very paranoid,” and thinks the US and other western nations are actively trying to remove him, Farkas said. Russia’s involvement in Syria is not in its best interest, she said, much like its actions in Ukraine, but they show that the Kremlin is willing to use force to put political pressure on the West, Farkas said. And though the US should maintain an open communication channel with Russia for safety reasons, Farkas said, conversations former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had with his Russian counterpart were not productive because Hagel was given “false information.”