Should the U.S. Make a Deal with Russia to Fight ISIS?

This seems like the one of the main arguments the Trump administration will make to justify Trump’s conciliatory stance towards Russia–e.g., removing sanctions, returning Russian compounds on U.S. soil (not to mention Trump’s fawning approach to Putin, avoiding saying anything bad about him). So far, based on what I’ve read, this position seems rather dubious. U.S.-Russian Cooperation on ISIS: Do We Want Our Face Ripped Off Again? is from The Cipher Brief written by John Sipher, Director of Client Services at CrossLead, Inc. (He retired in 2014 after a 28-year career in the Central Intelligence Agency’s National Clandestine Service.), makes the common arguments I’ve read against this notion:

The basic problem comes down to this: While Islamic terrorism is our #1 enemy, Russia’s #1 enemy is the United States. Russia is more interested in doing damage to America than helping us solve the terrorism problem – even if there is some ancillary benefit to them.

Second, we don’t need their help to tackle ISIS. Russia offers very little added value to our existing capabilities and partnerships. The fact is, we have a lot Russia wants (primarily lifting sanctions), but they have nothing we need. Hardly the makings of a worthwhile negotiation.

And later,

Russia may be determined to stamp out radical terrorism inside Russia, but they are equally comfortable supporting those terrorist groups at war with the U.S., to include the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hezbollah in Syria. Despite their claims, the Russian military in Syria is not targeting ISIS but is allied with Iran and Hezbollah in an effort to prop of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Despite several efforts to engage the Russian security services over the 16 years since 9/11, Russia has not helped the U.S. effort to tackle terrorism in any meaningful way.

Molly McKew, in a Politico piece, Trump’s plan to fight ISIS with Putin Isn’t Just Futile It’s Dangerous makes similar points and takes it a step further, explaining how integration between the U.S. and Russian military, to combat ISIS, would be sketchy proposition.

Other links

Trump talking about Putin and Ukraine in 2014:

From The Economist:

Trump Seeks a Grand Bargain with Vladimir Putin–It’s a Bad Idea

Battle of Narratives by Edward Lucas, looks at a proposal by a Russian diplomat for the West to allow Russia to annex Crimea.

Edit (7/12/2017)

From Commentary: article by Noah Rothman explaining why partnering with Russia in Syria is a bad idea.

To cooperate with Russia in any effort to impose peace in Syria, such as jointly-monitored “safe zones,” is to be complicit in the regime’s crimes. As long as the Assad regime is in power, there will be a Sunni-dominated insurgency against his regime. To ally with Russia in Syria is to align with rogues like Assad, Hezbollah, and the Islamist radicals they claim to oppose. That would create a schism between the U.S. and the Sunni actors (both sovereign and non-state), relationships that are already strained as a result of the Obama administration’s overtures toward Iran. Those are unacceptable moral compromises that are not justified by any rational strategic consideration.

The kind of cooperative relationship the U.S. and Russia can navigate is the one in which they are presently involved—the kind typified by mechanisms designed to keep one another apart and to de-escalate conflicts should they arise. That means post-ISIS Syria will be characterized by some kind of soft partition. This is hardly an optimal outcome, but more palatable alternatives have been precluded by seven years of war.

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