Few Nations have been known to so consistently act as the antithesis to US foreign policy as Russia. That’s why Russian Involvement in the Syrian crisis is no surprise. The conflict began when the United States and several of its allies, concluded that it could and should take active steps to remove Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad. The then isolated conflict in the region had resulted in over 200,000 deaths and there was strong evidence of chemical weapon use. As the Western world became involved, the situation quickly devolved into more chaos, destabilizing the region and acting as a catalyst for what is now known as the Arab spring. Similarly, while the western world advocated for the end of the Assad regime, countries like Russia, China and Iran sought to maintain it.
The Assad regime has been rife with corruption, malfeasance, and widespread violence. So why then would Russia be interested in protecting its continuity? The answer here is really two fold. First, it is important to consider the practical interest that Russia may have in the current Syrian Government. For example, Syria and Russia have a trade arms deal that yields billions of dollars per year for Russian arms dealers. This and similar economic considerations are one important aspect. However perhaps the most important aspect is that of ideology. The United States has long sought to keep Russian involvement in the Middle East minimal or non-existent. In the same strain, Russia has consistently criticized US efforts in the region, often citing them as overly aggressive or as disastrously catalytic in creating new conflict. In this particular cases, there is clear evident to support the latter claim. As a result of a destabilized region, Syrian Rebels (some of whom were armed by the United States) coalesced to form the Islamic State (IS).
As the situation progresses, what are the chances of the United States and Russia actually cooperating with one another? It is important to recognize that, since the conflict first began, the entire dynamic of the situation, including security considerations, have shifted dramatically. Most policy analysts agree that IS poses a far greater danger to human rights and national security that the Assad regime. In this observation, it is reasonable for most governments to agree that a stable Assad regime is a far better option than an unstable, highly unpredictable environment as seen now. Therein, it is likely that the US and Russia could find area for cooperation, insofar as it leads to a stabilization of the region. Beyond that however, it is ultimately unlikely that either the US or Russia will changes its inherent support or opposition to the Assad regime overall.
This situation indicates a vital premise, showcasing that nation states which have historically been uncooperative with one another can and should cooperate to reach the few goals that they share. Furthermore, they should do so even if the end game is not the same. In this case, stabilizing the region is not a conclusion, but rather a vague idea. Time will tell if the deteriorating crisis will create stronger incentives to cooperate.