Is cooperation between the United States and Russia possible?

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.

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7 thoughts on “Is cooperation between the United States and Russia possible?

  1. I really like how you broke this down. It was nice to see the different interests that Russia and the US have in the middle east. I can agree that their similar interests are what drives them to be uncooperative with one another because ultimately it is a power struggle. It would obviously be nice if the countries could cooperate but like you mentioned, there are various factors preventing this from happening.

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  2. Thank you for your blog post.

    It was really interesting topic to me because I have thought about this topic when I was in high school.

    I had chance to think about this topic in high school after the sociology class. I learned that there was some cases in the history that some nations made imaginary enemies to solid their power.

    For example, Germany made unified their citizens by making common enemies as Jews. Also, they cooperated with Japan and Italy which has similar goals.

    In the same aspect, if USSR and US have common enemies in the future, I believe both countries could cooperate with each other.

    Thank you.

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  3. Cooperation between Russia and the US is something I agree with to a certain point. I think you nailed the point that Russia will only cooperate with the US until needed. The fact that Russia has previous connections with Syria already proves that they will do what is in their best interest. IS is the biggest problem like you said but Russia will only do so much until it hurts their best interest.

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  4. While I have no issue with your arguments I think that you left out a very important and often overlooked aspect of why Russia is involved in the Syrian civil war: Their naval station at Tartus. It is Russia’s only naval port in the entire Mediterranean sea, meaning they can refuel, restock, repair and rearm without having to travel back to the black sea. This is very helpful for Russia because it allows them to have a larger and more constant presence in the Mediterranean.

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  5. I recently watched 60 minutes with Putin, and it really ties in with your post. They asked him about his involvement with the middle east, and he was very firm on having little involvement when it came to troops on the ground there. It seemed like Putin actually has a good amount of respect for America, but differed with topics that were not in their countries favor, like you stated. Which we see happen in almost every country, which I think is understandable. Why would Russia do anything with such a strong leader like Putin that would not directly benefit his country, he wouldn’t. I hope to see more cooperation happen in the future, but like many of you mentioned it will have to be a very intense and desperate situation for a super power like Russia to cooperate.

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  6. I do defiantly believe that cooperation between the US and Russia is possible, however it all depends on what is being discussed and how invested both sides are in a particular issue. It is sort of a prisoner dilemma like you have described, especially since the US and other nations have been wanting a foothold in the middle east since the early 1970’s, both for economic and political reasons. Moreover, this cooperation might turn into a sort of poker game instead of collective bargaining, using various issues, such as the middle east, or Europe as bargaining chips in international conflict resolution. But I’m sure we all hope it wont come to that.

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  7. I think that cooperation can be achieved if both sides discuss their individual goals and collective goals. Russia being a huge superpower on the other side of the world can be helpful for the movement of resources and aiding countries that require assistance. I feel the security dilemma plays a significant role in this matter. When you try to upgrade your own security, you are also threatening the security of other states as well. Since the U.S. began upping its arsenal and security, Russia does the same, as well as China. I believe we can reach agreements and gain a new ally with Russia and I hope one day it happens.

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