Posted tagged ‘Russia’

U.S. Options in Syria Don’t Include Ground Troops

April 10, 2017

U.S. Options in Syria Don’t Include Ground Troops, PJ Media, David P. Goldman, April 10, 2017

FILE – In this file image provided on Friday, April 7, 2017 by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. missile attack has caused heavy damage to one of Syria’s biggest and most strategic air bases, used to launch warplanes to strike opposition-held areas in central, northern and southern Syria. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via AP, File)

The war has already displaced half of Syria’s 22 million people, and Iran plans to replace Sunnis with Shi’ite immigrants in order to change the demographic balance. The Sunni side of the conflict has become globalized with fighters from the Russian Caucasus, China’s Xinjiang Province, as well as Southeast Asia.

The U.S. State Department last year estimated that 40,000 foreign fighters from 100 countries were in Syria; Russia cited a figure of 30,000. Whatever the number is today, it would not be difficult to add a zero to it.

Russia and China must be frightened of America’s prowess, especially in military technology. A Reagan-style effort to established unquestioned U.S. supremacy in military technology is the Big Stick we require. Tomahawk missiles are not a Big Stick. They speak loudly. Trump was magnificently right to send the signal to Moscow and Beijing, especially (as Secretary Tillerson said) in the light of Russia’s duplicity or incompetence in the matter of Syrian poison gas. Now we need to get to work.

***************************

Writing in the Washington Post, neo-conservatives Reuel Gerecht and Ray Takeyh propose to send U.S. ground troops to fight Iran and its proxies in Iran and Syria:

It is way past time for Washington to stoke the volcano under Tehran and to challenge the regime on the limes of its Shiite empire. This will be costly and will entail the use of more American troops in both Syria and Iraq. But if we don’t do this, we will not see an end to the sectarian warfare that nurtures jihadists. We will be counting down the clock on the nuclear accord, waiting for advanced centrifuges to come on line. As with the Soviet Union vs. Ronald Reagan, to confront American resolution, the mullahs will have to pour money into their foreign ventures or suffer humiliating retreat.

They’re nuts.

It isn’t Iran that we would be fighting: It’s an international mercenary army that already includes thousands of fighters recruited from the three million Hazara Afghans now seeking refuge in Iran, from the persecuted Pakistani Shi’ites who comprise a fifth of that country’s huge population, and elsewhere. As I reported recently in Asia Times:

The IRGC’s foreign legions include volunteers from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Shi’ites are an oppressed minority often subject to violent repression by the Sunni majority. IRGC-controlled forces include the Fatemiyoun Militia recruited mainly from Shi’ite Hazara refugees from Afghanistan, with reported manpower of perhaps 12,000 to 14,000 fighters, of whom 3,000 to 4,000 are now in Syria. Iranians also command the Zeinabiyoun militia composed of Pakistani Shi’ites, with perhaps 1,500 fighters in Syria.

The manpower pool from which these fighters are drawn is virtually bottomless. The war has already displaced half of Syria’s 22 million people, and Iran plans to replace Sunnis with Shi’ite immigrants in order to change the demographic balance. The Sunni side of the conflict has become globalized with fighters from the Russian Caucasus, China’s Xinjiang Province, as well as Southeast Asia.

The U.S. State Department last year estimated that 40,000 foreign fighters from 100 countries were in Syria; Russia cited a figure of 30,000. Whatever the number is today, it would not be difficult to add a zero to it.

Russia and China, as I explained in the cited Asia Times essay, blame the U.S. for opening the Pandora’s Box of Sunni radicalism by destroying the Iraqi State and supporting majority (that is, Shi’ite) rule in Iraq. Sadly, they are broadly correct to believe so. Thanks to the advice of Gerecht and his co-thinkers at the Weekly Standard and Commentary, the Bush administration pushed Iraq’s and Syria’s Sunnis into the hands of non-state actors like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

A seventh of Russia’s population is Muslim, and 90% of them are Sunnis. China has a restive Muslim population among the Uyghurs in its far West, and all of them are Sunnis. Moscow and Beijing therefore support Shi’ite terrorists as a counterweight to Sunni jihadists. A Eurasian Muslim civil war is unfolding as a result. Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum thinks America should let Sunnis and Shi’ites exhaust each other. If it were just Syria, that would make sense, but the Syrian conflict is the nodal point for a much larger and more dangerous conflagration. If the 300 million Muslims of Southeast Asia were to become involved, the consequences would be horrific.

Gerecht and Tayekh want the U.S. to back the anti-regime forces whom Obama left twisting in the wind during the 2009 demonstrations against Iran’s rigged elections. That is the right thing to do. The Trump administration should create a special task force for regime change in Iran and recruit PJ Media’s Michael Ledeen to run it. Iran is vulnerable to subversion. With 40% youth unemployment and extreme levels of social pathology (the rate of venereal disease infection is twenty times that of the U.S.), Iranians are miserable under the theocratic regime.

But I don’t know if that will work: Iran gets all its money from oil, and the mullahs have the oil, the money, and all the guns. If we can’t overthrow the Iranian regime, we will have two choices.

The first is to bomb Iran — destroy nuclear facilities and Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps bases. That risks war with Russia and China. It is an option, but a dangerous one, and not anyone’s first choice. We could have done this before Iran became a Russian-Chinese ally.

The second is to cut a deal with Russia and China: We muzzle the Sunni jihadists whom we (or our allies like Saudi Arabia) supported, and Russia and China cut Iran off at the knees. I sketched out such a deal in August 2016. It won’t happen easily, or any time soon, because Russia and China are not sufficiently afraid of us to want to come to the table. Russia would demand other concessions (e.g., recognition of its acquisition of territory by force in Ukraine). As the use of poison gas despite past Russian assurances makes clear, one can’t trust the Russians unless, of course, they really are scared of us.

So it all comes down to Grand Strategy: Russia and China must be frightened of America’s prowess, especially in military technology. A Reagan-style effort to established unquestioned U.S. supremacy in military technology is the Big Stick we require. Tomahawk missiles are not a Big Stick. They speak loudly. Trump was magnificently right to send the signal to Moscow and Beijing, especially (as Secretary Tillerson said) in the light of Russia’s duplicity or incompetence in the matter of Syrian poison gas. Now we need to get to work.

—————

Update: Christina Lin, a former senior U.S. Defense Department analyst and fellow at SAIS (and frequent Asia Times contributor), told The Diplomat in an interview today:

As a recent Israeli intelligence report documented, there are thousands of Chinese Uyghurs fighting in the ranks of al-Qaeda affiliates and ISIS in Syria, namely in the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) based in Idlib — an al-Qaeda stronghold. The August 30, 2016 bombing of the Chinese embassy in  Krgyzstan, planned by TIP in Syria and financed by Al Nusra, signals increasing threats to Chinese citizens and interests overseas if Syria becomes a terrorist safe haven.

Because of “inter-mingling” with Ahrar al Sham and other so called “moderate” jihadists, TIP and Nusra enjoy U.S. and its allies’ protection even though they are designated as terrorist organizations. The have procured advanced Western weapons such as U.S.-supplied anti-tank TOW missiles, Grad missiles, and likely anti-aircraft MANPADS, and drones that they used to record their recent suicide campaigns against the Syrian army. These Western weapons enhance their war fighting capabilities to launch future attacks on China and Chinese interests, so Beijing will likely step up its military support to the Syrian army. Chinese military advisers are already on the ground in Syria, according to media reports.

Syrian-American Reformer Commends Syria Strikes, Urges Vigilance

April 7, 2017

Syrian-American Reformer Commends Syria Strikes, Urges Vigilance, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, April 7, 2017

By reducing a dictator’s capacity to kill, we have a chance of re-establishing America’s position in the world as a moral authority, and we can begin again to re-commit ourselves to the sacred commitment of ‘never again,’ something Barack Obama failed to do.”

***********************

The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) welcomes the news of targeted strikes in Syria, meant to send a message to Bashar al-Assad and his allies that the use of chemical weapons will not stand. Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, the son of Syrians who fled the regime of Bashar al-Assad’s father, today said:

“When news broke that the United States had begun a narrow campaign of targeted strikes against regime targets in Syria, I felt immediate gratitude – on behalf of my family members there, and for our country, which has watched in horror for six long years as the Assad regime has carried out mass torture and murder of its civilians. While I am hopeful that these strikes are indicative of a bolder, firm Syria strategy – I am under no illusion that they will end Assad’s murderous rule, or that any transition in Syria will happen swiftly or easily. In many ways, we who have loved ones in Syria, and we who care about the human condition – are taking what we can get here – with hope that there will be more, even bolder action in Syria. What this action by President Trump does indicate is that the needle of American policy in Syria is moving closer to being on the right side of history. To secure our place there, however, we must remain vigilant, remembering that a conflict with Assad is necessarily a conflict with Russia, with Iran, and with Hizbollah. These limited, targeted strikes should continue, focused on reducing Assad’s access to resources, especially weapons. Every reduction in his assets is a reduction in his capacity to murder and maim civilians. By reducing a dictator’s capacity to kill, we have a chance of re-establishing America’s position in the world as a moral authority, and we can begin again to re-commit ourselves to the sacred commitment of ‘never again,’ something Barack Obama failed to do.”

Rebel warehouse with chem weapons hit by Syrian airstrike in Idlib

April 5, 2017

The Syrian Air Force has destroyed a warehouse in Idlib province where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled before being shipped to Iraq, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said.

Source: Rebel warehouse with chem weapons hit by Syrian airstrike in Idlib – Russian MOD — RT News

ARCHIVE: Russian military inspect suspected chemical weapons workshop in Aleppo © Ruptly

The Syrian Air Force has destroyed a warehouse in Idlib province where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled before being shipped to Iraq, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The strike, which was launched midday Tuesday, targeted a major rebel ammunition depot east of the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

The warehouse was used to both produce and store shells containing toxic gas, Konashenkov said. The shells were delivered to Iraq and repeatedly used there, he added, pointing out that both Iraq and international organizations have confirmed the use of such weapons by militants.

READ MORE: Intl monitoring body & West ignoring reports of ‘chemical attack’ in Mosul – Russian MoD

Read more

Syrian children receive treatment following a suspected gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, Idlib province. April 4, 2017. © Mohamed Al-Bakour

The same chemical munitions were used by militants in Aleppo, where Russian military experts took samples in late 2016, Konashenkov said.

The Defense Ministry has confirmed this information as “fully objective and verified,” Konashenkov added.

According to the statement, Khan Sheikhoun civilians, who recently suffered a chemical attack, displayed identical symptoms to those of Aleppo chemical attack victims.

READ MORE: Syria hands over evidence of mustard gas attack by rebels on civilians to OPCW (VIDEO)

Hasan Haj Ali, commander of the Free Idlib Army rebel group, rejected Russia’s version of the incident, saying the rebels had no military positions in the area.

“Everyone saw the plane while it was bombing with gas,” he told Reuters.

“Likewise, all the civilians in the area know that there are no military positions there, or places for the manufacture [of weapons]. The various factions of the opposition are not capable of producing these substances,” he added.

At least 58 people, including 11 children, reportedly died and scores were injured after a hospital in Khan Sheikhoun was targeted in a suspected gas attack on Tuesday morning, Reuters reported, citing medics and rebel activists. Soon after a missile allegedly hit the facility, people started showing symptoms of chemical poisoning, such as choking and fainting.

The victims were reportedly also seen with foam coming out of their mouths. While the major Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, and other pro-rebel groups put the blame on the attack onto President Bashar Assad’s government, the Syrian military dismissed all allegations as propaganda by the rebels.

Read more

Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017 © Ammar Abdullah

“We deny completely the use of any chemical or toxic material in Khan Sheikhoun town today and the army has not used nor will use in any place or time, neither in past or in future,” the Syrian army said in a statement.

The Russian military stated it did not carry out any airstrike in the area either.
However, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, commenting on the incident, was quick to point to the Syrian government as a culprit, saying that it bears responsibility for the “awful” attack.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed Mogherini, accusing the Syrian government of perpetrating the attack calling it “brutal, unabashed barbarism.” He argued, that besides the Syrian authorities, Iran and Russia should also bear “moral responsibility” for it.

Lieberman: If Syria targets our aircraft again, we’ll destroy its air defens…

March 19, 2017

Defense minister warns Assad regime after it unsuccessfully tried to shoot down IAF fighter jets on Friday night by firing an S-200 missile at it; ‘We have no interest in interfering in the Syrian civil war or clashing with the Russians, but we won’t hesitate to defend Israel’s security,’ Lieberman says.

Yoav Zitun|Published:  19.03.17 , 11:44

Source: Ynetnews News – Lieberman: If Syria targets our aircraft again, we’ll destroy its air defens…

 

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened Sunday to destroy Syria’s air defense apparatus if it targets Israeli fighter jets again after the Assad regime tried to shoot down Israeli Air Force (IAF) planes over the weekend.

“We have no interest in interfering in the Syrian civil war, not for nor against (President Bashar) Assad, and we have no interest in clashing with the Russians,” Lieberman clarified during a visit to the IDF induction center.

“Our main problem is with the transfer of advanced weapons from Syria to Lebanon. That is why every time we identify an attempt to smuggle game-changing weapons, we will act to thwart it. There will be no compromise on this issue,” the defense minister stressed.

Lieberman at the IDF induction center (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

Lieberman at the IDF induction center (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

He added that “if the IDF does choose to act, there is a real reason for it.”

Israeli Arrow anti-aircraft missiles were used to intercept a Syrian S-200 missile fired at IAF jets that returned to Israeli territory after attacking targets in Syria on Friday night.

“Next time, if the Syrian aerial defense apparatus acts against our planes, we will destroy it,” Lieberman said. “We won’t hesitate. Israel’s security is above everything else; there will be no compromise.”

Lieberman at the IDF induction center (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

Lieberman at the IDF induction center (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

Similarly, he said, the IDF will respond to any rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip “with force.”

“We’ll cut down Hamas’s capabilities, we’re not willing to tolerate any provocation,” Lieberman said. “We won’t take money from the Israeli taxpayer to invest in electricity and water for the strip, while they are investing their money in tunnels.”

New recruits at the IDF induction center (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

New recruits at the IDF induction center (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

The defense minister also addressed his ongoing feud with Education Minister Naftali Bennett over disparaging remarks made by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein about women in the IDF. Lieberman called on the rabbi to resign and threatened to halt Defense Ministry recognition of the rabbi’s pre-army preparatory yeshiva, which angered Bennett.

“The IDF presents a variety of options—from Caracal (a co-ed battalion) to the Haredi Nahal (for ultra-Orthodox soldiers). Everyone has a place,” Lieberman determined. “This sweeping attack against women is unreasonable. We’ve tried to avoid friction with Levinstein. We’ve forgiven him twice before (for similar comments) and dragged our feet on this. A third time is too much.”

Lieberman added that Rabbi Levinstein will face a disciplinary hearing, in accordance with a legal opinion in the Defense Ministry.

(Translated and edited by Yaara Shalom)

Epic US, Russian, Turkish military summit on Syria

March 7, 2017

Epic US, Russian, Turkish military summit on Syria, DEBKAfile, March 7, 2017

(According to the article, the Syrian army “is now fully under Russian command.” Iran is not mentioned. — DM)

 

The three generals are most certainly working with open lines to their presidents – Gen. Dunford to President Trump; Gen. Gerasimov, to Vladimir Putin; and Gen. Akar, to Tayyip Erdogan. If they succeed in pulling off deals for working together, with their presidents’ endorsement, Trump will have achieved his oft-repeated target of teaming up with Moscow for eradicating ISIS.

***********************

EXCLUSIVE:  For the first time ever, the top soldiers of the United States, Russia and Turkey are holding a secret meeting in the Turkish town of Antalya for an urgent two-day effort to avert a clash between their three armies, which stand ominously face to face in northern Syria.

(See DEBKAfile’s exclusive disclosure on March 6)

Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian armed forces, and Gen. Hulusi Akar, Chief of Staff of the Turkish army sat down together on Tuesday, March 7.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the formal agenda for this extraordinary get-together is the state of the Syrian war. But they are ranging over for more comprehensive and detailed issues and addressing at least six urgent challegnes:

1. How to prevent the three armies whose armored convoys are currently converging on the north Syrian town of Mabij, now freed of the Islamic State’s grip, from clashing over which takes over.

2. How to turn this approaching collision round and make it the jumping-off point for their collaboration in the Syrian conflict at large and a concerted drive against the Islamic State, in particular.

3. The three army chiefs will scrutinize plans for a combined trilateral offensive to drive ISIS out of its Syrian capital, Raqqa.

4.  How to translate their three-way collaboration for defeating ISIS in Syria into a combined effort against the same foe in Iraq.

5.  If they are able to hammer out accords in Antalya, the three generals will consider how to apply them to managing the Syrian army, which is now fully under Russian command.

6.  In the event of their failure to reach terms for US-Russian-Turkish cooperation in Syria, the three army chiefs will seek understandings on dividing Syria into sectors. They will determine which sectors are to be ruled by US forces and out of bounds to Russian forces, and which will be placed under exclusive Russian control and barred to American intervention.

DEBKAfile’s military sources describe this unique rendezvous as the most important US-Russian military meeting since Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20.

The three generals are most certainly working with open lines to their presidents – Gen. Dunford to President Trump; Gen. Gerasimov, to Vladimir Putin; and Gen. Akar, to Tayyip Erdogan. If they succeed in pulling off deals for working together, with their presidents’ endorsement, Trump will have achieved his oft-repeated target of teaming up with Moscow for eradicating ISIS.

Putin, too, will have chalked up an historic diplomatic and strategic feat. For the first time since the end of World War II, and after years of cold war, the Russian and American armies will come together to fight a common enemy, namely radical Islamic terror, and create an umbrella for the Russian military operation to branch out into Iraq.

Erdogan will also come out ahead of the game. Turkey and its army will become strategic partners in determining Syria’s future and fighting ISIS. And Barack Obama’s departure from the White House will have marked the start of Turkey’s ascent to regional power status ahead of Iran.

Jeff Sessions and the Democrats’ Politburo Politics

March 3, 2017

Jeff Sessions and the Democrats’ Politburo Politics, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, March 2, 2017

America is now imitating Russia.  Our political life is beginning to resemble the Soviet Politburo, where out of favor politicians were suddenly disappeared or, at the height of the Stalin era, simply murdered.  We’re not murdering anybody yet, but we’re certainly disappearing them.

************************************

That oft-quoted (although likely misattributed) line of Harry Truman’s — “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” — is in sore need of revision.  These days not even the dogs are to be trusted.  They’re probably wired.

Everyone and everything else seems to be as our government has descended into the ugliest game of finger pointing and character assassination we have seen in years, focusing on — in an epic role reversal, Democrats miraculously morphing into born-again hawks — relations with Russia.

And, inadvertently, but perhaps inevitably, just as life imitates art, America is now imitating Russia.  Our political life is beginning to resemble the Soviet Politburo, where out of favor politicians were suddenly disappeared or, at the height of the Stalin era, simply murdered.  We’re not murdering anybody yet, but we’re certainly disappearing them.

First to go was now-former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for reasons as yet indeterminate.  He evidently talked to the Russians about something, but who knows what? That he was doing his job might even have been among the strongest of possibilities, not that that matters.

Now it’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ turn. He too is evidently guilty of speaking with the Russians, in this case their ambassador, when he was still a senator, once completely en passant at a public event and once, oh-cardinal-sin, in the senator’s own office (what a clandestine venue!).  What he said, as with Flynn, is as yet indeterminate, but if one is to believe Sessions, it doesn’t add up to much.  And since two retired U.S. military colonels were present at the meeting, it’s hard to imagine Sessions — even in the extremely remote chance he would consider such a thing — would collude with the Russian ambassador about the election under those circumstances.

The legal case against the AG seems less than paper thin, hanging on whether Sessions fully answered a stumbling question that was vague in the first place and easily misconstrued, if indeed it was.

Nevertheless, calls ring out all over the Democratic Party for his resignation.  In a bloodthirsty, yet pathetic, attempt to put a nail in Sessions’ coffin, Sen. Claire McCaskill jumped in to say that members of her (and Sessions’) Armed Services Committee were never supposed to meet with ambassadors — such meetings were exclusively for the Foreign Relations Committee — only to have photographic evidence of her own meeting with the Russian ambassador appear on Twitter within minutes along with several other embarrassing tweets of previous and subsequent meetings.

Hers was Politburo politics at its purest, behavior not all that distant from the purge trials where false accusations habitually sent defendants to Siberia.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with ideology or the public interest and everything to do with power. Actually, the Soviets may have been more honest about it.  At least when Stalin did away with Trotsky, he had an argument (sort of).  Stalin wanted socialism in one country and Trotsky favored world revolution. (It also may show, in McCaskill’s case, how smug self-interest begets premature senility.)

Meanwhile, the media is in a frenzy of connecting Trump to Russia, a zeal for the “truth” they did not even approximate when Obama was recorded in flagrante delicto on video cozily whispering assurances to Medvedev that he (Obama) would play ball with Vladimir Putin after Barack won his second election.  If Trump were caught in such collusion, he might well have been hanged, certainly expunged from polite society, let alone impeached. Was what Obama did a “high crime” against the American people?  Arguably. Unquestionably far more than anything Trump has done, notwithstanding the non-stop cries of the various jackals in politics and the media.

These media whores (jackals doesn’t quite quite suffice) further act as if there is something  relatively new in Russia spying on the U.S. when such activity goes back nearly a hundred years to the most revered of all Democratic administrations, FDR’s.  Alger Hiss and the Ware Group were actually infiltrating our State Department and other government agencies like Treasury en masse back then. (Ware had 75 members by 1934 and there were other groups.) Hiss went on to advise Roosevelt at Yalta and then to be instrumental in the formation of the United Nations, all while an agent of the GRU.  If you think about it, that’s a lot more serious than the cyber-spying going on now.

Nevertheless, the current behavior of our politicians is terrible for our country and the world, especially now that Jeff Sessions has recused himself from what I predict will soon, as the president himself noted on Facebook, be acknowledged to have been a witch hunt.  Chuck Schumer, Al Franken, and Nancy Pelosi particularly have behaved despicably in the grand style of Politburo politicians.  The whole fraudulent narrative of the Trump-Russia alliance was made clear by, of all people, The New Yorker’s David Remnick, who pointed out the obvious — the Russians, like almost everyone, assumed Hillary Clinton was going to win the presidency and that any disrupting they may have been doing was intended to damage her future administration. Trump was beside the point.

That the current attack on Sessions started to unspool only hours after Trump made an extremely successful speech to Congress is also hardly accidental. Our own intelligence agents are promoting disinfo just like the KGB, FSB and GRU.  Our government, at least a significant part of it, is indeed imitating Russia.

ONE LAST THING:  This attack on Sessions is so sleazy and bogus that Democrats may be getting themselves into deeper trouble than they have bargained on.  Notable among them is Jeff Bezos — whose Washington Post has been hugely culpable.  Amazon is a great service, but it can be easily copied (indeed has been).  If he keeps alienating a growing percentage of the public, watch out.

An Émigré Explains Why The U.S. Should Want Russia As An Ally

February 22, 2017

An Émigré Explains Why The U.S. Should Want Russia As An Ally, TheFederalist, February 22, 2017

(Please see also, Is a Trump-Putin Detente Dead? — DM

I am a Russian-born U.S. citizen. Since my old country is all in the news now, unsurprisingly, several people have asked me about the latest spat between the two countries. I have rounded up a few frequently asked questions (FAQ) in no particular order, and here they are.

Question: Is Russia our foe or ally?

Answer: Neither. Lord Palmerston famously quipped, “Great Britain has no friends, only interests,” and the same applies to other countries. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) were geopolitical adversaries during the Cold War. Prior to that, they were allies in World War II when both faced an existential threat from Nazi Germany and Japan. Now both Russia and the United States are facing a threat of radical Islam, which may bring the two countries together again.

Q: But can we cooperate with the Russians after they captured large chunks of Ukraine and Georgia?

A: Well, the Soviet Union captured Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in 1939, yet Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill cooperated with Joseph Stalin and actively supported his war efforts. The West never recognized the annexation of the Baltic republics; it just put that matter on the back burner for the sake of a more urgent goal. Henry Kissinger calls this realpolitik.

Q: Donald Trump has picked Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobile, as his secretary of State. Tillerson has warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. How do we know which side Tillerson is on?

A: Let me cite a historical precedent. Another famous American oil executive was friendly with Soviet leaders. His name was Armand Hammer. He had numerous personal and business ties with the USSR, starting in the 1920s. In 1957, Hammer became president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum. He used his connections to end the Cold War between the two countries. According to his biographer, Hammer was “a go-between for five Soviet General Secretaries and seven U.S. Presidents.” Paradoxically, Hammer’s efforts on behalf of the USSR made him a darling of the American Left, even though he supported the Republican Party.

Q: Has Putin ordered the murder of Russian journalists and other political opponents?

A: That has not been proven conclusively, but is plausible. Regardless of whether that is the case, it should not determine American foreign policy. That was clear to FDR and Churchill, who were well aware of Stalin’s atrocities.

Q: Did Russia side with Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential race?

A: Of course, it did. Nations do take sides and interfere in other nations’ internal affairs all the time. For example, the United States actively encouraged the Arab Spring in several countries and even supported Syrian and Libyan “moderate” rebels. It was the job of the sitting U.S. president to prevent any Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Q: Is Russian spying on U.S. institutions a new phenomenon?

A: Absolutely not! However, things change. Between the 1940s and the 1960s, it was the conservative Right that was alarmed by Russian spying and Communist infiltration of the federal government. The Left dismissed that concern, mocking it as looking for “reds under the beds.” Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of spying for Russia and executed, became martyrs of the Left. Even in the 1970s when I arrived in the United States, the Left’s favorite motto was “it’s better be red than dead.” Things really changed in the 1980s.

Q: What happened in the 1980s?

A: When Ronald Reagan became president, he faced fierce opposition from the Left. The media elite ridiculed him as an unsophisticated cowboy and right-wing warmonger for calling the USSR an evil empire. The opposition became violent when Reagan proposed an anti-missile defense system, which the media dismissed as a “star wars” program. However, when an opportunity came up, Reagan held productive summits with former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev. These summits eventually led to the end of the Cold War.

Q: Is Putin a reincarnation of Stalin?

A: The two leaders represent two different generations separated by a period of 70 years. During those 70 years, the world has changed, and so has Russia. Stalin ruled Russia with an iron fist, while today’s Russians enjoy a degree of freedom. Putin is more pragmatic than Stalin. Yet contemporary Russian society is still quite different from its Western European counterparts, which is perhaps just fine, given that the latter are in a deep crisis now.

Q: Can the United States rely on Russia in the war on radical Islamic terrorism?

A: If it were a matter of life or death, I would always choose to have Russia on my side, rather than a Western ally, such as France. When Russians wage a war, they do it to win, not to satisfy lawyers by following every rule specifying acceptable ways of killing the enemy.

Here is an example. Somalian pirates threatened international shipping in the Indian Ocean between 2005 and 2013 by taking hostages. The American, French, Italian, and other navies rescued many hostages, caught pirates, and sent them to their countries. The arrests, trials, appeals, and imprisonment cost hundreds of millions of dollars. According to a Guardian report, there was a fear that “trials in European courts would encourage, rather than deter, pirates from committing crimes of piracy.”

In contrast, when a Russian destroyer rescued a Russian tanker with its crew from pirates in 2010, they did not arrest the pirates. They disarmed the pirates and set them adrift in an inflatable boat. The released pirates did not reach the coast. Rumor has it that the rescuers made a hole in the boat before releasing it.