Our awkward alliance with Russia

Russia is emerging as an essential diplomatic and security partner for the U.S. in Syria, despite the Obama administration’s opposition to Moscow’s support for President Bashar al-Assad.

Russian-American cooperation on Syria now includes regular diplomatic, military and intelligence contacts. Moscow and Washington have evolved a delicate process for “de-confliction” in the tight Syrian airspace, where accidents or miscommunication could be disastrous.

Administration officials see working with Russia as the best of a bad set of options. An administration that has had trouble living with President Vladimir Putin, especially after his actions in Ukraine, finds that it can’t live without him in Syria. Washington’s hope is that Putin will support American efforts to negotiate a cease-fire because he concludes it’s the only way to avoid a quagmire.

“While we remain skeptical of Russian interests and intentions in Syria, we also believe that they will be an essential part of any political solution to this conflict,” one senior administration official explained Tuesday. “The degree of communication we have with them reflects that view.”