Just look at Putin’s conduct on the ground in Syria. Did Putin intervene there because of ISIS — or to bail out a Russian client-state? Molly K. McKew writes in Politico: “Russia has dropped three times more bombs than the U.S. coalition, but only a fraction have hit ISIS targets. Instead, Russia has been using ISIS as a convenient excuse to remove threats to Assad, destabilize Iraq (and prove the weakness of American power by doing so), unleash Iran, consolidate its hold on the region, and deploy military hardware and architecture around the edges of NATO.”
There is, of course, the question of morality when it comes to working with Russia: Even if we assume that Putin is capable of partnering with the United States in good faith — a big if — Russia’s willingness to kill civilians to achieve its war aims simply does not comport with American values. But set that aside. Strategically speaking, does President Trump really believe that Putin is interested in doing anything that would help the United States strengthen its position in the Middle East?
Vladimir Putin was apparently the first world leader to call President Bush after the September 11 attacks. Bush, despite famously getting “a sense of his soul,” never got anywhere with Putin. Neither did his successor Barack Obama.