A former colleague who was leading the effort to engage Russia in the war on terror compared the periodic desire to work with the Russians to someone who buys a baboon as a pet, only to be surprised to have his face ripped off. Then, after recovering, he goes out and buys another baboon. “How many times do we have to get our faces ripped off by the Russians before we realize that we have fundamentally different goals?” my colleague asked.
Further, the disconnect between the U.S. and Russia is not our fault. The basic problem is that Russia is more interested in doing damage to America than helping us solve the terrorism problem. Like many before him, Paul this week promoted the notion that the U.S. and Russia could work together to defeat terrorism. As with all the previous efforts over the past 17 years, the Russians will likely provide nice words but do little. The United States is a bigger enemy than ISIS.
There is also a darker side to the notion that Russia is a natural ally. White nationalists and other right-wing groups are attracted to the belief that Russia represents a socially conservative European nation guided by a Christian, anti-immigrant, and anti-gay agenda. The recent arrest of Russian activist Maria Butina, who allegedly exploited the appeal of Russia to conservatives, shed some light on this mindset.