BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
The United States and the Russian Federation have been on a collision course since the end of the Cold War. After years of missed opportunities, misunderstandings, and downright bad judgement exhibited between the leadership of both countries, things have gotten very bad. Yet, the one area where the United States and Russia had routinely kept in contact with each other was over the issue of terrorism. You see, for all of the bluster about how Russia is our enemy, there are many things that the Russians and the United States have in common, notably both states are threatened by Islamic extremism.
Following the horrendous 9/11 attacks, the Russians and Americans began an unprecedented cooperation on counterterrorism issues, which persisted for several years. That is, until the Obama Administration came to power. Promising to “reset” relations with Russia (but, in fact, merely giving up critical American nuclear advantages whilst doing little to actually further shared interests with Russia), the Obama Administration made Russo-American relations worse. By 2013, when it became clear that the Russians and Americans were not interested in dealing amicably with each other, Russian security services did try to alert America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of a potential threat from two individuals–young Chechen brothers–who had emigrated to the United States on chain immigration visas.
The FBI did not bother to pick up the phone call and the Obama Administration was disinterested in following up on any potential leads, especially if it threatened the preferred narratives on open borders and the active denial of the threat that Islamic extremism posed to the United States. The Boston Marathon Bombing was the result of that diplomatic and intelligence failure. The Chechen brothers, the Tsarnaev’s could have easily been stopped, especially with the intelligence that the Russians attempted to provide the FBI.
Things fell further apart when the Russians invaded Crimea, attacked Eastern Ukraine, and effectively attempted to turn Ukraine into a rump state that it could control. For the Russians, Ukraine–especially Crimea and the Donbass–have always been Russian territory and they would not allow Ukraine to become an official member of the West by joining either the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the European Union (EU). Thus, the Russians invaded in early 2014 and relations between the West and Russia have been deteriorating ever since.
The Obama Administration continued doubling down on its antipathetic rhetoric toward the Russian Federation. Sanctions were piled on. Threatening communiques were issued. In all of this, counterterrorism ties were threatened by the American side. Ever since that point, Russia, which is home to one of the best trained security services in the world, and which shares a physical border with much of the Muslim world in the Middle East and Central Asia, did not share critical pieces of intelligence with the West. Part of this was because the Americans were not listening, but also because the Russians had no compelling reason to show goodwill in this area, because the Americans were not in a bargaining mood. The Obama White House and the U.S. government was too busy beating its chest, and the graybeards in Washington, D.C. were too proud to countenance the idea of healing the wounded Russo-American relationship. Virtue-signaling in foreign policy is all the rage these days in Washington. It’s a great substitute for having to make actual, hard decisions.
When Donald Trump ran for office he made the offhanded comment that it’d be great if the United States and Russia could have healthier relations. That prompted a two-year-long witch hunt that has proven only that the American Left has corrupted much of the intelligence community with partisan political appointees; that the Democrats cannot accept defeat in an open, free, fair, and contentious presidential election; and that America’s relationship with Russia, a country that arguably has the world’s most advanced nuclear arsenal, was put at risk for partisan domestic purposes–to say nothing of the damage done to the prestige of our hallowed institutions (not only the intelligence and security agencies that have been corrupted, but also to the White House, and our media outlets).
Irrespective of the damage done to his presidency, the Trump Administration has sought to work with the Russians where it could whilst holding the line against the usual Russian power plays when it had to. The United States risked going to war with Russia in April of this year when President Trump ordered a devastating airstrike against a Syrian air force base that was the source of a reported chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians during the hellish civil war raging there. The attack risked Russian forces operating in the area, and may have even implicated those forces, with having been aware of the attack and not having done anything to stop the attack against innocent civilians.
Still, though, the relationship was not completely in tatters. President Trump met with his counterpart, Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit and had very constructive meetings with him. During that time, Putin even made the outlandish offer of having Russia and the United States create a joint cybersecurity task force that would diminish cyber attacks on both the critical infrastructures of Russia and the United States. While many worried that such a plan would have devolved into the fox guarding the hen house (and, to be sure, it likely would have over time), I believe that Putin was serious, as I noted previously (see video below). There have been critical times over the last year where it appeared that the Russo-American relationship may actually be moving at least into the neutral position, which is far better than where it’s been at since at least 2012.
Thus, the recent Trump Administration decision to have the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) warn Russian security services about a planned terror attack in St. Petersburg was a diplomatic coup de grace. Thanks to this decision–something that may have partly reversed the negative, downward trend of Russo-American relations–not only were countless innocent lives saved, a disgusting Islamic State terror attack thwarted, but so too were Russian and American counterterrorism relations mended. This is huge, especially considering how entrenched in places like Syria that Russia has become (Syria being a location of major Islamic State, al Qaeda, Al Nusra, and other jihadist terror cell operations). The ongoing Russian mission to buttress the flailing (and despicable) Assad regime in Syria has likely yielded to an immense collection of previously unknown intelligence on terror operations in that region. If the United States could gain access to this information, it could increase American security immeasurably–especially as the remnants of the Islamic State seek new ways to avenge the loss of their “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria upon the West (as well as Russia).
But, the Western media cannot seem to get the memo. The American Left continues pressing with their absurd Russia investigation that has yielded nothing. There has been no celebration of the fact that healthy relations are at least being restored in part between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. I have long argued–much to my professional detriment–that Russia, while not our friend, is not the threat we believe it to be (lest we continue on the path that the Obama Administration placed us on). This is but one of hopefully several, logical diplomatic moves aimed at mending the broken Russo-American relationship, and actually preserving American interests and lives. Russia and the United States are mutually threatened by Islamic extremism. We all know it. By standing firmly together on counterterrorism policy, the United States and Russia can help secure the peace–and preserve the lives of our innocent citizens.
Don’t listen to the Western press or the Left: Trump’s move just saved us. The administration now needs to build on this and work toward bringing Russia back to the Western camp, to help us stand opposed to not only Islamic extremism, but to form a united front against rising China, a country that threatens Russia even more than it does the United States. The United States and Russia will never see eye-to-eye on every issue. But, we can work to ensure that our differences are mitigated as we are linked together by a larger degree of shared interests. What’s more, together, the two greatest nuclear, (somewhat) Christian powers can–and must–defeat our shared enemies.