The 130 people murdered in Paris on November 13 and the 224 Russians aboard a jetliner on October 31 confront America’s current and would-be policy-makers, Democratic and Republicans alike, with a fateful decision: whether to join Moscow in a military, political, diplomatic, and economic coalition against the Islamic State and other terrorist movements, especially in and around Syria, or to persist in treating “Putin’s Russia” as an enemy and unworthy partner.
If the goal is defending US and international security, and human life, there is no alternative to such a coalition. The Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) and its only “moderately” less extremist fellow jihadists are the most dangerous and malignant threat in the world today, having slaughtered or enslaved an ever-growing number of innocents from the Middle East and Africa to Europe, Russia, and the United States (is Boston forgotten?) and now declared war on the entire West.
Today’s international terrorists are no longer mere “nonstate actors.” ISIS alone is an emerging state controlling large territories, formidable fighting forces, an ample budget, and with an organizing ideology, dedicated envoys of terror in more countries than are known, and a demonstrated capacity to recruit new citizens from others. Nor is the immediate threat limited to certain regions of the world. The refugee crisis in Europe, to take a looming example, is eroding the foundations of the European Union and thus of NATO, as is the fear generated by Paris since November 13.
This spreading threat cannot be contained, diminished, or, still less, eradicated without Russia. Its long experience as a significantly Muslim country, its advanced military capabilities, its special intelligence and political ties in the Middle East, and its general resources are essential. Having lost more lives to terrorism than any other Western nation in recent years, Russia demands—and it deserves—a leading role in the necessary coalition. If denied that role, Moscow, with its alliance with Iran and China and growing political support elsewhere in the world, will assert it, as demonstrated by Russia’s mounting air war in Syria, whose advanced technology and efficacy against terrorist forces are being under-reported in the US media.
France and much of Europe quickly made their decision. Following the tragic events of November 13, French President François Hollande called for “a grand coalition,” specifically including Russia, against the Islamic State. Still more, on November 17, his unprecedented appeal to the European Union—not US-led NATO—to activate its own “mutual assistance” provision was unanimously approved, implicitly endorsing his proposed alliance with Russia. Hollande, rising to lead Europe, then departed to meet with President Obama and Russian President Putin.
A few clear-sighted American political figures across the spectrum have echoed Hollande’s call for a coalition with Russia, among them former secretary of defense Chuck Hagel, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and, most importantly, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders. Overwhelmingly, however, the American political-media establishment—crucially, the Obama administration and Congress—has taken the recklessly myopic editorial position of The Washington Post: “An alliance with Russia would be a dangerous false step for the United States.” Columnists and reporters of the policy establishment’s other two leading newspapers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, similarly, to quote Rohrabacher, “continue to denigrate Russians as if they were still the Soviet Union and Putin, not Islamic terrorists, our most vicious enemy.”