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Russia’s Questionable Counterterrorism Record

Why Moscow Is an Unreliable Partner for the West

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, November 2017. Mikhail Klementyev / REUTERS

In theory, Russia and the United States are on the same side in the war on terrorism. Both have suffered Islamist extremist attacks on their own soil, and both oppose the Islamic State (or ISIS). Former U.S. President Barack Obama often stated he was ready to work with Russia in Syria and in June 2016 proposed a military partnership. And his successor, President Donald Trump, has consistently said that he welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s help against ISIS. On November 11, Trump and Putin confirmed their determination to defeat ISIS in Syria in a joint statement and ten days later discussed counterterrorism cooperation over the phone.

Such optimism about working with Russia on terrorism, however, is misguided. From Syria to Afghanistan, Putin has done more to encourage terrorism than fight it, with Moscow maintaining ties to terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and the Taliban. Russia’s record suggests it will

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