Bad old days: during an attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, August 1991.

In February, Moscow and Washington issued a joint statement announcing the terms of a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria—a truce agreed to by major world powers, regional players, and most of the participants in the Syrian civil war. Given the fierce mutual recriminations that have become typical of U.S.-Russian relations in recent years, the tone of the statement suggested a surprising degree of common cause. “The United States of America and the Russian Federation . . . [are] seeking to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis with full respect for the fundamental role of the United Nations,” the statement began. It went on to declare that the two countries are “fully determined to provide their strongest support to end the Syrian conflict.”

What is even more surprising is that the truce has mostly held, according to the UN, even though many experts predicted its rapid failure. Indeed, when Russia declared in March that it would begin to pull out most of the forces it had deployed to Syria since last fall, the Kremlin intended to signal its belief that the truce will hold even without a significant Russian military presence.

The cease-fire represents the second time that the

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  • FYODOR LUKYANOV is Editor in Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Chair of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and a Research Professor at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, in Moscow.
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