America and Russia: Rivals United by a Common Enemy?

By Georgy Gounev

First Published by American Thinker on December 27, 2009

Don’t assume that Russia and America will be adversaries forever.
Given the nature and the magnitude of the negativity marking the current stage of the American-Russian relations, the very thought of an alliance between the two countries looks outright absurd to many people. Regardless of the presence of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, American-Russian relations could offer a dramatic U-turn to a stunned world. 
Why? The answer to this question is both logical and simple: The spread of radical Islam throughout the Muslim world and the quickly advancing Islamization of Europe could bring to life this unlikely and, according to many experts, even impossible scenario.
Let’s first clear a possible misunderstanding: To accept the probability (not the inevitability) of an American-Russian alliance doesn’t mean that the realization would be easy. The main problem from the Russian side is the hysterical anti-Americanism which has become the essence of Russian foreign policy.
There are many reasons for the phenomenon. Maybe the most important among them is the negative image of the United States created by totalitarian propaganda during the Soviet era. The image in question has been powerfully reinforced by the chaos and corruption that plagued Russia in place of the long-expected triumph of democracy.
The typical state of mind for Russian policymakers is the formula “what is bad for the United States is good for Russia.” But is that really true?
How exactly would Russia benefit from a Vietnam-style American withdrawal from Afghanistan? In fact, an American abandonment of Afghanistan will trigger nothing short of a disaster for Russia.  
A renewed Taliban domination of Afghanistan inevitably will start destabilizing Russia’s Muslim neighbors of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. And let’s not ignore a very important fact: Those Muslim neighbors share an almost 1,900-mile-long border with Afghanistan, which is as porous as the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
A Taliban victory would represent a huge boost to the activities of the radical Islamists whose influence is growing in Central Asia.  One doesn’t need to possess a prophetic gift in order to predict the danger that will start lurking over the entire length of the Russian southern border.
Given the magnitude of that danger, the changing demography of the country as a result of the reduction of the Russian component of the country’s population provides grounds for a lot of sobering thoughts. Another important factor influencing the Russian policymakers is the proximity of the dramatically underpopulated Russian Far East to the overpopulated border areas of China.  
The primary factor, however, that could bring together the United States of America and Russia is the fast-growing danger to the future of both countries emanating from radical Islam.
Of course, the old rule stipulating that “it takes two to tango” is fully applicable to the area of foreign policy. Undoubtedly, within the U.S. corridors of power, Russia is regarded not only as a former enemy, but also as a current and future rival. American policymakers committed a huge mistake by not taking advantage of the positive attitude of Mr. Putin’s government to the United States in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Many Americans don’t even know that the marvelous monument erected on New Jersey’s shore to the victims of the mass murder was a gift from the Russian people.
World public opinion supported the American action designed to terminate the ethnic cleansing of the Albanian community committed by the Milosevic regime. At the same time, however, the United States did not protect the Serbian residents of Kosovo when they too became victims of ethnic cleansing. The inconsistency brought about a powerful negative reaction in Russia, a traditional Serbian ally and protector. What matters the most today, however, is the fact that America needs Russia to the same degree that Russia needs America.
Most experts and observers would reject the main argument of this article by pointing out the huge difference between the traditions and the political systems of both countries. Well, looking back in time, those differences didn’t prevent the emergence of the WWII-era American-Soviet alliance that buried all of Hitler’s dreams and ambitions. Other objections point out the gravity of the problems separating Washington from Moscow. Everyone would agree that Kosovo and Georgia are good examples in this regard. On the other hand, however, it could be argued that once the magnitude of the threat hanging over both Washington and Moscow is realized, every other problem would find a solution.
A different group of observers is claiming that the American-Russian rivalry regarding the energy supply routes is supposed to last. The rivalry is rough indeed — no doubt about that. What kind of U.S.-Russian energy-related competition, though, will continue  if both face off against the Islamic oil powers?
What about the tension brought by the problems relating to Eastern Europe? Again, there would be no room for American-Russian rivalry, given that one of the main goals of the alliance will be the support rendered to every European country resisting the advance of radical Islam.
The new relationship between the United States and Russia would open the door for the creation of a brand new system of international relations by including Europe, China, and India, all targeted and coveted by radical Islam, into the alliance. The emergence of such a structure would increase the chances of finding the correct approach to separating the majority of the world’s Muslim community from the radical minority trying to establish world domination.
Let me repeat again: No one is saying that the scenario containing an option for an American-Russian alliance is inevitable. All that can be said is that it is not impossible
G. Gounev earned his Ph.D. at the Moscow Institute of Foreign Relations. He teaches history in California and is currently working on a book on the Islamization of Europe and its impact on American-Russian relations.

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