Winston Churchill was under no illusions about his wartime alliance with Joseph Stalin. “If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons,” he remarked to an aide. This was not a bond forged in friendship and trust. It was a temporary partnership of necessity in the face of a common enemy. As soon as Nazi Germany was defeated, the reality of Stalin’s intentions became clear. Promises to hold free elections in the countries under Soviet occupation were broken, and the West spent the next 40 years trying to contain the threat the Soviet Union posed.
This needs to be kept in mind as we contemplate events in Syria. In the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and the bombing of a Russian plane over the Sinai, it is understandable that Western governments should want to form the broadest possible international coalition, including with Russia, to defeat those responsible. But shared grief is not the same as shared interests. Cooperation with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State needs to be carefully weighed against several bigger foreign policy issues.
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