Last Sunday, Vladimir Putin called President Trump to thank him for CIA information that was used to foil a terror plot in St. Petersburg. A terror cell associated with ISIS was planning to attack the Kazan Cathedral, as well as other popular locations in the city, they were thankfully stopped. This April, another ISIS-affiliated terrorist bombed the St. Petersburg subway and killed over a dozen people and injured 50. This potential attack could have been far deadlier, but it was stopped in its tracks due to international cooperation.
While most of the details around the attack are not available to the public, we do know several things about how the plot was foiled. The CIA somehow discovered the plot and passed the information onto the FSB. The FSB engaged in a daring SWAT raid in the night and early morning of last Wednesday and Thursday. Russian agents seized extremist literature, guns and ammunition, explosive materials and IED building components in the raid.
Had this plot not been foiled, a lot of Russians enjoying the Christmas season and Worshipping in their churches would have ended up dead. Thankfully, the United States intelligence community put the tensions between the two powers aside and worked with groups they are often at odds with to save innocent lives.
Russia and the United States both have vested interests in fighting Islamic terrorism. Both countries have faced attacks, but it is far closer to home for the Russian Federation. The caucus region, which is largely Islamic, has produced thousands of Islamic extremists who have either engaged in attacks on Russia or gone to other countries, such as Afghanistan and Syria, to join the global jihad. Russia and the United States regularly cooperate with other countries to combat Islamic terrorism. The United States recently worked with the Philippines in the battle for Marawi, and Russia has shared intelligence information with North African countries.
Terror cooperation is a clear area where Russia and the United States have a common interest and can work together. While Russia and the United States have many differences and tensions, such as the war in the Ukraine and alleged election meddling, the two countries can still work together at times. General Michael Flynn, who is under investigation for “collusion” with the Russians, appears to have “colluded” with them on this issue. During the transition period, General Flynn was tasked with working with the Russians on joint strategies to defeat the Islamic State, many on the left have decried this action as high treason. The new red scare has reached such a height that even this kind of positive cooperation is seen as working for the Russians.
While these signs for cooperation are good, relations soured later this week when the United States approved a sale of sniper rifles and related equipment to Ukraine. Ukraine has been engaged in a civil war since 2014, when the breakaway pro-Russia Donbass region declared independence from the increasingly pro-Western government in Kiev, this came around the same time as the Russian annexation of Crimea. Over 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and fighting has escalated in recent days with at least 8 Ukranian soldiers dying in the line of duty in the past week. A sale of weapons to a nation Russia is engaging in quasi-war with likely isn’t going to make them any friendlier with the US.
The United States and Russia are by no means friendly countries, but cooperation in areas of mutual interest should be encouraged. Both Russia and the United States want their citizens to live in peace, free from the rampant Islamist violence that has characterized the 21st century so far. The prevention of the attack in St. Petersburg is a good sign that there is cooperation on this front, as have been the joint efforts to stop ISIS in the Middle East. Relations are by no means perfect, but the cooperation in this one area is a sign of hope. This certainly supports the saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”