While I am quite sure the average Russian is as honest, straightforward and fun-loving as the average Canadian, I’m as sure that Russia, as a nation, is not a friend of Canada. Nor do I believe Russia is a friend of any of the Western democracies, or any other democracy, if it comes to that.
Russia seems far more likely to find “friends” among those nations who are distinguished by one-man or one-party rule and a less than stellar human rights record, i.e., China, Iran, Cuba, Syria, etc.
It would be a grave mistake, therefore, for nations such as the United States and France to seek a formal alliance with Russia against their common foe, Daesh, the Islamic State terrorist group.
Russian leaders will shake your right hand while picking your pocket with their left. Duplicity is a treasured trait of those who run that country. To them, a Square Deal is for dupes and weaklings and nothing they’d ever enter into willingly.
Russia’s dealings vis-à-vis the Ukraine should be all we need to warn us that nation cannot be trusted to respect the territorial integrity of other countries. Russia’s official complicity in their athlete doping scandal should tell us enough about the depths to which that nation has sunk when it comes to trustworthiness, and the heights to which state corruptness has risen there.
Russia is involved in the conflict in Syria to help the despot Bashar Hafez al-Assad stay in power, thus guaranteeing it will continue to maintain a naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea. To keep al-Assad in power Russia has carried out attacks against the various forces who threaten the Syrian president’s regime, including those considered by the West to be moderate Syrian rebel groups.
Yes, Daesh may also be their enemy—Russia has problems of its own with radical Islamists—and be targeted by Russian warplanes, but other anti-Assad groups like the Free Syrian Army and Turkmen, who live in northern Syria, have had to face the brunt of the Russian air raids. On Friday, ostensibly in response to Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane, Russia launched major air attacks across northern Syria against non-Daesh rebel groups backed by Turkey.
Russia has chosen to be the major military adversary of the Western democracies, if not their outright enemy. This was a choice made by its leaders, not one forced on them by the U.S. or by NATO or by any other nation or group.
In September, the U.K.’s RAF jets were scrambled for the seventh time in 2015 to intercept Russian long-range nuclear bombers near the U.K. border. This sort of thing is a regular occurrence near Canada’s borders. In Europe also, Moscow frequently sends military flights over or near the borders of the Baltic States, forcing NATO members to step up air support in the region. More than just an inconvenience, these flights are a danger to civilian planes because the Russians regularly refuse to identify themselves.
Russia is not a nation with which any democracy should want to align itself, regardless of the temporariness of the association or the justness of the common cause. Seek to have cordial, peaceful relations with them, yes, but maintain a discrete distance at all times, at least, until there is a regime change and a discarding of its bully-boy attitude.