Does Russia hold the key to the ISIS crisis?

The ISIS crisis is the most dangerous phenomenon in the midterm perspective

Maria Dubovikova
Maria Dubovikova
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The one hundred year anniversary of the beginning of the First World War is being celebrated this year. One hundred years later, we are poised on the threshold of a new unpredictable war and chaos on a global scale. With four months left of 2014, the recent trends don’t promise any improvement. However, the international community has a chance to end the year on a relatively positive note. One tiny effort is needed, which is just to join hands.

The ISIS crisis is the most dangerous phenomenon in the midterm perspective as it menaces the whole world’s stability and future. It’s too late to blame anyone for its rise and its unexpectedly impressive strength. The only thing the international community should decide is how to deal with it and how to counter it.

To lay the foundation for effective international cooperation, international players must put aside all existing contradictions between the West and Russia

Maria Dubovikova

What is clear is that the air strikes that are generously proposed by the U.S. will neither solve the problem nor stop it spreading and may even stimulate the growth of the army of ISIS supporters, as collateral damage from air strikes could push people to act against Western forces. Moreover, this is not a problem to be resolved by a single country or even by a group of allies, especially Western ones. It’s a cataclysm that should be inevitably dealt with by the Middle East’s regional powers as well as by a broader coalition of all interested parties. I see that a full-scale war is inevitable if humanity wants to get rid of this cancerous disease. It should be admitted that ISIS’ rise would not be possible without external players’ assistance, including arms shipments. Providing the Syrian rebels with assistance, when numerous extremists and jihadists already invaded their ranks, was an extremely dangerous game. The risks were not properly taken into account. Now, the same external players have to deal with the threat that is born from their erroneous judgment.

A tough and critical response

The United States has to deploy boots on the ground in Iraq as it is responsible for the situation there, despite the fact that this is not the same administration that intervened in Iraq in 2003. However, the U.S. bears responsibility for the unpreparedness of the Iraqi army, despite years of training under the supervision of American instructors. The U.S. bears responsibility for the inability of the Iraqi army to repulse the attacks of extremist fighters and guarantee the security of their country.

It should be mentioned that the parties will have to deal with Syria as an equal partner, as for the moment the Syrian government’s forces are the only player able to effectively fight ISIS. All the disputes over the Assad government should be put aside, as now the international community is making a choice between the two evils. It’s not new, especially for the Western countries, to close one’s eyes and ignore once declared principles for the sake of their interests and vital necessity.

Any unilateral operation by the West on Syrian territory without any approval of the Syrian government would be dangerous and inappropriate for the current situation in the region and the international state of affairs. In the regional framework, intervention in Syria will trigger the spread of extremism and the growth of militants’ ranks. Moreover, there are great doubts that in case of intervention, only the extremists’ positions will be bombed. In this case, any weakening of the Syrian army would be fatal and irreversible in its consequences. In the global framework, the unilateral intervention, even with a noble purpose to fight ISIS, will completely destroy already dramatically damaged relations between Russia and the West. For Russia, Syria is still a sovereign country and any violation of its sovereignty will immediately cause the rise of extremist discontent and would unpredictably worsen the situation. Whatever the attitude towards the Russian Federation is, no one can disregard its global position and international weight.

Russia, an indispensable partner

For the moment, when the U.S., and NATO in particular, toughen rhetoric towards Russia and when Russia demonstrates the ability to respond, no one can predict what will act as the trigger, what will the modern day version of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand be? If the point of no return were to be reached in the relations between the West and Russia, it would mean fatal consequences for the world, especially in a combination with the spreading menace in the Middle East.

To lay the foundation for effective international cooperation international players must put aside all existing contradictions between the West and Russia and between the West and Iran. At this time, Russia would be an indispensable partner in the case of involving Syria in counter-terrorism operations.

The international community must understand that the true menace for stability comes not from Russia which is trying to defend its national interest (however sometimes in a too provocative manner), not from the U.S. (although its political miscounts and unbridled foreign policy strike at the international system), but from ISIS - inhuman extremists who already have a huge network of their adherents and admirers all over the world.

The disintegration of the international community plays into ISIS’ hands.

It’s time to wake up, to join forces and to set priorities, we must abandon the quest for being the boss and work together.


Maria Dubovikova is a co-founder of IMESClub (International Middle Eastern Studies Club), IMESClub Executive Director and member of the Club Council, author of several scientific articles and participant of several high level international conferences. She is a permanent member of the Think-tank under the American University in Moscow. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia) (honors diploma), she had been working for three months as a trainee at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris. Now she is a PhD Candidate at MGIMO (Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia). Her research field is Russian foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, the policy of France and the US towards the Mediterranean, theory of international relations, humanitarian interventions and etc. Fluently speaks and writes in French and English. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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