The visit of FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov to Washington in February (Newsru.com, February 20), the visit of Kremlin Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev to the North Caucasus the following month (Rbc.ru, March 11) and the recent visit of Sergei Smirnov to Tashkent all indicate that the Russian government is looking for a solution to the problem that the Islamic State organization poses for Moscow. As an ally of Bashar al-Assad, Russia isolated itself from all possible allies among the armed groups in the Middle East and from those countries that oppose the al-Assad regime. Moscow, therefore, is, forced to look for allies against a cruel and merciless enemy, and that enemy has now become the Islamic State.
I was surprised to see the bit about Bortnikov in Washington, as I didn’t remember seeing that in the news—but, as usual, the Eurasia Daily Monitor didn’t let me down. Alexander Bortnikov was indeed in Washington earlier this year. I’ve followed his career for a while—he’s head of the FSB, one of the post-Soviet sucessors to the KGB—and I can’t believe I missed seeing that he was here.
You can read more about his visit here, but the article’s in Russian. Basically, he was here for some anti-terrorism summit and said that as many as 1,700 Russian citizens may be fighting in Iraq on the side of the Islamic State.
Personally, I think this ought to mean increased cooperation with Russia, since we have a common enemy, but I’m guessing the people who actually make policy don’t see it that way. Oh well.