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US-Russia Mideast cooperation in balance over Ukraine?

In the absence of a diplomatic settlement between the West and Russia over Ukraine, Moscow may seek to capitalize on recent gains in the Middle East at US expense.
Pro-Russian demonstrators erect a Russian flag outside the regional government building in Donetsk March 5, 2014. Pro-Moscow youths recaptured the administrative headquarters of the eastern city of Donetsk and flew the Russian flag from its roof on Wednesday, hours after Kiev's authorities managed to fly their own flag there for the first time since Saturday.    REUTERS/Stringer  (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3G2UQ
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A new phase has begun between Russia and America: 25 years of assurances that the Cold War is over and that the United States and Russia are no longer enemies is ending with an open political confrontation over Ukraine. Washington's intention to impose sanctions against Russia threatens to radically change not only the atmosphere of relations but also the nature of their cooperation. For the last year or two, this cooperation has basically been forced anyway, where it was impossible to avoid it — Syria, Afghanistan and Iran. There has been no other agenda since the New START Treaty was ratified and Russia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO).

For Russia, Ukraine is an issue of principle, and cannot be compared with any other issue. As the Russian conservative magazine Expert wrote, "It is impossible to retreat any farther. … For Russia, maintaining our presence in Ukraine means much more than holding the G-8 summit in Sochi and even more than membership in the organization itself." In addition to the cultural-historical and strategic reasons why Ukraine is very important for Moscow, this conflict is the culmination of a quarter-century of politics.

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