Relations between the United States and Russia have been frosty in recent years, but in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, the two countries have found a common foe in Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The two terrorism suspects’ family is Chechen. If most Americans couldn’t locate Chechnya on a map before the bombings, Russians are all too familiar with the North Caucasus region and its Islamic insurgency, having fought two Chechen wars and domestic terrorism born there since 1991. It was Russian intelligence officials who first flagged the older Tsarnaev brother as a potential threat. Their help in the ongoing investigation could prove invaluable.
Yet the United States should proceed with caution in this counterterrorism cooperation. Justice often looks very different in Russia than the United States, with due process swapped out for cruelty and corruption. Human rights abuses are rampant. President Vladimir Putin has always preferred a take-no-prisoners approach to dealing with terrorism; he has opted to end standoffs by sending police storming in, even if criminals and innocent bystanders are killed without much distinction. Those arrested alive rarely receive a fair trial, instead disappearing into the bowels of Russia’s prison system.