The United States government is currently debating how hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to arm and train the so-called moderate rebels in Syria belonging to the Free Syrian Army. The CIA got involved in the program reluctantly, and a poorly planned and executed strategy has led to the conclusion that this is a failed program.

The FSA was never a reliable partner force and America should have known better, but in the United States we have these debates in a relatively open and public manner, with peer reviews and checks and balances of government at play. Despite this, around the world and here at home, America is often derided as an evil imperialist power that arms terrorists and pursues sinister agendas at the behest of our corporate masters.

Interestingly, countries like Russia don’t have this problem. Negative reporting about the government gets Russian journalists shot, poisoned, or disappeared. The international press is not immune either. One American journalist told me that they don’t run stories that could be damaging to the Russian government because the last time they did that their news agency was kicked out of Moscow for seven years. This results in an interesting situation where rather moderate actions by the United States are condemned and mass protests are organized, but non-democratic countries with horrible human rights records like Russia can pretty much do whatever they want without a peep from most journalists and activists.

America supports proxy forces around the world, but should we interprete the silence about Russian military and intelligence operations as confirmation that Moscow doesn’t run proxy forces themselves? In order to cut through the haze, and see if Russia has their own proxy forces at play in the ISIS conflict in Syria and Iraq, let’s take a look at past examples of the Russian government colluding with Islamists.