The primary obstacle in fixing global issues is that the general public is rarely sufficiently informed. We frequently focus on the most recent topics dominating the news cycle, ignoring issues of equal importance that have lost public interest. This is detrimental to the wellbeing of international politics. One such example is the Arab Spring, which the public often thinks of as a distant, historical series of rebellions, but which has only begun to wrap up in 2017.

Syria continues to harbor a bloody civil war that has already caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. With a Syrian regime-led victory seemingly around the corner, we must consider the next step in a war that has left millions of refugees and a tedious foreign policy conundrum. In an increasingly volatile situation with Syria, Russia, and other major players, American foreign policy decisions will be critical.

When the U.S. considers the future of Syria, it must take into account the forces at play. In recent weeks, the Syrian government coalition dislodged the Islamic State from the central province of Homs and pushed ISIS into one remaining territory, and the government’s victory appears imminent. Many experts believe that after being pushed out of the caliphate, the Islamic State will focus their terrorism efforts abroad.

However, when America considers its foreign policy options, the nation must stay focused on the long-term effects. Despite its potential as a global threat, terrorism is not the U.S.’s primary concern; few have died on American soil due to attacks affiliated with ISIS. Perhaps more pressing is the plight of the millions of refugees who remain unsettled. Unless the U.S. opens its arms and urges other nations to do the same, the crisis will remain unresolved for years to come. These issues face a region with a shifting geopolitical equilibrium, and American foreign policy must adapt accordingly.

Since the conception of the State of Israel, the U.S. has struggled with its role in the Middle East. With varying degrees of success, the nation has always tried to protect its interests and promote democracy while avoiding foreign entanglements. However, assuming that diplomacy naturally follows war is a mistake.

A Russian-led victory would give President Vladimir Putin a prominent role in a country with vast deposits of natural resources, geopolitical access to all of the Middle East, and a border with American-aligned Israel. Just as the Ukrainian people have seen their country subjected to turmoil at the hands of illegal Russian-backed separatists, the Syrian people will be manipulated to serve the needs of Putin. Russia will undeniably do everything possible to further its national interests, and the U.S. must develop a concrete strategy to protect its own.

America currently supports both Syrian rebels and Kurdish independence fighters. Should both groups fall to Assad, the U.S. must be capable of negotiating with Russia, Syria, and other parties to enforce human rights and freedoms in Syria and to mitigate conflict. While history has shown that infusing the region with weapons and soldiers is counterproductive, the U.S. must remain cognizant of the ongoing motives and efforts of Russia. If our nation loses sight of the fact that the Russians wish to undermine our position, they will seize the opportunity to take control of Middle Eastern politics. At this point, America’s best option may be to concede defeat to Assad as long as Russia agrees to hold negotiations with the Syrian people, including the Kurds.

Regardless, going forward the U.S. must maintain a strong presence in Syria while sticking with a clear diplomatic strategy. Otherwise, we will come out of one of the deadliest conflicts in human history worse than we found it.