Tensions between the U.S. and Russia are at their highest since the Cold War, and as a 5-year civil war wages in Syria, the old foes square off in a proxy war once again.
"Russia and Iran have thrown their weight to support Assad against most of his people," said Vanderbilt Professor and Cold War historian Dr. Thomas Schwartz.
The U.S. is backing the different groups of rebels, rising up against Bashar al-Assad's oppressive regime.
And with the U.S. and Russia squaring off for different sides, the issue was front and center in Sunday's Presidential debate.
"I've stood up to Russia," said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, "I've taken on Putin and others and I would do that as President."
Schwartz says Clinton is taking a hard line stance, stronger than that of the Obama administration.
"She ruled out intervening with U.S. forces but certainly brought up the idea of special forces efforts to help the Kurds who have also been working with the United States," he said.
Alternatively, Trump talks about partnerships and praises Putin's strength.
"I think it would be great if we got along with Russia so we could fight Isis for example," Trump said Sunday night.
It may be why Russia has been accused of cyber attacks on the Democratic party, alongside Wikileaks, with a possible goal of getting Trump elected.
"Donald Trump in many respects has said in effect what Russia does in its own backyard to countries near it is not a concern of his," said Schwartz.
Although there's nothing new about the country trying to interfere in American politics.
"Nikita Khrushchev always claimed that he didn't release the pilot of a captured U2 plane before the 1968 election because he wanted to help Kennedy win the election," Schwartz said.
After Russian intervention in Syria, Ukraine and Crimea, Schwartz says the best case scenario is a candidate who does this:
"Draws a very serious red line and says not to cross it, and Putin decides not to cross it."
As far as worst case scenario, Schwartz says that would be a Russia that continues to interfere in surrounding countries, especially the Baltic states where the U.S. would have an obligation to join the fight under current agreements through NATO.