A thought provoking report by the Center for American Defense Studies (CADS) in Washington, DC, asks if it is still possible to reset relations with Russia. The report by CADS Senior Advisor Major General Don McGregor, USAF, Ret. notes that preventing war in Eastern Europe and keeping Russia neutral (at minimum) in the US-China rivalry should be key strategic U.S. goals. So, why isn’t the U.S. trying? And is it too late?
The report, ‘Can Conflict in Eastern Europe be Avoided? What about a Russia-China Alliance? – A Strategic Argument for Re-Assessing US-Russia Relations,’ can be read in full here at the CADS website.
Here is the introduction to the report:
With the escalating military exercises and rhetoric between NATO and Russia in and around Ukraine and other Eastern European states, is the region on the brink of war? Russia’s aggressiveness over the past fifteen years and most recently its military buildup along east Ukraine is undoubtedly troubling and may set the stage for eventual conflict.
But is a prediction of war premature? The answer may be – yes, and no. While the usual suspects such as geopolitical maneuvering, resources, and bad blood play into interstate clashes – are all in abundant supply in Eastern Europe, we should consider the issue holistically and look at the root causes behind some of the friction. We should also understand that beyond avoiding war in Europe, it is also strongly in the U.S. national interest to keep Russia neutral in the broader Western conflict with CCP-led China.
After the fall of communism, former Soviet satellite nations such as Estonia, Latvia, and Bulgaria embraced democratic principles and ideologically moved west. Released from the Soviet Union’s iron communist grip, they looked for western assistance and direction. Western powers, led by the U.S., initially developed several defense programs to work with the security apparatuses of each nation, recognizing these budding democracies were fragile and liable to corruption and exploitation – security was the first order of business for democratic adoption.
One fruitful U.S. program was the Department of Defense State Partnership Program (SPP), which evolved from a 1991 U.S. European Command decision to set up military exchanges in support of newly liberated former Soviet satellite countries. By aligning a state to a country like Latvia and Michigan or Illinois and Poland, each country could witness, through exchanges, democratic principles of governance and civil-military relationships.
By 2004, seventeen former soviet satellite nations had SPP partners. By 2009, ten had joined NATO and the European Union, and shortly after, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia secured state partners California, North Carolina, and Georgia, entering them into the Western fold. Today, an additional four former communist states are NATO members, while Russian bordering states Moldova and Belarus joined NATO’s North Atlantic Cooperation Council. The rapid pace of this western expansion and influence was impressive but very disconcerting for Russia.
Read the full report here at the CADS website.
Major General Don McGregor (Ret.) is well versed in Russian affairs and NATO expansion. He spent five years on the Air Force European staff, running Joint exercises and advising two commanders at the O-6 level. While in the Pentagon as a General Officer, McGregor administered the Secretary of Defense’s National Guard’s State Partnership Program (SPP).
During Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, the general was intimately involved with training and equipping Ukrainian forces via their SPP partner – California.
McGregor also worked with several other SPP partners to include Moldova, Georgia, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Romania. He holds a master’s degree in Diplomacy and International Conflict Resolution from Norwich University. ADN