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Category: Russia and Eurasia

March 25, 2019

Russian Challenges from Now into the Next Generation: A Geostrategic Primer

U.S. and Western relations with Russia remain challenged as Russia increasingly reasserts itself on the global stage. Russia remains driven by a worldview based on existential threats—real, perceived, and contrived. As a vast, 11-time zone Eurasian nation with major demographic and economic challenges, Russia faces multiple security dilemmas internally and along its vulnerable and expansive borders. Exhibiting a reactive xenophobia stemming from a long history of destructive war and invasion along most of its borders, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and perceived Western slights, Russia increasingly threatens others and lashes outward. However, time is not on Russia’s side, as it has entered into a debilitating status quo that includes unnecessary confrontation with the West, multiple unresolved military commitments, a sanctions-strained and only partially diversified economy, looming domestic tensions, and a rising China directly along its periphery. Washington still has an opportunity to carefully improve U.S.-Russia relations and regain a more stable relationship in the near term, but only if activities and initiatives are based on a firm and frank appreciation of each other’s core interests, including those of their allies and partners.

Jan. 2, 2019

Between Russia and Iran: Room to Pursue American Interests in Syria

President Donald Trump has underscored containing Iran’s sway as a key element in establishing a “strong and lasting footprint” in Syria as the United States moves toward bringing its Soldiers home. In pursuing this key American objective, this paper recommends that Washington take advantage of the “daylight” between Russia and Iran, and that it be American policy at all levels to work to expand it. This long-existing “daylight” was underscored in 2018 by calls in Moscow for Iran to withdraw its forces from some or all of Syria, and by Putin’s positive regard at the summit in Helsinki with President Trump for Israel’s security requirements.

July 6, 2017

Putin’s Syrian Gambit: Sharper Elbows, Bigger Footprint, Stickier Wicket

Thanks in large part to Russia’s military intervention, Syrian president Bashar al-Asad’s fortunes have made a remarkable recovery since May/June 2015. Russia, together with the Lebanese Hizballah, Iran, and Iranian-organized Shia militias from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere, has succeeded in averting Asad’s military defeat. What Russian president Vladimir Putin has accomplished in Syria is important for American national security interests and policy in the region because it frames some of the hard choices Washington must now make.

June 20, 2017

Building a Stay-Behind Resistance Organization: The Case of Cold War Switzerland Against the Soviet Union

Russia’s revanchism toward its neighbors and its strong desire to extend power into traditional spheres of influence have major security implications for a number of post-Soviet states. This policy is magnified by Vladimir Putin’s “Russian World” ideology, which implies that any former Soviet republic with either an ethnic Russian population or an unresolved territorial or security dispute with Russia faces a potential national security threat ranging from internal subversion to outright territorial invasion by Russian forces. The Russian occupation of Crimea in March 2014 and the Kremlin’s intervention in eastern Ukraine between February and September 2014 demonstrate this risk to bordering states and overall European stability.1 In particular, Russian use of hybrid warfare amplifies the threat.

June 19, 2017

Strategic Competition: Beyond Peace and War

The struggle Morgenthau describes results in an evolving international distribution of power. After World War II, the majority of global power was divided between two poles until the fall of the Soviet Union gave rise to a unipolar system. The transformation of the international order continues today as rising powers join established powers, such as the United States, Japan, and the European Union, on the international stage. Although a more balanced distribution of power may have economic and humanitarian benefits, political and military tensions frequently accompany major transitions in the international order. Beyond the strains inherent as rising powers clash with those more established, the lack of globally dominant hegemons in a system of distributed power creates opportunities for revisionist state and nonstate actors to pursue their own, sometimes perilous, ambitions.

April 1, 2017

Toward a Unified Metric of Kinetic and Nonkinetic Actions: Meaning Fields and the Arc of Effects

There is a critical need for new thinking on how the United States can better meet the full spectrum of kinetic and nonkinetic 21st-century security challenges. Revolutionary changes in information technologies, communications, and the composition of both nation-state and nonstate actors necessitate a change in our approach toward national security. Though emerging cyber capabilities tend to dominate current defense dialogues, technological advances in the traditional domains of land, sea, air, and space also demand a concept for holistically assessing the reality of our national security environment and the effects of actions we take toward those ends. In short, we need a unified cognitive approach for assessing and measuring kinetic and nonkinetic actions.

Dec. 12, 2016

Chapter 11 | Russia

U.S. and Western relations with Russia continue to deteriorate as Russia increasingly reasserts itself on the global stage. Driven by a worldview based on existential threats—real, perceived, and contrived—Russia, as a vast 11–time zone Eurasian nation with major demographic and economic challenges, has multiple security dilemmas both internally and along its vulnerable periphery that include uncertain borders to its south and far east. Exhibiting a reactive xenophobia curried from a long history of destructive war and invasion along most of its borders, the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s peaceful enlargement, and perceived Western slights, Russia increasingly threatens or lashes outward with its much improved but still flawed military. Time is not on Russia’s side, however, as it has entered into a debilitating status quo that includes unnecessary confrontation with the West, multiple unresolved military commitments, and a sanctions-strained economy. In a dual-track approach, the U.S. and its allies must deter Russian aggression while simultaneously rebuilding atrophied conduits between key U.S. and Russian political and operational military leaders to avert incidents or accidents that could lead to potential brinksmanship.

July 18, 2016

The Soviet Biological Weapons Program and Its Legacy in Today’s Russia

In its first Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Case Study, the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction (CSWMD) at the National Defense University examined President Richard M. Nixon’s decision, on November 25, 1969, to terminate the U.S. offensive biological weapons program. This occasional paper seeks to explain why the Soviet government, at approximately the same time, decided to do essentially the opposite, namely, to establish a large biological warfare (BW) program that would be driven by newly discovered and powerful biotechnologies. By introducing the innovation of recombinant DNA technology—commonly referred to as genetic engineering—the Soviets were attempting to create bacterial and viral strains that were more useful for military purposes than were strains found in nature.

July 1, 2016

Twenty-First Century Information Warfare and the Third Offset Strategy

It is well established that both state and nonstate adversaries are gaining parity with current U.S. military-technological capabilities, and as a result adversaries are eroding the tremendous asymmetrical conventional warfare advantages once exclusively enjoyed by U.S. forces. This leveling of the playing field has been enabled through decreased costs of modern information technology and low barriers of entry to attaining precision weapons; stealth capabilities; sophisticated commercial and military command and control (C2) capabilities; advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); and relatively cheap access to commercial and government-sponsored space and cyber capabilities. As a result, in November 2014, then–Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the Defense Innovation Initiative to counter adversary technical and tactical progress that, if left unchecked, will ultimately hinder U.S. ability to project power across the globe and permanently challenge its aims of retaining its coveted status as a global hegemon. While there are many aspects to this initiative, the Third Offset Strategy, as outlined in policy, does not adequately address the need for advanced information operations (IO), particularly IO wargaming, modeling and simulation (M&S), and training systems. The purpose of this article is to make the case that increasing the investment in joint live, virtual, and constructive (LVC) IO wargaming and simulations will generate lasting asymmetrical advantages for joint force commanders and will significantly contribute to the achievement of the Third Offset Strategy.

March 29, 2016

Back to Basics on Hybrid Warfare in Europe: A Lesson from the Balkans

The complex mix of aggressive behaviors Russia used in Georgia and Ukraine is commonly referred to as hybrid warfare, defined by one scholar as “a tailored mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism, and criminal behavior in the same time and battle space to obtain political objectives.” North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders fear Russia will use hybrid warfare to destabilize or occupy parts of Poland, the Baltic states, or other countries. They are trying to devise more effective responses to counter such a possibility. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg asserts that NATO must adapt to meet the hybrid warfare threat. Speaking at the same event, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter agreed and suggested “part of the answer” was “increased readiness, special operation forces, and more intelligence.” Several months earlier, Carter’s deputy, Robert Work, declared the United States also needed “new operational concepts” to confront hybrid warfare. Meanwhile some NATO countries are establishing special units to counter hybrid warfare tactics, and the U.S. Congress has required the Pentagon to come up with a strategy to counter hybrid warfare.