• Articles,  The Cipher Brief

    Russia’s Looming Military Exercise: A 21st Century Trojan Horse?

    Beginning Thursday, as many as 100,000 Russian and Belarusian troops will launch major military exercises along the border of three NATO countries. Russia’s upcoming Zapad military exercise, which will simulate a response to an attempted overthrow of the Belarusian government by an insurgency unfriendly to Russia, has European countries and the United States on edge at a time when relations between the NATO alliance and Moscow are colder than ever. Zapad has the potential to be the country’s largest military exercise since the Cold War – despite Russian claims that only roughly 13,000 troops will participate, Western defense officials have put forward estimates closer to 100,000. Many suspect the Russians…

  • Articles,  National Interest

    Zapad 2017: Should We Fear Russia’s Latest Military Dress Rehearsal?

    The Russian military is now a sharpened policy tool of choice for an emboldened but strategically defensive regime that relies on preemption. In mid-September, Russia will conduct Zapad “West” 2017, a major quadrennial military exercise that takes place near the borders of the Baltic States and Poland as well as inside independent Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. Not since the end of the Cold War has a modern-day military exercise prompted as much speculation and concern as this Western-oriented display of Vladimir Putin’s machines of war. The prospect of Zapad 2017 raises tantalizing and worrisome questions. Will it turn out to be a traditional preparedness operation, in which…

  • Articles,  New York Times

    The Quiet Americans

    Can Washington’s “Russia hands” help explain why the post-Cold War relationship has gone off the rails? By KEITH GESSEN The strangest Russian political scandal so far this year — a year that hasn’t lacked for them — revolves around a Belarusian escort named Anastasia Vashukevich, who goes by the name Nastya Rybka. Rybka, whose pseudonym means “little fish,” is a prolific Instagrammer, a teacher of “sex workshops” and the author of a how-to book, “Who Wants to Seduce a Billionaire?” She became famous in Russia this year for having chronicled, on Instagram, her 2016 affair with one particular billionaire, Oleg Deripaska. A few weeks later, she caught the world’s attention…

  • Articles,  Defense One

    US and Russian Military Leaders Are Meeting Again, Breaking a Long and Dangerous Drought

    Over three years had passed without direct senior-level contact between the world’s preeminent nuclear powers. The military leaders of the world’s most lethal nuclear-tipped states met in February, the first such meeting in three years. The two generals got together again earlier this month, once more in relative obscurity that belied their meetings’ tremendous importance. Long projected, but politically and geographically difficult to finalize, the Feb. 16 meeting was a personal first for Gen. Joseph Dunford and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, respectively the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Russia’s chief of the General Staff. They met in Baku, Azerbaijan, and frankly but cordially discussed the overall diminished…

  • Articles,  New York Times

    New York Times Quote

    Brig. Gen. Peter Zwack, a retired Army officer who was the American military attaché in Moscow at the time of the visit, said Mr. Flynn was not blind to the pitfalls of forging closer ties to Russia. He saw areas of mutual interest, as did many others in the United States at the time, but was always firm in advancing the American position in areas where there was disagreement, General Zwack said. “There was nothing kumbaya about these talks at all,” he said. “It was a question of finding common ground on this big, complex, fractious and increasingly dangerous planet.” ——— Mark Mazzetti  New York Times 10/10/2017 Originally Published: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/10/us/politics/trumps-national-security-pick-sees-ally-in-fight-against-islamists-russia.html 60…

  • Articles

    Charting a Course: Strategic Choices for a New Administration

    Chapter 11 | Russia By Peter B. Zwack, From Charting a Course / Published Dec. 12, 2016 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…

  • Articles,  NPR

    Russia Seen Moving New Missiles To Eastern Europe

    By Geoff Brumfield, NPR  In what could mark an escalation of tensions with the West, commercial satellite images suggest that Russia is moving a new generation of nuclear-capable missiles into Eastern Europe. Russia appears to be preparing to permanently base its Iskander missile system in Kaliningrad, a sliver of territory it controls along the Baltic coast between Lithuania and Poland. Arms control experts shared fresh satellite imagery with NPR, which they say provides evidence that the Iskander will soon be housed in the Russian-controlled enclave. The images show ground being cleared for tentlike shelters used at other Iskander bases, says Jeffrey Lewis, a nonproliferation expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “The pattern, and…

  • Articles,  Defense One

    Breaking Down US-Russian Distrust With Time, Talk, and Meals

    A recent session of the long-running Dartmouth Conference shows how non-governmental dialogue can ease tense relations. I was a recent participant in the Dartmouth Conference, one of the few remaining Track 2 — that is, non-governmental — dialogues between the U.S. and Russia. Its results may be especially interesting in the wake of the recent victory of President-elect Donald Trump and for those paying close attention to the difficult relations between our two countries. The oldest dialogue of its kind, the Conference has for 56 years enabled senior American and Russian citizens to seek mutual solutions to our shared political and geostrategic challenges. The three-day symposium I attended in late October was the 146th…

  • Articles,  Washington Post

    A Bright Spot in U.S.-Russian Relations

    With the Trump administration soon entering office, it is important to highlight increasingly rare U.S.-Russian non governmental engagements. I recently participated in the Carnegie Endowment-supported “Task Force on Regional Conflicts.” The topic was Syria, the Middle East and Afghanistan. Its goal was to develop several joint recommendations to forward to each government for consideration. Delegations included ambassadors, businessmen and academics, and the participants all had worked on aspects of U.S.-Russian, Middle Eastern and Afghan affairs. A key observation was when groups armed with rigid talking points and preconceived, mistrustful perceptions initially meet, rarely is there any headway if the encounter is just for a few hours. For progress, such groups…

  • Articles,  CNN

    A Reawakening Nuclear Nightmare

    When lecturing, I often ask students and young officers if they have seen the movie “Dr. Strangelove.” About a third typically raise their hands. I then ask them what is the essence of good satire, and someone will eventually offer, “The truth?” As crazy as Stanley Kubrick’s atomic-age cautionary tale was, that was the tension-edged atmosphere those of us older than 40 grew up with and remember. Sadly, the dark cloud of nuclear Armageddon that had faded since the end of the Cold War following the break-up of the Soviet Union is looming once again. Earlier this week, Russia made international headlineswith the unveiling of its RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile…