Russia’s relations with the West are in deep turmoil. While the competitive dynamic between Russia and the West has come to a head in Ukraine, all of the “in-between” states — Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan — are objects of a contest among outside powers. This contest has become a negative-sum game, benefiting none of the parties: The West and Russia now find themselves locked into a dangerous and damaging competition, while the states in the region remain to varying degrees unstable, unreformed, and rife with conflict. Both Russian and Western policy toward these states has seemingly reached a dead end. Continuing with the status quo will likely perpetuate instability, poor governance, and a long-term Cold War-like atmosphere in West-Russia relations. However, without a credible alternative to the status quo, both the West and Russia seem doomed to continue it. The RAND Corporation convened a working group composed of experts and former policy practitioners from the United States, the European Union, Russia and the in-between states to consider proposals to foster cooperation, reduce tensions, and increase stability. The papers collected here outline these findings and recommendations. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
This commentary is the third in a series of essays on the geostrategic importance of the Black Sea that already includes a brief historical perspective and an assessment of NATO-Russia tensions in the region. As the White House is reflecting on the conditions for resuming dialogue with Russia, this commentary focuses on Russia’s use of territorial, cultural, and ethnic regional dynamics in the region to create a buffer zone against the West and presents options for Black Sea states and their allies and partners. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization began in 1949, with 12 members, to curtail possible aggression against Europe. NATO now has 28 members, and Jolyon Howorth, an expert on European security and visiting professor at Yale University, analyzes the alliance’s transformations since the fall of the Soviet Union. “In the 1990s, realists predicted NATO’s imminent demise, pointing out that no alliance in history had outlived the disappearance of the threat against which it was formed,” he writes. The alliance survived that transition as a high-level political agency for managing transatlantic relations and later as a regional crisis management agency, opening to former members of the Warsaw Pact and taking on more global responsibilities for security assistance after the 9/11 attacks. NATO’s members have been divided over new missions, from Kosovo to Libya. Likewise, the United States under Barack Obama and especially under Donald Trump has expressed concerns about burden-sharing with Europe. Paradoxically, increased NATO activity near Russia’s borders may have spurred Russian intervention in Ukraine, reviving NATO’s original role. As Europe explores strategic autonomy, Howorth concludes by recommending that Europe become more self-reliant, taking control of NATO, while the United States gradually steps back. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
Russia’s illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea in March 2014 has challenged the integrity of Europe’s territorial borders and confirmed after the Georgia war in 2008 that Russia could react violently to perceived challenges to what it regards as its sphere of influence. This report first examines how European states perceive Russia’s behavior in eastern and northern Europe, and whether they regard Russian policy and behavior in these regions as an important security priority. The authors identify a number of fault lines within Europe with regard to threat perceptions and further analyze whether these divides extend to perceptions of NATO and the United States. NATO members closer geographically to Russia appear to be most concerned by Russia’s aggressive behavior, and are concerned that the Alliance is ill equipped to respond to the current crisis. Second, the report analyzes how European states have responded to Russian behavior. While European states generally agree that a firm response is required, they are also eager to maintain open channels of communication with Russia. Finally, the report examines how European states intend to shape their relationship with Russia in the future; what existing measures they intend to keep in place; what new measures they might implement; and prospects for NATO and EU expansion. This future relationship is based on a general understanding that relations with Russia have changed irremediably; tensions are unlikely to recede anytime soon; and future actions toward Russia will depend on Russian behavior. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
In “The United States and Turkey: Friends, Enemies, or Only Interests,” Aslı Aydıntaşbaş and Kemal Kirişci discuss the myriad of factors that have strained Washington’s relations with this long-standing NATO ally and offer various strategies to reboot ties in a period of uncertainty and chaos across the Middle East. Bilateral problems in this long alliance—such as Washington’s support for Syrian Kurds in Syria, the thorny issue of extraditing Fethullah Gülen, seen as the mastermind of the coup attempt in July 2016, or the long-term implications of Turkey’s blossoming relations with Moscow—are discussed within the context of the larger regional equation, underlining the need for new parameters and a realistic new agenda between Ankara and Washington. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
With the recent completion of the NATO Sea Shield exercise and NATO defense ministers’ approval of an enhanced force presence in the Black Sea, as Russian aircraft fly close to U.S. vessels operating there, this commentary focuses on the strategic implications of NATO’s military presence in the Black Sea. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
“[Vladimir] Putin’s aggression makes the possibility of a war in Europe between nuclear-armed adversaries frighteningly real,” writes Kimberly Marten in a new Council Special Report on tensions between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). She outlines how U.S. policymakers can deter Russian aggression with robust support for NATO, while reassuring Russia of NATO’s defensive intentions through clear words and actions based in international law.
Marten, a professor of political science at Barnard College, Columbia University, and director of the Program on U.S.-Russia Relations at Columbia’s Harriman Institute, lays out several scenarios that could lead to a dangerous confrontation, ranging from an inadvertent encounter between NATO and Russian military aircraft or ships to an intentional Russian land grab in Europe. The report, produced by the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, offers a plan for how the Donald J. Trump administration could work with Congress and NATO allies to lessen the chances of crisis escalation. [Note: contains copyrighted material].