Russia’s Design in The Black Sea: Extending the Buffer Zone

Russia’s Design in The Black Sea: Extending the Buffer Zone. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Boris Toucas. June 28, 2017

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].

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The Impossible Quest for Absolute Security

The Impossible Quest for Absolute Security. YaleGlobal. Richard Weitz. July 11, 2017

An immediate challenge for the international community, one that dominated discussions at the G20 summit in Hamberg, is North Korea. The dogged pursuit of a nuclear weapons by the rogue nation illustrates the repercussions and security dilemma of any nation’s quest for absolute security, heightening anxiety among neighboring states along with hostile rhetoric and buildup of catastrophic weapons. Richard Weitz, director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, suggests that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization formed by China, Russia and other neighbors after the Cold War, may offer some lessons. “Although rarely openly discussed at Eurasian meetings, member states value the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a means of enhancing mutual reassurance among members to reduce regional security dilemmas,” he writes. “SCO documents and statements repeatedly renounce the logic of absolute security, and members overly commit to eschewing actions that could harm other members’ security.” A challenge for the SCO, of course, is balancing relations between Russia and China. Unequivocal pursuit of dominance in security and economic affairs, without concern for neighboring states, is a recipe for disaster. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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European Relations with Russia: Threat Perceptions, Responses, and Strategies in the Wake of the Ukrainian Crisis

European Relations with Russia: Threat Perceptions, Responses, and Strategies in the Wake of the Ukrainian Crisis. RAND Corporation. Stephanie Pezard et al. April 13, 2017.

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].

[PDF format, 121 pages, 2.98 MB].

NATO and Russia in the Black Sea: A New Confrontation?

NATO and Russia in the Black Sea: A New Confrontation? Center for Strategic & International Studies. Boris Toucas. March 6, 2017

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].

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Reducing Tensions Between Russia and NATO

Reducing Tensions Between Russia and NATO. Council on Foreign Relations. Kimberly Marten. March 2017.

“[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].

[PDF format, 67 pages, 2.04 MB].

The Geostrategic Importance of the Black Sea Region: A Brief History

The Geostrategic Importance of the Black Sea Region: A Brief History. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Boris Toucas. February 2, 2017

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014 refocused global attention on the strategic significance of a region that rests on the fault lines of two former empires—the Russian and Ottoman Empires—with involvement by European powers, such as Great Britain, France, and Germany. This analysis provides an overview of the region with a view that the past is prologue to the region’s future as restive powers reanimate empirical political and military strategies in a modern context. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank

Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank. RAND Corporation. David A. Shlapak, Michael Johnson. November 2016.

Russia’s recent aggression against Ukraine has disrupted nearly a generation of relative peace and stability between Moscow and its Western neighbors and raised concerns about its larger intentions. From the perspective of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the threat to the three Baltic Republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—former Soviet republics, now member states that border Russian territory—may be the most problematic. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 14 pages, 1.49 MB].