On March 17, 2016, the GMF Warsaw office, in partnership with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), held a public event titled “Moscow, Washington, and Damascus: Is Cooperation Really Possible?” that explored the United States’ relations with Russia, the role each country has played to date in the Syrian civil war, and the future outlook on these three fronts.
The discussion began with an opening by Dr. Michael Carpenter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense with responsibility for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia at the United States Department of Defense. Dr. Carpenter provided perspective on U.S. defense strategy toward Russia, focusing in particularly on increased deterrence across NATO’s eastern flank under programs such as the European Reassurance Initiative. Despite the need for greater budget allocations geared towards this region, however, Dr. Carpenter underscored that the goal of U.S. security and defense strategy in regards to Russia is for the United States to cooperate with Russia under a rule-based international system, rather than maintain a political standoff.
The event then switched tracks to a panel moderated by Derek Chollet, Counselor and Senior Advisor for security and defense policy at GMF, with discussants Kadri Liik, Senior Policy Fellow at ECFR; Marek Menkiszak, Head of the Russian Department at the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW); Angela Stent, Director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University; and Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Director of the GMF Ankara office.
Building off the first half of the event, the panelists discussed how Russia is capable of changing narratives around the world, from having a major impact on the perceived weakness of the United States and Europe in light of the refugee crisis and Syrian Civil War, to maintaining a strong presence in parts of eastern Europe. While debating the merits of Russia as a partner to regional players such as Turkey or the Baltics, the panelists also noted that the perception of Russia as a weak state is a dangerous misconception. In concluding their discussion and engaging in questions from audience, the event ended on the consensus of striving towards cooperation with Russia, while overcoming the weaknesses in transatlantic relations the Russian government may seek to exacerbate.