Conscious of a Russia with an evolving foreign and security policy, non-resident fellow in GMF’s foreign policy and civil society program, Dr. Celeste Wallander, is inquiring how the United States, and on broader terms, NATO and Europe, view Russian policy actions. Asking such provocative questions as how Russia is not stuck in the Cold War and why that is a problem, Dr. Wallander allows for a chance to engage in dialogue about the best way to address Russia in the modern world system.
Mindful of the opportunities this presents, on June 12, the GMF Warsaw office gathered officials and analysts alike, for discussion on Russian security policy. Wallander was joined in debate by former Minister of National Defense of Poland, Janusz Onyszkiewicz, and former Ambassador to Poland from the United States and current GMF Senior Transatlantic Fellow, Lee Feinstein. The event was introduced by GMF Warsaw Director, Michał Baranowski, who highlighted the importance of these discussions, not only with regard to policy creation, but to continuing the Central European-American friendship and addressing the Euro-Atlantic integration toward “a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace.”
Ambassador Feinstein, taking on the role of moderator, began the discussion with brief remarks on Russian security before Wallander offered her points on how Russian security policy has evolved from a Cold War mindset, along with the potential challenges their new efforts of “stability seeking” present. Her analysis of Russian military doctrine emphasizes that, while tactics of mutually assured destruction and fear of full scale war have been replaced with stabilizing measures to prevent small-scale conflicts, the United States is still perceived as the key threat for Russia. Wallander suggests one way to address this is to focus on transparency in what Russians view as key points, such as the 2014 removal of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops from Afghanistan. This topic is of particular interest to Russia and something that NATO members can easily address as a sincere gesture of transparency and step toward rebuilding confidence. Minister Onyszkiewicz’s reply focused on the idea that, though Russia has shifted in certain security areas, there are concepts and policies that endure from the Cold War mentality. Responding to remarks of the notion of a “reset” with Russia, Onyszkiewicz said a blank slate was not the best way to address security relations. Rather, he suggested that Europe, NATO, and the United States continue to work toward better security relations, while holding Russia accountable for past security grievances.
Feinstein held a Q&A session for the last half hour of the event, in which the audience raised questions on everything from the dynamic location of Poland in security and the future of the U.S. military presence in Europe to potential security threats from countries such as China and Iran. Wallander and Onyszkiewicz deftly answered the questions in turn, in the end presenting like-minded thoughts on the necessity of NATO working with Russians to gain mutual understanding and build up a system of trust for the future of security.
At the conclusion of the discussion, it seemed the panel was in agreement that, though working toward transparency and confidence building with Russia could sometimes seem futile, it was the best tactic for improved security relations. Minister Onyszkiewicz remarked during the Q&A, though beating one’s head against a wall may seem hopeless, the Polish well know that doing it enough can lead the wall to crumble. With the United States holding strong to the commitment of transatlantic security, and the Polish setting a standard for NATO countries in East, it seems that there remains hope in tackling the challenges presented by security relations with Russia. As Dr. Wallander underlined, the effort now falls NATO and its members to decide how, or if, they address these challenges. Though Russian security goes far beyond what is available in public doctrine analysis, there are suggestions as to how transparency efforts can be directed. While the security policy with regard to Russia has thus far been that of “try, try again” the evidence suggests that refocusing efforts in more relevant areas of concern to Russia has the potential to change the policy outcome.