Russia Policy After the Next U.S. President

Russia Policy After the Next U.S. President


– I met Evelyn when we were both students at the Fletcher School
of Law and Diplomacy. I was getting my master’s
degree, she was getting her PhD. And she was one of those people who just made the Fletcher
family, as we called it, a real family. She was engaged with everyone,
was interested in everything, was a friend to all
and a colleague to all. She was one of those people
that you just admire so much and everyone admires her so much that you just are dying for her to make one tiny little mistake. (speaker laughs) From Fletcher she went
on to teach at the Army, not the Army, the Marine
College for four years, and then she jumped
out of that frying pan, and I can call the
Marine thing a frying pan ’cause I was in the Army for 27 years, into the congressional
fire for seven years. She worked as a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And I just wanna read to you
the things that she covered when she was on that committee. Asia Pacific, Western Hemisphere, Special Operations Command,
peace and stability operations, combating terrorism,
counter-narcotics, homeland defense, and export control policy. So can you imagine all that? And we wonder why the
Congress doesn’t function. Right, okay. She then served as senior adviser to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. It’s a great title,
right, Professor Castillo? We love those titles. A senior fellow at the
American Security Project and an executive director
of the Commission on the Prevention of
Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. From 2012 to 2015, when
I was on the Joint Staff, she was the Deputy Assistant
Secretary for Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. Since then, Dr. Farkas has applied this amazing span of knowledge as a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and is now a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund and CNA. But most famously, if you watch MSNBC, you have seen her there regularly. She’s been on “The Last
Word,” “The Morning Show,” other shows. She’s been on ABC with Bill Maher, she’s been on CNN and other
places you have seen her. You’ve heard her on NPR,
on Deep State Radio, and other places. And you’ve probably read her too in too many publications to mention. And she’s fantastic in all of these for she has a way of
taking complex problems and simplifying them,
and that is a real art. She is bold, she’s very courageous, she’s highly strategic and contextual, she’s humble and she’s funny, and you’ll see all this today. So throw whatever you want at her, I promise you she can handle it. Ask her about Russia, certainly, but you can ask her
about non-proliferation, the Mueller Report,
domestic American politics, Syria, Ukraine, and
grand strategy, I’m sure. But one more thing I have to warn you, she does not have a poker face. (chuckles) If something’s funny, she laughs. If something’s stupid
and she’s on television, her face says that was stupid. I’m just warning you. But she’s the real deal, the real deal. What you see is what you get. She is authentic, the same
person she was back in 1995 is the same person she is today, the girl you just couldn’t
help but wanna be friends with and the person we all learned from, and I know you’re gonna
learn from her today as well. So without further ado,
Dr. Farkas, please. (audience applauds) – Okay, now I feel like I should
run out of here immediately because Dr. Field, who is my
former colleague, as she said, and my friend, has really
over-amplified probably who I am and raised expectations,
so I will try to deliver. First of all, thank you
so much to the school for inviting me. Thank you very much Dr.
Natsios and your team. Thank you Professor Castillo. And of course thank you, Kim. Thank you all of you for
taking time out to watch me give you a quick,
hopefully, relatively quick and dirty discussion
about Russia’s objectives and what we can expect as a result and how we should approach Russia. I know that tonight there
are other things going on, although maybe you’re
not so politically junky, you’re not such political
junkies like we are in Washington because we would all be
glued to our television sets because of the crazy democratic debates. So I will try to be not as theatrical as the Democratic debates. I will try to be shorter. I will try to be a little
bit funny if I can. And what I really look forward
to, I have to be honest, even though I had to prepared something because this is a keynote, I love a Q&A and so I really look forward to hearing what’s on your minds. There are a lot of experts
in the room right now and I’m a bit intimidated,
they’re sitting in the front row, and I think you’re gonna
hear them start snoring soon because some of this, if you’re an expert and you’ve been paying a
lot of attention to Russia and deeply seeped in all of this, some of what I say today will
not be new to you at all. But I hope that I put
it together in a package that makes it at least a fresh reminder, and then, again, at the end we have a really good conversation. So I will start now and then, like I said, we will go to Q&A, and I
guess I’m moderating that. So to really understand
US-Russia relations today and to begin to craft a
strategy for the future, we all must fully grasp
in a clear-eyed fashion that Russia is a geopolitical
threat to the United States, its allies and partners, to democracy, and to the post-World War
II international order. And here I agree 100% with the comment about Russia versus China, and
we can talk about it later, but Russia is the country
that, as I like to say, is in our grill. They are right now in
our face, if you will, trying to disrupt our democracy, trying to disrupt the international order. And this of course is most
unfortunate. (chuckles) The United States did not choose to enter a political war with Russia and the American people
do not and should not harbor ill will towards
the Russian people. But make no mistake,
the Russian government, under Russian President Vladimir Putin, has decided to attack America, American democracy, and our interests. It’s equally important
of course to understand why this is the case. The Russian president and his Kremlin have one main objective: to stay in power, to maintain the corrupt
kleptocratic government, the autocratic government
they have in Russia today. To achieve this objective,
Putin has determined he must demonstrate to the Russian people that he is making Russia great again. Indeed, after Russia’s
economic growth slowed in 2001, he has found it useful
to distract Russians with military adventurism abroad. Putin seeks to re-establish a
sphere of influence for Russia which includes the territory that comprised the former Soviet Union and, if he can get away with
it, also the Eastern Bloc. He and his Kremlin cronies don’t
want an international order based on existing
multilateral institutions, the ones that have served
democracy, human rights, and the United States so well. No, Moscow instead seeks
the old 19th century balance of power system where the strongest
countries make the rules, where autocrats are unchallenged by external and internal
democratic forces. This world, as we all know,
if we’ve studied some history, based on the past, is also a world where nations
live in a state of mistrust, arms races, and cycles
of protectionism and war. Meanwhile, Putin believes
that the United States, the strongest diplomatic, economic, and military power in the world, continues to spread democracy, including to the Russian Federation. Therefore Putin is determined
to make Russia weak, unable and unwilling to support democracy for oppressed peoples. In order to achieve his objectives, Putin and his government
have repeatedly violated international law norms and human rights. Indeed, Russia is no
longer a status quo power. Since 2008, Moscow has been
breaking international law and challenging the international order, and a lot of times when I get
to this part of the speech I’ll say, okay, here goes the
litany of the lamentables. You know, a whole list of
like 20 things Russia has done to basically commit crimes
against the international order. I’ve lumped them here
together in 10 categories, starting with the Russian military invaded neighboring Republic of Georgia in 2008 and continues to occupy
20% of its territory. In 2014, as we all know,
Russia invaded Ukraine and illegally annexed Crimea. Moscow also ignited a separatist war in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, a conflict that has claimed
13,000 lives and counting. The Kremlin has murdered
a list of its enemies in other countries,
including the United Kingdom, France, Ukraine, Germany,
and most likely in 2015 in the DC death of Mikhail
Lesin in the United States. And it has used chemical and
nuclear materials to do so. Russian fighters shot down
Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 over Ukraine,
killing 298 innocent people. Russia has interfered in elections in Western and Eastern
Europe and the United States, and continues to conduct
information operations aimed at sowing discord and division and eroding confidence in democracy. Last March, Putin, whoop, sorry. Never mind, we learned last year from our intelligence community
that Russian cyber actors infiltrated our energy and
water grids and inserted malware to facilitate potential
future attacks on America. Russia violated the Intermediate
Nuclear Forces Treaty and several conventional
arms control agreements aimed at boosting political
and military confidence and reducing the risk of war. Its military continues to conduct unprofessional risky air operations, buzzing US and Allied ships and aircraft. Russian military jets have encroached upon US, European, and Japanese airspace at levels not seen since the Cold War, necessitating defensive military
maneuvers by our aircraft in response. Russian naval forces continue to violate Ukrainian freedom of navigation rights and to illegally hold three
vessels seized last November. They recently did return the 23 sailors they’d been holding for almost a year as a result of a prisoner swap
between Russia and Ukraine. And the Russian government and its forces have assisted the Syrian military with the deliberate bombing campaign against innocent civilian hospitals and a humanitarian convoy. Russia continues to provide
military and economic support to the brutal regime of
Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the illegitimate, devastating rule of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. And I do hope we get a
chance to talk about Syria in the Q&A. All of this has been supported by an aggressive and targeted
military modernization. The Russian military reorganized
into regional commands and established a land force brigade to increase the volunteer
component of their armed forces. In 2010, the government announced a 10-year $700 billion plan to provide 70% of the military
with modern equipment. The plan has proceeded at a pace providing better conventional
missiles among other things, and according to the
Russian Minister of Defense, as of last December, nuclear forces that are 82% modernized. Last March, Putin announced
Russia was developing new nuclear systems,
including a heavy ICBM with an ability to
carry multiple warheads, a hypersonic glide vehicle, an autonomous underwater vehicle, and a nuclear-powered cruise missile. This last item, the
so-called Skyfall missile, was the cause of a radioactive explosion on August 8th in Russia during an effort to recover the missile which had failed a test and
fallen into the White Sea. While some see these new nuclear weapons as a Russian attempt to
achieve military superiority over the United States, others
note they likely represent a Russian response to concerns about US missile defense capabilities, and the answer could be both. For the last decade or so, Russian bombers have been conducting long-range aviation sorties
with greater frequency and submarines and surface Navy vessels have deployed to areas
they hadn’t been seen in since the Soviet days. Since Putin returned to
the presidency in 2011 and appointed Sergey
Shoygu Minister of Defense, snap conventional and nuclear exercises have become regular military business. The Russian government is
overseeing a military buildup in the Arctic, heralded by the establishment
of the Arctic Command in December 2014. The Kremlin has deployed the S-400, its most modern missile defense system, and anti-ship missiles to the Arctic. Moscow asserts it has built
475 new military sites and 16 new deepwater ports, and stationed military
personnel at six Arctic bases. Russia deployed the nuclear-capable Condor missile defense
system to Kaliningrad and has substantially beefed
up its military capabilities in Crimea. Moscow has increased its
threatening military posture vis-a-vis Japan, conducting long-range
aviation flights over Japan and building up defense facilities for personnel and equipment on two of the northern
territory / Kuril Islands, whose sovereignty is in dispute
between Russia and Japan. That’s a legacy of World War II. Finally, the Russian
government has come to rely on mercenary forces, most
blatantly in Ukraine and Syria, where some of these forces,
in the latter place, where some of these forces clashed with US special operators in 2018 resulting in about a
hundred Russian casualties and about 200 more wounded. Contract forces working for
companies run by Putin cronies offer the Kremlin deniability of involvement in military operations and of Russian casualties, since, unlike the armed forces, these companies are not required
to publicly report them. While the Russian people
may want their country to be great again, the wars in Ukraine and
Syria are not popular. The Russian public is sensitive to casualties in these engagements and the memory of fierce opposition to the war in Afghanistan, especially from mothers
of the soldiers killed, is still sharp in the minds
of older Kremlin officials. These private military forces
have also helped bolster Russia’s political and economic influence on weak autocratic states in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular but also in Egypt and Libya. Meanwhile Russian military
doctrine has evolved dangerously. In 1993, nuclear first use was no longer explicitly prohibited, but starting with the with
the 2010 military doctrine Russia has repeatedly declared the right to first use of a nuclear weapon in the event that the existence
of the state was at risk. Of course, it is Putin and his Kremlin who determine when the state is at risk. The Russian armed forces also
developed a further means to address their conventional
inferiority vis-a-vis the West by adopting a deterrence doctrine that relies on nuclear
or asymmetric weapons to achieve escalation dominance. This concept is sometimes referred to as escalating to de-escalate. The rationale is by raising
the price to the adversary through a cyberattack or
a limited nuclear attack, a limited use of a nuclear weapon, Russia could force the
enemy to capitulate. It could also be a
demonstration explosion. Hence the idea of sitting on
a US power or energy grid, a shock attack on those grids could send a clear message
to the United States to stay out of a conflict
or withdraw from a conflict, likely involving what Russia
considers its vital interests, so most likely in Europe or Eurasia. I know I’m already depressing you guys and I’m not even done. (laughs) But I’m getting close. Russia, in summary, really is
no longer a status quo power. Together with China, which seeks to co-opt rather than destroy the
international order at this point, Moscow aims to return to a 19th
century sphere of influence international disorder. Again, we know from history
that this alternative to the current global
order leads to great power, military competition,
economic protectionism, and ultimately war. Russia would like nothing better than a United States
uncoupled from alliances that have brought us
unprecedented military, economic, and diplomatic success. That means NATO, our only operational
collective security alliance, but also our commitments in
Asia to Israel and elsewhere. So what have we done in response to this? Well, we have taken concerted military, diplomatic, and economic action. We have bolstered deterrence, especially in NATO’s eastern areas of vulnerability to Russia, and provided valuable military energy and economic assistance to Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Balkan, and other states neighboring Russia or laboring under
Russian pressure tactics. Since Ukraine is very much
in the news these days, I’m gonna take a few
minutes just to pause on it. The United States has provided
Ukraine with $320 million in non-military aid per
year from 2015 to 2018 and $1.5 billion in security
assistance since 2014. We also provided in
the crucial early years after the Maidan Revolution in 2014 $3 billion in vital loan
guarantees to Ukraine. The European Union and
its financial institutions have provided more than $16.5 billion in grants and loans to Ukraine for its economic and political
reform efforts since 2014. On top of that, many nations have pledged millions of dollars of
bilateral assistance, including Germany, the
United Kingdom, and Japan. Indeed, without much fanfare,
Japan actually has given $3.1 billion in assistance to
Ukraine since the early 1990s. And I love that fact and I
am a big supporter of Japan for many reasons, they’re
a really good ally, and when I was staffing
Secretary Ash Carter at the NATO Council where all
the defense ministers meet, I gave him, as part of his
speech he had a whole section where he had to say what
all the Allies had done and then he would include Japan, and I knew he was gonna turn
around and say, “Japan?” And I had this card with
everything Japan had done and I was so proud of that, and it was also very helpful
when we needed Japanese help with sanctions vis-a-vis Russia, to kind of give them the credit
and tell them to keep going. So yes, if you did the math
and you notice the numbers, Europeans have contributed
an estimated 2/3 of all the aid to Ukraine since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. And this I would say is probably the most important thing we
have done and continue to do on behalf of democracy and
the international order. Putin’s greatest fear is that Ukraine will achieve the objectives of its new young president,
Volodymyr Zelensky, that Ukraine’s democratic
state will become a thriving free-market economy free of systematic corruption. For if the Ukrainian people can succeed in achieving this ambition, the aspiration that brought
them to the streets in 2014 to protest their corrupt
pro-Russian government, then why can’t the Russian
people follow suit? And I think most of you would
agree they deserve no less. So let’s take stock. We have deterred Russia
from taking more territory in Ukraine or on its periphery,
on Russia’s periphery, and from conventional or
unconventional attack on or invasion of NATO countries. We have caused some
social and economic pain to Putin cronies through sanctions. But we have not stopped Russia
from waging war in Ukraine, remember the hot war in Donbass, inhibiting freedom of
navigation in the Black Sea, conducting cyber and
information operation attacks against the United States,
our allies and partners. Indeed, just with regard to
the 2020 elections alone, experts are uncovering new
attacks and warning campaigns to improve their security almost daily. There is every reason to believe Putin’s aggressive foreign
policy will continue unabated until he is no longer in office, which at the moment officially is 2024. Putin is the politically
weakest he has been since 2014. Public anger arose in the
aftermath of a government decision I believe it was last year to increase, it may have been earlier
this year, the pension age, and we witnessed the largest,
broadest demonstrations against the regime this past summer against corruption and the
barring of opposition candidates from running for Moscow
City Council positions. So things could change suddenly in Russia, as they have throughout its history, but until the day a more
pragmatic government emerges, one that puts the Russian people first, we must stand firm. And I would argue that we
have not been firm enough. We must continue, so this
is for the next president, we must continue to counter
the threats posed by Russia. In Europe, the US and
NATO must keep providing the military support and advice to Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, including lethal,
defensive, ground, maritime, and air systems. The US must help prepare
Bosnia and Kosovo, the two remaining Balkan
aspirants for NATO membership, and neutralize the threat
posed by Russian influence and presence in the region. NATO members must
contribute more to building military conventional an
asymmetric capabilities. All allies of course
should meet their pledge to spend 2% of their GDP on defense and invest 20% of that in
major capabilities by 2024. NATO should also establish a fund to help Eastern European
allies and partners who continue to depend
on Russian equipment, legacy Soviet equipment, basically. This continued reliance on Russian systems is a vulnerability Moscow will exploit. And I’m leaving out the Turkey problem. We can do that on Q&A. Because, as many know, Turkey is now purchasing Russian weapons, and they’re in the NATO system, and that creates a vulnerability for us. To counter bad actors such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, so this is not limited just to Russia, NATO should define cyberattacks or hybrid little green men operations that would trigger Article 5, and develop more exercises
and plans in these areas. So I had the opportunity this
summer to go to Brussels, and I can’t talk too much about it, but one of the things I was dealing with the representatives to
the NATO Security Council, the permanent representatives, so those are the ambassadors. Ours is former senator, now
Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison. And they were engaged in an exercise. And one of the things I concluded was it’s very important to have
strong asymmetric deterrence because, if you don’t,
there’s the danger then that you grab, you being
NATO, the United States, you grab for conventional military rather than respond in
the asymmetric realm. So I think that’s a real urgent
requirement, I would say, for the United States and for
our NATO allies in particular. We must of course here
in the United States increase our defenses against cyber and information operations. People write whole books and
articles on that topic alone. Globally, we must deepen our targeted sanctions against Russia, but also broaden them
to gain participation from allies outside of Europe. I don’t believe we did a good enough job in the past with that, and we need to have more
countries joining us in sanctioning Russian cronies and those companies and individuals who enable Putin’s
aggressive foreign policy. The United States and our
Democratic allies and partners should increase funding for civil society, independent media, and organizations focused on
anti-corruption worldwide. And that includes Russia, if we can. And of course it’s hard
because it’s illegal in Russia. At the same time, we must
maintain communication with the Russian government to decrease the risk of military conflict and to explain the dangers
of Russia’s military doctrine and doomsday weapons. We should also explore areas
for potential mutual gain in arms control and combating terrorism. You never know when when
one side or the other will come up with an idea and
something might be possible. We must also continue to reach
out to the Russian people and to find ways to support their efforts to defend their human rights, achieve greater political
freedom and economic opportunity. Finally, and most importantly, and I’ve said this in
testimony before Congress earlier this year. I was a little bit wagging
my finger, verbally at least. America and our allies must
renew our vows to democracy. Democratic backsliding can’t be ignored, especially when Russia works every day to cripple our societies and politics. We must heed the warning of the authors of how democracies die. Democracies die, just
as a reminder of what, this is the cliff notes of the book, when leaders, one, refuse
to play by democratic rules. Two, delegitimize their opponents. Three, tolerate or encourage violence. And four, are prepared to curtail the civil rights of political
opponents and the media. We must shore up our democracy
and improve the processes and functioning of its institutions. We must ensure civility
and democratic culture. We must fight corruption and
improve our capitalist system to provide transparency,
opportunity, and basic wellbeing for all Americans. That, ladies and gents, is
how we prevail over Putin and set the stage for a better future for Russia and the US-Russia relationship. And I’m now happy to take your questions. And I’ll probably walk around a little bit because I’m cold standing
in one place. (laughs) It’s cold, yeah. Dr. Natsios? – [Dr. Natsios] In one of
the journals of public health that a lot of the anti-vaccine movement in the United States is
actually generated from Russia through this asymmetrical warfare. It’s one thing for them
to disrupt our democracy. Why would they spread stories
that vaccines are dangerous? That’s a public health question. What’s their motivation for doing that? – Yeah. Well, if you recall this is
kind of an old Soviet trick, this disinformation. Because during the Soviet days they used disinformation about AIDS to mislead the American public
and create some hysteria. You raise a valid point. Are they really trying
to kill American babies or older Americans who are not vaccinated? I don’t think that’s the intent. The intent is to distract,
to cause dissension. They know it’s an issue where
people feel really emotional. Even President Trump himself has said he thinks vaccines could cause autism. The Russians where our weak spots are, where are our areas of friction are. Obviously race is another one. They’re all over our racial issues, on the Internet and elsewhere,
creating fake demonstrations. I remember in 2015 when I was
in the Pentagon very clearly and my colleague, who was
my deputy in the office at the time, she was in charge
of everyone in the office, Black Lives Matter was coming to the fore and there were demonstrators. And I looked at her and I said, “I know this is a valid,
obvious, valid movement, “and there are real grievances
here and real problems. “But I bet you a million dollars “the Russians are somewhere
in there mucking around.” And sure enough, they were. We found out they were. The other thing they
like to do is separatism. So we’re here in Texas. (laughs) Two of the biggest fake
separatist movements that we have in the United States have been funded by Russia. One of the guys was in
California, he fled to Moscow, so I think that one’s defunct. I don’t know about the Texas one. But these existed
virtually, funded by Russia, to try to create tension. And what’s the objective? Well, again, if you remember what our intelligence community told us, what the Mueller Report also concluded based on the intelligence
work that was done before he got into the office even, was that the Russians
wanted to sow discord, they wanted to make us
not trust our democracy, and they also sort of favor Donald Trump. So some of these things also
were to kind of tamp down, maybe depress the African-American
turn out, for example, because they figured that
would help Hillary Clinton, the African-American turnout, that is, so they tried to depress it by saying, “Don’t vote for Hillary, she’s X Y and Z.” There was a lot of, in fact,
a disproportionate amount of the propaganda on Facebook, et cetera, was directed to African-Americans
for that reason. Does that help? (laughs) – [Man] So, I liked the comment you made about Russia’s in our grill. – Yeah. – [Man] And when I teach this
I always say the opposite, that we’re in Russia’s grill. When I think of the list
of grievances you made, I think of the list of grievances that Russia might count as well. We told the we’d win unified Germany. We did. We told we wanted to put a
unified Germany in NATO, we did. We expanded NATO twice. Got rid of the ABM Treaty. Then we put missile defense
almost on their grill. So I wonder, what’s the
right strategy for Russia if it’s not happy with
the international order? What’s the right strategy for Russia if it feels like we’re in its grill? What’s a legitimate way of challenging the international order if you’ve got some legitimate grievances? One idea that you mentioned is Russia is looking for
a sphere of influence. Why not give them a sphere of influence? – Okay, so. No, I liked that, I liked that question, because there are times when
I give, how do I say it, the benefit of the doubt is too strong, but my beef in particular
with Russia is not necessarily how they view their
geostrategic situation, as you just laid out, it’s what they’ve done to try
to achieve their objectives. So of course I would say, not
this, don’t do any of that, and play by the rules. Before I get to that part
of the answer, though, I do want to say I agree with you, I think we did a lot of things to contribute to the situation
that we have with Russia. What do I mean by that? I know that President
George HW Bush, (laughs) very much feeling his presence here. And, by the way, what a foreign policy genius administration that was. I mean, unparalleled,
really, in my lifetime. Don’t tell everyone I said that. (audience laughs) Don’t tell those I serve. But really phenomenal. Everything that that
administration was hit with, they handled expertly. The only thing they didn’t
handle quite so perfectly, and if they’d had a little more time I believe maybe they would have, because Lawrence Eagleburger
finally figured it out in the dawning days, was Yugoslavia. But how could you blame them when everything else that
was so consequential, they handled very well? And George HW Bush and his administration understood don’t gloat, but
not everybody got the message. And so a lot of Americans
were running around gloating, so that was the first thing,
you know, we were not. And then beyond that, because Madeleine Albright often will say, “We were respectful, we
welcomed them in as equals.” And my answer to that is, and I love Madeleine Albright,
I’m a huge fan of hers, but my answer to that is they didn’t wanna be
welcomed in as equals, they didn’t wanna be France,
they didn’t wanna be Austria. They were the former Soviet Union. They wanted to be like us, not
like those small countries. And that, we didn’t quite get. Bill Clinton understood it in
the way he handled Yeltsin. If you read how he handled Yeltsin, he treated him still like a big leader of a large landmass, et cetera,
with a lot of resources, and it worked, to a large extent. But there was a certain amount of hubris that they picked up on, rightfully, and we didn’t understand that they’re not gonna all of a sudden get over their empire. And part of what the
Russian people legitimately, I mean, there’s a lot of
literature on this too, and a lot of Nobel Prizes have been won based on that literature, looking at the trauma that the Russian people have experienced. So there is a real issue there
that Putin is also addressing when he says, “Make Russia great again.” The other thing I would say,
as somebody who witnessed what happened with the
ABM Treaty on the Hill, so I was working for
Carl Levin at the time, and he was very much opposed to the US abrogating the ABM Treaty, so withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, because he understood we have
mutual assured destruction, it works, why mess with it? But for the Bush administration, I mean, a totally valid
reason, but different, was but we gotta do something
about these rogue actors. Iraq at the time, Iran, North Korea. They could lob a missile at us. So this is not about Russia. Forget about Russia, that’s old news. We gotta do this missile defense thing. But the Russians immediately saw, well, this is totally destabilizing,
this is untenable. And so that was the beginning of a lot of things that
then occurred over time where we ignored, for example, after 9/11, the Russian government under Putin said, “We’re on your side,
we’re gonna help you.” And we were, “Okay, thanks.” And, again, we didn’t
manage them quite so well, and they had legitimate concerns. I get a little bit impatient
though with the encirclement ’cause I don’t know
whether the Russian people worry that much about
encirclement day to day. And even the military, they
know that they can deter us. But I can understand why
they would want assurances. And so I think there is a
lot of room for assurances, we had very good conventional arms control and the Russians are the ones who started mucking around with that. Yes, we expanded, though,
and that’s a valid point. We came up with a mechanism for it we thought that would work
with the NATO-Russia Council. Obviously, it didn’t. So my beef is mainly with the means, the means that the Russians have employed. Maybe we could find a way to negotiate certain
confidence measures with them. But the sphere of influence is a no-go. And I say this is a Hungarian-American, somebody whose family
hails from Eastern Europe. The Ukrainian people, they
want the right to determine their own political system and their affiliations internationally. They don’t want Russia telling them that they have to do business with Russia, that they have to be part of Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union, which is a corrupt loser for them, right? So, understandably, they
wanna be rich like Poland. I mean, that’s basically what happened. And I don’t think it’s for
us to tell those people that they can’t determine their futures. I mean, yes, we don’t
have to be aggressive about democratic change in countries, and I would argue that we haven’t been, and certainly not as aggressive as Vladimir Putin thinks we have been, because he’d probably be gone by now if we were so aggressive. So I guess it really comes down, to me, to you cannot say no to those
people and those countries, it’s their right to decide do
they wanna be part of NATO, and it’s the right of NATO
to say, “You can join,” and same with the EU. (people mumbling inaudibly) – [Larry] Yes, one, two, three? – Yes. – [Larry] Okay, I’m Larry Napper, I’m a professor of the practice
here at the Bush School. You mentioned we should be on
the lookout for opportunities, albeit limited, to
cooperate on certain things, or at least to keep the
spiral from further spiraling. – Yeah. – [Larry] And I wanna
ask you a specific thing in the arms control arena. Do you favor an extension
of the New START Treaty, which will otherwise
expire in February 2021? – Yes, absolutely. I think for a couple of
reasons, and practical reasons, because it does allow us
to do some inspection, to have some sense of
what’s happening in Russia and vice-versa. So, again, practical terms. Also, for the principle of it. I think to walk away from that
arms control agreement means then we have no functioning
arms control agreements with Russia anymore, and I don’t see how that
makes the world a safer place. And it would not be very hard,
I don’t think, to extend, I’m not in the administration
right now, admittedly, and it’s always easier from the outside. But the Russian government, I don’t think they’re
interested in necessarily building up their stockpile
or spending the money on it. I think they feel that they
have sufficient deterrence in the nuclear realm, their concern is more in the conventional. And so I think that we could
get to an agreement with them if we were so inclined. Of course, they would make it painful. That’s just the way it goes when you’re negotiating with Russia. But I think it’s important to try. And moreover, I think we should try for other newer mechanisms. It’s deeply regrettable
that the administration, our administration is pulling
out of the Open Skies Treaty. I understand why there were
a lot of problems with it. I personally had a lot of problems with it and had a lot of fights with my colleagues at the State Department because I felt they were
too lenient on the Russians, and I said, “If we’re
gonna do arms control, “it only matters if we’re strict.” And the Russians were cheating and the Russians were misusing the treaty, and so I would have preferred
that we make the Russians, that we tried to make the
Russians behave better or take a more step-ward approach. But the current administration
has people in it that I know personally, I
worked with them on the Hill, and they don’t believe that arms control serves a useful purpose, and they don’t trust the
Russians to not cheat at all. Which, again, it’s not
a question of trust, but they just are anti arms control, for lack of a better way of putting it. – [Woman] Okay, so my
question is in regards to, on the news a lot lately
they’ve been talking about Russian gas and energy, and I know that TAP and Transit are big weapons used by
Russia in this situation. But specifically they’ve
called on the United States and the European Union to
intervene in some way to help because, to quote “Game of
Thrones,” “Winter is coming.” So is there a role for the United States in the European Union? And if so, how can those two nations help? – Yeah, okay. And if other people have questions, just come to the microphone
and stand in line. (laughs) So I would say, with
regard to energy security, when I first got into
the Obama administration, the energy security
situation was not good. I mean, the Europeans were
largely dependent on Russia for oil and natural gas. Since then, and especially since 2014, we have worked, the European
Union and the United States, has worked to diversify, to create alternatives
to the Russian supply. But there’s still no
getting away from the fact that Russia is the major
supplier to the region. The Germans created Nord Stream, which is a direct line
between Germany and Russia, and they want to create another one. Personally, I agree here
with President Trump, who has different reasons, slightly different reasons than mine for wanting to oppose
a second Nord Stream. Because I think it’s safer
for Ukraine and for the region to have the Russians
dependent somewhat on Ukraine for the transit of the gas
through their territory. And, yes, Ukraine gets
some fees from that. I’m not as interested in the fees, I’m more interested in having
Russia have an incentive to treat Ukraine somewhat
better, or not any worse, than its treating it right now. So I’m with President Trump on opposing the Nord Stream project, but it looks like it’s
going to go forward. President Trump would like to sell more US liquefied natural
gas to the Europeans, and we have started to, I believe, sell some to the Baltic states. We’ve helped them build facilities so that they could accept
some liquefied natural gas and store I believe in Lithuania. But this is an area where
there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. But the reality is, I would say, it’s urgent to some extent, but it’s not as urgent as you would think, only because having that
dependency does go both ways. Russia has to sell the
oil and gas to the West. So if we can steel our spines for our Eastern European brethren, then we can actually have
some leverage over them. – [Woman] So I wanted to ask you, given the situation in Syria, do you believe that there’s
a connection between that and some of Russia’s
other malign activities in the Mediterranean, such as Malta, but especially the penetration into the financial system of Cyprus, which is very nearby? – Yeah, I mean, okay. So, first of all, for
the Russian government, this kleptocracy, number one, they rely on
sales of oil and gas and arms, and they need banking relationships
where they can launder because there’s a lot
of corruption going on in these in these various sales. I mean, you probably are
following a little bit the Ukraine business. Dmytro Firtash is a guy who
made millions of dollars just on taking a cut from the Gazprom, the gas that would go
from Russia to Ukraine, and he would just take the
money and then use the money to help Russia achieve its objectives, which I guess they gather
he’s still doing today. So what the Russians do is
they want these relationships in order to make their money, and then the Russian military also would like to have influence, would like to have logistics,
areas for logistics. They would like to have a presence like they did during the Cold War. And so Russia has sought out
areas in the Mediterranean where they can have ports. They had for a long
time the port in Syria, and they now have an
airfield in Syria as well. And, judging by the news, they probably will have air
superiority over all of Syria before long. I mean, within days maybe, we’ll see, depending on what our president does. So it’s not a strategy per se. When I discuss the objectives and then I say what the
what the Kremlin does, it’s not as if there’s a strategy. There’s a big debate,
is Putin a strategist? And I think most of the people that I know who study Putin closely say
no, he’s not a strategist. I mean, sure, he’s smart,
but he’s a good opportunist. He knows how to take the best
of any situation operationally and achieve for himself
what he needs to achieve. He’s a risk taker. I remember Ambassador John Tefft, he was one of our ambassadors to Russia while I was working in
the Obama administration, he said that he’s a judo player, so he uses the weaknesses of his advantage to gain dominance, but he also is a poker
player, he takes risk. And you saw it. I mean, the seizure of Crimea, that was a hugely risky
operation, and he did it. And this is why, I probably should have
said it also in my address, why we need to be firm
towards the Kremlin. Because if Putin sees opportunity,
he’s not afraid of risk. And if we don’t stand up to Putin, that is the thing I worry
about most, for example, in the Syria case right now. If you don’t stand up to Putin, he will see you as weak and
see opportunity elsewhere. So it’s very important to hold firm. – [Woman] Thank you. – [Ramil] Thank you for your presentation. My name is Ramil Akasmov, I’m coming from the
Republic of Azerbaijan, which is just south of Russia. – I’ve been there. (Evelyn laughs)
– Yeah, great. – Many times. (laughs) – [Ramil] I totally
resonate with what you said because historically we have been subject of Russian invasion, even nowadays. You probably are well aware that in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, they still pull strings
over that conflict. And we all know that, just
the reasons you mentioned, economically Russia isn’t very good and there’s now protests against Putin, and I even say against his legacy. I’m also not worried about the democracy even in Russia or in the world because US I think is
taking very good lead. I’m a Fulbright student,
therefore people like me, they choose the US and the
West rather than Russia. Those people with low labor or low skills, they prefer to go to
Russia or other countries. So I’m not worried about the democracy. I’m also not worried about
the military power of Russia because I think the US has got a lot and a strong military
power compared to US, and the US military budget
stands out as an example of that. But what I’m a bit worried
is why US is always portrayed as weaker when you compare it to Russia. So what what are the roots? Even in the US I see that. – Who, who? – [Ramil] Well– – I mean, I think I know the answer, but. (Ramil laughs) – [Ramil] I hope you
wouldn’t get offended. I could sense from your speech as well that when you compare militarily I had a sense that Russia stands out because of its invasions, like my country they have done,
or in Ukraine, in Georgia, in Transnistria we can say as well. So why do you think, why
there’s such a perception we have been hearing for such a long time? So why do you think what
are the root causes? – Okay, that’s a really good
question, that makes sense. I certainly didn’t spend time. So I my expertise is really
in US-Russia relations. I don’t consider myself a Russia expert, meaning, I have not lived
and studied in Russia. I speak like Russian 101,
(speaks in foreign language). (audience laughs) (Evelyn speaks in foreign language) So I try not to go too far into discussing what’s happening in Russia
internally because, again, I feel like I can leave
that to other people. Having said that, I probably could have
put a few more sentences about the vulnerability, the
weaknesses of Russian society. Certainly we know economically there’s no innovation going on there, the younger people are leaving. I mean, there are
Russians who aren’t Jewish going to Israel. The Washington Post does
these really good stories about medical doctors going to Israel. But of course all kinds of
Russians going other places because there’s no opportunity because it’s such a
kleptocratic, corrupt system, you can’t get ahead unless your daddy is somebody close to Putin, practically. So that’s one weakness. The other one is of course the
demographics and the society. There’s a lot of, still,
problems with alcoholism, and the government doesn’t
address it in a healthy fashion. This is similar to problems with AIDS and health issues the
Russians have across the board where they’re not as directly
addressing it with the people in a constructive fashion,
oftentimes stigmatizing victims. What else? So the birth rate has gone down,
the population’s shrinking, the Chinese are buying real
estate, and all of that. So I don’t mean to build Russia up. It’s a declining power. But oftentimes the declining powers are the ones that are the most dangerous. So what I’m trying to highlight
is how dangerous Russia is, not that it’s so strong. But I can see your
point because I’m often, I don’t wanna get too political, but I’m often wagging my
figure at the television because sometimes I
find political leaders, and in particular our president, talks about Russia like it’s
stronger than the United States and there’s kind of a deference that he pays to the Russian leader which I don’t really understand since, as I said already
before, we’re far and above the strongest economic,
military power in the world, and I’m gonna pause on
political and diplomatic because right now our political
and diplomatic capital has just sunk through the basement because of what happened in Syria, and maybe some other things prior to that. So I would just say that yes, people need to step back and
understand Russia is not China. China looks like it’s still
in the ascent economically, although they also are a country
with many vulnerabilities. And I didn’t mention Russia’s environmental problems as well. So I don’t mean to build
them up too much, yeah. But they are a near-term problem. – [Jared] Good evening,
my name is Jared Bios, I’m a second year. I was very fortunate to just return, actually from this past week, I attended The Riga Conference in Latvia. So I just got a little bit of a sense definitely for the Baltic states and some of our other
colleagues and constituents we got to meet there, and
they definitely appreciate NATO’s enhanced work presence,
the battalions there. And one of the key elements of that that they mentioned to me that was very, very important
to them was US presence. So just in regard to EFP to US presence, what’s your opinion on,
as far as deterrence, increasing US presence
there for the right reasons? But what might be kind of the trigger, since Russia is maybe a
little bit more desperate, depending on situation
and everything else, if it is a declining in power and a little bit more
willing to take risk. What might be that line
between bolstering deterrence and not crossing over
to making it to where we actually trigger something else? – Yeah, yeah, no, that’s
a really good question. We had this question of
what threatens Russia and what’s defensive and what’s offensive. And I was part of a group
at the Atlantic Council that looked at this question within the context of Poland’s
request for this Trump, what did they call it? – [Woman] For Trump. – For Trump, exactly. And so we looked at all
the various proposals and what we ended up deciding was it wasn’t so much about
increasing the forces, it was more about what types of forces or what kinds of headquarters or what kinds of enablers are nearby, having equipment positioned there so that when the people come later, the equipment is already there, you don’t have to also
bring the equipment over. So it was really more that. Aviation, not just land. Because there was a heavy emphasis, especially because of
what happened in Ukraine, we derived all of our
lessons, learned from that, and looked and said,
okay, that was an air, sorry, that was a land situation, so we have to worry about the land. And overtime now of course
we’ve become more sophisticated not just with regard to
how we support Ukraine but also with regard
to our own deterrence. But I think the answer is not
in putting large forces there, it’s more making sure we have enablers. And then I think ultimately
really it comes down to political will, just
communicating to the Russians that don’t take a toe in,
whether it’s an asymmetric person who’s not wearing a uniform who’s a fifth column security
force, what-have-you, or a conventional Russian military force. Don’t even try it because
we’ll take action. So I think what’s more important is showing that political will, which in part NATO does when
it does these exercises, like the one that I was part of. – [Man] We have time
for one quick question. – [Man] All right, hopefully
this will be quick. Thank you, and while you
were speaking you mentioned kind of an alarming list
of things in the ways that Russia is interacting
with the United States, so in my mind that raises the question, from your highly specialized
expertise, in perspective, what are the greatest intelligence and counterintelligence
needs that the US has with regards to Russia? – Wow, that’s a really good question. So I think, oh I wish I had that blanket. (audience and Evelyn laugh) So one point I wanna make,
because this came up a lot during the Muller, the early
time, actually pre Muller, so when America and
the world first learned that the Russians had
attacked our elections and the intelligence community
was looking into this, there was a lot of, I think, and continues to be a
lot of misunderstanding about how we know these things. And of course I can’t tell
you how we know these things, but what I can tell you is, unlike North Korea or China
or many other countries, even though I gave you earlier how we took our eye off Russia and we said, “Oh they’re
not really a threat, “we gotta do terrorism “and we gotta a deal
with these rogue states “and all of that,” we actually maintained really
good intelligence on Russia. So we have really good intelligence. And I would imagine by
now we have more analysts looking at various sources. But our intelligence is not so bad. I think we probably could use slightly, we could always use better intelligence on the intentions of the leadership, although I think our analysts
did a really good job painting that for us. The reason I became an expert in my job in three years in the
Pentagon was in large part not just because I was
reading books and all that and I had existing knowledge, but a lot of it was
really the fantastic work that the intelligence analysts did and the products that they brought me, and I read them all and
I listened, (laughs) and I learned a lot. So I think that’s important, to get the strategic perspective. I’m sure we are lacking with regard to understanding the Russian people and what’s going on internally, given all of the cutbacks in the embassy personnel, et cetera. But, again, I tend to not think that that’s such a vulnerability. I will say maybe we could be clever about how we reach out
to the Russian people, I alluded to that earlier. Because I think there may be
opportunities to reach them that we haven’t been trying. And interestingly though, as I said, Ukraine is so important. Now even more important not
just because of the example it provides to the Russian people but because the Russian people
might actually pay attention because they know this new president because he’s a guy
they’ve seen on their TV. They’ve watched Zelensky’s program. So they might actually be curious and be watching a little
bit more than otherwise. Plus, he’s been quite funny in television and in the social media vis-a-vis Putin. When Putin’s made comments, then he would kind of make, you know, “You want a visa to go to Russia? “It doesn’t seem like a
really nice vacation to me, “but go ahead.” (laughs) I mean, he uses sarcasm. – [Man] Well, on that note. (audience and Evelyn laugh) – And by the way, I can’t go to Russia. We were bonding over this. When you get to this point
where you’re so frank, they don’t like you anymore. – [Man] We look forward
to seeing you next. Thank you for coming. – [Evelyn] Thank you. (audience applauds)

Danny Hutson

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