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Former Pentagon Official: More Deterrence Needed to Counter Russia

11/4/2015
By Yasmin Tadjdeh

 As Russia continues to exert its influence in Syria and Eastern Europe, the United States must be vigilant and increase its efforts to deter the country, said the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.

“There’s a lot of work [to be done] with regard to deterring Russia and countering their more unconstructive efforts and in particular their military efforts,” said Evelyn Farkas, who retired Oct. 30 from her post at the Pentagon.

While Russia is in Syria and Ukraine, it is also occupying parts of Georgia and has military forces in Moldova, she said Nov. 4 during a breakfast with defense reporters in Washington, D.C. The nation also has its eye on other locations, she noted.

The United States must continue to prove to Europe and its NATO allies that it will support them despite Russia’s actions, she said. She pointed to efforts such as the European Reassurance Initiative as one way the United States carrying out this task.

Through the ERI, the United States increased presence in the European region by adding rotational forces, training and exercises.

“All that has to continue but we have to do better than that. We have to actually deter,” she said. “Some of that has to do with where we move our forces, what kind of things we position, even if temporarily, in Europe to be used for exercises.”

The United States should consider adjusting its force posture and potentially place more troops farther East, she said. There are also other simple deterrence steps that would help, she added.

“I was very excited to see this past week [State Department] Secretary John Kerry go through central Asia. We need more high level attention being paid to the countries that feel directly threatened by Russia,” she said. “Not just Ukraine but Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan. So the countries around the periphery of Russia they need our political attention. They also need our economic assistance and then they need our military assistance.”

Better intelligence on Russia’s actions is also needed, she said. Since the end of the Cold War not enough resources have been put toward gathering intelligence on the country.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has become increasingly paranoid about Western nations, she said. When he first came into office he didn’t regard the United States and its allies as a threat, she noted.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen … is an evolution in his thinking where he now believes … that he can’t cooperate with us, that our interests are fundamentally at loggerheads and he’s working to really counterbalance the United States,” she said.

There is also disturbing rhetoric coming out of the Kremlin in regards to nuclear weapons, she added. During the time of the Soviet Union, there was a “healthy respect” for the destruction that nuclear weapons could yield. Now, “highly alarming” comments are being made, she said.

Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, it has become clear that the United States cannot predict what the Kremlin will do, she said.

“There is legitimate concern in the [Baltics] and among allies and even in the administration in certain areas that the Kremlin might, if they saw an opportunity, try to test NATO,” she said. Work is being done in earnest to make sure that temptation is not acted upon, she added.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Policy, International

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