June 2016 Online Exclusive Article

How Do We Deal with Russia?:

The Status Quo and a Strategically Pragmatic Approach Forward

Lt. Col. Klaudius Robinson

Article published on: June 10, 2016

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Corps Commander receiving the assessment

The purpose of this opinion piece is to spur discussion and offer recommendations on what strategic stance the United States should take towards the Russian Federation. Initially, I will present some facts to frame the status quo and offer those not familiar with Russia, Europe, or Eurasia some background on which to base the discussion. Overall, I take a pragmatic1 look at the situation. In the end, I offer strategic recommendations, based on a Realpolitik2 viewpoint, tying in what the U.S. Army needs to do to prepare.

The U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, recently said that Russia is a very significant and existential threat to the United States.3 The Russian Federation Prime Minister, Dimitriy Medvedev, said we have entered a new, sort of, Cold War.4 Based on these statements and recent events, several questions beckon to be answered. Are we taking the correct approach in regards to Russia? Will our national strategy and how we execute it at the Army level, vis-à-vis Russia, bear a favorable outcome? What does the Army need to do to prepare for our global engagements with the Russians? What factors influence both sides’ actions?

These are just some of the interesting questions that strategists ponder and try to answer. Serving as a European/Eurasian Foreign Area Officer (FAO), I have an advantageous observation platform to attempt to answer the above questions. Having served as a Cavalry Scout, the transition to become an Army Strategic Scout–as FAOs are sometimes referred to—was a natural one. My answers to the aforementioned questions will draw heavily from my experiences as a FAO and touch on cultural, geographical, strategic, economic, and military facets. Simply put, the U.S.-Russian relationship is complex. As Winston Churchill once said, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”5 One could write volumes of books about it, as some have already done, but I would like to focus on the contemporary situation and what we can do to prepare for an uncertain future with the Russians.

The Reality of Nuclear Weapons

New Start Treaty Limit Status

There is one overarching elephant in the room that needs to be addressed first. Nuclear weapons are the main reason why the United States should and does regard the Russian Federation with parity; nukes are the great equalizer. Although many years have passed since the Cold War days of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), the current and proposed future nuclear weapon stockpiles of both the United States and the Russian Federation still assure mutual destruction. It is not just the numbers, but also the types of systems both sides employ that assure a U.S-Russian nuclear war cannot be won by either side and also deter a full-spectrum conventional conflict. Both sides rest their laurels on systems that can survive an initial strike and retaliate in kind.

To win a nuclear war, or any war for that matter, one side has to survive. Wars between nation-states start because one side knows or thinks it can win. In Realist Theory6, the predominant international relations theory in the academic world, nation-states behave like rational single individuals bent on survivability and self-preservation. Kaiser-led Germany would not have lashed out at France in World War I if it thought its actions would result in an unfavorable outcome. The same can be said of other major world conflicts; nations go to war because they think they can win.

Neither the Russian Federation nor the United States have a major advantage when it comes to nuclear weapons. Neither side can achieve destruction of the other’s nuclear arms in a first strike, guaranteeing a non-existent or futile retaliatory strike, thereby seizing victory. The Russian Federation possesses road-mobile ICBM launchers and ballistic missile submarines and the United States possesses the latter–all of which are difficult to track, target, and eliminate in a first strike. Therefore, nuclear arms are the great equalizer and preventer of all-out war between the United States and the Russian Federation despite other inequalities between these two nation-states.

Comparative Expenditures on Defense

New Start Treaty Limit Status

Normally, the domination of the United States in areas such as economics, defense spending, and population growth would diminish Russia’s importance and peer-like comparisons. The U.S. economy currently leads the world at $18.1 trillion in GDP.7 At $1.2 trillion, Russia is not even a top ten global economy.8 The U.S. economy is projected to still be the dominant economy in 2030 with $24.8 trillion in GDP.9 Russia is currently, and projected to be, economically overshadowed by the likes of France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan, among others; nations with a fraction of the population and military size of the Russian Federation. The importance of economies in shaping national security strategy cannot be understated. Economies are vital in helping to drive and sustain defense budgets.

The U.S. defense budget is $569.3 billion and Russia’s is $53.2 billion; roughly ten percent of what the United States spends.10 China spends more on defense than Russia ($190.9 billion),11 however, as I mentioned in the beginning of this piece, the United States military sees Russia as a bigger threat than China. Most of the current threat perception stems from Russia’s recent military incursions and disregard for existing international borders.12 Although China is also taking aggressive steps and must not be discounted, it is not an existential threat to the United States. Russia’s nuclear arsenal makes it an existential threat to the United States, whereas China’s nuclear arsenal is minimal in comparison by numbers and posture. More importantly, Russia’s military does not compare in quality to the U.S. military. Numerically, the United States beats Russia in every major conventional military armament category with technologically superior weapons except for a few, such as strike aircraft and tanks.

While equipment is important, people are equally if not more important as a resource in fighting wars. Currently, the U.S. population is roughly 321 million versus 142 million for Russia.13 It is not just the aggregate numbers that matter. Russia has the second highest negative population growth (negative birth rate) in the world behind Ukraine.14 The United States outpaces Russia in immigration 5:1.15 The comparatively younger mortality rate of Russian males is roughly sixty-six years compared to seventy-seven in the United States.16 Ethnic Russians used to lead the military with other members of the USSR filling the ranks during the Cold War. This is no longer the case and contemporary Russians may not be willing to fill those ranks. Russia still relies on a conscript system to fill its military ranks. Conscript systems usually do not produce highly trained and motivated militaries. With these statistics and facts, who will man Russian military equipment in a sustained conflict?

The Role of Geography

The Russian Federation lags sorely behind the United States economically and militarily (minus nuclear parity). However, geographically, Russia enjoys tremendous benefits. First, Russia has the biggest land mass of any other nation on the globe.17 Second, it enjoys a wealth of natural resources, especially oil and gas deposits. Some European nations are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas.18 As a result, Russia’s monopoly on European energy allows it to control the energy spigot or raise prices if challenged or threatened by Europe. There is a reason the European Union/European Commission worked diligently on a European energy policy to establish a European Energy Union bent on reducing dependence on Russian energy sources while keeping relations with Russia amicable. Third, its geographic proximity to Europe and many U.S. allies presents a responsive challenge for the U.S. military and an existential threat to its neighbors. Russia specifically uses energy as a weapon against Europe and has mildly threatened some Eastern European nations with the deployment of military units near their borders.19

Unlike during the Cold War, the United States does not have a substantial military presence relatively close to Russian borders. Russians would disagree and point towards U.S. military deployments and exercises in and around Russia’s near abroad such as in Afghanistan, Korea, Japan, Poland, and the Baltic States. Russia perceives the United States as meddling in Central Asia, Ukraine, Georgia, and the Pacific, especially with the recent “pivot” in U.S. strategy.20 However, in comparison to U.S. Cold War deployments and posture, the United States is less prepared to defend against, much less attack, Russia, despite Russian perceptions to the contrary.21

Looking Ahead

Let us now tie the background information and facts into a strategic discourse and continue to expound on them. Is the United States pursuing the correct strategy vis-à-vis Russia? In short, the answer is both yes and no.

I mentioned earlier that national economies generally drive national defense budgets. Russia’s economy is not doing very well due to a combination of sanctions imposed against the nation in response to its actions in Crimea and the untimely drop in oil prices. Russia’s economy is heavily dependent on the price of oil and the government was banking on oil prices staying at or above roughly $50 per barrel in order to balance the budget and maintain favorable ruble exchange rates with other currencies.22 With oil prices hovering at $20-$30 per barrel, the regime in Moscow forecasts a short-term economic decline mainly because of its inability to prop up the ruble against other hard currencies and not having enough cash coming in from oil revenue. While these low oil prices help Europe, Europeans are still dependent on Russian natural gas. This is exactly why some European nations are investing heavily in Liquid Propane Gas (LPG) port terminals which would enable large imports of LPG and reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. So what can the United States do? The United States must continue to keep oil prices low, encourage Europe to seek alternative energy sources, and aid the building of infrastructure to import and secure other energy resources, such as LPG. It is important to note that any U.S. policy that seeks to keep oil prices low will certainly conflict with American domestic industry, but addresses U.S. interests from a strategic standpoint.

Continuing on the economic discussion, the recently published Russian Federation National Security Strategy document states, “The current (Russian National Security) Strategy is based on the unbreakable interconnection and interdependence of the Russian Federation’s national security and the country’s socioeconomic development.”23 Summarily, Russia needs a strong economy to maintain national security. The Kremlin cannot sustain an economic slowdown or recession for an extended period of time without seriously jeopardizing defense modernization plans, and more importantly, sustaining state funded socialist programs such as free healthcare.24 As an example, Russia already cut the initial order of a next generation fighter aircraft, the Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA), from 55 airframes to 12 and government spending on social welfare programs has declined in recent years.25 Current U.S. policies endeavor to negate Russia’s ability to thrive economically and therefore undermine its national security.

Russia is also extremely worried about a new arms race and wants to avoid it at all costs, as mentioned in its national security document, “With a view to protecting its national interests Russia is pursuing an open, rational, and pragmatic foreign policy ruling out costly confrontation (including a new arms race).” More importantly, the government cannot afford to have the population turn against it by not being able to sustain state-funded programs people have grown accustomed to. Nor can the government execute planned military modernization plans during a down trending economy. Something must give.

New Start Treaty Limit Status

An important cultural aspect to keep in mind in pursuing an economically driven strategy against Russia is that the Russian populace and the nation as a whole is familiar with hardship. Surveying the journalism on the Russian people, it becomes clear that so long as they have bread, potatoes, and vodka, they will be content. That said, realistically, the populace and the government can endure hardships only so long. Change to the Russian political system is inevitable, but it will take time. As an example, the Russian royal family’s rule came to an abrupt and violent end under the Bolsheviks’ hand. The communist reign also ended, but under somewhat more peaceful circumstances. In both instances, it took a long time for things to change–almost eighty years in the latter example. As a result, the current U.S. economy-centric strategic approach must account for time and the United States must be prepared to execute a long-term sustained strategy to enact change. The question is, does the United States – in an election-centric democracy – have the strategic patience to pursue such an approach? The answer is that it must despite changes in administrations, because the Russian leadership will simply wait for a change in the U.S. administration.

Reprioritization of Europe

In coordinating a long-term strategy, the United States can take some immediate steps that will have long-term effects and place immediate pressure on the Russian Federation. The expansion and fortification of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an easy arms race the United States can win which will not require massive expenditures in blood or money and will put pressure on Russia to make costly countermoves it can ill afford. NATO expansion and fortification is a natural avenue to pursue, since the creation of the alliance served one purpose–to curb further encroachment of the U.S.S.R. into Europe and beyond. Except for a few countries (e.g. Belarus, and to a lesser extent Armenia and Uzbekistan), the Russians do not have many allies or potential allies on their side. The United States, on the other hand, has several nations which are eager to join NATO (e.g. Georgia, Ukraine).26 The Russians cannot win this fight and they will attempt to rattle their sabers in protest against NATO expansion. Any actual military act on their part to counter this strategy will only further isolate them, as international sanctions have after their incursions in Ukraine.27

However, expansion cannot occur without fortification. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States conducted a slow, trickle-like military withdrawal from Europe. With limited resources, sequestration, a pivot to the Far East, and two long foreign wars, the United States had to make cuts somewhere and peaceful Europe appeared like a logical choice. As a result, some argue that U.S. neglect of Europe emboldened the Kremlin to take action in what Russia refers to as its “near-abroad” in Georgia and Ukraine.28

In my experience, Eastern European nations are eager for a sustained U.S. troop presence. However, U.S. defense facilities that the United States promised to Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania are increasingly appearing to mirror a distant mirage. U.S. ground troops in Europe now number just two brigades, one being an airborne light infantry brigade and the other a cavalry regiment, but both without a heavy defensive or strike capability. U.S. attempts at rotating non-European based units through Europe to diminish a lack of a persistent presence offer wonderful public relations opportunities and reinforce talking points centered on reassuring Eastern European allies. However, in reality, this approach presents several problems and poses serious questions.

First, by rotating U.S. based units to Europe, U.S. policymakers are asking units to potentially fight on and around unfamiliar terrain. A unit based in the west Texas desert at Fort Bliss would find the terrain and climate quite different in Europe than what it had trained on at home station. Second, is it really cost effective to send an armored brigade halfway around the world for a few months at a time and then bring them back? This does not even account for the hardships on family members, especially after the U.S. military worked so diligently on increasing service member days at home during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Third, how much cross-training and interoperability are we really achieving with other allies if units only rotate through the region? Would not a sustained presence present more training opportunities and build solid U.S.-host-nation military relationships, forging a stronger allied force? Lastly, crisis response times with regionally based units would be measured in days, not weeks or months.

New Start Treaty Limit Status

The current U.S. force structure in Europe, in addition to rotating units, will do little to help defend NATO’s borders against a Russian territorial incursion. The most threatened and exposed NATO border lies along the three Baltic States. There are several reasons why this border presents a problem for NATO. First, it is geographically adjacent to the Russian Federation and mostly geographically separated from the rest of NATO. Second, as in Crimea and Georgia, there are Russian ethnic enclaves within the three Baltic States and President Putin has already used that to justify military intervention in past conflicts. Third, all three capitals are within easy reach of Russian military forces. A recent RAND Corporation war gaming study on the subject concluded that it would take Russian forces up to sixty hours to reach all of the Baltic capital cities.29 Fourth, and also a conclusion of the RAND war game, the United States, NATO, and the indigenous military forces in their current disposition could do very little to stop a Russian military juggernaut. The war gaming study recommends stationing more U.S. military units in Europe to deter Russian aggression. Specifically, it calls for at least three more Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCTs). The estimated annual cost of maintaining these units would be approximately $2.7 billion. Although this is far from chump change, it is a small price to pay relative to the $1 trillion combined defense budget of all NATO members.

The RAND study is a sobering reminder and a wakeup call to U.S. strategists. U.S. strategy planners must accept the fact that Europe matters and Russia is more of an existential threat than China or anything else around the Pacific Rim. The United States must return to a Euro-Atlantic centric strategy first and foremost by returning units to Europe and building new facilities on NATO’s borders. That is the only real way to reassure allies, sustain NATO, and secure the economically valuable trans-Atlantic zone against Russian aggression. NATO is not in danger of dissolution anytime soon, but there are problems which could exponentially increase if the United States does not take action.

New Start Treaty Limit Status

Interestingly, an opinion poll in June 2015, as cited in the 2016 Munich Security Report, asked the question, “What citizens of NATO member states think: If Russia got into a serious military conflict with a NATO ally, should our country use military force to defend that country?” The U.S. response was 56% in favor and 37% opposed. The United Kingdom, Poland, Spain, France, Italy, and Germany were all less than 50% in favor. Additionally, only five NATO members, including the United States, out of twenty-eight currently spend the NATO target of 2% or more of their GDP on defense.30 Public opinions and military underfunding present a perception that NATO is fractured and will not act as an alliance if threatened. Would the United States really go to war if Russia encroached on the territorial integrity or attacked a NATO member state in some way? Would all the member states abide by Article 5 security guarantees? If the answer is no to either question, the alliance would literally dissolve. The United States cannot allow dissolution of the NATO alliance to occur.

NATO is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, alliances the world has ever seen. It is the best thing the United States has in deterring Russian aggression in Europe and must be sustained and improved upon. If we truly are wary of Russian aggression, why not use the institution already in place to deter Russian aggression? The United States can increase NATO’s relevance by reversing public opinion in NATO member states through tangible military reassurances via a “return to Europe” strategy.31 In recent history, one thing is certain–no nation has been invaded with U.S. troops on the ground. It would be strategically prudent for the United States to realign troops within NATO and station them in NATO border-states.

Some argue that an increase in U.S. presence and focus on Europe will further reduce European military spending and lead to U.S. over commitment. That argument, however, is not valid. NATO member state defense spending was actually much higher during the Cold War than now, even with a heavy U.S. military presence in Europe during that time. Europeans will spend money on defense if Russia continues to threaten or bully them whether or not the United States enacts a “return to Europe.” In fact, U.S. actions may even spur them to do so.

In very simplistic terms, Russia does act like a school bully, using force to gain what it wants rather than using subtle measures to advance its interests. However, there is a dilemma in dealing with a bully. Fighting a bully head-on does not necessarily guarantee victory and may actually perpetuate violence. Reasoning and using diplomacy is also likely counterproductive with someone not accustomed to a soft approach. A soft approach may actually leave one with a bloody nose, with no resolution to the problem, and the bully more determined than ever to exert force. So the question arises, what is the best way to deal with this bully?

The United States and the Russian Federation will very likely never engage in a full-spectrum conventional war. However, proxy wars tied to national and regional interests will continue to thrive; a paradigm similar to what occurred during the Cold War. The U.S.S.R. used the Vietnam War to bloody the U.S.’ nose; the United States did the same to the U.S.S.R. in Afghanistan. Both protracted conflicts led to the bigger, stronger power leaving the fight, essentially defeated. Why not use the same approach for current events? Critics would say that proxy wars have changed in scope and nature. Some termed what occurred in Crimea32 as a new kind of warfare, calling it “Hybrid War.”33 However, the principles of winning a war have not changed.

War is war. It still takes rounds of ammunition or the threat of using them to win the fight. How we fight wars (i.e. the weapons, technologies, tactics, etc.) change, but the principles of how to fight and win endure. Clausewitz came along and put pen to paper on how this works in a Westphalian dynamic, but the overall principles of war were there before and after Clausewitz. Be faster, stronger, and wiser than the other guy–to put it very simply.

As a result, the United States would be wise to enlist and organize the might of its military and intelligence apparatus to bloody Russia’s nose in current and future proxy conflicts. Direct U.S.-Russian confrontation must be avoided, but the United States can employ other means to make Russian involvement in conflicts detrimental to the Kremlin’s well-being. Bread, potatoes, and vodka may be good enough for a Russian mom and dad, but seeing their sons coming home in body bags may not be. Stinger ground-to-air missiles supplied to Afghan fighters in the 1980s is an example of this type of approach. The United States would win through using better technologies wisely. The Kremlin would begin to think twice about future military adventures whether they are termed “Hybrid Wars” or not.

Currently, Russian military adventures have been relatively bloodless. Putin feels emboldened to continue his behavior because it raises his popularity at home for a relatively low price. By wrapping himself in the shroud of protecting Russian populations abroad through military intervention, his standing among the Russian populace remains high. A popular Putin is a dangerous Putin. The Kremlin exercises great caution to cultivate the cult of Putin and his popularity creates tremendous capital which he has no problem cashing in when needed. A bloodied Russian nose resulting from Putin’s military adventures will surely undercut his standing. The trick for the United States is to execute this strategy without major military embroilment while maintaining plausible deniability. Essentially, to use the Russian strategy in Crimea, but do it better.

U.S. Options

So what can the U.S. Army do to prepare to execute this strategy? First, Army units must train for a conventional fight to beat the Russians. Deterrence is vital and the Army must show it can win a conventional war with Russia however unlikely the prospects of a full out war are. The U.S. Army conventional combined arms combat proficiency has atrophied due to an over-focus on counterinsurgency. Additionally, the Army is being asked to do too much, from humanitarian aid to nation building. We cannot be a jack of all trades and a master of none. Second, the Army must return to Europe in a persistent presence manner. In doing so, the Army units stationed within the borders of NATO must train interoperability with NATO allies and partners. Third, intelligence and Special Warfare Soldiers need to play a key role in bloodying Russia’s nose, not in a direct manner, but by training other friendly elements and providing them intelligence to enable nose bloodying operations. The training, tactical targeting, and equipment provided by the United States would go a long way in stymying Russian operations.

As I said in the beginning of this piece, I hope to spur further discussion and shed light on this subject area by presenting facts and background information on the U.S.-Russian Federation relationship and offering some strategic ideas. This is a complex issue and some of the subjects I touch on (economics, geography, and defense) could certainly be explored further on a deep-dive. To summarize my thoughts, the United States will not fight a full-spectrum conventional war with the Russian Federation anytime in the near future, but we must be ready to do so. Nuclear weapon parity, as it did in the past, severely restricts such an event from taking place. However, the Kremlin’s current actions are simply unacceptable, violate international norms, and should not be tolerated or condoned. A U.S. strategy that touches on undercutting the Russian Federation economically through the employment of sanctions and maintaining low oil prices; one that uses proxy wars to bloody Russian noses, and expand/fortify/reassure NATO allies will, in my opinion, keep Russia in check.


  1. A practical and sensible view of the current situation as opposed to one focused on idealism. In terms of U.S. history, the Truman and Eisenhower administrations focused on pragmatism and set the stage for U.S. actions during the Cold War. It can be argued that the Kennedy and Reagan administrations took an idealistic viewpoint focused on a war of ideas. However, both of the latter administrations still undertook pragmatic measures to beat the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War (e.g. Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet-Afghan War). Ideals and visions are good, but they must be supported by commonsense actions.
  2. Realpolitik (from German: real “realistic”, “practical”, or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) a system of politics based on a country’s situation and its needs rather than on ideas about what is morally right and wrong.
  3. Press Operations, “Department of Defense Press Briefing with Secretary Carter in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room,” U.S. Department of Defense, August 20, 2015.
  4. Anton Troianovski and Laurence Norman, “Russian Premier Calls Entanglements a ‘New Cold War,’” The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2016.
  5. “Winston Churchill,” Quote Coyote website, accessed 4 March 2016, http://www.quote-coyote.com/quotes/authors/c/winston-churchill/quote-8095.html.
  6. Anne-Marie Slaughter, “International Relations, Principal Theories,” In Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (Oxford University Press, 2011), https://www.princeton.edu/~slaughtr/Articles/722_IntlRelPrincipalTheories_Slaughter_20110509zG.pdf
  7. @dubly and @talyellin, “World’s Largest Economies,” CNN Money, February 11, 2016, http://money.cnn.com/news/economy/world_economies_gdp/.
  8. “World GDP Ranking 2015: Data and Charts,” Knoema, April 21, 2016, http://knoema.com/nwnfkne/world-gdp-ranking-2015-data-and-charts.
  9. Jenna Smialek, “These Will Be the World’s 20 Largest Economies in 2030,” Bloomberg Markets, April 10, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-10/the-world-s-20-largest-economies-in-2030.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Daily Mail Reporter, “Georgia ‘overrun’ by Russian Troops as Full-Scale Ground Invasion Begins,” Daily Mail, June 1, 2016, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1043236/Georgia-overrun-Russian-troops-scale-ground-invasion-begins.html; Ilya Somin, “Don’t Forget about Russia’s Invasion and Occupation of Crimea,” The Washington Post, August 28, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/08/28/Dont-forget-about-Russias-invasion-Crimea/
  12. “The World Factbook: Country Comparison by Population,” Central Intelligence Agency Library Online, July 2015, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2119rank.html.
  13. Matt Rosenberg, “Negative Population Growth,” About.com, April 30, 2015, http://geography.about.com/od/populationgeography/a/zero.htm
  14. “Net Migration,” The World Bank Online, last updated 2016, http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SM.POP.NETM.
  15. “Life Expectancy at Birth, Male (Years),” The World Bank Online, last updated 2016, http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.MA.IN.
  16. “The World Factbook: Country Comparison by Area,” Central Intelligence Agency Library, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2147rank.html.
  17. Chi-Kong Chyong and Vessela Tcherneva, “Europe’s Vulnerability on Russian Gas,” European Council on Foreign Relations, March 17, 2015, http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_europes_vulnerability_on_russian_gas
  18. Ibid.
  19. Richard Weitz, “EU’s Energy Dependence on Russia Hard to Kick,” World Politics Review, June 23, 2015, http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/16066/eu-s-energy-dependence-on-russia-hard-to-kick.
  20. “The American Pivot to Asia: Why President Obama’s Turn to the East is Easier Said Than Done,” Foreign Policy, December 21, 2011, http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/12/21/the-american-pivot-to-asia/.
  21. “Putin Names United States among Threats in New Russian Security Strategy,” CNBC, January 2, 2016, http://www.cnbc.com/2016/01/02/putin-names-united-states-among-threats-in-new-russian-security-strategy.html.
  22. Ivana Kottasova, “Russia is Bracing for $30 oil in 2016,” CNN Money, December 14, 2015, http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/14/news/economy/russia-30-oil-budget/.
  23. Russian National Security Council, The Russian Federation’s National Security Strategy Presidential Edict 683, signed on December 31, 2015: 2, http://www.ieee.es/Galerias/fichero/OtrasPublicaciones/Internacional/2016/Russian-National-Security-Strategy-31Dec2015.pdf.
  24. Paul Goble, “Moscow’s Spending Cuts Undermining Russians’ Health and Reducing Life Expectancy,” The Interpreter, October 22, 2015, http://www.interpretermag.com/moscows-spending-cuts-undermining-russians-health-and-reducing-life-expectancy/.
  25. See graph source from The International Institute for Strategic Studies
  26. Ievgen Vorobiov, “Surprise! Ukraine Loves NATO,” Foreign Policy, August 13, 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/08/13/surprise-ukraine-loves-nato/.
  27. Edward Hunter Christie, “Sanctions after Crimea: Have They Worked?,” NATO Review Magazine, July 13, 2015, http://www.nato.int/docu/Review/2015/Russia/sanctions-after-crimea-have-they-worked/EN/index.htm.
  28. Guy Taylor and Maggie Ybarra, “U.S., Allies Scramble Jets Almost Daily to Repel Russian Incursions,” Washington Times, October 23, 2014, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/oct/23/vladimir-putin-emboldened-by-weak-us-response-to-r/?page=all.
  29. David A. Shlapak and Michael W. Johnson, “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank: Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics,” RAND Corporation Report, 2016, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR1200/RR1253/RAND_RR1253.pdf
  30. See chart above.
  31. A “return to Europe” strategy is more than what the United States is currently doing with the European Reassurance Initiative. Rotating U.S. military units through Europe is not an enduring presence, it is not the best way to build relationships, and I would argue not cost effective in the long run.
  32. Michael Kofman and Matthew Rojansky, “A Closer Look at Russia’s ‘Hybrid War,’” Kennan Cable 7 (April 2015), https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/7-KENNAN%20CABLE-ROJANSKY%20KOFMAN.pdf.
  33. Damien Van Puyvelde, “Hybrid War—Does it Even Exist?,” NATO Review Magazine, May 7, 2015, http://www.nato.int/docu/Review/2015/Also-in-2015/hybrid-modern-future-warfare-russia-ukraine/EN/index.htm.

Lt. Col. Klaudius K. Robinson, U.S. Army, is a European/Eurasian Foreign Area Officer currently stationed at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. He was commissioned into the Armor Branch from Florida Southern College and holds an M.A. from Georgetown in Security Studies (National Security Affairs). His assignments include tours in Cavalry/Armor units, deployments with OIF I and III, and FAO assignments in Europe.