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Authored by Dr. Richard J. Krickus. | March 2006
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, American security analysts preoccupied with global terrorism have ignored Russia as a security threat, but this is a mistake for two reasons. First, violence in the Caucasus, a demographic and health crisis, economic uncertainty, income inequality and a return to autocracy suggest a problematic future for Russia. Though deemed implausible, an imploded Russia would have massive security implications for the international community.
But second, there is an existential threat posed by Russia which Janusz Bugajski has described in his book, Cold Peace: Russia?s New Imperialism. It involves Moscow?s campaign to reassert its influence over the security policies of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The purpose of this monograph is to identify the actors and circumstances? characterized as Iron Troikas?which the Kremlin is employing to achieve these goals. The focus will be upon four U.S. allies in the East Baltic Sea Region (EBSR): the Baltic countries and Poland. Toward this end, the monograph will analyze:
Against this backdrop, Western defense analysts must acknowledge that Iron Troikas represent a ?new threat from the East??in the EBSR but throughout the Near Abroad as well. To date, the Western security community has failed to acknowledge this threat primarily because it does not involve classical military operations. Simultaneously, American and European political authorities have been reluctant to challenge Russia on Iron Troikas out of concern that to do so will place at risk joint Russian-Western efforts to fight the global war on terrorism, to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to gain access to vital energy assets from areas other than the unstable Middle East.
But on the basis of this initial assessment of Iron Troikas, it is apparent that Russia hopes to achieve a number of goals, all of which are detrimental to U.S. security interests in New Europe. For example, to foreclose the possibility that New European states will join the United States in future military ventures similar to Iraq, to promote a common European Union security policy that diminishes North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) effectiveness, and to coerce the Poles and Balts into accepting a security arrangement more in keeping with Russia?s interests.
The U.S. defense community must revisit Russia not as a peer military threat, but as an unstable area that could influence developments throughout Eurasia. Most specifically, it must acknowledge that Iron Troikas represent an existential security threat to America?s EBSR allies. The region represents a potential theater of strategic operations in the easternmost frontier of NATO and can provide access and bases that one day may be required out of political necessity or for operational reasons. Its importance may grow as developments in Belarus, Northwest Russia, and Ukraine become more problematic.
Measures therefore must be taken by the defense community to address this ?other than war? threat. Toward this end, the U.S. Army should develop programs bilaterally or with NATO and through existing networks help the military establishments in the region cope with it.