Last week, I asked one of Fletcher’s storied professors and head of our International Security Studies Program Dr. Richard Shultz, for his thoughts on Vladimir Putin and how far he might go in terms of Ukraine. At the time, I pegged the chances of Putin’s continued incursion into Ukraine at 1 in 4 — a decision that would by influenced by his assessment of the cost and the likely response from the international community including NATO.
But yesterday’s news about the unrest in Eastern Ukraine — which US Secretary of State John Kerry views as having been contrived by Russia as a pretext for military intervention — forces me to revisit my calculus.
Dr. Shultz and I also discussed the importance of NATO assuring bordering countries of the alliances’ resolve by increasing the NATO foot print in the Balkans and Poland, as well as Ukraine, in addition to intelligence sharing and cyber initiatives.
Meanwhile, NATO is facing a number of challenges as it responds to the issues, including budgetary. Right now, only four of its members meet NATO’s guidelines for spending more than 2 percent of their annual GDP on defense. According to the Financial Times, only the Baltic states have committed to increasing their budgets following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. I spoke with the FT on this watershed moment for NATO:
The question is whether NATO emerges reinvigorated, or shaken apart. “I think there’s about a one-in-three chance this goes very badly – that it spirals into a new cold war or, if you will, a big freeze,” says Admiral James Stavridis, supreme allied commander at NATO until last May.
“It’s comparable if not slightly more concerning and dangerous than the Balkan crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union,” says Admiral Stavridis, now dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University. “What is additionally disturbing now is the potential for confrontation [directly] with Russia.”
I’ll make good on my promise to follow up with Dr. Shultz in the weeks ahead as events in the region unfold.
Dean Stavridis with his basset hound, Lilly.
Dean James Stavridis is the 12th leader of The Fletcher School since its founding in 1933. A retired Admiral in the U.S. Navy, he led the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander.