SMA hosted a speaker session with BG (Ret) Peter Zwack (Global Fellow, The Wilson Center & Adjunct Fellow, Salve Regina University) as part of its SMA EUCOM Speaker Series.
Following a recent trip to Russia for a conference, BG (Ret) Zwack shared his experiences and observations with the SMA audience. To begin, he reviewed some vital aspects of history and geography that must be known when examining Russia and its current state. He pointed out that Russia is increasingly concerned with protecting its border because its population is decreasing. Russia continually reminds its domestic population of past Russian victories and successes to stoke Russian nationalism. Murals of Russian heroes have been painted across its cities to increase nationalist sentiment. This is an important objective for Putin because he considers NATO’s expanding influence as a threat to his government’s sovereignty. BG (Ret) Zwack cited the annual Zapad military exercise and NATO’s border in the Black Sea as potential areas for conflict escalation between Russia and NATO. He emphasized that NATO be careful to not accidentally encroach on Russia’s sovereign soil.
Even though Russia and the US have a confrontational relationship, it is important that the US continues to have a presence at international conferences in Russia, such as the Moscow Security conference (MCIS). BG (Ret) Zwackcommented that while he experienced anti-American sentiment during the latest MCIS, the Russian participants expressed appreciation that the US had taken part. Some security concerns Russian and international participants expressed were the movement of militants in Africa, global terrorism, and the Artic. Cyber security was also discussed, but there were few major solutions offered.
Note: We are aware that many government IT providers have blocked access to YouTube from government machines during the pandemic in response to bandwidth limitations. We recommend viewing the recording on YouTube from a non-government computer or listening to the audio file (below), if you are in this position.