U.S./NATO-Russia and Countering Ideological Support for Terrorism: Toward Building a Comprehensive Strategy
"Counterterrorism is one critical area for helping to bring about a transition from the ‘old thinking' in Russian-American relations and for defining fruitful ways for NATO and Russia to advance their mutual interests," said Sharyl Cross, professor of national security studies, George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Garmisch, Germany, and Title VIII-supported short-term scholar, Kennan Institute. Speaking at a 19 June 2007 Kennan Institute lecture, Cross discussed how the United States and NATO can cooperate with Russia in building a comprehensive strategy for countering ideological support for terrorism. Although Russia is now one of NATO's most important allies in countering terrorism, the full potential for cooperation has not been realized and the overall strategic picture for the future remains uncertain, according to Cross.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. took a comprehensive global approach to combating terrorism, Cross observed, while Russia and other European nations tended to place greater priority on utilizing resources to address domestic terrorist threats. At the same time, she noted that international collaboration among nations of the transatlantic community in counterterrorism continues to advance on multiple levels including intelligence sharing, intercepting terrorist financial networks, and homeland defense. Although she discussed differences among the U.S., European nations, and Russia with regard to areas of emphasis, terminology, and approaches in addressing the ideological foundations of terrorist movements, Cross cited official U.S. and U.K. policy statements, the EU Strategy for Combating Radicalization, France's White Paper on Domestic Security Against Terrorism, as well as recent statements offered by Russian officials illustrating the growing shared consensus concerning the importance of addressing the ideological or "hearts and minds" dimension in countering terrorism.
Cross noted that Russia's first national security concept published in 1993 emphasized common interests and values with Western societies, whereas the concept published in 2000 warned of the threat posed by the use of military force outside NATO's traditional zone of responsibility. She pointed to two major developments during the first decade of Russia's post-Soviet transition that created serious strains between Russia and NATO. The first was Russia's consistent objection to the expansion of NATO, and the second was the 1999 U.S./NATO Kosovo air war. Nevertheless, she noted that Putin had frequently called for forging robust ties with the U.S./NATO in countering terrorism.
The struggle against terrorism could become a basis for closer cooperation, especially because it involves concrete, practical activities advancing common shared security interests, Cross said. "We see progress in areas where the focus remains on Russia's collaboration with the United States and other Western nations to achieve specific tasks as a means of eroding the barriers to trust," she observed.
Cross outlined what she suggested might be a comprehensive "containment-like" strategy to counter ideological support for terrorism, which would integrate military, information, political, socio-economic, moral/ethical, and psychological factors, and seek to influence perceptions. Cross argued that the strategy should be "containment-like" in that it must include careful coordination of multiple instruments and sustained commitment over a period of not just a few years or a single administration, but for the next several decades. She contended that the strategy will have to be well integrated and coordinated not only within the U.S. government agencies, but also internationally among nations that share the strategic assessment assigning priority to countering violent extremism legitimizing terrorism. She noted that the strategy must be crafted taking account of lessons learned regarding effective methods for eroding violent extremist appeal among diverse regional and local contexts.
She discussed a number of factors that will continue to influence the U.S./NATO-Russian strategic relationship and capacity for cooperation in counterterrorism including: potential admission of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO; placement of missile defense assets in Poland and the Czech Republic; the status of Kosovo's independence; and differences concerning the terms of implementation of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.
Cross concluded by stating that U.S. criticism of Putin's record on democratization hasn't been productive. She stressed that Russia's transition to democracy will require decades, and can only take place in accordance with the Russia's unique culture and traditions. The U.S. can best support positive change by remaining engaged with Russia, and continuing to develop cooperation based on mutual priority interests in counterterrorism and other areas.
* The speaker noted that the views presented are her own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy position of the Marshall Center, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.