Common Challenges Fuel U.S.-Russian Cooperation, Gates Says

ST. PETERSBURG, Rus­sia, March 21, 2011 — Com­mon secu­ri­ty chal­lenges, a deep­en­ing mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship and the will to expand coop­er­a­tion have drawn the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia togeth­er to face emerg­ing issues of the 21st cen­tu­ry, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here today.
Speak­ing at the new State Russ­ian Naval Muse­um to mid-lev­el naval offi­cers from the Kuznetsov Naval Acad­e­my, Gates said the last time he vis­it­ed St. Peters­burg was as direc­tor of the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency in 1992.

“The broad­er pur­pose of my 1992 vis­it … was to explore with my Russ­ian coun­ter­part, head of the Russ­ian For­eign Intel­li­gence Ser­vice Evgeniy Pri­makov, oppor­tu­ni­ties for the Amer­i­can and Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices to begin to work togeth­er,” Gates said.

At the time, he said, they addressed com­mon threats in the post-Cold-War world, includ­ing ter­ror­ism, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass destruc­tion, glob­al orga­nized crime, nar­cotics traf­fick­ing and oth­ers.

“No longer ene­mies,” the sec­re­tary said, “we began to look for ways in which we could coop­er­ate and be part­ners.”

Gates not­ed that the Russ­ian naval offi­cers and their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts “entered mil­i­tary insti­tu­tions that were essen­tial­ly shaped in response to each oth­er.” Twen­ty years after the end of the Cold War, he said, U.S. and Russ­ian defense orga­ni­za­tions still are work­ing to trans­form them­selves to meet evolv­ing threats and oppor­tu­ni­ties.

In the 21st cen­tu­ry, the sec­re­tary said, mil­i­taries must be agile and adapt­able enough to face threats that involve coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism, fight­ing pira­cy and respond­ing to nat­ur­al dis­as­ters.

“They might be bat­tling unpre­dictable insur­gents in fail­ing states as well as pro­vid­ing the defense train­ing to help those states defend them­selves,” Gates said. “They might be threats from a rogue nation or ter­ror­ists who do not attack though con­ven­tion­al chan­nels or obey the laws of war or care about inno­cent lives, he said, such as those who recent­ly struck at a Moscow air­port.

The broad­en­ing spec­trum of con­flict, Gates added, means mil­i­tary lead­ers must think hard­er about the range of mis­sions they will be called on to per­form and how to bal­ance capa­bil­i­ties.

“I have pushed all of our mil­i­tary ser­vices to insti­tu­tion­al­ize the asym­met­ric and uncon­ven­tion­al war­fare capa­bil­i­ties devel­oped in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. The Russ­ian mil­i­tary has had to adapt to sim­i­lar exter­nal threats and inter­nal adjust­ments, he added.

Gates not­ed that he and Russ­ian Defense Min­is­ter Ana­toliy Serdyukov have had a num­ber of con­ver­sa­tions com­mis­er­at­ing on the chal­lenges of run­ning large, proud and tra­di­tion-bound mil­i­tary insti­tu­tions. Both, he said, strive to “invest lim­it­ed funds wise­ly on tru­ly crit­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties while doing right by our troops and their fam­i­lies.” These and oth­er evolv­ing 21st cen­tu­ry chal­lenges, the sec­re­tary said, have cre­at­ed new oppor­tu­ni­ties for coop­er­a­tion.

Togeth­er, he said, the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia have coor­di­nat­ed and expand­ed oper­a­tion of the north­ern dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work into Afghanistan, and Rus­sia has offered aid to the Afghan gov­ern­ment in devel­op­ing its heli­copter fleet.

The Unit­ed States and Rus­sia also have worked togeth­er through nego­ti­a­tions and sanc­tions to per­suade the Iran­ian regime to give up the pur­suit of nuclear weapons. Rus­sia also restrict­ed arms sales to Iran and backed the Unit­ed Nations’ expand­ed efforts toward that nation.

Both nations also rat­i­fied the new Strate­gic Arms Reduc­tion Treaty, Gates said, “a con­tin­u­a­tion and expan­sion of arms-con­trol efforts we worked toward even dur­ing the dark­est days of the Cold War.”

The two mil­i­taries always have learned from each oth­er, Gates said, even in less coop­er­a­tive times.

Today, the sec­re­tary said, the mil­i­taries exchange best prac­tices and strate­gies for train­ing, edu­cat­ing and car­ing for troops; defense tech­nolo­gies such as ways to counter home­made bombs; logis­tics, such as efforts along the north­ern dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work; and mar­itime coop­er­a­tion, includ­ing coun­ter­pira­cy efforts.

Even so, Gates said, Rus­sia and the Unit­ed States won’t always agree. For exam­ple, he not­ed, “Rus­sia still has uncer­tain­ties about the Euro­pean Phased Adap­tive Approach, a lim­it­ed [mis­sile defense] sys­tem that pos­es no chal­lenge to the large Russ­ian nuclear arse­nal.”

But the nations have mutu­al­ly com­mit­ted to resolv­ing these dif­fi­cul­ties to devel­op a roadmap toward effec­tive anti-bal­lis­tic mis­sile col­lab­o­ra­tion, Gates said.

Col­lab­o­ra­tion may include exchang­ing launch infor­ma­tion, set­ting up a joint data fusion cen­ter, allow­ing greater trans­paren­cy in mis­sile defense plans and exer­cis­es, and con­duct­ing a joint analy­sis to deter­mine areas of future coop­er­a­tion, the sec­re­tary said.

Gates told the Russ­ian offi­cers how the U.S. mil­i­tary has gained valu­able exper­tise by oper­at­ing with inter­na­tion­al part­ners rang­ing “from the Balka­ns in the 1990s, where the U.S. mil­i­tary worked with Russ­ian forces, to the inter­na­tion­al mil­i­tary effort in Libya today.”

Despite his work with Serdyukov, Gates said, future progress is not up to the cur­rent defense lead­ers alone.

“It will be up to you, the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers,” the sec­re­tary said, “to make what you will of our efforts and decide what his­to­ry you’ll be telling when it’s your turn to stand up here.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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