U.S. Inter­ests Face Chal­lenges in Europe, Intel­li­gence Chief Says

By Jim Gara­mone
Amer­i­can Forces Press Service 

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2009 — (This is the sec­ond in a three-part series on the intel­li­gence community’s annu­al threat assessment.) 

Russia’s per­ceived strengths and its poli­cies, ten­sions in Eura­sia, Cau­ca­sus and Cen­tral Asia, and insta­bil­i­ty in the Balka­ns all pose chal­lenges to U.S. inter­ests in Europe, the direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence said Feb. 12. 

Den­nis C. Blair, a retired Navy admi­ral, told the Sen­ate Select Com­mit­tee on Intel­li­gence that Rus­sia con­tin­ues to rebuild its mil­i­tary and, as events in Geor­gia last year show, use those forces to impress on the world that the nation is still relevant. 

“Russ­ian chal­lenges to US inter­ests now spring more from Moscow’s per­ceived strengths than from the state weak­ness­es char­ac­ter­is­tic of the 1990s,” Blair said in pre­pared testimony. 

“U.S. involve­ment in Iraq and Afghanistan and gen­er­al anti-Amer­i­can­ism have cre­at­ed open­ings for Rus­sia to build alter­na­tive arrange­ments to the US-led inter­na­tion­al polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic insti­tu­tion­al order,” he said. 

Rus­sia is attempt­ing to increase its abil­i­ty to influ­ence events, he said, by “active­ly cul­ti­vat­ing rela­tions with region­al pow­ers, includ­ing Chi­na, Iran, and Venezuela.” 

Blair said Russia’s ener­gy pol­i­cy is aimed at increas­ing the country’s impor­tance on the Euro­pean continent. 

“Moscow also is try­ing to main­tain con­trol over ener­gy sup­ply and trans­porta­tion net­works to Europe to East Asia, and pro­tect and fur­ther enhance its mar­ket share in Europe through new bilat­er­al ener­gy part­ner­ships and orga­niz­ing a gas car­tel with oth­er major exporters,” he said. 

“Rus­sia appears to believe the con­tin­ued heavy depen­dence of Euro­pean coun­tries and for­mer Sovi­et states on Russia’s state gas monop­oly, Gazprom, pro­vides Moscow with polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic lever­age,” he said. 

The Unit­ed States and Rus­sia can con­tin­ue to work some issues togeth­er, Blair said, but some issues – such as NATO enlarge­ment, Euro­pean Mis­sile Defense and the break­away Geor­gian provinces of Abkha­sia and South Osse­tia – will pose difficulties. 

Russia’s rela­tions with its neigh­bors – and once vas­sals – will always be strained to one extent or anoth­er. Arme­nia, Azer­bai­jan, Ukraine, Geor­gia, Belarus all have com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships with Moscow, he said. 

Ukraine will have a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion next win­ter, and pres­sure applied by Rus­sia pres­sure and by the glob­al finan­cial cri­sis will work on the coun­try, he said. 

“Ukraine has moved toward democ­ra­cy and West­ern inte­gra­tion despite numer­ous polit­i­cal tests since inde­pen­dence,” he said. Progress will be dif­fi­cult because of weak polit­i­cal insti­tu­tions and on-going con­flicts with Rus­sia over gas-pric­ing and con­tracts, he said, not­ing that the Ukrain­ian econ­o­my is weak, and this may affect sta­bil­i­ty in the nation. 

The for­mer Cen­tral Asia sovi­et social­ist republics – Kaza­khstan, Kyr­gyzs­tan, Turk­menistan, Tajik­istan and Uzbek­istan – are ill-equipped to deal with grow­ing Mus­lim extrem­ism, he said. 

“Ener­gy helped make Kaza­khstan a region­al eco­nom­ic force, but any sus­tained decline in oil prices would affect rev­enues, could lead to soci­etal dis­con­tent and will derail to momen­tum for domes­tic reforms,” he said. 

The glob­al finan­cial cri­sis will affect Tajik­istan and Kyr­gyzs­tan the most, since over 40 per­cent of the gross domes­tic prod­uct of both coun­tries comes from remit­tances, but all of the Cen­tral Asian coun­tries – with their weak gov­ern­ments – will be affect­ed, Blair said. 

The Balka­ns are the great­est threat to sta­bil­i­ty with­in Europe, Blair said. Koso­vo could be a flash­point. The new coun­try is effec­tive­ly divid­ed into a Ser­bian eth­nic major­i­ty north and a Koso­var-Alban­ian south. Even as Serbia’s gov­ern­ment in Bel­grade seeks to align itself more close­ly with the Euro­pean Union and NATO, it will not com­pro­mise on Kosovo. 

There is also con­tin­ued shak­i­ness in Bosnia-Herzigov­ina and the future of the nation as a mul­ti-eth­nic state remains in doubt, Blair said, not­ing that inter-eth­nic ten­sions may have increased in that coun­try to “per­haps the high­est lev­el in years.” 

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

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →