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The Russia challenge, 2016 edition

The Virginia Gazette


The late George Tayloe Ross, a generous donor to the College of William & Mary, would be pleased.

Stephen Hanson, Vice Provost for International Affairs at the College of William & Mary and Director of its Reves Center for International Studies, managed to recruit Dr. Celeste A. Wallander, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Russia and Central Asia on the National Security Council Staff, as a speaker of the annual George Tayloe Ross Address on International Peace.

Wallander is an international relations expert with a focus on Russia and Eurasia. She served from 2006 to 2012 as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy under Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who currently serves as Chancellor of William and Mary.

She has advised President Obama, "To deal with Russia we face, not merely the Russia so many – including Russians – hoped for. Instead, to deal with a Russia under its current leadership, that has spun a tale in which the United States has sought to disregard, weaken, and exploit the Russian Federation."

In fact, Wallander argues, the United States has long sought a robust and constructive relationship with Russia.

"And this is why, for 25 years, the U.S. bipartisan core strategy has been to integrate Russia by facilitating investment and trade, by supporting Russia's assumption of a strong role in global institutions, and by deepening our partnership in security cooperation to reinforce the foundations of stability and predictability," she said in an recent address to members of the Center for a New American Security.

She listed some key examples: recognizing Russia as the sole legal successor state to the Soviet Union which enabled Russia to take the Soviet Union's seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council; recognizing Russia's successor role in treaties and agreements governing nuclear weapons possession and stewardship; and concluding a new strategic nuclear reduction treaty. In addition, she noted, the United States has consistently sought to engage Russia on some of the toughest European security issues of our time.

"U. S. policy on Russia has long held that we – Europe and indeed the broader global community – would be more secure, prosperous, and capable of tackling global challenges if Russia is secure, prosperous, and integrated in global and regional institutions as a constructive stakeholder in the international system" she said.

What has changed, Wallander asserts, is that since President Putin came back to power in 2012, Russian leadership no longer appears to accept the rules and institutions that Russia signed onto at the end of the Cold War.

"Although there were worrying signs that the Russian leadership sought to evade those rules in previous years ... It was Russia's unilateral use of military force to acquire territory with the annexation of Crimea that revealed the true scope of the Russian leadership's rejection of the fundamentals of global and European order," she said.

According to Wallander, the United States continues to cooperate with Russia in those areas where both countries share pragmatic common interest in tackling pressing global challenges. This includes nonproliferation of nuclear and other WMD weapons, and combating violent extremism and terrorism. In fact, amidst what was seen worsening as U.S.-Russian relations, the U. S. has worked with Russia to remove Syria's declared chemical weapons, and to secure an agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

How the complicated relationship between the U. S. and Russia, two nuclear powers, could and should be handled in 2016, will be the subject of Dr. Wallander's lecture.

Frank Shatz is a Williamsburg resident. He is the author of "Reports from a Distant Place," The book is available at the Burton Paris Shop and on Amazon.com.

Want to go:

Wallander's lecture is Thursday, Jan. 28., at 5:00 p.m. in Tucker Hall, Room 127A. It is free and open to the public.

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