FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – Command and General Staff College’s Cultural and Area Studies Office hosted “Russia-Ukraine War: is Wider Conflict Imminent?” Oct. 17 at the Arnold Conference Room, Lewis and Clark Center. The panel included the Consul General of Germany in Chicago, a University of Kansas professor, and a School of Advanced Military Studies professor.
Lt. Gen. Milford H. Beagle, Jr., Commanding General of the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, provided opening remarks. Dr. Mahir J. Ibrahimov, Director, CASO, served as the panel moderator. Panel Members included Wolfgang Mössinger, Consul General of Germany in Chicago, Dr. Erik R. Scott, Director of the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Kansas, and Dr. Philip Hultquist, Associate Professor at the School of Advanced Military Studies.
Speaking to a standing-room only audience of more than 100 students, faculty, and guests in the conference room, and a world-wide audience via teleconference and Facebook Live, Beagle said the answer to the question in the panel title is “perhaps.”
“The goal of this panel and discussions for today and discussions like them is to help you refine your own conclusions and inform your own understanding. Most importantly, these panels enable us to gain more comfort, with a bias toward understanding, versus a bias to action,” he said. In combat operations it’s the bias to action we want, he said. “But, in an environment like this it’s the bias to understand first.”
Following Beagle’s opening remarks, Ibrahimov provided background for the discussion focusing on the influence of Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin who wrote in Foundations of Geopolitics and other publications about “Новороссия” or “New Russia” and the conflict between Eurasianists and Atlanticists. Ibrahimov showed and explained maps of the potential “New Russia” that included much of Ukraine and a map of the global “New Russia” concept.
Each panelist made short presentations following Ibrahimov’s introduction. Mössinger, who in addition to his current posting previously represented Germany in Ukraine from 2015 to 2019 was first.
“This border between Ukraine and the separatist areas is a bit like the Berlin Wall was prior to 1990, the place where autocracy and democracy meet face-to-face,” he said. “Since February 24, 2022, this line is now basically the whole territory of Ukraine.” He said it’s important that the West sees it that way, as the place where democracy is defended against a revisionist autocracy that wants to reverse history. “It’s fortunate that we have a united West that sees it that way,” he said. It’s significant that there were more than 140 votes in the United Nations condemning Russia first for the invasion and then for annexation of Ukraine territory.
“Putin’s ultimate goal is to erase Ukraine from the map, to annihilate Ukraine in culture, language, and its people, to incorporate them entirely into Russia” he said. Mössinger referred to the Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin whose ideas are now taught in Russian schools. Ilyin wrote Russia should never become a democracy because Russians are not able to live in a democracy.
Mössinger concluded his comments saying wider conflict is possible but it is not a foregone conclusion. “If we, the West, stays together and keeps on supporting Ukraine, I think we will prevail. And we actually should prevail in this conflict because it’s not only a conflict of ideologies, it’s also a conflict of global security, and a conflict where no country can abstain or stand aside if it is interested in safeguarding its own integrity, its own borders, its own sovereignty.”
Scott spoke about historic parallels. The first parallel is the recently announced draft in Russia. Scott said this is only the third time in Russian and Soviet history that there has been a draft. The other two times were for World War I and II. He also said that Putin is caging the draft in terms of the “Great Patriotic War,” the Russian name for WWII but the better parallel may be WWI when, on the Eastern Front, there were rapidly shifting battle lines, taking, losing, and retaking territory, mass population displacement and high levels of desertion.
Armageddon delayed is how Scott assesses the collapse of the Soviet Union. He said, in theory Russia may be able to slow decolonization but is more likely to come out as weaker and more isolated. The risks of a weakened Russia include more extreme leadership, increased nuclear threat, expanded roles for China, Iran, and Turkey, regional instability in the Caucasus and Central Asia, mass migration, and how the U.S. may respond.
Hultquist focused on the relationships between five countries in the Indo-Pacific--United States, Russia, China, India, and Pakistan. India, he said, prefers a multipolar order and has pursued a multi-alignment strategy. They have a long history of relationship with Russia. About 85 percent of India’s military equipment is of Russian origin.
These five countries have cross-cutting alignments said Hultquist. The U.S. is aligned with India and Pakistan; India is aligned with Russia and the United States; Pakistan is aligned with the U.S. and China. These alignments weaken the ability of these countries to cooperate fully. That weakens the effectiveness of the counter-China coalition for the Pacific.
He ended his talk with a question. “Can the U.S. continue to invest in India’s growth while India stays at least semi-aligned with Russia?”
Following presentations by the panel members, the audience in the conference room and attending by Facebook and video teleconference were able to ask questions, make comments, and engage in the discussion.
This panel is part of series of seminars and panel discussions on issues of operational and strategic importance to the United States that CASO in coordination with CGSC, universities, think tanks, interagency organizations and other partners conducts every two to three months broadcasting them through Video Teleconference and live on CGSC's Facebook page. Videos of the sessions are available on the CGSC Facebook and YouTube sites.
For questions on CASO events please contact: Dr. Mahir J. Ibrahimov, Director, Cultural and Area Studies Office, U.S. Army CGSC at (913)684-3345 or email@example.com.
See the full panel discussion at https://www.facebook.com/USACGSC/videos/623918372537757.