Our work is only possible through the generosity of private philanthropy. Find out how you can support our mission and can contribute to our work.
Join the HJS mailing list and keep up to date.
General Philip M. Breedlove
Former Commander, U.S. European Command and 17th Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO Allied Command Operations.
On the 12th March, 2018, the Henry Jackson Society hosted General Philip Breedlove, former commander of the U.S.’s European Command. When he served his focus was on the revanchism in current Russian foreign policy. He began his talk that Russia lost its great power status with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and so international rule-making was dominated by Europe and North America. He argued that now Russia wasn’t just a rule-breaker, or a spoiler, but attempting to rewrite international rules, in two ways: the first, the use of brute force, listing examples of the 2008 Russo-Georgia War, the Donbass insurgency 2014-present, and Crimea annexation. Russia wants force to be a credible instrument to resolve international disputes.
The second is the use of hybrid warfare. General Breedlove argued that hybrid warfare is not new, but uses old tools in new ways. He prefers terms like asymmetric methods, and “war below of the line.” The ‘line’ of a country is the threshold where Russia can act without too much retaliation, and then strike to get its desired objective. This can be assassinations, to election meddling, to involving itself in the economy, like financial services in the U.K. or European energy markets. Each country has a different ‘line’, for Ukraine, it was fairly high and after disinformation, supporting separatists and election meddling, the Ukrainian state was unable to respond to the Crimea annexation. Breedlove summed up Russian strategy with D.I.M.E., Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic, these are spheres in which the West has to respond too in order to be effective against Russia.
After this, General Breedlove outlined his criticism of the West’s response in four crucial ways.
1) A fear of escalation,
2) A fear of losing business,
3) Political gridlock and polarization of foreign policy issues,
4) General lack of policy, the West has a problem dealing with disinformation. Underneath these four problems was the use of nuclear weapons.
General Breedlove noted that Putin claimed to have revamped Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal, and had said he was willing to use nuclear weapons to attack Ukraine. The West can dispute the truth of the new Russian nuclear weapons, but it shouldn’t forget the huge Russian stockpile, and Putin’s rhetoric to use it.
He ended his talk with 5 recommendations:
1) Western discourse on Russia is too focused on individual cases, and so fails to see the big picture.
2) The West shouldn’t be afraid to ‘take the field’,
3) The West should unify around sticking to sanctions,
4) The West should keep its nuclear weapons reliable, safe and ensure they continue to have the desire affect,
5) Engage with Russia on non-military matters from a position of strength.