Russia is a bigger security challenge for the United States and Europe in the short term than China, US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said.
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“In the coming years, Russia may actually represent the primary security challenge that we face in the military domain for the United States and certainly for Europe. Russia is an increasingly assertive adversary that remains determined to enhance its global influence and play a disruptive role on the global stage, including through attempts to divide the West,” Kahl said at the Lithuania-hosted Baltic Military Conference on Friday.
The Pentagon official said that while China might be the “the pacing threat” to Washington and its allies, Russia might be a greater problem in the short term judging from its behavior in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and cyberspace.
“Far too often, Moscow erodes transparency and predictability, uses military force to achieve its goals, supports proxy groups to sow chaos and doubt, undermines the rules-based international order,” he said, adding that “The United States continues to closely monitor Russian military activity along NATO’s eastern flank and in the Black Sea region.”
The US will interact with Russia from a position of collective strength, Kahl said, noting that US military forces in Europe remained strong and flexible, ensuring “credible and effective deterrence.”
At the same time, the US government does not rule out the option of resuming the dialogue with Moscow if the Russian government changes its behavior, the Pentagon official said.
The Baltic Military Conference is an annual event on security organized by the Lithuanian defense ministry and the General Jonas Zemaitis Military Academy. This year, the conference was titled “The West in a New Era of Great Power Rivalry” and focused on the transatlantic response to the security challenges posed by Russia and China.
Russia and the United States are interested in cooperation and predictability in the Arctic and will eventually start discussing military and political aspects of the situation in the region even if they have some disagreement over it at the moment, Nikolai Korchunov, a senior official of the Arctic Council, told Sputnik.
The US embassy in Moscow said on Saturday that the US and Russia cooperated on issues that were of interest to both countries in the Arctic, adding that this cooperation helped keep the region free of conflict.
“There is a mutual interest in this region developing in a predictable manner, in it being the area of constructive joint work and minimal tensions — US officials have remarked on that, too — in the cooperation developing within the Arctic Council.
The positions differ somewhat now when it comes to military and political aspects, but these issues will also be on the agenda of the Russian-US dialogue and cooperation in the Arctic sooner or later,” Korchunov, who serves also as the ambassador-at-large of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said.
The envoy expressed his confidence that the Arctic countries would establish a dialogue on military security in the region.
“The issue of hard security does not apply to the agenda of the Arctic Council – the council is mainly concerned with soft security. It should be noted that nothing strengthens security like cooperation and partnership.
There is no doubt that a dialogue on military security between the Arctic countries will be established, especially since there is already a positive experience of such interaction,” Korchunov said on the eve of the 25th establishment anniversary of the Arctic Council.
Russia has repeatedly proposed to resume regular meetings between the army chiefs of staff of Arctic Council countries and, as a first step, to hold consultations at the level of military experts. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, commenting on the Russian initiative, said that the Arctic countries had not rejected Moscow’s proposal, but they had not given a concrete positive reaction either.
The Arctic Council, which was set up in 1996, brings together Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. Countries take turns to hold the two-year chairmanship position. Russia’s chairmanship of the organization began on May 20.