Valdai Club 7: Military reform and international cooperation

This is the final post in my series on the Valdai Club military section meeting. The last discussion panel of the conference was entitled “New Challenges – New Alliances: From Ideological Alliances to Interest-based Coalitions.” The three presenters were Yves Boyer, the deputy director of the Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique in Paris, myself, and Alexander Sharavin, the director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis in Moscow.

Panel on international cooperation

Boyer’s presentation covered recent developments and future prospects for a common European Defense Policy. He said little about Russia per se, except to note at the end that Russia feels isolated in a globalized world and therefore the EU should develop close cooperation with Russia in order to reduce its sense of isolation.

My presentation focused on the possibilities for US-Russian cooperation in the Caspian region. The core of the argument can be found in my recent PONARS memo on the subject, so I won’t repeat it here.

Alexander Sharavin’s presentation covered how the military reform affects Russia’s international connections. He argued that one major impact has been the enormous change in tone at the MOD on willingness to engage in cooperation with foreign states. Eleven years ago, the head of the international cooperation department at the MOD was Leonid Ivashov, now it’s Sergei Koshelev, who is a professional diplomat. It’s a very different attitude. The difference in tone is notable because for the first time, civilians control the MOD. In the Soviet period, there were defense ministers who were civilians (even though they wore uniforms and were called marshals when they took the position), but they were controlled by the generals. This is the first time that civilians work in the MOD on an equal footing with members of the military. In the old days, they never would have taken foreign visitors to a location such as the Don radar station. Continue reading