General Philip Breedlove, a distinguished professor in the Ivan Allen College Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, discussed strategies for international dialogue and diplomacy during a talk held on November 28, 2016. The Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy (CISTP), the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies (CETS), and the College of Civil and Environmental Engineering hosted Breedlove, who was formerly the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Breedlove presented the two grand challenges facing Europe and the NATO community: Strategic Direction East and Strategic Direction South. Strategic Direction East focuses on concerns with an aggressive Russia, and Strategic Direction South addresses the inherent risks with refugees from Northern Africa and the Middle East. While these issues were previously disconnected, the Russian intervention in Syria has caused them to become intertwined.
Concerning Strategic Direction East, the Eastern Front, Crimea, and Donbass in Ukraine offer distinct challenges to protect and secure NATO allies. However, the Northern Sea Route and the Black Sea represent opportunities for cooperation with Russia due to a significant drop in trade costs. In order to move forward, Breedlove suggested that Europe needs to be whole, free, at peace, and prosperous; however, a prosperous Europe is much more feasible with Russia than without it. In order to establish a more positive relationship with Russia, Breedlove urged the re-establishment of communications and interactions that will lead to a growing sense of trust and mutual security. He further urged that there needs to be incremental but measureable joint actions between NATO and Russia that clearly illustrates a willingness to cooperate on both sides. However, grievances on both sides should not be forgotten — specifically Russian actions in Aleppo, Donbass, Crimea, and Georgia — and need to be addressed, but jointly as the partners move forward.
Breedlove then discussed Strategic Direction South and the instability in Syria, stating that the instability is a symptom of a larger problem: the Shia/Sunni conflict. In order to get to the root of this problem, Breedlove introduced the concept of DIME as an illustration of U.S. Diplomatic, Information, Military, and Economic efforts. Currently, the U.S. is largely depending on the military aspect to tackle the problem, which is crucial for ensuring security in the region. However, more diplomacy, information tactics, and economic responses will be necessary to fix the root problem and the societal issues perpetuating the conflict. Breedlove warned that Syria could reflect a new Afghanistan-type situation, meaning the root problem was not addressed effectively and has led to continued instability.
Breedlove concluded his discussion with a reiteration of his suggestions. In Strategic Direction East, a relationship with Russia that begins with dialogue is crucial to securing a prosperous Europe. Dialogue and diplomacy will lead to mutual good behavior, eventually building trust, security, and prosperity for both sides. In Strategic Direction South, all of DIME (and thus a well-rounded response) needs to be employed, beginning with continued military intervention to establish a stable environment that enables the other components of DIME to be effective.