The US, Russia, and the Security of Europe’s Flanks

On March 23, 2017, The Jamestown Foundation held an all-day conference on “The U.S., Russia, and the Security of Europe’s Flanks.” The event included defense and foreign policy experts from both the United States and Europe, and featured special remarks by Alexander Vershbow, the former NATO Deputy Secretary General, as well as Michael Carpenter, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Ukraine, Russia and Eurasia, under the Obama administration.

The conference began with a panel discussion on Russia’s problems in its relations with the West, ambitious military modernization plans coupled with a return to a mass modernization model, and the limited impact of sanctions on the Russian economy, which is mainly struggling because of low oil prices and endemic structural issues. The second panel, which included Vershbow and Carpenter, addressed prospects going forward for U.S-Russian relations as well as NATO’s deterrence role in Europe. Vershbow defended the value of the European Allies’ contributions to NATO, but noted that additional steps were needed to build up credible deterrence, including anti-submarine warfare and cyber capabilities as well as greater member resilience. Carpenter cast doubt on any possibility for fruitful U.S.-Russian cooperation in Syria and on counter-terrorism, due to the latter country’s indiscriminate military actions as well as opposing interests throughout the Middle East.

The conference’s third panel focused geographically on NATO’s southeastern flank—the Balkans and Black Sea region. The speakers delved into Russia’s subversive political and economic activities in Southeastern Europe, including attempting a coup in Montenegro last year; Moscow’s steps to push other countries out of the Karabakh peace process and the South Caucasus more generally; as well as NATO’s relatively weak position in the Black Sea, especially in comparison to its posture in the Baltic. The final panel of the day discussed the threats in the Baltic Sea region. Panelists covered Poland’s main security-related priorities in light of Russia’s aggressive behavior and the tumult caused by the Brexit; Kaliningrad’s role as a vanguard of the “Russian World” and an increasingly militarized outpost inside Europe; as well as the Swedish government’s efforts to rebuild its conventional military deterrence following decades of atrophy of its armed forces and a focus on expeditionary warfare.

*Please scroll down for media from the event.


About the Event:

Over the past decade, a resurgent Russia has increasingly drawn the focus of Western governments. With Russia dominating debate in the recent US presidential election, discussion of the security risks presented by Russia appears to be reaching a crescendo. As the new US Administration works to craft an effective response to the Russian threat, this conference seeks to shed light on the strategic intersection of US-Russia relations and the security of NATO’s flanks. Building from the understanding that an effective response requires more than a reset in US-Russia relations, “The US, Russia, and the Security of Europe’s Flanks” will examine Russian defense modernization and the implications it has for NATO deterrence and regional security from the Baltic States to the Black Sea.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

9:00 A.M.4:00 P.M.

Root Conference Room
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036-2109



8:45 A.M.–9:00 A.M.

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9:00 A.M.

Glen E. Howard
President, The Jamestown Foundation

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Panel One: Russia’s Predicament

9:00 A.M.–10:30 A.M.

“Putin, Russia and the West”

Pavel Baev

Senior Researcher, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO)

“Russian Military Modernization”

Aleksandr Golts

Global Fellow, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

“The Impact of Western Sanctions on the Russian Economy”

Vladislav Inozemtsev

Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation Fellow, Johns Hopkins, SAIS

Commentator: Stephen Blank

Senior Fellow, American Foreign Policy Council

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Coffee Break

10:30 A.M.–11:00 A.M.

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Panel Two: US-Russia Relations

11:00 A.M.—12:30 P.M.

Alexander Vershbow

Distinguished Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council

Michael Carpenter

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense

with responsibility for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia

Moderator: Glen E. Howard

President, The Jamestown Foundation

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12:30 P.M.–1:10 P.M.

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Panel Three: Russia, the US and Black Sea Security

1:10 P.M.–2:30 P.M.

“Romania: Euro-Atlantic Pillar on the Black Sea”

Vladimir Socor

Senior Fellow, The Jamestown Foundation

“Russian Influence in the Balkans”

Margarita Assenova

Director of Programs for the Balkans, Caucasus & Central Asia,

The Jamestown Foundation

“The US, Russia and the South Caucasus”

Brenda Shaffer

Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council Global Energy Center and

Visiting Professor, Georgetown University

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Coffee Break

2:30 P.M.–2:45 P.M.

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Panel Four: Russia, the US and Baltic Security

2:45 P.M.–4:00 P.M.

“Poland, the EU, Brexit and Russia”

Janusz Bugajski

Senior Fellow, Center for European Policy Analysis

“Russian Challenges to the Baltic”

Sergey Sukhankin

Associate Expert, International Centre for Policy Studies (Kyiv)

“Sweden’s Response to Russian Challenges”

Jörgen Elfving

Lieutenant Colonel (ret.), Swedish Army

Moderator: Matthew Czekaj

Program Associate for Europe and Eurasia, The Jamestown Foundation

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Concluding Remarks

4:00 P.M.

Full Video From the Conference

Panel One

Panel Two 

Panel Three

Panel Four


Alexander Vershbow’s Prepared Remarks

Alexander Vershbow Remarks – Jamestown March 23


Participant Biographies

Margarita Assenova

Margarita Assenova is Director of Programs for the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia at The Jamestown Foundation. She is a regular contributor to the Jamestown flagship publication Eurasia Daily Monitor on political developments and energy security in the Balkans and Central Asia. Assenova is a recipient of the John Knight Professional Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University for her reporting on nationalism in the Balkans. Assenova authored book chapters and journal articles on security, energy, and democracy published by CSIS Press, Brassey’s, Freedom House, Bertelsmann Foundation Publishers, and University of New Haven. She is the co-author of Eurasian Disunion: Russia’s Vulnerable Flanks (2016), with Janusz Bugajski, and co-editor of Azerbaijan and the New Energy Geopolitics of Southeastern Europe (2015), both published by The Jamestown Foundation.


Pavel Baev

Pavel Baev is a Research Director and Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). He is also a nonresident senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings, and a senior research associate at the Institut Francaise des Relations Internationales (IFRI, Paris). Dr. Baev specializes in Russian military reform, Russia’s conflict management in the Caucasus and Central Asia, and energy interests in Russia’s foreign and security policies, as well as Russia’s relations with Europe and NATO. His articles on the Russian military posture, Russian-European relations, and peacekeeping and conflict management in Europe have appeared in numerous publications. He has a weekly column in Eurasia Daily Monitor and is the author of the blog, Arctic Politics and Russia’s Ambitions.


Stephen Blank

Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington. From 1989–2013 he was a Professor of Russian National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania. Dr. Blank has been Professor of National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute since 1989. In 1998-2001 he was Douglas MacArthur Professor of Research at the War College.

He has published over 900 articles and monographs on Soviet/Russian, U.S., Asian, and European military and foreign policies, testified frequently before Congress on Russia, China, and Central Asia, consulted for the CIA, major think tanks and foundations, chaired major international conferences in the USA and abroad In Florence, Prague, and London, and has been a commentator on foreign affairs in the media in the United States and abroad. He has also advised major corporations on investing in Russia and is a consultant for the Gerson Lehrmann Group

He has published or edited 15 books focusing on Russian foreign, energy, and military policies and on International Security in Eurasia. His most recent book is Russo-Chinese Energy Relations: Politics in Command, London: Global Markets Briefing, 2006. He has also published Natural Allies? Regional Security in Asia and Prospects for Indo-American Strategic Cooperation, Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2005.

Dr. Blank is also the author of a study of the Soviet Commissariat of Nationalities, The Sorcerer as Apprentice: Stalin’s Commissariat of Nationalities, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994 and the co-editor of The Soviet Military and the Future, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992.

Prior to this appointment Dr. Blank was Associate Professor for Soviet Studies at the Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research, and Education of Air University at Maxwell AFB. He also held the position of 1980–86: Assistant Professor of Russian History, University of Texas, San Antonio, 1980–86, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Russian history, University of California, Riverside, 1979–80.

Dr. Blank’s M.A. and Ph.D. are in Russian History from the University of Chicago. His B.A is in History from the University of Pennsylvania.


Janusz Bugajski

Janusz Bugajski is a Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington, DC, and host of television shows broadcast in the Balkans. Bugajski has authored 20 books on Europe, Russia and Transatlantic relations. His recent books include Conflict Zones: North Caucasus and Western Balkans Compared (2014), Return of the Balkans: Challenges to European Integration and U.S. Disengagement (2013), Georgian Lessons: Conflicting Russian and Western Interests in the Wider Europe (2010), Dismantling the West: Russia’s Atlantic Agenda (2009), America’s New European Allies (2009); Expanding Eurasia: Russia’s European Ambitions (2008). His latest book Eurasian Disunion: Russia’s Vulnerable Flanks (2016), co-authored with Margarita Assenova, focuses on the security threats Russia presents to Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the South Caucasus and Central Asia in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Michael Carpenter

Until January 2017, Dr. Michael Carpenter was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense with responsibility for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. He also had responsibility for the Western Balkans and Conventional Arms Control. Prior to joining the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Dr. Carpenter served in the White House as the Special Advisor to the Vice President for Europe and Eurasia. Previously, he served as Director for Russia at the White House National Security Council. During a 12-year career with the State Department, Dr. Carpenter served in various positions, including Deputy Director of the Office of Russian Affairs, Speechwriter for the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, NATO-Russia officer in the Office of Regional Political-Military Affairs, and Advisor on the South Caucasus. He has served overseas at the U.S. Embassies in Slovenia and Barbados. While at the State Department, Dr. Carpenter received four Superior Honor Awards and three Meritorious Honor Awards. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University. Dr. Carpenter was a Fulbright Scholar at the Polish Academy of Sciences and has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, MacArthur Foundation, and IREX Foundation for his academic research.


Matthew Czekaj

Matthew Czekaj is a Program Associate for Europe and Eurasia at The Jamestown Foundation and also serves as the Managing Editor of Jamestown’s main publication on the post-Soviet space, . Prior to joining Jamestown, Mr. Czekaj was a Research Associate at the Atlantic Council, where he worked on issues of European Enlargement. Before that, he was a Research Assistant at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) Energy Security Program. Mr. Czekaj holds a Master’s degree in Russian and East European Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations with a concentration in European Studies from Johns Hopkins University.


Jörgen Elfving

Jörgen Elfving is a former Swedish army and general staff officer. During his military career, he mainly served in staff positions handling the Soviet Union/Russia. He has also previously been posted as a military attaché to the Baltic States. After retiring from the Swedish armed forces, Elfving has worked for a number of Swedish government agencies as a consultant and pursues a research project at the Swedish National Defense University regarding the development of Russia’s military capabilities.  In addition, he has been active as a translator and written a number of articles about the Russian military as well as a book about the reformation of the Russian armed forces.


Aleksandr Golts

Aleksandr Golts was born in 1955. In 1978, he received an M.A. in journalism from the Department of Journalism at the Moscow State Lomonosov University. From 1980 until 1996, he worked with the “Krasnaya Zvezda” (“Red Star”) editorial board, a Soviet and then Russian military daily based in Moscow. In 1996-2001, Mr. Golts served as military editor of “Itogi” (Moscow), a premier Russian news magazine. In 2001-2004, he worked for the Moscow-based magazine “Yezhenedelnyi Journal” (“Weekly”) as deputy editor-in-chief. He currently works as a deputy editor for the website and is a visiting fellow at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


Vladislav Inozemtsev

Vladislav Inozemtsev is a Russian economist and professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He is founder (in 1996) and director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies, a Russian think tank. Currently, he is the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation Fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Dr. Inozemtsev is the author of over 600 printed works published in Russia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States; including 15 monographs, four of which have been translated into English.



Brenda Shaffer

Professor Brenda Shaffer is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center. She is also a visiting researcher and adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian, and Eastern European Studies (CERES). She is currently on sabbatical from the University of Haifa, where she is a professor in the School of Political Science. Professor Shaffer is a specialist on energy and foreign policy, global energy markets and regulatory trends, energy security policies, Azerbaijan, ethnic politics in Iran, the Caucasus, and energy in the Caspian and Eastern Mediterranean. Professor Shaffer is the author of a number of books related to these issues: Energy Politics (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity (MIT Press, 2002), and Partners in Need: The Strategic Relationship of Russia and Iran (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001). She has also served as the editor for Beyond the Resource Curse (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) and Limits of Culture: Islam and Foreign Policy (MIT Press, 2006). Professor Shaffer holds a PhD degree from Tel Aviv University, and was a post-doctoral fellow at the International Security Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She previously served as the research director for the Caspian studies program at Harvard University.


Vladimir Socor

Vladimir Socor is a Senior Fellow of the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation and its flagship publication, Eurasia Daily Monitor (1995 to present), where he writes analytical articles on a daily basis. An internationally recognized expert on former Soviet-ruled countries in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia, he covers Russian and Western policies there, focusing on energy policies, regional security issues, secessionist conflicts, and NATO policies and programs.

Mr. Socor is a frequent speaker at U.S. and European policy conferences and think-tank institutions. He is a regular guest lecturer at the NATO Defense College and at Harvard University’s National Security Program’s Black Sea Program (Kennedy School of Government). He is also a frequent contributor to edited volumes. Mr. Socor was previously an analyst with the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute (1983–1994). He is a Romanian-born citizen of the United States based in Munich, Germany.


Sergey Sukhankin

Sergey Sukhankin is a historian from Kaliningrad and Associate Expert at the International Centre for Policy Studies (Kyiv). His area of scientific interest primarily concerns Kaliningrad and the Baltic Sea region.


Alexander Vershbow

Ambassador Alexander Vershbow was the Deputy Secretary General of NATO from February 2012 to October 2016. Prior to that, he served for three years as the US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.  In that position, he was responsible for coordinating US security and defense policies relating to the nations and international organizations of Europe (including NATO), the Middle East and Africa. From 1977 to 2008, Vershbow was a career member of the United States Foreign Service. He served as US Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (1998–2001); to the Russian Federation (2001–2005); and to the Republic of Korea (2005–2008). He held numerous senior positions in Washington, including Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council (1994–97) and State Department Director for Soviet Union Affairs (1988–91). During his career, he was centrally involved in strengthening US defense relations with allies in Europe and Asia and in transforming NATO and other European security organizations to meet post-Cold War challenges. He also was centrally involved in efforts to promote democracy and human rights in the former Soviet Union. Alexander Vershbow is a long-time student of Russian Affairs and international relations. He received a BA in Russian and East European Studies from Yale University (1974) and a Master’s Degree in International Relations and Certificate of the Russian Institute from Columbia University (1976).