Cover: The Ukrainian Crisis and European Security

The Ukrainian Crisis and European Security

Implications for the United States and U.S. Army

Published Apr 2, 2015

by F. Stephen Larrabee, Peter A. Wilson, John Gordon IV

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Research Question

  1. What implications do Russia's annexation of Crimea and attempt to destabilize eastern Ukraine have for European security and the United States, particularly the U.S. Army?

Vladimir Putin's decision to annex Crimea and attempt to destabilize eastern Ukraine have sparked widespread concern among Western policymakers that Russia has embarked on a confrontational national security policy that could have far-reaching implications for Russia's relations with the United States and for European stability. The annexation of Crimea challenges two basic assumptions underlying U.S. policy toward Europe in the post–Cold War era: (1) that Europe is essentially stable and secure, thereby freeing the United States to focus greater attention on other areas, particularly Asia and the Middle East, and (2) that Russia had become more of a partner than an adversary. The annexation of Crimea and attempt to destabilize eastern Ukraine suggests that both these assumptions need to be revisited because Russia can hardly be viewed as a partner. The requirement that NATO may now have to build a much more robust deterrence and defense posture in Eastern Europe would require the Army and the Air Force to revisit their planning assumptions that have minimized U.S. military commitments to the region since the end of the Cold War.

Key Findings

Implications of the Ukrainian Crisis

  • The assumption that Europe had become a strategically stable continent has been overturned.
  • If the Department of Defense is tasked to help NATO build a much more robust deterrence and defense posture in Eastern Europe, the Army and Air Force will need to revisit planning assumptions that have minimized U.S. military commitments to that region since the end of the Cold War.
  • Russia's military actions in Crimea and in the Ukrainian crisis demonstrated a new model of Russian military thinking, combining traditional instruments of Russian military thought with a new emphasis on surprise, deception, and strategic ambiguity.
  • The possibility of overt Russian military action against East European members of NATO cannot be excluded.
  • When added to the steady or growing demands for U.S. deployments and activities elsewhere (e.g., East Asia, the Middle East, Africa), the more stressful security environment argues for a reappraisal of the balance between the requirements of the defense strategy and resources available to support it.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the Department of the Army and conducted by the Strategy and Resources Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

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