Retired U.S. General Urges U.S.-Russia Military Dialogue

November 23, 2015

Gen. Peter B. Zwack, who served as U.S. military attaché in Moscow during part of the Obama presidency, has published a strong call for an immediate resumption of U.S.-Russia bilateral military dialogue, to both advance the war against the Islamic State and re-establish institutional contacts to avoid war.  Gen. Zwack wrote in Defense One that he was present in Jan. 2014 at the very last high-level discussion between American and Russian military commanders. 

“It's way past time for senior U.S. and Russian defense leaders and staffs to start meeting again,” he wrote, adding “it is increasingly dangerous in this cyber-fast world for both our nuclear-tipped nations to have such a dearth of contact.”

  He urged that such lines of regular communication would be

“hardnosed practical business: adding some human familiarity at key command-and-control nodes that might keep a sudden accident or incident from flashing into catastrophe. In a fast-breaking crisis, you want leaders who already know one another.  And over time, these linkages might help us move beyond these sour political times, and rebuild the kind of relationships that will allow our countries to work on global challenges where we have areas of common interest.”

Gen. Zwack called for Obama to give the green light for Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and JCS Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford to meet with their Russian counterparts, Sergey Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov.

Gen. Zwack cited the Paris attacks, the Sinai bombing, and other recent events as obvious reasons for re-establishing the military-to-military institutional dialogue, warning

“without a dialogue of any consequence our strategic defense relationship will be even more dangerous and prone to hair-trigger miscalculation or misunderstanding ... Without contact, we both continue to demonize each other while hardening our populations. It's better agreeing to disagree than having no discussion at all.  Without direct dialogue between our senior defense leaders we cannot even begin to consider a more mutually cooperative and secure future.”