U.S., Russian militaries practice peacekeeping
November 11, 2007
STUTTGART, Germany — Even as their nations’ politicians and diplomats duke it out, the U.S. and Russian militaries are playing nice.
Officers from the two militaries finished an exercise in Moscow on Nov. 1 that could lead to the former Cold War enemies working together on peacekeeping missions.
The exercise, called Shared Response, strove to help officers from both sides quickly form a joint headquarters and sort out responsibilities should the two militaries be called upon.
“You have to have a model,” said Lt. Col. Doug Engelke, the U.S. European Command’s section chief for joint combined exercises, Europe and Eurasia. “The U.S. and Russia do not have a model to fall on.”
This was the second Shared Response exercise; last year’s was held in Stuttgart, where EUCOM is headquartered.
The exercise called for a fictional island nation to come unglued with its government teetering on the brink and rival factions ignoring a recent peace treaty. The Russians and Americans were mandated by the United Nations to restore order.
Approximately 15 military personnel from each side worked through the pretend crisis.
Experts from the Army War College and U.S. Agency for International Development gave background and advice to the military group, as did staff from Russia’s Ministry for Extraordinary Situations, an emergency management and humanitarian relief agency.
The U.S.-Russia peacekeeping model would also use humanitarians with on-the-ground experience in the troubled area, Engelke said.
“Usually, they’ve been there before you (military) go in, and they will be there after you leave,” he said. “So they are vital resources.”
The nonmilitary staff could assist in short-term mitigating efforts such as food and water distribution and arbitrating between fighting factions, Engelke said. They might also help with longer range issues such as economic and agricultural development.
The U.S. and Russian militaries have worked together before. Among the missions: in 1999 in Kamenica, Kosovo, as part of NATO’s Kosovo Force, or KFOR; and during the August 2005 rescue of a Russian mini-sub off Russia’s Pacific coast.
They also participate in an annual battlefield event called Exercise Torgau.
The bilateral military exercise went harmoniously compared to the recent strife between the two nations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the U.S. missile defense system being built in Poland and the Czech Republic. The nations have disagreed on dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
On Wednesday, the Russian parliament voted to suspend a 1990 arms treaty that Russia claims gives the U.S. and NATO an unfair strategic advantage in Eastern Europe and the Caucuses.
Engelke declined to comment on the geopolitical wrangling, nor would he rate the likelihood of the U.S. and Russian militaries performing missions together in the near future.
“Our job is to be prepared to execute when our political leaders send us into that environment,” he said.