EWI Roundtable with Major General Davis
The EastWest Institute hosted a discussion with Major General Gordon “Skip” Davis, deputy chief of staff, operations and intelligence for NATO on April 2 at its New York center.
Speaking to an audience of foreign policy and intelligence professionals, as well as global investors, Major General (MG) Davis addressed NATO’s response to the Ukraine crisis and the changing dynamic of NATO-Russia relations in recent months. MG Davis stressed the importance of fulfilling commitments to NATO partners such as Ukraine, in addition to its formal members, and in distinguishing the difference between “security partnerships versus a defense alliance.” Recent developments confirm Russia’s role as a competitor or challenger to NATO, rather than a strategic partner, and as such, the Trans-Atlantic community must conduct a joint threat assessment to re-think the implications of Russian actions and policy with respect to deterrence and defense.
NATO members must also revisit the assumption that eastern and southeastern expansion is a stabilizing force for international security, MG Davis explained. As reflected in Putin’s Kremlin speech on March 18, Russia’s worldview is fundamentally divergent from U.S. and European interests and deeply influenced by its historical context. With this in mind, MG Davis assessed that Russian grand actions—such as its annexation of Crimea—may not necessarily reflect a grand strategy. These actions could just as likely be driven by perceptions of opportunity or even narrow interests.
Both the U.S. and NATO must also face the reality of budgetary constraints and reduced defense spending. A review of threats to NATO’s collective defense may very well lead to capability adjustments in key areas, and in the near term, has already lead to a need to review defense plans, force posture and exercises. Looking forward, MG Davis expressed measured optimism, recognizing the need to execute well-prepared plans that reflect a new security environment and emerging challenges NATO faces in 21st century geopolitics.