Harry Sarles | Army University Public Affairs
The Command and General Staff College’s Cultural and Area Studies Office hosted a panel discussion on the recently published “Great Power Competition: The Changing Landscape of Global Geopolitics” April 27 in the Lewis and Clark Center’s Arnold Conference Room.
In addition to the small live audience, the event was broadcast live on Facebook Live and via videoteleconference.
Dr. James Martin, CGSC dean of academics and chief academic officer for Army University, provided opening remarks. Dr. Mahir Ibrahimov, CASO director, and the book’s general editor and chapter author, served as the panel moderator.
Panel members included Dr. Robert Baumann, education advisor to Uzbekistan Armed Forces Academy and CGSC adjunct professor; Dr. Mark Wilcox, associate professor and William E. Odom Chair of Joint, Multinational and Interagency Studies at CGSC; Lt. Col. Rafael Linera-Rivera, from the Mission Command Center of Excellence, Combined Arms Center Commander’s Assessment Program Directorate; and Maj. Nicole Hash, operations officer, 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas. Baumann and Hash joined the discussion remotely.
Dr. Katherine Dahlstrand, chief of the Books and Research Team, Army University Press, provided critique and analysis following the author’s presentations.
After Martin’s introduction, Ibrahimov explained that the book was the second anthology in a series coordinated by his office to explore great power competition. Each panel member then gave a short talk on the chapters he or she authored.
Baumann led off, speaking from Uzbekistan. He said in his chapter he talks quite a bit about Russia reconstructing its identity since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Many of the defining elements of Russia’s identity were no longer valid once the Soviet Union no longer existed. The idea that formed was called Eurasianism. Part of the idea is that Russia is a distinctive civilization not confined by international borders.
Wilcox continued talking about Russia by reporting about the Moscow Conference on International Security. This conference, hosted by Russia’s Ministry of Defense, provides a picture of how Russia perceives challenges and threats in the security arena. Its eighth iteration, in 2019, was very anti-West and anti-United States.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has used the conference as a tool of Russia’s soft power in relations with “the rest” versus the West. Over time, the conference has included more Asian and African speakers with more bilateral meetings on the margins of the conference, Wilcox said.
Linera discussed his chapter on 21st century short-lived revolutions. He talked about the power of social media in the 2011 Egyptian Arab Spring.
“How does such a simplistic platform provoke so much engagement and complexity?” Linera asked.
He used big data analysis to provide a better understanding of the situation and contrasted tweets from participants against New York Times articles covering the events.
Hash rounded out the presentations by chapter authors. She talked about contemporary Russian power projections in Nicaragua. She explained that her chapter is about how Russia uses soft power or attractiveness to achieve foreign policy goals.
“It is sharp power, not soft power, that Russia uses,” Hash said.
She defined sharp power as power that compels or dissuades versus attracts. Sharp power includes misinformation and disinformation.
“When Russia’s narrative of preventing color revolution and generating alternatives to the West became attractive to Nicaragua, Nicaragua adopted this discourse,” Hash said. “Strategists should consider Russian information activities, even when they seem ineffective on the surface, as potential power.”
Dahlstrand, summing up the presentations and the book, said the two volumes produced by the Cultural and Area Studies Office are a sterling example of what’s possible in Army-facilitated scholarship. She noted that the first volume, “Cultural perspectives, geopolitics, and energy security in Eurasia: is the next global conflict imminent?” was published a few years ago, with a follow-on panel discussion and included much information on North Korea while this volume had little information on that country as other threats and concerns have come to the forefront.
“This volume stresses the importance for military leaders to learn and foster both situational and cultural awareness. It highlights the critical need to be able to recognize great power competition as it plays out in real time,” she said.
Following Dahlstrand’s comments, Ibrahimov summarized the main points of the entire project and moderated a one-hour question-and-answer session getting questions from the 20 attendees at the live event site and many questions from the Facebook audience.
The full book can be found at: https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/combat-studies-institute/csi-books/great-power-competition-the-changing-landscape-of-global-geopolitics.pdf.
Related interviews with some of the authors can be found on the Army University Press Facebook and LinkedIn pages.
This panel is part of series of seminars and panel discussions on issues of operational and strategic importance to the U.S., that CASO in coordination with CGSC, universities, think tanks, interagency and other partners conducts every two to three months broadcasting them through videoteleconference and live on CGSC’s Facebook page. Videos of the sessions are available on the CGSC’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
For information about CASO events, call Ibrahimov at 913-684-3345 or e-mail email@example.com.