Feb. 17, 2022 – NSF Virtual Forum: Russia-Ukraine on the Brink – Who will blink first?

Feb. 17, 2022 – NSF Virtual Forum: Russia-Ukraine on the Brink – Who will blink first?

Russia-Ukraine on the Brink – Who will blink first?

Dmitry Gorenburg, PhD

Senior Research Scientist, CNA

with Prof. Barbara Walker, PhD,

Department of History, University of Nevada, Reno


Welcome NSFers to our next program – yes, it’s a Zoom event (but there is real hope for a return to in-person events soon!

You are invited to a Zoom webinar.

Welcome (a hopefully COVID-free) 2022!

Welcome NSF to 2022! We wish everyone a peaceful, healthy, and COVID-free year. I know we are all ready to see omicron wave farewell and life return to post-pandemic normal.

With eternal optimism in mind, NSF will be transitioning to in-person events at least quarterly this year. We plan to host in-person breakfast meetings starting in April at The Montreux Clubhouse. Stay tuned for program announcements soon. In the intervening months, we will continue to provide you quality programs with featured speakers and subject matter experts from around the country over Zoom.

A big thank you goes out to all the NSFers and guests who attended our special event brunch with the Generals Robinson in on Sunday January 9th at the Arrowcreek Clubhouse. It was lovely to see over 60 people return to eating and socializing with Gen Lori Robinson (USAF, ret), the highest ranking woman and first female combatant commander in the U.S. military, and her husband, MGen David Robinson (USAF, ret), Thunderbird fighter pilot and trainer. Team Robinson shared personal stories of their nearly four decades of service and their insight into “over the horizon” threats we need to watch. One of those topics was Russian and Ukraine.

Now for the feature event…

“The historical links [between Russia and Ukraine] date as far back as the 9th century, when a group of people called the Rus moved their capital to Kyiv — a legacy President Vladimir Putin has often invoked when arguing that Ukraine is bound to Russia.”

(Washington Post, 21 Jan 2022)

As the world seems to teeter on the brink of the first ground war in Europe in over 75 years and the rhetoric grows more pointed by the day, diplomats continue to talk and talk. But can they talk Russia out of invading, NATO into solidarity, and Ukraine into peace and stability? As more and more news clips of Russian troops conducting livefire exercises in Belarussian fields on the Ukraine border rattles the media, should we really expect Russian tanks and soldiers to stream across the border and into Kyiv anytime soon? Or should we anticipate more cyberattacks that cripple the Ukrainian economy, government, and public safety, while the troops sit in the winter chill? Or is all this a ruse by Putin to get the West to the world’s attention and the U.S. and Europe to back off NATO expansion? And what happens when the weather warms, the frozen ground thaws, and the tanks get stuck in the mud?

I must admit that I have found the Russia-Ukraine situation difficult to grasp even after reading numerous thinktank articles on the topic and listening to far too many news stories and podcasts. If you are feeling the same or even if you tune out the news stories because it doesn’t feel as urgent as COVID waves, the price of oil, and a thousand other topics that hit close to home, then you have come to the right place.

NSF is honored to have Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Research Scientist at CNA (formerly known as the Center for Naval Analysis), share his insight on how and why the current situation arose. He will shed light on just how we got to the point that Russian tanks are breathing down Kyiv’s neck and Putin is accusing the U.S. of war mongering. Dr. Gorenburg brings decades of experience analyzing the former Soviet Union and Russian leadership, military strategies, and foreign and domestic policies. In their Jan 15th Washington Post article, Drs. Gorenburg and Kofman (both of CNA) reviewed the cost of Russian troop deployment to the Ukraine border and explained how long this standoff may go on.

“While maintaining its current buildup is not especially taxing for Russia, keeping troops in forward positions comes at a cost and may also harm Russia’s military prospects in a potential operation against Ukraine.” (Gorenburg and Kofman, Washington Post, 15 Jan 2022)

Knowing that we often get swept up in the muddy torrent of current events, it seems particularly important to step back and put the Russia-Ukraine situation in historical context. To help navigate us through the “how did we get here” question, we are very grateful to have Prof. Barbara Walker (History Dept., UNR) join us as a discussant sharing her insight on the sociocultural, economic, and political history that intertwines Russian and Ukraine.

We expect this combination of expert insight and lively dialogue will help you gain more understanding about the Russia-Ukraine situation and stimulate you to ask many questions.

Please join us for a very important and timely program and be ready to share your thoughts and questions with our speakers.

Dmitry Gorenburg, PhD, Dmitry Gorenburg is an expert on security issues in the former Soviet Union, Russian military reform, Russian foreign policy, and ethnic politics and identity. His recent research topics include decision-making processes in the senior Russian leadership, Russian naval strategy in the Pacific and the Black Sea, and Russian maritime defense doctrine. Gorenburg is author of “Nationalism for the Masses: Minority Ethnic Mobilization in the Russian Federation” (Cambridge University Press, 2003), and has been published in journals such as World Politics and Post-Soviet Affairs. In addition to his role at CNA, he currently serves as editor of Problems of Post-Communism and is an Associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. From 2009 to 2016, he edited the journal Russian Politics and Law. Gorenburg previously served as Executive Director of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES). He received a B.A. in international relations from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. He blogs on issues related to the Russian military at Russian Military Reform. He is a native Russian speaker.

Barbara Walker, PhD, has published on a broad range of historical topics in the area of Russian and Soviet intellectual life and its economic foundations, social organization and culture. More recently, she has branched out to explore the nature of expertise, specifically “information expertise,” in her current book project, A War of Experts: Soviet and American knowledge networks in Cold War competition and collaboration. Her book will present the intertwined stories of a variety of lively and committed “information experts” in the Cold War United States and Soviet Union, including early electronic computer designers, U.S.-Soviet research exchange scholars, journalists and Soviet dissidents. Information professionals in the area of intelligence make their appearance too. The book focuses on the efforts of these ambitious, often passionate “experts” to multiply their numbers and to expand the influence of their expertise in this period. To accomplish these goals, they built on networks and traditions reaching back into the 19th century, in which lay the origins of the professionalization of expertise in many areas. Walker’s research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Thomas Watson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the International Research Exchange (IREX), American Councils, the Hoover Institution at Stanford, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the University of Nevada, Reno, Core Humanities Program and others.

The National Security Forum is a non-partisan, educational, nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering civil discourse and informed discussion about timely and important national security topics. We bring expert speakers from around the U.S. to talk about national and international security, domestic and foreign terrorism, economic and financial threats, the safety of our food and water supply, energy policy, electrical grid stability, and a variety of other topics that affect all Americans. The National Security Forum partners with the Washoe County School District to host an annual Youth Security Forum to encourage future generations national security leaders.