A quarter-century after the Cold War ended, U.S. and Russian tank formations are once again squaring off.
Facing off behind these front lines and shaping each side’s grand strategy are two of this generation’s most influential officers in Washington and Moscow: U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov.
Their dynamic sheds light on the evolving military competition between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers at a time of rising diplomatic tension. Moscow has narrowed a yawning gap in the quality of its conventional forces, but the U.S. remains far more powerful in that category. It is this imbalance that has shaped the strategic thinking of the two generals. It’s American force and resolve against Russian cunning and diversion.
Military officers who know Gen. McMaster said they believe he will help shape the Trump administration strategy and influence the Pentagon’s spending. Already the administration, which has been critical of allied defense budgets, has proposed a 40% increase in U.S. military spending in Europe, money that will pay for additional forces—from Army helicopters to Navy sub-hunters—to deploy there.
In his role at the national security council, Gen. McMaster has also asserted his influence, driving forth proposals to strike government targets in Syria after the Assad regime used chemical weapons and pushing for a troop buildup in Afghanistan.
Gen. Gerasimov, by contrast, has always looked for American weaknesses and how Russian prowess can overcome American power. The chief of Russia’s General Staff, he has been the most articulate proponent of Russia’s emerging vision of conflict, something Western observers dub “hybrid warfare” -combining traditional military weaponry with powerful nonlethal tools such as cyberwarfare, fake news and elaborate deception.
Perhaps more than anyone else on either side, the two men have delineated the strategy now playing out in Europe.
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