Episode 27: Georgia: Building Resilience On The Frontlines With Ambassador Ian Kelly And Brigadier General Garrick Harmon
Ambassador Ian Kelly & Defense Attaché Brigadier General Harmon discuss US efforts to build deterrence against Russia and support Georgia's Euro Atlantic integration & NATO membership
Amb. McCarthy: 00:10 Welcome to a conversation in the series The General and the Ambassador. We focus on how our senior military leaders work with our senior ambassadors to advance American national security interests. This program is a project of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Una Chapman Cox Foundation. My name is Ambassador Deborah McCarthy and I am the host. Our conversation today will focus on US interests in Georgia. I warmly welcome our guests ambassador Ian Kelly and Brigadier General Garrick Harmon. Ambassador Kelly is joining us from chilly Chicago and General Harmon has flown in from Moscow. Ambassador Kelly was the ambassador to Georgia from 2015 to 2018. I first met him when he was the director for Russian affairs at the State Department. Later he became our ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation based in Vienna where he directed US policy across 57 states. He has held numerous other high ranking positions and is currently the Ambassador-in-Residence at Northwestern University. General Harmon served with Ambassador Kelly as a senior defense official and defense attache in Georgia. Previously, he served as a Deputy Director for Strategy, Plans, and Policy in the Office of the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff, as well as in a number of other foreign policy positions including Army Attache in Moscow Army Attache in Estonia, and the foreign policy advisor for the Chief of Staff of the Army. He is currently the senior defense official at the US embassy in Moscow. Welcome gentlemen, and thank you for joining us. I noticed as we researched for this episode that you both focused on Russia and Eastern Europe in college and graduate school, Ian I believe you even taught Russian before becoming a diplomat. What drew each of you to this region of the world, and did you ever expect to be posted in the area in high level government positions?
Amb. Kelly: 02:08 As you point out, I studied Russian in both college and graduate school, ended up teaching Russian in fact, for a couple of years before joining the foreign service. I first went to Tbilisi, I'm going to show my age here, in 1976 when I was studying Russian in Leningrad. Of course, now it's St. Petersburg. It was really a revelation, after a couple of months up in the Soviet north, to go down to Tbilisi with all of the vitality in the streets and legendary hospitality of Georgians and I never even expected Georgia to be independent and there to be a US embassy, at least in my lifetime. It didn't even enter my mind that I would be Ambassador. To become ambassador in Georgia in 2014, of course I had to put my name in for a number of jobs and it was absolutely my top choice. And the main reason it was my top choice, you know, it wasn't just personal, I mean Georgia is a beautiful country and the Georgians are wonderful people, very pro-American, it was also because George is a frontline state. After the invasion of Ukraine in that year, I wanted to be a part of the push back against Russia and their aggression. And of course, Georgia as I say is on the front lines.
Gen. Harmon: 03:19 So my journey began all the way back in high school and I probably didn't know that it was going to be a journey when it began. So when I was in high school and getting ready to go to college, you know it's all about college preparation. I had no real interest in Russia, the Soviet Union, but the hardest class taught at our high school was by a gentleman, this is in the middle of Kansas, so Russian history in a public high school in the middle of Kansas is not very common. He had his master's in Russian, so he taught a Russian history class and it was considered the hardest class at school. So if you were preparing to go to college, you took his class cause it was the best academic preparation you could do. Completely captivated, from start to finish. And then in the spring of that year I had an opportunity to go to the Soviet Union. So this is March of 1988, I had a chance to make my first trip to Moscow, Leningrad, and then Volgograd.
Amb. McCarthy: 03:57 Was it hard to get visas?
Gen. Harmon: 03:59 It was through one of the state universities, so it was, it was a student exchange. So visas weren't an issue. I mean, I was a little intimidated. This is at least for you know, young high school students, this is still the height of the Cold War. It's the Soviet Union. Turned out to be a fascinating trip and validated everything that I had picked up through the academic work that we had done. So when I went to be a cadet, I figured, well I would like to at least major in Russian language, Russian history, and while there too I had a chance to go back to Moscow State for a summer session as a cadet. That was summer of 1991, you know, right prior to the events of August 1991. From the time I entered West Point to the time I graduated, we had my second trip to the Soviet Union. We had the fall of the Berlin Wall. We had the collapse of the Soviet Union. So when I graduated and entered the active Army, completely different security environment than it was four years prior. Fast forward a bunch of years, I finally became a Foreign Area Officer, after about 10 years in the Army, and decided based on that background, I definitely wanted to be a Russian Foreign Area Officer. When the opportunity finally arose to get the opportunity to go to Georgia, as Ian did, we often, you know, select the different assignments and I decided the single best place to be at that time was as an Army colonel, single best place to be a senior defense official and defense attache was in Georgia for a host of reasons. So that was my one and really only preference.
Amb. Kelly: 05:07 And because of the boss you were going to have as well.
New Speaker: 05:09 That was, that was the number one reason.
Amb. McCarthy: 05:11 Well, in 2008 Russia and Georgia went to war. Russian troops went into Georgia to prevent Georgia from reestablishing control over two provinces. This war shocked many in the West and challenged our vision of European security. The US helped negotiate the ceasefire. Ian when you arrived as Ambassador in 2015 what was the relationship between Georgia and Russia at that time?
Amb. Kelly: 05:38 I was on the Russia desk and on the task force that was created when Russia invaded Georgia. It was pretty clear to us that the reason they invaded Georgia was because a few months before, leaders of NATO had met and in the political declaration had stated, quite clearly, that Georgia and Ukraine were going to become members of NATO. So this was Russia's attempt to preclude that possibility. In terms of the situation when I arrived, you know, I would say that relations between Georgia and Russia at that time, I would characterize them as tense, but more stable, and the reason I would say they were more stable is because the new government that came in, of course the previous president was defeated in elections, Mikheil Saakashvili, the new government decided to adopt a more pragmatic approach towards Russia without conceding anything to Russia in terms of territorial integrity of their state. They wanted to set up a bilateral mechanism to discuss issues of mutual concern, and the previous government, there was no official contact between the two capitals. I was very supportive of this. It was really at the Deputy Foreign Minister level. It was, I think, every quarter or so there were still a lot of provocations from Russia, sometimes in response to some new initiative from NATO, or from the United States, or to a military exercise. We would always coordinate our messages, we meaning the ambassadors from Western Europe and myself, to respond to provocations such as moving.
Amb. McCarthy: 07:12 Were they moving borders?
Amb. Kelly: 07:12 Moving border fences.
Amb. McCarthy: 07:12 Yea, they were moving border fences, that's one reason I was asking you the question.
Amb. Kelly: 07:16 These were significant changes of borders in terms of how far they were as a matter of a few meters, but it was important that we push back.
Amb. McCarthy: 07:24 By 2015, what were our strategic military interests in Georgia and how did you work together, both of you, in order to achieve those interests?
New Speaker: 07:33 When I arrived in summer 2016 there was almost a shift within the Ministry of Defense in particular, in terms of just leadership and approach, in the US, you know, Georgia has always been a very, very strong partner and remains so to this day. With part of that pragmatism too, came a greater understanding that while the goal still remains NATO membership, that it wasn't going to happen right away and so what can the country do? What can we the United States do to help Georgia in order to prepare itself for the eventual opportunity to become a member of NATO? And the Georgians approach was "We want to be ready to be a valuable member of the NATO alliance from day one." So what can we do militarily in terms of equipment and training and leadership, institutional development, everything that we can do to make sure they are as prepared as possible? Part of the broader view was to make sure that they had a combat credible force that was able to provide for their own national defense, while at the same time still being able to provide forces for international coalition operations, of which Georgia has long been a very, very strong supporter of international operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We wanted to give them the tools at an institutional level and at a military level to be able to do both of these things given the fact that they sit on the front lines of deterrence in a place where Article Five is not an automatic guarantee. So having that credible deterrent from a ground forces perspective, from a military perspective, and then from an institutional point of view is absolutely important.
Amb. Kelly: 08:52 In terms of our overall, overarching strategic goal, it can really be summed up in support for George sovereign choice to integrate with the Western community. And of course, in our case, that meant most of all with NATO. And one of the real problems is this was not anything that was going to be near term. Garrick also mentioned the idea of developing institutions, so we had to support not only the Ministry of Defense to develop into an institution, we also had to help Georgia become a more resilient democracy, develop the institutions that make democracy sustainable. Most of our assistance really went to the educational sector and the governance sector. And the education sector was primarily in the Millennium Challenge Account, helping Georgia develop curricula in the science, technology, engineering and math, the stem disciplines. USAID had large programs to help Georgia develop a civil society, help Georgia develop electoral processes. This was all under the general rubric of becoming a strong, resilient state, which could resist any kind of attempts to violate the sovereignty of Georgia.
Amb. McCarthy: 10:04 Which can be hard attempts or soft attempts.
Amb. Kelly: 10:07 Exactly. Yeah. That's why it's important to build these institutions also in the governance sector.
Amb. McCarthy: 10:12 As the prospect of NATO membership was put in front of them on a number of occasions, how did you manage their continued expectations to join soon? How did you do it at the political level? How did you do it with your military counterparts and the Ministry of Defense?
Amb. Kelly: 10:29 At the political level, very early on in my tenure, it became clear to us that while support for a Western vocation, for joining NATO and the EU, was consistently high, around the two thirds level, so two thirds of Georgians supported joining NATO, there was a disturbing kind of ticking down of those numbers. Two, three points, you know, over a few years. I think our concern was, as the prospect of joining NATO and the EU seemed to be receding even further into the future with each NATO meeting, we had to show them that there was some real benefits in staying on a Western path. We started to pivot to more emphasis on bilateral assistance and the security area. It was helping Georgia with its self defense.
Gen. Harmon: 11:22 Some the things that we were able to do, you know, as Ian mentioned, again it was bilateral, but taking some of those concrete steps towards a more capable and credible force by doing things like development of the Combat Training Center, by institution, the Georgia Defense Readiness Program, you know, putting US trainers on the ground, you know, investing US dollars and Georgian dollars into their national defense capability. But even from the NATO side, with the substantial NATO Georgia package, the Joint Training Evaluation Center, which was a NATO organization, there was a NATO footprint there. So there were things that were continuing to show NATO's commitment as well as the US' commitment and continuing to work on those things towards that farther but greater goal. It was not necessarily easy because nothing's easy in this line of work, but in a lot of respects, it showed that we were still committed even though the political process might not be moving as fast as the host nation wanted.
Amb. McCarthy: 12:11 And we hold major military exercises with Georgia, exercise Agile Spirit and exercise Noble Partner. Can you explain a little bit with the role of a Defense Attache is in helping organize exercises?
Gen. Harmon: 12:23 In the broadest sense, the Defense Attache is the Secretary of Defense's and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff direct representative to the host nation, both oA the ministerial side and from the armed forces side. So my job on any given day was to serve as the Ambassador's principal military advisor, to represent the Chairman and the Secretary, and to observe things that were happening within the country and make recommendations and kind of oversee the DoD footprint that existed within Georgia. I benefited by having a very robust department of defense enterprise within our embassy, and you know, so not just the Defense Attache in the Defense Attache Office, but you know, a very strong, robust Office of Defense Cooperation. We had representatives there from Walter Reed. We had representatives from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, so a very broad and diverse DoD mission across a lot of our partners in Georgia. From an exercise perspective, this is where the Defense Attache benefits from a large and robust Office of Defense Cooperation because they are the ones that are the entry point with US Army Europe, US European Command, the force providers and the exercise planners. They were the ones that did the nitty gritty between the Georgian armed forces and all the folks from the US side that were there to provide support. If everything went wrong, my job is to be the guy where the buck stops here. So anything that did or did not happen, ultimately it fell to me. I used to tell folks, you know, something goes well, something doesn't go wrong, whenever I'm the one that has to walk to the Ambassador at the end of the hallway and explain to him what did or did not happen, which was always a conversation that I never really wanted to have.
Amb. Kelly: 13:49 Yeah. I used to kick his butt routinely.
Amb. McCarthy: 13:53 Well, these exercises continue. They're quite large, but they're not all paid for by the United States. And that's an issue we've discussed on this podcast. Host countries contribute, others are there with us. And can you explain a little bit the burden sharing that takes place in these exercises?
Gen. Harmon: 14:08 There's a US component, you know, an exercise fund that allows us to participate. The Georgians put a lot of their own resources to it, both military and dollars as well. And some of it wasn't just about the exercise, it was about sustainable development within Georgia itself. So one example is for the Noble Partner in 2017, was the first time that we brought in, well second time for some of the heavy armor equipment, but we brought in the Strykers to the border and they drove across, you know, all 300 kilometers across Georgia to the training area. We had invested in the training areas, not just for the exercise but for the greater development of the Georgian Armed Forces. And those investments and the training exercises also directly contribute to the training and readiness of US forces that are there too. But to facilitate some of the movement of equipment, there was investment by the Georgians in some of the rail transfer points. The areas where we bring the trains into or some of the heavy equipment, so they're making investments in their own infrastructure. It supports exercises, it supports training, but at the same time, you know, it gives them a great capability within their country, should there ever be a crisis where we had to go to do that.
Amb. McCarthy: 15:15 That's an important point. We had a podcast with General Hodges and he was talking, precisely, that it affords opportunities for US troops in many ways, but also locally in terms of a deterrent factor.
Gen. Harmon: 15:26 I'm a military guy, so I have to tell at least one war story. One of my, I don't want to say crowning achievements, but probably one of my best visuals, most heartwarming things, that I saw in the time that was there, was when we brought the Strykers across Georgia. To see a whole convoy of US Army Strykers from the Second Cav Regiment, flying Georgian and US flags, going down the street in downtown Gori, which is the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, and to see the Strykers with Georgian and American flags going right by Stalin's birthplace, that was something to see.
Amb. Kelly: 15:53 First of all, those Strykers went about 300 yards from the Russian barbed wire too. They were on the East-West highway, there's a part, there's a finger...
Amb. McCarthy: 16:04 Really, did they wave both flags?
Amb. Kelly: 16:06 I hope so. I really hope they did. One of the great moments for me was Georgian National Day, which was always at the end of exercise Noble Partner. The US military would bring in some of this armor, including you know, Abrams tanks and they'd be sitting there on you know, this very symbolic square, you know, Freedom Square. And then of course you'd have US military marching in with Georgian military. This helped us really keep Georgia on a Western trajectory just to show, we are literally standing here with you and we've got the ultimate tools to show how strong our relationship is.
Gen. Harmon: 16:45 Not just in 2017, but I think even into 2018, yes it's a US-Georgia bilateral exercise. It's kind of overseen, at least Noble Partner, by US Army Europe, but it wasn't just the US in Georgia. We had allies and partners there. The British were there, the Germans were there with a unit, and actually had armor. I think the next summer after I departed, the French participated as well and you know, and there were other countries as well. So it was a multilateral favor, although it was focused on certification of their NATO Response Force. All of our allies and partners realize this is a very good partner, but at the same time, in a very dangerous area where, from a symbolic point of view, it is not just the US standing side by side with them at that closing ceremonies. It was the US, Georgia, and many other countries were there.
Amb. McCarthy: 17:26 Many NATO partners.
New Speaker: 17:26 Absolutely. Absolutely.
Amb. McCarthy: 17:29 Ian, I wanted to ask you, what was the reaction of Russia to these multiple exercises during your time there?
Amb. Kelly: 17:36 It was interesting. It was fairly consistent. The rhetorical reaction would be at a fairly low level. It was consistently at the Deputy Foreign Minister level, or there'd be some sort of press release from the Foreign Ministry. I think though, that their real response was really more longterm during my two and a half years there and that was the gradual but steady integration of the two breakaway regions, of their security and military commands into the Russian command where they became really just an extension, really, of Russian power. The Russians were more calling the shots.
Amb. McCarthy: 18:15 More provinces of Russia rather than provinces of Georgia?
Amb. Kelly: 18:17 Exactly. There'd be things too, like they would close down border crossings around that time. There was one time actually, Garrick, I don't know if you were there at the time, but I went up to the closest point in the boundary line South Ossetia, with somebody from NATO. I think it may have been General Breedlove, in fact. We went up to the line and we were talking to the farmer whose land was cut in two by barbed wire and we heard these booms in the distance, which of course caused us a little bit of concern. We asked local Georgian security officials, "what's that." And they said, "well after you guys concluded your Noble Partner exercise, they decided to have exercises in South Ossetia". I don't know if they knew that a senior four-star general was going to come to the boundary line and they scheduled their artillery exercise or whatever they were for that moment, but that was a reaction too, just to show, you know, we're here and we have our own response.
Amb. McCarthy: 19:09 During your time in Georgia we signed a new agreement to strengthen our security relationship. Could you both describe a little bit how you laid the groundwork for this agreement and what the document called for?
Amb. Kelly: 19:21 From the time I arrived in 2015 we were really trying to set the groundwork to have a more robust self defense program for the Georgians. We wanted to show to them that we will stand with you and help you deter aggression. The centerpiece of this memorandum of understanding, which really was a compendium of mostly existing cooperation. The memo was signed by Prime Minister Kvirikashvili, prime minister at that time, and Secretary Kerry in July, and then there was a more detailed defense memorandum signed in December by Mike Carpenter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. The centerpiece of it really was a commitment by the United States to help Georgia improve its deterrence.
Gen. Harmon: 20:10 I can claim absolutely zero credit for it because it was signed about a week before I arrived, but it was...
Amb. McCarthy: 20:15 Your team was slaving on it before you arrived.
New Speaker: 20:17 They were. They were. But it was important because it did set the foundation that allowed us to do some more detailed bilateral cooperation and out of that became, as we operationalized what that meant, that's where the Georgia defense readiness program a lot of the other things that we were doing came out of that as a basis.
Amb. McCarthy: 20:34 Under the Obama administration, we significantly increased our assistance, as you gentlemen have both described, but it would not, despite repeated requests, approve the sale of defensive arms. This changed in the Trump administration, though in between there was a cutback in assistance. Can you kind of walk us through this, you know, an increase, not giving them everything they wanted and then a possible sudden decrease as foreign assistance in general was cut back, only to be restored later with the additional of lethal arms.
Amb. Kelly: 21:05 In terms of the refusal of the Obama administration to provide lethal weapons. I can really only describe that in one word and that was, it was frustrating. It's not true that it was all lethal alarms as, as Garrick knows, we were providing them with small arms. What the Georgians really wanted was the kind of arms that would really deter Russia from trying to do again what it did in 2008, so the real jewels that they wanted were the Javelin missiles. My contacts at state, and I think Garrick's contacts at Defense, we're for it. Georgia is a sovereign state. Ukraine's a sovereign state. They should have the right to be able to defend themselves, but there was a concern, and I didn't buy into this concern, there was a concern that this would be very provocative to the Russians and that it would start a spiral of escalation that we could not match. We had a colleague who made the argument that one thing that the Russians could do very easily would be to introduce aviation into the conflict in Ukraine.
Amb. McCarthy: 22:06 Right.
Amb. Kelly: 22:07 The Trump administration within six months had approved the sale of Javelins and we haven't seen really that kind of provocative response from the Russians. That concern was not valid. In terms of the cutback of assistance, yeah, that was a hair raising moment for me.
Amb. McCarthy: 22:23 For a lot of embassies it was a hair raising moment, from what I recall.
Amb. Kelly: 22:27 I'll let Garrick address the issue of foreign military sales and other cutbacks in the defense area, but in the general technical assistance area, I don't have much hair left, but what was there I think was combusted when I saw the figures. The Trump administration in their OMB request, and that's just the first part of the whole process...
Amb. McCarthy: 22:44 Right.
Amb. Kelly: 22:45 Wanted to cut assistance to Georgia by up to 30%. I was very upset about this and I sent in a message saying, the only person this is going to really please is Vladimir Putin. It's a signal that we're pulling back, and at a time when the possibility of joining NATO becomes more and more remote, the most important tool we have to show we're standing with Georgia and to keep them on a Western path is our bilateral assistance. So what kind of signal does it show that we're taking an ax to our program? It was very difficult, but again, it was only the first step in the process...
Amb. McCarthy: 23:22 Right and a lot of the funds were restored.`
Amb. Kelly: 23:24 They were restored, but I'll let Garrick address the military side of it.
Gen. Harmon: 23:27 One of the things that we did, starting in 2016, but even before, is by knowing very clearly where the US stood with Georgia and what our relationship was by working very, very closely with their defense and military leadership, we bilaterally had agreed on what our way forward was. We were able to kind of go back to our foundational documents in our bilateral discussions to say, this is why this is important, this is what we are doing. So from a defense perspective, we were able to weather that storm effectively because...
Amb. McCarthy: 23:56 By giving a consistent message.
Gen. Harmon: 23:58 Yes, yes. And we were very clear where we're going. It allowed us to bring together a lot of Department of Defense resources because we knew exactly what we were trying to do and both sides were working towards a common objective.
Amb. McCarthy: 24:09 Well, since you both left, elections were held in the country, the previous Georgian president stepped down, and a president more amenable to the ruling party, a French born foreign minister has taken office. I wanted to ask you, Ian, do you expect any major changes in the US Georgian relationship, and then separately, what do you think of the repercussions of the reported rejection of the government, of our new choice as ambassador?
Amb. Kelly: 24:38 I don't really expect to see any real changes in the US Georgian relationship. It is a very strong relationship. Some of the concerns that I have about the direction in the relationship really are not in the defense area at all. I think that there is a tremendous cooperation, the minister has instituted all the right reforms. They are spending more than the NATO standard of 2% on their budget. I think the concerns that we have and the reason why we need a strong American voice in Tbilisi, there've been four governments in Georgia, you know, since independence and each one has gone through a process where after a few years in power they sort of revert to the regional mean of governance. The regional mean of a tendency towards one party governance. That's why we need strong voices, not just American, but also European voices to keep them on a good path. I can't really talk too much about what the Georgian government did or didn't do with my successor. I think it's more what they didn't do. I don't think that there was an outright rejection. I think they did a diplomatic equivalent of a pocket veto where they never actually approved this person.
Amb. McCarthy: 25:53 That's happened before in our system.
Amb. Kelly: 25:55 It's distressing. For me personally, this person was the most qualified person in our service to serve as ambassador. I'm very, very glad that the State Department sent out a very experienced recently retired ambassador to be charges d'affaires, Ross Wilson, who was ambassador to Azerbaijan and Turkey and he's doing a fantastic job. He has a title, but he obviously is not a fully accredited ambassador.
Amb. McCarthy: 26:22 But he can maintain a certain high level of interaction and dialogue to keep, as you said, that presence there at senior ranks.
Amb. Kelly: 26:29 Right. He has a very strong and convincing and also reassuring voice. He has a lot of public appearances and that's very important in Georgia as Garrick knows, it's important for the US Ambassador to be very visible.
Gen. Harmon: 26:42 Absolutely and I would say from a Ministry of Defense/Department of Defense perspective, I am confident that a very strong, robust relationship will continue. The leadership across the board is committed. From the ministry point of view, made some very, very difficult decisions about defense reform and modernization. Some very difficult decisions about divestiture of legacy equipment, about focusing the Georgian Armed Forces against the threat that they faced, the type of conflict that they would find themselves in so there's not a repeat of 2008. They are a very strong partner. Thousands of Georgian soldiers have served alongside US forces in multiple combat theaters. 32 Georgian soldiers have given their lives in support of international operations. So I mean that is the sacrifice that they willingly make, one that they don't take lightly and one that we should continue to honor by doing everything we can to make sure they are as stable and secure and credible from a defense perspective given their very difficult neighborhood.
Amb. McCarthy: 27:35 Very well said. Well, as my last question, I'm going back into your backgrounds. You both went into the region with deep backgrounds in its history, culture, languages. For many younger diplomatic and military officers knowledge of Europe has not been a priority. What would you tell a rising leader in your system about the importance of knowledge of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Russia today?
Amb. Kelly: 28:00 in terms of maintaining interest among young diplomats or young military officers, or interest among young people in general, in Russia and Eastern Europe, I think that the best gift in that regard is Vladimir Putin and a resurgent Russia. They're really kind of the gift that keeps on giving in terms of maintaining a high level of interest and support. Russia, it's a revisionist power, I would say, you know, before 2008 I would not call it necessarily a revisionist power, but it's clearly willing to use all of the tools of government, including military tools, to prevent its neighbors from joining the Western community. This is a big challenge. At the age of 60 something, I wanted to be out on the front line and that's why I, you know, my top choice was Georgia, and I think the same thing is true for younger officers now. I'll give you one little data point. In 2015, right before going to Georgia, I taught a course at Northwestern. It was pro bono at that point, I couldn't be paid. It's called the fall of the USSR and the rise of Russia. I had 12 people sign up for it. I'm teaching it again in April and in one day we had reached the cap of 30, so there's at least a trebling of interest in Russia these days, at least at Northwestern University.
Amb. McCarthy: 29:16 That's good.
Gen. Harmon: 29:17 I too have a bias just because of my academic background. Historically, culturally, from a literary point of view, this part of the world is absolutely fascinating to me as an academic. As a foreign policy practitioner, when you look at, you know the current national security strategies, the national defense strategy has made it absolutely clear kind of the security environment that we're in. Arguably, you know, the last 17-18 years has almost been a strategic diversion away from what that primary threat is and think, you know, we brought some coherency back to that. So as I look at younger officers, the experience of the last several years should show that we need to get back to basics about understanding where those greatest geopolitical challenges are, you know those greatest geostrategic risks. But in order to be prepared to address them, our younger officers have to be very, very well grounded in all the things that are not a lot of fun to do, meaning history, literature, political philosophy, those things that allow us to really understand the environment, understand why we are where we are. Understanding how both sides will perceive actions or lack of action. Now, and finding a way to have a constructive dialogue knowing that, you know, willthe environment get substantively better? It's hard to say, but our younger practitioners need to work on developing their body of knowledge so when they progress through the system as well too, having that deep understanding, that deep historical cultural context from which they can pull upon, Allows us to make better analysis, better assessments, and ultimately, better recommendations to our policy makers.
Amb. McCarthy: 30:44 Well, thank you gentlemen. Thank you for bringing your background, talent and knowledge to the front lines in a critical moment and I very much appreciate you sharing your thoughts, your cooperation, and your ideas on the way ahead.
Gen. Harmon: 30:58 Thanks. It's been a lot of fun.
Amb. Kelly: 30:59 Thanks.
Amb. McCarthy: 30:59 Thank you.