7 March 2016

‘West should sanction Russia over support for Assad’

A defence specialist, who recently stood down as deputy assistant secretary of defence in the Pentagon, has told the BBC she believes the West needs to be much tougher on the Kremlin.

Evelyn Farkas told Richard Galpin that this could mean imposing sanctions on Russian officials involved in the military operation in Syria.

Dr. Evelyn N. Farkas is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia. She served previously as Senior Advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe/Commander, U.S. European Command, and as Special Advisor for the Secretary of Defense for the NATO Summit. Prior to that, she was a Senior Fellow at the American Security Project.

Her publications include journal articles and opinion pieces in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Times, Defense News, and The Boston Globe, and on sites including The Daily Beast, Foreign and, as well as commentary on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, Air America’s Montel Williams Show, and Voice of America. She is also the author of “Fractured States and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, Ethiopia, and Bosnia in the 1990s” (Palgrave/St. Martin’s Press, 2003 and 2008). Dr. Farkas obtained her MA and Ph.D. from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. She speaks fluent Hungarian and German, as well as rudimentary French, Spanish, Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian, and Hindi. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a recipient of the Joint Meritorious Civilian Service Award.

The Pentagon's former top Russia policy expert, who stepped down last week, sought to get the Obama administration to take a harder line with Moscow — and remains concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin will test the U.S. and its allies in other places.

Evelyn Farkas, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia until last Friday, made clear in an exit interview with reporters on Wednesday that her departure "was not motivated by policy differences” that could not be bridged.

But she acknowledged she advocated for the administration to do more to deter Russia, including providing “lethal, defensive assistance to Ukraine, primarily anti-tank weapons.” She and others at the Pentagon advocating lethal aid have been overruled by the White House.

She also said that the administration should review its force posture in Europe and consider putting more troops further east and that top U.S. officials should spend more time in the region.

“We need more high-level attention being paid to the countries that feel directly threatened by Russia,” Farkas said.

Farkas announced last month her decision to leave the Pentagon after five years, during which she advised three secretaries of Defense and played a major role in securing $244 million in military support for Ukraine. Her departure comes at a sensitive time for the administration, which is struggling to figure out how to deter Russian aggression in Ukraine and its new bombing campaign against Syrian rebels to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

Farkas said she was proud of her work at the Defense Department but painted a grim picture of U.S. relations with Russia.

She said she believes Putin is seeking to be a counter to the United States on the world stage and that Ukraine and Syria might not be the last of his military adventures.

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