Developing Regional Perspective in Conflict Resolution is Key in Marshall Center Security Course

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Developing Regional Perspective in Conflict Resolution is Key in Marshall Center Security Course

By Christine June
Public Affairs Office

George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Jan. 21, 2016) Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s autonomous region of Crimea will serve as one of five focus areas in exploring regional security considerations and conflict resolution during the three-week Seminar on Regional Security Studies resident course at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies that began Jan. 21. 

“Real world events are an important part of our regional studies program.  It attracts and engages our participants and makes them want to dive into the exercises and work alongside their peers who came here to this course from more than two dozen different countries,” said German Luftwaffe (Air Force) Col. Jörg Kunze, executive director for the Seminar on Regional Security Studies.

According to Kunze, SRS 16-04 is divided into three phases.  During the first phase, participants reach a common understanding of important security definitions and concepts.  Students are then divided into four small groups or seminars to explore recent, historic regional conflict case studies from Libya, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Syria in the second phase of the course. 

“This second phase is important to reinforce the concepts and definitions as well as to forge a working relationship with other international participants who will likely have a vastly different perspective,” said Kunze. 

The final phase of SRS will challenge participants to devise a peace process for the current security unrest in Ukraine.  Each seminar will represent a specific national perspective in the process:  Russian, American, Ukrainian and European Union.  Looking at regional security challenges through different perspectives is an important aspect of this class.

“Local conflicts don’t stay local,” warned Marshall Center Director and retired Lt. Gen Keith Dayton when he welcomed participants during the first day of class.  “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it won’t get worse because it will.  You will be introduced to case studies in this course that will show you what I mean.  You will also learn the military doesn’t solve regional conflicts.  They are resolved by people like you in this room.”

There are 42 participants from 26 countries and the diversity is another reason many governments send representatives here.  Twelve participants are from their respective nation’s ministry of defense; eight from their nation’s foreign affairs, and four are from cabinet-level ministries. Thirteen serve in military positions. More than a quarter of the class are women. 

The previous success of this course, held three times previous, has created a reputation that allows the Marshall Center to bring in impressive guest lecturers to share their own perspective and diplomatic acumen.  Scheduled guest speakers include Oksana Syroyid, Vice Speaker Ukraine Parliament; Russian GenLt (ret) Buzhinsky, Chairman Executive Board PIR Center – a Russia-based nongovernmental organization; Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine; Antonio Missiroli Director of European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS); Ihor Dolhov, Deputy Defense Minister Ukraine; Jennifer Gavito from U.S. Consul General Munich; and, Dr. Marian Staszewski, Deputy Head of Mission, Office of the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for peace talks on the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Marshall Center’s Director for Programs on the Black Sea-Eurasia, Dr. Valbona Zeneli said the final exercise where the seminars will wrestle with a negotiated peace settlement for Ukraine is more far-reaching than a classroom answer to a once regional conflict. 

“It’s not important for the participants here to come up with a fix to this crisis.  What is important is they gain an understanding of what it takes to resolve regional conflicts.  We are not here to give an American perspective, a Russian perspective, a German perspective on this crisis.  It’s more important for them to develop a regional perspective rather than an individual one,” said Zeneli. 

SRS is designed to develop critical thinking skills for junior and mid-level government and military professionals who are selected by their respective nations and endorsed by the local U.S. embassy.