Retired US Army Iraq War commander and Obama-era CIA director David Petraeus has voiced his support for the ongoing US and NATO military buildup in Eastern Europe, saying the Russian leadership has given the alliance a "new reason for living" since the end of the Cold War.
"Let's keep in mind, if you will, that Vladimir Putin is the greatest gift to NATO since the end of the Cold War. [He] has provided a new reason for living, if you will, for NATO. And indeed the US is continuing to be the backbone, in many respects, of the force, not just there but in other places around the world", Petraeus said, speaking at the Raisina Dialogue conference in New Delhi on Wednesday.
At the same time, while agreeing with the panel's assessment of Russia as a "geopolitical disruptor," Petraeus argued that "the rise of China" has been the far bigger "disruptor" to the established world order in recent years. "Whether China has wanted to be a disruptor or not, its sheer rise, economically, militarily, diplomatically, the Belt and Road initiative, all of these different issues together I think have been the greatest in terms of disruption", he said.
The US-China confrontation is the "defining issue of our age", in Petraeus's view, and other countries, including India, will have to "decide whether they're going to be inside, behind the great firewall of China and in that supply chain or in another one."
Emphasising that he remains a "globalist" and that he wasn't "rooting for a cold war", Petraeus said that it wouldn't be "misplaced to describe what is emerging as again somewhat of a new cold war…between again the two great powers, by the way with a resurgent Russia, all of which comprises this trend that is identified I think quite forthrightly in the US national security strategy and national defence strategy, which is described as a resurgence of great power rivalries, which is what of course all of this is about".
Petraeus, a retired US Army four star general, spearheaded the US military campaigns in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under President Bush before being appointed as CIA director by President Obama. He was forced to retire from the CIA after it was revealed that he leaked classified information to his mistress. He later plead guilty to a misdemeanour over the leaks, which whistleblower Edward Snowden characterised as being far more serious than his own.
NATO began expanding into Eastern Europe and the Baltics in the late 1990s, despite verbal guarantees to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that it would not expand beyond the borders of the former East Germany after Germany's unification in 1990. Since 1999, the alliance has incorporated every former member of the defunct Soviet-led Warsaw Pact in Eastern Europe, spread into the Baltic republics, and swallowed up several republics of the former Yugoslavia.