- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Elbe Group Facilitates U.S.-Russia Discussion

| Summer 2014

In March, as Washington and Moscow traded lists of people banned from traveling to their countries, a select group of U.S. and Russian retired generals met quietly in Morocco to discuss the looming crisis in Ukraine and its effect on U.S. and Russian strategic interests.  The Elbe Group, organized by the Belfer Center at Harvard Kennedy School, has been meeting since 2010 to discuss sensitive bilateral issues. The members of the Elbe Group are senior retired military and intelligence flag officers, including three- and four-star veterans from the FSB, GRU, CIA, DIA, Ministry of Defense and Department of Defense, all with strong connections into their respective governments.

The group met in Marrakesh in March and issued the following joint statement to the two governments: “The current crisis connected with the situation in Ukraine and Crimea should not interrupt the joint efforts of the United States and the Russian Federation to protect our shared strategic interests....Failure to overcome this obstacle can lead to a vacuum in the efforts to provide long term security for our nations.”

The group’s agenda in Morocco addressed nuclear terrorism, Islamic extremism, Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan, but the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea hung over every discussion. Even in private talks between veteran officers within the Elbe Group, the disagreements over “the facts on the ground” in Ukraine were profound.  The only point of agreement was that neither side wanted to see a civil war in Ukraine.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Ryan, Kevin. Elbe Group Facilitates U.S.-Russia Discussion.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Summer 2014).