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ASU expert says US military, NATO will be watching 'Zapad 2017' closely

September 15, 2017

Weeklong Russian military exercise raising concerns among NATO nations

Russian war games or Trojan Horse? Many Western defense ministries and militaries have expressed concern that “Zapad 2017” is the latter — a cover for actual military operations.

The weeklong military exercise commenced Thursday and involves maneuvers in Russia’s northwest to Belarus. U.S. military and NATO officials think Russia could amass as many as 100,000 troops along the borders shared with Eastern European countries.

To gain insight on this issue, ASU Now turned to Keith Brown, director of Arizona State University’s Melikian CenterASU’s Melikian Center is a unit within the School of Politics and Global Studies., whose individual research focuses primarily on politics, culture and identity in the Balkans.

Man in glasses smiling

Keith Brown

Question: What are the Zapad 2017 military exercises — and how many troops does it involve?

Answer: The Zapad 2017 military exercises are a "war game" that professional militaries all over the world conduct. "Zapad" means "West." The script calls for Russian and Belarusian military forces to cooperate because of an attempt by its Western neighbors (given fictional names in the exercise) to destabilize Belarus.

In official announcements, Russia has claimed that only 12,700 troops will be involved. The number is significant because, as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Russia has agreed to allow foreign military monitors for any exercises involving more than 13,000 troops. Politicians in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, as well as NATO leaders, believe that the exercises will actually involve the deployment of far more Russian troops into Belarus.

Q: Some NATO nations have expressed concern about Russia’s intentions, particularly Poland and the Baltic states. How concerned should they be?

A: The three Baltic states and Poland are all members of NATO, which through its well-known Article 5 is committed to collective self-defense — an attack on one is an attack on all. As long as all sides know that NATO's members remain 100 percent committed to Article 5, then Zapad poses zero real risk. 

Still, during his European visit in May, President Trump broke with prior presidential practice and initially chose not to restate that the United States would uphold that commitment. This, together with President Trump's stated skepticism around NATO and clear admiration for Vladimir Putin, raised concerns among European leaders. Their concerns were that a change in U.S. policy would alter the calculus of risk for Russia to undertake a military attack. And that is a frightening prospect. For without the deterrent effect of Article 5, NATO's capacity to defend the sovereignty of the Baltic republics comes into question.  

Q: To what extent do you think this is Russian President Vladimir Putin thumbing his nose at the West and showing off? Is it a sign of deteriorating relations?

A: President Putin has long stoked and maintained fears of Western or U.S.-led aggression to maintain popularity. He has also demonstrated, in Crimea and Ukraine, willingness to use direct military action. The Zapad exercises are part of a longer-term commitment to military cooperation between Russia and Belarus; they have been scheduled for a long time, and the Estonian foreign minister was already expressing concerns back in April, before President Trump's visit to Europe.

It is striking that the scenario on which the Russian exercises is based — defense against paramilitaries who are agents of a neighboring power seeking to destabilize a regime — could be derived from Ukraine, with Russia as the destabilizing neighbor. Putin wins admiration from his base in Russia when he plays by his rules, and is one or two steps ahead of his Western rivals. He has made these exercises into a kind of spectacle, and the alarmed reactions from the West are already a win for him.

Q: Do you see these maneuvers as a “Trojan horse” — that is, a cover to leave behind some troops and military equipment?

A: I'm not a military expert, but I know from U.S. soldiers and Marines that logistics matter above all in military operations. If Putin can leave troops or pre-position supplies in Belarus, he gains a tactical advantage in terms of potential surprise or movement that would, in modern terms, split NATO's forces. This would enable Russian forces to stage a coup de main [surprise attack] and put NATO in the position of having to go on the offensive to restore the sanctity of borders it has pledged to protect.

Alternatively, the scheduled Zapad exercises could represent a masterly piece of misdirection. The Baltics, with their substantial Russian populations, represent only one "front" for Putin, where he is already deploying a wide range of tactics of destabilization. There is broad consensus, for example, that Russia has been using covert methods in the Western Balkans to try to prevent countries firmly joining the Euro-Atlantic "camp." In addition, Putin has shown, in Ukraine and Crimea, a willingness to take calculated risks in the conduct of a foreign policy aimed at eroding confidence in the Euro-Atlantic alliance.

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

Reporter , ASU News


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ASU professor explores the beneficial aspects of rhythm

Adding rhythm to psychotherapy techniques could make them even more effective.
September 17, 2017

Public workshop at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert to feature demo

On a recent Saturday morning in September, a small group of people files into a room at Arizona State University’s Counseling Training Center on the Tempe campus. Laid out on tables are drums of various shapes and sizes. They each pick one, some tapping hesitantly to test the sound, and then take a seat.

Clinical Associate Professor Cynthia Glidden-Tracey welcomes them and gives a brief introduction to the day’s agenda, which is to be a rehearsal for the upcoming Rhythmic Cognitive Restructuring demonstration from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, at the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, Arizona (pictured above).

Tuesday’s event is part of Banner’s PIKNIC (Partners In Knowledge, News In Cancer) series, an informal educational forum that provides patients, caregivers, family members, volunteers and staff an opportunity to hear about the issues, needs and concerns relevant to the cancer experience.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Glidden-Tracey has a background in psychotherapy, which uses certain techniques to treat psychological disorders like depression and anxiety, often emerging as a result of a cancer diagnosis. One of those techniques is cognitive restructuring, in which patients are encouraged to consider the ways in which their thoughts can influence their feelings.

When they realize they’re thinking something negative, the idea is to stop, evaluate the thought and change it into something positive.

“Catch it, check it, change it,” Glidden-Tracey tells the rehearsal group.

There is much research evidence that such cognitive restructuring techniques work when it comes to improving patient outcomes, Glidden-Tracey said. Still, some of her clients found it difficult to implement in their daily lives.

“Sometimes clients report trouble remembering or using the positive messages generated in counseling sessions when they are facing negative or self-critical thoughts outside of the session,” she said.

A one-time music major, she began to wonder how the introduction of rhythm might affect clients’ use of the technique after becoming involved in ASU’s African Drum Ensemble.

“The more I learned in the [drum ensemble] about how rhythms are used to communicate messages, including in healing ceremonies, I realized that counseling also uses language and nonverbal communication to help our clients,” Glidden-Tracey said.

“This got me thinking about how paying attention to the cadence of speech in a client’s words and teaching them to speak and/or tap out words in rhythm could provide auditory and motor reinforcement to well-researched cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques like (negative) thought-stopping and (positive) thought-substitution.”

In a cancer setting, that positive thought might be something like, "Don't give up," repeated in rhythm. Other situations might call for more mindfulness-centered phrases. On Saturday, participants at the rehearsal tapped out various rhythms to the mantra: “Find the rhythm of your breath, feel the beating of your heart.” Some beat their drums quickly, a tap for each syllable; some beat them more slowly. There was some discussion as to which is best.

“My feeling is that it’s more powerful if [the tempo] comes from the person themselves than if I’m telling them” how fast to go, Glidden-Tracey said. “Find your own internal rhythm.”

After her earlier experiences with the African Drum Ensemble, she had set out to learn more, sitting in on ASU School of Music lectures on the psychology of music, music and healing, and music for community building. Along the way, she met several faculty and students who were intrigued by her theory, which she now refers to as Rhythmic Cognitive Restructuring (RCR).

Glidden-Tracey got to know one student, Grace O’Leary, now a graduate of ASU’s music therapy program, at an African Drum Ensemble meeting. O’Leary worked with Glidden-Tracey in the development of the RCR technique and provided research from the field of music therapy to inform Glidden-Tracey of how music therapists work in similar situations. 

Glidden-Tracey has even implemented the RCR technique with a small number of clients at ASU’s Counseling Training Center, “with good responses and effects.”

“So far, the numbers have been small … but I am becoming more clear and more convinced about the value in testing it out,” she said. “The evidence so far for good results has come from clients’ and their counselors’ (my supervisees’) glowing descriptions of how much they liked it and found themselves using it after learning it in counseling sessions.”

ASU School of Music Associate Professor Roger Mantie participated in Saturday’s rehearsal. He specializes in music education and community engagement, and he has been involved with a program supported by the Arizona Arts Commission called “Mayo Music Makers,” in a partnership with Mayo Clinic. When he learned about Cindi’s work at Banner, he immediately reached out to learn more.

“Music therapists have been using music to help people for many decades … and in some areas of the world have been expanding their work into an area called Community Music Therapy,” he said. “The goals of RCR, as I understand them, are quite different. This isn’t about music therapy, per se, but about a form of community engagement where drumming is used as a motivator and a support. I suspect the engaging aspects of drumming may incline some people who might otherwise be reluctant to participate in cognitive restructuring to give it a try.”

While Mantie stressed that he is not a trained counselor or therapist, and therefore not qualified to speak on the medical aspects of RCR, he did say, “Although the medical model has been the predominant paradigm, I think it’s worth noting that social models of health are on the ascendency. Based on my knowledge of the emerging music and health literature … I am excited about the potential of rhythm to enhance the social aspects of RCR.”

Glidden-Tracey has enjoyed developing her theories and learning more about music therapy but is eager to get into the research and data collecting process on RCR. One professor she hopes to collaborate with in that respect is Monica Tsethlikai, an assistant professor at ASU’s T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics who studies cognitive development in cultural contexts involving biosocial stress.

They hope to design a research project around drum circles for children in Mesa schools.

Glidden-Tracey said she has also thought about putting together a camp for kids to test RCR techniques and even potential collaborations with the YMCA.

“I am carefully weighing options and resources as I explore these ideas that so intrigue me,” she said.

Her hope overall for the future of RCR is that “adding the rhythmic element from a music-therapy context to this set of widely employed cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques will make the positive messages even more memorable, accessible and even fun in those stressful moments when the client most needs to remember and use them.”

Top photo: Clinical Associate Professor Cynthia Glidden-Tracey (standing) leads the Rhythmic Cognitive Restructuring demonstration Sept. 19 at the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, Arizona. Photo by Kelley Karnes/ASU

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU News

(480) 965-9657