Brigadier General Peter B. Zwack {Ret.}, a Woodrow Wilson Center Global Fellow - The Kennan Institute, has been featured widely in the national media (CNN, MSNBC, NPR, BBC International, London Times and others) providing analysis on Russia's attack on Ukraine and the challenges faced by the US, NATO and the European Union.  BG Zwack is a U.S. Army veteran, having served over 34 years as a Military Intelligence and Foreign Area Officer in diverse command and staff postings such as Afghanistan, the Balkans, South Korea West Germany, and Russia. He served in Moscow as the Senior U.S. Defense Attaché to Russia during the pivotal years of 2012 – 2014 that included the Russian invasion of Ukraine and is one of our nation's leading experts on Russia. 

For over three decades BG Zwack frequently traveled both professionally and personally across Russia’s vast Eurasian landscape from the Atlantic to Pacific, and arid southern regions to the Arctic Circle. He interacts with Russians and international colleagues on multiple levels including defense, security, academia, policy, veterans, and private citizens. His written and spoken insights are based on his over 30-years of analytical and in-country USSR-Russia experiences that began with an extraordinary summer spent in 1989 as a young U.S. Army Captain studying Russian and culture in a provincial Soviet city on the Volga River.  

After his military retirement in 2015 he wrote, lectured, advised and taught at The National Defense University, lecturing on a wide range of topics to high school, college, graduate students and governmental and interagency members at a wide range of institutions. These include Boston, Brown, George Washington and Harvard Universities, Universities of Virginia and Denver, National War College, U.S Naval War College, Army War College, NATO, KFOR, West Point, European and Pacific Commands, U.S. Army Europe, numerous Thinktanks (Atlantic Council, Council on Foreign Relations and CSIS) and other domestic and international venues. His articles have appeared in Politico, The Hill, The National Interest, Defense One, New York Daily News, The Washington Times and The Cipher Brief. He has often been cited in the New York Times and Washington Post. Major news networks including ABC Nightline, CNN, CBC, PBS, MSNBC and AlHurra have sought his expertise.

BG Zwack currently is a Global Fellow at The Kennan Institute within the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars which is the premier American center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasian. From this perch he lectures, publishes, and speaks while also participating in non-governmental “Track II” exchanges between retired American and Russian governmental, academic and cultural professionals. He is also a Fellow at the Pell Center for International Relations. He is an international relations graduate from the University of Denver, and received a Masters degree in National Security at both the Defense Intelligence College and Naval War College.  He appears frequently on CNN. BG Zwack speaks Russian, German, Italian, and some French. 

BG Zwack's talks are infused with compelling vignettes and stories, rooted in over three decades of unparalleled on-the-ground eyewitness expertise and his ongoing outreach work and research in these regions. 


Understanding Putin’s War on Ukraine, Russia & the Challenges Faced by US & the West.

After first introducing audiences to Russia’s vast 11 time zones geography and complex demographics, General Zwack’s illustrated talk provides a perspective on the complex, difficult history between Russian and Ukrainians and Russia’s Ukrainian narrative. He draws connections from Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014 to Russia’s prior aggressions and interventions including Poland 1939, Finland 1940, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Afghanistan 1979  to 1989,  Chechnya 1999, and Syria 2015 to the invasion of Ukraine today.

With Ukraine drifting to Western values, what was it about NATO’s peaceful expansion east that became a trigger for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine?  What drives Russia to these behaviors? Can we break through Putin’s media firewall and the Kremlin’s narrative bodyguard of lies? In the face of nuclear threats, can we or should we call his bluff.  How far can we go?

General Zwack first arrived in the summer of 1989 in the USSR to study as an Army Captain in Kalinin-Tver, a provincial city on the Volga River, about 120 miles northwest of Moscow, which is the subject of his first book, Swimming the Volga.  He returned to Tver numerous times in the 1990s. In the summer of 1991, just months before the collapse of the USSR, with a fellow Army friend he drove in an old Lada automobile almost 3,000 miles across much of the western  Soviet Union, east/west/north/south, including traveling in Ukraine, and saw Russia creaking and groaning its way to its implosion thirty years ago. During this period, he witnessed at street level, how Russian people lived through the initial euphoria of Russia’s fleeting democracy and open, free market, to arrive at disillusionment and chaos of these failed aspirations which led directly to Vladimir Putin’s rise and presidency in 2000. 

What Putin witnessed 32 years from today’s new tragic moment in history, was the breakup of the Soviet Union into 15 countries including an independent Ukraine and Russia.  What was the impact of Putin living through the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 while he was a young KGB operative serving in East Germany and when his stature grew to become head of the FSB in 1998?

While focusing on the dramatic struggle between Ukraine and Russia, General Zwack also provides a greater context of an increasingly dangerous power competition between the US/NATO/EU and other likeminded nations, with Russia, and the growing influence of aggressively rising China, with India rapidly appearing in the geopolitical horizon. He also addresses how these shifting relationships can shape the course of the world ahead.

For College and University engagements, classes may also be scheduled (virtually or itinerary permitting).

Brigadier General Peter Zwack (Ret.) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Russia: Resurgent or Declining Power? A Eurasian perspective.

Brigadier General Peter Zwack on White House Chronicle

Host Llewellyn King discusses What Russia Wants & Why

“One of the great joys of serving as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation was working with General Peter Zwack. Every day, he demonstrated a deep commitment both to serving our great nation and to understanding Russia. The latter helped him do the former. Swimming the Volga shows just how deep into Russian society, history, and culture Peter dug. Jumping from the analytic to the personal with ease, it’s a brilliant story."

—Ambassador Michael McFaul U.S. Ambassador to Russia 2012-2014
Author of Cold War, Hot Peace; An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia

“Loaded with great insights and stories from his days before serving as US Defense Attache in Moscow and from his deep involvement with Russia, General Zwack brings the past alive to help us understand what Putin is doing today. It is very rare to have pages filled by someone who really knows, and knows how to write it.”

— Leslie H. Gelb 
President Emeritus Council on Foreign Relations

"Peter Zwack managed to become one of the best intelligence officers, and when I say that to make colonel in our army is 1% of the several thousand you start out with. To make general is less than .001% to be selected. There are 300 generals there are only 20 MI (military intelligence) generals, Peter is one of them. He was great at intelligence whether he was in Germany, South Korea, Afghanistan, at the top of his game the senior intelligence officer in Afghanistan and Europe. At critical times, he was tremendous. He was a force to be reckoned with. But what made him also equally extraordinary, he was also a very, very, talented foreign area officer who we could put in policy positions, who we could put in as the special assistant to commanders, who we could choose at the end of a career to send to Moscow at a critical time.  Peter’s extraordinary talents every day showed up at work. Because there is a consistency in his decency, his civility, his selflessness, his courage, and his commitment, all of us have the same experience with Peter and Stephanie Zwack, it’s the same, it’s consistency. And it’s never about them. Nobody was more delighted to see him show up on the general officer's list than we were.  No one was more surprised than Peter Zwack. He would never have thought it was going to happen. Three or four years into being one star he keeps saying, “I can’t believe I’m a general”. I’m saying Peter, you’re going to Moscow, you gotta get over that! So, but an extraordinary career. We have a lot of young officers here who have been touched by Peter who is looking for examples and you really need not look any further than the person you were lucky enough to work with. For the choices that you made of always taking the hard job, for the teamwork and understanding that your wife had, to be the best you always have to go at the hardest things to see how it comes out. So, to both of you, thank you for your choices."

—LT General Mary Legere

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