EX-CIA GOLDMAN ANALYST: 'We are in an extraordinarily dangerous time right now'

By Armin Rosen, BusinessInsider

The Russia-NATO confrontation is becoming one of the defining aspects of the global strategic landscape. And according to the head of Goldman Sachs's Office of Global Security, the situation is going to remain tense — or even intensify.

Robert Dannenberg, who is also a 24-year CIA veteran, believes that Russia is the top strategic threat from a US perspective.

"We are in an extraordinarily dangerous time right now because both Russia and NATO are starting to exercise substantial military activity in close proximity to each other in Eastern Europe and the Baltics," Dannenberg said in an interview included in a July 9 Goldman Sachs analyst note.

Dannenberg believes that there's a high risk of an unintended escalation, and notes that "many of the channels of rapid military and intelligence communications that were carefully constructed during the Cold War have been dismantled, lamentably, mostly from the US side."

The conflict between the US and Russia stems largely from Russian policies in Ukraine.

Dannenberg sees Russia as the top current geopolitical risk from a US and NATO standpoint. In Dannenberg's view, Putin believes the encroachment of NATO into Russia's sphere of influence is an imminent threat, thus leading him to operate on an impulsive and short-term strategic timescale.

"Putin genuinely feels that if he doesn’t act, ten years from now what is left of Ukraine may well be in the EU or in the orbit of NATO," says Dannenberg, according to the analyst note. "And if Ukraine goes, maybe southeastern Europe goes, then the Caucasus, and so on, ultimately resulting in a fracturing of Russia."

Putin's idea of the short-term stakes of Russia's face-off with NATO, and sense of an immediate threat from the US and its allies, brings added unpredictability to the Kremlin's calculus. 

With no apparent long game in mind — and thus no long-term incentive to de-escalate — NATO has opted for a strategic escalation with Putin that spins out of control. 

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