Ph.D. Candidate Returns from Training Ukrainians to Finish Dissertation on NATO


A quote attributed to Albert Einstein reads, “Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience. You need experience to gain wisdom.” As Russian Forces started to build up on the Ukrainian border last year, many Securities Studies students watched closely. In Ukraine, at the time, SPSIA Ph.D. Candidate in Security Studies Tad Schnaufer experienced the build-up in a different way. He deployed last November with the Florida Army National Guard in support of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine (JMTG-U) mission.  Schnaufer was assigned to instruct and mentor soldiers from the Ukrainian Armed Forces at their Combat Training Center – Yavoriv near Lviv. He participated in a mobile training team instructing the Military Decision-Making Process at the headquarters of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ 72nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade near Kyiv. He watched with increasing concern as Russia amassed over 100,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian border between December and February. With the situation escalating, his unit repositioned to Germany just days before the invasion began in late February. After a short time to reestablish the mission in Germany, Schnaufer was back working with Ukrainian soldiers. He continued with the mission until he returned stateside in early fall.

Now back home in Florida, Schnaufer has refocused on his dissertation, which focuses on the complexity of burden-sharing within the NATO alliance. It looks at the perspectives of each ally and what factors motivate their contribution (measured as a percentage of GDP spent on defense). He researches the alliance’s current security challenges that changed drastically with Russia’s invasion. In his dissertation, he highlights the immense influence the relationships between the US and its allies have on each country’s actions. This research gave Schnaufer an understanding of how important it is for the United States to work with partners and allies worldwide. His study of alliances further emphasized the importance of his mission in Ukraine, while the experience also provided valuable input for his research.

As he works to finish his dissertation, his experience over the past ten months puts the security challenges facing the United States, NATO, and Europe into perspective. He said of his time deployed working with Ukrainian forces, “It was an honor to serve around Europe training Ukrainian military personnel. For the rest of my life, I will carry those memories, those lessons learned, and the spirit of the Ukrainian warfighter with me.”

Referring to the earlier Einstein quote about experience, Schnaufer looks to take what he has learned abroad and combine it with his research. He stated, “I aim to apply this experience along with my education and research background to the field of Security Studies to foster the creation of effective, practical defense policies.” He discussed the importance of creating realistic policies based on historical events and the reality on the ground. Schnaufer is working to have his dissertation completed this fall.

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