Understanding the Russian Military Today

Publications addressing all facets of Russian military power

Russia is back. Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and intervention in Eastern Ukraine and Syria; deployment of military contractors and advisors in Venezuela, Africa, and elsewhere, development of new hypersonic weapons; and growing military cooperation with China have refocused Western attention on understanding the nature of Russian military power. But how should we understand it? Since 2014, a steady stream of analysis has produced contradictory narratives. Is Russia merely an opportunist, or is it a foresighted planner that is steps ahead of the United States in strategic theaters from Africa to Latin America? Does Russia pose a critical threat to U.S. interests across the world, or is it a power in decline, punching above its fading economic weight?

In Understanding the Russian Military Today, a five-day, professional development program, participants explored all the elements of Russian military power: its composition and prospects, its social and historical foundations, its doctrine, and current operations. Through interactive seminars and hands-on simulation exercises, think tank analysts, academics, security specialists, and government officials came together to develop new interdisciplinary analyses and approaches. As a final exercise, participants were tasked with developing short, independent research papers that explored one of four major themes: Russian society, strategy, and history; elements of Russian military power; recent uses of Russian military power; and resources behind Russian military power. CSIS is pleased to present their work below. The papers are a testament to knowledge gained throughout the course, yet each stands on its own as knowledge added to a growing community of Russian military and security experts.

This publication was funded by the Russia Strategic Initiative, U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany. The opinions, conclusions, or recommendations contained herein are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsements, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. government.

Participant Papers

2021 Participants

2020 Participants


September 25, 2020 | Heather Conley, Hannah Alberts, Jade McGlynn

In this episode of Russian Roulette, Heather sits down with Hannah Alberts, analyst with U.S. European Command based in the United Kingdom, and Jade McGlynn, researcher and lecturer at the University of Oxford.