Understanding the Russian Military Today
Russia’s revitalization and modernization of its military capabilities, coupled with the Kremlin’s increased willingness to deploy these capabilities to achieve its political aims, have restored Russia as a strategic competitor to the United States and its allies. To meet this challenge will require a full-picture understanding of new dynamics and trends in the Russian military: its growing geographical reach, including military interventions in Eastern Ukraine and Syria, deployment of military contractors in Libya, Venezuela, and Central Africa, and military revitalization of the Arctic region; its changing composition, including a modernized nuclear arsenal, development of hypersonic weapons and anti-satellite weapons, and formation of new military brigades; and its evolving methods, including a greater reliance on cyber, disinformation, and hybrid tactics and Russia’s enhanced security cooperation with China.
Understanding the Russian Military Today is a five-day professional development program that explores the elements of Russian military power, including their composition and future prospects, social and historical foundations, doctrine, and current operations. Participants will build on classroom knowledge with hands-on analytical training and exercises. The course is led by defense and security experts from CSIS, other think tanks, and the academic community. All course information will be presented virtually in an educational, bipartisan, and analytic manner, consistent with CSIS’s mission.
Participants will engage in a series of seminars and interactive exercises throughout the course of this program. The curriculum will cover four major themes:
- Russian society, strategy, and history
- Elements of Russian military power
- Recent uses of Russian military power
- Resources behind Russian military power: budgets and industry
- The Foundations of Russian Power: Provides a foundational overview of the current status of and issues related to Russian economics, demographics, and politics.
- The Russian Military Since 1917: Surveys different eras of the Russian military: the creation of the Red Army, the trauma and triumph in The Great Patriotic War, experience at the height of the Cold War, the military’s collapse in the 1990s, and its revival in the 2000s-2010s.
- Russian Strategic Culture: Examines Russia’s threat perception and Russia’s approach to the post-Soviet strategic environment, including the role of deterrence in Russian strategy and defense of the homeland. Explores Moscow’s focus on restoring great power status and its regional and global ambitions.
- U.S. and NATO Responses to Russia Since 2014: Outlines U.S./NATO posture pre- and post-Crimea as well as U.S./NATO’s view of the Russian military challenge. Explores U.S./NATO current and possible future actions and accompanying Russian reactions.
- The Structure of Russian Military Forces: Overview of the macro decisions in building the Russian military, including its size, organizational structure, personnel composition, active/reserve mix, and global reach. Compares the tradeoffs made in designing the structure with the armed forces of the United States and Soviet Union.
- The Russian Army: Overview of the army’s size and current structure, recent changes and modernization efforts, doctrinal foundations, and prospects for the future.
- The Russian Navy: Overview of the navy’s size and current structure, recent changes and modernization efforts, doctrinal foundations, and prospects for the future.
- The Russian Aerospace Force: Overview of aerospace force’s size and current structure, recent changes and modernization efforts, doctrinal foundations, and prospects for the future.
- Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces and Arms Control: Overview of the size and current structure, recent changes and modernization plans, and doctrinal foundations. Bilateral and multilateral negotiation processes, the impact of arms control, and prospects for future agreement are also examined.
- Russian Paramilitary and Internal Security Forces: Overview of the size and current structure, new organizations and recent changes, purpose and doctrinal foundations, and current roles and prospects for the future.
- Wagner Group and Other Private Military Contractors: Examines the creation of a new industry, sizes and structures of groups, and current operations. Following questions are also explored: What linkages exist to global industry? What are the prospects for future use? Are military contractors a permanent element of Russian force structure?
- Russian Disinformation Campaigns and Cyber Attacks: Examines the purpose, goals, and links to military operations, levels of sophistication, organizations involved, target audiences, and future prospects.
- Russian Intervention in the Middle East and North Africa: Explores the purpose and goals in the region and which forces are involved and what their tactics and operations are. What was the impact of the fusion of regular and irregular operations? Did Russia achieve its military and foreign policy goals?
- Russian Intervention in Ukraine and Other Post-Soviet States: Explores the purpose and goals in the region, which forces are involved, and what their tactics and operations are. What was the impact of the fusion of regular and irregular operations? Did Russia achieve its military and foreign policy goals?
- Sino-Russian Military Cooperation: Examines the purpose and goals of the cooperation and what the type and levels of involvement are. Discusses the prospects and limits of Sino-Russian cooperation as well as the future prospects for a military alliance.
- Russian Military Exercises and Partner Militaries: Overview of the type, purpose, and scale of military exercises and their training cycles. Addresses the trends over time and the motivation behind partner militaries’ participation in these exercises.
- The Russian Military Budget: Examines the budget of the Russian military and how it is spent and where the investments are made. Discusses the impact of market exchange rates vs. purchasing power parity in analyzing the military budget as well as the recent budget trends.
- The Russian Defense Industry: Explores the restructuring undertaken after the Cold War, export markets and arms sales as a tool of Russian influence, and current capabilities and challenges.
- Russian Gray Zone Activities
In this exercise, participants will explore the Russian Gray Zone toolkit and the logic behind the utilization of specific tools and their trade-offs within a provided scenario.
- Emerging Competition in the Arctic and Arctic Crisis
This exercise will examine the future of air and maritime dynamics in the Arctic and consider implications for U.S. national security. To better understand the Arctic’s role in the geopolitical space, participants will engage with each other in small groups to handle a geopolitical crisis.
- Building a Russian Military
The capstone exercise will allow teams of participants to use their expertise and the knowledge gained in the program to build their own version of the Russian military. In the debrief, experts will provide participants with feedback addressing the trade-offs of the strategies they pursued and the potential implications for each team’s military.
- Russian Internal Political Dynamics and Security Posture
In addition to the exercises, the program will include a session with prominent Russian experts for a perspective on Russia’s internal dynamics and its impact on its security and defense posture.
Participants will be offered the opportunity to write a short paper (2-5 pages) on a topic of their choosing to be published on the CSIS website. CSIS experts will work with these participants to refine their topics during the program. Papers will have an associated short video and authors will participate in a podcast. All these products will contribute to on-going discussions about the Russian military.
CSIS is seeking a professionally diverse cohort of doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, junior faculty, and practitioners with an interest in Russian security issues. The selection committee will consider candidates' professional background and writing skills, as well as demonstrated interest in the fields of political science, international affairs, defense, or related issues. Specific expertise in Russian studies and Russian language skills are helpful but not required.
How to Apply
The online application includes a short form, statement of interest, brief bio, and attachment of a resume/CV. Applications are due by Monday, May 3, 2021, by 11:59 PM EST. They will be reviewed on a rolling basis with final decisions sent to applicants no later than Monday, May 17, 2021, by 11:59PM EST.Apply
Previous and current participants include representatives from:
Amazon, Center for Naval Analyses, Clements Center for National Security, Congressional Research Service, Council on Foreign Relations, Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies, Eötvös Loránd University, George Washington University, German Council on Foreign Relations, Harvard University, Institute for Defense Analyses, The Krulak Center at Marine Corps University, Princeton University, U.S. Army, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Texas at Austin, University of Oxford, U.S. European Command, Valdosta State University, the Wilson Center
For more information, please contact Roksana Gabidullina, Program Manager for the Russia and Eurasia Program, at URMT@csis.org.
This training program was funded by the Russia Strategic Initiative U.S. European Command, Stuttgart Germany.
Opinions, arguments, viewpoints, and conclusions expressed in this work do not represent those of RSI, U.S. EUCOM, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. This publication is cleared for public release.