Founder, Phronesis Analysis; Researcher, Swedish Defence University
Assistant Professor of International Relations, Department of Political Science, University of Waterloo
Research Fellow, International Centre for Defence and Security
Senior Fellow and Director, Transatlantic Security Program, Center for a New American Security; Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia, National Intelligence Council, US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (2015-18)
Finnish independent defence analyst
Senior Research Analyst, Conflict Studies Research Centre
Professor of International Relations and Contemporary History, Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies
Postdoctoral fellow/Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Oslo
Head of Research Division – Eastern Europe, Eurasia, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)
This Chatham House research aims to address some of the longer-term conceptual challenges in understanding Russian hard power, which are not directly linked to current operations in Ukraine.
It challenges some ideas about Russian military power and doctrine which have become entrenched among non-specialists but are based on false premises or a misreading of Russia’s own aims, objectives and methods. Some of these misconceptions may have major implications for any future confrontation between Russia and one or more adversaries, potentially including NATO members.
This is a live product to which new subsections will be added as they become available.
Russia’s war on Ukraine has reignited debate on Russia’s military capabilities and the way in which Russia intends – or hopes – to use them. But new questions over the accuracy and utility of foreign assessments of Russian military power have added to, rather than replaced, a series of open issues which have divided observers of the Russian Armed Forces for years.
As author Oscar Jonsson notes in this study, ‘the field of Russian military studies has been saturated with definitional debates since 2014’.
In fact, even after close observation of Russian performance in Ukraine, misconceptions about Russia’s military thinking and planning continue to distort the Western policy debate and pervade the media. They negatively influence the shaping of opinions on Russia’s military capabilities and intentions, and therefore risk distorting responses to them.
In many cases the ‘myths’ are already widely debunked within the expert community but remain prevalent in broader policy and media discussion of Russia, and so present a continuing danger to informed and evidence-based policymaking.
This Chatham House product aims to address some of the longer-term conceptual challenges in understanding Russian hard power, which are not directly linked to current operations in Ukraine.
In particular it aims to challenge some of the ideas about Russian military power and doctrine which have become entrenched among non-specialists but are based on false premises or a misreading of Russia’s own aims, objectives and methods. Some of these misconceptions may have major implications for any future confrontation between Russia and one or more other countries, including NATO members.
The product builds on Chatham House’s previous publication relating to Russian state and foreign policy, Myths and misconceptions in the debate on Russia (May 2021). It adopts the same format, with a series of brief reference notes first laying out the commonly held misconception, before explaining where it is encountered, what negative impact it has on policy, and what could be done better instead.
The aim is to produce a durable reference guide for informing both policymakers and the general public in their discussions on Russia and its military options for achieving its objectives. As with the previous publication, in providing ready-made bite-sized guides to specific misconceptions, this research aims to save experts and lay readers time by short-circuiting the lengthy discussions often necessary to overcome pervasive mistaken assumptions. The briefs stand alone and may be distributed independently if desired.
This is a live product to which new subsections will be added as they become available, drawing on the skills and expertise of a wide range of observers of the Russian military who have agreed to contribute their knowledge for this endeavour. We thank them, and the broader expert community studying and explaining Russia and its use of military power, for their efforts.