Russia and the use of force : theory and practice

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Under what circumstances does Russia resort to the use of military force? This report examines key aspects of Russia’s use of force since the fall of the Soviet empire. It outlines the relationship between the official Russian thought with regard to the use of force and Russia’s de facto use of force in relation to other states. Since 1991, Moscow has tried to find a balance between the cooperation required to support economic growth and the assertiveness needed to uphold a great power status in the post-Soviet space. In the post-9.11 era, Russia remains focused on the near abroad. An important question is thus if and when Russia’s pain tolerance level for loosing influence in the near abroad is reached. This study points towards future limited utility and use of Russia’s military power and declining political influence in the near abroad. However, developments at the regional level could force Moscow to default a Cold War mentality and employ force in order to regain influence. Much will depend on Russia’s military capabilities. The appearance of a nonunitary and less transparent decision-making with regard to the use of force may also lead to a more ambiguous and less predictable security policy. To the Western security community, this represents an undesirable scenario.
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