Russia’s Use of Military Force as a Foreign Policy Tool: Is There a Logic?

By Samuel Charap, PONARS Eurasia, October 2016

(PONARS Policy Memo) Russia has used its military beyond its borders with unprecedented frequency in the period since the invasion of Crimea in February 2014. Depending on how one counts, there are up to five cases of the use of force that followed Crimea:

Support for the insurgency in the Donbas from March 2014.
Direct military intervention that culminated in Ilovaisk in late August 2014.
Intervention that ended with separatist seizure of Debaltseve in January-February 2015.
Intervention in Syria from September 2015.
Brinksmanship in the skies and on the seas with NATO and other Western militaries.

This behavior has understandably raised concerns about a new Russian militarism, particularly following the Syria intervention, Moscow’s first major military operation outside the former-Soviet region since Afghanistan. A close examination reveals significant commonalities across the post-2014 cases, which suggest that there is a pattern or even logic to Russian behavior. Given the nature of the current international environment, it is likely that they will not be the last such cases.


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