Russia's Means of Global Influence

Russian Pantsir-SA missile and artillery weapon systems drive during the Victory Day Parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia June 24, 2020, photo by Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Pantsir-SA missile and artillery weapon systems drive during the Victory Day Parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia

Photo by Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

As nations jockey for geopolitical influence, Russia has aggressively interfered in other states around the globe to exert its influence. Looking beyond its borders to Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, Russia seeks to influence global and regional policy through arms sales, the use of private military contractors, political interventions, social media and disinformation campaigns, and military force. Its 2014 military invasion Crimea and Ukraine, interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, poisonings abroad of regime opponents and shielding the Syrian government from international criticism for its use of chemical agents against the Syrian people are just some of the ways Russia has exerted its influence in the international system.

Researchers from the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD) are committed to understanding why and by what methods and means Russia is engaging in its long-term malign interference in the international system of states. On this site you will find our latest research and commentaries on these efforts as well as our work on Russia's economy, environment, and technology sector, and its complex and changing relations with NATO and the world. You will also find analyses that examine the policies through which the international community can — and does — push back.

In 2021, researchers used open source information to examine where Russia markets and sells military equipment, and put what they found into a series of interactive maps.

Policy Spotlight: The Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)

In response to the Russian invasion of Crimea and Ukraine, the international community imposed a series of sanctions on Russia. The United States has imposed additional measures such as the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to counter Russia's violation of international laws and norms of state behavior.

Countries have legitimate security needs to safeguard their nation and they accomplish this end through diplomatic and military means. RAND research and commentary provides information to help countries effectively assess Russian actions around the world. This site also contains resources to help decisionmakers meet their national security needs and comply with international sanction regimes.

Recent Work on Russia's Global Influence


  • 2019-08-27T000000Z_113196812_RC1FFC467030_RTRMADP_3_RUSSIA-TURKEY

    Russia's Su-57 Heavy Fighter Bomber: Is It Really a Fifth-Generation Aircraft?

    RAND defense analyst Ryan Bauer discusses the variety of developmental challenges that the Russian Su-57 fifth-generation jet has experienced, decreasing the likelihood of Russia exporting the aircraft for a number of years despite continued marketing efforts.

  • May 2011 Parade - S-400

    Russian S-400 Surface-to-Air Missile System: Is It Worth the Sticker Price?

    Indian civilian and military leadership face investment choices that go beyond the decision to buy the S-400. To be effective, the S-400 needs to be deployed within a larger integrated air and missile defense system and requires a very skilled military workforce to operate. Otherwise, it will prove to be a costly and expensive military extravagance.


The RAND Corporation is renowned for its landmark studies of the Soviet government and military during the Cold War. Today, RAND research explores Russia's economy, environment, and technology sector, and its complex and changing relations with NATO, Europe, Asia, and the United States.

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video conference call with members of the Security Council at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia June 4, 2020, photo by Alexei Nikolsky/Reuters

    When and How Will the Putin Era End?

    Russian President Vladimir Putin could extend his presidency until 2036. Whatever he decides, U.S. officials should prepare for the future succession by sending clear signals on policy redlines and studying Russian elite attitudes. The choice of a successor will fundamentally affect U.S. foreign and security policy.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin at his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, Russia, December 19, 2019, photo by Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

    What Provokes Putin's Russia?

    Even with an understanding of what Russia considers to be redlines, predicting its reactions is challenging. An analysis of past instances of Russian escalation—and instances when redlines were crossed but Russia did not respond—offers guidance for U.S. and NATO deterrence efforts.

  • National guard block the street during a protest against the detention of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg, Russia, January 31, 2021, photo by Sergei Mikhailichenko/SOPA/Reuters

    Alexei Navalny Has Become a Profile in Courage. This Puts the Kremlin in a Quandary

    Prolonging Alexei Navalny's imprisonment, attempting to murder him—or actually succeeding—would only galvanize his supporters. And releasing him could be viewed as a victory for the opposition, making the Kremlin look weak.

  • Russian Air Force Su-25 jets perform during the rehearsal for the Victory Day parade, with the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral seen in the foreground, in Moscow, Russia, May 4, 2018

    Has Congress Captured Russia Policy?

    A Washington axiom is that the president writes foreign policy and Congress only edits it. But in recent years Congress has shown more initiative, as in expanding sanctions, shifting U.S. forces closer to Russia and promoting human rights. Under the next president, is Congress likely to retain this lead?

  • Servicemen disembark from a Ka-29 helicopter during an exercise staged by the Baltic Fleet forces of the Russian Navy to train amphibious assault, at Khmelevka firing ground in Kaliningrad Region, Russia, April 4, 2019, photo by Vitaly Nevar/Reuters

    How Capable Are Russia's Armed Forces?

    Since 2008, the Russian military has become more capable, not only of defending its territory but also of launching invasions against its neighbors. Russia's defense spending is now in decline, but NATO policymakers and defense planners should continue to monitor its military improvements.

Articles Translated from English

RAND researchers have written a variety of articles discussing the cost and effectiveness of Russian weapons systems, many of which have been translated into languages other than their original English, including (Arabic) العربية , हिन्दी (Hindi), and Melayu (Malay).

Project Sponsors

This project to explore the ways in which Russia exerts its global influence received U.S. government foreign assistance funding provided by the U.S. Department of State. The project is led by John Parachini for the RAND National Security Research Division.