Understanding Russia's grand strategy can help U.S. decisionmakers assess the depth and nature of potential conflicts between Russia and the United States and avoid strategic surprise by better-anticipating Moscow's actions and reactions. The authors of this report review Russia's declared grand strategy, evaluate the extent to which Russian behavior is consistent with stated strategy, and outline implications for the United States.
Russian Grand Strategy
Rhetoric and Reality
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- What is Russia's stated grand strategy?
- Do Russia's actions, behavior, and resource decisions reflect its stated grand strategy?
- What are the implications of this analysis for U.S. Army planners and other U.S. policymakers?
The study of a state's grand strategy can provide key insights into the direction of its foreign policy and its responses to national security challenges. Understanding Russia's grand strategy therefore can help U.S. decisionmakers both avoid strategic surprise by anticipating Moscow's actions and reactions and assess the depth and nature of potential conflicts between Russia and the United States. Because grand strategy is more than a collection of proclaimed foreign policy goals, a country's grand strategy must be understood through both a study of key documents and statements and a close empirical analysis of patterns of behavior. The authors of this report thus both describe Russia's declared grand strategy and test key elements of it against the actions of the Russian state.
The authors performed an exhaustive review of official Russian strategy documents and statements from its leaders and policymakers and conducted interviews in Moscow. Using the information gathered, the authors outlined the broad contours of Russian grand strategy. They then chose six key elements of Russia's stated grand strategy for closer examination: the linkage between internal and external threats, the nature of Russia's role in its immediate neighborhood, concepts about the future of warfare, expeditionary requirements for Russia's military, Moscow's objectives vis-à-vis the West, and Russia's declared prioritization of engagement with non-Western powers. The authors tested each of these elements against empirical evidence about corresponding behaviors of the state. From this analysis, they suggest implications and considerations for U.S. policymakers, both in the U.S. Army and in the broader national security decisionmaking sphere.
From the broad themes of Russia’s stated grand strategy, the authors chose six key elements to examine in greater detail; these six discrete analyses suggest five overarching implications for understanding the evolution of Russian grand strategy
- Russia's declared strategy can generally be considered a reliable predictor of the state's efforts.
- Russia has reacted to the Ukraine crisis and subsequent breakdown in relations with the West in ways that cause its behavior to diverge from its stated strategic goals.
- Insufficient economic resources and a lack of political influence limit Moscow's ability to realize its stated objectives.
- Russian strategy prioritizes threats and thus implies acceptance of certain risks in lower-priority areas; in practice, however, Russia seems unwilling or unable to accept these risks and thus allocates resources in ways that are inconsistent with its stated strategy.
- The analysis does not suggest that Russia's revealed grand strategy is fundamentally divergent from its stated one.
Table of Contents
A Framework for Analysis of Russia's Grand Strategy
Russia's Stated Grand Strategy
Strategy Element: Integrated Threats Require an Integrated Response
Strategy Element: Russia as Regional Leader
Strategy Element: Focus on Non-Contact Warfare
Strategy Element: Limited Expeditionary Ambitions
Strategy Element: Selective Cooperation and Selective Pushback with the West
Strategy Element: Rebalance Away from the West
Conclusions and Implications
National Security, Defense, and Federal Budget Trends
Data on State-Directed Political and Economic Engagement