Cover: Russian Military Forecasting and Analysis

Russian Military Forecasting and Analysis

The Military-Political Situation and Military Potential in Strategic Planning

Published Jun 23, 2022

by Clint Reach, Alyssa Demus, Eugeniu Han, Bilyana Lilly, Krystyna Marcinek, Yuliya Shokh


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Research Questions

  1. How does the Russian military science and associated civilian expert community conduct assessments and forecasts of the military-political situation and military potential?
  2. What are the results of these assessments and forecasts?

The Russian Ministry of Defense uses military forecasting to inform its long-term planning. Since the 1960s, Russian military analysis has applied comprehensive assessments of a country's ability to wage war that go beyond weapons and formations. The Ministry of Defense uses this forecasting to answer (1) what is the likelihood and character of future war and (2) what is the correlation of military potential between Russia and its potential adversaries?

In this report, the authors draw on an established framework to examine key indicators related to military forecasting to gain insight into the answers to these questions.

The Russian military science and academic research that the authors of this report reviewed found that the correlation of military potential (state power) — a broad measure that includes political, economic, scientific-technical, and conventional armed forces indicators — is and will be weighted in favor of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the West and the United States and Japan in the Asia-Pacific region through 2040. The factors that could improve Russia's competitive position are the inclusion of China in the correlation of military potential and the possible reduced ability of the United States to manage the international system in ways that favor its interests.

Russia's current military assessments and forecasts have not found indications of intentions of the United States or China to launch a large-scale war against Russia. The conditions under which Russia might take preemptive military action that risks war with an opponent with superior military potential remain an open question.

Key Findings

  • Given the large military potential imbalance between the two sides, the continued cohesion of the NATO alliance will likely force Russia to resolve political grievances without resorting to the use of force against NATO.
  • NATO cohesion creates at least three operational problems for Russia. First, Russia would have to fight a collection of countries that together possess a preponderance of military potential that could prove decisive in the event of a protracted conflict. Second, NATO cohesion could force Russia to launch attacks throughout Europe, making a split in the alliance more unlikely. Third, NATO cohesion could expose Russia's relatively limited inventory of long-range conventional munitions (strategic nonnuclear deterrence potential). Long-range conventional capability would be essential to preclude the use of a large swath of European territory to flow in additional forces and to launch attacks against Russian forces.
  • Russia will likely seek to avoid simultaneous confrontational relations with China and the West over the next two decades, which could inhibit its flexibility in foreign policy decisions.
  • Current and future development of Russian military strategy will be from a position of overall weakness relative to the United States and its allies.
  • Finally, the framework used in this report offers a useful approach to evaluate deterrence vis-à-vis Russia. For example, because the framework emphasizes the deterrence value of strategic nonnuclear capabilities, the degree of U.S. and allied superiority in long-range precision munitions offers one key input to gauge the level of deterrence against Russian military aggression.

This publication was sponsored by the Russia Strategic Initiative, United States European Command, and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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