Thursday, April 13, 2017

Preparing for War?: Moscow Facing an Arc of Crisis

The Russian state is mobilizing. This means that the top leadership is moving the country onto a war footing in order to address what Moscow sees as an arc of crisis around Russia and a period of great turbulence in international affairs. Risks are seen in Moscow to include the possibility of the outbreak of war and regional instability caused by Western-led wars of regime change that could directly affect Russia.

This mobilization has been under way for some time, and is best understood as a process of consolidation and preparation: the Russian leadership sees war as a test of society, and despite its actions during the Ukraine crisis and in Syria, understands that Russia is not yet ready for such a test. This is because the Russian system, although in some respects powerful, is often dysfunctional. Russia also bears a heavy Soviet inheritance, including limited and decrepit infrastructure, and the military has endured many years of underfunding and neglect.

This consolidation is reflected in a series of measures to strengthen the political system both in terms of ensuring the implementation of orders and also of its resilience against potential civil disobedience and threats posed by extremism and terrorism. The leadership is also conducting a major effort to modernize the military, including a major investment program, enhancements to command and control, and frequent no-notice exercises to test readiness and responsiveness.

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