Russia’s Military Revival

Bettina Renz

Overview: Russia’s invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea followed by its military intervention in the Syrian civil war appear to signal Russia’s return to the world stage as a significant military actor. Furthermore, many in the West view Russia’s willingness to use force against Ukraine and in Syria, coming just a few years after its war with Georgia, as proof of the Kremlin’s revanchist and expansionist tendencies. Renz, an Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham, sets out to put Russia’s recent military operations abroad and the country’s clear military revival in context. Through an analysis of the Russian elite’s “Great Power” thinking, Moscow’s military capabilities, and Russian strategic thought and behavior throughout the post-Cold War era, Renz concludes that what we are seeing is not a sudden Russian military resurgence nor the opening campaigns of a broader war of aggression against its neighbors and the West. These events, together with the emergence of Russia’s clearly more capable military machine, are consistent with Russia’s broader historical development and its military and foreign policies. The US and its allies cannot ignore Russia’s seemingly newfound military capabilities or the Kremlin’s willingness to use them. However, the author argues, we should not overestimate Russia’s strength nor inflate the “threat” currently emanating from Moscow. She concludes that we should continue to take reasonable steps to reassure allies and partners neighboring Russia and uphold international principles and norms of behavior. In so doing, though, we must be careful to avoid creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in the form of a security dilemma brought about by mutual suspicion and misunderstanding.