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Russia’s Evolving Military Strategy



Katarzyna Zysk, Norwegian Defence University College; CISAC

Date and Time

March 2, 2017 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Encina Hall, 2nd floor

Abstract: Russia’s adaptation to the changing character of war has been an object of an ongoing discussion among security experts. Contemporary warfare is being profoundly altered by an increasingly wired world, disruptive technologies, the role of information and social interactions; it aims to impact the state’s entire capacity by exerting political, economic and cultural influence rather than by annihilating the adversary. As put by the Russian General Staff, the 21st century wars are not even declared and nonmilitary tools play an increasing role in achieving objectives of war. Russia’s swift annexation of Crimea, as well as a widespread use of disinformation, cyber attacks, electronic warfare, economic levers, and a spectrum of other means merging military, nonmilitary, asymmetrical and indirect approaches have supposedly manifested a new doctrinal and operational era in the Russian strategy, called ‘hybrid war,’ ‘new generation warfare,’ ‘non-linear war,’ or even ‘ambiguous war,’ among other terms. However, the assessments of Russian strategy lack conceptual clarity and have been accompanied by conflicting narratives, one portraying Russia as a master of strategy that has outmaneuvered the United States in key international security issues, the other claiming that strategic thinking is foreign to the current Russian authorities. This study identifies misconceptions about Russia’s contemporary military strategy, disentangles its theoretical foundations, and examines key patterns in the Russian adaptation to the challenges of modern-day and future conflict.

About the Speaker: Dr. Katarzyna Zysk is an associate professor at the Norwegian Defence University College – the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies in Oslo, a position she has held since 2007. In the academic year 2016–2017, she is on a sabbatical leave and serves as a visiting scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University, and subsequently as a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford. She is also a member of the Hoover Institution’s Arctic Security Initiative and was a research fellow (resident and non-resident) at the US Naval War College – Center for Naval Warfare Studies, where she also cooperated closely with the War Gaming Department. In 2016, she served as an acting dean of the Norwegian Defence University College. Dr. Zysk has an academic background in international relations and international history. Following her PhD thesis on NATO enlargement (2006), her research and publications have focused on various aspects of security and strategic studies, in particular on Russia’s security and defense policies, including military change and modernization of the Russian armed forces, strategic culture, political philosophy, Arctic geopolitics, as well as uses of seapower and maritime security. Currently, she is writing a book about Russia’s military strategy. 

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