Russia and Ukraine: Not the Military Balance You Think

Moscow’s Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies has just published a new book on the military aspects of the Ukraine crisis. Here’s a preview of my book review, published today at War on the Rocks.

Colby Howard and Ruslan Pukhov, eds. Brothers Armed: Military Aspects of the Crisis in Ukraine (East View Press, 2014).

Over the last few months, the crisis in Ukraine has led to a fundamental reassessment of the state of U.S.-Russia relations. The crisis began with Russia’s almost completely non-violent military takeover of Crimea in February-March 2014. A new English-language volume edited by Colby Howard and Ruslan Pukhov highlights the causes and nature of the conflict in Crimea, as well as provides some lessons for both Ukraine and other states that might be subject to Russian aggression in the future.

This volume provides balanced and comprehensive coverage of virtually all military aspects of the conflict in Crimea, including both Russian and Ukrainian points of view. The experts from the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) are some of the top Russian military analysts and the quality of their research and understanding of the Russian and Ukrainian militaries is clear in the writing.

The book begins with a short chapter by Vasily Kashin describing the backstory of the territorial dispute over Crimea. Although it starts with the conquest of the region by Catherine the Great back in the 18th century and mentions more familiar arguments related to the legitimacy of the region’s transfer from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, the main focus is on events after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Kashin highlights tensions over Crimea’s status within Ukraine throughout the 1990s, the role played by former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov in promoting pro-Russian separatism in Crimea in the 1990s and 2000s, and the contentious negotiations over the division and subsequent status of the Black Sea Fleet and its base in Sevastopol. His key insight is that “the Russian government took no serious measures to support separatist movements in Crimea” prior to its invasion of the peninsula last February. This illustrates that Russian actions during the crisis were not the culmination of a plan to dismember Ukraine, but a reaction to the perceived security threat coming from the Maidan protests that culminated in the overthrow of the Yanukovych government.

To read the rest, please click here.

6 thoughts on “Russia and Ukraine: Not the Military Balance You Think

  1. I just received the book and am in Oslo so I have yet to read it but it is clear from other Russian sources and form the nature of the Crimean operation itself that detailed, even meticulous operational, not just contingency planning, had long preceded the actual invasion of Crimea and to say that it was not preplanned is simply not true

    Stephen Blank

  2. Steve,

    It depends on what you mean by planning. I have no doubt that there was a detailed operational plan in place for taking Crimea by force. You can say it was preplanned in the sense of the military developing an operational plan on how to carry it out should the order be given. In fact, aspects of the operational plan were even exercised back in 2013. However, there is no evidence that Russian leaders were planning to put that plan into operation prior to the events of late February. So I don’t think you can say it was preplanned in the sense that Russian leaders were expecting to carry it out at some point in 2014.

    • So, they conclusion to your intention would be that an foreign islamic intervention to Tschechnya would be also a logic result to ongoing russian army activities there?

      • Surely not….but unfortunately the “adminstration” of Kadyrov is also not more fortunately for the people there……Fact is, that the people there were satisfied with Dudaev and the real problems came from outside – and with this I mean Khattab AND russian power-policy…

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