The Russian Understanding of War

cover art
208 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781626167339 (1626167338)

208 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781626167346 (1626167346)

November 2019



The Russian Understanding of War
Blurring the Lines between War and Peace
Oscar Jonsson

This book analyzes the evolution of Russian military thought and how Russia's current thinking about war is reflected in recent crises. While other books describe current Russian practice, Oscar Jonsson provides the much needed long view to show how Russian military strategic thinking has developed from the Bolshevik Revolution to the present. He closely examines Russian primary sources including security doctrines and the writings and statements of Russian military theorists and political elites. What Jonsson reveals is that Russia's conception of the very nature of war is now changing, as Russian elites see information warfare and political subversion as the most important ways to conduct contemporary war. Since information warfare and political subversion are below the traditional threshold of armed violence, this has blurred the boundaries between war and peace. Jonsson also finds that Russian leaders have, particularly since 2011-12, considered themselves to be at war with the United States and its allies, albeit with non-violent means. This book provides much needed context and analysis to be able to understand recent Russian interventions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, how to deter Russia on the eastern borders of NATO, and how the West must also learn to avoid inadvertent escalation.

Oscar Jonsson is during 2019 Director of the Stockholm Free World Forum (Frivärld), a Swedish foreign and security policy think tank, and associated researcher at the Swedish Defence University. Previously, Oscar was a subject-matter expert at the Policy and Plans Department at the Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters. Oscar holds a PhD from the Department of War Studies, King's College London.

"A brilliant analysis that provides a deep understanding of how Russian leadership thinks today."—Sverker Goranson, General (Ret.) and former Supreme Commander, Swedish Armed Forces; Chairman, Royal Swedish Academy on War Science

"This masterly overview of Russia's concept of war underscores the need to see the world through Moscow's eyes, since as Oscar points out, Russian practice so often follows Russian theory. Along the way, Oscar once again demolishes myths and misunderstandings like the "Gerasimov Doctrine" and "Russian hybrid warfare" that have bedevilled analysis of Russian security policy since 2014. As such, this book is a valuable asset not only for policy-makers but for the whole Russia-watching community. Highly recommended."—Keir Giles, Senior Consulting Fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House