Recovering the Empire - AEI

Recovering the Empire

The following articles are part of an ongoing research series that will for the first time marry an assessment of Russia’s capacity for destabilization of and direct aggression against half a dozen post-Soviet nations with an in-depth examination of these countries’ domestic vulnerabilities by leading regional experts. The analyses of each country will therefore comprise two essays: one on domestic vulnerabilities, and another on Russia’s capacity for intervention. Scheduled to be published next spring, this collection of twelve essays will explore the motivations behind a potential attack on a post-Soviet country, the Kremlin’s criteria for choosing target countries, and a country-by-country analysis of putative venues and modes of potential Russian aggression.

Sections in this edited series:

Domestic Vulnerabilities

By David Marples

Threat Assessment

By Vladimir Podhol

Russia’s overriding geostrategic goal in Belarus is to keep a stable, relatively pro-Russian regime in power. Therefore, the chances of a Russian military intervention in Belarus are low for the near future. While the Zapad military drills could provide an opportunity to leave troops in Belarus, broader geostrategic tensions guarantee Moscow will retain the motivation and opportunity to possibly intervene in the future.

 

Domestic Vulnerabilities

By Andrew Wilson

Threat Assessment

By Michael Kofman

Russia still has unresolved issues with accepting Ukraine’s right to exist as a nation-state, and Russia is likely to try to keep Ukraine weak and dysfunctional in whatever way possible. Russia’s overarching objective remains keeping Ukraine in its privileged sphere of influence, denying the country opportunities to join either NATO or the European Union.

 

Domestic Vulnerabilities

By Agnia Grigas

Threat Assessment

By Keir Giles

There is an ever-present risk that Russia will try to use the Baltic States’ sizable ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking minority to advance its foreign policy and potentially even territorial ambitions by subverting local governance and exacerbating internal political and social rifts. This report considers three possible scenarios for military intervention against Estonia in decreasing order of scale: a full-scale military offensive, a limited “land grab,” and an ongoing campaign of subversion with no intent to take or hold territory.

 

Domestic Vulnerabilities

By Paul Stronski

Threat Assessment

By Dmitry Gorenburg

In the event of volatility in Kazakhstan, Russia would, at a minimum, seek to secure its own borders and also possibly intervene on the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians living in Kazakhstan’s northern regions, potentially even seizing some territory in the process. Kazakhstan’s size and Russia’s lack of significant military presence in the region make outright invasion unlikely. Nevertheless, the death or deposition of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev could generate regional instability, which may prompt Russia to intervene.

 

Domestic Vulnerabilities

By Mihai Popsoi

Threat Assessment

By Mihai Popsoi

The pro-Russian Moldovan Orthodox Church and various nongovernmental organi­zations are both vehicles for promoting Moscow’s worldview and organizations for Moldovan politicians like Dodon to signal their closeness with the Kremlin. The Russian-supported separatist enclave of Transnistria has threatened Moldova’s stability since the country’s independence in 1992, and Transnistrian and Russian forces in the region pose serious security risks.

 

Domestic Vulnerabilities

By Ieva Berzina

Threat Assessment

By Janis Berzins

Russia could use the large number of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers living in Latvia to justify either covert or more overt destabilization of Latvian politics. Even with current NATO forces stationed in Latvia, Moscow may still believe it can delegitimize NATO by conducting an attack that Western leaders do not respond to.

 

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Given Moldova’s complicated history, divided identity, and meager defense capabilities, the country is extremely vulnerable to Russian intervention.

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Corruption and hyper-politicization of nominally independent government bodies provide avenues for Russian interference in Moldovan domestic politics.

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Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has anchored the country’s political system for over a quarter century, making the uncertainty of his eventual succession a potential flash point for instability.

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Kazakhstan’s size and Russia’s lack of significant military presence in the region make outright invasion unlikely. Nevertheless, the death or deposition of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev could generate regional instability, which may prompt Russia to intervene in support of a new regime or to undermine a newly empowered Kazakh nationalist one.

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Estonia has been consistently targeted by Moscow’s compatriot policies, information warfare, and various forms of military intimidation.

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Russia’s past aggression toward states along its periphery calls into question what action it might take against Estonia.

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Russia still has unresolved issues with accepting Ukraine’s right to exist as a nation-state, and Russia is likely to try to keep Ukraine weak and dysfunctional in whatever way possible.

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Russia’s overarching objective remains keeping Ukraine in its privileged sphere of influence, denying the country opportunities to join either NATO or the European Union.

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Belarus’ political and economic dance between East and West could prove unsustainable in the long term.

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Russia’s overriding geostrategic goal in Belarus is to keep a stable, relatively pro-Russian regime in power. Therefore, the chances of a Russian military intervention in Belarus are low for the near future.

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