Since Vladimir Putin declared the fall of the Soviet Union to be the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century, prompting concerns that Moscow would seek to rebuild its influence by conquering territories on its borders, Russia has deployed combat troops into Georgia, Ukraine and Syria, and inserted private military companies into the Central African Republic, Libya, Mozambique, South Sudan and Venezuela.
But there is little consensus among analysts about the meaning of Russia’s military behaviour, or how far it might go in pursuing its interests. Is it trying to rebuild a version of the former Soviet Union? Does it have the will and capability to go to war? Under what circumstances might it be ready to commit combat troops? And how do these questions relate to its immediate neighbourhood, in particular to the Baltic region? This analysis examines Russia’s fundamental motives for going to war in the ‘near abroad’, describes how Russia might wage war in the Baltic states, and identifies some of the indicators that might suggest it is preparing to do so.
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