Russia's Art of War

State Branding by Other Means

Russian soldiers at the international ARMY 2016 forum near Moscow, September 2016. Maxim Zmeyev / Reuters

“War is the continuation of politics by other means,” observed the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz in his classic treatise On War. Although the aphorism has become axiomatic almost to the point of cliché, it is an especially apt prism for understanding Russia’s increasingly adventurous foreign policy.

Take Russian President Vladimir Putin’s penchant for “hybrid warfare,” or the combination of traditional military methods with the manipulation of information for strategic gain. In many ways, Moscow’s recent interventions in Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine are explicit exemplars of Clausewitz’s maxim, albeit with a twist. For Clausewitz, war was simply another way to achieve relatively concrete strategic objectives, such as security, which could not be otherwise realized through politics. Russia’s recent wars in Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine, however, have been military expressions of its government’s desire to lend truth to its pretensions to superpower status. In

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