Professor Bettina Rentz utgår i sin bok Russia’s Military Revival (Wiley 2018) från ett uttalande av USA:s tidigare försvarsminister Leon Panetta: “Putin’s main interest is to try and restore the old Soviet Union. I mean, that’s what drives him”; och ett annat från Natos förre generalsekreterare, Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “we should hold no illusions about Moscow’s intentions […] The clash is not only taking place in our shared neighbourhood. Moscow clearly aims to undermine the liberal international order and Western unity that has served us well since the end of World War II.”
I boken argumenteras för att nämnda reaktioner till Rysslands annektering av Krim och till inblandningen i Syrienkriget är problematiska, “because they are based on three misguided assumptions regarding the timing, purpose and scope of Russia’s military revival: first, the view that the desire for a powerful military and its use signals a ‘paradigm shift’ in the Kremlin’s outlook; second, the idea that the reason the military revival is pursued necessarily is to enable an expansionist and aggressive foreign policy; and third, the notion that Russian military capabilities now rival those of the West. These assumptions are misguided, because they fail to take into account the historical and international context of the military revival, which did not occur in a vacuum. The purpose of the book is to provide this context.”
I boken återfinns analyser med tre huvudsakliga argument.
Det första argumentet är att Rysslands förstärkning av sina militära styrkor inte är resultatet av ett paradigmskifte, utan mer ett resultat “of a complex confluence of historical, political and economic factors, many of which have been long in the making”.
Det andra argumentet: Moderniseringen av Rysslands militära kapacitet är inte bestämd av en expansiv eller aggressiv politik med dominans som mål. “The assumption that this is the case reflects a one-sided understanding of why states, including Russia, view a powerful military as an important asset. Military power is a flexible tool of statecraft and its utility is not limited to the fighting of wars and defeating of opponents. This needs to be borne in mind when the Kremlin’s reasons for strengthening its armed forces are assessed. As such, recent efforts to reform the country’s armed forces can only be understood within the context of the variety of functions the Russian armed forces have fulfilled throughout history.”
Det tredje argumentet är att ”the military revival” inte har resulterat i en kapacitet som förändrat maktbalansen i eller utanför Europa. “This is because a state’s military power is never absolute, but always relative to that of others. It is beyond doubt that Russia’s military capabilities today are much improved compared to what they were in the 1990s. In terms of military planning, too, there have been marked improvements in the ability of Russian strategists to fine-tune military tactics to suit the circumstances of operations of various intensity. However, these improvements do not mean that the country’s capabilities now rival those of the West, will guarantee victory in all cases, or even that they have created substantially new opportunities for the achievement of objectives that were not achievable before. Improvements in Russia’s military capabilities and Moscow’s growing confidence in using armed force as an instrument of foreign policy are significant and this poses challenges to its neighbours and to the West. However, the precise nature of these challenges is not as straightforward as often implied.”
Boken innehåller fem kapitel med detaljerad information om senare händelser. ”The topics of these chapters are the role of the military in Russian foreign policy in the past and today, reforms of the Russian armed forces since the early 1990s, the significance of the force structures as an important component of the country’s military establishment, Moscow’s uses of military force in wars and conflicts since the end of the Cold War, and developments in the country’s military thinking. A contextualized analysis of Moscow’s reasons for strengthening its armed forces, and of the significance of this for the security of both its neighbours and of the West, is not only of interest as an exercise of academic inquiry. It also has substantial policy relevance.
Following the annexation of Crimea, it has become a widely accepted fact that a lack of capacity to understand political developments in contemporary Russia caused the West to ‘sleep walk’ into the current crisis (House of Lords 2015: 6; Monaghan 2016: 26–7). A contextualized study of Russia’s military revival contributes to a better understanding of the Kremlin’s thinking and actions, which can help to ensure that any potential future actions will come as less of a surprise. A better understanding of the reasons for, and implications of Russia’s military revival is also significant for policies adopted by the West vis-à-vis a more assertive Kremlin. If such policies are insufficiently informed by an awareness of the motivations driving Russian behaviour, they could fail and inadvertently lead to spiralling tensions. A contextualized understanding of the military revival is essential not to justify Moscow’s actions, but rather it is vital to inform policy and decision makers in the West where to go from here.”
Efter en intressant historisk genomgång diskuteras i kapitel fyra annekteringen av Krim och interventionen i Syrien: ”It argues that there is little evidence to suggest a fundamental change in Moscow’s views on the utility of force, or that the desire to expand its territory or to confront the West in a bid for domination have become the major drivers. Since the early 1990s, Russia has been using military force in pursuit of a variety of policy objectives. With regard to its neighbourhood, the imperial legacy has informed its decision to use force in the region since the end of the Cold War. However, chance and contingency, status concerns, insecurity and strategic interests have also been important.
If patterns from the past are anything to go by, further expansion is fairly unlikely, because more indirect forms of domination offer a lever of control that is more valuable than adding more territory to an already vast state. With regard to the West, Russia has become more assertive in pursuing an independent foreign policy, even if this risks a breakdown in relations. That said, Russia’s approach to the West continues to be characterized by a complex interplay of cooperation and conflict. It desires inclusion but does not avoid confrontation when it feels that its views are not taken into account.”
Boken avslutas med en varning, som skulle kunna vara riktad till bland andra vår försvarsminister, att ”lack of understanding of the Kremlin’s intentions will significantly increase the danger of tensions spiralling out of control”.