Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
It would be unfair to expect from a book thoughtfully researched at the start of this decade to give an accurate account of the true measure of coerciveness in Russia’s foreign policy at the middle of it. Indeed, the authors assumed that Russia ‘’is not attempting to control or reconquer its former empire with its military might’’; yet, they came close to the actual state of affairs arguing that ‘’it is attempting to control the destiny of the region through new means of power projection’’ (p. 206). What is remarkable about their optimistic take on managing tensions (p. 210) is that three key elements of Russia’s power that they saw as central to its coercive diplomacy – energy export, cyber operations, and maritime power – are of secondary importance in the on-going confrontation. Indeed, Russia’s ability to use oil and gas export (first of all to Europe) as an instrument of power policy had been undermined even before the spectacular price fall in 2015. In cyberspace, Russia has been lagging for a long time in developing usable means of attack – and is now so vulnerable to counter-measures that it prefers to abstain from any experiments, relying on good old TV propaganda. In the maritime domain, the investments in the 2020 Armament Program have yielded only moderate improvements, so the position of power that Russia has in the Arctic region is too shaky to exploit for political gain. Lacking the new means and the understanding of new techniques of projecting power, Moscow has fallen back to high-risk military interventions, leaving the West astounded.