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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Russian Airstrikes in Syria: November 8 - December 6, 2016

By Jonathan Mautner

Russia leveraged the asymmetric advantage of its air power in Syria in order to facilitate major pro-regime gains in eastern Aleppo City from November 26 – December 7, bringing the regime close to securing the city’s ultimate surrender. Russia conducted targeted airstrikes against a contiguous swathe of five opposition districts in northeastern Aleppo City from November 25 – 26, enabling pro-regime forces to recapture four neighborhoods in the area. At the same time, opposition forces withdrew from five additional neighborhoods in the vicinity of the Kurdish-held Sheikh Maqsud District in northern Aleppo City, ceding control of the districts to the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces. Most recently, pro-regime forces seized the Sha’er District on December 6 and advanced into the dense urban terrain of Aleppo’s Old City on December 7 after the withdrawal of opposition fighters, establishing control of more than three-fourths of the opposition’s urban pocket. The withdrawal of those fighters to more open areas of the city will render them increasingly vulnerable to Russian airstrikes and place them under greater pressure to accede to regime surrender and evacuation proposals.


Russia also intensified its air operations against schools, markets, and other civilian infrastructure in the suburbs north and west of Aleppo City and in neighboring Idlib Province from November 25 – 28 and December 3 – 6, respectively, aiming to extract a high cost for the opposition’s continued resistance in Aleppo City. Russia will continue to wage its air operations in northwestern Syria for both military and punitive effect, at least until the regime’s siege-and-starve campaign coerces Aleppo City’s remaining opposition districts to surrender. As Russia acts deliberately to reinforce that campaign, opposition-held eastern Aleppo City and its bastion of acceptable opposition factions will likely surrender before the incoming U.S. administration takes office. This eventuality would not only bolster the regime and its allies, but also threaten the national security objectives of the U.S. in Syria. Lacking alternatives, the remnants of those once acceptable opposition forces will likely withdraw to core opposition terrain in Idlib Province and cooperate more closely with Salafi-jihadist groups in order to continue their insurgency against the Syrian regime. Although committed to overthrowing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Salafi-jihadist groups such as ISIS and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham are also invested in attacking the U.S. and its allies. If the regime achieves victory in Aleppo City, the U.S. will face both a continuing civil war and an increasingly durable Salafi-jihadist safe haven in northern Syria from which groups can plan and potentially execute external attacks.

The following graphic depicts ISW’s assessment of Russian airstrike locations based on reports from local Syrian activist networks, statements by Russian and Western officials, and documentation of Russian airstrikes through social media. This map represents locations targeted by Russia’s air campaign, rather than the number of individual strikes or sorties. 

High-Confidence Reporting. ISW places high confidence in reports corroborated by documentation from opposition factions and activist networks on the ground in Syria deemed to be credible that demonstrate a number of key indicators of Russian airstrikes.

Low-Confidence Reporting. ISW places low confidence in reports corroborated only by multiple secondary sources, including from local Syrian activist networks deemed credible or Syrian state-run media.



Syria Situation Report: December 2 - 8, 2016

By ISW Syria Team and Syria Direct

Pro-regime forces backed by heavy airstrikes seized at least fifteen districts in Eastern Aleppo City including large parts of the Old City of Aleppo, shrinking the pocket held by opposition forces by more than seventy-five percent. Activists stated that opposition groups had withdrawn from the area to regroup in Southern Aleppo City and noted that more than 80,000 civilians have fled Eastern Aleppo City since the start of the pro-regime offensive on November 15. The Aleppo Leadership Council - a committee of all opposition groups in Aleppo City - released a statement on December 7 calling for a five-day ceasefire, medical evacuations, and free passage for civilians to Northern Aleppo Province. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Germany to discuss a potential deal to evacuate opposition-held districts of Eastern Aleppo City. Anonymous sources stated that the proposal calls for the safe evacuation of all civilians and opposition fighters from Eastern Aleppo City except for members of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham - the successor of Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. The meeting ended without any major breakthrough. Russia and China previously vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution calling for a seven-day ceasefire in Aleppo City on December 5.

This graphic marks the latest installment of our Syria SITREP Map made possible through a partnership between the Institute for the Study of War and Syria DirectThe graphic depicts significant recent developments in the Syrian Civil War. The control of terrain represented on the graphic is accurate as of December 6, 2016.


ISIS Sanctuary Map: December 8, 2016

By Alexandra Gutowski and the ISW Research Team 

ISIS lost significant control zones near Mosul, Raqqa, and al-Bab since October 17, 2016. Anti-ISIS forces fully encircled Mosul and penetrated the eastern side of the city. Meanwhile in Northern Aleppo, rival Kurdish-led Operation Euphrates Wrath and Turkish-backed Operation Euphrates Shield encroached on ISIS-held terrain near Raqqa and al-Bab, respectively. Operation Euphrates Wrath forces are positioned 30 km north of Raqqa as of December 8, 2016. Operation Euphrates Shield forces remain halted on the outskirts of al-Bab. Arab-Kurdish tensions in northern Syria threaten to compromise both operations. ISIS responded to its loss of terrain and to the potential loss of Mosul and Raqqa by rejuvenating attack zones throughout Iraq, notably in Baghdad, Hilla, and Samarra. On December 8, 2016, ISIS also launched an offensive in Eastern Homs. ISIS also conducted attacks in new locations including Bab al-Hawa, Syria and Darbandikhan, Iraq on December 3, 2016 and December 4, 2016 respectively, demonstrating that ISIS is still expanding its freedom of action in Iraq and Syria. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Iraq Situation Report: December 1-6, 2016

By Staley Smith, Michael Momayezi, and the ISW Iraq Team

ISIS spectacular attacks in Baghdad decreased from December 1-5, allowing the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to deploy security forces from Baghdad to northern Iraq. The decrease is part of a trend over the past few weeks of limited or minor suicide attacks in Iraq’s capital. The ISF deployed an Iraqi Army (IA) brigade from Baghdad to eastern Mosul on December 1 to provide support to and operate alongside the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) in ongoing operations to recapture the city. This deployment follows the movement of the Baghdad-based 60th Brigade from the 17th IA Division to Shirqat on November 29. ISIS may try to exploit the reduced security in Baghdad and attempt further attacks in the city in order to draw ISF units back to Baghdad or prevent additional ISF units from deploying to northern Iraq. 

The Council of Representatives (CoR) met to discuss the 2017 federal budget on December 4 and 5 but failed to put the budget to a final vote. One of the primary obstacles to passing the budget was a disagreement between the Shia National Alliance and the Sunni Etihad bloc over the Popular Mobilization Law, which passed on November 26 and institutionalizes and finances the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) as part of the ISF. The two blocs differed on the proportion of Shi’a and Sunni units currently within the Popular Mobilization that will benefit under the new law, which did not specify which militias qualify for these benefits. The CoR needs to reach an agreement on which forces will receive funding in order to pass the budget, but Sunni parties could try to stall the vote in order to guarantee greater allocations to Sunni tribal fighters. If the structure of the PMU is decided by a clause within the budget and voted on by the CoR, the Shi’a majority within the CoR can solidify Shi’a militias as the majority in the new structure, furthering Sunni alienation from Iraqi Government.


Monday, December 5, 2016

The Campaign for Mosul: November 29 - December 5, 2016

By Emily Anagnostos and the ISW Iraq Team

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) made limited gains in Mosul from November 28 to December 5, but moved additional assets from Baghdad into the region in order to reinforce current lines of effort in Mosul and improve security in southern Ninewa. 

The ISF opened a new line of effort away from Mosul on November 29 to recapture the eastern bank of the Tigris River across from Shirqat. ISIS has frequently attacked Shirqat, on the western bank, by crossing the Tigris River from its position on the eastern bank. The ISF launched the operation from Hajj Ali and is working its way south along the river. The ISF deployed the Baghdad-based 60th Brigade of the 17th Iraqi Army (IA) Division in order to lead the operation alongside tribal forces and an armored battalion. If the ISF can extend its holdings along the eastern bank, it will increase security for recaptured cities on the western bank, including Shirqat and Qayyarah, reduce ISIS’s ability to attack recaptured terrain, and set up the ISF to launch future operations in the Zab region, a Sunni insurgent stronghold, at the confluence of the Little Zab and Tigris Rivers. 

The ISF set conditions for the 16th IA Division to enter Mosul’s northeastern city limits alongside the embattled Counter Terrorism Service (CTS). The division connected ISF-held terrain north of the city with ISF-terrain on the eastern axis, effectively closing in ISIS on the eastern side, on December 3. The 16th Division will likely aim to enter the city limits over the coming week in order to support operations which have stalled due to fierce ISIS resistance and remaining civilian populations. The ISF deployed a second unit from Baghdad, the 43rd Brigade of the 11th IA Division, on December 1, to eastern Mosul to reinforce efforts in the eastern neighborhoods. The CTS, meanwhile, has made limited advances in Mosul’s northern neighborhoods.


The deployment of Baghdad-based units north could suggest that security in the capital is stable enough to deploy these forces north. The deployment of the 60th and 43rd Brigades north follows the deployment of the entire 1st Rapid Intervention Division out of the capital, first into western Anbar and later to Mosul, in late October. ISIS continues to launch attacks in Baghdad, but not to the same scale as it has in previous weeks. The ISF will still need to be aware that ISIS will try to take advantage of reduced forces in Baghdad in order to use carry out attacks. ISIS may increase its the attacks in Baghdad to undermine the legitimacy of the Iraqi Government, as it did in July when a deadly Vehicle-Borne IED (VBIED) led to the resignations of senior security officials including the interior minister.

Kurdish Seams Threaten Anti-ISIS Coalition in Iraq and Syria

By Christopher Kozak with Leah Danson and Howlader Nashara

The U.S. Anti-ISIS Campaign has inadvertently emboldened select factions of Kurds in Iraq and Syria in a manner that threatens to exacerbate preexisting political and ethnic divisions, stoke regional conflict, and disrupt current momentum against ISIS. The U.S. has provided extensive military assistance to both the Syrian Kurdish YPG and the Iraqi Kurdish Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) as indispensable partners in the Anti-ISIS Campaign, enabling both groups to consolidate their control over large swaths of terrain outside of the regions traditionally held by Kurds in Iraq and Syria. The empowerment of these factions in turn revitalized nationalist aspirations within Kurdistan. The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) – a political coalition led by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – declared the establishment of an autonomous Federation of Northern Syria - Rojava in March 2016. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani has become increasingly vocal regarding the possibility of formal independence from Iraq. This wave of nationalism has also reinvigorated insurgencies against the state among the sizeable populations of Kurds in Turkey and Iran.


This nationalist upheaval raises the likelihood that historic tensions along any number of established seams – both among competing factions of Kurds as well as between Kurds, Arabs, and Turks – could erupt into open conflict over the near-term. These long-standing seams include:
  • Turkey – PKK: The insurgency waged by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Eastern Turkey resumed in July 2015. The PKK – and an offshoot organization called the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) – have conducted a steady campaign of major bombings across Southern Turkey as well as Istanbul and Ankara. The PKK maintains outposts and headquarters in the Qandil Mountains of Northern Iraq that Turkey has repeatedly targeted in cross-border operations.
  • Turkey – PYD: Turkey launched an intervention against ISIS in Northern Syria called Operation Euphrates Shield in August 2016 in large part to prevent further expansion along the Syrian-Turkish Border by the PYD, which Turkey considers to be an extension of the PKK. Opposition groups backed by Turkey in Operation Euphrates Shield have engaged in intensifying clashes with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a military coalition dominated by the armed wing of the PYD, the Syrian Kurdish YPG. These clashes could escalate into open conflict as both the YPG and Turkey attempt to seize control over the key town of Al-Bab in Northern Aleppo Province, undermining coalition operations spearheaded by the SDF to isolate and seize Ar-Raqqa City from ISIS.
  • KDP – PUK: The dominant position held by the KDP in Northern Iraq has fueled a political crisis within the KRG between the KDP and its political rivals, including the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Gorran. President Barzani has leveraged the current security situation to retain his position long past the expiration of his already-extended term in August 2015, spurring mass outcry from opposition parties and the effective collapse of the government. The KRG remains unable to address critical challenges, including a crippling financial crisis, amidst this political paralysis. Low-level partisan violence also threatens to escalate over the medium-term.  The KDP and PUK previously fought an intense civil war in the mid-1990s.
  • KRG – Iraq: The relationship between the KRG and Baghdad continues to suffer from persistent disagreements over sensitive political issues, including the structure of oil and natural gas revenue-sharing as well as the distribution of government portfolios to Iraqi Kurds. The ongoing financial crisis in Iraq has exacerbated these tensions and widened the division between the two sides, providing fuel to calls for the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. At the same time, the current occupation of key regions in Ninewa, Kirkuk, Salah ad-Din, and Diyala Provinces by the Iraqi Peshmerga risks the eruption of future conflict over the long-term status of the Disputed Internal Boundaries (DIBs) contested between Baghdad and Arbil
  • PYD – Syria: The relationship between the PYD and Damascus remains tense despite reports of deepening cooperation between the two sides against opposition forces in Northern Syria. The regime has thus far tolerated the formation of an unofficial autonomous zone run by the PYD in Northern Syria in order to concentrate its forces on other battlefronts. The regime nonetheless remains unlikely to cede its sovereignty to this autonomous zone over the long-term. The PYD has engaged in minor clashes with pro-regime forces inside their remaining outposts in Hasaka City and Qamishli in Hasaka Province. These tensions set the stage for future conflicts that could erode coalition gains against ISIS in Eastern Syria.
  • Kurds – Arabs: Both the Syrian YPG and the Iraqi Peshmerga face mounting resistance from local Sunni Arab populations as the fight against ISIS carries the Kurds outside of their traditional ethnic strongholds. Opposition groups, tribal fighters, and unidentified insurgents regularly conduct attacks against the YPG and Peshmerga in regions dominated by Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Syria. At the same time, human rights groups have accused the YPG and Peshmerga of conducting ethnic cleansing and other heavy-handed repressive acts against Sunni Arabs in order to punish locals for their alleged support of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other Salafi-Jihadist groups. These incidents usually occur along historical fault lines where previous regimes in both countries attempted to alter ethnic demographics in order to favor Sunni Arabs over Kurds.
  • KDP – PYD: The Syrian PYD and Iraqi KDP maintain their own political rivalry as both factions compete to cultivate allies and remove potential competitors across the entirety of the terrain held by Kurds in Iraq and Syria. The KDP backs an affiliated political branch called the KDP-S in Northern Syria that suffers from routine arrests and repression by the PYD. The KDP also hosts several thousand fighters from political factions opposed to the PYD - the so-called ‘Syrian Peshmerga’ – in Northern Iraq.  Meanwhile, the Syrian PYD and PKK have both deployed forces to Sinjar in Northern Iraq in an attempt to establish their own local base of support. This competition could escalate into open conflict over the long-term.
  • Kurds – Iran: Kurdish separatists affiliated with both the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and Iran-Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) escalated their attacks against security forces in Western Iran beginning in May 2016. These groups largely operate from bases in Iraqi Kurdistan across the Iraqi-Iranian Border. Although the current level of violence does not threaten the stability of the Government of Iran, the attacks will likely strain relations between Iraq and Iran.
The eruption of a conflict along one or more of these seams would directly undermine the Anti-ISIS Campaign in Iraq and Syria. The coalition remains over-reliant upon the Syrian Kurdish YPG and the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga for military gains against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Any outbreak of violence that fragments the coalition and turns coalition actors against one another – either politically or militarily – threatens to stall ongoing operations against Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa City in Syria. These seams also stand to fuel the widespread regional disorder that provides optimal safe haven to ISIS, al Qaeda, and other Salafi-Jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Anti-ISIS Campaign risks the long-term failure of its mission to degrade and destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria if the coalition proves unable to reduce tensions along these seams and rebalance its campaign to incorporate a wider variety of partner forces on the ground.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Syria Situation Report: November 19 - December 2, 2016

By ISW Syria Team and Syria Direct

Pro-regime forces seized at least five opposition-held districts in Eastern Aleppo City on November 26 - 28 following a heavy air campaign that began on November 15. The Syrian Democratic Forces - a coalition led by the Syrian Kurdish YPG - also seized at least five other opposition-held districts following an alleged negotiated withdrawal by opposition forces. The UN estimated that the fighting displaced roughly 30,000 civilians, primarily to regime-held districts of Aleppo City. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov later stated that pro-regime forces intend to “force the terrorists out” of Aleppo City within the next six weeks. Meanwhile, Turkey stated that an alleged regime airstrike killed at least three soldiers of the Turkish Armed Forces participating in Operation Euphrates Shield near Al-Bab in Northern Aleppo Province on November 24. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim warned that Turkey will “respond in kind” to the attack, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied the involvement of any pro-regime aircraft in the incident. The incident occurred on the one-year anniversary of the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish warplanes in Northern Latakia Province in November 2015.

This graphic marks the latest installment of our Syria SITREP Map made possible through a partnership between the Institute for the Study of War and Syria DirectThe graphic depicts significant recent developments in the Syrian Civil War. The control of terrain represented on the graphic is accurate as of November 20, 2016.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Putin Sets the Stage for the Incoming U.S. Administration

by Kathleen Weinberger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has kept international attention riveted on Russian operations in Syria while escalating military deployments and political operations across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Putin’s global strategy relies on creating the impression that a U.S. challenge to Russian expansion would be met with a conventional military or even nuclear Russian response. Putin aims to present the incoming administration with the false dichotomy of partnering with Russia and allowing Putin to operate with impunity or going to war.

Putin has not changed his approach following the U.S. election despite the conciliatory tone struck by President-elect Donald Trump. He has instead continued to make forward military deployments and used increasingly aggressive rhetoric. Russia announced a massive new deployment of some of their most advanced anti-aircraft systems to Syria the day after the president-elect expressed his hope for a "strong and enduring relationship with Russia" during a phone call with the Russian president.[1] Putin has continued to act to ensure that the incoming administration must negotiate any U.S.-Russia reset on Russian terms. The Russian president intends to cement Russian military presence in strategically significant areas and compel the incoming administration to accept Russian faits accomplis at the expense of U.S. interests. Putin will be able to diminish U.S. influence globally even before Trump takes office if the outgoing and incoming administrations do not resist him.

Putin has used Russian military operations in Syria as cover to deploy highly capable air force, anti-aircraft and naval units into the Middle East. He is already using these capabilities to limit U.S. freedom of operations in the eastern Mediterranean. Russia has continued to build its network of anti-air missile systems, and deployed an additional seven advanced S-300 units along the Syrian coast on November 15, 2016. Putin has also deployed advanced naval capabilities. Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, deployed to Syria with much fanfare.  The ship itself brings no meaningful additions to Russia’s military capabilities in the theater and primarily functions as a propaganda tool.  Highly-capable vessels that do enhance Russia’s ability to challenge U.S. and NATO forces in the Mediterranean accompany it, however. The Pyotr Velikiy and Admiral Grigorovich, as well as three submarines, provide Russian forces off the Syrian coast with advanced offensive cruise missile capabilities, naval air defense systems and anti-ship missiles.[2] All of these systems in combination allow Russia to establish an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) zone over much of the eastern Mediterranean and Syria. These systems constrain the operations of US forces.  American aircraft can either operate according to Putin’s desires or risk a military confrontation with Russia.

Constraining American activities is the primary purpose for most of these deployments.  ISIS, al Qaeda, and affiliated opposition groups have no air or sea forces and extremely limited anti-aircraft capabilities.  Putin is fighting on behalf of the Assad regime and with the Iranians, so their aircraft are allies rather than threats to Russian troops.  These advanced anti-aircraft and anti-ship systems can only be directed against American forces or those of America’s NATO allies or Israel.  The Kremlin itself stated that these systems are meant to play a “deterrent role”.[3]

Putin has also increased the intensity and tempo of military deployments in the Baltic region, heightening Russia’s military posture and signaling his intention to continue challenging the U.S. and its NATO allies in Europe. Moscow announced on November 21, 2016 that it would permanently deploy Iskander-M tactical ballistic missiles to the European enclave of Kaliningrad along with additional S-400 anti-air missile systems.[4] Russian forces in Kaliningrad will also receive the Bastion-P anti-ship missile system, which was recently shown to have land attack capabilities.[5] These deployments follow the June 2016 overhaul of the Baltic Sea Fleet leadership, as well as efforts to provide the fleet with advanced surface vessels.[6]

Putin is using the symbolic value of these deployments to achieve much larger strategic gains than the marginal increases in tactical capability most of them constitute. The permanent deployment of the Iskander system, which can launch missiles carrying either a conventional or nuclear payload, demonstrates Russia’s ability to conduct a tactical or operational nuclear strike in Europe without using its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and without requiring manned bombers to penetrate NATO air defenses. The renewed armament of the Baltic Sea Fleet similarly signal Russia’s intention to intimidate the Baltic States and Poland even as NATO reinforces them with multinational battalions. Putin hopes to intimidate or coerce the U.S. into ceding influence in Eastern Europe, allowing him to expand Russian military and political influence.   

Putin is watching how the U.S. and its allies react to deployments in the Middle East and Europe in order to gauge his ability to increase the Russian military presence in Asia. Russia has been engaged in a high-profile buildup on the Kuril Islands, the subject of a territorial dispute between Japan and Russia.[7] The Russian Ministry of Defense announced in May that it will build new military infrastructure there, including a new Pacific naval base, and recently deployed Bal and Bastion-P anti-ship systems.[8] The buildup of Russia’s Far East is likely to follow familiar playbook. Russia already operates S-400s on the Kamchatka Peninsula and Tor-M2U short-range air defense systems on the Kuril Islands.[9] Russian forces were in the coastal province of Primorsky Krai were equipped with Iskander-M tactical missile systems in July 2016 and undertook drills on November 19, 2016.[10] Anti-air systems may be used to secure the airspace in Russia’s Far East, while the Iskander systems signal the threat of nuclear escalation. The Russian Ministry of Defense announced the creation of a new ground forces division in the Far East, including additional deployments to the Kuril islands, as well as heavy bomber patrols in the Pacific.[11] Putin will become more aggressive in his militarization of the Pacific if his approach in other theaters goes unchallenged.

Putin has coupled these deployments with nuclear rhetoric and signaling in order to coerce the West to acquiesce to or even partner with Russia. Russian officials and media cast the current situation as a re-emergence of the Cold War, highlighting Russia’s capabilities and of its willingness to use nuclear weapons. Russia recently codified its withdrawal from the Plutonium Accords, a bilateral agreement with the U.S. to destroy weapons-grade plutonium used to build nuclear weapons.[12] Russian media has launched a propaganda campaign to further the narrative of escalating nuclear tensions, including claims of nation-wide drills in case of a nuclear attack.[13] It has also highly publicized recent Russia’s new ICBM, the Sarmat (NATO designation: Satan 2), and tests of the error-prone Bulava, a sub-launch ballistic missile (SLBM).[14] Putin aims to propagate the narrative of Russian capability and readiness to engage in nuclear war to artificially raise the stakes of U.S. resistance to Russian military expansion.

In addition to exerting military pressure, Putin has worked to undermine U.S. influence and support by forming partnerships with foreign governments and political parties. Putin aims to split the solidarity of U.S. allies while empowering countries that oppose U.S. interests in an effort to reduce support for U.S. operations globally.

Putin seeks to constrain U.S. operations in the Middle East further by courting Egypt as a military partner and providing advanced weapons to Iran. Russia undertook its first military exercises with Egypt, involving elite Russia airborne units along with Egyptian paratroopers, in mid-October. Putin likely seeks to establish a base on Egyptian territory to further strengthen Russia’s military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean.[15] Cairo may well refuse to allow Russia to base on its territory, as this would risk it losing significant military aid from the U.S., but Putin has already convinced President Abdel Fattah el Sisi to support Russian initiatives in the UN Security Council.[16]

Putin has also continued to provide arms and advanced capabilities to Iran, including S-300 air defense systems, with the intention of strengthening a regional power that opposes U.S. interests in the Middle East. These systems have serious implications for Iran’s missile development program and may hamper future nuclear deterrence measures.[17] Russia and Iran recently announced a $10 billion arms deal, which would supply Iran with Russian tanks, planes and helicopters while increasing military ties between the two countries.[18] Russia’s ongoing intervention and empowerment of Iran strengthens the Moscow-Tehran axis and could significantly constrain America’s ability to fight against al Qaeda and the Islamic State throughout the Middle East.

Putin aims to reduce U.S. and NATO influence in Europe by continuing to support anti-European Union and pro-Russian political parties in European governments.[19] Three key elections have positioned pro-Russian parties to disrupt the stability of NATO member and partner states. Estonia’s Prime Minister lost a no-confidence vote on November 9, 2016.[20] The pro-Russian party in Estonia is a consolidated minority but is unlikely to gain a controlling majority in the upcoming elections. The Prime Minister’s fall, however, weakens the pro-Western majority and creates significant instability in a country that will soon host one of NATO’s new multinational battalions. The pro-European Prime Minister of Bulgaria stepped down after a pro-Russian candidate won the office of the president on November 13, 2016.[21] Bulgaria is a NATO member state that has generally attempted to avoid ‘provoking’ Russia by limiting its NATO activity.[22] A pro-Russian party would cause Bulgaria to further reduce its participation as a NATO member and weaken the alliance. Moldova elected a pro-Russian president whose party aims to prevent Moldova from further integrating with the EU and NATO, also on November 13, 2016.[23] Russia is supporting these parties and others in Europe in order to reduce these countries’ cooperation with the U.S. and potentially create resistance to future NATO activity.

Putin has expanded Russia’s military capabilities and political power globally by pairing the deployment of Russian military forces with aggressive rhetoric to preclude a U.S. response. If Putin continues to bolster Russian forces, equipment and influence in strategic theaters, he will be able to face the new U.S. administration from a defensive position rather than having to undertake actions that President Trump could portray as aggressive. Putin aims to leverage these positions to force the U.S. and its partners to form a pragmatic partnership with Russia at the expense of key U.S. national interests rather than risk a military confrontation.

The U.S. does not have to choose between cooperating with Russia at the expense of U.S. interests and full-scale war, however, nor do Russian military capabilities outmatch America’s. Putin’s success depends on overselling Russian capabilities and will to engage militarily with the U.S. even though Russia is neither able to win nor interested in fighting a full-scale war.

Recent Russian military actions in Ukraine and Syria have revealed significant capability gaps and overreliance on elite units. Russia’s ongoing economic crisis will further exacerbate these problems while offering the U.S. and its allies key leverage points for engagement.  The U.S. maintains significant military and diplomatic signaling capabilities, as well as conventional military superiority, with which to confront Russian actions.

Putin has been most successful in his campaigns when fighting inferior military forces and when he has been able to use elite units in combination with the element of surprise. The successful annexation of Crimea was not an example of overwhelming force, but rather of Russia’s Special Operations Forces securing decisive positions before Ukrainian or international forces could respond militarily or politically.[24] Russian elite units, including Spetsnaz and Airborne Troops (VDV), are effective, but they are limited in quantity and cannot be counted on to deliver military victory in all situations.

The ongoing stalemate between Russian proxy forces and the Ukrainian military in the Donbas region provides an example of Putin’s more likely modus operandi.  Russia’s military escalation against Ukraine in August 2016 demonstrated that Putin would rather use the threat of force to strengthen Russia’s position at the negotiating table rather than escalate to a large-scale war of attrition when swift military victory is unattainable.[25] Forward-deployed “tripwire” U.S. and allied forces capable of preventing Russian elite units from attaining rapid decisive victories would remove a critical method from Putin’s playbook.[26] 

The most recent example of a prolonged campaign, the Russian intervention in Syria, has demonstrated both the improvements and the limitations of new Russian military technology, command-and-control, and coordination of airpower operations. Putin has used the intervention to display enhanced Russian capabilities, such as long range Kalibr land attack cruise missiles and improved coordination of air and ground force operations with the Syrian regime.[27] Russian military forces have primarily relied on old hardware and tactics with limited success, however, outside of select demonstrations of advanced capabilities. Russian airstrikes in northern Syria still mainly employ unguided gravity bombs, rather than precision munitions.[28] The deployment of the Admiral Kuznetsov showcased the aircraft carrier’s ongoing technological problems and the limitations of ongoing efforts to modernize the vessel.[29] The crash of one of the new carrier-based MiG-29K fighters demonstrated the Russian Navy’s outstanding issues with sustaining air operations.[30] The majority of Russia’s conventional forces have not been as thoroughly equipped or modernized as its forces in Syria. Reductions to planned budget outlays have already disrupted procurement plans and could further delay the already-protracted efforts to modernize the Russian military.[31]

Putin’s establishment of A2/AD zones across Europe and the Middle East make U.S. engagement with Russian forces more difficult and expensive, but far from impossible. The S-300 and S-400 air defense systems are mobile, have been deployed in numbers so as to create redundancies in Russia’s air defense network, and are supported by a number of short-range air defense systems to cover close engagements.[32] U.S. forces are nevertheless capable of penetrating the exclusion zones created by these systems. A successful defeat of a Russian air defense unit would require first jamming and partially disabling the system, followed by a ‘hard kill’ strike from a stealth aircraft once the system has been damaged.[33] The deployment and use of these U.S. capabilities would be expensive and time-consuming.  It would require extensive planning and sufficient political will to oversee these and follow-on operations. It is well within the capacity of the American military to accomplish these tasks, however.  Putin is counting on the deterrent capabilities of Russia’s air defense systems to preclude U.S. action and trusting that Washington will acquiesce to his policies rather than undertake these complicated strikes.

Russia’s failing economy will further aggravate ongoing problems with Russia’s military at large and impair Putin’s ability to present Russian conventional forces as a credible military threat. Putin began large-scale military reforms after the 2008 Russo-Georgia War.  These reforms have proceeded haltingly, however, for both institutional and financial reasons.[34] The Russian Armed Forces continue to face serious personnel deficits and organizational problems. They are unlikely to complete the long-promised transition to an all-volunteer professional military any time soon, especially as reductions to the defense budget continue to hamper their ability to provide contract soldiers with adequate monetary incentives.[35]

Budget restrictions also mean that Putin will have to prioritize what portions of the military are expanded and modernized, if any. Russia has already postponed or altered plans for new hardware outlined in the 2011-2020 State Armament Program. Defense spending has been made a priority in the 2017 federal budget, but it is a larger share of a smaller pie, as spending has been reduced across all sectors.[36] Putin’s increased pressure on EU countries and the U.S. to lift sanctions reflects the effect that sustained economic pressure can have on preventing Russian military expansion.

Putin’s reliance on inflammatory nuclear rhetoric in light of these conventional shortcomings is not surprising, nor is it a new strategy. Modernizing and displaying its nuclear arsenal provides Russia with a relatively cheap method by which to heighten its military posture against the U.S. and its allies. Russian officials have kept statements on potential changes to Russian nuclear doctrine purposefully vague while conducting high-profile tests of strategic nuclear forces and deployments of nuclear-capable tactical systems in order to deter conventional action that would overcome Russia’s inferior forces.[37] The U.S. maintains its own nuclear capability and has decades of nuclear doctrine specifically created to deter Russian (Soviet) nuclear attacks. Russia’s nuclear posturing is undesirable and disappointing, especially in the wake of START II and other post-Cold War nuclear arms reduction efforts. It is neither novel nor beyond U.S. capability to address through its own deterrence efforts, however. 

Putin’s current behavior is in part a litmus test to see how the incoming administration uses, or does not use, these capabilities when faced with challenges to America’s standing on the global stage.

Putin is first and foremost testing U.S. resolve to maintain the NATO alliance. NATO has stood for decades as a powerful reminder that the U.S. has the military strength and political will to project power in the face of aggression. The security guarantee provided by NATO has been instrumental in providing the stability required to build a Europe that is whole, economically prosperous and politically free. The U.S. has been able to count on multiple stable allies to support overseas operations, economic development and international order as a result. Putin aims to disrupt NATO not only to give himself greater freedom of action in Europe, but also to disrupt it as a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy.  

If Putin manages to destabilize Europe by undermining the credibility of NATO, it will have serious symbolic and material consequences for the U.S. military. The U.S. has been able to allocate military resources to other theaters due to the deterrence value of NATO’s collective security guarantee under Article V. U.S. forces would have to be deployed to Europe in large numbers to combat a Russian attack on a NATO ally if the deterrent power of Article V were perceived to be no longer credible. The U.S. would be confronted with abandoning its allies and forfeiting its global leadership role, or else redirecting military resources from addressing threats in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere.

Other world powers will take note of how the new administration responds to Putin when considering their own capacity for disrupting U.S. operations and influence. China has built significant A2/AD zones through island building and the deployment of anti-air and anti-ship capabilities.[38] Chinese forces could use these systems to deter a U.S. response if China decided to threaten U.S. allies in the Pacific. Iran is also investing in A2/AD capabilities with Russia’s help. Iran is undoubtedly watching Russia’s example of how these systems can be used to preclude U.S. action in Syria and the Mediterranean. It is likely that China and Iran will be more aggressive in challenging the U.S. if the new administration allows Putin to use similar deployments to force policy concessions. Putin’s provocations must be addressed in order to ensure that the U.S. maintains its influence and leadership role as other countries consider challenging it.

Putin is aware of Russia’s limitations and of U.S. capabilities to respond. He is also aware that he is coming from a position of relative weakness and must outmaneuver, rather than outmatch, U.S. forces. The new U.S. administration must prevent Putin from capitalizing on his strategy and using it as a blueprint by which Russia and other countries may further undermine U.S. alliances and operations.  If the U.S. utilizes its position of strength, rather than shrinking from the threat of provocation, it will be able to deter conflict without ceding further ground or compromising its interests.

Commitment to the protection of U.S. allies in Europe is the lynchpin of deterring Russia’s global expansion. Cooperation with NATO allies to preposition troops and train local forces, among other forms of enhanced military assistance, is imperative to signal that the U.S. maintains the will and capability to defend its allies and interests. Taking early but sufficient measures now will reduce the need to pay a much higher cost in political capital and military force later.

This effort is not a unilateral American undertaking. The United Kingdom, Germany and Canada will lead multinational battalions in the Baltic States.[39] Latvia and Lithuania, two Baltic States that have been criticized for not spending the requisite 2% of GDP on defense, are taking active measure to ensure that they are doing their part to support these efforts. Both countries have pledged to reach this spending threshold by 2018 and are bolstering independent self-defense measures.[40] Estonia, which already meets the 2% requirement, also maintains a 25,000-strong Defense League.[41] As NATO allies demonstrate their commitment to the alliance, Putin is gauging his next moves based on how the U.S. reacts. The U.S. gains nothing by retreating from this commitment, and would lose its credibility as a global leader capable of defending its interests and allies.

The U.S. and its allies have an opportunity to deter Putin from further expansion in the Middle East and Asia through creative and unified signaling. There is a wide range of tools in this box. NATO has recently shifted operations to focus on the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.[42] Turkey has again called on the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone over Northern Syria.[43] U.S. forces continue military exercises with Japan, a key ally.[44] Flexing U.S. military strength reminds Putin of U.S. capabilities and will while increasing readiness in the case of an outbreak of conflict.

The U.S. also has non-military options at its disposal. Economic sanctions against Russia provide a real incentive for Putin to restrain military action in order to secure his position and help the Russian economy recover. The existing sanctions and additional restrictions will help reinforce the U.S. commitment to maintaining its global position rather than allowing Russia to act with impunity. These sanctions can be paired with greater economic incentives to encourage Russian compliance with American demands. Premature easing of sanctions without a change in Russian behavior would signal lack of U.S. resolve and remove economic pressure as a credible tool of foreign policy. Removing the sanctions without gaining real concessions on important issues such as Ukraine and Syria would only reinforce Putin’s propensity to take what he wants without regard for America’s power or interests.

The U.S. must respond to Russia’s behavior globally. Putin views the areas along Russia’s periphery as a single theater of operations.[45] These regions, in addition to Russia’s domestic economic sphere, must be treated as a series of interconnected points of leverage that affect Putin’s ability to undermine U.S. national security interests.  The U.S. must maintain and enhance military and political support for its allies in order to protect its interests in areas of strategic importance and preserve its freedom to operate to ensure its national security. This task will be critical for America’s global leadership role in the years to come.




[1] “Rossiiskiye voyenniye razvernuli v Sirii sem’ zenitnikh raketnikh system S-300 [Russian forces deploy seven S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria],” Interfax, November 15, 2016. Available: http://www.interfax.ru/world/537117 ; Ben Gittleson and Veronice Stracqualursi, “Donald Trump Tells Vladimir Putin He’s Looking 'Forward to Having a Strong and Enduring Relationship With Russia',” ABC News, November 14, 2016. Available: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/donald-trump-tells-vladimir-putin-hes-forward-strong/story?id=43531749
[2] Julian Borger, “Russia to launch ‘large-scale’ airstrikes on Syria as Americans vote,” The Guardian, November 8, 2016. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/08/russia-syria-airstrikes
[3] “Rossiiskiye voyenniye razvernuli v Sirii sem’ zenitnikh raketnikh system S-300 [Russian forces deploy seven S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria],” Interfax, November 15, 2016. Available: http://www.interfax.ru/world/537117
[4] Tucker Reals, “Russia responds to NATO advance with missiles in its Europe enclave,” CBS News, November 21, 2016. Available: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/russia-s-400-iskander-ballistic-missile-systems-kaliningrad-countermeasures-nato/
[5] “Russian military deploys powerful new missiles to Baltic region,” The Guardian, November 21, 2016. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/21/russian-military-deploys-missiles-baltic-poland-lithuania-nato; Nicholas de Larrinaga, Sean O’Connor and Neil Gibson, “Russia reveals Bastion-P deployment, land attack role in Syria,” IHS Janes, November 16, 2016. Available: http://www.janes.com/article/65517/russia-reveals-bastion-p-deployment-land-attack-role-in-syria
[6] Matthew Bodner, “Massive Leadership Cull in Russia’s Baltic Sea Fleet,” DefenseNews, July 1, 2016. Available: http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/2016/07/01/massive-leadership-cull-russias-baltic-sea-fleet/86595472/; Andrew Osborn and Simon Johnson, “Russia beefs up Baltic Fleet amid NATO tensions,” Reuters, October 26, 2016. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-defence-baltic-sweden-idUSKCN12Q1HB
[7] Julian Ryall, Gabriel Dominguez and Neil Gibson, “Russia deploys Bal and Bastion-P missile systems to disputed Kuril Islands, says report,” IHS Janes, November 23, 2016. Available: http://www.janes.com/article/65714/russia-deploys-bal-and-bastion-p-missile-systems-to-disputed-kuril-islands-says-report
[8] “Russian Navy may create Pacific Fleet base in Kuril Islands,” TASS, March 25, 2016. Available: http://tass.com/defense/865081
[9] Guy Plopsky, “How Russia is Bolstering Missile Defense in its Far East,” The Diplomat, August 2, 2016. Available: http://thediplomat.com/2016/08/how-russia-is-bolstering-missile-defense-in-its-far-east/
[10] “Raketnaya Brigada Pyatoi Armii v Primorye perevooruzhena na ‘Iskander-M’ [Missile Bridge of the Fifth Army in Primorsky have been rearmed with ‘Iskander-M’],” Novosti.mail.ru, July 24, 2016. Available: https://news.mail.ru/politics/26543263/; “Rashyoti OTRK ‘Iskander-M’ proveli trenirovki v Primorye [Operational-Tactical Missile System ‘Iskander-M’ Units undertake exercises in Primorsky],” Russian Ministry of Defense, November 19, 2016. Available: http://function.mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12104180@egNews
[11] Bruce Jones, “Russia to bolster Far Eastern presence with new coastal division on Kuril Islands,” IHS Janes, August 24, 2016. Available: http://www.janes.com/article/63217/russia-to-bolster-far-eastern-presence-with-new-coastal-division-on-kuril-islands; Franz-Stefan Gady, “V Rossiya sformirovana novaya diviziya tyazhyolikh bombardirovschikov [A new division of heavy bombers is being formed in Russia],” Izvestiya, October 6, 2016. Available:  http://izvestia.ru/news/636402.
[12] “Russian parliament approves suspension of plutonium accord with U.S.,” Reuters, October 19, 2016. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-usa-nuclear-idUSKCN12J114
[13] “Moscow prepared for possible nuclear attack,” Pravda, November 30, 2016. Available: http://www.pravdareport.com/russia/politics/30-09-2016/135749-moscow_nuclear_war-0/
[14] “Russia unveils first image of prospective ICBM set to replace ‘Satan’ missile,” Available: https://www.rt.com/news/363981-russian-icbm-sarmat-missile/; Thomas Nilsen, “Two Bulava missiles test-fired from White Sea,” Barents Observer, September 27, 2016. Available: http://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2016/09/two-bulava-missiles-test-fired-white-sea
[15] “Russia Strives to Cover its Bases,” Stratfor, October 11, 2016. Available: https://www.stratfor.com/geopolitical-diary/russia-strives-cover-its-bases; Anna Khalitova, Tatiana Baikova, and Andrei Ontikov, “Egipet predostavit Rossii voyennuyu bazu [Egypt grants Russia a military base],” Izvestiya, October 10, 2016. Available: http://izvestia.ru/news/636932.
[16] “Russia: UN Syria resolution protected 'terrorists',” Al-Jazeera, October 9, 2016.  Available: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/russia-syria-resolution-protected-terrorists-161009142453226.html
[17] Alex Lockie, “These maps show how Iran’s ballistic missiles could be a wild card in the Middle East,” Business Insider, June 15, 2015. Available: http://www.businessinsider.com/irans-ballistic-missiles-could-be-a-wild-card-in-the-middle-east-2015-6; Anthony H. Cordesman, “Iran’s enduring missile threat: The impact of nuclear and precision guided warheads,” Statement before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, June 10, 2015. Available: https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/ts150610_cordesman.pdf
[18] Adam Kredo, “US officials ‘concerned’ as Iran, Russia plan $10 billion arms deal,” Fox News, November 15, 2016. Available: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/11/15/us-officials-concerned-as-iran-russia-plan-10-billion-arms-deal.html
[19] Heather A. Conley, James Mina, Ruslan Stefanov and Martin Vladimirov, “The Kremlin Playbook,” Center for Strategic and International Studies: October 2016. Available: https://www.csis.org/analysis/kremlin-playbook
[20] David Mardiste, “Estonian PM loses no confidence vote after coalition crumbles,” Reuters, November 9, 2016. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-estonia-pm-idUSKBN1342FQ
[21] “Bulgarian PM resigns after presidential candidate’s defeat to Rumen Radev,” Deutsche Welle, November 13, 2016. Available: http://www.dw.com/en/bulgarian-pm-resigns-after-presidential-candidates-defeat-to-rumen-radev/a-36378966
[22] “Bulgaria says will not join any NATO Black Sea fleet after Russian warning,” Reuters, June 16, 2016. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/nato-bulgaria-blacksea-idUSL8N19835X
[23] Roland Oliphant. “Pro-Russian candidates win presidential votes in Bulgaria and Moldova,” The Telegraph, November 14, 2016. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/14/pro-russian-candidates-win-presidential-votes-in-bulgaria-and-mo/
[24] Tor Bukkvoll, “Russian Special Operations Forces in Crimea and Donbas,” Parameters, Vol. 46(2), Summer 2016. Available: http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/issues/Summer_2016/5_Bukkvoll.pdf; Dmitry Gorenburg, “Crimea taught us a lesson, but not how the Russian military fights,” War on the Rocks, May 19, 2014. Available: http://warontherocks.com/2014/05/crimea-taught-us-a-lesson-but-not-about-how-the-russian-military-fights/
[25] Kathleen Weinberger, “Putin’s Gambit in Ukraine: Strategic Implications,” Institute for the Study of War, September 3, 2016. Available: http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2016/09/putins-gambit-in-ukraine-strategic.html
[26] Kathleen H. Hicks, Heather A. Conley, Lisa Sawyer Samp, Jeffrey Rathke, Anthony Bell and John O’Grady, “Evaluating Future U.S. Army Force Posture in Europe: Phase II Report,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 29, 2016. Available: https://www.csis.org/analysis/evaluating-future-us-army-force-posture-europe-phase-ii-report
[27] Tim Ripley, “Russian Black Sea Fleet fires more cruise missiles against Syrian targets,” IHS Janes, August 23, 2016. Available: http://www.janes.com/article/63155/russian-black-sea-fleet-fires-more-cruise-missiles-at-syrian-targets; Reid Standish, “Russia is using Syria as a training ground for its revamped military and shiny new toys,” Foreign Policy, December 9, 2015. Available: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/12/09/russia-is-using-syria-as-a-training-ground-for-its-revamped-military-and-shiny-new-toys/
[28] Dmitry Gorenburg, “What Russia's Military Operation in Syria Can Tell Us About Advances in its Capabilities,” PONARS Eurasia, March 2016. Available: http://www.ponarseurasia.org/memo/advances-russian-military-operations
[29] Alex Lockie, “Why Russia sailed its navy thousands of miles to Syria when doing so brings 'nothing' to the battle,” Business Insider, November 16, 2016. Available: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-russia-sailed-navy-to-syria-2016-11
[30] Ivan Nechepurenko, “Russian Jet Crashes Off Syria While Trying to Land on Carrier Kuznetsov,” New York Times, November 14, 2016. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/15/world/middleeast/russian-jet-crash-kuznetsov.html?_r=0
[31] Analysts have noted that the Russian government has so far shielded the defense sector from the most austere cuts to the national budget. Reductions in defense spending have primarily been limited to planned procurements. The Russian lower house of parliament approved a budget for 2017-2019 on November 18th. The Russian government has again made defense spending a priority while cutting welfare spending. The approved budget will draw heavily on the National Wealth Fund and deplete the Reserve Fund by the end of 2017, however. The available resource pool will shrink as Russia’s economic situation continues to deteriorate. Kathleen H. Hicks, Heather A. Conley, Lisa Sawyer Samp, Jeffrey Rathke, Anthony Bell and John O’Grady, “Evaluating Future U.S. Army Force Posture in Europe: Phase II Report,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 29, 2016. Available: https://www.csis.org/analysis/evaluating-future-us-army-force-posture-europe-phase-ii-report; “Russia approves 3-yr federal budget in first reading,” RT, November 18, 2016. Available: https://www.rt.com/business/367394-russia-budget-state-duma/ ; Thomas Nilsen, “Russia empties reserve fund, makes priority to defense sector,” Barents Observer, November 21, 2106. Available: http://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2016/11/russia-empties-reserve-fund-makes-priority-defense-sector  
[32] Chris Harmer and Kathleen Weinberger, “Russia advances its IADS in Syria,” Institute for the Study of War, October 16, 2016. Available: http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2016/10/russia-advances-its-iads-in-syria.html ; “Three layers of Russian air defense at Hmeymim air base in Syria,” TASS, February 12, 2016. Available: http://tass.com/defense/855430
[33] Chris Harmer, “The Strategic Impact of the S-300 in Iran,” Critical Threats Project: August 2016. Available: http://www.irantracker.org/sites/default/files/imce-images/Harmer_Strategic_Impact_S-300_Iran.pdf
[34] Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia. The Military Balance: 2016. Vol. 116(1).
[35] See footnote 28. Keir Giles, Military Service in Russia: No New Model Army. Conflict Studies Research Center: 2007; Rod Thornton, “Military Modernization and the Russian Ground Forces,” SSI Monograph: June 2011. Available: http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/pub1071.pdf
[36] Lockie, November 2016.
[37] Olga Oliker. “Russia’s Nuclear Doctrine,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, May 5, 2016. Available: https://www.csis.org/analysis/russia%E2%80%99s-nuclear-doctrine
[38] James R. Holmes. “Defeating China’s Fortress Fleet and A2/AD Strategy: Lessons for the United States and her Allies.” The Diplomat, June 20, 2016. Available: http://thediplomat.com/2016/06/defeating-chinas-fortress-fleet-and-a2ad-strategy-lessons-for-the-united-states-and-her-allies/
[39] Julian E. Barnes and Anton Troianovski. “NATO Allies Preparing to Put Four Battalions at Eastern Border With Russia,” The Wall Stret Journal, April 29, 2016. Available: http://www.wsj.com/articles/nato-allies-preparing-to-put-four-battalions-at-eastern-border-with-russia-1461943315
[40] “Saeima passes Latvia’s 2017 budget,” The Baltic Times, November 24, 2016. Available: http://www.baltictimes.com/saeima_passes_latvia_s_2017_budget/ ; Richard Martyn-Hemphill, “Lithuania’s New Prime Minister Pledges to Increase Military Spending,” The New York Times, November 22, 2016. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/world/europe/lithuania-saulius-skvernelis.html?_r=0
[41] Michael Birnbaum. “Fearing closer Trump ties with Putin, Latvia prepares for the worst,” Washington Post, November 18, 2016. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/fearing-closer-trump-ties-with-putin-latvia-prepares-for-the-worst/2016/11/18/f22b3376-ab54-11e6-8f19-21a1c65d2043_story.html?utm_term=.999664e153d9
[42] “NATO ends counter-piracy mission as focus shifts to Mediterranean,” Reuters, November 23, 2016. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-nato-defence-idUSKBN13I22D; “NATO Operation Sea Guardian kicks off in the Mediterranean,” NATO Press Release, November 9, 2016. Available: http://www.mc.nato.int/PressReleases/Pages/NATO-Operation-Sea-Guardian-Kicks-off-in-the-Mediterranean.aspx
[43] “Turkey calls on US, allies to reconsider Syria no-fly zone,” Fox News, November 21, 2016. Available: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/11/21/turkey-calls-on-us-allies-to-reconsider-syria-no-fly-zone.html
[44] Delano Scott, “US, Japan forces work together during Keen Sword,” U.S. Air Force news, November 15, 2016. Available: http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/1004609/us-japan-forces-work-together-during-keen-sword.aspx
[45] Robert D. Kaplan. “What Can the Next Administration Do About Russia?” Wall Street Journal, October 16, 2016. Available: http://www.wsj.com/articles/what-can-the-next-president-do-about-russia-1476653291