Book – The Russian Understanding of War

My book the Russian Understanding of War: Blurring the Lines Between War and Peace is now out with Georgetown University Press and can be ordered here USUK, FR, DESE. 

Book launches:


2/12 FRS, Paris
9/1 Swedish Defence University
28/1 Oxford University, Changing Character of War-Programme

Past: Columbia University, Swedish Embassy DC, Institute for European Studies Brussels, King’s College London, Chatham House, Hungarian National Defence University.

Description and reviews below.

Blurring the Lines between War and Peace
Oscar Jonsson
This book analyzes the evolution of Russian military thought and how Russia’s current thinking about war is reflected in recent crises. While other books describe current Russian practice, Oscar Jonsson provides the much needed long view to show how Russian military strategic thinking has developed from the Bolshevik Revolution to the present. He closely examines Russian primary sources including security doctrines and the writings and statements of Russian military theorists and political elites. What Jonsson reveals is that Russia’s conception of the very nature of war is now changing, as Russian elites see information warfare and political subversion as the most important ways to conduct contemporary war. Since information warfare and political subversion are below the traditional threshold of armed violence, this has blurred the boundaries between war and peace. Jonsson also finds that Russian leaders have, particularly since 2011-12, considered themselves to be at war with the United States and its allies, albeit with non-violent means. This book provides much needed context and analysis to be able to understand recent Russian interventions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, how to deter Russia on the eastern borders of NATO, and how the West must also learn to avoid inadvertent escalation.

“At a time when the West is rocked by often-lurid claims about a Russian military threat and its aggressive posture, this excellent book is a vital corrective. Through a deep and detailed reading of the Russians’ own military writings, Oscar Jonsson has produced a balanced, informed and sensible assessment that neither underplays nor overstates the threat, and which ought to be read in policy circles, defence academies and universities alike.”

–Mark Galeotti, Senior Associate Fellow, Royal United Services Institute

“A brilliant analysis that provides a deep understanding of how Russian leadership thinks today.”

–Sverker Goranson, General (Ret.) and former Supreme Commander, Swedish Armed Forces; Chairman, Royal Swedish Academy on War Science

“This masterly overview of Russia’s concept of war underscores the need to see the world through Moscow’s eyes, since as Oscar points out, Russian practice so often follows Russian theory. Along the way, Oscar once again demolishes myths and misunderstandings like the ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ and ‘Russian hybrid warfare’ that have bedevilled analysis of Russian security policy since 2014. As such, this book is a valuable asset not only for policy-makers but for the whole Russia-watching community. Highly recommended.”

–Keir Giles, Senior Consulting Fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

“Russia’s resolute application of military force as a heavy-impact instrument of its foreign policy is driven by modernization of its strategic thinking. Oscar Jonsson gives a fresh and sharp perspective on this blend of traditional dogmas and innovative aggressiveness in Russian views on waging and winning modern wars.”

–Pavel K. Baev, Research Professor, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

“Many in the west are still playing catch-up when it comes to understanding Russian strategic culture and thinking about military issues. Oscar Jonsson does all of us an important service by tracing the origins of Russian thinking about many of today’s most important security challenges as well as the ongoing evolution of Russian perceptions of the nature of war. A very timely book.”

–Andrew Weiss, Vice President for Studies, Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace