America’s strategy community has a problem that it likes to call “A2/AD,” and while the symptoms are very real, in the case of Russia strategists and planners have largely misdiagnosed the nature of the challenge. Anti-access and area denial, commonly known as A2/AD, is more than another defense community buzzword: It has become a deeply rooted way of talking about the military capabilities of adversaries that the United States considers to be relative peers. The term has enjoyed great utility as short-hand for a select grouping of adversary capabilities that pose major problems to America’s preferred way of conducting combat operations (unrestricted and uncontested). But when applied to Russia, the “A2/AD” frame has become dangerously misleading. Over time, anti-access and area denial has evolved from a vehicle for useful conversations about Russian conventional capabilities to a vision of a Russian doctrine or strategy for warfighting that frankly does not exist. The result is a general misreading of the Russian military’s operational concepts and strategy for large scale combat operations.
This graphic maps how Russian armed forces’ capabilities relate to their deniability and the deterrence they provide. It also describes how Russia made use of these capabilities in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. To find out what Western planners and strategists have learned from the war in Ukraine, read Niklas Masuhr’s addition to the CSS Analyses in Security Policy series here.
This graphic provides an overview of the nations in which major cyber theft incidents were initiated as well as the countries affected by these attacks between 2000 and 2018. To find out what this highlights about the eclipse of Western military-technological superiority, read Michael Hass’ chapter for Strategic Trends 2019 here.
This graphic highlights Russia’s role as one of the top arms suppliers to Algeria and Egypt. For an analysis of what this demonstrates about Russia’s reemergence as a power broker in the Middle East, read Lisa Watanabe’s article for Strategic Trends 2019 here. For more CSS charts and graphics, click here.