America’s current strategy for responding to the Russian threat is based on a misunderstanding of the Russian approach to war and exposes the United States and its allies to a high risk of strategic defeats. Read the latest report in ISW's Military Learning & The Future of War Series.

The Institute for the Study of War is launching a series of papers that explores the ways the United States, its competitors including Russia and China, and these and other potential adversaries are learning from ongoing geopolitical competition and military engagements.

The West has had some success in countering the Kremlin since Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has found ways to offset external pressures on Russia without relinquishing his gains and goals.

Iran has been escalating its attacks on American and allied targets since May 2019. The regime’s attacks occurred in phases and were part of an orchestrated campaign to achieve Tehran’s strategic objectives, including sanctions relief and the ouster of the U.S. from Iraq and the region.

Iran is organizing a new effort to increase political and military pressure against U.S. forces in an effort to compel an American withdrawal from Iraq. In a Warning Intelligence Update, Katherine Lawlor details the Iranian proxy campaign following Qassem Soleimani's demise.

Latest from ISW

Belarus Warning Update: Belarusian Protest Movement Likely Developing Local Organization

5:00 pm EDT: Belarusians marched in Minsk for the eighth straight Sunday on September 27, despite a lack of clear directions from prominent opposition leaders. Telegram channel NEXTA called for a “peoples inauguration” of opposition leader Svetlana Tikanouskaya in response to self-proclaimed Belarusian President Lukashenko’s secret inauguration ceremony on September 23. Tikanouskaya congratulated Belarusians on the 50th consecutive day of protests on September 27 without mentioning an inauguration. NEXTA’s calls did not result in any special protester action. Tikanouskaya likely intends to maintain influence with the ongoing NEXTA-led protest movement without tying herself to specific actions outside her control. Control of the Belarusian opposition remains split between NEXTA’s focus on active protests and Tikanouskaya’s promotion of international diplomatic efforts, undermining the focus of the protest movement.

Belarus Warning Update: The Kremlin May Have Used Kavkaz 2020 Exercises in Part to Prepare for a Conventional Russian Military Deployment to Belarus

6:25 pm EDT - The Kremlin may have used its annual joint strategic command exercise in the Southern Military District in part to prepare for a deployment of elements of Russia’s Voronezh-based 20th Combined Arms Army (CAA) to Belarus. Regiment-sized motor rifle elements of Belarus’ Zaslonovo-based 19th Guards Mechanized Brigade and unspecified elements of the 20th CAA conducted joint combat exercises as part of the Kavkaz 2020 exercises in Kapustin Yar, Astrakhan, on September 25. Zaslonovo is located about 75 miles from Belarus’ eastern border with Russia. There is no indication of which 20th CAA units interoperated with the Belarusian elements, though they were likely tank or motorized rifle units, given the 20th CAA’s composition, the nature of the exercises in Kapustin Yar, and the Belarusian elements’ motorized rifle designation.

Russian Hybrid Warfare

If the US focuses on deterring the kind of war Russia does not intend to fight, underestimating the role of military force in hybrid war, then the US will likely suffer defeats even as its strategy technically succeeds.

Read the latest paper in ISW's Military Learning & The Future of War series.

Warning: Russia’s Kavkaz-2020 Military Exercise

September 27, 4:00pm EDT: ISW has updated this piece to include Kavkaz-2020 exercises conducted on September 25 after the original publication.

September 25, 3:00 pm EDT: The Russian Armed Forces are conducting large-scale annual exercises from September 21-26. The Russian Armed Forces conduct large-scale exercises each year in one of its four military districts (Western, Southern, Central, and Eastern) on a rotating basis. The Southern Military District (SMD) is hosting this year’s exercises, dubbed Kavkaz-2020. The exercise involves ground, air, naval, air defense, engineering, logistics, and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) units in the Caspian and Black Seas, the Caucasus, and near Volgograd in southern Russia. Kavkaz-2020 is a multinational undertaking. Russian units are exercising together with Armenian units in Armenia. Iranian missile boats conducted joint exercises with Russian ships in the Caspian Sea. Chinese personnel were featured prominently in images of planning sessions. Belarusian and Pakistani forces are also participating. Russian forces are exercising in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, territories illegally seized from Georgia in the 2008 war and annexed to the Russian Federation, as well as in Crimea, illegally seized from Ukraine in 2014 and annexed to Russia.

Belarus Warning Update: Russia and Belarus Prepare for October Exercises in Belarus

5:30 pm EDT: Russia’s Western Military District (WMD) is likely preparing for more exercises in Belarus. Unspecified Russian signals elements of the Moscow-based First Guards Tank Army performed over 300 special command and control and warning signals transmission exercises in the WMD in late September. Signal elements practiced transmitting targeting information, deploying concealed field command posts in blackout conditions, and defending command and control infrastructure against weapons of mass destruction.