russia crimea ukraine
Military forces in Crimea in March 2014.

Lessons from Russia's Operations in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine

May 01, 2017
Michael Kofman, Katya Migacheva, Brian Nichiporuk, Andrew Radin, Olesya Tkacheva and Jenny Oberholtzer
This report was originally published by the Rand Corporation.

This report assesses the annexation of Crimea by Russia in February–March 2014 and the early phases of political mobilization and combat operations in eastern Ukraine, from late February through late May 2014. The report finds that Russia's operation to annex Crimea represented a decisive and competent use of military force in pursuit of political ends. Russia's operations in Crimea benefited from highly favorable circumstances — political, historical, geographical and military — that limit their applicability elsewhere. Analysis of the operation underscores that there are many remaining unknowns about Russia's military capabilities, especially in the aftermath of its military reforms and modernization program. The report also finds that the campaign in eastern Ukraine was an ineffectually implemented — and perhaps ill-conceived — effort to achieve political fragmentation of Ukraine via federalization and retain Russian influence. Russia achieved its primary objectives but at a much higher cost than desired and through a fitful cycle of adaptation.

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons photo by Maksymenko Oleksandr, shared under CC-BY-2.0 license.