The Russia-Ukraine War through the Lens of Strategic Culture: Implications for South Asia

This Argument appears in Vol. 75, No. 2, "War in Ukraine: The World Responds" (Spring/Summer 2023).

By Salma Shaheen


Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, there has been much debate on the causes, such as power competition and alliance politics,[1] as well as the impact of war on trade, food security, environment, energy, and health.[2] However, little attention is paid to how Russian strategic culture drives the invasion and war’s impact on other states’ strategic cultural underpinnings. This research endeavors to fill this gap. In doing so, this study puts forth three main arguments. One, the study carries forward the strategic culturalists’ argument[3] and believes in the instrumental nature of ideational factors related to Russian geography, history, national identity of “great power,” and autocratic politics; however, it also argues that, to a great extent, it was the West’s maneuvers in immediate Russian neighborhood that drove these cultural factors to push Moscow to embrace surprise, escalatory risks and norm-breaking resulting in waging war on its bordering state. Two, the study contends that Russian aggression driven by its strategic culture has cascading effects on others in its neighborhood making Europe a theater of competing strategic cultures. To corroborate this argument, this research asserts that the invasion was an external “shock” that demanded swift change in strategic cultures of the EU and Ukraine, as evident from the unprecedented measures both entities carried out to respond to the invasion. Three, the study argues that this interplay of different European cultures at strategic level in close proximity has some important lessons to heed for other states, especially the nuclear dyad of South Asia: India and Pakistan.

To present its core arguments and key lessons drawn from the on-going war, the paper is divided into four sections. Section one explains the concept of strategic culture to outline key contours of what constitutes strategic culture and conditions for change in strategic culture that are used to lay out the following sections. Section two assesses the instrumental nature of Russian strategic culture and its impact on the EU’s and Ukraine’s strategic cultures to present a battling interplay of cultural factors in Europe. Section three presents the strategic cultures of India and Pakistan. Section four highlights lessons drawn from the Russian-Ukraine war and shows how they are applicable to the South Asia context: India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed adversaries in close proximity, each with a propensity to surprise, escalate, and break norms, adversely affecting regional conflict prevention and resolution.

Strategic Culture

Starting from 1970s, the first generation of strategic culturalists[4] provided an alternative paradigm to prevailing rational models’ logic to study state’s strategic behavior,[5] with a formal definition provided by Jack Snyder. He defines strategic culture as “the sum total of ideas, conditioned emotional responses, and patterns of habitual behavior that members of a national strategic community have acquired through instruction or imitation.”[6] For this generation, the culture is a context within which strategy is devised;[7] however, scholars highlight the problems of operationalization of subjective, relatively-static, and tautological concepts such as strategic culture.[8] Second-generation scholars studied superpowers’ behavior from a Gramscian perspective and view culture as a rhetorical tool,[9] thereby indicating that elites have power to design discourse.[10] In contrast, the third generation that appeared in the 1990s studied strategic culture as an independent variable consisting of a “system of symbols”[11] that can be falsifiable.[12] An example is Johnston, who argues that strategic culture is relatively static and resistant to change, while examining Chinese strategic behavior.[13] In contrast to the first generation, the third generation includes recent experiences as a source of culture, instead of solely focusing on historical experiences.[14] Overall, the existing scholarship suggests a wide range of sources of strategic culture, including geography, resources, and climate; historical experiences and practice; political culture and institutions; military organizational culture; beliefs, values, myths, and symbols; key texts and documents; elite and public opinion, as well as civil society; the role of technology; and transnational and global norms.[15]

Notwithstanding its relatively static nature, the birth of a new strategic culture or a major change in existing strategic culture can occur. Two conditions cause strategic cultures to transform.[16] First, external shocks that unravel high vulnerability and strategic deficiency as well as challenge existing beliefs, narratives, and practices could drive decision-making elites to consciously and rationally take extreme decisions and implement intense policies, which are then widely propagated through images and symbols to gain public support and legitimacy. Second, when an existing strategic culture fails to respond to external threats or existing foreign policy commitments conflict, the initiation process of re-examination of a nation/entity’s past values, beliefs, and worldviews occurs, creating a new or transformed strategic culture. This involves negotiated realities among key stakeholders to avoid any contradiction to existing norms.

Considering the tendency of strategic culture to be broader than independent variables and rhetorical tools, this research argues that the strategic culture of Russia consisting of history, geography, national identity of “great power,” status and autocratic politics provided a milieu within which Moscow decided to invade Ukraine in February 2022. This resulted in a “Ukraine shock” that is felt across the globe. The research further argues that the Russian invasion has produced significant changes in the strategic cultures of the European Union (EU) and Ukraine.

Europe: A Theatre of Battling Strategic Cultures

Strategic Culture of Russia

Russian strategic culture is founded on a long history of wars that simultaneously instilled an enduring sense of insecurity and a glorious past to which Russia continues to cling. This is a narrative based on Russian identity as a “great power” and an autocratic political culture to which Russian leaders continue to belong. Together, these features help Russia define its worldview and set strategic preferences.

The absence of natural barriers such as oceans, mountains, and a long history of foreign invasions have intensified the perception of Russia being a “besieged fortress.”[17] At the same time, the induction into NATO of central and eastern European states in the Russian neighborhood, as well as the effort of democratization of surrounding states including Ukraine, is seen to threaten Russian core interests.[18] First, to ensure its security, the rationale for leaders is to expand Russian territory in order to secure its own territory, as “only further expansion could secure the earlier acquisitions… in the name of preempting external attack.”[19] Hence, Russia embarked upon expanding its sphere of influence, which includes the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Second, leaders glorify a Russian past that dates back to beyond the Tsarist era[20] and use Russian traditions and values to explain or justify contemporary resurgent Russian strategic behavior. The glorification of the past is so valued that in 2014, Putin enacted a law that criminalizes the “dissemination of deliberately false information on the activities of the Soviet Union during the Second World War” because Soviets played a key role during World War II in defeating Nazi Germany.[21] History defines the Russian role in the international system, as well as its identity.

Third, with the disintegration of the USSR, the belief in the status of “great power,” or derzhavnost, was established when the 1993 Foreign Policy Concept set foreign policy priority to uphold the Russian role and position in the international system as a “great power.”[22] This has been reinforced in subsequent strategic documents. However, this belief requires a buffer zone between Russia and its adversaries, a world that recognizes its status and an exemption from rules that regulate interstate relations.[23] The Ukraine invasion can be seen as an attempt to transform Kyiv into a buffer zone. This corroborates Putin’s belief that Ukraine is not “really a separate state.”[24]

Lastly, Russia has always been an autocracy that developed different forms, resulting in a centralized autocratic state that has become part of Russian tradition.[25] This undercuts the overstated emphasis scholars and journalists have attributed to Putin driving Moscow’s strategic behavior.[26] Notwithstanding Putin’s anti-liberalism and anti-Western views,[27] bestowing the whole responsibility of Russian behavior on Putin would be preferential. The anti-West worldview[28] and the preference for military means[29] has continued to be part of the post-Cold War Russian strategic culture independent of Putin himself.

Based on these features, Russia is exhibiting strategic behavior based on surprise and norms-defiance. The element of Russian “surprise” is evident from the initial annexation of Crimea in 2014,[30] intervention in the Syrian civil war,[31] interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections through cyber operations,[32] concluding delivery of the S-400 surface-to-air missiles to Turkey in 2017,[33] and most recently by invading Ukraine in 2022.[34] In addition, Moscow’s norm-defiance is manifested through its offensive behavior in the under-regulated cyber domain[35] to thicken the fog of war and create confusion in order to delay Western decision-making[36]—thus helping to frame the political outcome of conflict or war.[37] However, the 2022 Ukraine invasion demonstrates surprise and norms-defiance that went so far as to affect the strategic cultures of the EU and Ukraine.

Strategic Culture of the European Union

The European Union’s response to the security shock of the February invasion establishes major breakthroughs in its strategic culture that can be attributed to elite-initiated as well as to society-driven factors.

As a result of the “Ukraine shock,” the EU decision-making elite revisited their long-held beliefs and worldviews based on economic integration and democratization in order to make space for new beliefs that tend to transform the Union’s strategic culture. Moreover, the EU is eager to reposition itself within international and regional politics,[38] introducing progressive change to its strategic culture that would further strengthen its position. The key Union responses include the new Strategic Compass, the mobilization of the European Peace Facility (EPF), and increased defense spending of its members. These responses reflect negotiated and agreed-upon compromises among member-states that are now in the process of institutionalization.

The EU approved the Strategic Compass, the first ever defense and security strategy of the Union, in the month following the invasion of Ukraine, which delivered a “common strategic vision for the EU’s role in security and defense.”[39] The Compass clearly underscores that Russian aggression directly and severely threatens the security of European citizens and of the continent.[40] To respond to Russian aggression, the EU decided, for the first time—and against its founding treaties that ban using the Union’s money to purchase arms[41]—to set-up the EPF fund worth 50 million euros to buy and provide lethal arms to Ukraine.[42] The availability of funds originally dedicated for subsidies to Polish motorways and French farmers[43] to finance weapons for Ukraine is a stark divergence from traditional practice. This is the second time the decision to use the EPF has been made according to Article 42(7) of the Lisbon Treaty. Borrowing Berger’s words, what was seen as an ad hoc response in 2015 to a necessity (a terrorist threat) has now become a “hallowed social truth” in the aftermath of Ukraine shock.[44]

With the establishment of the EPF to buy arms, the “taboo was broken,”[45] which could define the strategic leadership role for the EU “to lead the change, drive the narrative and not just being led by events.”[46] This demonstrates a change in the EU’s strategic culture. Moreover, the EPF and provision of the EU Military Assistance Mission (EUMAM) to train Ukrainian forces illustrate that the Union is clearly moving beyond its historical role of economic integration and democratization, distinct from its relationship with NATO.[47] Nonetheless, there are different views on elevating the EU’s status as part of NATO. France has often proposed to adopt a self-reliant EU defense policy,[48] whereas Poland and the Netherlands have rejected any efforts within the EU that could potentially challenge NATO’s supremacy in defense issues.[49] In response to the “Ukraine shock,” EU leaders remained explicit that NATO should continue to be the “cornerstone of European security.”[50]

Additionally, EU member states, on an individual level, took measures that depict their societal responses to the war. For instance, Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership;[51] Denmark reversed its 30-year old policy of opt-out of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in a referendum;[52] and European countries increased their defense budgets, with Germany alone increasing its defense spending to €100 billion, France achieving an expenditure goal of two percent of GDP this year, and other countries including Romania, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Baltic and Nordic states announcing their plans to increase spending to the NATO-required two-percent level.[52]

Strategic Culture of Ukraine

Ukraine’s strategic culture has evolved beyond a preference for diplomacy over military means to prevent conflict, a lack of clear understanding of national interests, and an openness to democratic values. Ukraine, traditionally, has an ingrained sense of vulnerability,[54] with no natural barriers on the eastern and western front, as well as its place at the crossroads of major trade routes. With the disintegration of the USSR, Ukraine emerged as a state inheriting Soviet nuclear weapons but lacking expertise and willpower to establish its own independent nuclear deterrence. In return for assurances of its independence and security, Ukraine relinquished these nuclear weapons,[55] denoting Kyiv’s first attempt “to challenge the will of the great powers”[56] that gradually became part of Kyiv’s unique strategic culture. This emphasis on diplomacy to ensure its national interests is evident from early agreements Ukraine signed with its neighboring states[57] as well as from the 2012 Military Doctrine.[58]

The nuclear disarmament negotiations displayed openness of Ukrainian strategic culture, as immediately after independence Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk declared the country a “European state.”[59] However, by the logic of Russian strategic culture, Ukraine as a European state is a threat to Russia.[60] Consequently, Russia downplays Ukrainian independence;[61] even Putin never believed “that Ukraine is really a separate state,”[62] which explains Ukraine’s historical demand for equality from Russia and resistance to Russian interference and authoritarianism. On the contrary, Ukraine immediately after independence did not consider Russia as a threat. In 1994, Kravchuk said “Ukraine and Russia were living together for 350 years, so they have never applied weapons against each other.”[63] This view continued until the 2000s, as evident by Ukrainian foreign ministry experts who suggested, “Not then, not now, we do not consider that a military threat from Russia is real, that it is necessary to have such a radical instrument as nuclear weapons for deterrence.”[64]

Nonetheless, subsequent events such as the 2014 annexation of Crimea, attacks on eastern regions of Ukraine in 2015, and the absence of meaningful security guarantees were the external shocks that replaced traditional Ukrainian strategic preference for diplomacy with an emphasis on hard power.[65] The Ukrainian worldview changed: Ukrainians started to view Russia as an enemy and developed hard power as a means to prevent military conflict. 

The 2022 invasion shattered Kyiv’s belief in the security of being a small state bordering a major nuclear-armed state—one that communicated in nuclear rhetoric and deployed dual-capable Iskander missiles and Su-25 aircrafts. As the on-going war has yet to reach resolution, the precise longterm impact of the invasion and subsequent hostilities on Kyiv’s strategic culture cannot be assessed. However, Ukrainian response to asymmetrical Russian threat is grounded on a changed defense system supported by a resilient society, wherein government and society became equal partners in order to defend against the invasion.[66] This includes action by volunteers in surprising Russians with military effectiveness,[67] if ad hoc and anarchic in coordinated action.[68] Additional examples include learning from the adoption of NATO standards of troops training, logistics, and communications, as well as benefits from its assistance under the “trust funds” and “Comprehensive Assistance Package,” concluding with a push for swift membership in NATO.[69]

Lessons for South Asia

Strategic Culture in India and Pakistan

There are multiple lessons in the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war for other adversaries. Besides NATO and the EU, states such as Germany, Sweden, Finland, the UK, and Japan have learned from the Russian invasion and initiated revision of their defense and security strategies, as well as organizational and resource readiness of their militaries and societies. The lessons of the February invasion driven by strategic culture and its impact on the strategic cultures of the EU and Ukraine for South Asian nuclear rivals are important to discern, as both India and Pakistan share arguably the world’s most dangerous nuclear border.

Geographic context and a history of wars and crises has influenced both states’ strategic thinking, behavioral preference, doctrinal development, and technological progression in weaponry. India and Pakistan have mixed geographies that provide them natural barriers as well as connectivity, along with unresolved territorial disputes. On the one hand, Partition effectively limited Indian natural influence over key regional states inland, including Afghanistan and Iran as well as states in Central Asia.[70] On the other hand, the dismemberment of Pakistan as a result of the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh, and India’s own intervention, was a major shock that left Pakistan with an only option: develop nuclear weapons indigenously.

Moreover, after Independence, India and Pakistan fought four major wars between themselves in addition to several crises, each introducing a new dimension to the conflict spectrum that has continued to intensify threat perception of both states. Moreover, Partition and these formative experiences impacted strategic thinking of both states. For instance, the freedom struggle drove ideological leanings of India towards anti-imperialism, non-alignment, liberal internationalism, and Gandhi’s principle of non-violence. These ideological moorings helped India to develop its distinct worldview.[71] Similarly, Pakistan’s strategic culture has been influenced by a Partition driven by the two-nation ideology, a situation that was traumatic and costly, both in the loss of men and material sacrifice. The first Kashmir war in 1948 led to the creation of a Pakistan with heavy emphasis on national security, resulting in a commanding role for the military in the country’s strategic decision-making, inefficient development of political institutions that led to pre-eminence of the military (particularly the army) in political culture, and a strong belief in being savior and custodian of Islam.[72] The perception of India as an adversary developed out of two-nation theory and perceived Indian neglect of Pakistani statehood,[73] supplemented by recurrent wars and crises, doctrinal aspirations, and advanced weapons technologies targeting Pakistani cities. This intense threat perception drove Pakistan’s strategic preference to establish rigorous nuclear deterrence and strategic behavior to forge alliances/strategic partnership and to seek strategic depth. Pakistan’s strategic depth in Afghanistan resembles Russia aspiring to create buffer zones on its borders. From Afghanistan, Islamabad never faced a military threat; however, terror activities inside Pakistan continued to have connections in Afghanistan, while Indian influence in Afghanistan is a threat to Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan has continued to have influence over Afghan politics.

The strategic culture of India has remained constant since independence. This is because New Delhi experienced a variety of threats from state and non-state actors but was never subjected to “any severe nationwide traumas of violent revolution, civil war, or military defeat and protracted occupation by a major external power.”[74] Nonetheless, Indian security perceptions and strategies evolved from “defense through diplomacy” through rearmament phase in the post-1962 Sino-Indo war that relied upon defense through military preparedness, through the period of 1972-1991 when India emerged as a dominant state in region, to the phase post-1991 onwards in which economic liberalization began, nuclear deterrence was established, and a global worldview emerged with the development of strategic partnership with the U.S.[75] South Asia is experiencing two competing strategic partnerships: Indo-U.S. and Pakistan-China. However, Pakistan has remained a key ally in the global war on terror led by the U.S.[76] while Indian dependence on Russia for military hardware still exists.[77] 

Impact of the Russia-Ukraine War on Strategic Cultures

India and Pakistan have embroiled in dangerous military practices since overt nuclearization in 1998, in the form of crises, force mobilizations, and deployment, demonstrating reckless attitude on both sides towards escalation. This attitude towards crisis initiation, involving a factor of surprise and potential for rapid escalation, especially for example the deployment of the air force against Pakistan mainland in the aftermath of Pulwama-Balakot crisis of 2019, is against the standard operating procedures practiced by nuclear-armed states. The crisis behavior, nonetheless, speaks of increased tendency of South Asian nuclear adversaries to embrace surprise, risk escalation, and venture for norm-breaking.

These tendencies are important, as there are lessons to be learned in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war regarding these tendencies. One: the factor of surprise is a new dimension, consistently manifested in Russian strategic behavior, that has revealed itself in South Asia during the 1990 Kashmir crisis, the 1999 Kargil crisis, and 2019 Pulwama-Balakot crisis. Following the teachings of Clausewitz, the element of surprise is a necessity that allows the attacker or crisis initiator to maximize its operational effectiveness; deceive the enemy; create confusion, disruption, and delay in adversary’s decision-making and response; and lower the opponent’s morale.[78] Notwithstanding the conventional logic of considering surprise a force multiplier,[79] from a military standpoint, adversaries can avoid it by developing a deeper understanding about the adversary’s strategic behavior and planning to respond to this factor, instead of being driven by the suddenness of surprise. Moreover, research shows that surprise—“the ultimate insult against states”—is often met with increased public resolve.[80] This has been evident in various India-Pakistan crises as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, from a political and strategic viewpoint, if adversaries are interested in conflict prevention, then it is important to avoid surprise, as it can escalate into a crisis.

Two: the risk of escalation is enduring in India-Pakistan crises, primarily because of the tendency to first escalate and then de-escalate—a practice favored by Russia as well.[81] Since the Russian invasion in February 2022, there has been real risk, evident from its nuclear rhetoric, that Moscow could operationalize its escalation to de-escalate.[82] The nuclear rhetoric used by Moscow demonstrates this risk. However, scholars argue that nuclear “verbal pyrotechnics” is not a reliable indicator of escalatory tendencies of crises.[83] Nonetheless, nuclear rhetoric or public statements including nuclear pyrotechnics, coupled with force asymmetry, could help escalate the crisis or conflict.

Three: norm-defiance, whether it’s by Russia or by South Asian states, is not free of consequences. International norms prescribe certain behaviors as approved and others as inappropriate, thereby regulating state behavior in the international system.[84] Nuclear non-proliferation, confidence building measures (CBMs), human rights, and cyberspace operations are examples of international norms deviation, violation of which are typically punished by sanctions, diplomatic isolation, or shaming. Using cyber offensives in an unregulated cyberspace, for instance the Russian use of cyber offensive operations in different crises and wars, exhibits aberrant behavior that threatens nuclear deterrence practice. Such provocations are attempts of norm-breaking that should be avoided. If there is some learning that India and Pakistan find in the on-going Russia-Ukraine war, then both New Delhi and Islamabad should refrain from reckless attitudes around established norms that could possibly drive them to interfere with existing practices.

Besides taming existing behavior, there are three key add-on lessons for India and Pakistan to learn in order to improve their strategic interaction and behavior. First, study of the strategic cultures of Russia, the EU, and Ukraine shows that not only has the recognition of the strategic culture of Russia been key for the West, but there is a need to accommodate and provide space to strategic cultural moorings of Russia in the international system that is primarily shaped by Western norms and beliefs about power, in order to prevent resurgent Russia from further adventures. The same logic applies to South Asia. Both India and Pakistan would be wise to develop an enhanced understanding of each other’s strategic cultures and avoid interfering in each other’s spheres of influence. Second, these South Asian rivals can learn from the Ukrainian experience and practice of societal resilience, the role of volunteers, and the enhanced coordination between military and law enforcement agencies to respond to Russian aggression. Third, since both Islamabad and New Delhi are investing in modernizing their militaries through research and development in emerging technologies, they can learn from the use of new technologies in war such as artificial intelligence for reconnaissance, the deployment of drones, communications security including satellite communications, and logistics across borders.


The Russian fixation on the glorification of the past, the preservation of its “great power” status, the accentuation of victories, and the adherence to its worldview restricts space for new learning and embracing lessons learned. This, in turn, inhibits any change in existing strategic culture.[85] This inhibition to learning could affect Russian adaptability to changing military conflicts, both on the battlefield and with new technologies. Nonetheless, a military modernization program, the use of cyberspace,[86] manipulative use of information, and deployment of nuclear rhetoric illustrates a country’s learning of new ways of warfare. The cultural difference between Russia and Europe is ultimately far greater than geographical distance.[87] Hence, the ongoing war in Europe has clearly put the resurgent authoritarianism of Russia at loggerheads with the prevalence of democratic values across the continent.

In its solidarity with Ukraine, the EU has demonstrated a remarkable reversal in its security and defense policies; however, the Union needs firm and steady support from its members to uphold dramatic changes in its policies and outlook. Moreover, in its fight against a stronger nuclear-armed state, Ukraine has exhibited unparalleled popular resistance against Russian invasion, emanating from the deep desire of Ukrainians to uphold their identity, nationalism and to resist Russian interference and authoritarianism. Likewise, despite harsh sanctions, Russia demonstrated extraordinary resistance against foreign pressure. Under such a situation, to find an offramp to end this war and bring in lasting stability in Europe, it is critical that both sides understand and address each other’s threat perception emanating from their respective strategic cultures.

In light of the fact that the strategic cultural approach has attracted significant attention from scholars, demonstrating its usefulness in studying states’ preferences, choices, and behavior, this research analyzes the on-going Russia-Ukraine war and its impacts and key lessons for India and Pakistan from a strategic cultural viewpoint. The idea this research puts forth is the importance of studying adversaries’ distinctive culture and style towards national security and unique strategic predispositions to prevail against. Nonetheless, it is not only important for the West to understand and accommodate Russian strategic cultural predispositions, Putin also needs to listen to Booth’s advice to think in terms of cultural relativism and be sensitive to the existence of different cultures in bordering countries—ultimately to understand the Ukrainian worldview.[88] The sense of superiority among the Russian elite impeded a proper appreciation of Ukrainian’s resolve, demonstrating the lack of a comprehensive understanding of Ukrainian strategic culture within the Kremlin’s strategic calculus. This is an important lesson of the ongoing war for the South Asian context. India and Pakistan need to inculcate in their strategic calculus a sensitivity to the existence of different views and styles towards security issues.

[1] John J. Mearsheimer, “The Causes and Consequences of the Ukraine War,” Horizons 21 (Summer 2022): 12-27.

[2] Mearsheimer, “The Causes and Consequences of the Ukraine War”; Ruth E. Mbah & Divine F. Wasum, “Russian-Ukraine 2022 War: A Review of the Economic Impact of Russian-Ukraine Crisis on the USA, UK, Canada, and Europe,” Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal 9, no. 3 (2022): 144-153; Hong Cai & et. al., “International collaboration for addressing mental health crisis among child and adolescent refugees during the Russia-Ukraine war,” Asian Journal of Psychiatry 72 (2022).

[3] Jack L. Snyder, The Soviet Strategic Culture: Implications for Limited Nuclear Operations, RAND R-2154-AF (Santa Monica, California: The Rand Corporation, 1977), pubs/reports/2005/R2154.pdf; Alastair Iain Johnston, “Thinking About Strategic Culture,” International Security 19, no. 4 (1995): 32–64; and Jeffrey S. Lantis, “Strategic Culture and National Security Policy,” International Studies Review 4, no. 3 (Fall 2002): 87-103.

[4] Alastair categorizes the scholarship on strategic culture into three generations. See Alastair Iain Johnston, Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995): 5.

[5] Colin S. Gray, “What Rand Hath Wrought,” Foreign Policy 4 (Autumn 1971): 126.

[6] Snyder, The Soviet Strategic Culture, 8.

[7] Colin S. Gray, Modern Strategy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 185; and Ken Booth, Strategy and Ethnocentrism (London: Croom Helm, 1979), 7-17.

[8] Jeffrey S. Lantis, “Strategic Culture: From Clausewitz to Constructivism,” Strategic Insights IV, no. 10 (October 2005): 3; and Forrest E. Morgan, Compellence and the Strategic Culture of Imperial Japan: Implications for Coercive Diplomacy in the Twenty-First Century (Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2003), 28.

[9] Bradley S. Klein, “Hegemony and Strategic Culture: American Power Projection and Alliance Defence Politics,” Review of International Studies 14, no. 2 (April 1988): 134.

[10] Thomas U. Berger, “Norms, Identity and National Security in Germany and Japan” in The Culture of National Security, Peter J. Katzenstein ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 328; and Jeffrey S. Lantis, Strategic Dilemmas and the Evolution of German Foreign Policy since Unification (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002), 107.

[11] Johnston, “Thinking about Strategic Culture,” 46.

[12] Michael C. Desch, “Culture Clash: Assessing the Importance of Ideas in Security Studies,” International Security 23, no. 19 (1998): 142.

[13] Johnston, Cultural Realism, 19-35.

[14] Johnston, “Thinking About Strategic Culture,” 41-42.

[15] Lantis, “Strategic Culture and National Security Policy,” 106–109; Theo Farrell, “Strategic Culture and American Empire,” SAIS Review 25, no. 2 (Summer–Fall 2005): 11.

[16] Lantis, “Strategic Culture and National Security Policy,” 109-113.

[17] Gregory Carleton, Russia: The Story of War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017).

[18] John J. Mearsheimer, “Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions that Provoked Putin,” Foreign Affairs 93, no. 5 (Sept/Oct 2014): 77-89.

[19] Stephen Kotkin, “Russia’s Perpetual Geopolitics: Putin Returns to the Historical Pattern,” Foreign Affairs 95, no. 3 (May/June 2016),

[20] President Putin’s Address to the Federal Assembly, 12 December 2012, events/president/news/17118/print.

[21] Michael Peck, “Russia Says It Never Invaded Poland in 1939,” The National Interest, October 12, 2016,

[22] Quoted in Julia Gurganhua & Eugene Rumer, “Russia’s Global Ambitions in Perspective,” CEIP Paper, February 20, 2019,

[23] Quoted in Ivor Wiltenburg, “The Importance of Understanding Russian Strategic Culture,” Atlantisch Perspectief 44, no. 1 (2020): 8.

[24] Angela Stent, Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and the Rest (New York: Hachette Book Group, 2019), 176–77.

[25] Andrei P. Tsygankov, The Strong State in Russia: Development and Crisis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 7-8.

[26] See Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2015); Mikhail Zygar, All the Kremlin’s Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin (New York: Public Affairs, 2016); and Michael McFaul, “Russia as It Is: A Grand Strategy for Confronting Putin,” Foreign Affairs 97, no. 7 (July/August 2018): 82–91.

[27] Lionel Barber, Henry Foy and Alex Barker, “Vladimir Putin says liberalism has ‘become obsolete’,” Financial Times, June 28, 2019,

[28] Keir Giles, “The Turning Point for Russian Foreign Policy,” Strategic Studies Institute (2017): xiii,

[29] Evan Kerrane, “Moscow’s Strategic Culture: Russian Militarism in an Era of Great Power Competition,” Journal of Advanced Military Studies (2022): p. 73,

[30] House of Lords, The EU and Russia: Before and Beyond the Crisis in Ukraine, 6th Report of Session 2014-15 (London: Authority of the House of Lords, 2015): 63, ldselect/ldeucom/115/115.pdf.

[31] Samuel Charap, Elina Treyger, and Edward Geist, Understanding Russia’s Intervention in Syria, RAND Document No RR-3180-AF (2019),

[32] Camille Francois, “The Strategic Surprise of Russian Information Operations on Social Media in 2016 in the United States: Mapping a Blind Spot,” Journal of Cyber Policy 6, no. 1 (2021): 11.

[33] “The Great Unwinding: The U.S.-Turkey Arms Sales Dispute,” CSIS, March 17, 2020, https://www.

[34] Mykhaylo Zabrodskyi et. al., Preliminary Lessons in Conventional Warfighting from Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: February–July 2022, RUSI Report: 27-28,

[35] Pavel Baev, “Transformation of Russian Strategic Culture: Impacts from Local Wars and Global Confrontation,” IFRI Report 118 (June 2020): 6, baev_russian_strategic_culture_2020.pdf.

[36] Paul J. Saunders, “Why America Can’t Stop Russia’s Hybrid Warfare,” The National Interest, June 23, 2015,

[37] James J. Wirtz, “Cyber War and Strategic Culture: The Russian Integration of Cyber Power into Grand Strategy,” in Cyber War in Perspective: Russian Aggression against Ukraine, Kenneth Geers ed. (Tallinn: NATO CCD COE Publications, 2015), CyberWarinPerspective_Wirtz.pdf.

[38] EEAS, “EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” February 21, 2022,

[39] EEAS, “A Strategic Compass for Security and Defence,”

[40] EEAS, “A Strategic Compass for Security and Defence,” 17, documents/strategic_compass_en3_web.pdf.

[41] Henry Foy, “Arming Ukraine: How War Forced the EU to Rewrite Defence Policy,” Financial Times, February 27, 2023,

[42] Calin Trenkov-Wermuth and Jacob Zack, “Ukraine: The EU’s Unprecedented Provision of Lethal Aid is a Good First Step,” USIP Analysis, October 17, 2022, ukraine-eus-unprecedented-provision-lethal-aid-good-first-step.

[43] Foy, “Arming Ukraine.”

[44] Berger, “Norms, Identity, and National Security in Germany and Japan,” 327.

[45] Daniel Michaels, “EU to Fund Purchase of Weapons for First Time and Ban Entry of Russian Planes into EU Airspace,” Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2022, russia-ukraine-latest-news-2022-02-26/card/eu-to-fund-buying-weapons-for-first-time-RsvTAr5xRh7kjDaPA0QJ.

[46] Foy, “Arming Ukraine.”

[47] Baris Celik, “Ukraine War is Blurring the Lines between NATO and the EU on Defence Policy,” The Conversation, March 1, 2023,

[48] Kim Willsher, “Europe must be more independent and shore up its defence, says Macron,” The Guardian, March 3, 2022,

[49] Dick Zandee et al., “European Strategic Autonomy in Security and Defence,” Clingendael Report, December 2020: 16, 40-41. Strategic_Autonomy_December_2020.pdf.

[50] Remarks by President Charles Michel following the Special European Council on Ukraine, February 25, 2022,

[51] Phelan Chatterjee, “Sweden and Finland’s Journey from Neutral to NATO,” BBC News, June 29, 2022,

[52] Charlie Campbell, “Denmark Just Reversed 30 Years of Euroskeptic Defence Policy – Thanks to Russia,” Time, June 1, 2022,

[53] Nathalie Tocci, “Europe’s Defence Efforts Remain Underwhelming,” Politico, November 22, 2022,; and Sophia Besch, “EU Defence and the War in Ukraine,” CEIP, December 21, 2021, https://

[54] Olga Brusylovska and Polina Sinovets, “Strategic Culture of Ukraine as the research Instrument of the Ukrainian Foreign Policy,” in Strategic Culture and Foreign Policy of Ukraine, I. Koval, O. Brusylovska and V. Dubovyk eds. (Odesa: Odesa National University, 2017), 12,

[55] Polina Sinovets, “Strategic Culture of Ukraine and its Non-Nuclear Status,” in Strategic Culture and Foreign Policy of Ukraine, I. Koval, O. Brusylovska and V. Dubovyk eds., (Odesa: Odesa National University, 2017), 26-27.

[56] Brusylovska and Sinovets, “Strategic Culture of Ukraine,” 20.

[57] Brusylovska and Sinovets, “Strategic Culture of Ukraine,” 12.

[58] Decree by the President of Ukraine, No. 389/2012, June 8, 2012, translated from https://zakon.rada.

[59] Kravchuk’s remarks are quoted in William J. Long and Suzette R. Grillot, “Ideas, Beliefs, and Nuclear Policies: The Cases of South Africa and Ukraine,” The Nonproliferation Review (Spring 2000): 34.

[60] Wiltenburg, “The Importance of Understanding Russian Strategic Culture,” 8.

[61] Chrystia Freeland, “Russia ‘Trying’ to Isolate Ukraine,” Financial Times, March 17, 1993.

[62] Stent, Putin’s World, 176–77.

[63] Kravchuk’s interview quoted in Sinovets, “Strategic Culture of Ukraine and its Non-Nuclear Status,” 22.

[64] C. Stevens, “Identity Politics and Nuclear Disarmament: The Case of Ukraine,” The Nonproliferation Review 15, no. 1 (2008): 54-55.

[65] Sinovets, “Strategic Culture of Ukraine and its Non-Nuclear Status,” 28-29.

[66] Hanna Shelest, “Defend. Resist. Repeat: Ukraine’s Lessons for European Defence,” ECFR. eu, November 9, 2022,; Hanna Shelest, “How Putin underestimated Ukraine,” IPS, March 25, 2022,; and Jakob Hedenskog, “How Ukraine Built its Resilience,” SCEEUS Commentary no. 3, February 28, 2023, https://

[67] Peter Dickinson, “Will Morale Prove the Decisive Factor in the Russian Invasion of Ukraine?” Atlantic Council, March 9, 2023,

[68] Sudarsan Raghavan, “Ukrainian Volunteer Fighters in the East Feel Abandoned,” The Washington Post, May 26, 2022,

[69] “Poroshenko approves NSDC decision on national security strategy,” Kyiv Post, May 27, 2015, https://; and Shelest, “Defend. Resist. Repeat.”

[70] Mehmet Ozkan, “India can do more in Central Asia,” Gulf News, October 26, 2010, https://gulfnews. com/opinion/op-eds/india-can-do-more-in-central-asia-1.701610.

[71] Dilip Mohite, “Ideological Foundations of Nehru’s Nonalignment,” The Indian Journal of Political Science 53, no. 1 (Jan-March 1992): 24-38.

[72] Mark Briskey, “The Foundations of Pakistan’s Strategic Culture,” Journal of Advanced Military Studies: Special Issue on Strategic Culture (2022): 130-132.

[73] Ian Talbot, “Legacies of the Partition for India and Pakistan,” Politeja no. 59 (2019): 7-25.

[74] Rodney W. Jones, “India’s Strategic Culture,” DTRA Report, October 31, 2006, 9, agency/dod/dtra/india.pdf.

[75] Shrikant Paranjpe, India’s Strategic Culture: The Making of National Security Policy (New Delhi: Routledge, 2013).

[76] Thomas F. Lynch III, “The Decades-Long ‘Double-Double Game’ Pakistan, the United States, and the Taliban,” Military Review (July-August 2018),

[77] Tom Waldwyn and Viraj Solanki, “India’s Defence Plans fall victim to Putin’s war,” Foreign Policy, April 3, 2023,

[78] Carl von Clausewitz, “The Surprise,” in On War, BK3ch09.html.

[79] Michael I. Handel, “Intelligence and the Problem of Strategic Surprise,” Journal of Strategic Studies 7, no. 3 (1984): 229-281.

[80] Scott Helfstein, “Backfire: Behavioral Decision Making and the Strategic Risks of Successful Surprise,” Foreign Policy Analysis 8, no. 3 (July 2012): 290.

[81] Dmitri Trenin, “Decoding Russia’s Official Nuclear Deterrence Paper,” Carnegie Moscow Center, June 5, 2020,

[82] Mary Glantz and Mona Yacoubian, “Is Russia Escalating to De-escalate?” USIP Analysis & Commentary, October 5, 2022,

[83] P. R. Chari, Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, and Stephen P. Cohen, The Compound Crisis of 1990: Perception, Politics, and Insecurity (Urbana, IL: Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security, 2000), 174.

[84] R. B. Cialdini and N. J. Goldstein, “Social Influence: Compliance And Conformity,” Annual Review of Psychology 55 (2004): 591-621.

[85] Baev, “Transformation of Russian Strategic Culture,” 6.

[86] For detailed discussion on Russian cyber strategy, see Bilyana Lilly and Joe Cheravitch, “The Past, Present, and Future of Russia’s Cyber Strategy and Forces,” Paper presented at the 12th International Conference on Cyber Conflict 2020, Lilly_Cheravitch.pdf.

[87] For detailed discussion on the topic, see Keir Giles, Moscow Rules: What Derives Russia to Confront the West (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2019).

[88] Booth, Strategy and Ethnocentrism, 136.