The Political Use of Military Force

Russian soldiers rest amid military exercises.

Russian soldiers rest amid military exercises.

In an oft-cited truism in global politics, the German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz once famously asserted that “War is merely the continuation of politics by other means.” As the situation in Ukraine continues to develop, Clausewitz’s insights into the intersection of politics and military force appears increasingly true. While Yanukovich now appears to be hiding in Russia, the Russian government today ordered readiness tests for its Western and Central Asian units, prompting concerns that the exercises are a show of force intended to signal their ongoing interest (and perhaps their willingness to intervene) in the events unfolding in Ukraine.

Indeed, there is a long history of using military exercises to signal a government’s interest in a particular region or area. The United States has used military tests with South Korea as a signal to the North Korean government, while China has used military exercises in the South China Sea to send signals to Japan about their resolve over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyado Islands. Unfortunately such exercises can just as easily escalate the situation, increasing tensions between major global players.

What do you think? Is Russia’s announced military exercise intended to inform decision-making in other countries about the situation in Ukraine? If so, what is their message? Will it be successful? Why?


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