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How Does Russia Use Military Force?” The National Defence University's Russia Seminar Looks at Topical Themes

National Defence University
Publication date 11.2.2022 15.42
Press release

The National Defence University's Russia Seminar will be organised on 16th of February 2022. In this interview, the researchers of the National Defence University’s Russia Group talk about the theme of this year's seminar and how it relates to the current security situation in Ukraine.

According to Senior Researcher, LTC (ret.) Pentti Forsström this year’s seminar discusses the question of “How does Russia use military force?” Both Forsström and the Chief of the Research Group, Lieutenant Colonel Simo Pesu see the seminar theme as a continuation of last year, when the theme was Russia’s deterrent.

- Last year’s seminar looked at Russia’s military and strategic deterrent. This year the focus is on Russian military capabilities, and how they are built, managed and used.  So, we are moving from deterrence to the use of military force, Pesu explains.

Lieutenant Colonel Simo Pesu

The theme of the seminar is very current, as Russian forces are holding large-scale exercises right across the border from Ukraine.

Although the planning of the seminar started nearly a year ago, we have tried to incorporate the current situation into the programme, says Assistant Professor Katri Pynnöniemi. This allows us to examine and compare research data with Russia’s military activities in practice. 

- The seminar includes presentations on the current situation, and I presume that many of the presentations will touch upon the question of what the conflict means to European security. There are many international and Finnish researchers attending the seminar, who can contribute new perspectives to the conversation, thinks Pynnönniemi.

In addition to presenting new scientific information, our goal with the seminar is to bring together researchers in this field to facilitate discussion about Russia-related research. 

- As in previous years, the goal is to provide a multidisciplinary forum for researchers specialising in Russian military and security policy. Creating contacts between Finnish and international researchers is important, as well as strengthening the Finnish conversations about Russia by bringing new ideas and thoughts to the table, continues Pynnöniemi.

Assistant Professor Katri Pynnöniemi

The seminar has many international participants this year as well. We will have presentations by European, British and American researchers. The National Defence University's own Russia Research Group also has a strong representation in the seminar. Although the international community is watching the situation in Ukraine very closely, members of the Russia Research Group believe that interest in the seminar stems from its strong reputation. 

- We have been preparing the seminar for a long time, and the international interest is strong, not because of the current situation, but because the Russia Seminar is becoming established in its field, and that creates interest in presenting your thoughts on this forum, Forsström believes.

The seminar approaches its theme through various topics. Senior Researcher Forsström says that you can examine Russia's use of military force in different forms both from a theory perspective, as well as from the perspective of such things as new weapons systems, exercises or artificial intelligence. Additionally, there is a strong societal aspect present in it.

- Along with the above mentioned, the seminar examines the fundamental questions regarding the use of military force. For example, what is the view in Russian society on conscription, and how is the role of women changing in the Russian Armed Forces. The seminar also discusses the emotional aspect of the use of military force, i.e. How is the used of military force justified in different situations. By examining the various areas extensively, we can form a picture on how we have arrived in the current situation in Ukraine, says Forsström.

Senior Researcher, LTC (ret.) Pentti Forsström

Although the topic is a subject of heated political discussions, the organisers of the seminar hope to keep the conversations there calm and analytical. There has been plenty of time reserved for discussion.

- One of our main tasks here at the National Defence University and the Russia Group is to facilitate conversation based on research and bring out the facts through dialogue and conversations. This is part of the National Defence University’s strategy and the Russia Seminar is one piece of that strategy, he summarises.

You may watch the National Defence University's Russia Seminar live on the National Defence University’s Youtube channel here. The seminar programme is available on the NDU website.