The plan of research is developed in accordance with the National Defence University Strategy and the Finnish Defence Forces research program. The Russia Group participates in and leads international and national research projects. The current research themes and topics include the following:

Russian military power and military thought

In the field of military science, the research will focus on the following key issues:

  • The initial period of war in the Russian art of war (post-doc)
  • Russian military policy and use of the Armed Forces (post-doc)
  • Hybrid methods in the Russian art of war (dissertation project)
  • Russian military interests in the Baltic Sea (dissertation project)
  • Technological development and foresight in the art of war (dissertation project)

Russia as an actor in 2035 world

Russian foreign and security policy is guided by a realist approach to world politics and aims to enhance the country’s international status vis-à-vis its main competitors. Russia is taking advantage of and, in this way, contributing to the rupture of contractual institutions and the international system. The research projects create new knowledge on Russia’s strategic thinking, in particular, on threat perceptions, the changing character and means of contemporary conflicts, and national security interests in the framework of world politics. The current research projects include:

  • The changing conceptualization of security and threats in the Russian context (Mannerheim Chair research project)
  • Critical uncertainties in the operating environment analysis (Matine 2021)
  • Russian foreign policy and the idea of political struggle (dissertation project)
  • Gender and military-patriotic education in Russia (dissertation project)


Northern Europe in Russia’s Foreign and Security Policy (2020-2022)

The Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), Aleksanteri Institute (AI) and the National Defence University (NDU) are jointly conducting a research project titled “Northern Europe in Russia’s Foreign and Security Policy”. The project is part of the Finnish Government’s 2020 analysis, assessment and research activities (VN-TEAS) and will conclude in April 2022.

During the last few years, the security environment of Finland’s surrounding neighbourhood has been a subject of increasing political and scholarly interest. Competent research has also been conducted on Russian strategic thought. Typically, international studies have examined Russia’s role based on their own premises, in which the Northern European region is seen as a security issue concerning the western countries and NATO.

The main objective of the project is to produce a comprehensive research-based analysis on the aims, methods and operational logic of Russia’s foreign and security policy in Northern Europe. By utilizing a wide breadth of Russian primary sources, the final report will in particular analyse how the security architecture of Northern Europe is viewed from the Russian perspective, how Russia’s actions in the region reflect this strategic thinking in practice and what the significance of Northern Europe in the larger context of Russia’s foreign and security policy is. In addition, the project is aiming to strengthen and deepen scholarly contacts and cooperation between Russian and Finnish researchers.

The project will commence under the auspices of FIIA’s Finnish Foreign and Security Policy –project. The research team will consist of Research Fellow Jyri Lavikainen (FIIA), Senior Associate Analyst Sinikukka Saari (EUISS), University Lecturer Sirke Mäkinen (AI), Senior Researcher Pentti Forsström (NDU), Assistant Professor Katri Pynnöniemi (NDU), Project Researcher Outi Helin (NDU), Leading Researcher Harri Mikkola (FIIA) and Senior Research Fellow Matti Pesu (FIIA).



The Russia Research Group provides PhD supervision as a part of its research. Below you can find information on our PhD supervisors and current PhD researchers.


Juha Wihersaari

Colonel (ret.), Juha Wihersaari is a doctoral researcher and member of the Russia Research Group at the Finnish National Defence University. He has the General Staff Officer’s Degree from 1993 and he served in the Finnish Defence Forces until 2015. Wihersaari’s military experience includes positions mainly in military intelligence, where he served 26 years. During his career Wihersaari served two times as a defence attaché: the first time in Eastern Europe (incl. Ukraine) and the second time in the Middle East. He also served five years as the director of Finnish Signal Intelligence. Since 2016, Wihersaari has been the owner and director of a small intelligence and security company.

His doctoral research is focused on Hybrid Warfare in the Russian Art of War: “Hybridisodankäynti venäläisessä sotataidossa”. According to the current plan, Wihersaari’s dissertation is expected to  come out in 2023/24

Marzia Cimmino

M.Sc. Marzia Cimmino’s background is in political affairs and conflict prevention in Eastern Europe, Western Balkans and Central Asia. She worked for almost ten years as an Italian secondee for the political affairs units of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Belgrade (Serbia) and, most recently, in Kiev (Ukraine). Prior to joining the OSCE, she worked in the Russian Federation for Human Rights Watch and Carnegie Moscow Centre. Her papers and analyses on Russian foreign policy appeared on several think tanks’ online publications—the Aspen Institute and Carnegie Endowment, among others. She holds an M.Sc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Marzia is fluent in English, Italian and Russian. 

Her dissertation at the Finnish National Defence University focuses on the effects of the OSCE conflict prevention early warning mechanisms on official negotiations regarding the crisis in and around Ukraine. 

Essi Tarvainen

M.A., M.Ed., Lt. Sgt. (res.) Essi Tarvainen is a doctoral student in the Russia Research Group at the Finnish National Defence University. In her dissertation she studies Russia’s geopolitical interests in the Baltic Sea Region and how it secures its national interests in both peacetime and during crises. Understanding the Russian perspective is her main focus.


Petteri Lalu

D.Sc.Mil., Lt. Col. (ret.) Petteri Lalu is a former head of the Russia Research Group at the NDU, where he served from 2017 until 2020. Currently he is a docent at the NDU and an affiliate member of the group. He obtained his Doctor of Military Sciences degree from the NDU in 2014. He has served as a commissioned officer in the Finnish Defence Forces since 1990 and completed the General Staff Officer Course in 1999. Lt. Col. Lalu’s military experience includes several positions in ground -based air defence, military intelligence and strategic research. His research interests include the Russian art of war and Russian military politics and the history of the Russian Orthodox Church.

His doctoral dissertation focused on the Soviet tactical and operational solution against the superiority of defence in the 1920–30’s. Syvää vai pelkästään tiheää?: Neuvostoliittolaisen ja venäläisen sotataidollisen ajattelun lähtökohdat, kehittyminen, soveltaminen käytäntöön ja nykytilanne. Näkökulmana 1920- ja 1930-luvun syvän taistelun ja operaation opit. Other publications: Vähällä verelläkö: Näkikö puna-armeija ja sen kehittäjät tulevan sodan kuvan ”oikein”, in ”Tuleva sota: Ennustamisen sietämätön vaikeus”, The Fighting Power of Russia’s Armed Forces in Putin’s Russia : Economy, Defence and Foreign Policy, and Historia ja kanonit kirkkopolitiikan välineenä: Venäjän ortodoksisen kirkon edustajien julkilausumat Ukrainan ortodoksien autokefaliahankkeessa vuonna 2018.

Hanna Ojanen

Dr. Hanna Ojanen is Adjunct Professor (docent) of international security organisations at the Finnish National Defence University, as well as Adjunct Professor of international relations at the University of Helsinki. An expert in European security and defence policy, she works as Senior Research Fellow in the Horizon2020 research project ENGAGE at Tampere University.

She holds a doctorate in political and social sciences from the European University Institute (EUI, Florence). Her previous positions include the Jean Monnet Professorship at Tampere University (Faculty of Management), Head of Research at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, and Programme Director of the Research Programme on the European Union at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

Her recent research has focused on inter-organisational relations (particularly EU-NATO-UN relations) and her publications include The EU’s Power in Inter-Organisational Relations, and ‘The EU’s engagement with international organisations: the impact of NATO on the making of EU security policy’, in The Making of European Security Policy. Between Institutional Dynamics and Global Challenges.

Related research institutions

National Defence University

Aleksanteri Institute, Finnish Centre for Russian and Eastern European Studies

FOI Swedish Defence Research Agency

FIIA Finnish Institute of International Affairs


Baltic Defence College

CAST Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Russia

Chatham House, UK

RUSI The Royal United Services Institute

The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies


FNDU Libguides portal

Together with the NDU Library we maintain a guide to central sources for studying Russian military and security (in Finnish). You can find our collection here.

Russia’s Strategic Planning Documents

In the following we have gathered essential Russian strategic planning documents for public use. Newest version in bold.

Федеральный закон “О стратегическом планировании в Российской Федерации” / Law about Strategic Planning in the Russian Federation (2014)

Стратегия национальной безопасности / National Security Strategy (2021)

Военная Доктрина Российской Федерации / Military Doctrine / Venäjän sotilasdoktriini (2014)

Концепция внешней политики Российской Федерации / Foreign Policy Concept (2016)

Энергетическая Стратегия Российской Федерации на период до 2035 года / Russia’s Energy Strategy until 2035 (2020)

Об Основах государственной политики Российской Федерации в Арктике на период до 2035 года / On the Foundations of the Russian Federation State Policy in the Arctic for the Period up to 2035 (2020)

О Стратегии развития Арктической зоны Российской Федерации и обеспечения национальной безопасности на период до 2035 года / On the Strategy on the development of Russian Arctic zone and protection of Russia’s national interests for the period until 2035 (2020)

Об утверждении Основ государственной политики Российской Федерации в области военно-морской деятельности на период до 2030 года / On the Approval of the Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Field of Naval Operations for the period until 2030 (2017)

Об Основах государственной политики Российской Федерации в области ядерного сдерживания / On the Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence (2020)

О развитии искусственного интеллекта в Российской Федерации / On the Development of Artificial Intelligence in the Russian Federation (2019)

Об утверждении Доктрины информационной безопасности Российской Федерации / On the approval of Information Security Doctrine of the Russian Federation (2016)

О Стратегии научно-технологического развития Российской Федерации / On the Strategy of Scientific Technology Development of the Russian Federation (2016)

This page is being updated