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) (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 nexus of patriotism and militarism in Russia: too much, too late? (2017–2020)

The project explores the nexus between patriotism and militarism in today’s Russia. During the last twenty-year period, there have been consistent efforts to consolidate Russian society, and foster a sense of unity and common purpose. To this end, the Russian authorities have activated various channels, from educational programmes and youth organizations to media and popular culture. With the war in Ukraine, the manipulation of public sentiments – feelings of pride and threat perceptions – has become more systemic. The traditional view of Russia as being the Other when it comes to Europe has been replaced with a narrative about enmity. The West is portrayed as a threat to Russia’s historical-cultural originality and Russia as a country encircled by enemies. However, Russian society remains sceptical towards state-led projects that mix patriotism and militarism.

The project studies the evolution of enemy images, the ways in which societal actors perceive official projections of patriotism, and the growing role of militarism in Russian society. It is argued that these are key variables when analyzing the trajectory of Russia’s foreign policy and the transformation of society in general.

The book The Nexus of Patriotism and Militarism in Russia: A Quest for Internal Coherence, is published by the Helsinki University Press (HUP 2021) and is available online. DOI:

Project leader: Katri Pynnöniemi


Russia of Power (Voiman Venäjä) -report

The report Russia of Power examines the current state of Russia, as well as its future, from the perspective of security.

The report was commissioned by the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Defence coordinated its preparation. It focuses on three main themes: Russian foreign policy, its military defence and the resources of the country’s defence industry, and Russia’s internal development.

Preparing the report took a year, during which over 40 experts from universities, research institutes and various authorities participated in the work of the three thematic groups.

Assistant professor Katri Pynnöniemi contributed chapters dealing with Russian foreign policy and military defence, while Lt. Col. Petteri Lalu was the main coordinator and one of the contributors to a chapter on Russia’s military defence. Lt. Col. Simo Pesu, in turn, participated and publicized a chapter on Russian Futures.

The Russia of Power report evaluates the country’s current status, as well as factors that could contribute to change or continuity. In addition to evaluating impacts on Russia’s stability and the relations between Finland and Russia, the report also examined security from the perspectives of Finland, the neighbouring areas and the international community more broadly. The project also involved a foresight analysis of the future of Russia.