CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

A Divided Continuum: The Logic of Russian Escalation Against Post-Soviet States

Alexander Rabin, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Alex Weisiger

Date of this Version: 06 April 2020



This thesis probes for patterns in the escalation of Russian interventions against neighboring post-Soviet states after the Cold War. It then seeks to explain the causation of such patterns. I conclude that the factors influencing the intensity levels of Russian interventions can be understood within a periodized framework. After the USSR’s collapse, Russia’s limited economic capacity prevented it from intensifying its interventions against neighboring ex-Soviet states. An increase in economic power at the turn of the century then shifted Russia’s intervention calculus. Russia is most likely to escalate to a significant intensity level when its economy is strong and the targeted state is not a NATO member but is progressing toward membership. The likelihood of Russian intervention increases if these factors remain true and Russia can act with plausible deniability — especially at a time when the U.S. is unlikely to interfere militarily with Russia’s plans. Yet, even in times of economic strength, Russia will cap its interventions against NATO member states below the level of armed conflict.


Political Science

Suggested Citation

Rabin, Alexander, "A Divided Continuum: The Logic of Russian Escalation Against Post-Soviet States" 06 April 2020. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 08 September 2020




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