Department or Program

Political Science

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Stacie Goddard

Additional Advisor(s)

Paul MacDonald


What factors are vital to the success of military operations? In the case of the contemporary Russian military, most scholars have attributed success in both Georgia (2008) and Crimea (2014) to a reformed and technologically improved military. Despite a widely accepted “victory” in Georgia, Russia’s military performed disastrously, which catalyzed a series of reforms and modernization projects within the military. Many scholars have traced these reforms to the success of Russia’s operations in Crimea in 2014, citing their superior technology and organizational learning. My thesis addresses the reality of Russia’s military operation in Crimea, which I argue was dependent more on existing social collaborators, intelligence networks, and Russia’s special operations forces, rather than an overwhelming conventional display of military force. I explore what we can learn about Russia’s military from Crimea, and what other conditions would make possible a similarly structured military operation in future peripheral wars.