Putin’s Wars: from Chechnya to Ukraine

Published by Osprey Bloomsbury, November 2022

A new history of how Putin and his conflicts have inexorably reshaped Russia, including his devastating invasion of Ukraine.

Putin’s Wars is a timely overview of the conflicts in which Russia has been involved since Vladimir Putin became prime minister and then president of Russia, from the First Chechen War to the two military incursions into Georgia, the annexation of Crimea and the eventual invasion of Ukraine itself. But it also looks more broadly at Putin’s recreation of Russian military power and its expansion to include a range of new capabilities, from mercenaries to operatives in a relentless information war against Western powers. This is an engrossing strategic overview of a rejuvenated Russian military and the successes and failures on the battlefield. Thanks to Dr Galeotti’s wide-ranging contacts throughout Russia, it is also peppered with anecdotes of military life, personal snapshots of conflicts, and an extraordinary collection of first-hand accounts from serving and retired Russian officers.

Russia continues to dominate the news cycle throughout the Western world. There is no better time to understand how and why Putin has involved his armed forces in a variety of conflicts for over two decades. There is no author better placed to demystify the capabilities of the Russian military and give a glimpse into what the future may hold.

Putin’s Wars is an engaging and important history of a reawakened Russian bear and how it currently operates both at home and abroad to ensure Russia is front and centre on the world stage.


Author’s Note
List of Illustrations
List of Maps and Diagrams
Cast of Characters

1. Introduction

2. Born in Chaos
3. A Military in Crisis
4. The First Chechen War
5. The Wars of Russian Assertion

6. Putin’s Priorities
7. The Second Chechen War
8. Ivanov, the Initiator
9. Serdyukov, the Enforcer
10. Georgia, 2008 (1): Tbilisi’s Move …
11. Georgia, 2008 (2): … Moscow’s Counter
12. ‘New Look’ Army

13. Shoigu, the Rebuilder
14. Crimea, 2014
15. Donbas, 2014-
16. Lessons of the Donbas War
17. Syria, 2015- (1): The Unexpected Intervention
18. Syria, 2015- (2): Lessons of the Syrian Campaign

19. Rumble for Ruble
20. Armiya Rossii
21. The Sky is Russia’s!
22. Contesting the Sea
23. Power Projection: Blue and Black Berets
24. The Spetsnaz
25. The Nuclear Backstop

26. Political Warfare
27. New Generation Warfare
28. The Challenges of the Future
29. Ukraine 2022: Putin’s Last War?
30. Conclusions: The Eurasian Sparta?

Selected English-language Bibliography


Mark Galeotti is one of the most insightful and incisive analysts on Russia’s past, present, and future. Russia’s February 2022 expanded invasion of Ukraine tragically highlights the critical importance of understanding the connection between politics and war. Galeotti vividly shows how Russia has waged its wars… [and] how those wars shaped the country’s politics and, in turn, how politics shaped Moscow’s military campaigns. ― Joshua C. Huminski, Director, Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence and Global Affairs, Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress

This is a vivid account of how Putin has used armed force during his time in power, culminating in the deadly war in Ukraine. ― Sir Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies, King’s College London

An accessible, lucid and vivid comprehensive contemporary account of the inner workings, logic and rationales of the central military pillar of Putinism. I unreservedly recommend this gem. ― Dr Graeme P. Herd, George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

Putin’s Wars is Galeotti at his finest: writing that moves like a spy novel and enough information for the student or professional reader . An excellent and accessible contribution to the field for seasoned Russian observers and those interested in the larger sweep of how it all transpired. ― Dr Yuval Weber, Bren Chair of Russian Military and Political Strategy at the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity at the US Marine Corps University

The prolific military chronicler and analyst Mark Galeotti has produced exactly the right book at the right time. It poses clever questions: is the Russian army an unreformable hulk, unfit for purpose, or does it learn?… Galeotti’s book, a distillation of his vast knowledge about Russia’s spluttering military machine, makes one wonder whether Putin’s failure to deliver a knockout against Ukraine will be his undoing, not just his last war but also the end of his deluded regime. — Roger Boyes, in The Times

As well as being thoroughly researched, Mark Galeotti’s latest book is rich with anecdotes about the various military personnel, advisors and diplomats he has met while living and travelling through Russia. The result is a proper page-turner that is consistently entertaining and at times even snort-out-loud funny. Not that this book is in any way a lightweight. On the contrary, the writer’s depth of knowledge is remarkable, while the level of detail offered is exhaustive. — History of War

[A] brisk crash course in Putin’s attempts to turn Russia’s army from the demoralised Soviet behemoth he inherited in 2000 into a 21st-century fighting force… But for armchair generals everywhere – and maybe real ones too – this may well make the Christmas stocking list. Indeed, if Russian military pundits had rankings, Galeotti might be commander-in-chief. — Colin Freeman, in The Telegraph

Mark Galeotti delivers a timely account of the Kremlin’s military miscalculations and the likely wider impact on Russia… Galeotti’s work is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand current events in Ukraine, and the risks of imperial hubris. — Gillian Tett, in the Financial Times

The author provides a great deal of background and context to help the reader understand how Putin’s Russia came to believe it could impose its will on Ukraine in a lightning campaign, a mistaken notion that now threatens European security and the NATO alliance. It is a complete one-volume briefing on the modern Russian military and its master.The New York Journal of Books

Mark Galeotti’s Putin’s Wars is of course a major contribution and a reminder that our worldview of democratic confirmation bias blinded us to the danger of another land war in Europe. — Antony Beevor, on Literary Hub

[A]n encyclopedic study of the Russian armed forces. Based on meticulous research,… he traces the evolution of the Russian military from its steep decline following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent humiliation of the first Chechen war (fought between 1994 and 1996) through the military reforms carried out during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rule. — Maria Lipman, in Foreign Affairs

Foreign Editions

These are the translated editions agreed so far and the respective publishers. I don’t yet know when any will come out, but will update when they do. If you’re a publisher and interested, do get in touch with the Osprey/Bloomsbury rights team!

Chinese: Wu-Nan Book Inc. / Shu-Chuan Publishing House

Czech: Bourdon a.s.

Dutch (Flemish): Prometheus

French: Editions de Grenelle 

Italian: Gremese International

Japanese: Hobby Japan

Lithuanian: Briedis

Polish: Społeczny Instytut Wydawniczy Znak Sp. z o.o.

Romanian: Humanitas SA

Spanish: Desperta Ferro Ediciones (published)

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