Over the past decade, Russia has begun to reassert itself globally. It has developed its military, engaged in armed conflict, and increasingly invested in soft power approaches such as information warfare, alleged electoral interference, cyber attacks and targeted assassinations abroad.
Since 2008, Russia has dramatically increased its military spending and military involvement on the world stage. In 2016, its defence spending peaked at 3.09 trillion RUB, which has allowed Russia to undergo a massive modernisation program and utilise its military abroad. Its increased military presence abroad dates back to the 2008 war with Georgia, however over the past five years, Russia has been increasingly active in the Ukraine and Syria. Its illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 has resulted in a protracted contract in the Ukraine, with Russia supporting rebel groups across the Eastern part of the country. Since 2015, Russia has been involved in Syria, supporting the Assad government in its fight against rebel groups and jihadists. In both these cases, Russia has been offering support to rebel groups and governments the West regards as illegitimate. As a result it has been suggested that the Ukraine and Syria have become proxy wars between the West and Russia, in a similar way to conflicts of the Cold War.
Besides undertaking military action abroad, Russia has also been increasing the number of military drills domestically. Russia has organised several military drills over the past few years, with some, such as Zapad, 2017, involving an estimated 100,000 troops. Such drills have been concerning NATO, with members fearing it is a disguise for aggressive actions against its neighbours.
Moreover, Russia has been accused of meddling in media and elections across Europe and the US, including the UK Brexit vote, up to 19 European elections and the US 2016 elections.
Finally, the name Skripal has become a haunting example in a resurgence of underhand Russian aggression abroad. Although adamantly denied by Russian leaders, Russia has been accused of poisoning two people – an ex-spy and his daughter in Salisbury, UK.