Follow-up question to Fizz's comment in this question.

"their foreign policy tends to be non-interventionist". Except in neighboring countries Georgia (2008), Ukraine (2014+) and where they have bases they want to keep like in Syria. Never mind Wagner, which has broader reach and some deniability, albeit fewer capabilities than regular forces.

Is it actually the case that Russia has intervened in foreign countries more than other countries, in spite of saying their foreign policy is non-interventionist?

For the purposes of this question I'm most interested in other members of the UN Security Council. "Intervention" is also difficult to define; as a starting point I take it to mean "to deploy your personnel to that country to advance your country's policy goals, against the wishes of that country". So e.g.:

  • The US does not intervene in Japan by having a military base in Okinawa.
  • Russia does not intervene in the US by remotely hacking their servers.
  • But Russia would be intervening in the US if they sent an operative to the US to physically destroy the servers.

Under this definition Russia's actions in Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014+) are interventions, but Syria is not.

The period I'm interested in is the period since Putin first became President of Russia, i.e. post-2000, including the period when Medvedev was president.

  • 4
    I am afraid this will be very difficult to evaluate. Your definition ("to deploy your personnel to that country to advance your country's policy goals, against the wishes of that country") would include spying : bbc.com/news/world-europe-55258790 And I am not sure why it would exclude Syria. Russia's intervention might have been welcome by Assad, but not by Kurds, Alepan, Ghouta rebels and probably most Syrians. And then, comparing to "other countries" is vague. Luxemburg, Uruguay, Gabon or Slovakia have not deployed personnel abroad (AFAIK) for different reasons.
    – Evargalo
    Oct 8, 2021 at 9:12
  • 1
    @Evargalo spying wouldn't be for advancing policy goals, would it? It would only be for acquisition of information. As for Syria, it has an internationally recognized government, which is something that can be unambiguously defined and hence represents the country's wishes. I'm aware the question is hard, but that's why I ask it; if it were easy I'd probably be able to Google.
    – Allure
    Oct 8, 2021 at 9:34
  • 3
    Excluding intervention in a foreign civil war is quite a caveat you came up with. Russia didn't just build a base in Syria, they bombed the crap out of the factions opposing Assad, by many accounts allowing him to win the war. Oct 8, 2021 at 13:58
  • 2
    @Allure My instinctive reaction would have been to say that the only purpose of getting information through spying is advancing one's policy goals. But I won't argue too much in comments since I honestly don't what to suggest to improve your question.
    – Evargalo
    Oct 8, 2021 at 14:19
  • 2
    In other words, by only including the deployment of personnel to a country, it excludes a number of very effective actions for foreign intervention.
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 8, 2021 at 18:35

2 Answers 2


"Intervention" is also difficult to define; as a starting point I take it to mean "to deploy your personnel to that country to advance your country's policy goals, against the wishes of that country". So e.g.:

It is standard fare for Russia to argue that its intervention in Syria was legal, according to international law. But that doesn't make it a non-intervention, as you want to push/define the term. Rather it's "intervention by invitation".

With the recent interventions by invitation by France in Mali, the US-led coalition in Iraq, Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Russia in Syria, and most recently by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in The Gambia, the issue has not only become topical again, but also controversial. Intervention by invitation has accordingly attracted increased attention among international legal scholars. Most of these academic discussions have centred on issues such as who represents the government of a state and whether an intervention by invitation is allowed when the state is engaged in a civil war.

[...] According to Georg Nolte, ‘[t]he expression “intervention by invitation” is mostly used as a shorthand for military intervention by foreign troops in an internal armed conflict at the invitation of the government of the State concerned’. [...]

The term intervention is contrasted with the use of force and the entire concept of intervention by invitation is differentiated from collective self-defence. [...] intervention by invitation relates not only to actions against non-state actors, but also against states, as long as the fighting is limited to the inviting state’s territory. [...] intervention by invitation might not be its proper name, as it does not deal solely with an intervention, but actually deals with a use of force, which is a separate (but related) notion under international law to which different rules apply. A more appropriate name is therefore the use of force by invitation. [...]

An intervention by invitation also fulfils the requirement of intent. The armed forces invited into the state clearly have the intent to use force; that is in fact precisely the reason why they are invited in. The territorial state needs help in its struggle against the opposition. The invited foreign troops are thus present precisely with the intent for them to use force.

The latter point is perhaps the distinction you were trying to make between those kinds of interventions and e.g. interfering in elections by some non-violent means (or spying).

HTH with respect your terminological confusions. I'm not going to try to answer the rest of the Q, for now, but you are essentially talking about the use of force without invitation (from the internationally recognized government). OTOH there's not quite universal agreement that only the government's agreement matters.

it is at times argued that an intervention by invitation on the side of a government that is engaged in a fight against a liberation movement struggling for its right to self-determination could perhaps constitute a violation of both the political independence of that state and the right to self-determination [...] Some authors take the right to self-determination a step further and equate a struggle for self-determination with any type of civil war situation. It is subsequently argued that an intervention by invitation in any civil war goes against the political independence of the state (or rather that of its people) and violates the right to self-determination.

  • Going through the refs for that last issue; there was a 1975 IDI resolution against all forms of interventions in civil wars, but beside it being ignored in practice, in 2011 they came up with a "more specific prohibition against military assistance “when its object is to support an established government against its own population”" ejiltalk.org/… Mar 15, 2023 at 10:21

Since 2000, off the top of my head

US: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen (covert support for Saudi war and campaign of mass starvation), Iran (post JCPOA unauthorized sanctions, petroleum blockade, assassination of a prominent leader, stated goal of regime change), China (support of HK independence, economic warfare, pressured Canada to arrest Meng Wanzhou), Australia (sabotaged France sub deal), Germany/Russia (sabotaged NS2 pipeline, then when crunch time, proceeded to send US LNG to asia instead of europe), overt support for regime changes in Ukraine, Georgia, etc, continuing decades long interference in politics much of Latin America (support right wing governments, overt and covert support [funding, political recognition, economic blockade] for attempted regime change in Venezuela)....

Russia: Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, Armenia (as peacekeepers in the aftermath of the recent conflict with Azerbaijan), probably a handful of other post soviet states. Level of mass death generally far lower than example set by Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan etc

  • 4
    Is the US, with a GDP 11 times bigger than Russia's, a good country to use as a "contemporary" of Russia?
    – Michael W.
    Oct 8, 2021 at 15:48
  • 2
    I am not sure this answer is too useful, even now that the question has been edited back to focus on (presumably permanent) members of the UN Security Council. Primarily, that's because the USA is a single country, and there are four non-Russia members of the Council, whom the answer does not touch on. Further, most of the examples given for the United States do not meet the stated criteria (which, admittedly, can be argued to be too narrow), because they do not involve personnel being deployed against a country.
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 8, 2021 at 18:11
  • 3
    Other than a few weak complaints/objections/criticisms, I don't follow that the US has intervened in the HK situation. There is no dispute the land belongs to China, which has made a promise, at the time the UK handed it over, to keep the system for a certain period but failed to follow through.
    – r13
    Oct 8, 2021 at 19:43
  • 1
    When did Russia intervented in Armenia?
    – convert
    Feb 2, 2022 at 14:47
  • 1
    Can you please cite your sources and actually spell out your acronyms when you use them in full.
    – hszmv
    Mar 15, 2023 at 11:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .