The Russian Annexation of Crimea 2014 : Which Role for Surprise, especially for Germany?

This paper examines the role that surprise played in the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, particularly for Germany. It finds that the phenomenon of surprise was unanimously observed by those scrutinizing Crimea’s annexation, but its role or effect not systematically examined. Rather, surprise was neglected as a possibly decisive factor. Based on an analysis of its own data set on the annexation of Crimea in 2014, this research comes to the diametric assumption that surprise was decisive for the outcome of the annexation. Moreover, the analysis finds that the decisive surprise was planned and contrived by Russia. The conditions not by keeping Russia's opponents in the dark about its true intentions, but at reassuring them in the false alternative. In attempting to assess the diametrically opposed assumptions about the role of surprise in the annexation of Crimea through a recourse to the theoretical debate on the role of surprise and deception in strategy, the paper finds that both explanations find their expression in the schools of strategic thought. Where you stand on surprise depends on where you sit in strategy. While this shoes the continued relevance of strategy, it leaves the central question of this research intractable until unambiguous evidence on how Russia annexed Crimea is available. The paper argues that the disregard of surprise as an element of strategy in the debate about the annexation of Crimea, especially in Germany, is a sign of increasing strategy blindness. Against the backdrop of the intra-German debate on Germany's international responsibility, which has been ongoing since 2013, the work suggests a cross-departmental examination of the phenomenon of surprise, as well as the establishment of a chair for strategic studies at a German university.


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