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The last decade has seen a rise in the frequency of proxy wars. This has significantly shaped conflict and its consequences in several geopolitically significant areas, from the Middle East to the Horn of Africa. 

A proxy war is a conflict in which one party, often a great power, sponsors rebels and other non-state groups to fight on its behalf.  This is a key feature of recent conflicts in Syria and Libya and also of how Russia has fought in Ukraine. But why would states delegate their war-fighting to rebels? 

Vladimir’s research has shown that we can think of proxy war as an indirect military strategy that avoids the need for direct military confrontation with the opponent.  By analysing the contemporary dynamics of political violence in the Middle East, he has identified a range of strategic goals that states pursue when they resort to proxy wars.  However, his research has also shown that this involves risky trade-offs that can generate serious unintended consequences.  

“Proxy wars are a defining feature of contemporary conflict and one of the most exciting areas for students of international relations to explore.”  

Vladimir’s research informs two modules offered by the Department of Politics and International Relations. In Part 1, War and Warfare introduces students to different types of war and encourages them to think critically about their causes and drivers.  In Part 3, Dynamics of Civil War invites students to examine the many processes taking place when states experience organised internal violence: how rebels seek external support, how they govern, and how they fight. Vladimir employs an interactive teaching style and encourages students to use real-world examples in their discussions. He hopes to train the next generation to understand and explore vital issues such as the causes and consequences of proxy wars.