Kimberly Marten Jan. 2022

Kimberly Marten



Political Science


Milstein 1106



I am a professor at Barnard College, Columbia University, specializing in international relations, international security, Russia, and the global politics of climate change. I am a faculty member and executive committee member of Columbia’s Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies, and Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. I am also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and have served on two bipartisan independent CFR task forces: on U.S. policy in the Arctic, and on cybersecurity and U.S. foreign policy

Current Work

One strand of my current work focuses on the future of Russia's Wagner Group "private" military company, and its now-deceased contractor Yevgeny Prigozhin. I was honored to give congressional testimony twice on these topics (July 2020, written testimony here; and Sept. 2022, written testimony here). I wrote a definitive 2019 study of the history and activities of the Wagner Group in Post-Soviet Affairs, and in fall 2023 made predictions about what might happen next in the journal Survival of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). In 2024 the CNAS think-tank published my co-written piece on why and how Russia might use similar groups in its own Eurasian neighborhood going forward. I wrote about Prigozhin's June 2023 mutiny in the Guardian, about the difficulties of having the Russian military take it over in Russia Matters (published by the Kennedy School's Belfer Center at Harvard University), and about which other paramilitary groups might absorb it in the Russian Analytical Digest. I was interviewed about the mutiny, and then later about Prigozhin's death, on CNN Newsroom With Laila Harrak, by Amna Nawaz on PBS Newshour, by the Democracy Now public television show three times (here, here, and here), on NPR's Here and Now, PRX public radio's The World, NPR's The 1A  and The Indicator, Voice of America (in Russian), Canada's CBC News TV, Germany's Der Spiegel and, and Forbes Breaking News video twice (here and here), among others. I discussed the future of the group with Vanda Felbab-Brown, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, and Jim Townsend on the CNAS Brussels Sprouts podcast. I was featured in a Columbia SIPA faculty spotlight, and took part in a SIPA faculty online panel. Earlier I analyzed Wagner's Feb. 2018 confrontation with US forces in Syria (War on the Rocks), the reasoning behind their semi-legal status (Lawfare), and their uses by the Russian state in Ukraine, Syria, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, and Libya, in three PONARS-Eurasia memos (herehere and here). In 2022 I spoke about Russia's use of Wagner in its war in Ukraine for BBC World Service radio's The Inquiry (starting at about minute 17).

A second theme of my current work concerns Russia/NATO relations. I unpacked and analyzed the history and status of Russia's relationship with NATO and NATO enlargement, in International Politics (reprinted and updated to include discussion of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in a 2023 edited volume), in the European Journal of International Security, in an H-Diplo International Security Studies Forum roundtable, and in a report commissioned by the Council on Foreign Relations. I wrote about how Russia's invasion of Ukraine posed dangers for NATO in the New York Daily News, and about Finland's bid to join NATO in I also participated in a Council on Foreign Relations roundtable event that revisited NATO enlargement in light of Russia's invasion. I was interviewed about NATO's July 2023 summit and offering membership to Ukraine in Meduza

A third continuing research interest is the politics of the changing Arctic, which I spoke about at the Climate Change and (In)security Project of the UK Army and Oxford University (starting at about minute 34.00 here), with a chapter forthcoming in an edited volume, Climate Change, Conflict and (In)Security: Hot War, in the Routledge Advances in Defence Studies series. The Harriman Institute and Eurasianet published a podcast interviewing me about my research on Russian Arctic extractive enterprises and climate change.

Past Work

Beyond this, I have expertise on a broad range of Russian security and foreign policy issues. I gave congressional testimony about Russian military and economic interests and influence in Latin America and the Caribbean (July 2022, written testimony here), and analyzed Russia's overall aims in Africa in the Washington Quarterly I analyzed Putin's rationality and the danger of inadvertent escalation in Russia's war in Ukraine in a PONARS policy memo. I spoke about the brewing 2022 Russia/Ukraine crisis with Preet Bharara on his Stay Tuned podcast, on WNYC radio's "The Takeaway," and on an expert panel cosponsored by the Saltzman and Harriman Institutes, and then spoke about Russia's invasion with Amna Nawaz on NPR's 1A, with Hari Sreenivasan on PBS Newshour Weekend, and on Canada's CBC television.I participated in longer panel discussions on the Russian invasion at Barnard with President Sian Beilock and Trustee Steven Solnick, at the Harriman Institute, and at a Columbia Inside briefing.

I have also analyzed Russia’s intelligence agencies under Putin (Routledge Handbook and the Journal of Slavic Military Studies), and explained (International Politics) Putin's decision to meddle in the 2016 U.S. elections, and to intervene militarily in Ukraine in 2014 (The Washington Quarterly)Other Russia-related work is in The New RepublicForeignAffairs.comH-Diplo, the Huffington Post, and the Washington Post's Monkey Cage Blog (hereherehereherehere, and here). I discussed Putin's foreign and security policy on the The Daily Show (extended interview here) with Jon Stewart, CBS This Morning Saturday (here and here), the Charlie Rose Show, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, PBS NewsHour Weekend with Hari Sreenivasan (herehereherehere, and here), NPR's All Things Considered with Ari Shapiro and Audie CornishFresh Air with Terry Gross, The 1A (herehere, and here) with Joshua Johnson, Here and Now with Robin Young, KQED's Forum, and WNYC's The Takeaway, among others.

Before this, I analyzed the politics of warlords, asking how their patronage networks impact sovereignty and state failure. In Warlords: Strong-Arm Brokers in Weak States (Cornell University Press, 2012), I  traced the development of warlordism and its consequences in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, and post-Soviet Georgia and the Republic of Chechnya in Russia. I discussed the book on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show and Wisconsin Public Radio.  The book was reviewed in an H-Diplo/International Security Studies Forum roundtable. In International Security, she compared warlordism in Afghanistan and Somalia to medieval Europe and Republican-era China. I researched militias and security sector reform in weak states, including work on the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, published in International Peacekeeping and in the International Herald Tribune/New York Times. My chapter on the Afghan Local Police appears in an edited volume on The Transnational Governance of Violence and Crime, following an earlier opinion piece in the IHT/NYT. With Olga Oliker I wrote about the threat of warlordism in Ukraine's patriotic militias in War on the Rocks.

My earlier books include Engaging the Enemy: Organization Theory and Soviet Military Innovation (Princeton, 1993), which received the Marshall Shulman Prize; Weapons, Culture, and Self-Interest: Soviet Defense Managers in the New Russia (Columbia, 1997); and Enforcing the Peace: Learning from the Imperial Past (Columbia, 2004).

I earned my A.B. in 1985 at Harvard magna cum laude and Ph.D. in 1991 at Stanford. I was a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation; a visiting scholar at Harvard's Olin Institute for Strategic Studies; a visiting scholar at Tokyo's Institute for International Policy Studies (via a Hitachi/Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship); and a visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. I have served as chair of the Barnard Political Science Department twice (2006-2009 and 2018-2021), and held the 5-year term Ann Whitney Olin Professorship from 2013-18. My research has been supported by the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Social Science Research Council/MacArthur Foundation, and the Government of Canada.

  • A.B., Harvard University
  • Ph.D., Stanford University

  • POLS BC3605 The Global Politics of Climate Change: Syllabus Fall 2023
  • POLS BC3060 Colloquium on the Politics of the Arctic: Syllabus Fall 2023
  • POLS UN1601 International Politics: Syllabus Fall 2021
  • POLS GU4875 Russia and the West: Intensive Syllabus Spring 2021; Regular Syllabus Spring 2020
  • POLS BC3118 Colloquium on International Security: Syllabus Spring 2023
  • POLS BC3055  Colloquium on Political Violence and Terrorism: Syllabus Spring 2018
  • POLS BC3812  Colloquium on State Failure, Warlords and Pirates: Syllabus Spring 2017

Kimberly Marten, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Carisa Nietsche, Nicholas Lokker, and Kristen Taylor, “Potential Russian Uses of Paramilitaries in Eurasia,” Center for a New American Security (Washington, DC), Jan. 17, 2024

"Russian Foreign Paramilitary Outfits beyond Wagner," Russian Analytical Digest no. 303 (Oct. 18, 2023): 12-16.

"Whither Wagner? The Consequences of Prigozhin’s Mutiny and Demise," Survival (IISS) 65, no. 5 (2023): 45-64.

"Why the Wagner Group Cannot Be Easily Absorbed by the Russian Military—and What That Means for the West," Russia Matters (Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center), Sept. 1, 2023.

"The perplexing aftermath of the Wagner mutiny shows Putin is more vulnerable than ever," The Guardian, Aug. 4, 2023.

“Geopolitics and Security in the Changing Arctic,” chapter 2 in Climate Change, Conflict and (In)Security: Hot War, ed. Timothy Clack, Ziya Meral, and Louise Selisny (Abingdon-on-Thames, UK: Routledge/Taylor & Francis, forthcoming Dec. 2023).

"NATO Enlargement: Evaluating its Consequences in Russia," in Evaluating NATO Enlargement: From Cold War Victory to the Russia-Ukraine War, ed. James Goldgeier and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023), pp. 209-249, reprinted and updated from its initial publication in International Politics 57 (2020): 401-426.

"Russia’s Use of the Wagner Group: Definitions, Strategic Objectives, and Accountability," testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security, United States House of Representatives, Sept. 15, 2022.

"Russian Military and Economic Interests and Influence in Latin America and the Caribbean: Threats, Limits, and U.S. Policy Recommendations," testimony before the Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration, and International Economic Policy, United States House of Representatives, July 20, 2022.

"Finland's New Frontier: Will Russia Seek to Disrupt Helsinki's NATO Bid?", May 4, 2022.

"President Putin’s Rationality and Escalation in Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine," PONARS-Eurasia Policy Memo 756, Mar. 9, 2022.

"How This Invasion Threatens NATO: Seeing Putin's Gameplan," New York Daily News, Feb. 25, 2022.

Essay in "NATO Expansion in Retrospect," H-Diplo International Security Studies Forum Policy Roundtable 12-1, Oct. 19, 2020.  

"Where’s Wagner? The All-New Exploits of Russia’s 'Private' Military Company," PONARS-Eurasia Policy Memo 670, Sept. 2020.  

“The GRU, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and Russia’s Wagner Group: Malign Russian Actors and Possible U.S. Responses,” testimony before the Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment, United States House of Representatives, Hearing on Exposing and Demanding Accountability for Kremlin Crimes Abroad, July 7, 2020,

"Russia's Back in Africa: Is the Cold War Returning?" The Washington Quarterly 42, no. 4 (Dec. 2019): 155-70,

"Russ-Afrique? Russia, France, and the Central African Republic," PONARS-Eurasia Policy Memo 608, Aug. 2019,

"Russia’s Use of Semi-State Security Forces: The Case of the Wagner Group," Post-Soviet Affairs, published online March 2019,

"Into Africa: Prigozhin, Wagner, and the Russian Military," PONARS-Eurasia Policy Memo 561, Jan. 2019, 

“The Intelligence Agencies and Putin: Undermining Russia’s Security?” in The Routledge Handbook of Russian Security, ed. Roger Kanet (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2019), pp. 192-202.

With Olga Oliker, "Brothers in Arms? Why Trump Should Push Putin to Revive Arms Control,", July 13, 2018, 

"Semi-state Security Actors and Russian Aggression," Lawfare blog, July 8, 2018, 

"The Puzzle of Russian Behavior in Deir-al-zour," War on the Rocks blog, July 5, 2018,

"Reckless Ambition: Moscow's Policy toward the United States, 2016/17," International Politics 56 (2019): 743–761 (published online May 2, 2018).

“Explaining Russia’s Schizophrenic Policy toward the United States,” PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo 501, Jan. 2018.

"Reconsidering NATO Expansion: A Counterfactual Analysis of Russia and the West in the 1990s," European Journal of International Security 3, no. 2 (June 2018), doi:10.1017/eis.2017.16 . Published online first.

"Digital Détente: The Case for Cyber Peace with Russia," The New Republic, Jan./Feb. 2018 (published online Nov. 28, 2017),

With Olga Oliker, "Ukraine's Volunteer Militias May Have Saved the Country, but Now They Threaten It," War on the Rocks, Sept. 14, 2017,

"President Trump, Keep in Mind that Russia and the West Think about Negotiations Very, Very Differently," Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, July 25, 2017.

"The ‘KGB State’ and Russian Political and Foreign Policy Culture," Journal of Slavic Military Studies 30, no. 2 (April 2017): 131-51.

Reducing Tensions between NATO and Russia, Council Special Report 79 (Council on Foreign Relations Center for Preventive Action), March 2017.

Essay in SSF Policy Roundtable 1-7: Russia and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, March 27, 2017. 

"Trump and Putin, through a Glass Darkly," Asia Policy 23 (Jan. 2017): 36-42.

"The Security Costs and Benefits of Non-State Militias: The Example of Eastern Ukraine," PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo 391, September 2015.

“Debunking the Stationary Bandit Myth: Violence and Governance in Statebuilding History,” in Non-State Challenges in a Re-Ordered World: The Jackals of Westphalia? ed. Stefano Ruzza, Anja P. Jakobi and Charles C. Geisler (New York: Routledge, 2015).

“Putin’s Choices: Explaining Russian Foreign Policy and Intervention in Ukraine,” The Washington Quarterly 38, no. 2 (Summer 2015): 189-204.

“Informal Political Networks and Putin’s Foreign Policy: The Examples of Iran and Syria,” Problems of Post-Communism 62, no. 2 (April 2015): 71-87.

"Reformed or Deformed?  Patronage Politics, International Influence, and the Palestinian Security Forces," International Peacekeeping 21, no. 2 (June 2014): 181-97.

"A New Explanation for Russian Foreign Policy: The Power of Informal Patronage Networks," PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo 274, September 2013.

“Warlords and Governance,” in The Transnational Governance of Violence and Crime: Non-State Actors in Security, ed. Anja P. Jakobi and Klaus Dieter Wolf (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp. 23-29.  Governance and Limited Statehood Series.

"The Bane of Palestinian Infighting," International Herald Tribune, June 27, 2013.

Warlords: Strong-Arm Brokers in Weak States.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012.

"Uncertain Loyalty: The Challenges of Cooperating with Militias," Jane's Intelligence Review, December 2012: 41-5.

"Patronage vs. Professionalism in New Security Institutions," Prism (National Defense University Center for Complex Operations) 2, no. 4 (Sept. 2011): 83-98.

“Warlords,” in The Changing Character of War, ed. Hew Strachan and Sibylle Scheipers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

“Failing States and Conflict,” in The International Studies Encyclopedia (a peer-reviewed compendium of scholarly concepts in international relations, a project of the International Studies Association), ed. Robert A. Denemark (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).

“From Kabul to Kandahar: The Canadian Forces and Change,” American Review of Canadian Studies 40, no. 2 (June 2010): 214-36.

“The Danger of Tribal Militias in Afghanistan: Learning from the British Empire,” Journal of International Affairs (Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs) 63, no. 1 (Fall/Winter 2009): 157-74.

“Correspondence: Misunderstanding Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas?” substantive response letter, International Security 33, no. 3 (Winter 2008/9): 180-85.

"Statebuilding and Force: The Proper Role of Foreign Militaries," Journal of Intervention and State-Building1, no. 2 (June 2007): 231-47.  Reprinted in Statebuilding and Intervention: Policies, Practices and Paradigms, ed. David Chandler (New York: Routledge, 2009).

“Russian Efforts to Control Kazakhstan’s Oil: The Kumkol Case,” Post-Soviet Affairs 23, no. 1 (Jan.-Mar. 2007): 18-37.

“Is Stability the Answer?” in Leashing the Dogs of War: Conflict Management in a Divided World, ed. Pamela Aall, Chester A. Crocker and Fen Osler Hampson (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2007).

“Warlordism in Comparative Perspective,” International Security 31, no. 3 (Winter 2006/7): 41-73.

Enforcing the Peace: Learning from the Imperial Past.  New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

Weapons, Culture, and Self-Interest: Soviet Defense Managers in the New Russia.  New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Engaging the Enemy: Organization Theory and Soviet Military Innovation, 1955-1991.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

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