Nicolò Fasola

Russia's Way of War: What Can Strategic Culture Explain?nicolo fasola

Supervisors: Dr Derek Averre and Prof Mark Webber

Nicolò’s doctoral research aims at providing a theory-led account of Russia’s distinctive approach to war-fighting and its interrelation with the country’s self-perception and worldview.

Nicolò follows a three-step approach. Firstly, he researches the theory of strategic culture. Secondly, he infers the ultimate principles informing Russia’s strategic culture from the analysis of a wide range of Russian primary sources and broad military practices. And thirdly, he tests his findings against three case studies - namely Russia’s interventions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria.

Nicolò claims that Russia’s way of war has been considerably consistent in the timeframe 2008-2018. This continuity depends on the homeostatic tendencies of culture and the organisational dynamics of the security elite. The nature of Russia’s strategic culture can be explained by reference to the selective sedimentation of (military) historical experiences in Russia’s collective memory and their interaction with the country’s specific social organisation. 

Short Biography

Nicolò Fasola is a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham and teaching assistant at the University of Bologna. Throughout February-April 2022 he will be an Eisenhower PhD Fellow at the NATO Defense College (NDC).

Prior to his current roles, Nicolò was adjunct lecturer at the University of Salford, visiting researcher at Saint Petersburg State University and Friedrich-Schiller University Jena, as well as a researcher with UniAdrion. He also served with the Italian Embassy in Estonia and NATO Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).

Nicolò speaks Italian, English and Russian. He is working to improve his German.


  • BA International and European Studies (University of Milan)
  • MA Interdisciplinary Research and Studies on Eastern Europe (joint degree — University of Bologna, Saint Petersburg State University, Vytautas Magnus University Kaunas, Corvinus University Budapest)

Teaching Responsibilities


  • International History in the Contemporary Era (TA, University of Bologna)
  • Relazioni Internazionali (TA, University of Bologna)
  • Guest lecturer at the University of Bologna and Friedrich-Schiller University Jena


  • Guest lecturer at the University of Bologna


  • Problems of World History (TA, University of Birmingham)
  • Russian Foreign Policy Since 1991 (convenor, University of Salford)
  • Guest lecturer at the University of Bologna and Saint Petersburg State University

Professional Memberships

  • British International Studies Association (BISA)
  • Società Italiana di Scienze Politiche (SISP)

Research interests

  • Russia’s security policy and military thought
  • NATO
  • Security sector reform
  • Post-socialist transition(s)
  • IR theory and security studies

Conference Papers

  • Russia’s War-fighting in Syria — presented at the Defence and Security Doctoral Symposium, Cranfield University (GBR), 09 November 2021. 
  • What kind of contestant? Ideational drivers and constraints of Russia’s international action’ — paper presented at the roundtable The Contestants of the US-led International Order, annual conference of the Standing Group on International Relations, Società Italiana di Scienze Politiche (SISP) (online venue), 8 June 2021.
  • Russia’s Military Preferences and Nuclear Use: Is There an ‘Escalate to De-escalate Doctrine’?’ — paper presented at the 2nd Early Career Nuclear Strategists Workshop (ECSNW), NATO Defence College (online venue), 30 June-2 July 2020.
  • Analysis of the state of play of multi-level and multi-factor governance in the Adriatic-Ionian area’ — paper presented at the seminar The Role Played by Multi-level and Multi-factor Governance in the EU Policies, organised by the Conference for Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPRM) and the Adriatic-Ionian Euroregion, University of Molise (online venue), 4-5 November 2019.
  • ‘Sovereignty and (non-)intervention: nature and implications of the normative clash between NATO and Russia’ — paper presented at the annual conference of the Transatlantic Studies Associations (TSA), University of Lancaster, 8-10 July 2019.
  • NATO-Russia relations through the prism of strategic culture’ — paper presented at the 12th Pan-European Conference on International Relations, EISA-CEEISA, University of Economics, Prague, 12-15 September 2018.
  • NATO-Russia relations through the prism of strategic culture’ — paper presented at the international conference Russia and China in the Global World, University of Bologna, Forlì, 14-15 December 2017.


Book chapters

  • (to be published, 2022) ‘Sviluppo e determinanti del controllo degli armamenti nucleari tra Stati Uniti e Russia’ in: plures, America is back. Gli Stati Uniti e il ritorno della competizione tra grandi potenze. Milan: Vita e Pensiero.
  • (to be published, 2022) ‘Interessi e percezioni nell’era del cyber: NATO e Russia’, in: Morini, M. and Natalizia, G. (eds) Russia sotto assedio? Arene convenzionali e non convenzionali nel grande gioco del XXI secolo. Rome: Carocci.
  • (2022) (co-author with Lorenzo Riggi) ‘La Federazione Russa’, in: Natalizia, G., Termine, L., Carteny, A., Tosti Di Stefano, E. (eds) Verso un nuovo concetto strategico per la NATO. Prospettive e interessi dell’Italia. Rome: Edizioni Nuova Cultura, pp. 119-132.
  • (2021) ‘The shaky grounds of Russia’s ‘escalate to de-escalate doctrine’, in Gilli, A. (ed.). Challenges to NATO’s Nuclear Strategy. Research Paper, no. 22, Rome: NATO Defence College (NDC), pp. 3-16.
  • (co-author with Sonia Lucarelli) (2020) ‘NATO-Russia relations through the prism of strategic culture’, in Bianchini, S. and Fiori, A. (eds) Rekindling the Strong State in Russia and China. Leiden: Brill, pp. 223-248.
  • (co-author with Sonia Lucarelli) (2018) ‘I rapporti tra Alleanza atlantica e Russia dalla fine della guerra fredda’ in Bianchini, S. and Fiori, A. (eds) Russia e Cina nel mondo globale. Due potenze tra dinamiche interne e internazionali. Rome: Carocci, pp. 133-148.

Monographic research outputs

Journal articles


Policy papers


Media and Public Engagements


Consulting and advice:

  • Products: strategic scenarios, risk assessment, military affairs
  • Clients: governmental bodies, non-governmental organisations, private firms


Contact details:


Linkedin: Nicolò Fasola LinkedIn profile