In the Thick of It

A blog on the U.S.-Russia relationship
Russia war report card

October 31 update: Ongoing stalemate. Ukraine held another peace conference attended by over 60 countries, but not Russia or China. Net territorial change in the past month: Ukraine +16 square miles.

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Mike Johnson

After weeks of stalemate, Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson was elected as the new Speaker of the House on Oct. 25, 2023. Johnson, who was elected to Congress in 2016, initially expressed support for Ukraine in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian war, stating that the United States “should impose debilitating sanctions on Russia’s economic interests.” However, Johnson has since shown resistance to the provision of aid for Ukraine. For instance, he stated that the U.S. should not provide additional aid “when our own border is in chaos, American mothers are struggling to find baby formula, gas prices are at record highs and American families are struggling to make ends meet, without sufficient oversight over where the money will go.” This stance has earned him an “F” on the GOP Congressional Report Card, both in terms of his voting patterns as well as his anti-Ukraine statements.

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Russia war report card

October 24 update: No significant territorial change. Biden gave a speech on US aid for Ukraine, arguing that if not stopped, Putin “won’t limit himself just to Ukraine.” Net territorial change in the past month: Ukraine +16 square miles.

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Russia war report card

October 17 update: Continued stalemate. Zelensky confirmed Ukraine’s first use of ATACMS missiles from US, against airfields in Russian-occupied Ukraine. Net territorial change in the past month: Ukraine +3 square miles.

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Russia war report card

October 10 update: No significant territorial change. Putin said Russia may withdraw from the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Net territorial change in the past month: Ukraine +8 square miles.

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Russia war report card

October 3 update: Persistent stalemate. US short-term spending bill passed without Ukraine funding, but several months of short-term aid remains available. Net territorial change in the past month: Ukraine +7 square miles.

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Ukrainian tanks

Speaking to BBC on Sept. 10, 2023, America’s outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Mark Milley predicted that the weather will continue to favor fighting in Ukraine until about Oct. 10-25. “There's still a reasonable amount of time, probably about 30 to 45 days' worth of fighting weather left, so the Ukrainians aren't done,” the general said. Milley, whose JCS role ends Oct. 1, could have a plausible weather forecast we do not have access to. Or he could be speaking from the experience of watching (and advising on one side) the Russian and Ukrainian forces as they battled each other last fall and winter. If so, does this very recent history (October 2022-February 2023) support the proposition that “Generals Mud and Frost” may force the Ukrainian and Russian forces to scale down combat and enter a seasonal stalemate? Here is what we have learned.

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Russia war report card

September 26 update: No significant territorial change. Zelensky said Ukraine's counteroffensive will not stop during winter and claimed Ukraine will liberate 3 more cities. Net territorial change in the past month: Russia +15 square miles.

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Russia war report card

September 19 update: Continued stalemate. Zelensky and Biden appealed for support at the UN before Zelensky’s planned trip to Washington DC. Net territorial change in the past month: Russia +19 square miles.

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Moscow

The Levada Center has just released the latest installment in its series of polls on which countries Russians consider to be “great” as well as on their general attitudes toward certain countries. The polls show that the share of Russians who view their own country as great has almost doubled in the past two decades from 43% in 2002 to 80% in 2023 (Table 1) in a clear reflection that both a recent streak of increases in Russia’s national power and the Kremlin’s consistent messaging on Russia’s “rise from its knees” during Vladimir Putin’s rule continue to have an impact on the Russian public.

In addition to increasingly seeing their own country as great, Russians also see a similar trend in China. In fact, the share of Levada respondents who view China as great has more than tripled, from 19% in 2002 to 63% in 2023, reflecting the steady strengthening of Moscow’s alignment with Beijing. The share of Russians who view India, with which Russia has enjoyed steadily positive relations, as great, has also nearly tripled, from 5% to 14% during the same period.  

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