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4 Things to Know

  1.  More than four-fifths of the Armenian population of the self-recognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) have left their homes out of fear for their lives to seek refuge in Armenia after the Azerbaijani military violated the trilateral ceasefire agreement of November 2020 to attack and overwhelm the breakaway republic’s meagre defense forces. The latter were forced to lay down their arms in the absence of help from either the Republic of Armenia or the country’s one-time security guarantor, Russia. A total of 97,700 out of Karabakh’s 120,000-strong Armenian population had already arrived in the Republic of Armenia as of the evening of Sept. 29, heralding a likely end to more than two millennia of continuous habitation of this region by Armenians.
  2. In the past month, Russian forces have gained 31 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 16, according to the Sept. 26 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card published by the Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force.  On Sept. 29  “heavy fighting” continued at Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, according to Ukraine’s DeepState OSINT Telegram channel. The Ukrainian military claimed last week that its forces had breached the main Russian defensive line near the village of Verbove, which is located near Robotyne, but searches of open sources produced no evidence of that purported breach significantly expanding this week.
  3. The head of Russia’s leading nuclear research center said Russia should consider resumption of atomic tests and called for revising Russia’s nuclear deterrence doctrine. Director of the Kurchatov Center Mikhail Kovalchuk—whose brother Yuri reportedly advised Putin to reinvade Ukraine—claimed that Americans “immediately” entered negotiations with the Soviets after the USSR tested a 50-megaton thermonuclear bomb in October 1961. “It’s enough to carry out tests on Novaya Zemlya ... at least once. And everything will fall into place,” the Kurchatov chief was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying on Sept. 28. Kovalchuk also said Russia’s nuclear deterrence policy should be aligned with geopolitical realities, which he said include the West’s increasingly aggressive attitude toward Russia.
  4. Russia’s use of Chinese currency for its imports has increased almost 21-fold, according to new study by the European Bank for Reconstruction and DevelopmentBy the end of 2022, 20% of Russia’s imports were invoiced in yuan—up from 3% a year previously, FT reported, citing the new study. Russia’s rising trade in yuan may end up undermining the U.S. dollar, according to the study, as cited by Bloomberg.
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4 Ideas to Explore

  1. The Russian military “is showing some capacity to learn from” at least some of its early mistakes, according to WSJ’s Matthew Luxmoore. Among other things, Russian commanders have learned to keep their warplanes outside the range of Ukrainian air defense systems while adding guidance to older ammunition carried by these planes. The Russian infantry now digs deeper and more fortified trenches, while hiding their armored vehicle in tree lines, according to Luxmoore. That said, the Russian military in Ukraine still suffers from “a Soviet-style top-down structure that allows little initiative for front-line commanders,” Luxmoore writes.
  2. Washington and Kyiv need to start addressing the problems of a longer war in Ukraine, according to Hal Brands of Johns Hopkins’ SAIS. For one, they need to adapt military strategy as “Ukraine’s current offensive initially struggled because the country sought to mimic Western tactics without the advantages, such as air superiority, Western militaries have come to expect,” according to Brands. In addition, a “longer war may require accepting higher risks of escalation,” Brands warns in his Bloomberg column.
  3. Sergei Karaganov claims he does not “see any chance to awaken a sense of self-preservation in the Western global elites other than through an escalation of the nuclear threat.” “If nuclear weapons will have to be used (God forbid), the strike should be of a sufficiently large proportion,” according to Karaganov, who sits on the Scientific Council of Russia’s Security Council. A September 2023 RAND study has found that “[s]hould Russia decide to use nuclear weapons, it may be relatively unrestrained in their employment inside Ukraine.” Karaganov’s claim can be interpreted as a continuation of efforts by Russian government-connected experts and pundits to intimidate the West into discontinuing support for Ukraine in the ongoing war with Russia.*
  4. Armenia's pivot West was probably badly timed. It alienated the Russians without bringing reliable Western help,” according to WP columnist David Ignatius. “The Biden administration's policy now is to prevent the ethnic cleansing that Armenians fear,” Ignatius writes. Given that the exodus of Karabakh Armenians has already begun, that policy could already be stillborn.
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