Russia Analytical Report, Apr. 10-17, 2023

5 Ideas to Explore

The West has so far allowed Kyiv to set the aims of the war, but this policy has run its course as “Ukraine’s goals are coming into conflict with other Western interests,” according to Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan. The time has come for the U.S. and its partners to formulate a diplomatic endgame, they write in FA. This endgame should include a cease-fire as Ukraine’s coming offensive reaches its limits. If the cease-fire holds, two-track peace talks should follow. “On one track would be direct talks between Ukraine and Russia, facilitated by international mediators, on the terms of peace … On the second track, NATO allies would start a strategic dialogue with Russia on arms control and the broader European security architecture,” according to Haass of CFR and Kupchan of Georgetown University.

“In the leaked American intelligence documents, Ukraine’s predicament looks dire,” according to NYT’s analysis of the leaks. Yet, there is “little palpable alarm” about these revelations in Kyiv, despite their indication that the Ukrainian armed forces are enduring heavy casualties and running out of defensive missiles, and as it remains unclear whether the West will deliver what Kyiv needs for its counteroffensive, which has been set for April 30. U.S. intelligence has so far observed no evidence that Russia has sealed off its sources in the wake of the leaks, according to NYT. Nevertheless, the fallout from this third major leak of US classified materials in 13 years will be tangible, and the leak itself is inexcusable, according to FT.

Three factors have helped the U.S. and its NATO allies succeed in reducing the risk of being dragged into an escalation with Russia as the latter engaged in nuclear threats in hopes of manipulating the course of the war in its favor, according to a note published in FRS by Sascha Hach and Polina Sinovets. First, the Russian nuclear threats were not imitated by the U.S. and its allies. Second, China and India, as well as many other members of the G20, were diplomatically engaged into an anti-nuclear war alliance. Third, this was combined with an ambivalent deterrence focusing on conventional counterstrike options.

American commentators who have said “things on U.S. airwaves that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin agreed with or found helpful” should now use their relative popularity in Russia to protest WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich’s detention, according to  Peggy Noonan. “Protest what has happened here, sharply and repeatedly. Might it help? Who knows. Maybe not. But it's something,” the WSJ columnist writes in her latest column, entitled “Evan Gershkovich Is Not a Spy.”

A newly-passed Russian law that enables authorities to send military draft notices by email, and to penalize failure to report to service brings Russia much closer to digital totalitarianism, according to Tatiana Stanovaya of R.Politik. “The war has taken the state’s need for digital control to a whole new level, but it’s no longer just about regulating the draft or further mobilization,” she writes in a commentary for the Carnegie Endowement. Rather “the state is seeking to overhaul the traditional system of government coercion, to automate control of individual behavior without involving those individuals, their lawyers, or the courts. Constitutional rights are becoming conditional upon a person’s status within the state system of digital control,” she writes.


I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security and safety:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Leaks of alleged US intelligence information on military aspects of the Ukraine conflict:

“Leaked Intel Altered Little In Strategies,” reporters Anton Troianovski, Andrew E. Kramer, Erika Solomon, Eric Schmitt, NYT, 04.15.23.

  • “In the leaked American intelligence documents, Ukraine's predicament looks dire. Missiles for its Soviet-era air defenses are projected to run out by May. Its position in the key city of Bakhmut is ‘catastrophic.’ Its military has taken losses of more than 120,000 dead and wounded — less than Russia's estimated toll, but enormous for a country with less than one third of Russia's population. … Yet in Kyiv … some welcomed the leak, hoping that it would emphasize what President Volodymyr Zelensky has been saying for months — that Ukraine urgently needs more ammunition and weapons to expel the Russian forces.”
  • “The documents are focusing heightened attention on Ukraine's challenges, the shortcomings in Western military aid and the uncertainty of what comes next. Whether Ukraine's Western allies are going to be able to deliver what Kyiv needs in this crucial moment is a major open question. … One of the West's biggest concerns about the leaks has been that Russia would scramble to find and seal off the sources of American intelligence. But in the week since the classified documents were posted widely on Telegram and Twitter, that fear has yet to materialize.”
  • “Beyond that, Ukrainian officials, while voicing their displeasure with the leaks, have told American officials that the disclosures will not seriously impact their planned offensive because Russia already knew the broad parameters of Ukrainian vulnerabilities (like its shortages of weapons and ammunition). And the documents did not disclose precisely when, where and how the Ukrainians would carry out their counteroffensive, one senior U.S. official said.” According to Newsweek’s analysis of the leaked documents, however, these documents say that “Ukrainian offensive planned for April 30.”
  • “While the documents show that American spy agencies have intercepted Russian military communications, sometimes down to the details of planned Russian attacks, they offer little indication that the United States has been able to eavesdrop on the conversations of Russia's leadership. In the documents seen by The New York Times … information about President Vladimir V. Putin and his inner circle appears mainly as hearsay.”  
  • “For the cadre of analysts around the world parsing social-media videos and commercial satellite imagery to glean information about the war, the intelligence leaks have provided new data points. But several said they saw nothing that caused them to revise their fundamental views of the war, which also point to a protracted conflict.”

"Pentagon Leak Is a New Blow to American Security," editorial board, FT, 04.16.23.  

  • “For a global superpower, one major leak of classified material is bad enough. Three in 13 years is inexcusable. … The most harmful element of the latest leak is that, like previous incidents, it jeopardizes future intelligence-gathering capabilities and endangers US assets and their lives. The documents suggest the US has deeply penetrated Russia’s military, even gaining access to some operational plans. A likely Russian crackdown on internal information-sharing and communications could blunt or remove what has been a source of advantage for the US, and hence Kyiv, during the war.”
  • “Information contained in the leaks on, say, the pace of munitions deliveries to Ukraine, the effectiveness of US weapons there and the state of its air defense systems, could assist Russia’s own operations. Opponents, including not just Moscow but Beijing, can glean much from what the US does and does not appear to know, and from how it evaluates the information it has.”
  • “Ties with allies will again be wounded. Since the Snowden disclosures, the fact that the US spies on them, too, is hardly a revelation. But reports of private conversations in governments in South Korea, Israel or Hungary are an unfortunate reminder of the extent of such operations. Allies, notably in the ‘Five Eyes’ group that includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK, may be less willing to share insights with the US after yet another episode raising questions over whether America can keep secrets.”
  • “Indeed, the most pressing question sparked by the latest farrago is this: how could a junior National Guardsman who enlisted only in 2019 access briefings prepared for top-level officials, let alone print and photograph them? How could they then sit for weeks on a chat platform popular with gamers before senior staff realized?”
  • “No NATO ally has experienced something akin to the Manning, Snowden and now Teixeira cases. When it comes to low-level but destructive leaks, the US is in a dubious class of its own.”

"What Leaked Docs Show About U.S.-Russia Fight for Middle East," correspondent Nahal Toosi, Politico, 04.14.23.

  • “Egypt considered sending tens of thousands of rockets to Russia. Kremlin spies claim the Emiratis are their new best friends. And Israel simply isn’t willing to give serious help to Ukraine as it battles a Russian invasion. Such assertions, contained in a series of leaked U.S. documents that have rattled Washington, underscore the challenge the United States faces in convincing Middle Eastern countries to fully back Ukraine against Russia. That’s especially true as the region’s leaders express increasing concern that the U.S. isn’t committed to them.”
  • “Biden has often presented Russia’s war on Ukraine as a battle between autocracy and democracy. But some of the Middle Eastern countries closest to the United States are autocracies, and their leaders’ priority is staying in power, not promoting democracy.”
  • “If staying in power requires finding more friends in Beijing and Moscow, then Middle Eastern leaders are likely to do just that. ‘Many of these leaders do share some ideological affinities with Russia and China — they probably see the world more like those rulers do than how any U.S. leader does,’ said Amy Hawthorne, an analyst with the Project on Middle East Democracy.”

“Ukraine’s Spring Offensive Just Got Harder,” opinion columnist Andreas Kluth, Bloomberg, 04.13.23.

  • “A huge internet leak of American intelligence — mainly in the form of photos of Pentagon slides and documents — hasn’t revealed a whole lot we didn’t know already, but just enough to cause apprehension.”
  • “The more disturbing insight from the leak is that the Americans are evidently concerned about the Ukrainians’ military weaknesses, especially their insufficient air defenses and low stocks of ammunition. Some of the documents suggest the Ukrainians could run out of certain types of missiles within weeks. If correct, these assessments could help the Russians hit the Ukrainians exactly where it hurts. Not a promising start to a Ukrainian offensive.”

"America’s Allies Are Quietly Exasperated, As Well They Should Be,” Kori Schake of the American Enterprise Institute, FT, 04.14.23.

  • “It’s really bad. So bad the Pentagon is not only conducting its own investigation, it also immediately called in the Justice Department to investigate.”
  • “America’s allies are quietly exasperated, as well they should be. The revelations will pose significant political problems for the government of South Korea (which has been caught out via intercepts prevaricating over whether to send weapons to Ukraine), further Egypt’s difficulties with Congressional approval of military aid (after exposing its secret plans to supply Russia with rockets), and do real damage to Kyiv’s war effort. It will unquestionably impose significant costs on US intelligence as targets take action to shield themselves. It could also prompt allies like Ukraine to restrict access to their operations — as they have with casualty figures. This would make it far harder for NATO partners to assess the course of the war and impact of Western assistance.”
  • “The Pentagon can only hope that the tactical and operational intelligence isn’t useful enough to allow Moscow to torpedo Ukraine’s battle plans. Given America’s part in creating this vulnerability, it should be sending Kyiv replenishment weapons and helping them re-plan their offensive to drive out Russian forces. Its intelligence lapse increased the risk to Ukraine — increasing its assistance is the least it should do.”

“Pentagon Leak Shows Weak Point in National Security: People,” opinion columnist James Stavridis, Bloomberg, 04.15.23.

  • “There are lots of kinds of espionage, but these sorts of ‘insider’ threats are the hardest to control. The intelligence and defense communities have exquisite technical means to guard classified material, but when an unpredictable human gains access, the risk of exposure skyrockets.”
  • “The Pentagon, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, NSA and the rest of the community must redouble their efforts at screening those who apply for security clearances.”
  • “In terms of our allies and their reactions, we have to point out that given the nature of global events, embarrassing incidents like this will occur from time to time.”
  • “We need to course-correct our own plans (as will the Ukrainians) given Moscow’s new level of information about the war as seen through our eyes. Much to be done, and it is already in progress, of course.”

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • No significant developments.

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“More Than a Hobby: Informal Security Assistance to Ukraine,” Lt. Col. Jahara Matisek, William Reno of Northwestern University and Lt. Col. Sam Rosenberg, War on the Rocks, 04.17.23.

  • “Aid from domestic civil society, informal military networks, and foreign volunteers are bolstering the Armed Forces of Ukraine in real and meaningful ways.”
  • “While some may argue that the aid provided by non-state actors — relative to over $113 billion in global aid provided to Ukraine — is too small to make an impact, we believe the aid has had a tangible effect. Highly motivated groups are providing equipment with a comparative advantage in areas where formalized state aid cannot.”
  • “Third parties act with speed and initiative that risk-averse government bureaucracies lack and provide a low-profile and low-risk lever that Western governments can use to amplify the impacts of conventional assistance and strategic-level communications. Such hobbyists often work through important networks of people and trusted information sources beyond the reach of government agencies.”
  • “There are four ways the West can help Ukraine.”
    • “First, the United States can continue to emphasize transparency. Volunteer groups that publish where and how they spend their resources engender public trust and broader, follow-on support.”
    • “Second, U.S. officials can engage critical private companies, like SpaceX, and encourage more robust assistance to Ukraine’s defense. With privately sourced capabilities like Starlink playing decisive roles on the battlefield, such pressure will ensure Ukrainians receive energetic support from both the private and public sectors.”
    • “Third, policymakers can revisit export laws to ensure that the U.S. government transfers key manuals and supporting information for Western equipment without violating export controls.”
    • “Finally, the United States government can incorporate volunteer groups into a long-term, low-cost strategy for irregular warfare in Ukraine.”
  • “As rising costs and fears of escalation continue to shape debates over military assistance to Ukraine, informal security assistance to Kyiv represents a long-term, low-cost irregular option to outcompete Russia and, more importantly, defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

Punitive measures related to Russia’s war against Ukraine and their impact globally:

“Catch-235: Western Dependence on Russian Nuclear Supplies is Hard to Shake,” research fellow Darya Dolzikova, RUSI, 04.12.23.

  • “Russia has continued to export significant amounts of nuclear technology and supplies since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, including to members of the EU and NATO. Additional trade data, not included in the original report but examined by the author since, also shows significant imports of Russian goods by the US, France and others under Harmonized System (HS) Code 284420, which includes enriched uranium used for the production of nuclear reactor fuel.”
  • “The value of HS Code 284420 imports from Russia into the US and France totaled just under $1.2 billion in 2022. This is in addition to the over $1 billion worth of Russian nuclear energy-related exports in the last calendar year detailed in the previous report, which included exports of nuclear reactor fuel, reactor components and mined uranium. However, the total amount of Russian nuclear energy-related technology and material worldwide is undoubtedly even higher.”
  • “Diversification away from Russian supplies – whether in nuclear fuel assemblies, conversion services or enriched uranium – is technically possible, but will require time and resources.”
  • “Proposals to immediately cut out all Russian nuclear supply are likely to be impractical. Instead, Western countries should work towards adopting, as soon as possible, policies which make Russian nuclear supplies less attractive, and which provide Western nuclear industry with the certainty and support it needs to make a sound business case for expanding conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication and reactor export activities.”  

“Russia’s War Demands a Long-Term Economic Response,” Elaine Dezenski and Peter Doran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, NI, 04.11.23.

  • “To properly counter Russia’s expanded economic war, sanctions, and other economic consequences against Russia should be aggressively expanded.”
    • “The United States should increase secondary sanctions, eliminate sanctions exemptions (and omissions) in the banking sector, address weaknesses in the oil price cap, and hobble the Russian energy sector, including winding down U.S. dependence on Russian state-owned Rosatom.”
    • “In addition, the United States and its allies should take steps to cut out the Russian alternative to SWIFT and similar economic workarounds. The West should reach out to neutral economies, like India, Turkey, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates — making a case for the benefits of joining the democratic fold against Russia... and the consequences of continuing to do business with Putin or joining an anti-Western alliance with China.”
    • “Finally, the United States must levy real and substantial punishments for sanctions evasion — with particular attention to third countries such as China as well as so-called ‘enablers’ that move tainted Russian money through the Western financial system.”

“Russia’s Mining Strategy: Geopolitical Ambitions and Industrial Challenges,” associate fellow Florian Vidal, Ifri, April 2023.

  • “As the sanctions affect industrial groups in [Russia’s mining] sector more directly, the risk of the country being marginalized on the metal and mineral market could increase. ... the departure of foreign suppliers of machines and equipment necessary for these activities, is considerably slowing the increase in production volumes in Russia. At the same time, the collapse in imports is exposing the Russian mining sector to enormous difficulties in terms of procuring essential components, while potential commercial partners are now hesitant. Generally speaking, the risk of a widespread shortage of supplies is a long-term threat to the national economy.”
  • “At best, the sector will see a decline in the quality of its products and an increase in costs.”

“A New Tool Could Make Russia Pay for Environmental Damage in Ukraine,” Svitlana Andrushchenko of the the Centre for Defence Strategies, FT, 04.13.23. Clues from Ukranian views.

  • “Thinking Russia would pay voluntarily for the [environmental] damage [in Ukraine] it has inflicted would be naive indeed, so a smarter mechanism is needed. One possible tool is the EU’s recently introduced Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism. CBAM is the world’s first such tool; it will start in 2026 and take full effect in 2034 and will impose a fee on carbon emissions embedded in certain products imported into the EU, particularly those from the most carbon-intensive sectors. The money raised will be directed to three funds boosting green projects, one of which is the Social Climate Fund. The SCF supports decarbonization in third-party states and could be part of a compensation mechanism in Ukraine.”
  • “Russia’s trade with the EU remains high despite sanctions. Some materials, such as iron ore and aluminum, do not fall under these sanctions, but are covered by CBAM and an extra environmental tax on them could be directed to the SCF. To understand the huge value of some CBAM-applicable materials to Russia, in 2022 the country’s exports to the EU of iron, steel and aluminum was $8.9bn, about 4.55 percent of total EU imports from Russia.”

Ukraine-war-related negotiations:

“The West Needs a New Strategy in Ukraine. A Plan for Getting From the Battlefield to the Negotiating Table,” Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations, FA, 04.13.23.  

  • “The US and its partners need to begin formulating a diplomatic endgame [to the Russian-Ukranian war] now.”
    • “Ukraine’s Western supporters would propose a cease-fire as Ukraine’s coming offensive reaches its limits.”
    • “Ideally, both Ukraine and Russia would pull back their troops and heavy weapons from the new line of contact, effectively creating a demilitarized zone.”
    • “A neutral organizationwould send in observers to monitor and enforce the cease-fire and pullback. The West should approach other influential countries, including China and India, to support the cease-fire proposal.”
    • “Assuming a cease-fire holds, peace talks should follow. Such talks should occur along two parallel tracks.”
      • “On one track would be direct talks between Ukraine and Russia, facilitated by international mediators, on the terms of peace.”
      • “On the second track, NATO allies would start a strategic dialogue with Russia on arms control and the broader European security architecture.”
  • “Even if a cease-fire held and a diplomatic process got underway, NATO countries should continue to arm Ukraine, removing any doubts in Kyiv that its compliance with a diplomatic roadmap would mean the end of military support.”
  • “As another incentive to Ukraine, the West should offer it a formalized security pact. Although NATO is unlikely to offer membership to Ukraine — a consensus within the alliance appears out of reach for now — a subset of NATO members, including the United States, could conclude a security agreement with Ukraine that pledges it adequate means of self-defense.”
  • “Alongside this security pact, the EU should craft a long-term economic support pact [with Ukraine].”
  • “For over a year, the West has allowed Ukraine to define success and set the war aims of the West. This policy, regardless of whether it made sense at the outset of the war, has now run its course. It is unwise, because Ukraine’s goals are coming into conflict with other Western interests.”
  • “As a global power, the United States must acknowledge that a maximal definition of the interests at stake in the war has produced a policy that increasingly conflicts with other U.S. priorities.”

“The Political Economy of Confrontation: Lessons from the Conflict in Ukraine,” Dmitry Stefanovich of the Russian Acadeny of Sciences' Institute of World Economy and International Relationsand Alexander Yermakov of the Russian Council of International Affairs, Valdai Club, 04.17.23. Clues from Russian views.[1]

  • “The hostilities in Ukraine have promptly forced most countries of the world to think again about their own potential in the event a high-intensity interstate military conflict occurs with their participation in a national or coalition capacity.”
  • “If, in the medium term, the military-industrial complexes, primarily in Europe, switch to the after-burner mode, then we will quickly approach an explosive situation and find heavily armed opponents on both sides of the line of contact ..... Particularly threatening will be the massive deployment of long-range precision weapons of all types that would be... capable of executing strikes to the entire depth of the territory of the opponents … The Russian fleets will find themselves vulnerable to attacks due to the well-known geographical limitations of the waters of the Baltic and Black Seas. … Russia will also increase its potential, and we will come to a balanced, although not sufficiently stable situation.”
  • “It would be expedient to start thinking now about new measures to reduce risks, and in the future - about full-fledged arms control. Of course, in the current situation, it is difficult to imagine the return of Russia and the United States to the Open Skies Treaty, to say less of  CFE 2.0. However, no one has suggested anything better than that yet.”
  • “The only hope is that in Europe, including Russia, they remember well what happens when no agreement on pan-European security is agreed upon. And, perhaps, when the emotional intensity around the Ukrainian conflict cools down somewhat, some solutions will be found.”

Great Power rivalry/new Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:

"Ukraine’s Best Chance A Successful Offensive Could End the War With Russia," Rajan Menon of the Grand Strategy Program at Defense Priorities, FA, 04.12.23.

  • “Buoyed by its battlefield successes, Kyiv seeks to recover all territories lost since 2014, including Crimea and all of eastern Ukraine, a definition of victory that President Volodymr Zelensky has repeatedly articulated and will not renounce lightly. Yet military circumstances may force Ukraine’s leaders to yield: despite its best efforts, their army may be unable to evict Russia from all lost territories.”
  • “The West, having realized that, may press Kyiv to make hard choices because it wants to avoid endless and even costlier war … Any end to the war short of outright Russian defeat would require Ukraine’s leaders to make painful concessions that would be deeply unpopular. Yet the course of the war, together with political and economic trends in the West, may require them to accept that continued fighting will not produce victory on the terms they want.”
  • “There are different ways to imagine the less-than-ideal outcomes, but consider two.”
    • “In the first, Russia would retreat to pre-invasion battle lines, retaining Crimea and the land in the Donbas that the two pro-Moscow statelets occupied before the war.”
    • “In the second, Ukraine would recover all of Zaporizhzhia, and therefore the Azov Sea littoral, and Kherson, including the Russian-occupied segment of the Black Sea coast. Russia would retain Crimea and much of the Donbas … but relinquish the land corridor to the peninsula it now has through the southern parts of Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia Provinces.”
      • “Even the latter scenario would amount to a significant Ukrainian victory. … Putin would not just have failed to stop Ukraine’s alignment with the West … but would also have guaranteed and even accelerated it.”
  • “Even if Kyiv ultimately has to settle for a political settlement that requires concessions, Putin will have failed to subordinate Ukraine, shear off vast tracts of its territory, including its coasts, and attach them to a Greater Russia. When the war began, it seemed as though he would succeed in achieving all this and perhaps more. Now, a Ukrainian victory, even if it does not match Kyiv’s ideal, has become not just imaginable but also probable.”

“Crimea Has Become A Frankenstein’s Monster. The Ukrainian Government Is Now Trapped By Its Own Uncompromising — And Increasingly Indefensible — Policy,” Anatol Lieven of the Quincy Institute, FP, 04.11.23.

  • “My own research in Ukraine last month suggests that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would have very great domestic difficulty in supporting a cease-fire leaving Crimea in Russian hands. Not only would this face strong opposition from hard-line nationalists and the Ukrainian military, but the Ukrainian government has helped foster a general public mood that Crimea must be recovered at all costs.”
  • “A clear majority OF the Ukrainians with whom I spoke during three weeks in the country last month said Crimea should be returned to Ukraine — but with some (usually unspecified) measures for the peaceful reintegration of its population. A substantial minority, however, said Ukraine should be prepared to give up Crimea in return for peace and the return of the territory taken by Russia since last February.” 
  • “Whether the planned Ukrainian offensive succeeds and brings Ukrainian forces to the border of Crimea or fails and leads to an ongoing stalemate, Ukraine is likely to face increasing calls from Western governments for some form of provisional territorial compromise with Russia, coupled with the threat of a reduction of Western aid — and … some Ukrainian officials at least understand this very well.”
  • “But as in so many wars, state propaganda aimed at motivating the population to fight has helped create what one Ukrainian analyst called a ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ for itself when it comes to compromise with Russia, a public mood that it helped create but now cannot control.”
  • “All the Ukrainian analysts with whom I spoke agreed that only intense public pressure from Washington could allow Zelensky to agree to a territorial compromise — even if Zelensky himself felt compelled to respond to the pressure in public with bitter protest.”


“The World Could Move Toward Russia and China,” columnist Ross Douthat, NYT, 04.12.23.

  • “Last fall, eight months into the new world disorder created by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the University of Cambridge’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy produced a long report on trends in global public opinion before and after the outbreak of the war. Not surprisingly, the data showed that the conflict had shifted public sentiment in developed democracies in East Asia and Europe, as well as the United States, uniting their citizens against both Russia and China and shifting mass opinion in a more pro-American direction.”
  • “But outside this democratic bloc, the trends were very different. For a decade before the Ukraine war, public opinion across ‘a vast span of countries stretching from continental Eurasia to the north and west of Africa,’ in the report’s words, had become more favorable to Russia even as Western public opinion became more hostile. Similarly, people in Europe, the Anglosphere and Pacific Rim democracies like Japan and South Korea all turned against China even before Covid-19, but China was regarded much more favorably across the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia. Putin’s war in Ukraine shifted these trends only at the margins.”
  • “Overall, according to a recent Economist Intelligence survey, outside of the Western alliance there has been a slow bleeding of support from Ukraine: The number of countries condemning the Russian invasion fell slightly in the past year, and the number of neutral and Russia-supporting countries rose.”
  • “It’s not clear that the Biden administration has a grand strategy calibrated to this reality. While the White House has resisted some hawkish calls for escalating brinkmanship with Moscow, it has tended to accept the hawkish portrait of a geopolitical landscape increasingly divided between democracy and autocracy, liberalism and authoritarianism. ... A grand strategy that equates democracy simplistically with social liberalism or progressivism is never going to get sustained buy-in from Republicans, and it will always be hostage to the next election cycle.”
  • “The Bennett Institute report ... offers evidence that a divergence in fundamental values, not just a difference in political leadership or perceived interests, is driving the split between developed democracies and the developing world. … This creates a challenge for anyone intent on organizing U.S. foreign policy around current progressive values. Maybe you can unite our closest allies, our liberal imperium’s rich and aging core, around that kind of ideological vision. But you run a real and growing risk of alienating everybody else.”

“How the Ukraine War Has Divided the World,” commentator Gideon Rachman, FT, 04.17.23.

  • “[There is a] significant divergence in attitudes to the war in Ukraine is...Pratap Bhanu Mehta, an eminent Indian political scientist, points out that for a large part of the world, America’s reaction to the Russian invasion seems to be as problematic as the invasion itself. It is this constituency that China is appealing to.”
  • “In response to the Ukraine war, the US launched an effort to turn Russia into an economic and diplomatic outcast. Unprecedented economic sanctions were imposed and Russian foreign reserves were frozen. But the Russian economy has not suffered the catastrophic collapse that some predicted. In large part, this is because a substantial number of countries — including major economies, such as China, India and Brazil — have kept trading with Russia.”
  • “For these countries, the Ukraine war may be regrettable — but it is a conflict to be managed by the pursuit of ceasefires and compromises. S Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister, gave pithy expression to the global south’s refusal to join in the ostracism of Russia, with a much-quoted complaint that Europe thinks that ‘Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but that the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems’.”
  • “The US may be right that the war in Ukraine is a struggle of transcendent significance. But if it cannot persuade or browbeat the rest of the world into agreement, America’s own global position may be eroded.”

“The U.S. is Failing to Send the Right Message,” former defense secretary Robert M. Gates, WP, 04.16.23.

  • “Strategic communications and engagement with foreign publics and leaders are essential to shaping the global political environment in ways that support and advance American national interests. In this crucial arena of the competition, however, Russia and China are running rings around us....,the country that invented public relations is being out-communicated around the world by an authoritarian Russia and increasingly totalitarian China.”
  • “Our approach must be different from theirs. Our advantage over the Soviet Union in strategic communications during the Cold War was that the USIA and our radio broadcasters such as Voice of America simply told the truth. We must continue to do so.”
  • “A number of measures can be taken to dramatically improve the current lamentable state of affairs, some strategic, others operational. Many of them the president could implement immediately, while others would require congressional action.”
    • “First and foremost, the White House and State Department should develop a global engagement plan for strategic communications to explicitly advance U.S. national security interests. This plan should include a road map for engagement with foreign publics and leaders focused especially on sub- Saharan Africa and Latin America. Underpinning this plan should be a significant expansion of people-to-people exchange programs.”
    • “Further, we need more aggressive efforts to breach the digital communications firewalls that allow China and Russia to propagate false narratives within their borders unchecked by independent views.”
    • “Operationally, the Senate should quickly confirm Elizabeth Allen, the president's nominee for undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. The president should empower the secretary and, specifically, this undersecretary of state to synchronize the foreign strategic engagement efforts of all elements of the executive branch.”
    • “Biden should also appoint a senior National Security Council official with responsibility (and authority) to ensure that strategic communications are an integral part of every NSC decision-making process.”
    • “The president and Congress need to ensure that the secretary of state is empowered to provide broad strategic guidance to the Agency for Global Media, which manages all U.S. foreign broadcasting.”
    • “Finally, our allies have their own strategic communications capabilities, and we need new efforts to coordinate our mutual capabilities, perhaps through a new office at NATO.”

“A New American Grand Strategy to Counter Russia and China,” former national security advisor John Bolton, WSJ, 04.12.23.

  • “To get the ball rolling, here are three critical elements for any plausible course of strategic thinking:”
    • “First, Washington and its allies must immediately increase defense budgets to Reagan-era levels relative to gross domestic product and sustain such spending for the foreseeable future.”
    • “Second, America's collective-defense alliances need improvement and expansion, with new ones forged to face new threats.”
    • “Third, after Ukraine wins its war with Russia, we must aim to split the Russia-China axis.”

“World War II Analogies Are About as Useful Today as Carrier Pigeons,” contributor Stephen Kinzer, The Boston Globe, 04.17.23.

  • “Will you join my new club? It's going to be called the Society for Abolishing World War II Analogies. Members must pledge never to call anyone ‘the new Hitler.’ They may not dismiss peace proposals as ‘another Munich’ or justify attacks on other countries as efforts to prevent ‘another Pearl Harbor.’ Most important, they must recognize that wars usually end with messy compromise, not total victory.”
  • “The last big victory parade in the United States came after the Iraq invasion. After that parade, though, the war continued to rage, killing thousands of Americans and many more Iraqis. Most wars are aimed at securing enough battlefield advantage to have a good bargaining position at the negotiating table. Those now being waged in Ukraine, Syria, and Yemen will eventually end with compromise. There and elsewhere, total victory and total defeat are fantasies that push nations toward endless wars.”
  • “Members of my Society for Abolishing World War II Analogies would study past wars in search of guidance for today. We'd start with the Thirty Years' War and World War I, then on to Korea, Vietnam, South Africa vs. Angola, Iran vs. Iraq, and United States vs. Afghanistan. Those were wars of attrition that began without an understanding of how long they would last or how devastating they would be. They teach lessons that are urgently relevant today. World War II does not.”

“With Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, NATO Readies for Combat on Its Borders,” correspondent Steven Erlanger, NYT, 04.17.23.

  • “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine provoked the alliance to shed remaining inhibitions about increased numbers of Western troops all along NATO’s border with Russia. The intention is to make NATO’s forces not only more robust and more capable but also more visible to Russia, a key element of deterrence.”
    • “NATO now has deployed a battalion of multinational troops to eight countries along the eastern border with Russia. … And it is also tasking thousands more forces, in case of war, to move quickly in support, with newly detailed plans for mobility and logistics and stiffer requirements for readiness.”
    • “The alliance will put more troops under the direct control of NATO’s top military officer, the supreme allied commander Europe, Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, who also commands American forces in Europe. … Americans are back at the heart of Europe’s defense, he said, deciding with NATO precisely how America will defend Europe.”
    • “For first time since the Cold War, the official said, East European countries will know exactly what NATO intends to do to defend them.”
    • “NATO is also aligning its longer-term demands from allies with its current operational needs.”
  • “The planning in NATO is already intrusive but will become more demanding and specific. Countries answer questionnaires about their capacities and equipment; NATO planners tell them what’s missing or could be cut or thinned.”
  • “In principle, NATO’s leadership can call on 13 corps of 40,000 to 50,000 troops each to fight if necessary. But NATO’s actual, deployable strength is nowhere near that, senior NATO officials concede. So General Cavoli and his team must figure out how best and where to deploy what is really available in a crisis, while trying to ensure that countries continue to improve their readiness.”
  • “One of the least glamorous challenges is, simply speaking, mobility and logistics: getting troops and tanks and guns where they need to be as quickly as they need to be there, and sustaining them.”
  • “The countries of Central and Eastern Europe insist that it is ‘no longer enough to say we’re ready to deter by promising to reconquer, but that we need to defend every inch of NATO territory from day one,’ said Camille Grand, until recently NATO’s assistant secretary general for defense investment, and now with the European Council on Foreign Relations. ‘It’s not okay to be under Russian control for a few months until the cavalry arrives.’”

"Ukraine Should Follow Finland’s Path to NATO,” Kristi Raik of the International Centre for Defence and Security, FP, 04.13.23.

  • “In the near future, the West’s focus in Ukraine needs to stay on further arms deliveries to make sure that Ukraine can succeed with its planned counteroffensives and liberate at least some of the occupied territories in the coming months. Yet it is also necessary to start building a sustainable peace. Following the example of Finland, Ukraine’s full integration to the Euro-Atlantic structures is necessary to make sure that the tragedies of Raate Road in 1940 or Bucha in 2022 will never be repeated — not in Finland, not in Ukraine, and not in any other neighbor of Russia.”

For one prominent Russian hardliner’s views on Russia’s exist strategy see Only an honest fight: no backdoor deals,” Yevgeny Prigozhin, Telegram, 04.14.23:  

  • “For the [Russian] authorities and for society as a whole, today it is necessary to put a decisive end to the special military operation [SMO]. The ideal option would be to announce the end of the SMO, to inform everyone that Russia has achieved the results that it planned, and in a sense we have actually achieved them. We have ground a huge number of fighters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and we can report to ourselves that the tasks of the SMO have been completed. Theoretically, Russia has already put that decisive end to it by destroying a large part of the active male population of Ukraine, by intimidating another part of it, which fled to Europe. Russia has sliced the Sea of Azov off along with a large part of the Black Sea, seized a fat piece of Ukrainian territory and created a land corridor to the Crimea. Now there is only one thing left: to firmly entrench ourselves [on these territories], to claw in those territories that we already have.”  

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

What’s Really Going on Between Russia and China. Behind the Scenes, They Are Deepening Their Defense Partnership,” Alexander Gabuev, FA, 04.12.23.

  • “‘There are changes happening, the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years,’ Chinese leader Xi Jinping said to Russian President Vladimir Putin last month at the end of a state visit to Russia. ‘Let’s drive those changes together.’ To this, the Russian leader responded, ‘I agree.’  This seemingly improvised yet carefully choreographed scene captured the outcome of Xi’s trip to Russia and the trajectory on which he and Putin have set Sino-Russian relations.”
  • “The truly significant developments took place during closed-door, in-person discussions, at which Xi and Putin made a number of important decisions about the future of Chinese-Russian defense cooperation and likely came to terms on arms deals that they may or may not make public.”
  • “More than half of Putin’s team participating in the first round of formal talks with Xi were officials directly involved in Russia’s weapons and space programs. …. This group of officials was likely assembled to pursue one main goal: deepening defense cooperation with China. … How Russian companies could gain better access to the Chinese financial system… was the reason why Elvira Nabiullina, chair of Russia’s central bank, was a significant participant at the bilateral talks.”
  • “The participation of the heads of some of the biggest Russian commodity producers indicates that Xi and Putin also discussed expanding the sale of Russian natural resources to China. … The Chinese-Russian relationship has become highly asymmetrical, but it is not one-sided.”
    • “Purchases of the most advanced Russian weapons and military technology, freer access to Russian scientific talent, and the rich endowment of Russia’s natural resources — which can be supplied across a secure land border — make Russia an indispensable partner for China.”
    • “That means that although China wields great influence in the Kremlin, it does not exert control. A somewhat similar relationship exists between China and North Korea.”
  • “Russia’s size and power may give the Kremlin a false sense of security as it locks itself into an asymmetrical relationship with Beijing. But the durability of this relationship, absent major unforeseeable disruptions, will depend on China’s ability to manage a weakening Russia. In the years to come, Putin’s regime will have to learn the skill that junior partners the world over depend on for survival: how to manage upward.”

“What to Learn from the Neighbors,” Russian Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov in an interview to the Russian government’s Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 04.11.23. Clues from Russian Views.[2]

  • “It seems to me that the Chinese economic reforms cannot be reproduced. Therefore, the answer to our long-standing conversations about whether we could have followed the Chinese path is simple: we could not have... even in those days when we had a ruling party and a completely different social order. In fact, the Chinese reform began with agriculture and meant to to feed the country. It was dictated by the same reasons as Lenin’s new economic policy And it was done in the same way. In China, too, they actually switched from appropriation of surplus [food products] to tax in kind.”
  • “China began its rise after reaching the bottom, to which the cultural revolution brought the country. Russia has never had such an oppressive, unimaginable poverty that existed there. We did not have a task to urgently somehow feed and clothe the people. In China, it was believed that poverty is when a person cannot provide himself and his family with food and clothing. And there were hundreds of millions of such people. This was China 40 years ago.”
  • “The West and the US openly admit that they have made two strategic mistakes with regard to China. The first was having stereotyped ideas about the nature of China's social development. It was believed there that it was necessary at least not to interfere with China's development, raising the living standards of the population and creating a middle class. This middle class, American thinkers believed, would eventually demand political representation and push the ruling Communist Party out of power. ... The second mistake was that they considered it possible for the sake of their own profits to stimulate the development of economic ties with China in all areas. It was believed that the PRC would never reach the level of America in terms of technology.”
  • “What could the Chinese take from our experience? Yes, they took everything from him. Because China's social model is actually built on our social model [of the Soviet era].”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“War Against Ukraine: How To Make Deterrence and Arms Control Work,” analysts Sascha Hach and Polina Sinovets, FRS, April 11, 2023.

  • “The causal connection with the U.S. expansionist policy, with which Russia tries to justify the war, is constructed. However, the Russian narrative succeeds in convincing numerous actors, including China, India, South Africa, and Brazil, for historical reasons and convergence of strategic interests. Thus, overstretched deterrence and simultaneous erosion of arms control provide fertile ground while serving as a strategic justification foil for Russia’s war against Ukraine.”
  • “By extending its nuclear threats, Russia has repeatedly tried to manipulate the course of warfare in its favor and has so far failed to do so. Instead, clear signs of wear and tear on its nuclear deterrent are emerging, coupled with a loss of credibility. The U.S. and NATO in turn have succeeded in reducing the risk of escalation by consistently tabooing the use of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war. Three factors have helped U.S. and its NATO allies to succeed [in reducing the risk of finding themsevles dragged into a escalation with Russia as the latter engaged in nuclear threats to manipulate the course of warfare in its favor: the Russian nuclear threats were not imitated, China and India as well as the G20 were diplomatically engaged into an anti-nuclear war alliance and this was combined with an ambivalent deterrence focusing on conventional counterstrike options.”
  • “The risk of actual use of nuclear weapons by Russia has varied significantly during the war. Risk management and substantial de-escalation have been successful through a precise formulation of U.S./NATO deterrence policy (nuclear restraint, credible conventional deterrence) in combination with bilateral contacts with Russia and diplomatic initiatives toward third parties sympathizing with Moscow. So far, nuclear (de)escalation management has worked out. But it has also shown the limits of deterrence and arms control policy: only together, and if credible, precise and complementary, can they have their stabilizing effect.”

“Russia’s Suspension of New START Is No Reason for America to Do the Same,” Dana Struckman of the US Naval War College, NI, 04.14.23.

  • “Despite Vladimir Putin’s move to ‘suspend’ Russia’s participation in the New START treaty and the recent decision by the United States to stop sharing nuclear stockpile data, Washington should not abandon all hope of this treaty or future arms control/risk mitigation endeavors.”
  • “It is possible Russia and the United States can come to terms on another extension or update of this treaty, although unlikely given the current state of relations. However, America should continue to adhere to the tenets of the treaty even after its likely expiration. This would show continued U.S. resolve and commitment to arms control not only to Russia but the entire global community.”
  • “If New START can’t be saved, it is essential to retain agreements such as the Ballistic Missile Launch Notification Agreement and any other type of communication that could facilitate crisis management with Russia. The road ahead for nuclear arms control will look much different and likely not just between Russia and the United States. China will certainly figure into the equation due to its rapid nuclear force buildup.”
  • “While any type of formal nuclear arms treaty or risk reduction agreement between Russia and/or China will be incredibly difficult to achieve, efforts toward strategic stability must endure. The rules and the players of the game may be changing, but the goal remains, that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’”

“How Chinese Military Aid to Russia Could Lead to a Strategic Reversal of Nuclear Forces,” Vladimir Marakhonov, BAS, 04.17.23.

  • “Russia has declared 50 metric tons of plutonium in its stockpiles as excess.[15] It is enough to produce about 14,000 warheads. Part of this inventory, theoretically, could be sold to China. Such an action seems to be almost as dubious as transferring nuclear warheads to its neighbor. But, at least in this case, the transfer of excess plutonium to China would not lead to a decrease in the number of nuclear warheads owned by Russia.”
  • “It remains uncertain what circumstances would lead Russia to help China achieve its nuclear objectives. Most likely, before a plutonium transfer were seriously considered Putin would need to face a real threat to his leadership because of a failure to achieve success — or even outright defeat — in Ukraine. But even in this scenario, the current Russian regime would still need to maintain sufficient leadership to carry out a transfer of plutonium to China — an act that many in the Russian military would oppose.”
  • “Although the possibility of a plutonium deal between Russia and China may seem an unlikely and sudden threat, it does not seem illogical. Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many unorthodox and unexpected political and military events have occurred. The transfer of plutonium by Russia to China could become just one of those.”

“How Obama Killed Nuclear Nonproliferation,” columnist Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, 04.11.23.

  • “History will name Barack Obama as the man on whose watch nonproliferation definitively failed. His waffling response to Russia's 2014 invasion of Ukraine not only marked the end of the post-Cold War holiday from history; it also marked the death of the dream that the leaders of the democratic world had the strength and vision to uphold the principles of the rules-based international order in the face of a ruthless opponent. It further taught the world that nuclear weapons are a better defense than American pledges.”
  • “In the Budapest Memorandum, [former US President Bill] Clinton made a moral commitment to Ukraine that Mr. Obama declined to honor. The results include an accelerating decay of the nonproliferation regime, a vicious war, the closest alliance between China and Russia since Stalin's era, and a global decline in the value of America's word.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

“Russia’s Myth-Making in Syria Was a Template for the Horrors in Ukraine,” former CIA analyst David McCloskey, FT, 04.16.23.

  • “First, the Kremlin’s telling of the Syrian conflict erases the individual and focuses on ideology. Here, there were no protesters, no civil opposition, only terrorism. Russia has vilified the Syrian Civil Defence, known as the White Helmets, as a ‘tool.’”
  • “Second, Russia’s Syria myth turns actual events on their heads, distorting the truth and wrecking critical thinking. An analysis of Russian air power in Syria in 2015-16 shows that Moscow began its Syria campaign by targeting not Islamic State, as it claimed, but the anti-Assad rebels around Aleppo and Damascus.”
  • “Third, in Russian myth, cruelty is a badge of honor, an end in itself.”
  • “The Kremlin’s narrative on Syria and Ukraine offers a dark warning …To us — and to Syrians and Ukrainians — falls the burden of resistance.”

Cyber security/AI:

"Cyber Operations in Russia’s War against Ukraine, head of the research division Matthias Schulze and fellow Mika Kerttunen, SWP, April 2023.

  • “[In war against Ukraine] Russian cyber activities have primarily focused on intelligence gathering, data destruction, and Denial-of-Service attacks on critical infrastructure. Surprisingly, thanks to Ukraine’s proactive cyber defense and societal resilience, this kind of cyber warfare has not produced significant strategic, operational, or tactical benefits for Russia, at least as far as we know publicly.... Still, just because Russia wasn’t able to align its digital and analogue maneuvers this time doesn’t mean that others cannot learn from this failure and do so in the next major war.”
  • “Although imperfect, cyber-defense is not futile, even against prolific attackers. To be successful, it requires flexibility, speed, forward-thinking, useful threat intelligence, and streamlined inter-ministerial processes to reduce information silos, as well as exercises and training. Defense planning in the cyber domain requires a whole-of-government-and-industry approach.”
  • “When it comes to offensive wartime cyber operations, the uncertainty of war makes significant cyber-effects hard to achieve. One possible line of action may be to better align network operations with electronic warfare, information operations, intelligence operations, and physical destruction of key adversary nodes of communication, command and control, and logistics.”
  • “Lastly, the full picture won’t be known until after the war, when we can evaluate the significance of Russian information warfare in light of Russia and Ukraine’s dependencies, intentions, and priorities, as well as their conventional and covert maneuvers and counter-maneuvers.”
  • “Still, just because Russia wasn’t able to align its digital and analog maneuvers this time doesn’t mean that others cannot learn from this failure and do so in the next major war. Nonetheless, better algorithms alone will not balance the inherent weaknesses of offensive cyber operations: they require excessive time, are target-dependent, and might simply fail against an agile, proactive defender.”

Energy exports from CIS:

  • No significant developments.

Climate change:

“Why Russia’s War in Ukraine Is Bad News for Polar Bears, Too ,” reporter Dino Grandoni, WP, 04.15.23.

  • “Russia's war in Ukraine is first and foremost a human tragedy. But it has been dire for wildlife and those who study it, too. Sanctions and other U.S. policies meant to isolate Russia, along with the Kremlin's crackdown on dissent, have chilled scientific collaboration between American and Russian biologists, leading to nixed research trips, canceled conservation work, restricted funding and uncollected data related to imperiled species at risk of disappearing in the coming decades without human help.”
  • “The war's effects reach far beyond Russia. Scientists studying sea turtles and migratory birds have lost access to tracking data gathered by Russian equipment. Many of those working to save the spoon-billed sandpiper, a bird that flies across East Asia, can no longer travel to their Russian nesting grounds.”
  • “Russia, given its sheer size, is key to maintaining Earth's biodiversity. By one measure, the nation is home to more remaining wilderness than any other country in the world. Its massive forest acreage, also the biggest on Earth, is crucial for keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. The loss of knowledge of polar species in particular comes at a crucial time in the Arctic, a region warming faster than anywhere else in the world.”
  • “‘The need for conservation is just as great, if not more so now,’ said Dale Miquelle, an American big-cat researcher at the Wildlife Conservation Society who continues to work with Russians on camera-trap monitoring of the Amur leopard. At the start of the 21st century, the cat was at the verge of extinction, with only 35 to 40 prowling the wild. But after the Russian government designated protected areas, its population tripled. ‘It's an amazing success story,’ Miquelle said. Like many other Western scientists, he missed a major convention on tiger conservation in Russia last year. Near the start of the war, he decided to leave Russia after living there for three decades. His wife was able to join him in Montana, but he has not been back since.” 

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

“Declarations: Evan Gershkovich Is Not a Spy,” opinion columnist Peggy Noonan, WSJ, 04.15.23.

  • “It isn't clear to whom — if anyone — Mr. Putin listens; it's probably not those who immediately protested his action. But there is one group he might hear: those in Western journalism and politics who have, the past year, shown sympathy for Mr. Putin's position, or who have made arguments he has agreed with, or who have expressed public skepticism about the Western response in Ukraine. They might have some pull here.”
  • “Commentators, political figures: If in the past year you have said things on U.S. airwaves that Mr. Putin agreed with or found helpful, the video clip of what you said was played over and over on Russian media. You are well known there, and well positioned to go on the world's airwaves and, in speaking about Ukraine or Mr. Putin, weave in, in a way not easily edited out, that what is in effect Evan Gershkovich's abduction, and his cruel and cynical imprisonment, is something you passionately protest and cannot accept. That whatever your foreign policy views they do not encompass sympathy for a hostage taking. And Mr. Putin is wrong.J.D. Vance, Tucker Carlson, many others: You care about the free press, and have flourished within it. Protest what has happened here, sharply and repeatedly. Might it help? Who knows. Maybe not. But it's something.”

“Russia’s State-Sponsored Hostage Taking Reaps Rewards for the Kremlin,” former CIA Senior Intelligence Service member Paul Kolbe and Calder Walton of the Harvard Kennedy School, Cipher Brief, 04.10.23.

  • “Russia’s arrest of Wall Street Journal journalist and US citizen, Evan Gershkovich, on espionage charges is the latest example of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB)’s long practice of state-sponsored hostage taking and repression of the press. No one should be surprised.”
  • “Two issues about Gershkovich’s case need to be understood:”
    • “First, contrary to Kremlin claims, the CIA does not use US journalists as cover for espionage.”
    • “Second, unlike the US, Russia has a long history of using journalists as spies.”
  • “Gershkovich’s arrest will help the Kremlin repress Western media efforts to provide accurate reporting from within Russia.”
  • “Gershkovich’s detention comes after a succession of Russian intelligence failures in Western countries, including the arrest of Russian deep-cover ‘illegals’ in Sweden, Norway, and Slovenia.”
    • “Most significantly, on March 24th, the US Department of Justice indicted alleged Russian intelligence officer, ‘Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov (‘Cherkasov’), 37, a national of the Russian Federation who operated as an ‘Illegal’ agent for a Russian Intelligence Service (‘RIS’) under the Brazilian alias of Victor Muller Ferreira.’”
    • “Russia knows that hostage-taking works.” 
  • “Washington’s best policy is to press relentlessly for Gershkovich’s release, and publicize Russia’s action at every opportunity, but refrain from giving into the bald blackmail of another hostage trade. Exchanges will simply reward hostage taking by the Kremlin and set the stage for its next trumped-up detention.”

“Putin's Rogue State — The Russian regime's years-long descent into lawlessness and autocratic rule prepared the way for the arrest of a Wall Street Journal reporter,” Michael Kimmage of the Catholic University of America, WSJ, 04.15.23.

  • “Mr. Gershkovich's arrest attests to two long-term trends in Russia.”
    • “The first is Mr. Putin's arrival at unmitigated dictatorship. Today, the Putinist social contract is clear: People in Russia will be left alone by the state only if they do not meaningfully contest the government's good reputation or decision-making, which is what bona fide journalism does almost by definition.”
    • “The second trend is the establishment of a lawless foreign policy, in which the autocrat can rewrite the rules of the international order with impunity. As a journalist and a foreigner in Russia, Mr. Gershkovich has the misfortune of standing at the very point where these two trends meet.”
  • “The message to the U.S. is that its norms and ethical standards do not apply to Russia, because Mr. Putin has the power to do whatever he wants. The Russian government does not necessarily need to arrest a dozen Evan Gershkoviches or a dozen Alexei Moskalevs to get its way, but it needs to show itself to be morally and legally capable of anything. This is the state Vladimir Putin and his government have reached 23 years after the diminutive bureaucrat from St. Petersburg was summoned to the Kremlin and handed the keys to the kingdom.”

“How Vladimir Kara-Murza's Case Exposes the Rot at the Heart of Russia,” Pedro Pizano of the the McCain Institute for International Leadership in Washington., WP, 04.15.23.

  • “Vladimir Kara-Murza has the same jailer that Sergei Magnitsky had: Dmitry Komnov. That fact alone tells you something important about the rot at the heart of the Russian system.”
  • “Sergei Podoprigorov is one of the judges in the three-person panel that will pass judgment on Kara-Murza. Podoprigorov has been sanctioned by the United States, Britain and Canada (though not by the European Union). As a judge at Moscow's Tverskoy court in 2008, it was Podoprigorov who sent Magnitsky to Butyrka.”
  • “A third Magnitsky List target currently involved in Kara-Murza's case is the head of the Russian Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin.”
  • “The international community must continue to express its concern over the treatment of Kara-Murza and other political prisoners who have been jailed for aspiring to build a democratic Russia as well as for opposing the war. Exposing these horrendous actions by the Putin regime is necessary and requires tireless work from democratic society. The Kremlin must release Kara-Murza, Alexei Navalny, Ilya Yashin and the thousands of others who have been imprisoned for exercising their rights to free speech by criticizing Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

“Can We Please Stop Comparing Russia’s Economy to Italy’s?” executive editor Carlos Roa, NI, 04.17.23.

  • “In the realm of foreign policy discourse, few memes have been more prevalent or misleading than the oft-cited comparison of Russia’s economy to that of Italy. ... Yet error in this comparison lies in the reliance on measuring nominal GDP itself, as it fails to account for exchange rates and purchasing power parity (PPP), which accounts for the standard of living and productivity (and from there, per capita welfare and, importantly, resource use).”
  • “But even the PPP figures do not fully capture the significance of Russia’s economic power. Renowned French economist Jacques Sapir expanded his analysis in an essay for American Affairs, a policy journal, and noted that the PPP measurement ‘may not yet reflect the real importance of the Russian [economy] when strategic, geopolitical issues are at stake.’”
    • “Sapir notes that, over the past fifty years, Western economies have become increasingly dominated by service sectors, which, while contributing to GDP calculations, lose their importance during times of conflict. In such situations, it is the production of physical goods that matters, and by this measure, Russia's economy is not only stronger than Germany’s but also more than twice as robust as France’s. Furthermore, Russia’s dominant position in the global energy and commodities trade — as it is a key producer of oil, gas, platinum, cobalt, gold, nickel, phosphates, iron, wheat, barley, buckwheat, oats, and more — provides it with substantial leverage over markets and economies, making it less susceptible to sanctions and less easily cowed by Western pressure.”
  • “It is high time that we admit how much we severely underestimate the relative size and power of rival economies, including and especially Russia’s. It would also behoove policymakers to reevaluate their current policy approach to economic statecraft — sanctions are not a one-size-fits-all solution, particularly when dealing with a nation that wields significant economic power.”


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Casualties Won’t Topple Putin. But they will make his job much more difficult," Timothy Frye of Columbia University, FP, 04.10.23.

  • “Western governments report that Russian losses in the war against Ukraine are approaching a staggering 200,000 killed or wounded, with roughly 40,000 dead. These figures are almost three times greater than the death toll Moscow saw in 10 years of war in Afghanistan. These massive losses, however, have led to little public protest in Russia. Why?”
    • “Russian government and state media rarely mention the scale of the casualties, and we do not know what the Russian public knows about these losses.”
    • “Elite unity in supporting the war is crucial for ensuring the public’s tolerance of casualties. ... To date, Russian political elites have shown a remarkable public consensus in support of the war. No high-ranking Russian officials have resigned to protest it, and those who have criticized the war have not done so on the grounds that losses have been too high, but on the grounds that the Kremlin has fought incompetently or with insufficient resources.” 
    • “Perhaps the most important reason for the lack of public opposition is simple. The Kremlin has taken a zero-tolerance approach toward public opposition to the war and cracked down on even minor offenses with great ferocity.”
  • “But hiding losses of this magnitude will only get harder. Wounded soldiers are returning home and telling tales of life and death at the front, and those killed in action have friends and families. As more people learn about the size of losses, support for the war will be harder to sustain…. Autocrats have been able to fight long wars even with high casualties, so great casualties on the battlefield by themselves are unlikely to dislodge Putin from power. But they are likely to make his job much more difficult.”

“Russia’s New Conscription Law Brings the Digital Gulag Much, Much Closer,” senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center Tatiana Stanovaya, Carnegie Endowment, 04.17.23. Clues from Russian views. [3]

  • “Under the new law passed at breakneck speed by both chambers of parliament [and then signed by Putin into law] , the authorities can issue call-up papers online and will set up a digital database of all Russians eligible for military service (most Russian men aged eighteen to thirty are expected to perform obligatory national service). Previously, people had to be served their draft papers in person, making it relatively easy to dodge the draft.”
  • “Regardless of whether a person has a Gosuslugi account, or even uses the Internet, they will still be penalized for failing to report to the recruitment office once a digital draft notice is issued. Those penalties include a ban on leaving the country, as well as on driving, buying and selling real estate, taking out loans, and registering a small business. Regional governments will also now be able to add other restrictions to the list, such as suspending social benefits.”
  • “The passed amendments don’t just accelerate the creation of a digital draft registry. They also facilitate the emergence of an entirely new system of controlling civic behavior in Russia.” 
  • “The war has taken the state’s need for digital control to a whole new level, but it’s no longer just about regulating the draft or further mobilization. The state is seeking to overhaul the traditional system of government coercion, to automate control of individual behavior without involving those individuals, their lawyers, or the courts. Constitutional rights are becoming conditional upon a person’s status within the state system of digital control.”
  • “The digital draft notice legislation is the Russian state’s first attempt to introduce elements of digital totalitarianism, but certainly not its last. The right mixture of care and fear, along with clearly delineated dos and don’ts, will allow the authorities to shape any political behavior. At this point, these are still mostly the Kremlin’s plans, but they illustrate how radically politics can be transformed in the digital age.”

"Putin’s Peril The Kremlin’s Strongman Is Not as Secure as He Seems," senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center Tatiana Stanovaya, FA, 04.11.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Vladimir Putin’s team plans on making sure the president gets [in 2024] more than the record-breaking 77 percent of the vote he won in 2018. … But today in Moscow, little is certain about the future. The war has thrust Russia into a period of pervasive unpredictability in which no one feels safe and it is impossible for policymakers to engage in even short-term planning.”
  • “A significant military escalation could … dramatically complicate Putin’s ability to maintain domestic control. If Moscow carries out further mobilizations, something the government is trying to avoid, it will stir up more social anxiety with unpredictable consequences. If Russia faces additional setbacks, Putin will have to deal with escalating criticism.”
  • “Both situations could prompt him to cancel elections, implement elements of a military dictatorship, and purge the elites in a bid to shore up his security. Relatedly, they could prompt Russia’s elites to challenge the regime.”
  • “The longer Putin stays in power, the harder it may become for him to control the succession process, and if Putin becomes more distracted by the war, the wealthiest and most powerful Russians will have an increased incentive and ability to organize on their own. They will be especially likely to work around Putin if he becomes indecisive, hesitant, or misinformed.”
  • “That does not mean Russia’s elites will attempt any kind of coup in the immediate future; for now, Russia’s leader reigns supreme. But the war is remaking Russia, and Putin’s willingness to commit ever-greater resources to avoid defeat has set him on a risky path, tethering his future to that of an unpredictable conflict. Putin may not be likely to lose power, but a historically large reelection victory is by no means guaranteed.”

"You Are the Only One of Us With Balls of Iron," Lyudmila Narusova, widow of St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Subchak and members of the Russian senate, in an interview with Irina Tumakova, Novaya Gazeta, 04.15.23. Clues from Russian Views. [4]

  • “[When asked to comment on the fact that of Russia’s 170 senators she was the only one to vote against Kremlin’s electronic conscription bill]: ‘Yes I am the only one to vote [that way], but there is a sufficient number of people who think the way I do. It is simply that they are afraid to say it outloud... after my speech [at the Federation Council during debates on the bill] one very mature and honored person told me: you are the only one of us with iron balls.’”
  • “In today’s [Russia] a girl is deprived of her family because of a drawing for peace that she has painted, and her father is given a sentence for that. How could it happen in society?... This is how it happened: step by step, with small steps of repressive legislation that first prohibits speeches, then single pickets, then words about peace. Then in St. Petersburg  a woman is  detained. She is a survivor of the [Nazi’s WWII blockade of Leningrad], who stood at Nevsky Prispect with a sign that said ‘No to war.’ How does that happen?”
  • “I am shocked by the willingness of law enforcers to carry out such orders - and the  society’s readiness for that. What is this? Where does this corrosion of the  society come from? ...And it didn't start today or yesterday.... I think it started after Beslan [hostage-taking raid of 2004] [that Putin used to] abolish direct elections of governors. And then it continued in such small portions, which were explained, of course, by political expediency, and people swallowed it all. Gradually, this led to what we have now.”
  • “An assistant professor of history in St. Petersburg killed and dismembered his mistress, threw her into the river in a garbage bag - and how much did he get for this? Twelve years - for a cynical murder with extreme cruelty. [Compare it with a] person who ‘discredits the army,’ and in fact criticizes it, he can get twenty years.”

“The West Is Preparing for Russia’s Disintegration,” journalist Anchal Vohra, FP, 04.17.23.

  • “For every argument made by the proponents of imminent Russian disintegration, there are more counterarguments. The truth is that there is an information vacuum deliberately maintained by Russia; and yet absence of information doesn’t by itself justify the theory.”
  • “Experts point out that Russian citizens in the autonomous republics may fear Vladimir Putin, but being anti-Putin does not necessarily mean being anti-Russia. And even for those states that genuinely desire to leave the Russian fold, there is no guarantee what follows will be democratic or friendly to the West. Experts fear many regions in the Russian Far East already lean toward China. Then there is the concern of civil wars and regional dictators fighting over Russian nukes.”
  • “Even though the Kremlin accuses the West of fomenting trouble inside Russia routinely, talk of Russian disintegration in Western capitals could raise nationalistic fervor and make Russians rally behind Putin. It could also be exploited by far-right supporters of Putin across Europe to strengthen anti-Americanism. Worse, it could feed the disinformation machinery and be quoted by conspiracy theorists online to build a parallel narrative.”
  • “Both those who believe a Russian collapse is imminent and those who warn against it agree on one thing: The Russian Federation has never truly been, well, a federation.”

Defense and aerospace:

  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • No significant developments.


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • No significant developments.


  • No significant developments.

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“Has Kazakhstan Become More Democratic Following Recent Elections?” political analyst Gaziz Abishev, Carnegie Endowment, 04.12.23.

  • “The results of Kazakhstan’s parliamentary elections in March have cemented President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s political system. The country remains far from a liberal democracy, and the division of powers is significantly slanted in the president’s favor, but the role of parliament has changed to embody Tokayev’s principle of ‘different opinions — a unified nation.’ The legislative body, previously little more than a rubber stamp, is becoming an arena for discussion and even sometimes criticism of the authorities — albeit, controlled criticism.”
  • “The political reforms announced by Tokayev last year are complete. There is no pressing need to carry on this process at the same pace, and that means that the authorities will now work to preserve the political system — and their place in it — in its current form.”


[1] This summary has been translated with the help of machine translation.

[2] This summary has been translated with the help of machine translation.

[3] For the outcome of one previous espisode of Russian leaders’ on-and-off experience with trying to limit Western influence on the Russian public see (in Russian language)  “’Introduces new orders that people don’t like’ How Russia was turned away from Europe,” Kommersant, 04.15.23.  “For thirty-five years they have taught us to honor ourselves in Europe; suddenly we are transferred to the very depths of Asia,” Russian imperial state councilor F. F. Vigel wrote in  reference to his childhood experiences during the reign of Emperor Pavel I. Pavel, in essence, began to fence Russia off  not only from France, but from all of Europe. And he was fencing Russia off not only from the ideas harmful to the Russian autocracy, but also from any news that he  found objectionable.

[4] This summary has been translated with the help of machine translation.