Russia Analytical Report, Aug. 1-8, 2022

6 Ideas to Explore

  1. Kuchma cautions against wishful thinking on Putin’s or Russia’s imminent demise. Looking ahead at the conflict with Russia, post-Soviet Ukraine’s second president, Leonid Kuchma, warns the BBC’s audience not to expect that Putin will soon die or that sanctions are about to kill Russia economically or that ordinary Russians will see the light and join anti-war protests. Ukraine must “decide everything on the battlefield,” Kuchma told the BBC.
  2. Designating Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is a bad idea, according to Ingrid Brunk Wuerth of Vanderbilt Law School. Among other things, such a designation by the U.S. “would allow Americans to recover from the frozen [Russian] assets, but not Ukrainians,” she writes in WaPo. Moreover, most sanctions triggered by a state sponsor of terrorism designation are already in place, she writes.
  3. Russian military’s reliance on Western microelectronics bodes ill for Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to RUSI. After examining 27 modern Russian weapons systems and pieces of military equipment used in the war against Ukraine, experts at this British defense think tank, working in partnership with Reuters, have concluded that the specimens contain 450 unique microelectronic components made in the U.S. (the vast majority), Europe and East Asia. Russia does not have a clear alternative for producing analogous components domestically, nor would import substitution be enough to offset the volumes required to replace those expended or lost in Ukraine, RUSI’s experts write.
  4. 5+ months into Ukraine war, many cyber experts are still asking the wrong questions, such as when the cyber war will start, according to Brandon Valeriano’s blistering criticism of the Western cyber community. “When a cyber conflict did not materialize, pundits fell back on the typical claim that it was really happening, but we just couldn’t see it,” Valeriano writes in The National Interest. The Cato Institute fellow suggests an alternative: “How about we study the impact of cyber actions on behavior first before providing strategic solutions?”
  5. Few of the world’s major powers are content with the international order as it exists, but none of the significant revisionist powers has a compelling vision of what a revised order might look like, in the view of Shivshankar Menon, a former national security adviser to India’s PM. As for Russia, it never really fit into the world order that Western powers tried to squeeze it into and resented its decline after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Menon writes in Foreign Affairs.
  6. The Gulag archipelago is returning as one of Russia’s main production units. That is the conclusion reached by Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace based on a senior Russian prison service official’s claim that inmates participating in correctional labor programs across Russia can make up for IKEA’s exit from the country’s market.


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.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

“Ukraine needs more western support and smarter economic policies to win the war,” Oleg Churiy formerly of the National Bank of Ukraine, FT, 08.02.22.

  • “For Ukraine to keep fighting and win, it needs not only much more weaponry but also larger-scale economic support. Since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has received external support to the tune of $2.5 billion-$3 billion a month. The expected external funding for the second half of 2022 is $18 billion—a significant sum, but well below the nation’s needs. To avert economic calamity in Ukraine and sustain its ability to fight, the allies must disburse much larger amounts of about $4 billion-$5 billion a month in the nearest future.”
  • “Every day of the war means more lives lost, children traumatized and homes destroyed. The economic cost of the war is no less staggering and it touches everybody—from ruined infrastructure in Ukraine to the specter of hunger in Africa and elsewhere. Ukraine must win this war and win it quickly. But a long war increasingly looks like the baseline scenario. This requires recalibrating macroeconomic policies in Ukraine and allied countries to make sure that Ukraine’s economy can sustain the war effort as long as necessary.”

“US must open its doors to more Ukrainian refugees,” Editorial Board, The Boston Globe, 08.04.22.

  • “The United States has been, belatedly, generous in keeping up the flow of arms needed by the Ukrainian government to fight that war and in providing humanitarian aid to those still in Ukraine caught in its horrifying grasp. But it hasn't even come close to meeting a broader commitment to help the many seeking nothing more than a temporary haven from a war their own government did not start but is determined not to lose.”
  • “The war is far from over. And the human tragedy that has become a daily part of it could conceivably get worse as Russia continues to bombard civilian areas, wiping out apartment buildings, turning hospitals and schools to rubble.”
  • “Keeping the door open here to those forced to flee, including those without sponsors, is one more way to support the Ukrainian war effort and be true to the best of American ideals. It's a way to turn good intentions into demonstrably good works.”

“Why Russia’s War in Ukraine Is a Genocide,” Kristina Hook of Kennesaw State University, FA, 08.08.22.

  • “With every passing day, it is becoming clearer that Russia is committing the gravest crime imaginable in Ukraine: genocide. Russian forces have ravaged many parts of the country, massacring, raping, torturing, deporting and terrorizing a vulnerable civilian population. A chilling logic lies behind these acts of violence, one that seeks to extinguish Ukrainian national identity, wiping out modern Ukraine as an independent country through the killing and the Russification of its residents.”
  • “All signs point to a coordinated, systematic bid to destroy the Ukrainian national identity. As evidence builds of a genocide in Ukraine, so, too, does the legal and moral pressure to stop it. … Western governments should help Ukraine with anti-trafficking initiatives related to children, for instance, by funding and providing training for Ukrainian preventive services to work to stop Russian deportations. And they should implement related deterrence efforts, such as the United Kingdom’s new wave of sanctions on Russia for the ‘barbaric treatment of children.’”
  • “Governments should also address the networks of people who abet the genocide, drawing from efforts such as the United Kingdom’s recent sanctions against Russian ‘perpetrators and enablers,’ which broadened the scope of those targeted beyond just the killers.”
  • “Western visa bans should communicate to low-level genocide organizers, bureaucrats and functionaries that their actions eliminate the possibility of travel and international education opportunities for themselves and their families.”
  • “All that said, once it has advanced to a certain level, a genocide can only be stopped by force. Western military assistance to Ukraine is crucial in arresting Putin’s bloody, hateful campaign. Ukraine’s military success relies on quickly acquiring a greater supply of heavier weapons. The West must embrace an unprecedented effort to transform the Ukrainian military into a NATO-caliber force in its equipment and its maintenance, logistical, and training capabilities, even as Ukraine’s army fights a war.”

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

Interview with former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma: "Putin wanted to destroy Ukraine, but he will get our rebirth," BBC, 08.04.22. Clues From Russian Views

  • “I have had no illusions about the aggressive nature of Putin's Russia since 2003, when, during Moscow's first attempt at encroachment on Ukrainian Crimea, I gave the order to shoot to kill if the Russians tried to break into our island of Tuzla.”
  • “I believe that Putin invaded because he did not believe that someone would punish him for this. … It seems to me that, in fact, if we talk about the emotional component, Putin today would like everything to turn around, like in a fairy tale, to rewind. So that Feb. 24 never was. After all, the blitzkrieg failed, and failed as a result of Putin's fatal miscalculation. That's right—it was a fatal miscalculation in criminal plans, and not some kind of innocent ‘mistake’ that those who want to ‘save face’ for Putin talk about.”
  • “Putin wanted the destruction of the Ukrainian state, but will get our rebirth. … Personally, I see no alternative for Ukraine to NATO membership.”
  • “First of all—do not expect that Putin is about to die. That sanctions are about to kill Russia economically. That the Russian inhabitant will suddenly begin to see clearly and come out to an anti-war protest. Nothing like that will happen. Ukraine must fight and decide everything on the battlefield.”
  • “I exclude the use of the Russian strategic potential. I don't believe in it at all. A state can resort to strategic nuclear weapons only if there is a real threat to its very existence, or in response to an already struck blow, as some kind of ‘retribution from the other world.’ ... With regard to tactical nuclear weapons, here, unfortunately, the situation is more complicated. ... If the state of affairs at the front threatens—no, not the existence or security of Russia, but exclusively Putin's political positions and the stability of his regime—then the Kremlin could use tactical nuclear weapons.”

"Silicon Lifeline: Western Electronics at the Heart of Russia’s War Machine,” James Byrne, Gary Somerville, Joe Byrne, Dr Jack Watling , Nick Reynolds and Jane Baker, RUSI, 08.08.22.

  • “RUSI staff and partners inspected 27 Russian weapons systems and pieces of military equipment lost or expended since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. In partnership with Reuters, RUSI identified at least 450 unique microelectronic components inside these systems that were produced by companies based in the U.S., Europe and East Asia. The preponderance of foreign-made components inside these systems reveals that Russia’s war machine is heavily reliant on imports of sophisticated microelectronics to operate effectively.”
  • “Of the 450 components found by RUSI in Russian military systems, 317 appear to have been made by U.S. companies. Components from Japan, Taiwan, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, China, South Korea, the U.K., Austria and others were also present.”
  • “[T]he vast majority appear to have been designed and manufactured by 56 U.S.-based companies. However, over 200 of the components appear to have been manufactured by only 10 of these companies. Among the 450 components, approximately 18% are covered by the U.S. export control regime for their possible application in military systems.”
  • “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not gone to plan, and the country’s military is having to expend large volumes of its weapons and equipment for small gains. Considering the preponderance of components manufactured in the West and East Asia in these systems, Russia does not have a clear alternative for the production of analogous components domestically, nor would import substitution be enough to offset the volumes required to replace those expended or lost in Ukraine.” 
  • “As a result, the country may have to either design or produce less capable replacements, or engage in sanctions evasion activities to acquire the necessary components. Understanding how Russia evades sanctions to import critical technology provides the opportunity for a multinational effort to curtail the replacement of Russia's tools of military aggression.”

“Time for NATO to Take the Lead in Ukraine. The War’s Next Phase Will Demand More From the Alliance,” Alina Polyakova of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Ilya Timtchenko of Harvard Kennedy School, FA, 08.04.22.

  • “The efficient and rapid training of Ukraine’s military is key to reducing the time lag between the weapons systems committed and the time it takes to put them in action, especially as the equipment becomes more sophisticated. NATO should take the lead coordinating existing efforts and identify future needs.”  
  • “As the war evolves, Western allies may be more willing to provide weapons that were off the table just a few months ago. And the Ukrainians should be ready. The United States, for example, is reportedly considering supplying fighter jets to Ukraine, a move it has not yet been willing to take, and Ukrainian pilots should already be receiving training.
  • “Securing the Black Sea is critical to Ukraine’s military operations and longer-term economic resilience. ... With global food supplies at risk, NATO should be prepared to provide naval escorts to export vessels regardless of Russian adherence to the agreement.”
  • “NATO can enhance its presence in the Black Sea by working with Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey to establish a year-round presence there, increasing the number of NATO forces stationed on a rotational or permanent basis within these countries.”
  • “NATO also plays an important role in supporting and bolstering Ukraine’s cyberdefense and offense capabilities. Ukraine’s participation as a contributing participant of NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence should be expedited so that it can officially join the ranks of other non-NATO members.”
  • “NATO members can also support Ukraine’s already successful efforts to recruit an ‘IT Army’ of international hackers to both defend Ukraine and attack Russian state and private entities that are fueling the war.”
  • “More closely integrating U.S. and European industrial defense production by streamlining defense procurement practices, for example, may allow the defense industry to better anticipate the needs of Ukraine specifically and Europe at large, but doing so would take years. In the meantime, NATO, working with member states, can provide the strategic guidance to defense companies across the alliance to help identify gaps.”
  • “[T]he window for changing the trajectory of the war is narrowing. The sooner NATO takes up its political mandate to support Ukraine, the greater the chance for ensuring its future as the most effective and powerful security alliance.”

Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:

“US and EU imports of Russian uranium and enrichment services could stop. Here’s how,” Dory Castillo-Peters of Cornell University and Frank von Hippel of Princeton University, BAS, 08.05.22.

  • “The bottom line of this rough analysis is that both the United States and the EU, if they want to, could switch to fueling their reactors with uranium and enrichment work purchased from sources other than Russia. But this would have a relatively small impact on Russia’s trade balance—only about a billion dollars or about half of a percent of Russia’s earnings from the export of oil and natural gas. Indeed, the increase in world prices of oil and natural gas caused by its invasion of Ukraine has already given Russia extra income that dwarfs any losses it would experience from its uranium or enrichment sales.”
  • “How much would it cost? Replacing Russian uranium and enrichment services from other sources—if available—could raise concerns about increasing uranium and enrichment costs to U.S. and EU utilities. But these costs are small in comparison to other nuclear costs. The overall cost of nuclear power is mostly driven by the capital investment and salaries for the 500 to 800 people who tend each nuclear power reactor. In 2021, the average costs of uranium and enrichment for U.S. nuclear utilities were $90 per kilogram of natural uranium and $100 per SWU, respectively. For a typical reactor, their combined contributions would be about 4% of the average retail price of 10.6 cents for a kilowatt-hour in the United States in 2020.”
  • “If the net effect of shifting away from Russian uranium and enrichment were to cause as much as a 50% increase in the cost of uranium and SWUs to US utilities, it would increase the retail cost of nuclear power by only 2%—much less than June’s year-over-year general inflation rates of about 9% in both the United States and the European Union. The cost of ending dependence on Russia’s nuclear services pales in comparison to the costs Putin’s war has already inflicted on the U.S. and EU economies.”

“The west’s phantom energy sanctions fuel Russia’s war machine,” chief economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Oleg Ustenko, FT, 08.07.22.

  • “To some degree, today’s high energy prices reflect the anticipation of traders that restrictions on Russian oil are coming down the line. But crude oil prices were increasing for months before the invasion and before the west announced any sanctions.”
  • “What is more, West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil prices have been coming down steadily since early June, just as Russia’s crude exports began to decline. The claim that current oil prices are a result of the minimal restrictions imposed by western governments on Russia’s fossil fuel exports does not stand up to scrutiny.”
  • “Big energy companies … bear far more responsibility for the pain that energy consumers are feeling. Companies such as BP & Shell in the U.K., which made $8.5 billion and $11.5 billion respectively from April to June, and Wintershall in Germany, which made $1.9 billion, are doing very well.”
  • “In recent days, EU and U.K. policymakers have watered down their existing restrictions. They have created a straw man in their sanction regimes. Without having given sanctions a chance to work properly, they are now dismantling them. This backsliding rewards Putin even as his forces commit atrocities in Ukraine and as Russia expands the territorial aims of its illegal war.”
  • “Ukraine will never forget the support our partners have given us. But on fossil fuels, the west faces a clear choice. Anyone serious about their support for Ukraine must stop funding Putin’s regime. Business as usual serves only to prolong the war, which has hamstrung the entire global economy. The most effective solution must include a complete and immediate embargo on Russian fossil fuels in Europe and the rapid enactment of G7 proposals for a global price cap on Russian oil.”

“Scientists from Yale published a report according to which the Russian economy is moving ‘to oblivion’ thanks to sanctions. We explain why this work raises so many questions,” Margarita Lyutova, Meduza, 08.06.22. Clues From Russian Views

  • “On July 22, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management, and colleagues published a report on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN) on the impact of sanctions and corporate exits on the Russian economy. The Yale report raises questions.”
    • “[T]his report does not look like academic articles: for example, it does not contain a list of references, there are no appendices with the data used and description of the calculations that would allow other researchers to reproduce the authors' conclusions or make their own estimates.”
    • “The work is based on the same list of retired companies that has been updated since the beginning of March and an analysis of Russian economic statistics. Thus, the authors calculated that a thousand companies that left Russia generated revenue in Russia and made investments in the amount equivalent to 40% of Russian GDP. At the same time, the review does not explain exactly how this figure was obtained.”
    • “Almost simultaneously with the Sonnenfeld et al. report on ‘crippling sanctions,’ the IMF's forecast for all the world's economies was published. ... The IMF slightly improved its forecast for the Russian economy for 2022.”
    • “There are contradictions in Sonnenfeld's report, which are noticeable even to those who do not deal with economics professionally.”
  • “Bloomberg economist Alexander Isakov, who worked in Russia for many years, decided to check the facts in the Sonnenfeld et al. report. He found several inaccuracies.”
    • “The report … says that the Russian debt market froze (meaning that neither people nor companies took out loans), and Russian companies since the beginning of the year have not been able to issue a single bond. ... In March, after the Central Bank sharply raised the key rate to 20% on Feb. 28 and suspended exchange trading, the situation really looked like this, Isakov notes. But by June … the demand for loans was growing, and the volume of bond placements was at the level of August 2021.”

“Is Russia’s economy headed for "economic oblivion" as a report from Yale says?” Ben Aris, BNE, 08.08.22.

  • “A paper released by Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute (Yale CELI) in July... claims the damage done to Russia is far worse than it seems and that in fact the economy has come to a standstill and that many of its main problems are ‘unsolvable.’”
  • “The report exaggerates the problems Russia’s economy is facing, but that its fundamental message is correct: the heavy sanctions imposed by the West are extreme and have fundamentally reduced its long-term growth potential.”
  • “The country will be permanently cut off [from] Western technology that will cripple its productivity and Russia will be unable to develop this technology for itself for the foreseeable future, nor be able to buy it from anyone else.”
  • “It has also cut itself off from its most lucrative and closest markets. It will permanently loss its gas business with Europe and cannot develop a replacement market in Asia under five years at the earliest. Likewise, its oil business will be permanently reduced and less profitable. As a result of the change in orientation it has lost much of its price setting power and will have to sell energy to its remaining customers at deeply discounted prices.”
  • “These changes will reverberate to affect the budget eventually, as commodity prices return to normal levels and deficits will be harder to finance as foreign investors have been barred from Russia’s capital markets and are unlikely to return.”
  • “Putin’s plan seems to be to try to build a new market with the non-aligned countries of the Global South, but the reception there is only lukewarm, as most of these countries need to retain their good relations with the West in addition to wanting to buy cheap Russian commodities.” 

Ukraine-related negotiations:

“Russia, Ukraine and the decision to negotiate,” Steven Pifer, Brookings, 08.01.22.

  • “Even a cease-fire presents peril for the Ukrainian side. It would leave Russian troops occupying large parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, with no guarantee they would leave. The Ukrainians have learned from bitter experience. Cease-fires agreed in September 2014 and February 2015, supposedly to end the fighting in Donbas, left Russian and Russian proxy forces in control of territory that they never relinquished and did not fully stop the shooting. Moreover, the Russian military might use a cease-fire to regroup, rearm, and launch new attacks on Ukraine.”
  • “This is not to say that a cease-fire or negotiation should be ruled out. But, given the risks inherent in either course for Ukraine, the decision to engage in talks on a cease-fire or broader negotiations should be left to President Volodymyr Zelensky and his government.”
  • “The United States and NATO certainly have a major interest in avoiding direct military conflict with Russia. However, in order to minimize that risk, is it right to ask the Ukrainian government to make concessions to the aggressor, concessions that could reduce the size and economic viability of the Ukrainian state, that would provoke a sharp domestic backlash in the country, and that might not end the Russian threat to Ukraine?”
  • “One last point to weigh. If the West pressed Kyiv to accept such an outcome, what lesson would Putin draw should his stated desire to ‘return’ Russia’s historic lands extend beyond Ukraine?”

“‘Realists’ have it wrong: Putin, not Zelensky, is the one who can end the war,” Michael McFaul of Stanford University, WP, 08.05.22.

  • “History teaches that wars tend to end in two ways. Either one side wins, or a grinding stalemate is reached. Neither of those conditions exists yet in Ukraine. No matter what Zelensky says or gives, Putin will not stop fighting until his army can no longer move forward.”
  • “The real party of peace is not those advising Zelensky to give Putin more land. It is those pushing the West to supply the Ukrainian army with more and better weapons, and as fast as possible. Without stalemate on the battlefield, Putin will never negotiate. The faster Ukraine’s army can stop Russia’s, the sooner Putin’s war will end.”
  • “Putin, not Zelensky, is the key decision-maker for ending the Russian invasion of Ukraine. If your plan for peace does not spell out a way to change Putin’s calculus, there’s nothing realistic about it.”

A window has opened to end the war in Ukraine,” Hrair Balian, Responsible Statecraft, 08.08.22.

  • “If the war continues longer, the staggering human, material and political costs will increase not only for the two warring sides, but also for Europe and the world beyond.”
  • “A game changer would be if the United States and the European Union consider tangible incentives such as accelerated EU membership for Ukraine and incremental sanctions easing for Russia conditioned by a ceasefire and good faith negotiations for a lasting peace agreement.”
  • “Inevitably, the ceasefire will produce an unjust outcome initially. However, the future of Ukrainian territories under Russian control at the time of a ceasefire will be determined during extended multi-lateral negotiations, which would restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity to the extent possible, preserve its sovereignty, provide security against any future incursions, guarantee Ukraine’s non-NATO and non-nuclear status, create a multilateral infrastructure for reconstruction, and support the country’s accelerated accession to the EU.”
  • “As the driving force behind the transatlantic coalition supporting Ukraine’s resistance and as the principal architect of sanctions imposed on Russia, the United States must assume responsibility for preparing the ground for eventual negotiations between the warring parties.”

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

“Can Russia Divide Europe? Why a False Peace Could Be Worse Than a Long War,” Nathalie Tocci of the Istituto Affari Internazionali in Rome, FA, 08.05.22.

  • “The greatest risk that European leaders faces is ... a hidden one: if Russian operations in Ukraine subside and Moscow begins to hint at some kind of compromise or truce, Europeans might fall in a trap. Such a prospect, although it would present itself as an opportunity to be seized, would likely be an insidious threat: for Moscow, it would simply serve as a way to gain time to prepare for the next round of fighting, a few months down the line. And if some countries supported such a step, it could further divide Europe, even as it helped the Kremlin prolong the war.”
  • “It is precisely when violence subsides that the West should show its true resilience and redouble support for Kyiv, to ensure not just that Russia loses this war but that Ukraine actually wins it, by securing a territorially and therefore economically viable state, with security guarantees, and, ultimately, a course toward reconstruction and democratic consolidation in the EU.”
  • “Putin surely believes that resilience is only about pain endurance, and that liberal democracies—first and foremost western European ones—are simply too weak in leadership and do not have what it takes to wait him out. Europeans, by contrast, have shown that they believe that resilience is not just about resisting pain but about the ability to adapt, react, and bounce back from crisis. Europeans understand that their democratic systems and European institutions are slow and messy but strong.”
  • “Europe’s path through its serial crises over the past few decades—including the sovereign debt crisis, migration, Brexit, and the COVID-19 pandemic—show just that. The Ukraine war and the way it will test Europe’s defenses, economies, and energy systems, as well as the social fabric of its democratic order, may well be the hardest test of all. To pass it, Europeans will need to find their own determination and strength rather than relying on Putin to do the job.”

“The Upside of Putin’s Delusions,” John Mueller of Ohio State University, FA, 08.01.22.

  • “Whether his war was to push NATO away from Russia’s borders, to create disunity within the alliance, to provide a stepping stone for further advances, or somehow to enhance Russia’s status (except as a pariah), it has been a massive failure. It has even inspired Russia’s long-neutral neighbors, Sweden and Finland, to seek admission. Thus, NATO enlargement has scarcely been stopped. The alliance has become far more hostile, united and better armed, and it has effectively moved closer.”
  • “Putin’s war has also failed at another of his pronounced goals: keeping Ukraine from embracing the West and moving toward joining the European Union and NATO.”
  • “Putin has also said his goal in the war was ‘to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine.’ Demilitarization has obviously failed as arms pour into the country. And if de-Nazification means establishing a compliant regime, projecting a sphere of influence or, as some suggest, destroying democracy in Ukraine, the Russian failure has been total. Hatred for, and hostility toward, Russia may well last for decades.”
  • “Putin has also declared that he wanted to rescue and protect Russian speakers in Ukraine. ... But the overwhelming majority have taken Ukraine’s side—something the government in Kyiv should be doing more to celebrate.”
  • “If one goal of the current war was to display the might and effectiveness of the Russian military, the result could be chalked up as yet another failure. … For all these reasons, it seems unlikely that other countries will find much inspiration in Putin’s ‘self-inflicted debacle,’ as Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune puts it.”

“The War in Ukraine and Global Nuclear Order,” Alexander K. Bollfrass and Stephen Herzog of the Center for Security Studies of ETH Zurich, Survival, 08.02.22.

  • “The severity of the military and humanitarian situation in Ukraine—including Russia’s wanton attacks on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant—and the futility of diplomacy have led to many doomsday predictions about nuclear politics. … As awful as the situation on the ground is, though, the global nuclear order is not on the brink of collapse. The dynamics of the conflict have elevated the risks of nuclear use and nuclear proliferation. But both remain unlikely. And if one of these improbable grey-swan events were somehow to occur, states could respond within the existing regime infrastructure.”
  • “Nuclear governance has existed in different forms and has a strength and resilience separate from its underlying conditions. The NPT has seen worse days … The bilateral character of U.S.–Russian nuclear-arms control has made the endeavor fickle, minimally institutionalized and unstable. In the medium term, however, arms control will be Russia’s only path back to international respectability.”
  • “The odds of nuclear use have increased in recent months, but this is not the first time that has happened. … [I]t is premature to ascribe to them the erosion of the nuclear taboo. At the same time, complacency regarding the dangers of nuclear weapons in a world where they are used as shields to enable infringements of national sovereignty and grievous war crimes against civilians is simply foolhardy. … Washington will need to seize the moment to continue reassuring its allies of the ironclad nature of its nuclear guarantees.”
  • “Russian defeat in Ukraine would amount to a public-service announcement about the dangers of attempted military aggrandizement even if it is backed by nuclear weapons. Russian victory would advertise the coercive power of nuclear arms and the vulnerability of states that do not possess them. The more Russia is rewarded for its war, the greater the danger to the global infrastructure for reducing nuclear threats.”

“Stop Tiptoeing Around Russia,” Alexander Vindman of Johns Hopkins University, FA, 08.08.22.

  • “According to former officials, the NSC leadership believes that the war will pose significantly greater risks to the United States and global stability if Ukraine ‘wins too much.’ They wish to avoid the collapse of Putin’s regime for fear of the same threats the ungroup identified three decades ago: nuclear proliferation, loose nukes, and civil war.”
  • “Planning for every contingency is a responsible way to manage national security threats, but lowest-probability worst-case scenarios should not dictate U.S. actions. … Time that is wasted worrying about unlikely Russian responses to U.S. actions would be better spent backfilling allies’ weaponry, training Ukrainians on Western capabilities, and expediting more arms transfers to Ukraine.”
  • “The Biden administration has rightfully, if belatedly, begun to speak about a policy of Ukrainian victory on the battlefield, but it still has yet to match this rhetoric with the requisite military support. … The United States should also do more to resolve the issue of grain exports.”
  • “The Biden administration has made democratic renewal a cornerstone of its domestic and foreign policy agendas. There is no better way to demonstrate democratic resolve than by defending U.S. values and interests in Ukraine. … Recognizing the poisonous Russocentrism of U.S. foreign policy is the first step toward a better approach to U.S.-Ukrainian relations.”
  • “Beneath the United States’ misplaced aspirations for a positive relationship with Russia lies immense hubris. … In truth, the United States never had the influence to unilaterally change Russia’s internal politics. But it did have the ability to nurture a more promising outcome with a more willing partner in Ukraine. Unless the United States fundamentally reorients its foreign policy, away from aspirations and toward outcomes, it will miss an even bigger opportunity to bring about a peaceful, democratic Eastern Europe.”

“Nobody Wants the Current World Order. How All the Major Powers—Even the United States—Became Revisionists,” Shivshankar Menon of Ashoka University, FA, 08.03.22.

  • “Few of the world’s major powers are content with the international order as it exists. As the sole global superpower, the United States is committed to extending President Joe Biden's domestic agenda under the rubric of ‘Build Back Better World.’”
    • “China was the greatest beneficiary of the globalized order led by the United States. It now wants, in President Xi Jinping’s words, to ‘take center stage.’”
    • “Russia never really fit in the global order that Western powers tried to squeeze it into in the years immediately following the end of the Cold War. Instead, Moscow resents its decline and reduced influence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
    • “India, which embraced and benefited from the U.S.-led liberal international order after the Cold War, remains a dissatisfied member. Its quest for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council is the most visible example of India’s desire to have a bigger say in the international system, commensurate with its economic and geopolitical weight.”
  • “As the old order disintegrates and the new one struggles to be born, the advantage lies with states that clearly understand the balance of forces and have a conception of a cooperative future order that serves the common good. Unfortunately, the capacities of many major powers have diminished, and many of their leaders exhibit little interest in foreign affairs, managing crises or solving transnational problems, precisely when widespread revisionism makes crises more likely and dangerous. As a consequence of their contentious domestic politics, none of the significant revisionist powers, each of which wishes to change the international system, has a compelling vision of what that change might be. … Instead, the powers will probably muddle along from crisis to crisis as their dissatisfaction with the international system and with one another grows, in a form of motion without movement.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“The Great Diplomatic Rivalry: China vs the U.S.,” Graham Allison, Alyssa Resar and Karina Barbesino, Belfer Center, August 2022.

  • “In response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has successfully mobilized an international coalition that is imposing unprecedented, comprehensive sanctions on Russia. … As this brutal war has ground on, China has stood firmly behind its beleaguered Russian partner. While the U.S. highlights the international condemnation of Russia’s aggression, China notes that this does not include the most populous country in the world, the largest democracy in the world, the leading countries in Africa and South America and even Israel.”
  • “[This] is an assessment of both nations’ statecraft and diplomacy in addressing the challenges posed by the first 20 years of the 21st century—before Putin invaded Ukraine. As such, it provides an instructive baseline against which to judge what each is now doing.”
    • “[W]e report a number of troubling trendlines. Given where China started at the beginning of the century, it is not surprising that in playing catch-up it has closed the gaps with the U.S. in many arenas. … To begin with our bottom lines up front:”
      • “In a phrase: game on. The era of ‘hide and bide’ is over. China is now determined to compete as aggressively in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy as it does in other arenas.”
      • “For Washington, diplomacy has become a ‘lost art.’”
      • “The good news is that China has not yet found it. ... [W]here Chinese diplomats have tried to play offense, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd notes, ‘China’s standing has taken a huge hit.’”
    • “The acid test is how successful a state’s diplomacy is in getting other states to do what its leaders want. There, China’s performance has, until recently, earned higher marks than America’s. In large part, this reflects the fact that Chinese leaders’ assignments to their diplomats were more achievable. … On the other hand, statecraft also requires execution. At the level of implementation, Chinese diplomats’ ferociousness has become a liability.”
    • “For a generation, Washington has largely dissed diplomacy: denigrating its significance, disinvesting in its professionals, demeaning the role of continuous conversation and artful persuasion.”
    • “On most metrics of diplomacy, China’s position relative to that of the U.S. has risen dramatically over the past two decades.”

“Taiwan, Thucydides, and U.S.-China War,” Harvard University’s Graham Allison, NI, 08.05.22.

  • “Fortunately, the American and Chinese governments know that a hot war would be a disaster for both. No serious person in either government wants war. Unfortunately, history offers many examples in which rivals whose leaders did not want war nonetheless found themselves forced to make fateful choices between accepting what they judged an unacceptable loss, on the one hand, and taking a step that increased the risks of war on the other. The classic case is World War I.”
  • “On the larger canvas of history, when a rapidly rising power seriously threatens to displace a major ruling power, the rivalry most often ends in war. The past 500 years have seen sixteen cases of such Thucydidean rivalries. Twelve resulted in war. In each case, the proximate causes of war included accidents, unforced errors and unintended consequences of unavoidable choices in which one of the protagonists accepted increased risks hoping that another would back down. But beneath these were underlying structural drivers that Thucydides highlighted in explaining how the two leading city-states of classical Greece destroyed each other in the Peloponnesian War.”
  • “The brute facts about the face-off between China and the United States over Taiwan today are three.”
    • “First, not just Xi Jinping but the entire Chinese leadership and nation are unambiguously committed to preventing Taiwan from becoming an independent state.”
    • “Second, what Winston Churchill called the ‘deadly currents’ in domestic politics are now running rife in both the United States and China.”
    • “Third, while most American politicians have yet to recognize it, the military balance in the Taiwan Strait has been transformed in the quarter century since the last Taiwan crisis. The local balance of power has shifted decisively in China’s favor.”
  • “If the best the current U.S. and Chinese governments can manage is statecraft as usual—which is what we’ve seen this past week—then we should expect history as usual. Tragically, history as usual would mean a catastrophic war that could destroy both.”

“Why Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan Is Utterly Reckless, NYT’s Thomas L. Friedman, NYT, 08.01.22.

  • “Biden, according to a senior U.S. official, personally told President Xi Jinping that if China entered the war in Ukraine on Russia’s side, Beijing would be risking access to its two most important export markets—the United States and the European Union. (China is one of the best countries in the world at manufacturing drones, which are precisely what Putin’s troops need most right now.) By all indications, U.S. officials tell me, China has responded by not providing military aid to Putin—at a time when the U.S. and NATO have been giving Ukraine intelligence support and a significant number of advanced weapons.”
  • “Meanwhile, senior U.S. officials still believe that Putin is quite prepared to consider using a small nuclear weapon against Ukraine if he sees his army facing certain defeat. In short, this Ukraine war is SO not over, SO not stable, SO not without dangerous surprises that can pop out on any given day. Yet in the middle of all of this we are going to risk a conflict with China over Taiwan, provoked by an arbitrary and frivolous visit by the speaker of the House? It is Geopolitics 101 that you don’t court a two-front war with the other two superpowers at the same time.”

“The skeptics are wrong: The U.S. can confront both China and Russia,” WP’s Josh Rogin, WP, 08.04.22.

  • “This week, the United States proved it could handle China and Russia at the same time, without starting any new wars or losing any ongoing battles. This should put to rest two trendy but wrong ideas: the notion on the right that we must back off Russia to confront China, and the notion on the left that we must back off China to confront Russia. It's a false choice—because it's all one confrontation.”
  • “The good news is that the United States has many strong partners that also understand this is a dual threat, not a choice between two separate challenges. Leaders on both sides of the U.S. political spectrum should stop deluding the American people into the false comfort that we have the luxury to choose to confront one evil and not the other.”

“China, Russia and the West's Crisis of Disbelief,” Andrew A. Michta of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, WSJ, 08.08.22.

  • “Democracies are today at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the Russian-Chinese totalitarian axis, and it isn't because the West lacks the money or material resources to confront them and prevail. Rather, much like in the late 1930s, the West doesn't believe that the threat is real. Historically democracies have been unbeatable when united around a common purpose. Until the West's disbelief is replaced by a determination to resist, the Russian and Chinese dictators will keep pressing on, planning their major assaults and dreaming of future victories.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

“Nuclear arms control is moribund, but its necessity is not,” Editorial Board, WP, 08.03.22.

  • “The 10th review conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which began Monday at the United Nations, will evoke valid complaints that the treaty's lofty goals remain unfulfilled, that states equipped with nuclear weapons didn't do enough to end the arms race. The conference should also remind everyone that the promising age of nuclear arms reductions in the 1980s and 1990s has stalled, while China has rising ambitions. Nuclear arms control negotiations might be moribund, but their necessity is not.”
  • “The goal of arms control—to reduce risk and make the world safer—is still a valid quest, if a far more difficult one. Hotlines and direct military channels can avoid catastrophic miscalculation and mistaken assumptions. We have long argued it is time to take U.S. and Russian missiles off launch-ready alert—together, and verifiably. New START provides valuable verification and limits, and should be extended. Tactical or short-range nuclear weapons have never been covered by treaty, and should be, as well as new technologies like hypersonic glide vehicles. Most important, despite its reluctance, efforts must be made to bring China into the circle of negotiations.”
  • “Mr. Biden's team has been busy rewriting its National Defense Strategy and National Security Strategy in light of the war in Ukraine. This has delayed the expected release of a declassified Nuclear Posture Review, an important declaration of nuclear weapons policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture. It should be released soon. The public debate will be healthy. Nuclear weapons haven't gone away.”

“Greetings on the opening of the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” Vladimir Putin, 08.01.22. Clues From Russian Views

  • “As a party to the NPT and one of its depositaries, Russia consistently follows the letter and spirit of the Treaty. Our obligations under the bilateral agreements with the United States on the reduction and limitation of the relevant weapons have been fully realized. We believe that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, and we stand for equal and indivisible security for all members of the world community.”
  • “We attach great importance to the IAEA’s safeguard system as a verification mechanism under the Treaty and consider it extremely important to ensure objective, depoliticized and technically grounded application.”
  • “We believe that all NPT-compliant countries should have the right to the peaceful use of the atom without any additional preconditions. We are ready to share our experience in nuclear energy with our partners.”
  • “We expect that this Conference will reaffirm the willingness of all states—parties to the NPT to strictly comply with their commitments and will make a significant contribution to strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime to ensure peace, security and stability in the world.”

“Is there a need to think differently about strategic risk reduction?, Benjamin Hautecouverture of FRS, Note de la FRS n°32/2022, 08.02.22.

  • “Although the enthusiasm created by a rich SRR [strategic risk reduction] debate was interrupted by the Russian war against Ukraine … several SRR recommendations continue to be useful:”
    • “Firstly, the recommendation to unilaterally conduct technical actions to reduce the risks of accidents and the risks to the systems themselves is still valid despite the vicissitudes of the strategic environment.”
    • “Secondly, the transparent implementation of defense policies remains valuable for states that care about openness, the free provision of information, explanation of postures and doctrines, restraint and anticipation of misperceptions by designated or de facto adversaries, even without reciprocity.”
    • “Thirdly, the Ukrainian crisis and the rise of strategic adversity in several regions of the world highlight the need to distinguish between chosen and suffered risks. In other words, it is up to the analysis to distinguish, without preconceived ideas and with lucidity, in each case, the risks that cannot be reduced from those for which a reduction method is potentially useful.”
    • “Finally, formal formats for dialogue and negotiation will probably continue to decline, at least in the short to medium term. Then, informal communication channels between strategic communities will have to increase.”
  • “SRR remains valid in the current strategic context as one of the functions of a tripod, the other two being deterrence and defense. This means that SRR does not have to be rethought as an approach, as a method, as an objective, but probably specified and circumscribed. The debate on SRR in the NPT framework should be about the scope of the discipline. It is the improvement of the strategic context that should be the primary focus of all the NPT states parties.”

“Nuclear Weapons: What Does Russian Orthodox Church and Its Top Parishioner Believe?,” RM Staff, RM, 08.03.22.

  • “This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed in his written address to the Tenth Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that he ‘believe[s] that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, and we stand for equal and indivisible security for all members of the world community.’ Interestingly enough, there was no such coupling in Putin’s address to the previous NPT Review Conference in 2015. … Perhaps this new coupling indicates that Putin wants the world to know that according to Russia, preventing nuclear war should be indivisible from ensuring that no country can enhance its own security at Russia’s expense. If so, that would not be inconsistent with Putin’s and his team’s efforts to implicitly threaten the use of nuclear weapons over the West’s assistance to Ukraine.”
  • “It would, perhaps, be just as interesting to know what Putin, as a practicing member of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), may believe when it comes to nuclear war. For clues on that, one can read Dmitry Adamsky’s profound ‘Russian Nuclear Orthodoxy’ volume. Or one can skim the statements on the issue, gathered below, made by the ROC’s leadership and Putin’s apparent confessor. These statements, gathered from various sources, indicate that the ROC has nothing quite as extensive, long and thoughtful as the Catholic Church’s just war theory in general or Catholics’ views on nuclear weapons. Overall, if these statements (and blessings) are any guide, the ROC appears to be significantly more tolerant of nuclear weapons than the Catholic Church.”


“Why designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism is a bad idea,” Ingrid Brunk Wuerth of Vanderbilt Law School, WP, 08.01.22.

  • “The state sponsor of terrorism designation is not a symbolic act to chastise states that behave badly. Instead, it is a legal trigger embedded in an extremely complex statutory and regulatory framework. The effects of pulling that legal trigger are not easy to identify and untangle. In the case of Russia, some of those effects would be negative for Ukraine and for U.S. interests. They could even help Russia.”
  • “This litigation would have several pernicious effects. It would allow Americans to recover from the frozen assets, but not Ukrainians (or Libyans or Syrians or Georgians) who have suffered from Putin's brutal conduct. It would deplete frozen Russian assets that could otherwise provide important leverage in efforts to negotiate a peace deal—one that could provide compensation to many groups of injured people.”
  • “Compensating U.S. victims of Russian aggression from frozen Russian state-owned assets might also encourage other countries to compensate their nationals from Russian assets that they have frozen, further diminishing the global pool of resources available to assist Ukraine and creating more cracks and fissures in what should be a unified global response.”
  • “The designation would also affect sanctions. … [M]ost sanctions triggered by a state sponsor of terrorism designation ... are already in place. ... To the extent Congress wants to impose further sanctions on Russia, it should do so with legislation tailored for that purpose—not with the blanket trigger of the ‘state sponsor of terrorism designation,’ which would have unintended consequences.”

“Al Qaeda’s Next Move. What Zawahiri’s Death Means for Global Jihadism,” Cole Bunzel of the Hoover Institution, FA, 08.03.22.

  • “Ayman al-Zawahiri was the ultimate survivor—until he wasn’t. … Then, this past Sunday, the man who succeeded bin Laden as the emir of al Qaeda in 2011 finally met his fate, struck by two Hellfire missiles while standing on the balcony of a safe house in the Afghan capital, Kabul.”
  • “The greatest challenge facing al Qaeda in the near term will be succession.”
    • “The next in line, most analysts believe, is the younger Egyptian militant Saif al-Adel, who has been living in Iran since shortly after the 9/11 attacks. After him comes Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi, Zawahiri’s Moroccan son-in-law and the head of al Qaeda’s media operations, who is also based in Iran. The fact that both reside in Iran is not immaterial. ... It would be a hard sell for al Qaeda to present its next leader as running the show from quasi house arrest in Iran, which would encourage suspicions that the group was under Tehran’s thumb.”
    • “Perhaps, then, the next leader will instead hail from one of the al Qaeda affiliate groups. The line of succession, according to a recent U.N. report, names Yazid Mebrak in North Africa and Ahmed Diriye in Somalia as next in line, after the two Iran-based leaders.”
  • “What comes next for al Qaeda, then, is unclear. The group is unlikely to fold, as the brand still offers a great deal of jihadist legitimacy for its regional affiliates, providing an identity and flag around which to rally. But the group will no longer be able to ignore problems that have festered ever since the 9/11 attacks: the inconvenient relationship with Iran, the distrust and lack of alignment with part of the Taliban, and the absence of a shared strategy among the central leadership and the affiliates. Running a global organization of ideologically committed militants has never been easy—and for al Qaeda, it just got much harder.”

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

Why Can’t Cyber Scholars Move Beyond the Basics?” Brandon Valeriano of the Cato Institute, NI, 08.07.22.

  • “The questions are always the same and rarely evolve. Is this a cyber war? Can cyber deterrence work? Will cyber operations help states during wars and change the nature of warfare? Instead of pushing knowledge forward, the field of cybersecurity in geopolitics has mostly become about explaining why something didn’t happen rather than why it did. The entire concept of cyber war has been inflated to such a point that every modern movie seems to include the necessary shot of the hacker winning the day.”
  • “After nearly five months of a reckless and norm-busting conventional war in Ukraine, the cybersecurity community is still asking when the cyber war will start. When a cyber conflict did not materialize, pundits fell back on the typical claim that it was really happening, but we just couldn’t see it. The cyber war is mainly fought in the shadows, or perhaps the ‘Upside Down’ like in Stranger Things. It's all there, we just don’t know where to look, apparently.”
  • “Instead of focusing on the need to achieve coercive effects in cyberspace suggesting that the cyber offense has the advantage, how about we study the impact of cyber actions on behavior first before providing strategic solutions? Precision is needed in research; investments should only come through clear evidence of an impact, all hallmarks of social science.”
  • “Without novelty, cybersecurity will continue to fail as a field. There is no progress in cybersecurity. Instead, there are frequent setbacks and academic arguments that go in circles with no clear resolution. It would be nice to feel stupid from time to time when reading the next emerging generation of cyber security scholarship. Progress here will require throwing off the shackles of expectation and searching for novelty.”


“Europe Needs a Grand Bargain on Energy,” Ben McWilliams, Simone Tagliapietra, and Georg Zachmann of Bruegel, FA, 08.08.22.

  • “Europe must act quickly to ensure its energy security in the coming months … EU countries may be tempted to go it alone, but this is a challenge that is best overcome together. Europe needs a grand energy bargain in which every country brings something to the table.”
  • “Pooling resources is the right move, but it will require painful political compromises. Postponing the closure of Germany’s nuclear power plants would help reduce Europe’s dependency on Russia for gas, but it would also reverse Germany’s long-standing plan to stop using nuclear power. Boosting production in Dutch gas fields would increase gas supplies, but it would upend the Dutch government’s commitment to decrease gas extraction in the northern region of Groningen … Temporarily lowering pollution standards for large industrial installations all across Europe would save gas by allowing the use of coal or oil, but it would take a toll in terms of environmental and public health.”
  • “Agreeing to jointly procure gas on international markets could also reduce the risk that EU unity falls apart as member states compete with one another for limited supplies. … A grand bargain on energy needs to address not just supply but demand. All EU member states should make honest and comprehensive efforts to reduce demand whenever possible.”
  • “European leaders should agree to stop directly subsidizing energy consumption as they have in the past … and instead subsidize energy reduction. New regulations, such as temporarily allowing lower temperatures in rental houses, need to be put in place ahead of the winter.”
  • “Of course, any effort to stave off the European energy crisis cannot ignore the poorest in society, who are most exposed to energy poverty and more vulnerable than ever to price shocks. To protect this segment of the population, European governments should provide lump-sum transfers to vulnerable families that are struggling to cope with high energy prices.
  • “Finally, short-term imperatives must not prevent European countries from enacting long-term solutions to reducing fossil fuel consumption.”

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

“As Russia waffles on the space station, NASA should think ahead,” Editorial Board, Washington Post, 08.07.22.

  • “Russia's recent announcement that it has decided to withdraw from the space station ‘after 2024’ is deliberately vague, signaling at least a few more years of continued cooperation with the United States. It is cooperation, though, with an increasingly unreliable partner. For NASA, this reinforces the importance of planning ahead: for continuing operations of the aging space station without Russian involvement, and for investment in the space projects that come next.”
  • “If Russia wants to leave the space station to pursue its own space station, the United States must look ahead, too. At the end of last year, NASA picked three companies to develop commercial space stations for government and private sector use. … For the United States to maintain an uninterrupted presence in low Earth orbit, these projects should be given the support they need so that a commercial station is waiting in the wings when the space station is retired.”
  • “Launched in 1998, the space station has been sustained by the hope that despite other differences, the United States and Russia can work together. As the space station approaches its last decade of use, it's unfortunate that U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated to a point where such hope is in jeopardy. Amid such uncertainty, NASA should be guided by pragmatism.”


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Russia’s Prison Brand of Economic Self-Sufficiency: Replacing IKEA factories with prison house labor,” Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, MT, 08.02.22.

  • “At an exhibition of products made by inmates of the Federal Penitentiary Service in Yekaterinburg, Ivan Sharkov, head of the department for labor adaptation of inmates of the Russian State Penitentiary Service's Sverdlovsk Region, said that the Russian system of correctional labor camps could replace IKEA. The inmates do better work, he said, and are cheaper. Alexander Fyodorov, the head of the region's Central Penitentiary Service, claimed that penal labor camps could replace other foreign companies that have left the market.”
  • “The Gulag archipelago is returning as one of the country's main production units. The way things are going, soon the FSB will get tired of accusing professional physicists of treason and espionage and will send them to ‘sharashki’ to invent advanced technologies. In these camps they’ll bring about that ‘technological sovereignty’ promised by the top leadership. This is what ‘import substitution’—which no one has actually seen—might look like in Russia.”
  • “Russia is slamming shut like a clam shell. Self-isolation and autarky—economic self-sufficiency—have been elevated to the level of managerial valor and human virtue. But Russia doesn’t have enough resources for self-sufficiency. So we are forced to return to the methods of the distant autarkic past and rely on the capabilities an almost free workforce, i.e. the Gulag. … Labor — especially forced labor — sets you free!”

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:

“The US-Led Drive to Isolate Russia and China Is Falling Short,” Bloomberg’s Alan Crawford, Jenni Marsh, and Antony Sguazzin, Bloomberg, 08.05.22.

  • “Comprising nations that account for some 85% of global economic output, the G-20 is supposed to be more reflective of the world. Yet only half its number has joined the international sanctions imposed on fellow member Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.”
  • “Senior officials from the smaller group of wealthy nations have been traveling the world to make the case for a tougher economic net around Russia. They’ve been surprised by the lack of sign-on from G-20 states, even if those countries aren’t going out of their way to help Moscow circumvent the penalties.”
  • “The biggest opt-out is China. Xi joined hands with Putin and declared a ‘no limits’ friendship just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine. China’s outlays on Russian oil have soared since the war’s outbreak—it spent 72% more on Russian energy purchases in June from a year earlier.”
  • “But Beijing is far from alone in rejecting the pleas to rein in the Kremlin.”
    • “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke over the phone with Putin on July 1 and discussed how trade could be built up.”
    • “Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the frontrunner in Brazil’s presidential race, laid the blame for the war on Ukraine as much as Russia.”
    • “In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa criticized U.S.-led sanctions.”
    • “Turkey concluded that penalizing Russia would be detrimental to Ankara’s economic and political interests, according to a senior official, who cited a $35 billion hit from higher energy costs and the impact on tourism.”
    • “In a rare snub to Ukraine, the South American trade bloc Mercosur declined a request by President Volodymyr Zelensky to address its summit in late July.”
  • “Economic imperatives are one reason for the reticence among what is often termed the Global South. But there are others, including historic affinities to Moscow, concerns at signs of U.S. disengagement and a distrust of former colonial powers that fuels a sense of hypocrisy.”


“As war grinds on, old Ukrainian political divisions are reemerging,” WP’s Miriam Berger and Kostiantyn Khudov, WP, 08.03.22.

  • “There has been an unofficial agreement among Ukraine's raucous and highly competitive politicians since Russia invaded: Put aside old differences and form a unified front against Moscow.”
  • “But now, as the war grinds on and billions of dollars in international aid pours in, cracks and prewar tensions are beginning to emerge between the central government and local leaders. Recent frictions between President Volodymyr Zelensky … and Ukrainian mayors who are trying to defend or rebuild their devastated cities and towns underscore Ukraine's mounting internal challenges as it approaches six months of war.”
  • “Mayors and analysts told The Washington Post that Zelensky's government appears to be trying to sideline mayors to maintain control of recovery aid and to weaken any future political rivals. More broadly, several mayors told The Post there is growing concern that amid the war, Zelensky's administration is backtracking on promises and plans to remove a lingering vestige of the Soviet era by decentralizing power and granting more authority to regional and local governments.”
  • “[Borys Filatov, 50, the powerful mayor of Dnipro in southeastern Ukraine] said mayors have been at the front line of defending cities and they want more control over how their communities rebuild. He criticized Zelensky's government, as did others, with one major caveat: No matter the internal divides, he said, the bigger foe is Russia, and the West must continue to support Ukraine's defense of its sovereignty.”

“When Politics Returns to Kyiv. How Ukrainian Democracy Will Be Tested After the War,” Daniel Baer of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, FA, 08.05.22.

  • “Politics must return. This is a country living under martial law, after all. And when the war is over or, more likely, when it has been contained in geography and scale, Ukraine will not only have to be rebuilt but, in a sense, re-democratized.”
  • “The return of politics to Kyiv will bring at least three big tests for Ukrainian democracy.”
    • “The most obvious one is physical reconstruction.”
    • “A second big test concerns the role of oligarchs in Ukrainian society. Although several of Ukraine’s wealthiest business tycoons have provided critical humanitarian and financial support during the war, those who amassed enormous wealth in the immediate post-Soviet period have for the most part played an unhealthy and outsize role in Ukrainian politics. For the last three decades, they have fueled corruption, undermined the rule of law.”
    • “The final test for Ukrainian democracy involves the country’s much-vaunted president. ... To secure Ukraine’s sovereign and democratic future, he must be prepared to return to being a democratically elected leader.”
  • “Ukrainians must overcome not only Russian aggression but also the temptation to turn against each other.”

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“New clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh signal ripple effects from Ukraine,” Anatol Lieven of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Responsible Statecraft, 08.04.22.

  • “With the Russian armed forces bogged down in Ukraine, an obvious temptation exists for Azerbaijan to disregard the Russian peacekeeping force and launch a new offensive with the aim of total victory in Nagorno-Karabakh. The latest clash was preceded by a series of moves by Azerbaijan to put increased pressure on Nagorno-Karabakh. This temptation also exists in Georgia.”
  • “Any such plans on the part of Georgians and Azeris should be strongly discouraged by the West. The Russian armed forces have fared poorly in Ukraine, but Russia remains vastly more powerful than Georgia and Azerbaijan. A war between Russia and Azerbaijan would bring with it the risk of Turkish and Iranian intervention and a general regional conflict. In the case of Georgia, a fresh Georgian defeat at the hands of Russia would face the United States and NATO with a choice between humiliation, if they failed to intervene to help a partner, and the risk of direct war with Russia if they did intervene.”
  • “The West should go on working to try to resolve these conflicts, while doing its utmost diplomatically to prevent their escalation. Condemnation of Russia’s role in the southern Caucasus is easy. Replacing that role would be extremely hard. And bad though the existing situation is, absent wisdom and restraint it could easily get much worse for everyone involved.”

“Transdniestria, Moldova, and Russia’s War in Ukraine,” Carnegie’s Philip Remler, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 08.02.22.

  • “Moldova’s newly acquired EU candidate status has rekindled old speculation in Moscow about its potential unification with Romania. On June 25, former president Dmitri Medvedev, who is now deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, suggested that Moldova might try to fast-track its membership in the EU by uniting with Romania, a member since 2007. Russian media have been flooded with speculation about Bucharest’s alleged designs—in cahoots with Chişinău and backed by NATO’s increased presence in Romania—to send troops to Moldova and occupy Transdniestria.”
  • “The result of any such action would be catastrophic for Moldova and Transdniestria, and would bring Russia and Romania to the brink of a direct military confrontation. After thirty years without incident, it seems improbable that the leaders in Chişinău would contemplate new hostilities, further destabilizing the situation. It is equally improbable that Romania would move to unite with Moldova and seize Transdniestria. But such scenarios are part of the fever dreams of Russian nationalist bloggers in the far reaches of the internet, who use as evidence the decades-long political rhetoric of Moldova’s ‘unionist’ parties, which regularly attract the support of roughly 10% of the electorate.”
  • “At the moment, Transdniestria and Moldova share an interest in staying out of the war. For Tiraspol, this may mean defying Russia, always an uncomfortable course of action, but the alternative looks like military and economic suicide. Chişinău has few choices other than to try to keep tensions with Tiraspol low, to quietly support its efforts to stay out of the war, and to plead with politicians in Bucharest not to inflame the situation further. Politics makes strange bedfellows. In this instance, war does too.”