Russia Analytical Report, Aug. 15-22, 2022

6 Ideas to Explore

  1. Russian leadership expects a long war in Ukraine and, according to Vladimir Putin, the United States is the one “attempting to draw out this conflict.” Unsurprisingly, Putin’s proposition is shared by his senior diplomats. Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s permanent representative to the U.N. in Geneva, has told FT that he expects a long conflict. “And the more the conflict goes on, the more difficult it will be to have a diplomatic solution,” Gatilov warns. The Russian leadership’s expectation that the conflict will turn into “long-term, positional” warfare follows from the Kremlin’s decision to begin forming volunteer battalions in Russia’s regions to then be sent to the front, according to Nikolai Petrov of RUSI.
  2. Western policymakers have also concluded the war in Ukraine will “settle into a prolonged stalemate,” according to John Mearsheimer. Such a protracted conflict generates “underappreciated risks of a catastrophic escalation” that could involve direct fighting between U.S. and Russian militaries, with Moscow eventually resorting to the use of nuclear weapons, according to the University of Chicago professor. “This perilous situation creates a powerful incentive to find a diplomatic solution [but] regrettably, ... both sides are firmly committed to war aims that make compromise almost impossible,” he writes in FA.
  3. Letting the Russian-Ukrainian war drag on could lead to a Russia-NATO escalation of the kind seen during WWI, according to Henry Kissinger. Therefore, there must be a negotiation that would provide for Russia’s return “to the line that existed when the war started,” in Kissinger’s view. Such a return would still mean Russia’s loss, according to Kissinger. “Russia on one level has lost already the war ... in the sense that the old idea that Russia could just march into Europe and unfold itself, that has ended, because they can't even defeat Ukraine, so they can't defeat NATO so it's impossible to have a relationship with Russia in which Russia considers itself part of Europe,” Kissinger explained to CNN.
  4. Russia’s deputy chief diplomat doesn’t rule out a nuclear conflict with NATO over Ukraine. When asked whether the war in Ukraine could eventually lead to a nuclear exchange between Russian and NATO forces, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov conceded that further escalation could lead to a “military clash of nuclear powers with dire consequences.” At the same time, the senior diplomat essentially stuck to the language on nuclear weapons use in Russia’s strategic documents, when describing when Russia could resort to nuclear arms. “Russia hypothetically allows a nuclear response only in response to aggression using WMD against us or our allies, or aggression using conventional weapons, when the very existence of the state is threatened,” he said.
  5. Russians’ inability to influence their country’s policies through elections makes invoking collective responsibility for the war in Ukraine problematic, according to Sergey Radchenko. “At least in democratic societies, one can plausibly argue in favor of collective responsibility based on free and fair electoral outcomes,” he notes. “There are many Russians who shamefully support Putin’s hideous aggression in Ukraine,” he writes in MT, “I will judge them individually, and let myself be judged, too, but only to the extent that they and I are personally responsible for specific crimes and misdeeds.”
  6. Few Ukrainians will shed tears for Alexander Dugin, whose daughter was killed in a car bombing allegedly meant to target this far-right Russian philosopher, according to Gideon Rachman. “But others, further from the conflict, may find it harder to believe that anyone deserves to see their child blown up in front of them,” even if the father of that child called for Russians to “kill, kill, kill” Ukrainians, according to this FT columnist.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

“Europe’s largest nuclear plant is under threat. But experts say a Chernobyl-sized disaster is unlikely,” CNN’s Rob Picheta, CNN, 08.19.22.

  • “Nuclear experts are keen to defuse some of the more alarmist warnings [with regard to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest], explaining that the main threat is closest to the plant itself and doesn’t justify Europe-wide alerts. Experts are particularly wary of any comparisons to the Chernobyl disaster, a repeat of which is incredibly unlikely, they said.”
  • “‘It’s not very likely that this plant will be damaged,’ Leon Cizelj, president of the European Nuclear Society, told CNN. ‘In the very unlikely case that it is, the radioactive problem would mostly affect Ukrainians that live nearby,’ rather than spreading throughout eastern Europe as was the case with Chernobyl, he said. ‘… Fukushima could be a comparison of the worst-case scenario,’ Cizelj added. … Modern nuclear power plants are extremely well reinforced to prevent damage from all kinds of attacks, such as earthquakes, and Zaporizhzhia is no exception.”
  • “Were the reactors to come under attack by deliberate, targeted shelling, the risk would increase—but even that would require a ‘very, very skilled’ operation, Cizelj said. Nuclear plants use a number of auxiliary safety systems … to keep reactors cool. Zaporizhzhia also uses a spray pond, a reservoir in which hot water from inside the plant is cooled. If those systems failed, then the nuclear reactor would heat up swiftly, triggering a nuclear meltdown. That would be the worst case scenario, experts said. But, while it would be disastrous at a local level, they explained it wouldn’t have a major impact on Europe more widely.”
  • “The scale of a hypothetical nuclear meltdown would also be far smaller than that of Chernobyl, experts said. Any radioactive fallout would spread around 10 or 20 kilometers from Zaporizhzhia before it would cease to pose serious health risks, experts suggest.”
  • “‘Fukushima is a better analogy than Chernobyl,’ James​ Acton, the co‑director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told CNN.”

“Experts weigh in on the risk of disaster at a Ukrainian nuclear power plant,” BAS’s François Diaz-Maurin, BAS, 08.19.22.

  • “Despite fears of a new nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhzhia plant, there has been no indication of elevated radiation levels at the plant.”
  • “Talking to the Bulletin, Olexi Pasyuk, a nuclear power expert and deputy-director of Ecoaction, a Ukrainian nongovernmental organization, went out on more of a limb in his opinion: ‘I think the Russians have a very clear understanding of what they do at the ZNPP. For now, they are interested to keep it running to provide electricity for occupied territories. The question is what they will do when they withdraw.’ This is where the situation could really get dangerous. The lack of power supply can lead to a loss of cooling and a meltdown.”
    • “Rod Ewing, a professor of nuclear security at Stanford University, sees four vulnerabilities that need to be considered at the Zaporizhzhia plant. He told the Bulletin: ‘the reactor themselves, spent fuel [storage] pools, the supporting equipment such as backup generators, and the operating personnel.’
    • “Another nuclear power expert, M.V. Ramana of the University of British Columbia, said: ‘There is, of course, natural concern about a missile or rocket damaging one of the nuclear facilities at the Zaporizhzhia plant. There is also the concern that the electricity supplied to the plant is interrupted and the plant loses all backup means to generate electricity, which could mean a meltdown even without any direct attack on the plant. A final concern is that the operators at the plant, professional though they might be, must be exhausted and stressed out, and thus capable of errors.’”

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

“A Russian perspective on Iran’s final offer for a nuclear deal,” MGIMO’s Adlan Margoev, BAS, 08.18.22.

  • “Some unofficial voices in Russia privately question the value of the Iran deal. These voices belong to those who have nothing to do with nonproliferation, see little value in a limited economic cooperation between Russia and Iran, and in a sanctions-driven turbulent zone prefer to first put a mask on the Russian economy rather than aid Iran’s energy exports and sanctions-free economic development.”
  • “The Russian government heeds these voices but puts a premium on the nonproliferation regime and increasingly friendly ties with Iran. Despite earlier pessimism about Russian commitment to the Iran nuclear deal, Russia’s negotiators remain committed to the talks as crucial interlocutors. Russia’s rich technical expertise and assistance to Iran in bringing its nuclear program back to full compliance with the nuclear deal will come in handy if the agreement is restored. Therefore, contemplating an Iran deal without Russia runs against common sense. Russia’s role as a bridge-builder between the United States and Iran, along with the unified approach of the six negotiators to Iran’s nuclear dossier, was instrumental to the diplomatic success before 2015 and is still relevant to the diplomatic processes in Vienna and other capitals.”

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • No significant developments.

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“Road to war: U.S. struggled to convince allies, and Zelensky, of risk of invasion,” WP’s Shane Harris, Karen DeYoung, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Ashley Parker and Liz Sly, WP, 08.16.22.

  • “On a sunny October morning, the nation's top intelligence, military and diplomatic leaders filed into the Oval Office for an urgent meeting with President Biden [on Putin’s plans for Ukraine]... The U.S. intelligence community had penetrated multiple points of Russia's political leadership, spying apparatus and military, from senior levels to the front lines, according to U.S. officials.”
  • “Much more radical than Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea and instigation of a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, Putin's war plans envisioned a takeover of most of the country... [Rusisan forces] would next push westward, toward a north-south line stretching from Moldova to western Belarus, leaving a rump Ukrainian state in the west—an area that in Putin's calculus was populated by irredeemable neo-Nazi Russophobes.”
  • “The analysts said Putin calculated that any Western response to an attempt to reclaim Ukraine by force would be big on outrage but limited in actual punishment.”

“Russia's spies misread Ukraine and misled Kremlin as war loomed,” WP’s Greg Miller and Catherine Belton, WP, 08.19.22.

  • “In the final days before the invasion of Ukraine, FSB’s Department of Operational Information prepared for an ominous assignment: ensure the decapitation of the Ukrainian government and oversee the installation of a pro-Russian regime. Adhering to erroneous assumptions, the FSB championed a war plan premised on the idea that a lightning assault on Kyiv would topple the government in a matter of days. Zelensky would be dead, captured or in exile, creating a political vacuum for FSB agents to fill.”
  • “‘The Russians were wrong by a mile,’ said a senior U.S. official with regular access to classified intelligence on Russia and its security services. ‘They set up an entire war effort to seize strategic objectives that were beyond their means,’ the official said. ‘Russia’s mistake was really fundamental and strategic.’”

"Foreign Fighters in Ukraine: What Concerns Should Really Be on the Agenda?," Egle E. Murauskaite of the University of Maryland’s ICONS Project, RM, 08.18.22.

  • "When the simmering conflict between Russia and Ukraine turned into a full-scale war in February, a flurry of media articles followed, anticipating a large influx of foreign fighters on Ukrainian battlefields and debating their potential dangers. … Initially, there were concerns about similar cases radiating out from Ukraine, with a shade of right-wing extremism.”
  • “Yet the current picture of foreign fighters in Ukraine differs both from the Middle East and from the fighting in the country’s east during the ‘gray-zone’ phase of the conflict with Russia that began in 2014. Countries whose nationals have made it to the front lines in Ukraine … should be giving much more thought to the fighters’ fates in the war’s aftermath. While concerns about their espousal of extreme views seem somewhat unfounded, genuine concerns about reintegration into civilian life persist … If these are not addressed, they could become the factors leading to frustration and radicalization.”
  • “In this article I attempt to unpack some key points concerning foreign fighters in Ukraine, namely:"
    • "Their number on both sides is much smaller than initially expected."
    • "Most of the foreign fighters in Ukraine lack combat experience, which limits their battlefield utility."
    • "Combat unit integration has been difficult even for experienced fighters."
    • "In contrast to earlier stages of the conflict, the vast majority of foreign fighters in Ukraine now seem to be apolitical and the presence of white supremacists and other extremists seems negligible."
    • "Thus far, the most tangible impact Western foreign fighters in Ukraine have had on their home countries has been opening up long overdue discussions about acceptable types of military involvement abroad. For now, however, little has been done to help returnees get official support in the face of classic veteran challenges they will face after coming home."

“Behind Enemy Lines, Ukrainians Tell Russians ‘You Are Never Safe,’” NYT’s Andrew E. Kramer, NYT, 08.19.22.

  • “They sneak down darkened alleys to set explosives. They identify Russian targets for Ukrainian artillery and long-range rockets provided by the United States. They blow up rail lines and assassinate officials they consider collaborators with the Russians.”
  • “Slipping back and forth across the front lines, the guerrilla fighters are known in Ukraine as partisans, and in recent weeks they have taken an ever more prominent role in the war, rattling Russian forces by helping deliver humiliating blows in occupied areas they thought were safe.”
  • “Increasingly, Ukraine is taking the fight against Russian forces into Russian-controlled areas, whether with elite military units, like the one credited on Tuesday [Aug. 16] with a huge explosion at a Russian ammunition depot in the occupied Crimean Peninsula, or an underground network of the guerrillas.”

Volunteer battalions: From offense to (territorial) defense?,” Nikolai Petrov of The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Russia.Post, 08.19.22. [1] Clues From Russian Views

  • “Since April-May, nominally ‘volunteer’ battalions have been formed across Russia’s regions. ... Having failed to solve the problem, the center once again (as was the case, for instance, with the pandemic, when the Kremlin gave regional authorities wide powers) pushed it onto the regions, at the same time demanding that they present the matter as a public initiative.”
  • “Launched in the spring, the large-scale program to form volunteer battalions across Russia’s regions seeks to accomplish several tasks.”
    • “First, it is the replenishment of the Russian army that has gotten stuck in Ukraine through a limited mobilization on a ‘voluntary,’ commercial basis.”
    • “Second, it is an attempt to turn the imperialist war into a ‘patriotic’ war, to create a sense of attachment to the war across the entire country, especially in ethnic regions.”
  • “Overall, this long-term project of regularly replenishing the army fighting in Ukraine testifies not only to the serious problems faced by the Kremlin due to large losses in manpower, but also to the fact that the authorities are considering the prospect of a long-term positional war. It is Russia’s answer to the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces.” The proposition that volunteer battalions could be mostly good only for defense is a plausible one. However, it is disputable that their arrival at the front would be part of the Russian military’s preparations for a “long-term positional war.” Rather, these units can relieve better trained and armed units in areas where the Russian military-political leadership does not plan offensives, so that the stronger units can then be employed in areas where offensives are planned.

Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:

“Who’s Winning the Sanctions War? The West has inflicted damage on the Russian economy, but Putin has so far contained those costs,” Duke University’s Bruce W. Jentleson, FP, 08.18.22.

  • “When Putin invaded Ukraine anyway, the sanctions did hit hard. Yet Putin hasn’t withdrawn. And he’s jiujitsu-ed with Russia’s own countersanctions. Close to six months in and now into its third phase—first deterrence, then compellence, now attrition—who’s winning the sanctions war?... There should be no expectation of Putin saying uncle.”
  • “Where sanctions have converted economic impact to policy compliance, two factors have been key.”
    • “One is whether internal elites and other key political actors play a ‘circuit breaker’ or ‘transmission belt’ role, blocking or carrying forward sanctions pressure against the regime based on whether their interests are served by resistance or compliance.”
    • “The other key factor is a diplomatic strategy that plays the sanctions-strengthened hand for favorable but still somewhat reciprocal terms.”
  • “As hard as it was to establish substantively appropriate and politically viable terms with Iran and Libya, it will be that much harder with Russia. Which sanctions get lifted, and for what in return? Do some stay in place on an ongoing basis? On these and other questions, the key will be being sufficiently punitive to have U.S., European and Ukrainian support while still providing a basis for Putin or any other Russian leader to agree. This is a tough balance to strike but a necessary one.”

“Technology Controls Can Strangle Russia—Just Like the Soviet Union,” Maria Shagina of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, FP, 08.22.22.

  • “The Western allies had considerable experience in blocking the Soviet Union from access to sensitive technology. At the start of the Cold War, the West used multilateral export controls to halt the flows of strategic materials and technology to the communist bloc in order to prevent it from gaining military advantage. While the global technology landscape has undergone profound shifts since then, the core issues of export controls remain the same: how to balance national security and economic interests, how to ensure that all participating parties share the rationale behind the controls, how to right-size the scope so it’s neither too narrow nor too broad, and how to make sure the controls are efficiently administered.”
  • “A recent report from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) looked at 27 of Russia’s most up-to-date military systems—including communications systems, cruise missiles, and electronic warfare equipment—and found them to contain at least 80 different types of components subject to U.S. export controls. The report’s findings have several implications for the effectiveness of export controls.”
    • “First, Russia’s military-civil fusion is as worrying as China’s.”
    • “Second, exempting consumer products is considered a way to spare ordinary citizens, but it can backfire and undermine controls.”
    • “Finally, the supply of critical items is hard to close off entirely, as transshipments from third-party suppliers are harder to control.”
  • “The past success of export controls illustrates that they are well suited for imposing higher hurdles for the target to acquire any given technology. Even if they work slowly, they can be one of the most powerful tools in the West’s toolbox of economic statecraft. But the impacts on Russia’s ability to wage war won’t be automatic—they require constant monitoring, stringent enforcement and adjusting to Moscow’s evolving adaptation tactics.” Did technology controls “strangle” the USSR? Dependence on imports of industrial tools did feature among the factors that led to the collapse of the USSR, according to Yegor Gaidar’s book on that collapse, but it was far from the sole or main factor in his view.

Ukraine-related negotiations:

“Russia rules out peace deal to end Ukraine war,” FT’s Henry Foy, FT, 08.21.22.

  • “Moscow sees no possibility of a diplomatic solution to end the war in Ukraine and expects a long conflict, a senior Russian diplomat has warned, as President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion reaches the six-month mark this week.”
  • “Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s permanent representative to the U.N. in Geneva, told the Financial Times that the U.N. should be playing a bigger role in attempts to end the conflict and accused the U.S. and other NATO countries of pressing Ukraine to walk away from negotiations. There would be no direct talks between Putin and Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky, he said. ‘Now, I do not see any possibility for diplomatic contacts,’ Gatilov said. ‘And the more the conflict goes on, the more difficult it will be to have a diplomatic solution.’”

“A Plan B Is Needed,” Andrei Kortunov, Kommersant, 08.18.22.

  • “Week after week, month after month passes, and the dates of the expected ‘miracle on the Dnieper’ are shifting further into the future, like an elusive horizon line. The situation on the battlefield, albeit slowly, is changing in favor of Moscow, which, in turn, is tightening Russian conditions for future political agreements.”
  • “If ‘Plan A,’ that is, the victory of Ukraine, looks less and less realistic, then the West should, apparently, already now think about a ‘Plan B,’ which involves achieving at least a temporary compromise not only between Moscow and Kyiv, but also between Russia and the West.”
  • “But what about the idea of ​​making the Kremlin ‘pay for Ukraine?’” On this score, the West should not worry—the payment of the Russian side for the current conflict in any case will be extremely high.”

“Course Correcting Toward Diplomacy in the Ukraine Crisis,” University of Chicago’s Ramzy Mardini,[2] NI, 08.12.22.

  • “The two key U.S. assumptions – i.e., that Russia’s war was ‘unprovoked,’ and its war aims were deemed ‘maximum’—are both empirically wrong and unsubstantiated. But both have been propagated to maintain a narrative and media discourse that enables the current Western approach.”
  • “Contrary to the media’s popular depiction, the war isn’t—and never was—about conquering Ukraine. ... [T]he goal of Russia’s Plan A was to elicit a conditional-based surrender favoring its terms, while keeping the bulk of its mobilized forces on the horizon.”          ‘
  • “The Biden administration made a colossal error in employing a hard-nosed deterrence scheme. Not only was it ineffectual but putting it into practice had perpetuated the opposite of what it intended to prevent, aggravating insecurities and escalating the crisis to its breaking point... It was accommodation, not deterrence, that constituted the correct approach to starve off the prospect of war.”
  • “As such, the West must be a signatory to any lasting settlement. Without a multilateral agreement over Ukraine’s strategic orientation, the war could settle into a ‘frozen’ or recurring conflict.”

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

“Ep. 502—Henry Kissinger,” Interview with David Axelrod, CNN, 08.18.22.

  • Axelrod: “How does this end, this protracted war [in Ukraine] and how should it end? ... What does it mean for the rules-based order of the world for one country to go in and snatch another?” Kissinger: “I think the administration is correct in exactly that. And I basically agree with the measures they have taken to resist it because it was necessary to demonstrate that Russia does not have the right or the possibility of imposing it forever by military rule.”
  • Axelrod: “How does it, how does it end?” Kissinger: “That's the question. It has to end with the negotiations. Would you assume that Russia will continue as a state after, and Ukraine would be there now as a state and it will be a state, so the situation would change quite radically because Ukraine, has been armed by NATO—has been so closely connected with NATO that at the end of the war, some relationship with NATO will continue. … So there has to be a negotiation and I would warn about letting the war drag on indefinitely. Because then it would become like World War I, leading to escalation, possibly escalation. … But they cannot give Russia any gain from its war in Ukraine. The issue that I suggested that was received— they should go back to the line that existed when the war started, which means that Russia would have to give up the sort of 15 to 20% of Ukrainian territory that it captured in this war before a ceasefire. After that, NATO should consider what its long term relation with Russia, with its survivors, Russia will be. … Russia on one level has already lost the war. It has lost the war in the sense that the old idea that Russia could just march into Europe and unfold itself, that has ended, because they can't even defeat Ukraine, so they can't defeat NATO so it's impossible to have a relationship with Russia in which Russia considers itself part of Europe. Who would Russia be, sort of an output of China at the edge of Europe. I would aim for the former object.”
  • “I'm not asking Zelensky to give up anything that Ukraine would said at the beginning of the war and the other disputed territory should be left open to negotiations. But not to war. And it may take a while to settle it, but that is only a small part of the Ukraine.”

“Playing With Fire in Ukraine. The Underappreciated Risks of Catastrophic Escalation,” University of Chicago’s John J. Mearsheimer, FA, 08.17.22.

  • “Western policymakers appear to have reached a consensus about the war in Ukraine: the conflict will settle into a prolonged stalemate, and eventually a weakened Russia will accept a peace agreement that favors the United States and its NATO allies, as well as Ukraine.”
  • “It appears that Russia’s territorial goals have expanded markedly since the war started. … Ukraine, for its part, has the same goals as the Biden administration. The Ukrainians are bent on recapturing territory lost to Russia—including Crimea—and a weaker Russia is certainly less threatening to Ukraine. … In essence, Kyiv, Washington and Moscow are all deeply committed to winning at the expense of their adversary, which leaves little room for compromise.”
  • “There are three basic routes to escalation inherent in the conduct of war: one or both sides deliberately escalate to win, one or both sides deliberately escalate to prevent defeat or the fighting escalates not by deliberate choice but inadvertently. Each pathway holds the potential to bring the United States into the fighting or lead Russia to use nuclear weapons, and possibly both.”
  • “The U.S. military could get involved in the fighting in a variety of ways. … A more likely scenario for U.S. intervention would come about if the Ukrainian army began to collapse and Russia seemed likely to win a major victory. … The final scenario for American involvement entails inadvertent escalation.”
  • “Of course, Moscow, too, could instigate the escalation. ... There are three circumstances in which Putin might use nuclear weapons. The first would be if the United States and its NATO allies entered the fight. … In the second nuclear scenario, Ukraine turns the tide on the battlefield by itself, without direct U.S. involvement. … In the third scenario, the war settles into a protracted stalemate that has no diplomatic solution and becomes exceedingly costly for Moscow. Desperate to end the conflict on favorable terms, Putin might pursue nuclear escalation to win.”
  • “This perilous situation creates a powerful incentive to find a diplomatic solution to the war. Regrettably, however, there is no political settlement in sight, as both sides are firmly committed to war aims that make compromise almost impossible.”

“Before Deploying More U.S. Forces to Europe, Consider the Consequences,” Alexander Sorg and Julian Wucherpfennig of the Hertie School in Berlin, War on the Rocks, 08.17.22.

  • “To study the relationship between military deployments and public sentiment, we first analyzed public opinion data spanning four decades from the European and World Values Surveys to shed light on how conventional and nuclear military deployments affect NATO citizens’ opinions on national defense. Our preliminary results consistently show that hosting U.S. troops or nuclear weapons is related to host-state citizens (1) showing a lower willingness to fight for their own country in the event of war, and (2) reducing the importance they place on having strong national defense forces.”
  • “We fielded a survey experiment in Germany in June ... [and] found that one-third of respondents believe such deployments exist solely to further U.S. national security or U.S. political or economic interests, rather than to protect Germany or other allies. Indeed, only about 20 percent of respondents thought that the United States deployed their military solely to protect Germany and its allies.”
  • “What are the implications for decision-makers, both in the United States and in allied countries?”
    • “For one, U.S. officials should put more thought into how signals of assurance are actually being perceived. While military deployments may be well intended, host-state populations do not always see them this way, as our survey findings suggest. If a deployment increases citizens’ threat perceptions, then Russia can exploit this to its advantage by exacerbating existing threat environments through thinly veiled warnings of nuclear escalation.”
    • “However, this does not mean that the United States should pursue isolationism by withdrawing its forces from around the world. Rather, decision-makers must acknowledge and carefully weigh the complex and multi-layered effects that a U.S. military presence brings about in host states. Especially for deployments that are first and foremost designed to assure allies, it is important to more thoroughly question if the action is suitable to achieve the desired outcome, and at what price.”

“Why the United States Should Want a Better-Armed EU,” Max Bergmann of CSIS, FA, 08.22.22.

  • “The Biden administration’s engagement with Europe is ultimately unsustainable. Russia and the war in Ukraine will no doubt remain a significant focus of the United States in the months and years to come. But even though U.S. support for Ukraine is unlikely to waver, there is no way Washington will be able to maintain the current level of diplomatic engagement, force deployments, and resourcing to Europe over the longer term. The pivot to Asia has not ended.”
  • “Washington does not know what it wants from Europe. Every U.S. president has called for Europeans to spend more on defense, but the overarching goal of U.S. policy has not been to push Europe to stand on its own, shoulder to shoulder with the United States.”
  • “The European Union should be a global military power. It collectively spends $200 billion annually on defense, its economy equals that of the United States, and its members are tied together in a political union. Yet European militaries are in a woeful state, despite increases in defense spending since 2014. Europe does not just need to spend more on defense; it needs to rationalize and integrate its efforts.”
  • “As the guarantor of European security, the United States must lead the transformation by insisting on the creation of a strong European pillar of NATO that is capable of defending the continent.”
  • “United States must acknowledge that it wants Europe to be an indispensable partner that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States. Pursuing such a strategy and building a European pillar within NATO would be a generation-long process that will require intensive U.S. engagement, pushing European allies and partners in a new direction.”

“An interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky,” WP’s Isabelle Khurshudyan, WP, 08.16.22. Clues From Ukrainian Views

  • “If that [invasion] were to happen, in October—God forbid, during the heating season—there would be nothing left. Our government wouldn't exist, that's 100% sure. Well, forget about us. There would be a political war inside the country, because we would not have held on to $5 billion to $7 billion per month.”
  • “This is a hybrid war against our state. There was an energy blow, there was a political blow … The third blow was during autumn and a financial one. They needed the exchange rate of our currency to be a wartime one so that we did not have gasoline. … [T]hey were cutting us out to ensure that the heating season would lead to destabilization within the country, and for the people to know there are the risks of currency devaluation so they would withdraw money. In general, they did this so we would stop being a country, and by the time of their invasion, we would have been a rag, not a country. That's what they were betting on.”
  • “For all of December, January and February, Ukrainians were withdrawing money out of our economy. We could have been strict about that, but we weren't letting either the National Bank or anyone else limit the people's ability to take their money. … The freedom people have in a democratic country is the freedom our people had. They had access to all the information that was available. Sorry, the fact that I wasn't telling them about the Russians' plot to do something to me and everything the intelligence services had been reporting to me … Our land is the only thing we have; we'll stay here together. And then what happened, happened.”
  • “[Ukraine’s partners] can only take strong and specific steps using sanctions. … [T]hey can definitely impose restricting sanctions. For example, a ban on the entry of all citizens of the Russian Federation to the European Union countries. Good sanctions. I think they are very good and peaceful.”
  • “When its population puts pressure on his [Putin’s] decisions, then there will be results. And the war will end. These are very understandable sanctions, they are very simple. … Just close the borders for a year and you'll see the result.”

“Address to participants and guests of the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security,” Vladimir Putin,, 08.16.22. Clues From Russian Views

  • “The situation in the world is changing dynamically and the outlines of a multipolar world order are taking shape. An increasing number of countries and peoples are choosing a path of free and sovereign development based on their own distinct identity, traditions and values.”
  • “These objective processes are being opposed by the Western globalist elites, who provoke chaos, fanning long-standing and new conflicts and pursuing the so-called containment policy … The United States and its vassals grossly interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states by staging provocations, organizing coups or inciting civil wars.”
  • “The situation in Ukraine shows that the United States is attempting to draw out this conflict. It acts in the same way elsewhere, fomenting the conflict potential in Asia, Africa and Latin America.”
  • “A model of this sort can only be retained by force. This is why the collective West … is deliberately undermining the European security system and knocking together ever new military alliances. NATO is crawling east and building up its military infrastructure.”
  • “They need conflicts to retain their hegemony. It is for this reason that they have destined the Ukrainian people to being used as cannon fodder. They have implemented the anti-Russia project and connived at the dissemination of the neo-Nazi ideology. They looked the other way when residents of Donbas were killed in their thousands and continued to pour weapons, including heavy weapons, for use by the Kyiv regime, something that they persist in doing now.”
  • “We need to restore respect for international law, for its fundamental norms and principles. And, of course, it is important to promote such universal and commonly acknowledged agencies as the United Nations and other international dialogue platforms. The U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly, as it was intended initially, are supposed to serve as effective tools to reduce international tensions and prevent conflicts, as well as facilitate the provision of reliable security and wellbeing of countries and peoples.”

“No Matter Who Wins Ukraine, America Has Already Lost,” Ramon Marks, NI, 08.21.22.

  • “Regardless of who wins the Ukrainian war, the United States will be the strategic loser. Russia will build closer relations with China and other countries on the Eurasian continent, including India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states. It will turn irrevocably away from European democracies and Washington. Just as President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger played the ‘China card’ to isolate the Soviet Union during the Cold War, presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will play their cards in a bid to contain U.S. global leadership.”
  • “If the United States continues to keep its head buried in the historical assumptions that prompted the creation of NATO in 1949, things are going to get steadily worse for over-stretched United States military resources and capabilities. The United States is no longer the world’s sole dominant power. More burden sharing in the U.S. alliance system will have to happen sooner or later to deal with the reality of an increasingly multipolar world.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“Beijing’s Upper Hand in the South China Sea: Why Time Is Running Out to Secure U.S. Interests,” CSIS’s Gregory Poling, FA, 08.18.22.

  • “Besides a military conflict that would likely be lose-lose, there are two other possible outcomes.”
    • “The first is the one that Beijing seeks and toward which the region is drifting. In this scenario, China’s peacetime coercion would continue to raise the risks to neighbors undertaking normal activities in their own waters.”
    • “A far preferable alternative outcome would secure U.S. interests at an acceptable cost by pushing China toward a compromise that its neighbors and the international community could live with.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“Interview of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergei Ryabkov to the Izvestia newspaper,” Izvestia/, 08.22.22. Clues From Russian Views

  • When asked to comment on replacement of New START: “We have repeatedly reiterated that we are fundamentally open to serious, pragmatic and result-oriented engagement aimed at reducing tensions and risks, preventing a dangerous escalation and arms race, and strengthening strategic stability, including through arms control. We also remember very well that the START Treaty is not open-ended and should ideally be replaced by a new agreement or agreements.”
  • “I think it is appropriate to recall the attempts by the Trump administration to force the Chinese side into a dialogue on arms control. ... We do not accept such methods. We advocate that any future interaction between nuclear powers be conducted on the basis of consensus and taking into account the interests of all parties involved.
  • When asked to evaluate the probability of a direct clash between Russian and NATO forces that would lead to a nuclear war: “The destructive course of the NATO countries to ignore our ‘red lines’ and get involved in a confrontation with Russia in Ukraine, balancing on the brink of a direct armed conflict, is extremely risky. It is obvious that this is fraught with further escalation, up to a military clash of nuclear powers with dire consequences. This must be prevented.”
  • When asked under what conditions Russia could use nuclear weapons: “You quite rightly made a reference to the Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the field of nuclear deterrence. The doctrinal guidelines … are extremely clear: Russia hypothetically allows a nuclear response only in response to aggression using WMD against us or our allies, or aggression using conventional weapons, when the very existence of the state is threatened. The key word in both scenarios is ‘aggression.’ In other words, the use of nuclear weapons by Russia is possible only in response to an attack—for self-defense in emergency circumstances.”
  • “The issue of the exchange of imprisoned citizens of Russia and the United States is a very sensitive matter, which is unacceptable to be put on public display.”

“Global food insecurity and famine from reduced crop, marine fishery and livestock production due to climate disruption from nuclear war soot injection.,” Lili Xia, Alan Robock, Kim Scherrer, Cheryl S. Harrison, Benjamin Leon Bodirsky, Isabelle Weindl, Jonas Jägermeyr, Charles G. Bardeen, Owen B. Toon and Ryan Heneghan, Nature, 2002.

  • “Atmospheric soot loadings from nuclear weapon detonation would cause disruptions to the Earth’s climate, limiting terrestrial and aquatic food production. Here, we use climate, crop and fishery models to estimate the impacts arising from six scenarios of stratospheric soot injection, predicting the total food calories available in each nation post-war after stored food is consumed. In quantifying impacts away from target areas, we demonstrate that soot injections larger than 5 Tg would lead to mass food shortages, and livestock and aquatic food production would be unable to compensate for reduced crop output, in almost all countries. Adaptation measures such as food waste reduction would have limited impact on increasing available calories. We estimate more than 2 billion people could die from nuclear war between India and Pakistan, and more than 5 billion could die from a war between the United States and Russia—underlining the importance of global cooperation in preventing nuclear war.”


“Do armed drones reduce terrorism?.,” MIT/Harvard Kennedy School’s Joshua A. Schwartz and  Texas A&M’s Matthew Fuhrmann, WP/Monkey Cage, 08.18.22.

  • “Do armed drone operations reduce terrorism, or do they actually make countries more vulnerable to it? To find out, we analyzed patterns of terrorism in 18 countries — every country that has fielded armed drones to date. The evidence reveals that obtaining armed drones reduces the amount of terrorism a country experiences. Armed drones may raise ethical concerns but appear to be an effective counterterrorism tool.”

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

“Rivalry in the Information Sphere. Russian Conceptions of Information Confrontation,” Michelle Grisé, Alyssa Demus, Yuliya Shokh, Marta Kepe, Jonathan W. Welburn and Khrystyna Holynska, RAND, August 2022.

  • “Information confrontation is discussed at length in the Russian military-scientific literature, but there is disagreement among experts about how to define the term … Related (but distinct) terms and concepts are information influence and information warfare.”
  • “The Russian military-scientific literature frequently equates the strategic impact of information weapons with that of weapons of mass destruction. … Russian military experts have called for the development of a consistent, unified definition of information confrontation.”
  • “Information confrontation can be carried out by state and nonstate actors using a range of tools … Informational-psychological confrontation consists of efforts to influence the enemy's population and military forces. … Informational-technical confrontation involves the physical manipulation or destruction of information networks.”
  • “State actors executing information confrontation include the military and security services. Nonstate actors support information confrontation as well. … Information confrontation has deep roots in Russian (and Soviet) military thinking … The Napoleonic Wars shaped later Russian military thought on psychological operations.”
  • “Through the Great War and the Russian Revolution and then the Cold War, the use of propaganda and psychological operations improved in quality and effectiveness. … In the post–Cold War era, Russia perceived it was falling behind the West in the information domain. The Gulf War profoundly shaped Russian thinking about IPb, and Russian military experts also drew lessons from the Kosovo conflict and U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq in the early 21st century.”
  • “Information campaigns that once played supporting roles in combat are now evolving to become a centerpiece of modern hybrid warfare.”

Energy exports from CIS:

  • No significant developments.

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • No significant developments.


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Collective Responsibility and the Slide into the Totalitarian Past,” Sergey Radchenko of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, MT, 08.19.22.

  • “As Russia persists with its brutal war against Ukraine, the question of collective responsibility is being raised—the Russians’ responsibility for the atrocities that are being perpetrated on their behalf and in their name. The ostensibly philosophical question has acquired practical connotations in view of the proposal to ban all Russians from coming to Europe, all a part of a policy of collective punishment. Are the ‘Russians’ responsible then?”
  • “‘Collective responsibility’ is a problematic concept rooted in the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century. It holds that a member of a community, broadly defined, can be held responsible for collective ‘sins’ (however interpreted) of a particular community, and must thus face the consequences.”
  • “At least in democratic societies, one can plausibly argue in favor of collective responsibility based on free and fair electoral outcomes. Matters become more complicated in tyrannies that do not permit free and fair elections. Consider Russia, which has not had a free and fair election in decades, which penalizes dissent with imprisonment, and which controls the media discourse by barring citizens’ access to alternative sources of information. Can citizens of a country such as this be collectively held responsible for actions of a government that does not represent them and thus incur collective punishment?”
  • “There are many Russians who shamefully support Putin’s hideous aggression in Ukraine—directly, by waging war, and indirectly, for example by refusing to condemn Russia, or by maintaining false detachment as if the war is no concern of theirs. I will judge them individually, and let myself be judged, too, but only to the extent that they and I are personally responsible for specific crimes and misdeeds.  The question is simple: do I, and you – not the vague ‘collective’ you, but the very personal you – oppose a crime as a matter of choice? What are we doing to stop it? And are we not looking for ‘others’ to blame for what properly begins and stops with the two of us?  If your answer to the above is ‘But the Russians!’ then you have already stepped onto the slippery slope towards our shared totalitarian past.”

“The global reach of Alexander Dugin,” FT’s Gideon Rachman, FT, 08.22.22.

  • “With his extravagant beard and wild rhetoric, Alexander Dugin has found it easy to attract attention. Some have even labelled the far-right philosopher ‘Putin’s brain’ or ‘Rasputin.’ Other commentators, however, have dismissed the idea that Dugin is taken particularly seriously in the Kremlin, pointing to the fact that he lost his job at Moscow State University in 2014.”
  • “Still, somebody obviously took Dugin very seriously indeed. Last weekend, his daughter Daria Dugina, a nationalist journalist, was murdered by a car bomb outside Moscow. It is widely assumed that Dugin himself was the real target.”
  • “Whatever the personal relationship between Putin and Dugin, the Russian leader’s decision to invade Ukraine brought to fruition ideas that Dugin has been pushing since the early 1990s. In his 1997 book, ‘Foundations of Geopolitics,’ which was assigned reading at the Russian military’s general staff academy, Dugin argued that ‘Ukraine as a state has no geopolitical meaning.’”
  • “Dugin specializes in violent and incendiary rhetoric—delivered in lecture halls and television studios, a safe distance from any actual fighting. But last weekend the front line came to Moscow. After enduring so much suffering, few Ukrainians will shed tears for Dugin, a man who in 2014 called for Russians to ‘kill, kill, kill’ Ukrainians. Others, further from the conflict, may find it harder to believe that anyone deserves to see their child blown up in front of them.”

“Who Will Get Rid of Putin? The Answer Is Grim,” Oleg Kashin, NYT, 08.19.22.

  • “Mr. Putin’s military escapade has had a devastating impact on the lives of the establishment elite, on whom he has always relied. But the elites, hamstrung by their dependence on power for their wealth and security, find themselves in no position to say no to Mr. Putin.”
  • “It’s true that wars often bring out a new elite among officers and generals, who could conceivably threaten the president’s rule. Yet this is not happening in Russia, possibly because Mr. Putin is trying to prevent his generals from gaining too much fame.”
  • “If members of the ruling elite aren’t able to topple Mr. Putin, then perhaps the professional middle classes could? But there, too, the outlook is grim... The initially promising protests against the war have been completely choked off by the threat of prison time. Critical public statements, let alone rallies or demonstrations, are now all but impossible. Wielding repression, the regime is in full control of the domestic situation.”
  • “Instead, the factor seriously threatening Mr. Putin’s strength today is the Ukrainian Army. Only losses at the front have a realistic chance of bringing change to the political situation in Russia—as Russian history well attests. After defeat in the Crimean War in the mid-19th century, Czar Alexander II was forced to introduce radical reforms. The same thing happened when Russia lost a war with Japan in 1905, and perestroika in the Soviet Union was driven in large part by the failure of the war in Afghanistan. If Ukraine manages to inflict heavy losses on Russian forces, a similar process could unfold.”

The Russian Revolution Failed. Long Live the Revolution!,” Victor Davidoff, MT, 08.19.22. Clues From Russian Views

  • “In 2022, the anniversary of the victorious ‘August Revolution of 1991’ in Russia brings only bitter disappointment that descends into depression. In 31 years, the country has taken the unimaginable trajectory from young democracy to full-blown fascism.”
  • “All the mechanisms of representative government have been destroyed. The results of elections are written by a computer according to a preset algorithm. The independent judiciary has been destroyed. The independent press has been destroyed. Opposition members are being arrested and poisoned with chemical weapons. A reign of terror is functioning all over the country.”
  • “The cycles of Russian history run from a ruler's accession to the throne until his death. Putin is sick, he looks terrible and he is not going to live forever.”
  • “As the famous Russian literary scholar Dmitry Likhachev used to say, ‘In Russia one must live long.’ Likhachev knew what he was talking about. He was a prisoner of Stalin's camps in the 1920s, but he saw democracy in Russia in the 1990s.”

“Alexei Navalny will not be silent,” Editorial Board, WP, 08.17.22.

  • “Alexei Navalny, the most prominent voice opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin, now serving a prison sentence on phony charges, cannot sit still or stay quiet. He recently declared himself a ‘one-man labor union’ dedicated to improving prison conditions. The authorities threw him into solitary confinement, a form of mental and physical torture.”
  • “An action-reaction cycle has marked Mr. Navalny's long crusade against the Putin regime's corruption and despotism: He criticizes, Mr. Putin punishes. And yet Mr. Navalny perseveres.”
  • “He is a stalwart fighter for a Russia free of the Putin stain. When Russia eventually emerges from the petty authoritarianism misruling the country, Mr. Navalny's fellow citizens must remember his sacrifice.”

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:

“A Neighbor-like Globalization,” Fyodor Lukyanov, Rossiiskay Gazeta, 08.17.22. Clues From Russian Views

  • “Almost no kind words can be found in the commentary on the anniversary of the flight of the pro-Western leadership from Kabul, the arrival of the Taliban and the hasty evacuation of the U.S.-NATO contingent from Afghanistan.”
  • “In recent history, since the 1970s of the last century, Afghanistan served as a depressing example of how the intervention of external forces, especially world superpowers, exacerbates contradictions and turns the country into a testing ground for endless confrontation.”
  • “It is tempting to leave Afghanistan alone, but after all that has happened, one should not count on beneficial self-regulation. There is no panacea, but the solution must be sought in the general trends of world politics. The leading one is regionalization. The main political and increasingly economic events take place not at the global level, but in the context of a group of countries connected with each other by geo-economic, historical and cultural ties.”


“Why Crimea is so important in the Russia-Ukraine war,” WP’s Annabelle Timsit, Sammy Westfall, Adam Taylor and Ellen Francis, WP, 08.18.22.

  • “Russia had a historical claim to Crimea after colonizing it during the reign of Catherine the Great in the late 18th century. In 1783, the Russians founded Sevastopol, which became the peninsula's largest city, main port and home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet.”
  • “Based on that history, Putin has insisted that Crimea rightfully belongs to Russia and claimed that its annexation would protect Russian speakers there. He saw the opportunity to seize Crimea amid political turmoil in Ukraine in 2014, when massive pro-European, anti-government demonstrations broke out, leading to the ouster of the country's pro-Moscow president.”
  • “After the annexation, Ukrainian officials said they would never recognize the loss of Crimea, and most of the world continued to view it as part of Ukraine. It's clear, though, who wields power on the ground. … Crimea served as a southern staging ground for Moscow's February invasion of Ukraine.”
  • “The peninsula has been viewed by both sides as a symbol of power, identity and ownership.”
    • “In a speech to the nation announcing the invasion of Ukraine in February, Putin harked back to the 2014 annexation of Crimea. ‘Russia was obliged to protect the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol from those whom you yourself call 'Nazis,'’ he said, addressing ‘the citizens of Ukraine.’ After Crimeans decided to join ‘their historical homeland of Russia,’ he added, Moscow had no choice but to support their decision.”
    • “‘Crimea is Ukrainian, and we will never give it up,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said after Aug. 9 blasts at a Russian air base in Crimea. ‘This Russian war … began with Crimea and must end with Crimea—with its liberation.’”

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“Fresh Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh Bodes Badly for Armenia—and Russia,” Kommersant’s Kirill Krivosheev, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 08.16.22.

  • “New clashes in the Nagorno-Karabakh region disputed by Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Baku’s demands for the area’s “demilitarization” are a stark reminder that the fighting in Ukraine is inflaming tensions in other post-Soviet conflicts.”
  • “[T]his time the skirmishes could lead to Azerbaijan gaining control of the Lachin corridor, a mountainous road that connects the region with Armenia, and also houses key gas and electrical infrastructure. If all of that gets cut off, the very existence of what remains of Armenian-controlled and -populated Nagorno-Karabakh will be under threat.”
  • “Russian peacekeepers are on friendly terms with the leadership of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians, and official Russian documents at times refer to the “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.” But that doesn’t so much reassure the Armenians as it irritates the Azeris. Baku is furious that Russian peacekeepers have laid the blame for the recent clashes exclusively on Azerbaijan, and that they have effectively allowed the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh authorities to retain their own army.”
  • “If everything continues the way it is going, for the Armenians Russia will become the ally that couldn’t protect it, while for the Azeris it will be the mediator that did the enemy’s bidding. For now, both sides in the conflict are keeping any such thoughts to themselves, but it’s not hard to imagine a situation in which the rampant nationalistic populism in the region forces local leaders to say it out loud.”


  1. Italicized text is contextual commentary by RM staff.
  2. Partially based on the author’s own summary of the 17-page article.