Russia Analytical Report, Dec. 3-10, 2018

This Week’s Highlights:

  • The next steps of Central Asian jihadists in foreign combat zones are difficult to predict. However, based on interviews with those who fought with extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, few Central Asian jihadists seem eager to return home. For those who choose to continue fighting in a different conflict zone, Afghanistan seems the most likely, according to a new paper by Edward Lemon, Vera Mironova and William Tobey. 
  • Russia is a near-peer competitor and in meeting that competition, the U.S. must decide if the goal is to deter or compel Russia to change course, or to push for the removal of Russia as a major power, according to Professor Nikolas K. Gvosdev.
  • Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz warn that abandoning the INF Treaty increases the threat of miscalculation or accident leading to destructive war. Putin never liked the treaty because it banned missiles with ranges that countries including China and North Korea possess, according to Stimson Center co-founder Michael Krepon. A senior U.S. official said that a confidential proposal was given to Russia that might have saved the treaty, to which the Russians didn't respond, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • NATO countries could individually consider what additional military assistance might be appropriate for Ukraine in view of Russia’s latest military escalation, and the U.S. and EU should also consider additional economic sanctions on Russia, writes Brookings senior fellow Steven Pifer.
  • The overall impact of Western sanctions on the Russian economy is disputed, writes analyst Thomas Wonder. More importantly, they are not working politically, but there remains no good alternative to sanctions, according to Wonder.
  • Russia’s present fears about NATO expansion are in part rooted in the high cost the Soviet Union paid during World War II, writes Professor Matthew Lenoe.

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

Nuclear security and safety:

“Sustainable Security of Radioactive Sources in Central Asia,” Laura S.H. Holgate and Anton Khlopkov, The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS), December 2018The authors, the vice president for Materials Risk Management at NTI and the founding director of CENESS, write:

  • “Sustained regional dialogue between all relevant stakeholders … is needed to effectively address the challenge of radioactive source security in Central Asia.”
  • “Central Asia is home to thousands of radioactive sources, most of which are used for medical, industrial and research applications. Often, the sources are located in busy, open settings, such as hospitals in city centers, or remote areas with little or no physical protection. If these sources escape regulatory control, they could be used to build … ‘dirty bombs.’”
  • “Largely as a result of poor chain-of-custody procedures and insufficient regulatory controls, thousands of radioactive sources have gone missing around the globe. Even in countries with effective regulatory controls in place, high disposal costs and a lack of repositories have led end users to abandon radioactive sources at the end of their life cycle.”

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant commentary.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant commentary.

New Cold War/Sabre Rattling:

  • No significant commentary.

NATO-Russia relations:

  • No significant commentary.

Missile defense:

  • No significant commentary.

Nuclear arms control:

“As One Arms Treaty Falls Apart, Others Look Shakier,” Michael R. Gordon, Wall Street Journal, 12.07.18The author, a reporter for the news outlet, writes:

  • “A central question … is whether anything can be done to patch up the … [INF] accord and, if not, whether a separate treaty limiting long-range nuclear arms … will be the next domino to fall.”
  • “‘I think the arms control framework that came into effect in the early '90s is coming to an end,’ said Frank Rose, a former senior State Department official experienced on nuclear issues. … “Nothing that Secretary Pompeo said this week displays an American desire to preserve the treaty,’ said Thomas Countryman, … who served as a top State Department official on arms control.
  • “Under a plan that … former officials have urged be considered, U.S. experts would examine the Russian missile. If it was determined to be a violation, Moscow would then agree to modifications to reduce its range or, if necessary, eliminate it. In a reciprocal gesture, Russian experts would be allowed to inspect a U.S. missile defense system in Europe.”
  • “A senior administration official said that a confidential proposal was given to the Russians earlier this year that might have saved the treaty. The official declined to provide details but added that the Russians didn't respond. … [T]here are no indications that Russian President Vladimir Putin is prepared to give up the disputed missile.”
  • “[C]oncern among arms-control experts and diplomats is mounting about the fate of the New START treaty, which is set to expire in February 2021. … The White House … is said to be weighing other options [than extending the treaty], including seeking to broaden the agreement to include tactical nuclear weapons.”

“Rescuing the INF Treaty,” Michael Krepon, Arms Control Wonk, 12.09.18The author, co-founder of the Stimson Center, writes:

  • “[I]t’s still worth trying to rescue the [INF] treaty … Putin, let us be clear, is the primary villain of the INF story. … Putin never liked the INF Treaty because it banned missiles with ranges that China, India, Pakistan, Israel and hell, even North Korea, possess. … On most balance sheets Putin wins if Trump walks away from the INF Treaty.”
  • “Russia appears to be able to add battalions of the missile … while it would take time for comparable U.S. ground-launched missiles to be readied for serial production. In addition, the United States would have great difficulty basing new INF-range missiles on European soil.”
  • “One way to extend the INF Treaty … would be to pursue a third theater missile defense site in Eastern Europe while declaring that it would not be deployed if Russia returns to treaty compliance. A second way … would be to offer observable clarifications that existing theater missile defense deployments are truly defensive and would not be converted to offensive use.  A third way … is to demand Russian compliance without offering face-saving steps, to withdraw from the INF Treaty.”
  • “If the White House proceeds to kill INF and then New START, Putin will play the role of the victim and the Trump/Bolton duo would become the Western world’s axis of evil. Putin is threatening a renewed nuclear arms race with a defense budget that is one tenth that of the United States. If he wishes to go down this route, he will lose. … Either way, unwise moves by the executive branch place a premium on sensible steps by the U.S. Congress.”

“We Participated in INF Negotiations. Abandoning It Threatens Our Very Existence,” Mikhail Gorbachev and George P. Shultz, The Washington Post, 12.04.18The authors, former president of the Soviet Union and a former U.S. secretary of state, write:

  • “Abandoning the INF Treaty would be a step toward a new arms race, undermining strategic stability and increasing the threat of miscalculation or technical failure.”
  • “The answer to the problems that have come up is not to abandon the INF Treaty, but to preserve and fix it. Military and diplomatic officials from the United States and Russia should meet to address and resolve the issues of verification and compliance. Equally difficult problems have been solved in the past once the two sides put their minds to it.”
  • “We are calling for the creation of an informal forum of U.S. and Russian experts to address the changes in the security landscape that have occurred over the past decades … Those are formidable challenges that require both profound analysis and the joint efforts of the best minds of our nations.”
  • “We were both at Reykjavik and participated in the negotiations before and after that led to the first agreements. We understand that nuclear weapons raise difficult issues. But we are convinced the United States and Russia must resume progress on a path toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. The alternative, which is unacceptable, is the continuing threat of those weapons to our very existence.”

“It’s Not Too Late to Save the INF Treaty,” Jon Wolfsthal, Foreign Policy, 12.07.18The author, director of the Nuclear Crisis Group, writes:

  • “The INF Treaty allows countries to have 500-kilometer-plus missiles if they test them from fixed launchers, which are useful when developing air- and sea-launched systems. But Russia also flight-tested the missile from a mobile launcher. Because the missile in question had previously flown over 500 kilometers, the United States considers the entire arsenal a violation of the treaty.”
  • “Russia … has in turn accused the United States of violating the INF Treaty through its missile defense systems in Europe. The NATO Aegis Ashore missile defense system uses the Mk-41 missile launcher. On U.S. Navy ships, the Mk-41 is used to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles with a range within the INF Treaty’s banned span, but because they are sea-based systems they are not prohibited.”
  • “[I]t is clear that neither the United States nor Russia is going to get the other the admit it is violating the treaty. Both countries, however, claim that they value it and want to preserve its benefits. … [T]here are clear technical agreements that could help reassure both sides. Such arrangements would ask the United States and Russia to compromise, but neither would have to admit any violation of the agreement.
  • “Russia, for its part, would need to make a 9M729 missile available for inspection. The United States and NATO, on their end, would need to find ways to reassure Russia that NATO missile defenses in Europe are not and are not going to be equipped with or capable of launching missiles controlled by the INF Treaty. … No one should dismiss lightly an agreement that has helped keep the United States and its allies safe for a generation.”


“Jihadists from Ex-Soviet Central Asia: Where Are They? Why Did They Radicalize? What Next?” Edward Lemon, Vera Mironova and William Tobey, Russia Matters/U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism, 12.08.18The authors, the DMGS-Kennan Institute Fellow at the Daniel Morgan Graduate School, a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Economics Department and a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, write:

  • “While the causes of radicalization of Central Asian nationals vary widely, two significant factors are (a) real and/or perceived injustices or failures that lead to an extreme rejection of society and (b) affinity for ‘a culture of violence.’ Contrary to popular belief, relative poverty, religiosity and lack of education do not seem to be strong predictors of radicalization.”
  • “The next steps of Central Asian jihadists in foreign combat zones are exceedingly difficult to predict. However, based on the authors’ interviews with those who fought with extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, as well as with those who knew them, few Central Asian jihadists seem eager to return to their home countries. … For those Central Asian jihadists who choose to continue their fight in a different conflict zone, Afghanistan seems to be the most likely.”
  • “The international spread of perhaps thousands of Central Asian IS fighters could pose a severe security threat. Their activities bear close scrutiny, particularly to ensure that they do not attempt to use knowledge that might have been gained in Iraq or Syria regarding CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapon] attacks. Moreover, ongoing vigilance in securing sensitive facilities is critical, as complacency leads to vulnerability.  Nonetheless, so far, from publicly available information, the CBRN threat vectors involving Central Asia appear not to pose an imminent peril either within the region or externally.”

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant commentary.

Cyber security:

  • No significant commentary.

Elections interference:

  • No significant commentary.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • No significant commentary.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant commentary.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

“Is Russia a US 'Adversary' or Just a 'Competitor'?” Nikolas K. Gvosdev, The National Interest, 12.10.18The author, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, writes:

  •  “The world … is starting to look more ‘normal’ in terms of the overall patterns of human history. … [O]ther countries have resurged or obtained greater wherewithal to push back on U.S. agenda-setting or to insist on agendas of their own. … Washington must come to grips with the distinction between a ‘competitor’ and an ‘adversary.’ … Russia has moved from a 1990s position of seeking inclusion with the West into a position of a competitor. Is that competition … manageable within an overall cooperative framework?”
  • “If it is not, there are implications for U.S. policy … It also returns us to the question of whether the primary driver of U.S. strategy in Eurasia for decades—to prevent … Russia and China … [cooperating] with each other against the United States—should remain operative.”
  • “Dealing with Russia as a serious competitor … also requires facing up to the challenge of how to compete. … In meeting that competition, the U.S. political establishment must tackle whether the goal is to try and deter (or compel) Russia to change course, or to push for the removal of Russia as a major power.”
  • “We identify Russia as a ‘near-peer competitor’ based particularly on the reality that Russia is one of the few countries which can credibly project power beyond its immediate border, especially military power. … In dealing with near-peer competitors, there are two strategic choices. One is to turn a near-peer competitor into a near-peer partner; the other is to turn a near-peer competitor (and potential adversary) into a non-peer competitor.”
  • “I steal Jill [Dougherty] 's point as my own conclusion: ‘… For our own security, we need a bi-partisan, sustainable policy based on a realistic definition of why we even care about Russia.”

“Why Russian Domestic Politics Make US Sanctions Less Effective,” Thomas Wonder, War on the Rocks, 12.07.18The author, a recent political science PhD graduate from Indiana University, writes:

  • “[T]he State Department announced in early November a new round of sanctions related to the attempted assassination of defector Sergey Skripal. Are new sanctions likely to work? The answer is ‘no,’ although that has more to do with elite politics in Russia and the popularity of President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy amongst the Russian public than with economics.”
  • “At a broad level, Russia has not modified its behavior since the initial imposition of sanctions in 2014 over the annexation of Crimea. … Domestically, Putin and his supporting cast of loyalists have largely cruised to election victories at all levels of government.”
  • “Sanctions’ overall effect on the economy is disputed. … It is difficult … to precisely untangle the sanctions’ effects from myriad other factors, such as vulnerability to commodity price shocks and inflation control measures imposed by the Russian Central Bank.”
  • “More importantly, the sanctions are not working politically. … Of course, one can reasonably argue that sanctions have deterred Russia from taking even more aggressive actions. However, without a better look into Russia’s foreign policy decision-making … we simply cannot know whether this proposition is true.”
  • “So, what is the alternative to sanctions? There is no good one. As scholars have long noted, sanctions tend to function as a nebulous ‘at least we’re doing something’ alternative between complete inaction and war. Neither of those actions are viable alternatives to the current course.”

“Trump's Mueller Worries Were On Display at the G20. Only time will tell what happens next,” Dov S. Zakheim, The National Interest, 12.03.18The author, vice chairman of the Center for the National Interest, writes:

  • “Donald Trump’s last minute cancellation of his scheduled meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit certainly raised a few eyebrows. The ostensible reason for Trump’s decision was Russia’s brazen seizure of three Ukrainian ships and their sailors in the Kerch Strait … Yet Putin’s previous acts of aggression did not deter Trump from fawning upon the Russian leader when they met in Helsinki in July.”
  • “What, then, was Trump’s real motivation? At the very same time that the president was about to leave for the G-20, his long-time fixer and troubleshooter, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty—again—this time for lying to the Congress. … Cohen knows where the Trump organization’s skeletons are buried, and, more important, who buried them. Trump could have calculated that now was not the best time to hobnob with Putin, which would only have stimulated further speculation regarding what Cohen was telling special counsel Robert Mueller.”
  • “Will the United States work in concert with its allies to apply new sanctions on Russia and its leadership? … If he [Trump] does little to nothing in the next few weeks, it will be very clear that the canceled meeting with the Russian leader was not an act of statesmanship, but one of showmanship.”

“Image of Putin, Russia Suffers Internationally. At same time, Russia seen as gaining influence on world stage,” Clark Letterman, Pew Research Center, 12.06.18The author, a senior researcher at Pew, writes:

  • “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to re-establish Russia as a consequential world power appear to have borne at least some fruit: The prevailing view in a new 25-country poll by Pew Research Center is that Russia plays a more important role in international affairs than it did a decade ago. But increased stature does not mean being better liked. The same survey finds that views of Putin and the Russian Federation are largely negative.”
  • “Globally, a median of just 34% express a favorable view of Russia, while about a quarter (26%) have confidence in Putin to do the right thing in world affairs. In only four countries—the Philippines, Tunisia, South Korea and Greece—do at least half have a positive view of Russia. By contrast, majorities in North America and much of Europe see Russia in a negative light. Attitudes toward Putin follow a similar pattern.”
  • “These views notwithstanding, many say Russia’s international stature is growing. A median of roughly four-in-ten (42%) believe Russia is playing a more important role in the world today compared with 10 years ago. A smaller share sees Russia holding its ground (28%), while just 19% say Moscow’s influence is waning. Russia’s increased influence in world affairs is felt more in Europe, North America and the Middle East than in the Asia-Pacific, Latin America or sub-Saharan Africa. Among the countries surveyed, Greeks and Israelis are especially likely to say that Russia’s global stature has grown.”
  • “In the U.S., about half (52%) see Moscow’s influence as rising, but with a notable partisan division: 61% of Democrats see Russia as playing a more important role, while only 44% of Republicans agree.”

II. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • No significant commentary.


  • No significant commentary.


“Could the New Fighting Between Russia and Ukraine Escalate Into All-Out War?” Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, The Washington Post, 12.05.18The author, the F. Wendell Miller Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa, writes:

  • “Russia and Ukraine have been fighting for several years on land, but the two clashed at sea recently. How likely is this maritime conflict to escalate? … What makes this maritime conflict particularly dangerous is that it has so many dimensions—it's not just about the sea.
  • “Of the 270 maritime claims in our data set, close to one-third involve at least one militarized dispute. Risks for violence are higher for cases that also involve disputes over ownership of territory. Militarized disputes in 2005 and 2008 set the stage for Russia's grab for Crimea and construction of the bridge across the Kerch Strait, crippling Ukraine's naval capabilities. Highly salient diplomatic issues with a history of militarized conflict carry higher risks for escalation to war.”
  • “Some factors may push toward a peaceful resolution, including Russia's capability advantage over Ukraine and verbal support of Ukraine by NATO and EU member states. Yet the Issue Correlates of War (ICOW) research shows that conflict risks in this area will remain high.”

“The Battle for Azov: Round 1 Goes to Russia,” Steven Pifer, Brookings Institution, 12.03.18The author, a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, writes:

  • “On Nov. 25, Russian border patrol ships attacked and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels attempting to transit from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait. That violated both maritime law and a 2003 Ukraine-Russia agreement that governs passage through the strait.”
  • “The attack foreshadows a Russian bid to establish unilateral control over the Kerch Strait and perhaps blockade Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov. … Nothing suggests that … [Western] expressions of concern and condemnation, or Trump’s on again/off again handling of his meeting with Putin, caused anxiety in the Kremlin.”
  • “The West could consider military steps such as increasing the tempo of visits by NATO warships to the Black Sea … Some have suggested that NATO send warships into the Sea of Azov. That would not prove wise. … The United States and other NATO countries, on a national basis, might weigh what additional military assistance would be appropriate for Ukraine in view of Russia’s latest military escalation.”
  • “The United States and European Union should consider additional economic sanctions on Russia. … Prohibit U.S. and EU member state-flagged ships from calling on Russian ports on the Sea of Azov and Black Sea. … Prohibit ships with cargos from Russian ports in the Sea of Azov and Black Sea from entering American and European ports. … Target Russian state-owned banks or parastatal companies for specific sanctions. … Suspend work on the Nord Stream II pipeline. “

“Putin Must Be Punished,” Petro Poroshenko, New York Times, 12.05.18The author, the president of Ukraine, writes:

  • “Russia brought the situation to a head on Nov. 25 as Ukrainian naval boats sought to make their way—legally and peacefully—from the Ukrainian port of Odessa to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. … Ukraine’s ships never aggressed Russia’s navy, never opened fire despite being goaded, were attacked with gunfire and missiles and were seized while sailing home in international waters. This was a direct, unprovoked military attack by Russia’s armed forces on Ukraine’s.”
  • “The crisis continues, with our servicemen and boats being held in Russian custody, hundreds of ships being blocked in the Sea of Azov, denied permission by Russians to pass through the Kerch Strait. These are not just Ukrainian ships.”
  • “These recent events have a direct bearing on the security of all of NATO. Russia now has a challenging number of naval ships in the Black Sea … Russia’s objective is obvious: It wants to return to an era where property and land are seized by force. It starts with Ukraine and continues westward as far as the democratic world will allow. Democratic countries must now make a choice: Stand up for what is right or continue appeasing President Vladimir Putin.”
  • “Together, partners on both sides of the Atlantic can continue to raise the cost to Russia for threatening our collective security. … With Crimea and Donbas under occupation, our common task is not to allow Russia to spill its aggression into the Sea of Azov. And an ‘Azov package of sanctions’ against Russia would be the least the world should respond with this time.”

“Can the West Prevent the Slow Strangulation of Ukraine? Creeping Russian Aggression Cannot Go Unchecked,” Peter Dickinson, Foreign Affairs, 12.05.18The author, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, writes:

  • “Ever since the early 2018 completion of a much-trumpeted Russian bridge across the Kerch Strait connecting occupied Crimea with the Russian mainland, Ukraine’s Sea of Azov ports have experienced mounting difficulties.”
  • “The resultant semi-blockade conditions have imposed significant costs on the Ukrainian economy while also expanding the erosion of Ukrainian sovereignty beyond Crimea into the surrounding waters. … The West’s failure to adequately counter Russia’s naval escalation makes it clearer than ever that Ukraine desperately needs stronger diplomatic support.”
  • “Poroshenko’s patriotic posturing will make it increasingly difficult for his presidential election opponents to challenge his positions without risking toxic accusations of Kremlin sympathies. … Instead, we are likely to see the leading candidates attempting to outdo one another in their opposition to any accommodation with Russia. This makes the prospects for an end to the de facto Russian occupation of eastern Ukraine dimmer than ever. … The only realistic possibility for a breakthrough … lies in the emergence of a consensus on the need for compromise, but that looks impossible in the current climate.”

“Dire Strait: Russian Naval Aggression and Ukrainian Politics,” Petro Burkovskyi and Oleksiy Haran, European Council on Foreign Relations, 12.05.18The authors, a senior fellow and the research director at the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, write:

  • “The sides are probably reluctant to escalate the incident in the Sea of Azov by themselves. … A weak official response to the attack from Europe or the United States would invite Putin to seek new opportunities to pacify his opponents in Kiev. Russia could even take such action on the eve of presidential elections, under the pretext of defending the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“Uncertain Ground: Engaging With Europe’s De Facto States and Breakaway Territories,” Thomas De Waal, Carnegie Endowment, 12.03.18The author, a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, writes:

  • “Abkhazia, Transdniestria and northern Cyprus, three unrecognized statelets in Europe that arose during conflicts in the twentieth century, have endured for decades. Despite many problems, they are self-governing and stable, and they show no signs of collapsing. They exercise internal sovereignty, even as they have no prospect of getting international recognition. This qualifies them as de facto states.”
  • “While these territories still have problems of poor regulation and impunity from international justice, in many other regards, they seek respectability and try to cleave to European norms. This distinguishes them from the breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine.”
  • “Better engagement with breakaway territories such as these is an overlooked resource in conflict resolution. If carried out in a clear-sighted and intelligent manner, it should benefit all sides.”
  • “The disputes have persisted for so long for several reasons. In each, there is a geopolitical standoff and a military occupation of some kind by Russia or Turkey—which is the chief concern of the parent state. This is the main driver of the continuing tragic conflict in eastern Ukraine, although there are also crucial local factors. … The de facto states themselves have built self-governing entities with varying degrees of success. … The passing of time is a factor. A realistic prospect of reunification becomes harder the further a shared history of cohabitation recedes into the past.”
  • “The most hopeful of these cases is Moldova, where there has been some positive incremental change driven by benign geographic factors, economic pressures and incentives, and a pragmatic approach in the negotiations. Even here, however, a final resolution looks far off.”

“Georgia Needs More Support From the West to Protect Its Values,” Salomé Zourabichvili, Financial Times, 12.06.18The author, Georgia’s president-elect, writes:

  • “On Nov. 28, I was elected as the Republic of Georgia’s first female president. This is a major leap forward for my nation, which has spent most of the past century grasped in the Soviet Union’s claws. … As the country’s first president with European roots, I will continue to defend Western values from the destabilizing influences of our northern neighbor. I will continue to fight for democracy to rid this country of the remnants of our totalitarian past. I will protect my nation and its liberal values.”
  • “It now falls on me to unite this country. … I promise to guarantee Georgia’s democratic development, individual freedoms and the rule of law. … I will draw on my decades of diplomatic experience to bring our country closer to its goal of joining the EU and NATO. Georgians are overwhelmingly pro-western and becoming a member state of the EU is a goal that transcends party politics.”
  • “By choosing a female president of European upbringing, this country has voted for democracy, tolerance and stability. Georgia can be Europe’s liberal hope.”

III. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Why It's Time to Give the Soviet Union Its Due for World War II,” Matthew Lenoe, The Washington Post, 12.05.18The author, associate professor of history at the University of Rochester, writes:

  •  “Without Soviet manpower and blood, the outcome [of World War II] might have been very different. … The Soviet victory at [the Battle of] Moscow meant that the USSR would continue to fight at least into the summer of 1942, condemning Nazi Germany to a long war of attrition. The attack on Pearl Harbor meant that the United States, with all of its industrial might, would enter the war. Taken together, Moscow and Pearl Harbor meant that Axis forces were almost certainly doomed to defeat.”
  • “The Battle of Moscow also reminds us of a truth that many Americans do not know: It was the Soviet Union that made by far the biggest contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany. … [T]he Soviet Union suffered more losses than any other combatant power: 11 million military dead and another 16 million civilian. And between 1941 and 1945, it was the Soviets who fought most of the German military and inflicted most of the German casualties.”
  • “The high cost of the war affected Soviet strategic thinking for decades and still influences Russian international policy today. The USSR held onto its empire in Eastern Europe for 40 years in part to have a buffer zone against possible attack from the West. Russian worries today about possible expansion of NATO to Ukraine have similar roots.”
  • “It is essential for Americans to acknowledge and respect these realities. Russians are acutely aware that the magnitude of their sacrifice is not understood in the United States. … Paying tribute to the overwhelming contribution of Soviet men and women to victory in World War II and commemorating their losses would go a long way to soothing that sense of grievance and improving Russian-American relations.”

“The Mere Thought of Kant Stirs Russian Nationalism. A proposal to rename the Kaliningrad airport after the philosopher hits opposition,” Jonathan Derbyshire, Financial Times, 12.07.18The author, a columnist for the news outlet, writes:

  • “Writing for a pro-Kremlin website, Andrei Kolesnik denounced the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant as a ‘Russophobe’ and railed against a plan to name the Russian enclave’s airport after him.”
  • “In 2013, a dispute over the correct interpretation of his philosophy was brought to an abrupt end when a man from Rostov-on-Don shot his interlocutor with an air rifle. … So what is it about Kant and the Russians? It appears that Mr. Kolesnik is not alone in his detestation … Last week, a statue of the philosopher at the local university was splattered with pink paint and his tomb damaged.”
  • “The real source of current Russian hostility towards Kant was inadvertently revealed in a statement made by a spokesman for Königsberg Cathedral, which houses his tomb. ‘For Kaliningrad residents, for thinking people,’ the spokesman said. ‘Kant is not a citizen of any particular country, he is an individual of planetary scope.’ And that, in an era of authoritarian Russian nationalism, is presumably the nub of it.”

“Defying History, Moscow Moves to Defend Soviet War in Afghanistan,” Vladimir Kara-Murza, The Washington Post, 12.04.18The author, chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, writes:

  • “Last month, Russian lawmakers approved a draft resolution that seeks to justify the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. … Hailing the decision, Communist lawmaker Nikolai Kharitonov called it a victory for ‘historical truth.’”
  • “The war lasted for nearly a decade. Among its consequences were 1 million civilian casualties; the rise of Islamist fundamentalist groups (backed by the West as a counterweight to the Soviets); and the collapse of the Soviet economy, which precipitated the end of the Soviet Union, which is now so lamented by both Putin and the Communists. The estimated cost in human lives for the Soviet armed forces was 15,000 dead and 54,000 injured.”
  • “In December 1989, the Congress of People's Deputies passed a resolution of "moral and political condemnation" of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. … It is that statement that …  the Duma, is now preparing to declare null and void.”
  • “In December 2000, liberal lawmaker Grigory Yavlinsky was preparing to speak at the Duma session that approved the Soviet national anthem (like other opponents of the decision, he was prevented from taking the floor.) ‘Russian history will remember those who abolished the symbols of the totalitarian state,’ he planned to say. ‘Not those who temporarily restored them.’” Perhaps Yavlinsky was wrong, after all. The latter will also be remembered by history—but with nothing more than derision and contempt.”

Defense and aerospace:

  • No significant commentary.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • No significant commentary.