Russia Analytical Report, Feb. 21-27, 2023

5 Ideas to Explore

  1. Assessing the first year of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Graham Allison and Stephen Kotkin underline the brute fact: Ukraine is not winning. The war has become a colossal strategic failure for Putin, but Russia does control almost one-fifth of Ukraine, Harvard’s Allison writes in his analysis of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card, which was produced by the Belfer Center’s Russia-Ukraine War Task Force under his leadership. “As the Western press continues to highlight Ukraine’s successes, we should also recognize that if year two of the war were essentially a carbon copy of the first, in February 2024 Russia would control almost one-third of Ukraine,” Allison warns in his FP analysis. In Kotkin’s assessment for The New Yorker, Ukraine continues to win on Twitter, while Russia is winning on the battlefield. All three of what Sun Tzu would have described as “golden bridge” options, including Russian military disintegration, a coup against Putin and Chinese intervention, have proven untenable, according to Kotkin, a visiting scholar with the Belfer Center’s Applied History Project.
  2. The second year of the Russian-Ukrainian war will “look much different without a significant change in strategy that increases the military pressure on Russia and forces President Putin to the negotiating table,” argues Eric Rosenbach, Harvard Kennedy School lecturer and outgoing co-director of the Belfer Center. "Any eventual agreement with Russia must be just and durable. It must include provisions for addressing war crimes, the future security status of Ukraine and provisions for reconstruction. But Ukraine must also realize that—absent a major collapse of the Russian military—hopes of recapturing all of its original territories are unrealistic,” Rosenbach writes for HKS’s collection of expert insights on the war.
  3. The West has not shown a sufficient appreciation for how the Ukraine war looks in the eyes of the Global South, failing to refute accusations of hypocrisy and neglect, according to Angela Stent of Georgetown University. When asked what the West has gotten wrong, Stent said: “They’ve underestimated the extent to which many of these countries look at the United States and say, ‘What about Vietnam? What about Iraq? What about Afghanistan?’” “There is a charge of hypocrisy and the notion that the West is neglecting the problems that they [the Global South] face, from food insecurity, humanitarian crises, climate issues and all of these other issues that they think that the United States and the collective West should be paying more attention to,” she explained in an interview with FP. Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution also believes the U.S. and its allies should have done more to explain the reasons behind their approach toward the war to the Global South. “Washington needs to step up diplomatic efforts, including in the U.N., to convince friends and ambivalent middle powers in the so-called Global South that the West’s goal is not to retain supremacy in Europe but to keep the world safer for every nation,” Hill said.
  4. The primary purpose of China’s vaguely worded peace plan for Ukraine is not to achieve peace, but rather to defend Beijing from Western accusations of “quietly supporting the aggressor,” according to Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Endowment. “The West, however, is unlikely to let China quietly reap the laurels of an imaginary peacemaker,” such as by accusing China of supplying components for Russian weapons, Gabuev writes. “Beijing will yet have to fight for the laurels of a peacemaker,” the Carnegie Endowment scholar concludes.
  5. There are four reasons why Putin has so far been able to shrug off Western sanctions, according to Peter Rutland of Wesleyan University. First, for much of 2022 Russia was earning $800 million every day from energy exports. Second, countries that represent 40% of the global economic output are still willing to do business with Moscow. Third and fourth, Russia’s economy has been battle-hardened and elites remain loyal to Putin. “The Russian government will find it increasingly difficult to continue financing the war as the year progresses. But for now at least, I believe that it’s clear the sanctions have not weakened Putin’s grip on power, nor his resolve—and capacity—to continue waging the war on Ukraine,” Rutland writes in The Conversation. Nicholas Mulder of Cornell University concurs with Rutland’s central assessment. “If the sanctioning coalition was much stronger than expected, then so was the target,” Mulder told FT.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

“They are just kids — and they are being sent to Russia from Ukraine,” Editorial Board, WP, 02.26.23.

  • “Daria Herasymchuk, Ukraine’s top children’s rights official, estimated that nearly 11,000 Ukrainian children had been taken by Russia without their parents. ... [N]ow, the Humanitarian Research Lab of Yale University’s School of Public Health, part of the Conflict Observatory supported by the State Department to document war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine, reports that Russia has transferred from Ukraine at least 6,000 children, ages four months to 17 years old, and the total ‘is likely significantly higher.’”
  • “Russia’s conduct appears to violate international law. The forcible transfer of children from one group to another is prohibited in the 1948 genocide convention, and some international-law experts argue that it also prohibits acts that destroy a protected group’s culture, language and religion, including that of children.”
  • “Ultimately, international courts or tribunals will have to render judgment. But Ukraine’s allies, the United States and Europe, could take action now against officials in Russia carrying out the transfers. The report says at least 12 of them are not on U.S. and/or international sanctions lists. They should be, soon.”

“SVAC Explainer: Wartime Sexual Violence in Ukraine, 2014-2021,” research assistant Ketaki Zodgekar, Belfer Center, February 2023.

  • “There is a pattern of sexual violence being used in the Ukraine-Russia conflict: it has been reported consistently throughout the past eight years of war, and, according to media reports, escalated in 2022 during Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.”
  • “All four key conflict actors according to UCDP—Russia, Ukraine, DPR and LPR—are reported to have committed sexual violence in conflict, though Russian forces are by far the most common perpetrators. Until the most recent invasion, the prevalence of sexual violence has been concentrated around the Donbas region—in the conflict-heavy oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk. News reports suggest that in 2022, sexual violence is being documented more frequently, 26 and in a wider range of locations around the country.”
  • “The increase in violence warrants renewed attention to conflict related sexual violence: how, where and when it manifests, to better understand why it occurs, and how to tackle it.”

“What the Ukraine War Has Revealed About the Indispensability of Multilateral Governance,” executive director of the Project on Managing the Atom Francesca Giovannini, Belfer Center, 02.23.23.

  • “The Ukraine war has fostered multilateral innovation in at least three areas: humanitarian assistance, human rights and mediation.”
    • “First, the Ukraine conflict has resulted in an unprecedented global compact, uniting international organizations, energy and agricultural companies and governments in a concerted effort to address the complex humanitarian emergency that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has wreaked.”
    • “Second, for the first time in history, the Ukraine conflict has witnessed the reporting of human rights violations in real-time, captured on camera phones by those directly affected by the ongoing hostilities and an array of journalists and freelancers.”
    • “Finally, the Ukraine war has set in motion an unprecedented multilayered mediation process seeking to resolve the conflict peacefully.”
  • “As the war at the heart of Europe drags on, western countries are slowly coming to realize that peace is truly indivisible, and war can break out unexpectedly when the values of peace and justice are taken for granted.”

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

The Harvard Russia-Ukraine War Task Force has released a Report Card including a dozen indicators that shed light on the outcomes and cost of one year of war in Ukraine, which will be updated weekly.

“A Report Card on the War in Ukraine: If year two of the war were a carbon copy of the first, Russia would control almost one-third of Ukraine next February,” Harvard’s Graham Allison, FP, 02.23.23.

  • “This week, the Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, which I lead, is releasing a Report Card summarizing where things stand on the battlefield at the end of the first year of Russia’s war. … [T]he brute facts are hard to ignore.”
    • “Since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Russian troops have seized an additional 11% of Ukraine’s territory. When combined with land seized from Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, that means Russia now controls almost one-fifth of the country. … The Ukrainian economy has been crushed, its GDP declining by more than one-third. … Forty percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been destroyed or occupied.”
  • “The Report Card includes a dozen further indicators that shed light on the outcomes and cost of one year of war in Ukraine. These include one of Kyiv’s most closely held secrets: Ukrainian casualties: reliable U.S. government estimates count more than 130,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed or severely wounded—approximately the same number Russia has lost from a population more than three times larger than Ukraine’s. In addition, Russian forces have killed more than 7,000 Ukrainian civilians, committed an array of atrocities and forced nearly 1 in 3 Ukrainian citizens to flee their homes.”
  • “Thus, as the Western press continues to highlight Ukraine’s successes, we should also recognize that if year two of the war were essentially a carbon copy of the first, in February 2024 Russia would control almost one-third of Ukraine.”
  • “The war is, of course, imposing huge costs on Russia as well. But so far, Putin has shown no hesitation in paying whatever it takes. ... This is not to say Russia has emerged as the clear victor on the ground. Since mid-November, fighting on the battlefield has been bogged down in what we call a ‘snailmate,’ with the net change in territorial control favoring Russia by just 75 square miles. … Despite the Report Card’s findings, Putin’s successes on the battlefield cannot obscure the fact that his war has been a colossal strategic failure.”

“Russian Troops Know How Little They Mean to Putin,” RAND senior policy researcher Dara Massicot, NYT, 02.22.23.

  • “There’s a problem: Russia’s forces are currently ill equipped for an offensive and need more time to train. But not according to General Gerasimov. Within a few weeks of his appointment, he ordered localized assaults in Donetsk and Luhansk to bring them under full Russian occupation and bog down Ukrainian forces elsewhere.”
  • “Russia still has untapped manpower and could call for another mobilization this year. Returns would be diminishing, though: The remaining equipment is in various states of disrepair and the men would require months of training.”
  • “Despite such diminished capacity, the Russian command shows a high tolerance for losses and continues to push its troops forward, prepared or not. After this current offensive ends, it may be obvious to Russian leaders that the military cannot overcome its lack of trained crews, noncommissioned officers, junior officers, logisticians and other specialists who were casualties of the war’s early days. The transmission in the Russian Army’s engine has broken. Flooring the gas pedal with barely trained men and old tanks cannot force a shift into a higher gear.”

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

“How Putin has shrugged off unprecedented economic sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine—for now,” Peter Rutland of Wesleyan University, The Conversation, 02.21.23.

  • “I have studied the Soviet and the Russian economy for over four decades. I believe there are four reasons the sky has yet not fallen in on the Russian economy.” 
  1. “Russia’s energy lifeline: Russia may be spending over $300 million a day to fight the war, but for much of 2022 it was earning $800 million every day from energy exports.”
  2. “Russia has plenty of other customers: Second, the 49 sanctioning countries account for just 60% of the world’s economy. That leaves 40% still willing to do business with Moscow.”
  3. “Russia’s economy is battle-hardened: The Russian government has been preparing and planning for this war for many years and has learned to live with and work around the sanctions that were imposed after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. ... The Russian labor market generally absorbs shocks not by companies firing workers but paying them less until things improve. Also, 15% of the workforce is made up of migrants, mainly from Central Asia—and they can be fired and sent home, then rehired as needed.”
  4. “Oligarchs and policymakers remain loyal.”
  • “In January 2023, a sharp drop in oil and gas revenue created a $38 billion deficit in one month alone. January might be an outlier, but if the trend continues, the Russian government will find it increasingly difficult to continue financing the war as the year progresses. But for now at least, I believe that it’s clear the sanctions have not weakened Putin’s grip on power, nor his resolve—and capacity—to continue waging the war on Ukraine.”

“How Biden’s Shock-and-Awe Tactic Is Failing to Stop Russia,” national security reporter Daniel Flatley, Bloomberg, 02.24.23.

  • “As Russia’s currency tanked, prices soared, and people lined up at banks to pull out whatever cash they could, some Biden aides briefly worried that they’d gone too far. They didn’t want to completely crater the Russian economy, out of fear the damage would spread to Europe and beyond.”
  • “‘If the sanctioning coalition was much stronger than expected, then so was the target,’ says Nicholas Mulder, a Cornell University professor who’s written a book about sanctions as a weapon of statecraft.”
    • “Russia’s economy shrank by far less than the double-digit slump once predicted and is forecast to return to growth this year.”
  • “U.S. officials say Russia is increasingly dependent on China for the technology it needs to prosecute the war in Ukraine. They see a chance to drive a wedge between the two nations—whose leaders famously declared a ‘no-limits’ friendship shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine. That looks like a tall order.”
  • “In a rapidly changing world order with the U.S. facing great-power competition for the first time in decades, Mulder … says it’s time to dial back expectations for what the tool can achieve. ‘Sanctions are ultimately a sideshow in deciding the outcome of this war,’ he says.”

“A Tool of Attrition. What the War in Ukraine Has Revealed About Economic Sanctions,” Edward Fishman of Columbia University, FA, 02.23.23.

  • “The West should not be afraid to tighten the screws. The best place to start is Russia’s oil sector. Over time, price discounts on Russian oil will shrink if the market assesses sanctions have plateaued.”
  • “The next place to escalate is the financial sector. ... The West should impose what are called ‘full blocking sanctions’ on all the major firms involved in Russia’s oil trade, measures that would sever their access to the Western financial system. It should also narrow the energy carve-out so that it allows Russia to use its petrodollars only to buy humanitarian goods such as food and medicine. The West should stand ready to use secondary sanctions against foreign banks that help Russia use its oil proceeds to buy weapons, industrial components and other goods that have no humanitarian value.” 
  • “If the West focuses its sanctions campaign in 2023 on merely enforcing penalties it enacted in 2022, Russia’s economy will continue to recover.  Economic strength is the foundation of military might. Over the past two decades, Putin remade Russia into a formidable military power thanks to flourishing connections to the global economy and soaring oil profits. Now, sanctions have a chance to reverse that. They alone will not end the war in Ukraine. But if the West keeps its nerve, sanctions can help end Putin’s imperial pretensions once and for all.”

“We must keep fighting Russia with banks as well as tanks,” CEO of Hermitage Capital Bill Browder, FT, 02.23.23.

  • “My proposal is that allied countries that have frozen central bank reserves should all revise their laws on sovereign immunity in unison. Of course, sovereign immunity should apply in every scenario apart from the specific instance in which a country commits an act of aggression against its neighboring country. The move to prosecute Russia for an act of aggression … is gathering momentum. Only by revising our laws so that sovereign immunity does not apply under these specific circumstances, can those assets be seized. I believe the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Japan, the EU and Australia all need to unify around this simple, viable proposal. That would go a long way to at least starting to repair the financial damage that Russia has wrought with this terrible invasion of Ukraine.”

Will the Arms Embargoes Clip the Wings of Russian Air Power?” Daniel Salisbury, Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London,

  • “The Russian defense industrial base is highly developed—although plagued with corruption and more dependent on external sources of technology than previously thought. … There is, however, evidence of the dependency of VKS [Russia’s aerospace forces] systems on external sources of technology.”
    • “A number of aircraft use French manufactured navigation systems, display screens, view finders and helmets transferred under contracts signed before the 2014 EU arms embargo.”
    • “Other aircraft systems have been found to be full of Western microelectronics.” 
    • “Furthermore, the Russian defense industrial base likely relies on imported advanced computer numerically controlled machine tools.”
  • “The greatest impact, however, [of Western sanctions] will be felt by Russia’s ability to develop its next-generation aircraft projects such as the Su-57 and Su-70. These are likely to have a greater level of dependence on advanced components sourced from outside of the country. The willingness of China to supply Russia with technology in the medium-to-long term—both weapons systems and dual-use goods and technologies– will be a crucial factor in shaping the VKS’s ability to compete with the U.S. and other NATO states in the future.”

Ukraine-related negotiations:

"Time is a crucial element of strategy," Harvard lecturer and Belfer co-director Eric Rosenbach, Belfer Center, 02.24.23.

  • "[T]he passage of time matters when it comes to war. The coming year will look much different without a significant change in strategy that increases the military pressure on Russia and forces President Putin to the negotiating table. The [U.S.] administration has supplied the Ukrainian military with important capabilities that have put the Russian military on its heels… And, crucially, the United States has done this while preventing an escalation that could lead Putin to deploy nuclear weapons. With the pending accession of Sweden and Finland, NATO is stronger than at any point in several decades."   
  • "But the first anniversary of the Russian invasion also marks an important decision point for American strategy in Ukraine. Ukraine’s eastern front has become a World War I-like meatgrinder where thousands of soldiers and civilians die daily. Costs for the war are mounting quickly: the United States spent $50B on Ukraine in 2022; in 2023, the war is expected to cost the German economy an estimated $170B… The stalemate in the east, the direct and indirect costs of the war, and the legacy of 'forever wars' have significantly eroded European and American public support for Ukraine." 
  • "Ukraine, NATO, and the United States do not have the luxury of a years-long war. Time is a crucial element of strategy… Putin knows that a long, drawn-out war will seriously undermine public support for the war and drain the re-supply of several already-low weapons stockpiles. In short, the Biden administration needs a clear and consistent strategy that immediately amps up military support. An indefinite, incremental approach to providing military capabilities will never generate the decisive power that Ukraine needs to force Russia to the negotiating table, much less win the war."  
  • "Within the next month, the White House should approve the transfer and training package of additional long-range missile capabilities, such as the ATACMS system, and of Polish Mig-29s—or an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) firepower equivalent—to Ukraine. This additional assistance should be conditioned on an agreement that Ukraine will be willing to start negotiations by September." 
  • "Any eventual agreement with Russia must be just and durable. It must include provisions for addressing war crimes, the future security status of Ukraine, and provisions for reconstruction. But Ukraine must also realize that—absent a major collapse of the Russian military—hopes of recapturing all of its original territories are unrealistic." 

“In Ukraine, Resistance Must Be Balanced With Appeasement,” columnist Clive Crook, Bloomberg, 02.25.23.

  • “[An] off-ramp is still worth exploring—though the terms, given the hardening of positions, would need to change. Unfortunately, China’s new position paper on a cease-fire and political settlement is useless as a blueprint because it’s almost entirely devoid of content. A plausible settlement proposal can’t just call for peace. It has to advance Ukrainian and Russian interests such that neither side believes it has lost.”
  • “One such settlement could give Ukraine not just security ‘guarantees’ but immediate full membership of NATO, plus close economic partnership with the EU and conspicuously generous aid for reconstruction and development. Russia would be granted some territorial gains, no sanctions, no demand for reparations and restoration of limited economic relations. If they chose to promote such a deal, the U.S. and its partners would also need to accelerate the supply of arms to Ukraine ... NATO members would commit, in any event, to spend more on defense and make it clear that this settlement would not be celebrated as ‘peace in our time.’ NATO’s members would need to understand that, even if the war on Ukraine ends, war on Putin’s Russia might well be in their future, and they have to be ready.”
  • “It’s clear to me, at least, that such an agreement would stop the killing and leave all parties better off than they can expect to be if this war keeps going. But the question of whether it would work may be premature. The question for the U.S. and its partners right now is whether an agreement of this kind is worth a try.”

“This War May Be Heading for a Cease-Fire,” historian Sergey Radchenko, NYT, 02.24.23.

  • “If neither side makes significant gains in coming months, the conflict could well be heading for a cease-fire. The Ukrainians, though perhaps not fully recovering their territories, will have fended off an aggressive foe. The Russians, for their part, can disguise their strategic defeat as a tactical victory. The conflict will be frozen, a far-from-ideal result. Yet if we have learned anything from the Korean War, it is that a frozen conflict is better than either an outright defeat or an exhausting war of attrition.”

“Looking back at the first year of the Russia-Ukraine war. Is a truce in the offing?” Nikolay Mitrokhin of the University of Bremen (Germany), Russia.Post, 02.23.23.

  • “Ukraine has neither the strength nor the means to completely liberate the whole country, including the Donbas and Crimea. Western support is compensating Ukraine’s losses, though it is not tipping the scales. Russia is not strong enough to bring Ukraine to its knees. The most likely outcome is a truce along a line cutting through the Donbas and the southeast of the country.”

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

“Consider these 4 inconvenient questions as the Ukraine war moves forward,” Harvard’s Graham Allison, WP,

  • “As a reality check, it is essential to consider four inconvenient questions.”
    • “First: If what is at stake is not just Ukraine’s survival but the future of Europe and even the global order, why are there no American troops fighting on the battlefield alongside brave Ukrainians? Answer: President Biden determined from the outset that the United States ‘will not fight World War III for Ukraine.’ … America’s own survival requires finding ways to defend and advance our interests without engaging in a direct conflict with Russia.”
    • “Second: Is CIA Director William J. Burns right when he asserts that Ukraine is a war that Putin ‘doesn’t believe he can afford to lose’? Yes … the outcome of this war is not existential for Russia. But it is for Putin. If Putin’s only alternative is decisive defeat, he might believe he has no choice but to conduct tactical nuclear strikes on Ukraine.”
    • “Third: If the fighting somehow ended today, would anyone have a doubt about who won and who lost? Whatever tactical territorial gains Putin might hold when this phase of intense war stops, no one will have any doubt about the fact that Putin’s war was a grave strategic blunder.”
    • “Fourth: If we imagine a map of Europe in 2030 and weigh the factors that could shape Ukraine’s place on it, how much would it matter whether the killing stopped 100 miles to the east or west of the current line of control? Ukrainians will never give up their goal of liberating every inch of Ukrainian territory—nor should they. But as Zelensky and his supporters in the West consider options on the road ahead, they should review the postwar history of West Germany. By building a vibrant free-market democracy within larger European institutions secured by a U.S.-led NATO, West Germany created conditions in which the recovery of the country’s Soviet-occupied eastern third was just a matter of time. Could Ukraine become the West Germany of the 21st century?”
  • “If these answers are roughly right, we should expect the future of Europe to be defined by a new Cold War with Ukraine on the front line, NATO right behind it and a long wait for a post-Soviet Russia to come to its senses.”

“Global Perspectives on the War in Ukraine,” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, 02.24.23.

  • Natalie Colbert, Executive Director, Belfer Center: “While Russia’s contravention of international norms may have reinvigorated the importance of grand strategic alliances and talk of a new Cold War, this would be an outdated lens to apply in Africa. With some notable exceptions, African countries have largely been reluctant to take sides over Russia’s invasion. ... From a U.S. foreign policy perspective, today’s reality reinforces the need to think pragmatically about how to engage partners on the continent who may also maintain relations with the United States’ strategic competitors.”
  • John S. Park, Director, Korea Project: “The war in Ukraine has led Northeast Asian countries to examine their own security with a sense of urgency for different reasons. In South Korea, there’s a growing scarcity mindset with respect to security. It’s less a question of whether the U.S. remains committed to its security obligations to South Korea as a treaty ally. It’s more an increasing South Korean concern about the U.S. prioritization of capabilities and resources should there be a contingency on the Korean Peninsula amid other pressing global security challenges.”
  • Edward P. Djerejian, Senior Fellow, Middle East Initiative: “The war has underscored Arab and Israeli leaders’ reluctance to get drawn into great power competition by picking sides between the U.S. and Russia.”

“‘Putin Still Believes Russia Will Prevail,’ Angela Stent and Michael Kofman discuss one year of the war in Ukraine—and what to expect next on the battlefield,” interview by Ravi Agrawal, FP,

  • “MK:  Right now, there’s no stalemate, nor is there a stalemate looming, and neither side is interested remotely in revising the minimal war aims or negotiating. Russia’s absolutely not interested in negotiating. They still think that they can achieve their objectives. Any sort of contrived armistice that might be proposed at this point would only serve to benefit the Russian military, which would then use the period to rearm and begin a follow-on offensive. You’d only be ensuring the continuation of war, and one that’s more favorable, most likely, to Russia.”
  • “AS: He [Putin] still believes that Western unity will crack. He’s seen the debates among U.S. officials and the Europeans about what kind of equipment and weapons to supply Ukraine, and he still believes that in the end, Western unity will weaken ... Putin still believes Russia will prevail.”
  • “AS: I worry that if relations between Russia and the West continue to be as bad as they are, there may be no possibility of replacing New START when it expires in 2026 ... In the longer run, it’s quite dangerous for the world, unless something changes and the Russians are willing to rethink this and at least get back into these mutual inspections, but I don’t see that happening as long as the war is going on.”
  • “MK: If China is deliberating on providing Russia overt military support, then it would be a significant factor, both in the medium and long term of this war. ... China doesn’t want Russia to lose. They don’t seem to want Russia to become something akin to Iran or North Korea on their border.”
  • “AS: They’ve [the West] underestimated the extent to which many of these countries look at the United States and say, ‘What about Vietnam? What about Iraq? What about Afghanistan?’ The United States is criticizing Russia for doing things, some of which America has itself done.”

“Lessons from Ukraine: Brookings scholars assess Vladimir Putin’s assault, Ukraine’s resistance, and the world’s response after one year of war,” Brookings, 02.24.23. 

  • Fiona Hill: “Redefining European security and restoring deterrence will involve explicitly countering [Putin’s] narrative. Building an international coalition against Russia’s aggression to facilitate an eventual settlement of the war will require the same. The United States and its allies must clarify and emphasize that they are supporting Ukraine on the battlefield to uphold the United Nations Charter and international law ... Washington needs to step up diplomatic efforts, including in the U.N., to convince friends and ambivalent middle powers in the so-called Global South that the West’s goal is not to retain supremacy in Europe but to keep the world safer for every nation. If Russia succeeds in carving up Ukraine, then the future sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states could be imperiled. Upholding international norms must once again be a central part of U.S. global security strategy.”
  • Steven Pifer: “In the future, Ukraine will need a modernized military to deter a new Russian assault. Kyiv should look to the West for the weapons to arm that military. ... Many Western leaders seem readier to agree to arm Ukraine than to support its NATO membership. Now, and in a post-conflict situation, Kyiv should ask for—and the West should pay—a significant price in weapons in return for the delay of Ukraine’s NATO quest. That does not mean NATO membership comes off the table forever. Ukraine should continue its preparations so that, when the political window opens, it can pass through. In the meantime, a strongly armed Ukraine would put Ukraine’s defense where it best belongs: in the hands of Ukrainians.”
  • Michael E. O’Hanlon: “If proposed terms of peace are too lenient, or if there is simply a cease-fire but no durable agreement on ending the conflict, Russia may be able to attack again after months or a few years of preparation. Alternatively, if they are too tough, Russia may wind up destitute, angry, and vengeful. Right now, the latter concerns seem beside the point, given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s horrendous behavior and his disinterest in talks. But that could change. We need to be ready if it does—so that we can wind up this war better than nations a century ago were willing and able to stop World War I.”

“Putin’s War Against Ukraine: The End of The Beginning,” director of Carnegie’s Russia and Eurasia Program Eugene Rumer, Carnegie Endowment, 02.17.23.

  • “A year into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, Russia has suffered a major strategic defeat, Ukraine has achieved a major strategic victory and the West has demonstrated a combination of resolve, unity and cohesion that few had expected.”
  • “It is tempting to conclude that the war presently being waged on the territory of Ukraine actually benefits the United States and Europe ... Ukraine is doing all the fighting while Western militaries learn valuable lessons from the battlefield; the NATO alliance has received the wake-up call it desperately needed; and the war has effectively taken one great power out of competition.”
  • “But no matter how appealing this cold-blooded rationality may be to some, it ignores the reality of a long war in Europe and the moral aspect of pretending to wage a war against Russia at arm’s length, with only Ukrainian lives at stake. It ignores the risk of escalation, even if not nuclear, and the possibility of NATO joining the fight directly.”
  • “That leaves the United States and its allies without any good options as the war enters its second year, except to ramp up military support and hope for the best. ... The war can continue along three possible scenarios: a stalemate; Ukraine wins; or Russia wins. ... Of the three, the first scenario—forever war—is the path of least resistance associated with the least immediate risks. However, betting on a stalemate without giving serious thought to the other two scenarios would not be a sound strategy. Besides, the forever war scenario carries with it many other threats and challenges for the United States and its allies, ranging from Russian interference in regional crises and fragile states to the collapse of arms control and the breakdown of global efforts to contain the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means of their delivery. Living with rogue Russia means living dangerously.”

“How the War in Ukraine Ends,” David Remnick’s interview with Stephen Kotkin, a visiting scholar with the Belfer Center’s Applied History project, The New Yorker, 02.17.23.

  • [When asked about Chinese war theorist Sun Tzu’s “golden bridge” for one’s opponent “so that he can find a way to retreat.”] “There’s nothing like that in sight. You win the war on the battlefield. There are some shortcuts that could potentially enable you to get to a victory more quickly … if the Russian Army disintegrated in the field … an overthrow of the Putin regime in Moscow and his replacement by a capitulatory, not an escalatory, Russian leader … the idea of the Chinese exerting pressure to force Russia to climb down.”
  • [On Zelensky’s definition of victory]: “So here we are with Ukraine, and their definition of victory … is to regain every inch of territory, reparations and war-crimes tribunals. So how would Ukraine enact that definition of victory? They would have to take Moscow. How else can you get reparations and war-crime tribunals? They’re not that close to regaining every inch of their own territory, let alone the other aims.”
  • [On Biden’s definition of ‘victory’]: “If you look at the American definition of what the victory might look like, we’ve been very hesitant. The Biden Administration has been very careful to say, ‘Ukraine is fighting, Ukrainians are dying—they get to decide.’ The Biden Administration has effectively defined victory from the American point of view as: Ukraine can’t lose this war. Russia can’t take all of Ukraine and occupy Ukraine, and disappear Ukraine as a state.”
    • “If Ukraine regains as much of its territory as it physically can on the battlefield, not all of it, potentially, but does get EU accession—would that be a definition of victory? Of course, it would be.”
  • “We want to build a South Korea-style Ukraine, part of the EU, behind the DMZ, where there’s an armistice, not a settlement; where there is no legal recognition of any Russian annexations unless there’s some type of larger bargain, peace settlement; where the Russians make significant concessions as well and there is the move toward an actual security guarantee.”

“Domestic Politics Encourage Continued War of Attrition in Ukraine in 2023,” CFR’s Thomas Graham, RM, 02.22.23.

  • “Russian forces are reportedly in the early phases of a major offensive, and a large Ukrainian counteroffensive is expected later this spring. … Moscow and Kyiv are each aiming for a decisive breakthrough that will put their country on the path to victory. Most military analysts, however, see little chance for a dramatic turn in events. If they are right, the war of attrition will continue, reinforced by the politics of Russia, Ukraine and the West, which rule out any near-term push for a negotiated settlement.”
  • “Both Kyiv and Moscow portray the war as existential. That appears self-evident for Ukraine. … The threat is less obvious for Russia … Putin, of course, is not Russia … But his ambitions and fears will guide Russian policy in the coming months, and he has shown no interest in negotiating anything other than Ukraine’s capitulation. … If the war of attrition continues into 2024 (and recent polls indicate that not only analysts but many ordinary citizens in Ukraine and Russia believe it will), then presidential elections in both countries in March of next year will only bolster their leaders’ aversion to negotiations.”
  • “Likewise, U.S. presidential elections next November will probably serve to prolong the war.  Having framed it as a historic contest between democracy and autocracy, President Joe Biden cannot afford to see Ukraine defeated and hope to be reelected … But his repeated pledge to avoid sparking World War III, and the nuclear cataclysm that would ensue, limits how far the United States will go in supporting Ukraine.”
  • “As the war in Ukraine enters its second year, all sides are caught up in the logic of escalation.  The coming months will see major battles, as Ukraine and Russia both hope for a decisive breakthrough. … In this light, the question for 2023 is not whether the war will continue. Rather it is how far the escalation will proceed. Will the conflict extend beyond Ukraine with the opening of second fronts in, say, Moldova or Georgia? Will Ukraine launch more devastating attacks inside Russia, or will Russia strike a NATO member? Will Moscow move beyond periodic nuclear saber-rattling to actual use? Or will the obvious risks of escalation finally overturn the political imperatives and open up a path toward peace? The stakes could not be higher.”

“What a Victory for Ukraine Should Look Like,” Quincy Institute’s Anatol Lieven, Time,

  • “Differences are growing within the Biden Administration over what kind of victory for Ukraine the United States should support.”
  • “Gen. Mark Milley … has stated that Russia has already lost in Ukraine, and a glance at the map and at the evident goals of the Russian invasion a year ago should make the truth of this clear. The Russian army failed to capture Kyiv and topple the Ukrainian government, and failed in three out of four of its other territorial objectives: to take the whole of the Donbas, Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv and the Ukrainian Black Sea coast. … These Russian defeats mean that whatever happens … the great majority of Ukraine … will in the future be fully independent of Russia and closely aligned with the West. This cancels out not just Moscow’s aims of a year ago, but more than 300 years of Russian and Ukrainian history.”
  • “Given the extent of the victory that Ukraine and the West have already achieved, what are the arguments for aiming at total Russian defeat and Ukrainian reconquest of Crimea and the Donbas?” 
  • “As Blinken has indicated, by far the greatest threat of extreme Russian escalation would stem from a Ukrainian move to take Crimea. At the moment most Crimeans still appear to want to be part of Russia, leading to the question of how Ukraine could rule Crimea in future, without repression or ethnic cleansing.”
  • “For the U.S. to aim at the crippling of a nuclear-armed state would be the most dangerous enterprise ever embarked on by a U.S. administration. When the Soviet Union broke up, it was for internal reasons, and the first Bush administration was careful not to be seen to be driving the process. For if the Russian elites see Crimea as an existential issue for Russia, then they will be willing to run existential risks to keep it. Is this a risk that Americans should take, when this is not an existential issue for America, and when Ukraine has already won a great and irreversible victory?”

“Points of no return,” Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, Izvestia, 02.27.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “The beginning of the tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine dates back to the late 20th century, to wit, the collapse of the Soviet Union. … The West looked down upon that [collapse] with the arrogant squint of a victor and a sense of superiority, thinking only about ways to satisfy its selfish interests.”
  • “President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and President of Russia Boris Yeltsin were often credited with the fact that after the ‘communist monster’ had died they managed to keep things from degrading into a semblance of a civil war. This is true and also not true, at the same time. The critical mass of discontent could have morphed into a full-on civil confrontation, on the threshold of which we found ourselves in 1993. However, back then no one was trying to fan the fire of the conflict from abroad.”
  • The most important achievement that the leaders of the disintegrated Soviet Union and the first head of its legal successor, Russia, can be credited with is that they avoided the most terrible mistake, preventing the potent Soviet nuclear potential from being scattered across the patchwork quilt of the new countries that came to replace a great power.”
  • “After the heyday of the empire and its golden age, there is a long way to the same end, which is disintegration and war, or war and disintegration. … The war could have broken out earlier in the 1990s, or in the first two decades of the 21st century, but it is now that it has flared up.”
  • “Two dates can be considered points of no return. The first one can be traced back to the autumn of 2008, when the Western world supported Georgia's aggression against the Ossetian people. … The second … can be dated back to the spring of 2014, when the people of Crimea expressed their will during a legally held referendum and permanently rejoined their historical homeland.”
  • It won’t work the way it did with the Soviet Union. If the issue of Russia’s existence is raised in earnest, it will not be decided on the Ukrainian front. Not by any means. It will be a question of the future existence of human civilization. And there should be no ambiguity here. We don't need a world without Russia.”

“A Fight for Survival: What Victory Looks Like to Putin,” Tatiana Stanovaya, Carnegie Endowment/MT, 02.25.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s state of the nation address on Feb. 21 was eagerly anticipated inside Russia, yet it shed no light on the question that is foremost on the minds of the Russian elite and public: how Putin intends to win this war.”
  • “The main message that Putin wanted to get across to the West in his speech was that ‘it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield.’ He was essentially warning that the intention to defeat Russia will make the war a long one, and will bring about the large-scale destabilization of the entire world, but will never end in victory over Russia.”
  • “Putin’s state of the nation address effectively suggests that in the growing confrontation with the West, Russia will rely on one sole argument: the nuclear option. In this respect, suspending the New START treaty also sends a warning to non-Western countries of the consequences for the entire world of the West’s anti-Russian policies. Moscow is presenting the global community with a choice between Russia or descending into a nuclear disaster.”
  • “For Putin, the concept of victory has meaning far beyond the borders of Ukraine: it would mean nothing less than an end to the West’s anti-Russian policies. It’s true that this vision differs dramatically from the expectations of the Russian elite and public, who would prefer to have a bird in the hand (the Donbas) than two in the bush (an end to the West’s anti-Russian policies). The practical reality of the conflict with Ukraine has less and less in common with Putin’s stratospheric expectations, and this discrepancy could well become a factor in bringing about political change within Russia itself.”

“What Led to Putin’s Blunder in Ukraine?”, founding director Simon Saradzhyan, RM, 02.24.23.

  • “This paper seeks to ascertain which of the hypothetical factors that the author has inferred from literature on Russia’s past military interventions, as well as from cross-country studies of such interventions, may have influenced the Russian dictator’s decision to invade Ukraine in February 2022. … The author’s examination of these factors indicates that three of them are likely to have contributed to shaping Putin’s decision to launch the invasion a year ago.”
    • “First, Putin was motivated by his perception that there were acute growing threats to several of Russia’s vital national interests as he saw them, including the interest in preventing Ukraine’s “escape” to a hostile hegemon’s camp.”
    • “Second, Putin may have believed he had run out of non-military options for responding to these threats.”
    • “Third, Putin thought he had a reasonable hope that his war would succeed in warding off the aforementioned threats.”
  • “The jury might still be out on whether Putin really thought he had run out of non-military options of dealing with the perceived threats to Russia’s vital interests, but it is increasingly clear that he seriously overestimated (1) the chances that a full-blown invasion could succeed in warding off these threats and (2) the sum of net costs that such an invasion would impose on Russia. It is perhaps this misguided war optimism that played the most decisive role in shaping Putin’s erroneous decision to choose the full-scale invasion as a means of re-anchoring Ukraine to Russia and preventing NATO’s further expansion along Russia’s borders.”
  • “That Putin chose the full-blown invasion option in spite of a wealth of publicly available evidence that it wouldn’t be a walk in the park constitutes an important lesson for those of us seeking to anticipate the Russian dictator’s choices: Rather than assume that Putin would choose the policy option “common sense” would indicate, one should try to grasp what costs and benefits the dictator associates with each policy option available to him and, more importantly, what value he assigns to each of the pros and cons, no matter how misinformed his perceptions might be.”

"How Putin blundered into Ukraine — then doubled down," journalists Max Seddon, Christopher Miller and Felicia Schwartz, FT, 02.23.23.

  • “Dissenting voices in the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, and Russia’s general staff attempted to raise doubts ahead of the invasion. … A Russian oligarch, while in the Kremlin on Feb. 24, 2022, spotted Lavrov and asked how Putin could have planned such an enormous invasion in such a tiny circle. ‘He has three advisers,’ Lavrov replied, according to the oligarch. ‘Ivan the Terrible. Peter the Great. And Catherine the Great.’”
  • “‘The idea was never for hundreds of thousands of people to die. It’s all gone horribly wrong,’ a former senior Russian official says. ‘He [Putin] tells people close to him, ‘It turns out we were completely unprepared. The army is a mess. Our industry is a mess. But it’s good that we found out about it this way, rather than when NATO invades us,’ the former official adds.”
  • “One part of the Kremlin’s plan involved Viktor Yanukovych, a former [Ukrainian] president who has been in Russian exile since fleeing the 2014 revolution against him. He was to deliver a video message conferring legitimacy on Viktor Medvedchuk—and anointing him to rule Ukraine with Russia’s backing.”
  • “‘He’s of sound mind. He’s reasonable. He’s not crazy. But nobody can be an expert on everything. They need to be honest with him and they are not,’ another longtime Putin confidant says. ‘The management system is a huge problem. It creates big gaps in his knowledge and the quality of the information he gets is poor.’”
  • “According to two people close to the Kremlin, Putin has already gamed out the possibility of using a nuclear weapon in Ukraine and has come to the conclusion that even a limited strike would do nothing to benefit Russia. … ‘Everything is totally irradiated, you can’t go in there, and it’s supposedly Russia anyway, so what was the point?’”
  • “In ramping up military support for Ukraine, Western officials are mindful anything less than a crushing defeat for Russia risks failing to deal with the problem.”

“Ukraine Needs More Weapons and Support From the West,” former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, WSJ, 02.22.23.

  • “We should designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, placing that country where it now rightly belongs—on a list including Iran, Cuba, North Korea and Syria. We should designate the infamous and bloodthirsty Wagner Group as a foreign terrorist organization. It is a badge that is now richly deserved and long overdue.”
  • “But above all we must give the Ukrainians what they need to win this year. By ensuring that Ukraine wins and that Mr. Putin finally fails, we are making the best and most financially efficient investment in the long-term security not only of the Euro-Atlantic area, but of the whole world. The Ukrainians are fighting for more than their own freedom. They are fighting for the cause of freedom around the world. We should give them what they need. Not next month or next year, but now.”

“Russia Shouldn’t Get to Veto Western Military Aid,” former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor David J. Kramer and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, FA, 02.24.23.

  • “The West needs to do more faster to tip the scales more decisively in Ukraine’s favor. NATO must drop its apprehension about triggering Putin and recognize that Ukraine has every right to use great force to stop the Kremlin’s invasion. That means Kyiv can continue its strikes on Russian bases in Crimea. For that matter, out of self-defense, it can hit Russian forces inside Belarus and Russia if those forces are lobbing attacks against Ukraine.”
  • “For Russian morale to truly tank, senior U.S. military officials, politicians and outside analysts need to stop talking about negotiations with Russia. Such remarks are discouraging to Ukrainians and music to Russians’ ears, reinforcing the Kremlin’s belief that the West will suffer from Ukraine fatigue and eventually sue for peace.”
  • “There can also be no return to normal until Russia answers for the horrible things it has done to Ukraine, especially in towns and cities such as Bucha and Mariupol. Before the West eases any sanctions, the Kremlin must return all the Ukrainians captured or exiled to Russia, such as the thousands of Ukrainian children it has deported and forced to live with Russian families.”
  • “If Russia is soundly defeated and if NATO retains its unity, Xi will think twice before attacking Taiwan. Putin would be less able to cause mayhem elsewhere, including in Syria and Africa. Within Europe, a Ukrainian win would weaken Putin’s ability to continue his support for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s illegitimate regime and embolden democratic forces in Belarus.”
  • “With Moscow licking its wounds, Russia’s threat to Moldova via the separatist region of Transnistria would be greatly weakened. The Baltic states are already protected from Moscow by their membership in NATO, but a Russian loss would allow them to breathe easier.”
  • “Equally promising, a Ukrainian victory could help free Russia from the grip of Putin’s disastrous rule.”

“War in Ukraine Has Changed Europe Forever,” Paris bureau chief Roger Cohen, NYT, 02.26.23.

  • “As long war looms along with a possibly protracted stalemate, the European Union will grapple with how to reinforce its militaries; how to navigate tensions between frontline states intent on the complete defeat of Mr. Putin and others, like France and Germany, inclined toward compromise; and how to manage an American election next year that will feed anxieties over whether Washington will stay the course. In short, the war has laid bare the path before Europe: how to transform itself from peace power to muscular geopolitical protagonist.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“Why does China need a peace plan for Ukraine?”, senior fellow Alexander Gabuev, Carnegie Endowment, 02.24.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “It took China a year to come up with a detailed position on Russia's war against Ukraine. On the anniversary of the Russian invasion, the Chinese Foreign Ministry published a 12-point ‘China's Position on the Political Settlement of the Crisis in Ukraine.’”
  • “It seems that the vagueness of the Chinese document, the essence of which can be put into the formula ‘for all the good against all the bad,’ is its main weakness. After all, it is impossible to imagine how to end the war with the help of such a plan. However, this is not what this document has been written for: China does not even think of getting so deeply involved in the Ukrainian conflict. The Peace Plan is not a roadmap for how to stop the war. Rather, this is an indulgence that should help China fight off Western accusations of quietly supporting the aggressor, and at the same time strengthen its image as a responsible world power in the eyes of developing countries.”
  • “The West, however, is unlikely to let China quietly reap the laurels of an imaginary peacemaker. The United States and its allies have already begun counterplay, presenting to the world community evidence that the PRC is not only buying oil and gas from Moscow, filling Putin’s military treasury, but also continues to supply components for Russian weapons and is even thinking about supplying attack drones for testing in combat. Therefore, Beijing will yet have to fight for the laurels of a peacemaker.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

"Challenging the nuclear order," Harvard professor Matthew Bunn, Belfer Center,

  • "Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine—a war of aggression launched by a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council charged with protecting international peace and security—is challenging … the nuclear order."
  • "There is a real chance that President Putin's nuclear saber-rattling might turn to actual use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, breaking the 77-year tradition of nuclear non-use, as he cannot afford to lose this war, has few options to win, and has shown no compunctions about slaughtering the innocent. Putin knows the costs of using nuclear weapons would be high, but he might well choose that course if he thinks the only alternative is a defeat that could lead him to fall from power."
  • "The Biden administration has appropriately sought to deter such a strike by threatening a response that would be 'catastrophic' for Russia, but that carries its own risks of escalation. … Almost all U.S.-Russian communication is now cut off, further heightening the risk." 
  • "Nuclear dangers are among many reasons to work with Ukraine on finding paths to a negotiated settlement sooner rather than later. If Ukraine, with steadfast Western support, manages to emerge as a thriving society, it will show that nuclear weapons are not the only path to security. But if Ukraine is dismembered after having given up the nuclear weapons on its soil after the breakup of the Soviet Union in return for promises that its sovereignty would be respected, other countries may reconsider their nuclear options."
  • "[T]he war in Ukraine forces us to rethink almost every aspect of nuclear policy, including approaches to nuclear deterrence, arms control, nonproliferation, nuclear energy, nuclear safety, and nuclear security." 

“The Bomb in the Background. What the War in Ukraine Has Revealed About Nuclear Weapons,” Nina Tannenwald of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, FA, 02.24.23.

  • “The risk remains that Russia will use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine. A troubling new development is the nuclear militancy expressed in Russian society, especially on Russia’s state-controlled television, where hosts regularly urge the use of nuclear weapons against the West.”
  • “It is impossible to say definitively whether greater Western support for Ukraine will prompt a nuclear Russian response. No one really knows. The nuclear risks in this war are considerable, since NATO continues to get more deeply involved in Ukraine’s defense while Russia seems less and less restrained (as Putin’s announcement suspending Russia’s participation in New START shows). Deterrence could fail in multiple ways, either through intentional acts or miscalculations. The Russian use of a nuclear weapon would be widely regarded as a failure of U.S. policy. Responsible U.S. leaders will err on the side of caution to avoid such a catastrophic outcome.”
  • “The past year saw the continuation of the 77-year tradition of nuclear weapons not being used. Western leaders must do as much as they can to ensure that this streak continues, even as the horrific war in Ukraine rages on.”

“Control Paused,” IMEMO’s Dmitry Stefanovich, Russia in Global Affairs, 02.27.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Nuclear war has not come any closer because of last week's news. The existing balance of the strategic nuclear forces of Russia and the United States, which have been largely determined and fixed by successive treaties in the field of strategic offensive weapons, made a first strike ... impossible due to the inevitability of retaliation. But in the absence of a contractual framework in the medium and especially long-term … there will be an imbalance in the architecture of nuclear deterrence. It will occur due to a gradual reduction in the volume of reliable and verifiable information about the adversary as well as due to the corresponding evolution of doctrinal foundations and nuclear potential based on the traditionally overestimated capabilities of the [adversary] and, most threatening, the interpretation of its [adversary’s] policy in the sphere of nuclear deterrence.”
  • “Of course, the Ukrainian strikes on [Russia’s strategic aviation base] Engels that relied on U.S. intelligence data contradict the spirit of New START, as do many other modern events. The sides can attempt to resolve some of contradictions within the framework of the existing mechanisms of New START. ... It is possible that the opportunity [to resolve the contradictions] has not been missed yet. In general, the best result following the initiatives of the president's address [to the Russian parliament] would be the resumption of substantive conversation about the ways of asymmetric limitations of nuclear weapons in the conditions of multilateral rivalry—or, if you will, a multipolar world.”

“One year on, here's how the Ukraine conflict is changing the world order,” Dmitri Trenin of the Higher School of Economics, RT, 02.24.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “If New START is followed by the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) and then the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), strategic deregulation will be complete. ... Hopefully, the credible threat of complete annihilation – the heart of nuclear deterrence – will still protect us from the very worst outcome.”
  • “Closer cooperation and coordination between China and Russia amid the war in Ukraine, which is gradually emerging on the platform of common strategic interests, represents a major shift in the world power balance. What is more ... is the rise of over a hundred actors of different caliber in many parts of the world that have refused to support the U.S., and its allies, on the Russia sanctions and have maintained or even expanded their trade and other relations with Moscow. ... At the end of the day, this phenomenon – call it the Rise of the Global Majority (no longer silent) – could be the single most important development so far en route to the new world order.”

“The Geopolitics of the New Thirty Years' War: The Outlines of Our Strategy,” Alexander Kramarenko, Russia in Global Affairs, 02.21.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “A satisfactory outcome of the SVO (definition of victory) can only be the territorial and political reorganization of all modern Ukraine on a new geopolitical and ideological basis. The preservation of the Kyiv regime on any truncated territory with access to the West would mean not only Russian ‘bogging down’ in Ukraine, which would suit the West, but also the creation of a direct military threat from NATO on our western border at the level of conventional armed forces.”
  • “A preventive strategy with forcing a direct conflict with NATO ... promises to be a winning one. ... We could talk about declaring the country in a state of de facto war with NATO. ... Our doctrine of the use of nuclear weapons leaves us the right to interpret what constitutes a threat to the existence of our state. It seems that the Dec. 17, 2022, article by Henry Kissinger in The Spectator and the Jan. 7, 2023, joint article by Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates in The Washington Post show an understanding of this threat.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

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:

“Putin Has Decided to Normalize His War,” columnist Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg, 02.22.23.

  • “The big news from Vladimir Putin’s almost two-hour state-of-the-nation address on Tuesday …was an implicit message that the war in Ukraine is not ending anytime soon and that Russians must get used to living with it—especially as, in Putin’s telling, it presents an economic opportunity that’s greater than the sacrifice it requires.”
  • “That Putin chose to deliver this message a year into the Russian invasion of Ukraine means he has no idea how Russia wins—and that, for want of better options, he’s decided to semaphore that he doesn’t really mind a long war.”
  • “Russia, isolated from the West, focused on self-sufficiency and on regaining ‘historical territories,’ a country in which dissenters are treated as traitors and the military is constantly in action, is the country he may have long wanted to run.”
  • “Putin’s dream of being an emperor at war is unsustainable if he loses the war—but Putin appears to shut out any thought of a Ukrainian victory, firmly believing in Russia’s size advantage and the Russian people’s legendary patience, which has held up remarkably well this year.”
  • “Implicitly, it’s up to Ukrainians to inflict defeat—and, in Putin’s reality, to exhaust themselves in an endless war of attrition. In both cases, Russia’s future is in the hands of Ukrainians, an unexpected result from a year of the bloodiest fighting seen anywhere this century.”

“The Brave Man Whom Putin Wants to Kill,” Nicholas Kristof, NYT, 02.25.23.

  • “The authorities have tried to break [Alexei] Navalny in prison. ... Some critics have argued that Navalny is a xenophobic nationalist unworthy of admiration. I looked into the accusations, and here’s what I found. In 2007, Navalny made two over-the-top, dumb and offensive video clips, each a minute or less, that could be seen as vilifying immigrants, and for several years after that he participated in a nationalist march. Then he seemed to move on, and in 2014 he denounced Russia’s invasion of Crimea.”
  • “People are complicated, but Navalny today seems so committed to democratic and European values that he is risking his life for them.”
  • “Somehow through all this, he maintains his sense of humor. ‘I laugh at least thrice a day, even when I’m all alone in the cell,’ he tweeted recently in a riff about the awful music and food in the prison. ‘I’m the merriest person at a funeral.’”

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:

“For many outside the West, Russia is not important enough to hate,” FT contributing editor Ivan Krastev, FT, 02.22.23.

  • “In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., American pundits would plaintively ask: ‘Why do they hate us?’ A year into Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, a variation on that question has begun to take shape: ‘Why do they not hate them [Putin’s Russia]?’”
  • “A new study, United West, Divided by the Rest, reveals that the war and Russian military setbacks have not forced people in many non-western countries to downgrade their opinion of Russia or to question its relative strength. Russia is seen either as an ‘ally’ or a ‘partner’ by 79% of people in China (unsurprisingly). But the same is true for 80% of Indians and 69% of Turks.”
  • “Most Chinese, Indians and Turks who expressed a view said they would prefer the war to stop as soon as possible—even if that means Ukraine giving up part of its territory. They see Western support for Kyiv as motivated by reasons other than the protection of Ukraine’s territorial integrity or its democracy.”
  • “Although Putin and his propagandists may be relieved by the way non-Western societies view what is happening in Ukraine, the question, ‘why do they not hate them’ also has an answer that is less flattering to Moscow. Developing countries are not outraged by Putin’s aggression because Russia has ceased to be seen as a global superpower. For countries such as India and Turkey, Russia has become like them, so they do not need to fear it. The customary privilege of regional powers is to not be hated outside their region; Moscow now enjoys this privilege.”

“Global South shows resilience over Ukraine issue,” director general of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov, Global Times, 02.22.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Since the very beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict a year ago, one of the prime goals of the West was to isolate Moscow in the international system. ... However, this mission has turned out to be impossible to accomplish. … This persistent resistance to the continuous pressure from the West calls for explanations.”
    • “One of such explanations is a widespread perception in the Global South that the Western approach to Ukraine is a clear manifestation of double standards.”
    • “Another explanation is that in the West the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is often presented as a part of the global clash between ‘good democracies’ and ‘bad autocracies,’ as yet another crusade in defense of Western liberal values against the Eastern despotism.”
    • “Still, the most important reason for the Global South not to align with the West seems to be another one. The reality is that the West does not seem to be in any way interested in inviting the Global South to discuss the Ukraine crisis together in any depth in order to find an appropriate balanced and long-lasting solution.”
  • “The resolution of the crisis might well trigger long-awaited reforms in the global order, which should imply, among other things, a more prominent role for the Global South in the international system. That would arguably be the only silver lining in the cloudy and stormy international atmosphere of today.”        


“Mariana Budjeryn – On the War and Its Impact in Ukraine,” interview with senior Harvard research associate at Belfer’s Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 02.23.23.

  • [F]or Ukrainians this is an existential war. … Ukrainians are convinced that any ceasefire will only push this war to the next generation. So, if we cave in and negotiate a settlement, it will only … allow Russia … to regroup and come back with a renewed effort.”
  • “In Ukraine ‘[t]here’s a general appreciation and gratitude towards international solidarity, at least western solidarity… Although perhaps there is a bit of a frustration with the pace of armament deliveries and decisions about armaments.”
  • “Another amazing thing … in Ukraine is that the war and the resistance is really a national effort. … The government is doing one thing, but the civic engagement and the spirit of resistance is really something perhaps unprecedented.”
  • “I’m very concerned about the nuclear safety and security at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that’s occupied by the Russian forces, but also at the other three operating nuclear power plants in Ukraine. For an operating nuclear power plant to find itself in the middle of a war zone is really an unprecedented occurrence, and we’re just grappling now with all the challenges … because none of the sophisticated safety and security systems at the nuclear power plant[s] are designed for this kind of threat.”
  • Apart from “the immediate concern over Russia’s nuclear use in Ukraine … [m]y other concern about the nuclear dimension of this conflict is its impact on the broader global nuclear order. The war offers evidence … that nuclear deterrence, the use of nuclear threats, works. Russian nuclear threats and the existence of nuclear weapons in Russia … seems to have worked to restrain the conflict, and has induced caution in Western support. … No new parties have joined the fray.”

“Ukraine's Zelensky Is Challenged by Return of Domestic Political Troubles; President confronts government corruption allegations, political competition and questions about Western aid,” reporters Matthew Luxmoore and Lindsay Wise, WSJ, 02.22.23.

  • “The politics of the prewar period are returning for … president [Zelensky]. Corruption, a perennial problem in Ukraine, has come back into view in recent weeks. Mr. Zelensky has fired nearly a dozen senior officials for alleged schemes such as marking up the prices of eggs and other food procured for the military. One person whose home was raided by security services was a politically connected tycoon and onetime supporter of Mr. Zelensky’s.”
  • “Opponents say Mr. Zelensky’s grip on the media has a whiff of authoritarianism. … At the start of the war, a presidential decree mandated that Ukraine’s main news channels broadcast identical content, and they heavily feature government officials. Opponents of Mr. Zelensky say it constitutes an effective monopoly in a country that relies predominantly on TV for its news.”
  • “Mr. Zelensky’s approval ratings are still high, but much of that support is conditional, according to political analysts.”
  • “Such domestic issues could create problems abroad, especially if the front lines, which Russia has reinforced with tens of thousands of fresh troops, remain deadlocked. Some Republican lawmakers have questioned the level of spending on Ukraine.”
  • “[Zelensky’s] charisma carried him only so far. Western officials privately expressed disappointment that he wasn’t delivering on his campaign against corruption…. In the U.S., aid packages to Ukraine had drawn broad bipartisan support, but future packages must pass both the Senate, led by Democrats, and the House, where Republicans now have a slim majority. Some Republicans are opposed to spending taxpayer dollars in Ukraine, citing concern about corruption and arguing that the money could be better spent domestically. American officials responsible for tracking more than $110 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine are preparing to deploy auditors and investigators into the war zone, though they have thus far not claimed any major fraud or illegality.”

“War Makes the State. What the War in Ukraine Has Revealed About Effective Governance,” Ukrainian journalist Nataliya Gumenyuk, FA, 02.24.23.  Clues from Ukrainian Views.

  • “Ukraine feared that when Russia invaded, the government might fall because of internal divisions and the lack of public trust. But Ukraine didn’t fall, and now its citizens have much higher expectations for the state and what needs to be done to rebuild the country. It will be up to both the Ukrainian people and their leaders not to squander the opportunity when the war is over.”

“Will the American-Ukraine Consensus Start to Crack?,” Bruce W. Jentleson of Duke University, NI, 02.22.23.

  • “While Europe has done far better than anticipated in reducing its energy dependence on Russian oil and natural gas, the economic costs being borne from both sanctions and war still have been quite substantial. And as hard as NATO has been working on maintaining solidarity, issues like the German Leopard tanks and Ukrainian pressure on Britain for fighter jets are indicative of increasing differences over the optimal strategy for these next phases of the war. If European commitment wavers, the American public may question its own commitment.”
  • “Adding to these are signs of an emerging policy debate within the United States. While there were some dissenting views early on, these were even fewer than during the 2003 Iraq war. As long as the Russian strategy was proving flawed and Ukrainian military and society kept up their admirable will and extraordinary performance, U.S. and NATO policy generally seemed well-calibrated. But with the war becoming attritional and trench warfare-like, and Russia managing to contain economic sanctions and keep pouring troops in, concerns have been intensifying as to the sustainability of that strategy.”
  • “The Biden administration … cannot count on the support that has been there for its Ukraine policy to still be there in the months to come. Soft spots in what otherwise is a consensus are more politically manageable than cracks in its base. As the war enters its second year, the political and policy challenges for maintaining Ukraine’s support, let alone increasing it, are even more formidable than they were in the first year.”

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • No significant developments.



  1. This article is based on the findings of a recent Freeman Air and Space Institute paper. 
  2. Also see, "Some hope amid the brutality of war," Professor Graham Allison, Harvard Kennedy School, 02.21.23.
  3. Also see, "Vladimir Putin's Big Backfire," Angela Stent, Politico, 02.26.23. 
  4. Also see, “For years, Putin didn’t invade Ukraine. What made him finally snap in 2022?”, Anatol Lieven, The Guardian, 02.24.23.
  5. Also see, “Things Get Ugly if Russia Pulls the Nuclear Trigger in Ukraine,” Matthew Bunn, NI, 02.25.23.