Russia Analytical Report, Jan. 2-8, 2024

5 Ideas to Explore

  1. “The ‘rules-based order’ that President Biden proclaims has become a slogan rather than a fact,” WP’s David Ignatius argues in his preview of how the Russian-Ukrainian war and other conflicts will evolve in 2024. In his latest column, Ignatius blasts Vladimir Putin’s aggression again Ukraine, but also reminds us how there was an “element of truth” in the Russian leader’s criticism of how the West’s interventions in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt “resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself,” which he voiced in his 2015 speech at the U.N. “We need new rules at the United Nations to stop wars and a new framework for crisis management with allies and adversaries. Otherwise, in 2024 and beyond, we’ll have to think about the unthinkable,” Ignatius warns, making an implicit reference to the possibility of nuclear weapons use.
  2. The war in Ukraine is not a stalemate, and, thus, the West faces a choice: “support Ukraine so that its leaders can defend their territory and prepare for a 2025 offensive or cede an irrecoverable advantage to Russia,” RUSI’s Jack Watling argues in FA. “The West is on a trajectory to end up losing this war through sheer complacency,” Watling warns in a separate interview to the New Yorker. Echoing Watling, Timothy Garton Ash of Oxford University sees “no stalemate of the kind that might lead to a frozen conflict or negotiated settlement” in his commentary for FT. Ash calls for the West’s aid to Ukraine to focus on more air defense systems and long-range attack missiles in the short-term, while also planning for the “extensive training of Ukrainian troops and a rapid, substantial increase in industrial production of weapons and munitions” in the longer term. For the Ukrainian armed forces to succeed in the future, they “must create temporary windows of localized air superiority in which to mass firepower and maneuver forces,” according to an FP commentary by ex-deputy secretary general of NATO Rose Gottemoeller and former U.S. deputy assistant defense secretary Michael Ryan. In the meantime, WSJ’s comparison of Russian and Ukrainian war efforts paints a picture that looks bleaker for Kyiv and its allies than for Moscow. 
  3. There are three problems with confiscating Russian assets frozen by the West to fund continued aid to Ukraine: “it lacks compellent effect, it is being invoked by the wrong parties and it undermines the rules-based order Western governments claim to defend,” according to Nicholas Mulder of Princeton University. “Advocates of a rules-based order demolish their credibility if they respond to Moscow’s criminality with illegal measures of their own,” Mulder argues in his commentary for FT. In contrast to Ash, Simon Hinrichsen, who has written a book on war reparations, argues, also in FT, that “confiscating assets of foreign states in response to an unjust war has been normal practice throughout history,” and, thus the “EU and the U.S. are justified in enforcing state countermeasures to confiscate Russian assets.” If one were to ask a Russian expert on sanctions if Western leaders will act on Mulder’s or Hinrichsen’s advice in 2024, Ivan Timofeev of RIAC would bet on the latter. “We will ... see the development of mechanisms for confiscating Russian assets,” Timofeev predicts in his commentary on what the West will do to punish Russia over Ukraine this year.
  4. Ukrainians have been showing increasing disillusionment with propaganda broadcast in state-funded shows, such as Telemarathon United News, which includes networks that represented 60% of Ukraine’s total prewar audience, according to NYT. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described this show as a “weapon,” while concerns about government influence were also raised after several channels run by the Ukrainian president’s political opponents were barred from joining Telemarathon, according to NYT. Many viewers said that as the threat of a Russian takeover receded, the program’s patriotic overtones became increasingly exaggerated, according to NYT. Reflecting the discontent with Telemarathon’s content, views of the show have shrunk from 40% of Ukraine’s total views in March 2022 to 10% “today,” according to NYT. Moreover, Ukrainians’ confidence in Zelenskyy himself declined from 84% in December 2022 to 62% in December 2023, as Ukrainians increasingly question the “rose-tinted” promises of success to his prime audience in this theater of war.
  5. As he runs for “re-election” this March, Putin is likely to trumpet that Russia’s economic growth in 2023 may have exceeded 3%. What he will likely refrain from mentioning, however, is that a “third of Russia’s growth is due to the war, with defense-related industries flourishing at double-digit growth rates,” CEIP’s Alexandra Prokopenko writes in FA. “Even if Moscow’s financial leadership succeeds in cooling down the economy by the end of 2024, major problems caused by the war are inevitable,” the former Russian Central Bank official warns. These problems “include discontent over underfinanced public health, mounting shortages of tools and equipment due to the tightening sanctions regime and major dislocations caused by mammoth investment in the defense industry.” Yet, Putin is likely to carry on with the war, as abandoning it “without something that the Kremlin can define as victory would be impossible” even as “his political goals are incompatible with the economic ones,” according to Prokopenko.

NB: Next week’s Russia Analytical Report will appear on Tuesday, Jan. 16, instead of Monday, Jan. 15, because of the U.S. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday.

 

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

Nuclear security and safety:

“Hot uranium threatens a meltdown for Western energy security,” Jay Newman, Jim Cornell and Alex Michshenko, FT, 01.04.24. 

  • After fits and starts, the world has come around to the view that nuclear power is the best way to achieve broad societal goals: protecting the environment, weaning off fossil fuels and powering electrification of transportation and industry
  • Belatedly recognizing that nuclear energy production is a national security issue, the U.S. House of Representatives just voted to ban imports of Russian uranium. Predictably, Russia threatened to cut the U.S. off immediately — including recalling a ship already on the high seas carrying enriched uranium. 
  • Cruel irony: American and European ratepayers are financing both sides of Russia’s war on Ukraine — Rosatom drops more than $1 billion annually into Putin’s pocket through its uranium sales to U.S. utilities alone.
  • Here’s a not-so-fun fact: the supply chain for uranium runs from Kazakhstan through Russia, which together account for 40% of U.S. supply — and Putin controls half of the world’s enrichment capacity. Even more concerning: in plain sight, Russia and China have cornered the market for U3O8.
  • Russian and Chinese companies have cemented a corporate takeover of the national uranium operator; Russia owns some 26% of Kazakh uranium deposits, and has rights to a further 22% of annual production; China National Uranium Corporation (CNUC) and its confrères hold rights to almost 60% of future Kazakh production … Elsewhere, CNUC and China General Nuclear Power Group own stakes in uranium mines in Niger and Namibia, as does Russia’s Rosatom.
  • The implications for U.S., Canadian, and EU nuclear utilities are profound. After 2028 … Western nuclear utilities will have to replace approximately 40 million pounds of uranium concentrates annually that are currently sourced from Kazakhstan … By then, annual uranium demand in the U.S., Canada, and EU will be running close to 94 million pounds. But annual production in countries not aligned with or dominated by China and Russia will amount to only 48 million pounds. 
  • As we negotiate the foothills of this new Cold War (as Henry Kissinger had it), our adversaries begin with massive advantages. China, seeking self-sufficiency in energy production, has secured the resources that ensure an industrial transformation that will eliminate its need to import 14 million barrels per day of oil. Russia, already avoiding sanctions on Rosatom, has American utilities — and the U.S. Congress — over a barrel. Vladimir Putin holds the whip hand over the cost of American nuclear power — and, potentially, whether U.S. nuclear power plants can keep the lights on at all. That is, of course, unless and until replacement mining and enrichment capacity is built in the West.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

“Axis of Missiles: Russia Is Using Missiles from North Korea to Attack Ukraine,” Denny Roy, NI, 01.06.24. 

  • U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Jan. 4 that within the previous week, Russia fired into Ukraine “multiple” ballistic missiles supplied by North Korea. Pyongyang was already providing the Russians with arms. In 2022, Washington condemned North Korea for sending Russia artillery ammunition. Nevertheless, providing ballistic missiles is a significant escalation.  Since the United Nations Security Council has declared North Korea’s ballistic missile program illegal, this would be a violation of UN sanctions. 
  • [T]his reinforces a consequential trend: a bloc of cold U.S. adversaries are cooperating to oppose the U.S. global agenda—not only by economic and diplomatic means, but also militarily. 
  • Kim has concluded that his interests are best served by closer association with China and Russia, even if Pyongyang has enough concern for its international reputation to deny it is helping to facilitate Russian aggression. 
  • An appropriate U.S. response would be upgraded assistance to Ukraine to offset the help Russia is getting from North Korea. ... A bigger question is whether the United States will continue paying the costs of sponsoring Pax Americana. Helping Ukraine supports the liberal world order, of which Washington is the chief sponsor and defender. Conversely, failing to help Ukraine, especially as other adversaries are helping Russia, would empower the China-Russia Bloc. 

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • No significant developments.

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:1

“Here’s How the Russian and Ukrainian War Efforts Compared,” Georgi Kantchev, Anastasiia Malenko and Elizaveta Galkina, WSJ, 01.06.24.

  • Russia’s military budget, at over $100 billion for 2024, is the highest it has been since Soviet times.
    • Ukraine is also investing in domestic military production capabilities, but it is no match for a much larger Russian military-industrial complex running at full steam. 
  • Though U.S. estimates suggest Russia has suffered 315,000 killed or injured since the start of the war—nearly 90% of its prewar fighting force—its population was around 3½ times as large as Ukraine’s before the invasion, giving it a battlefield edge. Tens of thousands of inmates have been released from its prisons to serve the war effort, while some 300,000 reservists have also been mobilized.
    • For Ukraine, a shortage of manpower is becoming a major issue, with authorities in Kyiv now scrambling to find ways to get more fighting-age men to the front lines.2
  • Russia’s economy has ridden the wave of sanctions better than the West expected, thanks in large part to how it has redirected oil exports to China and India and evaded price caps through a shadow fleet of tankers. This lifeline has helped Russia switch to a war economy and find alternative sources for components it previously bought from the West. 
    • In the short term, Ukraine is in a more precarious position, with Western assistance dwindling and concerns growing over how U.S. attitudes might change after the 2024 presidential election. 
  • Though public support for Ukraine in the West remains high, there are growing concerns in Kyiv about the depth of U.S. commitment. A Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults found that the percentage of people saying Washington is providing too much support rose to 31% in December from 7% at the start of the war. Support for Ukraine, though still high, also shows signs of fading in the European Union, opinion polls suggest.

Artillery Shells used per day

Time PeriodUkraine (Shells per day)Russia (Shells per day)
Summer 20237,0005,000
Current2,00010,000

 

Military budget

YearRussia (Budget in billion $)Ukraine (Budget in billion $)
2019336
2020357
2021407
20225242
20237140
202411946

 

Russian production in war-related and other manufacturing industries

DateWar-related Production IndexOther Production Index
Jan 201988.6198.15
Jan 202094.33101.97
Jan 2021100.13101.53
Jan 2022131.83110.62
Feb 2022 (full-scale invasion)122.44109.94
Jan 2023147.41105.51
September 2023 (last date tracked)171.28110.97

 

Male populations, ages 15 to 64

YearRussia (Population in millions)Ukraine (Population in millions)
201548.04715.009
201647.71414.887
201747.41114.748
201847.14014.635
201946.88614.523
202046.55014.416
202146.15914.298
202246.08412.078

 

 

Ukraine foreign financing gap

Month-YearBudget Deficit & Debt Repayment Needs (in billion $)Foreign Financing (in billion $)
Jan 20220.1n/a
Feb 2022 (full-scale invasion)1.80.2
July 20224.12.7
Jan 20233.34.2
July 202355.3
November 20234.92.1

 

Americans’ views on U.S. support for Ukraine

DateToo Much (%)About Right (%)Not Enough (%)Not Sure (%)
Mar. 20227324219
May 202212353122
Sept. 202220371824
Jan. 202326312022
June 202328311624
Dec. 202331291822

 

Approval rating of Russian President Vladimir Putin

DateApprove (%)Disapprove (%)No answer (%)
Jan. 202164342
July 202164351
Jan. 202269292
Feb. 2022 (full-scale invasion)71271
July 202283152
Jan. 202382162
July 202382153
Nov. 202385132

 

Percentage of Ukrainians who trust/don’t trust President Volodymyr Zelensky

DateTrust (%)Don't Trust (%)Difficult to Say (%)
Aug. 202132.6616.1
Mar. 202384.99.94.7
May 202383.5115.1
July 202380.813.64.9
Sept. 202374.818.66.5

 

“A Trophy in Ruins: Evidence Grows That Russia Controls Marinka,” Constant Méheut, NYT, 01.08.24

  • The Ukrainian military said on Jan.4 that its troops were fighting “in the vicinities” of a village behind the eastern frontline town of Marinka, a strong indication that Kyiv’s forces have lost control of the town, more than a week after Moscow claimed to have seized it.
  • Open-source maps of the battlefield also show that Russian troops have a foothold throughout Marinka. Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top commander, acknowledged last week that Ukrainian troops had all but retreated to the outskirts, saying that Marinka “no longer exists” because Russian forces had reduced it to rubble with relentless shelling.
  • Several Ukrainian military analysts said that Ukrainian troops had established defensive lines just outside the town and were currently fending off further Russian advances.
  • Although Marinka is in ruins, it stands as Russia’s most significant territorial advance since the fall of Bakhmut in May. While its control is unlikely to turn the tide of the war, the loss of the town would be further evidence that Moscow has firmly seized the initiative on the battlefield after Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive fell short of most of its goals.

“The War in Ukraine Is Not a Stalemate. Last Year’s Counteroffensive Failed—but the West Can Prevent a Russian Victory This Year,” Jack Watling, FA, 01.03.24.

  • Th[e] perception of stalemate, however, is deeply flawed. Both Moscow and Kyiv are in a race to rebuild offensive combat power. In a conflict of this scale, that process will take time. While the first half of 2024 may bring few changes in control of Ukrainian territory, the materiel, personnel training and casualties that each side accrues in the next few months will determine the long-term trajectory of the conflict. The West in fact faces a crucial choice right now: support Ukraine so that its leaders can defend their territory and prepare for a 2025 offensive or cede an irrecoverable advantage to Russia.
  • Uncertainty about the long-term provision of aid to Ukraine risks not only giving Russia advantages on the battlefield but also emboldening Moscow further. It has already undermined the goal to push Russia to the negotiating table because the Kremlin now believes it can outlast the West’s will. Unless clear commitments are made in early 2024, the Kremlin’s resolve will only harden.
  • What the United States and Europe do over the next six months will determine one of two futures. 
    • In one, Ukraine can build up its forces to renew offensive operations and degrade Russian military strength to the degree that Kyiv can enter negotiations with the leverage to impose a lasting peace. 
    • In the other, a shortage of supplies and trained personnel will mire Ukraine in an attritional struggle that will leave it exhausted and facing eventual subjugation. 
  • Reforms in Ukrainian troops’ training are necessary for more effective offensive operations. But better training would not diminish Kyiv’s need for materiel. 
    • [A]t the height of its 2023 offensive, Ukraine was firing up to 7,000 artillery rounds per day, accounting for up to 80% of Russia’s combat losses. By the end of 2023, however, Ukrainian forces were firing closer to 2,000 rounds per day. Russia’s artillery capacity, meanwhile, has turned a corner, with Russian forces now firing up around 10,000 rounds per day. 
  • The challenge for Ukraine is that even while it maintains a defensive posture, it must continue to mount localized offensives. 
  • To continue to achieve localized artillery superiority, Ukraine will need about 2.4 million rounds of ammunition per year. But Ukraine’s international partners, including the United States, will struggle to provide half that in 2024.
  • To regenerate offensive capacity and defend itself against Russian attacks, Ukraine will need approximately 1,800 replacement artillery barrels per year. The handful of barrel machines in Europe cannot meet this demand. 
  • Air defense interceptors will be a persistent requirement, too: Russia is now producing over 100 cruise and ballistic missiles and 300 attack drones per month. To contain the damage from these weapons, Ukraine will need resupplies of Western air-defense systems.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, fearing that U.S. support will end with the upcoming American presidential election, has declared that all Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia must be liberated by October 2024. This is not achievable, given the materiel available to Ukraine or the time that its military needs to properly train its troops. But it is not reasonable for Kyiv’s Western allies to demand that Ukraine’s generals create a detailed longer-term plan before they commit to offering new support.  
    • A realistic plan would involve resourcing Kyiv to maintain a defensive posture throughout most of 2024 while units are trained and equipped to mount offensive operations in 2025. 
  • Western leaders must emphasize that longer-term investment in manufacturing capacity is both affordable and ultimately benefits Ukraine’s allies. The total defense budgets of the 54 countries supporting Ukraine well exceed $100 billion per month. By contrast, current support for Ukraine costs those states less than $6 billion monthly.
  • Some leaders in Western capitals now argue that it is time to negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine. This line of thinking, however, misses both the extent of Russia’s goals and what the Kremlin would realistically offer. Moscow is not interested in simply seizing some Ukrainian territory: Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated that he wants to change the logic of the international system. 
  • The United States and its European allies face a choice. They can either make an immediate plan to bolster the training they provide to the Ukrainian military, clarify to their publics and to Ukraine that the October 2024 deadline to liberate territory must be extended, and underwrite Ukraine’s materiel needs through 2025, or they can continue to falsely believe the war is in a stalemate, dithering and ceding the advantage to Russia. 

“Ukraine Has a Pathway to Victory Against Russia,” Rose Gottemoeller and Michael Ryan3, FP, 01.08.24.

  • Ukraine’s strategy to deny Russia free use of its sea and airspace may be working, but as things stand, it cannot defeat the Russian army on the ground, nor can it defend against every missile striking civilian targets. Indeed, the current conventional wisdom in large parts of the West is that Ukraine is losing the ground war, leaving no pathway to victory for the country as Russia pounds Ukrainian civilians into submission. Kyiv might as well call for a cease-fire and sue for peace.
  • But is the conventional wisdom right—or does Ukraine’s clever success at sea and in the air suggest that a different outcome is possible? Perhaps the Russian army can be defeated by making use of Ukraine’s willingness to fight in new ways. ….. To achieve a tactical breakthrough on the ground front that leads to operational and strategic success, they will need to be more effective from the air.
    • For power from the air to be decisive in 2024, the Ukrainian Armed Forces must create temporary windows of localized air superiority in which to mass firepower and maneuver forces. 
  • Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, acknowledges that to break out of the current positional stalemate—which favors Russia—and return to maneuver warfare, where Ukraine has an advantage, Ukrainian forces need air superiority, the ability to breach mine obstacles, better counter-battery capability, and more assets for electronic warfare. Specifically, he argues for three key components. First, armed UAVs that use real-time reconnaissance to coordinate attacks with artillery (which could include properly armed Turkish-built TB2s, MQ-1C Gray Eagles, MQ-9 Reapers, or bespoke cheap and light UAVs capable of employing the necessary weapons). Second, armed UAVs to suppress enemy air defenses, as well as medium-range surface-to-air missile simulators to deter Russian pilots. And third, unmanned vehicles to breach and clear mines.
  • In Ukraine’s case, a modernized Joint Air Attack Team (JAAT) would encompass, among many things, armed UAVs carrying Maverick and Hellfire missiles, loitering munitions, precision-guided artillery shells, and extended-range standoff missiles fired by aircraft. These systems would be coordinated in an electromagnetic environment shaped by Ukrainian operators to dominate the local airspace, saturate the battlefield with munitions, and clear mines to open the way for a ground assault. This updated JAAT—let’s call it electronic, or eJAAT—would create a bubble of localized air superiority that would advance as the combined arms force advances under the bubble’s protection.
  • If Ukraine can achieve the momentum in the ground war that evaded it during its failed summer offensive, Kyiv will have a real pathway to victory. That pathway will run through Ukraine’s demonstrated prowess at sea and in the air, joined to an embrace of a sophisticated combination of techniques on the ground. It will be a pathway to victory not only for Ukraine, but also for the United States and its allies.

“Military briefing: Russia has the upper hand in electronic warfare with Ukraine,” Roman Olearchyk, FT, 01.07.24. 

  • Russia’s record number of aerial attacks on Ukraine over the New Year period has highlighted Kyiv’s struggle to bolster its electronic warfare technology aimed at jamming and diverting enemy drones and guided missiles.
  • Both sides have invested heavily in systems that can neutralize each other’s drone armies, but Moscow maintains the upper hand as it had already focused on these capabilities before launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago. Ukrainian forces are however trying to catch up.
  • Russia has increasingly deployed EW to push off-course Ukraine’s western-supplied, precision-guided munitions, such as HIMARS rockets and Excalibur artillery shells. Moscow has also used its EW capabilities to mimic missile and drone launches in order to confuse Ukraine’s air defenses and identify their locations.
  • Without EW protection, Ukrainian troops are easy prey for drone-guided artillery strikes, drones dropping bombs and kamikaze strikes by exploding unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • One Ukrainian soldier bemoaned the lack of EW protection for his unit, which was largely wiped out during weeks of intense bombardment on the eastern front, with Russian drones “hitting us like mosquitoes”. “What radio-electronic warfare? . . . We had none. I don’t even want to recall those days in the trenches. Our boys were falling like flies,” he added.
  • Russia’s Pole-21 guidance suppression system can be stationed on the ground, on towers or mounted on vehicles and can jam an area of 150km, according to a military consultancy report shared with the Financial Times. Another is the Murmansk, which uses vast extendable 32m antenna towers mounted on mobile armored vehicles.
  • Kyiv, which initially relied on outdated Soviet equipment, says it has improved its EW capabilities thanks to systems produced domestically and supplied by western allies, although the details are kept secret.
    • Ukraine’s Bukovel system, which can be mounted on vehicles, detects drones, jams their data transmission and can block satellite guidance systems including Russia’s Glonass. Praising its effectiveness, Ukrainian troops have called on the government to produce many more units.
    • A new Ukrainian system, code-named Pokrova, can, according to some reports, counter missiles by blocking their guidance system.
    • Ivan Pavlenko, chief of EW and cyber warfare at Ukraine’s general staff. “said it was crucial for the soon-to-be-delivered F-16 fighter jets provided by western allies to be equipped with modern EW systems, adding that Kyiv was working with allies on this request.

“The Russian bakery making killer drones to support Putin’s war,” Max Seddon and Polina Ivanova, FT, 01.08.24.

  • Loaves are not the only things coming hot off the production line at the Tambov Bread Factory in central Russia — and western sanctions authorities are taking notice. Tambov’s bakers were put on a US blacklist in December for assembling small drones on the premises that Russian troops use in President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Their efforts have made the bakery a poster child for the Kremlin’s drive to engage civilian industry in producing for the front lines as the war increasingly dominates Russia’s economy.
  • The Tambov factory first began assembling the drones in February 2023 using a 3D printer that makes carbon frames, as well as antenna and camera holders, according to interviews with the bakery’s managers on Russian state media. Most of the components for the Bekas are purchased online, allowing the bakers to keep costs between Rbs25,000 ($270) and Rbs50,000 per drone. Tambov now makes about 250 drones a month, as well as accompanying camouflage backpacks, according to the bakery.
  • More than 500 light industrial companies have switched to making equipment for the military, Russia’s trade ministry said in February 2023, adding that it expected them to produce four times more for the army that year than they did in 2022.
    “To defeat Putin in a long war, Ukraine must switch to active defense in 2024,” Peter Dickinson, Atlantic Council, 01.04.24. 
  • As Russia’s full-scale invasion approaches the two-year mark, it is vital for Ukraine’s military and political leadership to properly digest the lessons of 2022 and 2023.
    • The most important conclusion to draw from the past two years of fighting is the dominance of defensive warfare over offensive operations. 
    • A second key lesson is the importance of balancing political goals with military capabilities. Since February 2022, political considerations have forced both Russia and Ukraine to embark on ill-fated offensives with insufficient forces, leading to heavy losses.
  • Ukraine’s military strategy for 2024 should focus on holding the front line and ensuring continued control over the approximately 82% of the country that remains in Ukrainian hands. A strategic shift to active defense would play to Ukraine’s current strengths while buying valuable time to regroup and rearm ahead of what are likely to be more advantageous conditions in 2025. 

Military aid to Ukraine:

“How backing Ukraine is key to the West’s security; And why its leaders need to start saying so,” The Economist, 01.04.24.

  • Despite its military setback, Ukraine can win this war by emerging as a thriving, Western-leaning democracy. Defeating Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is not about retaking territory so much as showing the Kremlin that his invasion is a futile exercise robbing Russia of its young men and its future. With money, arms and real progress on the accession of Ukraine to the EU, that is still possible. 
  • By contrast, if Mr. Putin sees that the West has lost faith in Ukraine, he will not stop. He needs war as an excuse for his repressive rule. Visiting a military hospital on January 1st, he declared his hostility towards Western countries: “The point is not that they are helping our enemy,” he said. “They are our enemy.” Those who argue that Russia is not strong enough to pose a threat to the West are forgetting that the Russian army is learning new tactics in Ukraine. Speaking at the hospital, Mr. Putin added that Russia is re-equipping itself for war faster than the West is—and he is right.
  • Russia does not have to mount another full invasion to wreck NATO. A provocation against, say, a Baltic state could prize apart the alliance’s pledge that an attack on one member is an attack on all. Were Ukraine to fail because of a lack of Western resolve, especially in America, challenges to the United States—including by China, Iran and North Korea—would become more likely.
  • If Russia is a threat and Ukraine can win, then helping it is not a waste of money. That $61 billion to help Ukraine (some of which is, anyway, spent in America and NATO countries) is just 6.9% of America’s defense budget. The EU’s spending on Ukraine is a tiny fraction of its member states’ GDP. The cost of re-establishing deterrence against Russia would be far greater than the cost of backing Ukraine to win. So would the extra cost of defending American interests around the world, including against China. An actual war with Russia—with its risk of nuclear escalation—could be catastrophic. No longer can Western leaders leave the talking to Mr. Zelenskyy. They need to make the case for getting Ukraine cash. And they need to make it now. 

“Will Congress fail Ukraine? Putin and Xi are watching,” Editorial Board, BG, 01.02.24.

  • Which Republican Party... will come to the floor this month when Congress returns from its holiday break? The one that claims it wants the United States to project strength overseas and support its allies against international bullies? Or the one that has opposed the new military aid that Kyiv desperately needs to survive the Russian onslaught
  • Congressional Republicans are blocking President Biden's requested $101 billion foreign aid package — which includes funds for Israel, Taiwan, and U.S. border security as well as for Ukraine — in exchange for sweeping changes to U.S. immigration policies. 
  • The aid is particularly critical now because the war has reached an uncomfortable stasis. A Ukrainian offensive last year proved largely ineffective. And with winter setting in, the Russian military seems dug in for the long haul despite Western sanctions, massive battlefield losses, and domestic protest. Helping Moscow's cause have been its allies in Iran and North Korea, who have provided drones, surface-to-air missiles, artillery shells, and small-arms ammunition. Against such odds, Ukraine is just too small to hold out without continuing U.S. support.
  • Yes, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has signaled a willingness to discuss a cease-fire, according to several reports. But for talks to succeed, if they actually happen, Putin must be convinced that Ukraine can continue to resist fiercely and indefinitely. And at the moment, he seems anything but so convinced. Instead, he brimmed with confidence at a recent year-end news conference, predicting that “the freebies” to Ukraine were “coming to an end little by little” and crowing that “victory will be ours.” Not the talk of someone looking to declare peace.
  • “A Russian defeat would be an enormous loss for China and a true victory for peace,” [Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina who is running second in many polls to Trump in the battle for the Republican nomination] said in a major speech on China in June. “Make no mistake: China is watching the war in Ukraine with great interest.”
  • Republicans should heed their own warnings. Democrats would be wise to meet them halfway. … The Ukrainian winter is long and Putin seems prepared to wait patiently for Washington to falter. The time has come for congressional leaders in both parties to disappoint him.

“What western allies must do for Ukraine — and for themselves,” Timothy Garton Ash, FT, 01.04.24. 

  • For a start, we must be clear where things stand on the ground in Ukraine. There is no stalemate of the kind that might lead to a frozen conflict or negotiated settlement, as some in the west naively hope. Rather, we are in the middle of a long, complex war that will probably last until at least 2025, if not longer. Neither side is giving up; either can still win, but not both.
  • At the moment, we are doing enough to stop Ukraine being defeated but not enough to help it win. In 2024, we could provide the tools for Kyiv to regain more territory and convince Russia it can’t prevail. That is the only path to a lasting peace.
    • Immediately, in a matter of days, this means more air defenses. In a matter of weeks, it means more long-range missiles, notably the German Taurus, but also American ATACMS, so Ukraine can continue to push back Putin’s Black Sea fleet and target his strategic and symbolic stronghold in Crimea. However, as a recent Estonian defense ministry study explains in compelling detail, the long-term essentials for Kyiv’s victory will be more extensive training of Ukrainian troops and a rapid, substantial increase in industrial production of weapons and munitions. 
  • In discussing wartime leadership, people always mention Winston Churchill’s dictum, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” But in this case, the blood, sweat and tears are entirely the Ukrainians’. All that’s required of the rest of us is clear thinking, sober determination and an entirely manageable reallocation of resources. Moreover, the urgently needed defense-industrial investment will create jobs at home, as well as enhancing our own security. Is this really too much to ask?

“The Ukraine-Taiwan Tradeoff,” Michael Poznansky, FA, 01.05.24. 

  • No matter what policymakers decide about Ukraine, there will be tradeoffs. The central question, then, is which of two options is preferable. Should the United States keep aiding Ukraine, at least for the time being, both to help resist Russian advances and to bolster resolve, even if it comes at some cost to preparedness in Asia? Or would it be better to safeguard resources for Taiwan, even if the United States takes a hit to its reputation for resolve? There are no perfect answers, but there are good reasons why policymakers should opt for the former course.
    • First, it is at least possible to devote additional resources to shore up the United States’ defense industrial base, whose deficiencies are largely responsible for prospective shortfalls in weapons platforms and munitions of various kinds. To compensate further, Washington can enlist partners and allies. What no amount of money can buy is resolve. Convincing adversaries that the United States has the fortitude to stand up to unprovoked aggression is linked to the actions it takes in Ukraine.
  • Fortunately, there are encouraging signs that at least some of the limitations in the supply of weapons are being addressed. In 2023, the Department of Defense created the Joint Production Accelerator Cell, a new part of its acquisition office tasked with “building enduring industrial production capacity, resiliency, and surge capability for key defense weapon systems and supplies.” Moreover, the National Defense Authorization Act that Congress passed in December authorizes the Pentagon to issue multiyear contracts while procuring munitions. In the past, it could typically do so only when buying large weapons such as ships and airplanes, but the change gives defense contractors greater confidence that the Defense Department will buy key precision-guided munitions and therefore incentivize increased production of them.
  • With respect to allies, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, and other European countries have pledged to ramp up the production of weapons for Ukraine. In December, Finland announced that it will boost production of ammunition to support Ukraine for the foreseeable future. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, elected in December, has promised to increase military assistance to Ukraine after the previous Polish government threatened to curtail certain kinds of assistance.
  • Another reason why policymakers should prioritize resolve is that the United States has global commitments and reputational stakes beyond China. Prematurely abandoning Ukraine to preserve resources for Taiwan could embolden other adversaries. It might, for example, signal to Iran and North Korea that the United States does not have the appetite to support the victims of aggression once a conflict becomes protracted, or at the very least that it cannot defend more than one country in one region at a time. All this could encourage further adventurism. By continuing to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression, the United States can send a powerful signal to a broader range of rivals: unprovoked aggression will not go unpunished.

Punitive measures related to Russia’s war against Ukraine and their impact globally4:

“How to Stop U.S. Tools From Arming Our Rivals,” Jordan Schneider and Chris Miller, NYT, 01.03.24. 

  • The U.S. government's efforts to stop Russia and China from using American equipment to boost their defense sectors have resulted in tough rules -- but leaky enforcement. As a result, American-made tools keep turning up in Russian missile factories and in Huawei's supply chain. With war in Europe and China threatening its neighbors, that's just not good enough.
  • Tough restrictions on paper haven't stopped Russian and Chinese factories from procuring American-made machinery
  • Companies making controlled tools should be mandated to install tamperproof geolocation in them. An Apple AirTag costs less than $30. 
  • Geolocation should be just the start. The most complex manufacturing tools rely as much on software as on precision drill bits. The metalworking tools used to make airplanes and artillery pieces have complex computer control systems. It's technically possible not only to know where tools are but also what they're being used for.
  • The United States needs key manufacturing allies like Japan and Germany to present a united front. 
  • Making more demands on companies would be far from unprecedented. The Treasury Department has hit banks with billion-dollar fines for facilitating money transfers to terrorist groups and drug cartels. Facing big penalties, banks invested in impressive compliance operations. As a first line of defense, some banks today don't allow the use of VPNs on their websites precisely so they can geolocate requests and prevent transactions in sanctioned countries. It's not a big leap to demand that Western toolmakers implement similar controls.
  •  Getting serious about machinery export controls today is one of the most cost-effective ways to meaningfully limit our adversaries' militaries. Facing a revanchist Russia and adversarial China, we need to revitalize these techniques, or else our tools will continue to be used to build their militaries.

“The west would harm itself with rash seizures of frozen Russian assets,” Nicholas Mulder, FT, 01.04.24. 

  • Continued western aid to Ukraine is morally, legally and strategically urgent. Yet as a justification for confiscating Russian state assets, the reprisals argument has three problems: it lacks compellent effect, it is being invoked by the wrong parties and it undermines the rules-based order western governments claim to defend. 
    • The push for asset confiscation is driven by domestic political difficulties in securing long-term funding for Kyiv. As an instrument of pressure, its utility is slight. Any confiscation of reserves that have been unavailable for almost two years will not compel Putin to end his war now. Moreover, the $227 billion current account surplus that Russia recorded in 2022 has replenished a substantial share of that lost in the initial freeze. Expropriation exerts no meaningful additional economic pressure.
    • Economic reprisals are the prerogative of injured states, not of third countries. Belligerents can also expropriate public and private property belonging to their opponents’ state and citizens. Ukraine exercised this right by seizing at least $880 million in Russian-owned property and businesses within its borders in May 2022.  Yet Kyiv’s allies are not at war with Russia. ... Ukraine’s allies cannot have it both ways, claiming wartime powers while insisting they are not at war with Russia.
      • Besides these political, legal and diplomatic problems, the best argument against a confiscation is that it is economically unnecessary. U.S. and EU aid to Ukraine, military and economic, has so far amounted to significantly more than $100 billion per year. This sum is easily sustainable for the transatlantic economy. 
  • Helping Kyiv ward off Russian aggression defends national sovereignty and territorial integrity. But advocates of a rules-based order demolish their credibility if they respond to Moscow’s criminality with illegal measures of their own. Such conduct will accelerate the dissolution of the boundary between war and peace, alienate many states outside the sanctions coalition and dismantle a building block of the world they claim to defend.

“Seizing Russian reserves is the right thing to do,” Simon Hinrichsen, FT, 01.03.24. 

  • Since the 19th century, most successfully repaid transfers were about 25% of the gross domestic product of the country involved. Russian GDP is estimated by the IMF to be $1.9 trillion in 2023, so even if we chose a conservative 20% of GDP, that is $380 billion in war reparations based on historical standards. It is difficult to get exact figures for how much of Russia’s money is frozen in Europe and the U.S. but most estimates are around $300 billion.
  • The largest transfer that was repaid followed the Gulf war, where Iraq made some $52.4 billion in war reparations that were paid off only in 2022. Haiti, Germany, France, and Finland have all paid significant damages over the last 200 years. The difference is that the money was transferred after wars, but a peace settlement does not seem likely with the current political regime in Moscow, which makes confiscation a good solution.
  • And confiscating assets of foreign states in response to an unjust war has been normal practice throughout history. During first world war, the U.S. passed the Trading with the Enemy Act, which allowed for the confiscation of enemy property. Japanese and German assets were frozen during second world war and were later used to settle claims after the war. In 1991, President George Bush signed an executive order that transferred Iraqi funds held in U.S. banks that would later help pay Iraq’s war reparation while Iraqi assets were again seized in 2003 under the Patriot Act.
  • A similar exercise could take place today. The U.N. has already recognized that Russia should bear the legal consequences of its war, which includes reparations. Under international law, the EU and the U.S. are justified in enforcing state countermeasures to confiscate Russian assets and use them to pay its debt.

“Is it possible to predict sanctions for 2024? Yes, quite,” Ivan Timofeev, RIAC, 01.06.24.Clues from Russian Views 

  • What will be the sanctions policy against Russia in 2024? Is it possible to predict the priorities of such a policy? Yes, it is quite possible because key decisions on sanctions in 2024 are already embedded in current political decisions.
  • We will see further expansion of the blockade and trade sanctions. We will also see the development of mechanisms for confiscating Russian assets. Even more importantly, we will see more systematic attempts to force businesses from third countries to refuse cooperation with Russia, especially in the field of industrial supplies and technological cooperation. These three areas form the basis of the base scenario for anti-Russian sanctions in 2024.
  • Apparently, the first concentrated “salvo” of implementation of these measures will be made by Feb. 24, 2024. The authorities of the United States and other Western countries will try to “mark” the start date of the SVO (special military operation) with the most visible political steps, including sanctions. Mechanisms for such steps are being prepared now. The Russian authorities, for their part, are working on response measures. The task of creating mechanisms for financial settlements with friendly countries independent of the West is becoming even more important. The tit-for-tat logic will continue to dominate relations between Russia and the West.

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

“Did Ukraine Miss an Early Chance to Negotiate Peace With Russia?” Yaroslav Trofimov, WSJ, 01.05.24. 

  • As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the Istanbul talks [between Russian and Ukrainian delegations] on March 29, 2022, the mandate of the Ukrainian team was to push for a Russian withdrawal to pre-invasion lines while showing openness on many key issues, with actual decisions deferred to a planned meeting between Zelenskyy and Putin.
  • Russia's major demand, in addition to keeping Ukraine out of NATO, was to limit its ability to defend itself in the future. According to draft documents later revealed publicly by Putin, Moscow wanted Ukraine's armed forces capped at 85,000 troops, 342 tanks and 519 artillery pieces. Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul countered with a proposal for an army of 250,000 troops, roughly its prewar level, with 800 tanks and 1,900 artillery pieces.
  • Just as the conference started, Russia's defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, made a striking announcement from Moscow. The main goals of Russia's "special military operation" had been generally fulfilled, he said. Hours later, Medinsky appeared at a press conference in Istanbul with even more astonishing news. The talks held that day had achieved significant progress, he announced, and Moscow had decided to take steps to de-escalate the conflict. Battered Russian troops started to withdraw from the Kyiv region and other parts of northern Ukraine.
  • According to Putin's version of events, Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul had accepted most of Russia's demands. "The agreements were practically reached," he lamented months later. "Our troops left the center of Ukraine, Kyiv, to create conditions" for further talks to finalize that accord, he said. Ukraine has vehemently disputed that account. Neither side made binding commitments in Istanbul, according to Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister. "There was no deal," he said. "To engage in a conversation and to commit yourself to something are completely different things." As for the Russian pullback, Ukrainian and American officials say Putin had no choice but to withdraw by late March because of Ukrainian military successes on the ground.
    • Col. Igor Girkin, a retired Russian intelligence officer and the former defense minister of a Russian proxy statelet in Donbas, agreed. "If leaving the seized territory has become inevitable, it's best to do it before your troops are routed by the adversary," he said shortly after the Istanbul announcements. "We will still need these troops—the war will be long." Girkin has since been imprisoned in Moscow for criticizing Russian military failures.
  • On the evening of March 29, 2022 as the negotiators saluted each other in Istanbul and made plans to reconvene for the next round of talks, Ukrainian troops were already entering the town of Bucha near Kyiv. What the Ukrainians discovered there rendered moot any understanding reached in Istanbul. ... More than 450 civilians were killed in Bucha during the month the town was under Russian occupation. 
    • There was no contrition in Moscow after the horrors of Bucha came to light. "It's a clear provocation," thundered Lavrov. 
  • On April 9, 2022 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived in a Kyiv transformed. ... Sitting down with Zelenskyy in Kyiv, the British prime minister delivered his pitch: "Nobody can be more Ukrainian than Ukrainians, it is not for me to tell you what your war objectives can be, but as far as I am concerned, Putin must fail and Ukraine must be entitled to retain full sovereignty and independence. …. We're not directly fighting, you are. It's the Ukrainians who are fighting and dying. But we would back Ukraine a thousand percent." Zelenskyy didn't need much convincing. The conversation quickly shifted to the concrete ways in which the United Kingdom could assist the Ukrainian armed forces, such as the provision of military supplies. 
  • In the Kremlin, Putin was certain that Washington, rather than London, had forced Zelenskyy to abandon talks in the hope of exhausting Russia in a protracted war. Senior Russian officials kept angrily raising this point in meetings with their American counterparts. "Utter bulls—t," a senior Biden administration official told me. "I know for a fact the United States didn't pull the plug on that. We were watching it carefully."
  • Zelenskyy's new position, which hasn't changed since, was to demand a full withdrawal of Russian troops from all Ukrainian lands conquered since 2014, including Crimea, and the prosecution of Russian officials suspected of war crimes.

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

“Can the spread of war be stopped?” David Ignatius, WP, 01.04.24.

  • At the dawn of 2024, we should recognize that violence is ravaging our planet and the mechanisms to prevent it are failing badly. U.N. peacekeeping resolutions are routinely vetoed by combatants or their protectors; "deterrence" doesn't deter Russia, Hamas or the Houthis. The "rules-based order" that President Biden proclaims has become a slogan rather than a fact.
  • The folly of war is the belief that it solves problems. Israelis and Palestinians have been battling for more than 50 years without gaining lasting security. Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine began as a fever dream of President Vladimir Putin. He failed to conquer Kyiv, thanks to brave Ukrainian resistance, but the bloody war of attrition has cost Russia an estimated 320,000 casualties and Ukraine an estimated 170,000 to 190,000.
  • As we think about avoiding future wars, a good guide is President Dwight D. Eisenhower … "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity," he said in 1946. "The only way to win the next world war is to prevent it," Ike said in 1956 as president. He succeeded in avoiding a nuclear catastrophe, and every subsequent commander in chief has echoed his message. The latest version was President Biden's reported avowal with Chinese President Xi Jinping that "a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won."
  • Under its nuclear umbrella, the United States pays lip service to conflict resolution. But in reality, we've been an enabler of limited wars nearly as much as Russia, thanks to use of the U.N. veto power. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the U.N. Security Council immediately crafted a resolution calling for withdrawal; Moscow vetoed it. In December 2023, as the civilian death toll in Gaza climbed toward 20,000, the Security Council crafted a cease-fire resolution with broad support. Washington vetoed it.
  • Putin is wrong about most things. But there was an element of truth in his 2015 address to the United Nations about the effects of U.S. intervention in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt: "Rather than bringing about reforms, an aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself. Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social disaster."
  • Deterrence has kept the peace between superpowers, but even here, technology is chipping away at restraint and reason. As China builds its strategic forces, it disguises nuclear and nonnuclear missiles so that it's hard to know which kind has been launched. Russia has developed hypersonic cruise missiles that shorten decision times and prevent assessment of whether the intended target is civilian or military. Artificial intelligence will evolve radically new strategies. And space weapons will allow first movers to blind and cripple their adversaries.
  • Worse, deterrence is increasingly a one-way street. The United States acts with restraint, but its adversaries don't. That's what we've seen with Russian nuclear saber-rattling in the Ukraine conflict: America is checked from providing weapons that could prove escalatory, and Russia keeps on committing war crimes. Military strategists always insist that the best way to prevent war is to prepare for it. But we have to admit to ourselves, as another year of bloody conflict begins, that the current model isn't working. We need new rules at the United Nations to stop wars and a new framework for crisis management with allies and adversaries. Otherwise, in 2024 and beyond, we'll have to think about the unthinkable.

“What Could Tip the Balance in the War in Ukraine?” Joshua Yaffa, New Yorker, 01.08.24. 

  • This year is likely to be marked by exchanges of missile and rocket fire rather than dramatic, large-scale maneuver warfare. But the most decisive fight may also be the least immediately visible: Russia and Ukraine will spend the next twelve months in a race to determine which side can better reconstitute and resupply its forces, in terms of not only personnel but also shells, rockets, and drones.
  • In other words, the war may not be won outright this year, but the conditions for victory may well be set in motion. If Western backers provide necessary arms, training, and financing to Ukraine, its military may emerge, by next year, with the upper hand. But such an outcome is far from assured. “The West is on a trajectory to end up losing this war through sheer complacency,” Jack Watling, a researcher of land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute, told me. Watling has made more than a dozen research trips to Ukraine since the start of the invasion. “I’m not making a prediction,” he told me. “Rather, it’s a choice—Western countries have agency.”
  •  As Putin has always seen it, his real interlocutor is not the government in Kyiv but its Western backers, the U.S. most of all. [R.Politik’s Tatiana] Stanovaya encapsulated the Russian leader’s appeal for the coming year: “Either you abandon your support of Ukraine and reach a deal with us, or we take Ukraine anyway, and destroy a lot of lives and billions in your military equipment in the process.” As for the West, Watling said, “We’re really running down the clock.” 

“Can democracy survive 2024?” Alec Russell, FT, 01.04.24. 

  • Some 2 billion people, about half the adult population of the globe, will have the chance to vote in 2024, far more in one year than ever before. Eight of the 10 most populous countries are among the more than 70 states holding elections — a tribute, it could be argued, to the power of an idea, democracy, and to the spread of political freedom.
  • The Global State of Democracy Initiative by Sweden’s International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance found that 2023 marked the sixth consecutive year in which democracy declined in half of all countries, the longest retreat since their records began in 1975.
  • So is democracy in crisis? Or is it that it and its institutions and spirit have always needed time to develop, and tending? 
    • Its difficulties will play out this year in four distinct electoral cultures. The first is a tyrannical group that includes Belarus, Russia and Rwanda, where rulers jail opponents and run a charade of an election culminating in 90% majorities or higher. 
    • A second group comprises performative democracies such as Iran, Tunisia and Bangladesh, where leaders may just about allow the opposition to compete—but not to win.
    • In the third, encompassing the most voters this year, democracy faces a more subtle erosion. The scenario here is for leaders to win power in genuinely free and fair elections but then oversee illiberal policies, as has happened in Hungary under Viktor Orbán. In India, Indonesia and Mexico millions will vote enthusiastically this year, but the spirit of their democracies and some institutions that uphold it are under strain. 
    • In the fourth tier there are the older democracies, where the centrist establishment is threatened by further gains of populists at the ballot box. ... It is the re-election of the demagogic Donald Trump in November’s American elections that would threaten the most damage to democracy. 
  • Sometime in 2024 Maia Sandu, the president of Moldova, one of Europe’s smallest and weakest democracies, will fight for re-election. She has had tough years confronting Moscow-backed anti-democratic forces but is not shrinking from defending what she believes is right. “It’s still a fragile democracy,” she told the FT last year. “But we’ve been fighting for it. The more democracies we have in the world, the better for everyone. ” It’s a message with resonance for much of the world — from Bangladesh to America.

“The world goes to the ballot box. Half of global adults will vote this year, but democracy is not just about elections,” Editorial Board, FT, 01.05.24. 

  • From Taiwan and Russia to South Africa and the U.S., more than 70 countries will hold elections in 2024, involving about half of global adults. Yet the paradox of this great year of public ballots is that it is taking place in the midst of a “democratic recession”—a nearly two-decade retreat, overall, in political freedoms.
  • This paradox reflects the fact that democracy is about more than voting. Open, competitive elections allowing citizens to choose who governs them are an essential condition of a free society. But not the only condition. Respect for human rights, rule of law and checks and balances including robust institutions and independent media are also indispensable. By these measures, freedom is in retreat or on the defensive in much of the world, though not everywhere. Democrats should not despair.
  • The watchdog Freedom House found global freedom shrank in 2022 for the 17th consecutive year. The gap between the number of countries registering declines in political and civil liberties and those that made improvements was, however, the narrowest in all of this period. Some 35 countries, from Burkina Faso and Tunisia to Nicaragua and Russia, went backwards. But 34 made advances, including Lesotho, Malaysia, the Philippines and Colombia.
  • In 2024, some elections will confirm democracy’s vitality. Taiwan’s presidential and legislative contests this month will provide a sharp counterpoint to China’s authoritarian one-party system. In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress could conceivably fail to secure a majority for the first time since apartheid ended in 1994. 
  • By contrast, Russia’s largely performative presidential election in March will anoint Vladimir Putin to another six-year term, putting him on course potentially to reign longer than Joseph Stalin. Iran will also hold parliamentary elections in March — but officials have already disqualified more than a quarter of the candidates who applied to run.
  • Guardrails of democracy are under threat, too, in many advanced economies — from populists promising simplistic or illusory solutions to voters’ grievances on issues such as immigration and inequality. Some populist leaders, notably on the right, have a record once elected of undermining institutions to keep hold of power, claiming to be the true voice of the “people”.
  • It will fall to democrats in many other countries in 2024 to do what they can to keep civic institutions and guardrails alive long enough for liberal democracy to move back into the ascendancy.

“Both swings and carousels. Political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov about what awaits humanity in 2024,” interviewed by Yevgeny Shestakov, 01.02.24, Rossiiskaya Gazeta.5Clues from Russian Views. 

  • In 2024 ... elections that will be held in 70 countries, including ... Russia, the USA, India, Indonesia... All countries are concerned about increasing their own resilience in the face of growing external shocks, what is called stress resistance. The latter can be attained only if there is mutual understanding between the authorities and society, in other words, the legitimacy of the authorities. It is difficult to ensure this legitimacy without elections.
  • The 2024 elections are very important for the United States, and therefore for the world, because America continues to set trends. They are important because Trump's second term, if it happens, will mean that the line on the revision [of U.S. policies] has survived and can possibly strengthen.
  • Warming [in Russia’s relations with Europe is] the wrong word; we won’t see warmth for a long time ... In general, the gap between Russia and Europe is unnatural: economically, culturally, historically, geographically we are closely connected. But the geopolitical divergence is now stronger. This anomaly of dissociation will sooner or later be overcome. But it will happen rather late than early.
  • The question is what to call peace negotiations [Russia’s with Ukraine]. Do negotiations of complete and unconditional surrender constitute peace negotiations? I think it should be called something else, though this option is not yet on the agenda. If we define negotiations as freezing the conflict, then it is a different question - is there a chance of bringing Russia back to the negotiating table and what should it [Russia] offer for discussion in such a case? Russia conducted such negotiations a year and a half ago; they fell apart in what was not Russia’s fault; Moscow will definitely not return to that agenda. The issue of stopping hostilities is not relevant now on either side, the task is to achieve the goals that have been set. They have not been achieved by Russia, but no one is abandoning them. Is it possible to adjust goals? Yes, but in which direction and how - it depends on the course of the fighting.
  • As for fairy tale [scenarios], I wouldn’t assess Ukraine’s membership in NATO and the EU as completely hypothetical. Anything is possible under certain circumstances. That said, however, Ukraine’s material capabilities are not unlimited, and their depletion may occur before any fairy tales have time to become reality. 

“Europe’s war rhetoric vs reality,” Shairee Malhotra, ORF, 01.08.24. Clues from Indian Views 

  • Time and again, Europe has reiterated that it would support Ukraine for “as long as it takes”. However, recent months have displayed mixed signals and war fatigue amongst Ukraine’s primary backers—European countries that have collectively provided over $100 billion in assistance to Ukraine, and the United States (U.S.) that has so far provided over $75 billion. 
    • Domestic economic concerns including high inflation and cost of living are making it difficult to sustain public support for the war and continue sending blank cheques to Ukraine.
    • In several European countries, electoral wins by populist parties, often deploying anti-Ukraine campaign rhetoric, have contributed to waning support for Ukraine.
  • Even in Europe, the Middle East situation has somewhat taken the spotlight off Ukraine, where the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is increasingly dominating high-level meetings. 
  • Despite the likelihood that further aid will go through, securing new funding amidst strong opposition from Republicans in the U.S. Congress, spoilers such as Hungary in the EU, and anti-EU populist parties reigning across the continent is becoming more and more challenging both in Washington and Brussels.
  • As the war nears the two-year mark and Moscow’s fantasy of Western fatigue starts to bear fruit, Ukraine’s fate hangs in the balance. Meanwhile, Europe is realizing the pitfalls of its “as long as it takes” approach. After all, reality is stronger than rhetoric.

“Russia, China and the Threat to the North Pole; The U.S. needs more icebreakers and other Arctic defenses,” Mark Green, WSJ, 01.05.24.

  • The Coast Guard needs the resources and clarity today to advance our interests in the region. The U.S. can't afford to wait until 2028 for a new icebreaker. The House and Senate appropriations committees must pass legislation authorizing the purchase of a commercially available icebreaker to start filling the U.S. icebreaker void and matching our adversaries' presence in the Arctic. The Arctic plays a crucial role in our security, and failing to focus on the region has put us on a collision course on the world stage. The U.S. needs to reassert our interests as adversaries work to expand economically and militarily.

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?6

  • No significant developments.

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“Putin Sends Nukes to Belarus; He wants to scare NATO into ending its military support for Ukraine,” Editorial Board, WSJ, 01.07.24. 

  • While the Biden Administration frets about how Russia and Iran will react to perceived U.S. escalation, the world's bad actors keep escalating. Russia has now completed its deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko said late last month.
  • Mr. Lukashenko's announcement comes as Russia steps up its threats against the West. Mr. Putin recently said "there will be problems" with Finland after NATO "dragged" Helsinki into the alliance. This follows Russian attempts to weaponize migration at the Finnish border. In November Russian Security Council deputy chairman Dmitry Medvedev said Poland is an "enemy" that could end up losing its statehood. Russia keeps conducting attacks in Ukraine that are recklessly close to NATO territory.
  • Moscow is now moving ahead on military integration with Minsk. Russia has stationed S-400 surface-to-air and Iskander short-range missiles there. Mr. Putin's provocative nuclear move in Belarus is a reminder of what's at stake in Ukraine.

“No Shortcuts On Nuclear Deterrence,” Rebeccah L. Heinrichs, WSJ, 01.03.24.

  • The most dangerous global security development at the dawn of 2024 is China's and Russia's reliance on nuclear weapons to break the U.S.-led order. Russia is concluding a nuclear recapitalization effort and uses nuclear threats against Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. China is expanding its nuclear forces and engaging in dangerous military behavior in international waters to threaten Taiwan. Moscow may be helping Beijing expand its warhead production capacity through Russia's state-owned Rosatom, which has provided enriched uranium for China's fast-breeder reactor. 
  • The White House may be tempted to address the problem with shortcuts. A very bad one would be training nuclear weapons on an enemy's cities, known in military jargon as "countervalue targeting" or "counter-city targeting." For five decades, Washington has rejected the intentional targeting of cities....Targeting cities might limit the number of U.S. weapons needed for deterrence, but there are three reasons the U.S. should continue its current policy while updating its nuclear force posture to meet new challenges.
    • First, threatening to nuke societal targets has a high risk of deterrence failure.
    • Second, if deterrence fails, the U.S. should have various nuclear responses to persuade an adversary to stand down. 
    • Third, seeking to deter while minimizing civilian casualties is morally just and abides by the U.S. application of the Law of Armed Conflict. 
  • Deterring two hostile nuclear peers is America's highest priority. The nuclear posture designed to do this will require more deployed systems than were planned when China wasn't considered America's primary challenger. But as military-related targets inside China and Russia multiply, so will the demand on the U.S. deterrent. As the risks rise, national leaders must work together and with America's closest allies to strike the right military posture. Now is not the time to resort to shortcuts.

“Military-strategic Year 2024: the further – the more?” Dmitry Stefanovich, Russia in Global Affairs, 01.02.24. Clues from Russian Views

  • [There have been] increasingly formalized calls by American colleagues for so-called “compartmentalization,” that is, separating the issue of arms control and “nuclear risks” from the general ... landscape of Russian-American relations. The official Russian position on the impossibility of such an approach in the current conditions has been voiced more than once.
  • At the same time, the format of P5, which Russia is currently chairing, ... remains operational ... all three pillars of the NPT remain relevant: disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. 
  • The internal Russian discussion on scenarios, consequences and possible conditions for the use of nuclear weapons, the interim outcome of which was summed up by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Valdai Forum in 2023, became perhaps the most substantive public discussion of this issue in many years.
  • For 2024, we will limit ourselves to the modest hope of surviving until the next New Year’s summing up.

Counterterrorism:

  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

“Artificial Intelligence’s Threat to Democracy. How to Safeguard U.S. Elections From AI-Powered Misinformation and Cyberattacks, Jen Easterly, Scott Schwab and Cait Conley, FA, 01.03.24. 

  • Generative artificial intelligence—AI that can create new text, images, and other media out of existing data—is one of the most disruptive technologies in centuries. With this technology now more available and powerful than ever, its malicious use is poised to test the security of the United States’ electoral process by giving nefarious actors intent on undermining American democracy—including China, Iran, and Russia—the ability to supercharge their tactics. Specifically, generative AI will amplify cybersecurity risks and make it easier, faster, and cheaper to flood the country with fake content. 
  • Although the technology won’t introduce fundamentally new risks in the 2024 election—bad actors have used cyberthreats and disinformation for years to try to undermine the American electoral process—it will intensify existing risks. Generative AI in the hands of adversaries could threaten each part of the electoral process, including the registration of voters, the casting of votes, and the reporting of results. In large part, responsibility for meeting this threat will fall to the country’s state and local election officials. 
  •  These officials need support, especially because of the intense pressure they have faced since the 2020 election and the baseless allegations of voter fraud that followed it. Federal agencies, manufacturers of voting equipment, generative AI companies, the media, and voters need to do their part by giving these officials the resources, capabilities, information, and trust they need to bolster the security of election infrastructure. Election officials also need to be allowed to safely perform their duties, from the opening of voting through to final vote verification. ...At stake is nothing less than the foundation of American democracy.
  • The private sector, including Internet service providers, cloud service providers, and cybersecurity firms, as well as election vendors and companies that provide voting equipment, also has a role to play. ... In particular, generative AI companies should consider how they can support election officials, both by ensuring the overall secure design of their products and in particular by developing methods for identifying AI-generated content. 
  • It is also important for the media to be aware of the threat posed by the malicious use of AI in this election cycle. Journalists should help ensure the information they relay comes from trusted, official sources; when incorrect information is circulating, they should make accurate information available. 
  • Voters can do their part, too. There is always the opportunity to serve as a poll worker or as an election observer. And everyone can support their state and local election officials by being careful not to amplify or exacerbate the actions of nefarious actors who want to undermine the security and integrity of American democracy.

“In an Age of Misinformation, What Will AI Do to Elections?” Rishi Iyengar, FP, 01.03.24. 

  • More than 50 countries, including the world’s three biggest democracies and Taiwan, an increasingly precarious geopolitical hot spot, are expected to hold national elections in 2024. Seven of the world’s 10 most populous countries—Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States—will collectively send a third of the world’s population to the polls.
  • “It [generative AI] just makes the generation and dissemination of very realistic deepfakes and realistic-seeming deepfakes much, much easier,” said Rumman Chowdhury, a responsible AI fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and co-founder of the AI safety nonprofit Humane Intelligence.
  • The dissemination implications may be particularly troubling, Chowdhury said, citing her recent research with UNESCO on AI-enabled gender-based violence and a red-teaming exercise with climate scientists. Generative AI models can help bad actors tailor disinformation to the audiences most likely to resonate with that messaging: mothers of young children, for instance, or people sympathetic to particular causes. They can then design campaigns that not only strategize whom to send what posts to but also write the code to send it to them. “And again, all of this is very doable,” Chowdhury said. “We literally went and did it for these reports.”
  • The revelation that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—particularly through Facebook—was a major wake-up call for social media platforms and the U.S. intelligence community alike, adding an alarming new dimension to the online misinformation debate and framing much of how platforms approach election integrity. Russia’s online disinformation efforts continued in the 2020 election, according to a declassified national intelligence report. Another key finding of that report? “We assess that China did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome” of the election.
  • That is unlikely to hold true this time around—and not just for the U.S. election. Government officials, cybersecurity experts, and tech companies are warning that China’s willingness to conduct information warfare has shifted in a major way. China increasingly deploys “propaganda, disinformation, and censorship” around the world and “spends billions of dollars annually on foreign information manipulation efforts,” the State Department’s Global Engagement Center wrote in a report last September. 
  • And while most eyes will be on U.S. polls this November, one of the year’s earliest elections could be the most consequential. Taiwan is set to elect a new president on Jan. 13 in a decision that is bound to have massive geopolitical repercussions. Tensions around the island, which Beijing regards as a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland, have spiked in the past year amid China’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy. China has stepped up economic and military pressure on Taiwan, and that pressure is likely to manifest itself in efforts to sow division within the Taiwanese electorate, where major political ideologies are largely defined by their willingness to engage with China.

“Interview with the special representative of the President of the Russian Federation on international cooperation in the field of information security, Artur Lyukmanov,” MIA "Russia Today", Mid.ru, 01.05.24.7 Clues from Russian Views

  • The use of these communication channels [two-way hotlines with Washington, created in 2013] was actually “frozen” back in 2016. ... Unfortunately, even then it became unprofitable for Washington to maintain contacts with us in the interests of jointly suppressing harmful activities in the digital space. The American authorities saw much more dividends in the circulation of unsubstantiated accusations of our country and other “undesirable regimes” in computer attacks.
  • Of course, building a global international investment system without key players, such as the United States, is extremely difficult. Washington will sooner or later realize the impossibility of strengthening its own information security without broad international cooperation, including with Russia. But we are not going to wait for our overseas colleagues to come to their senses. We will continue to calmly work in a bilateral format and on multilateral platforms with our foreign partners who are ready to interact on the basis of the principles of sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs. We have already built a schedule of such contacts for years to come.

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’s Unsustainable Spending Spree. How the War in Ukraine Will Overheat the Russian Economy,” Alexandra Prokopenko, FA, 01.08.24. Clues from Russian Views

  • After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, its economy seemed certain to suffer as a coalition of Ukraine’s allies, led by the United States, imposed an unprecedented program of sanctions. Many figures … predicted that these would force Russian President Vladimir Putin to choose between the war and a struggling economy. But Russia’s economy has defied these predictions. Thanks to record state spending, the Russian economy will grow faster than the global economy in 2023. Whereas the latter is forecast by the IMF to grow by 3%, the former is predicted by the Russian government to grow by 3.5%. When the exact figures come in, Russia’s economic growth in 2023 will likely turn out to have exceeded three percent, and Putin will no doubt boast about this in speeches ahead of this spring’s presidential election.
  • Rather than signaling economic health, however, these figures are symptomatic of overheating. The Russian economy’s problems, in fact, are such that Putin is facing an impossible trilemma. His challenges are threefold: he must fund his ongoing war against Ukraine, maintain his populace’s living standards, and safeguard macroeconomic stability. Achieving the first and second goals will require higher spending, which will fuel inflation and thus prevent the achievement of the third goal. High oil and gas revenues, adept financial management by the Russian authorities, and lax enforcement of Western restrictions have all played their part in Russia’s economic growth, but they mask growing imbalances in the economy.
  • Ahead of the Russian election, Putin is unlikely to mention that over a third of Russia’s growth is due to the war, with defense-related industries flourishing at double-digit growth rates. Civilian industries, which are also involved in producing products for the front—such as footwear, clothing, and medicine—lag slightly behind. Russia’s bright 2023 economic landscape concealed dangerous tradeoffs made in pursuit of short-term gains. Even if Moscow’s financial leadership succeeds in cooling down the economy by the end of 2024, major problems caused by the war are inevitable. These include discontent over underfinanced public health, mounting shortages of tools and equipment due to the tightening sanctions regime, and major dislocations caused by mammoth investment in the defense industry. Future generations will pay a heavy price for the current state of affairs, although for now this is the last thing on the Kremlin’s mind.
  • The specter of a bitter economic hangover looms large unless a new and sustainable Russian economic model emerges. But that remains highly unlikely. For Putin, the war is now an organizing principle of his domestic and foreign policy. To abandon the war without something that the Kremlin can define as victory would be impossible. A long conflict over Ukraine not only satisfies Putin’s geopolitical ambitions and vision but is also turning into his regime’s survival strategy. The trouble will be that his political goals are incompatible with the economic ones. Eventually, something will have to give.

“Conspiracy theories, repression and sycophancy define Putin’s Russia,” Tony Barber, FT, 01.06.24. 

  • Russia’s presidential election in March will not be an election, in the sense of a genuinely competitive contest, at all. 
  • The election’s purpose is not simply to demonstrate that Putin, who turned 71 in October, is in total control, or even to legitimize his war of attempted conquest in Ukraine. By making Russians participate in a vote whose outcome is a foregone conclusion, the apparatus of power aims to show that Putin’s autocracy rests on the acquiescence or, better, the active support of the people.
  • As in Soviet times, this support often takes the form of servile flattery of the leader. 
  • Along with sycophancy comes repression. The best-known example is Alexei Navalny.
  • Under Putin, a third feature of Russia’s political culture is the defiant, norm-breaking use in official circles of obscene language and imagery. 
  • Lastly, Putin’s Russia is awash in conspiracy theories, some embedded in popular culture and others promoted by the authorities. One of the strangest was aired last year by Nikolai Patrushev, Putin’s hardline secretary of Russia’s Security Council. He contended that the U.S. sought Russia’s defeat in Ukraine because Americans feared an eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera supervolcano in Wyoming and would try to resettle in eastern Europe and Siberia.
  • Common to all such notions is the allegation that the west is out to break up Russia as a country. This is certainly not official western policy. But some conservative thinkers in the U.S., and in central and eastern Europe, are indeed predicting Russia’s disintegration — the third act, so they say, of a process that began with the tsarist empire’s downfall in 1917 and the Soviet Union’s disappearance in 1991.

“Russians Hopeful About 2024, But Not Counting On Peace and Quiet,” Denis Volkov, Forbes/Russia.Post, 01.05.24. Clues from Russian Views

  • To begin with, recall that despite the shocks from the “special operation,” Western sanctions and partial mobilization, Russians did not see 2022 as the hardest year. The pandemic-tarred 2020 and financial-crisis-marked 1998 were deemed much harder in their time. Two-thirds of respondents say that 2023 was “average” on the whole, while another 20% called it “good.” In addition, two thirds consider it rather successful – the highest figure since 2000. As our respondents explained, they had time to relax, some came into money, some found a new job and even took up personal development. Still, Russians again said that the year turned out harder for the country than for themselves personally. 
  • In the eyes of Russians, the main events of the year were rising prices, Vladimir Putin’s announcement of another presidential run, the “special operation,” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the school shooting in Bryansk, Putin’s annual call-in show, the earthquake in Turkey, rising salaries and pensions, the march on Moscow by Wagner and the subsequent death of Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Defense and aerospace:

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

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • No significant developments.

 

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • No significant developments.

Ukraine:

“‘It’s State Propaganda’: Ukrainians Shun TV News as War Drags on,” Constant Méheut and Daria Mitiuk, NYT, 01.03.24. 

  • Since the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, the people of Ukraine have had access to a single source of television news — an all-day broadcast packed with footage of Ukrainian tanks blasting Russian positions, medics operating near the frontline and political leaders rallying support abroad. The show, Telemarathon United News, has been a major tool of Ukraine’s information war, praised by the government officials who regularly appear on it for its role in countering Russian disinformation and maintaining morale. 
    • “It’s a weapon,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine said last January of the program, which is jointly produced and broadcast 24/7 by the country’s biggest television channels. 
    • Launched shortly after Russia invaded, Telemarathon includes six networks representing around 60% of Ukraine’s total prewar audience. Each network is given multiple-hour slots to fill with news and commentary, which are then broadcast by all participants on their news channels. The program was officially enacted by presidential decree and about 40% of its funding comes from the government. 
    • Concerns about government influence were also raised after several channels run by political opponents of Mr. Zelenskyy were barred from joining Telemarathon. 
  • But after nearly two years of war, Ukrainians have grown weary of Telemarathon. What was once seen as a crucial tool for holding the country together is now increasingly derided as little more than a mouthpiece for the government. Viewers have complained that the program often paints too rosy a picture of the war, hiding worrying developments on the frontline and the West’s eroding support for Ukraine — and ultimately failing to prepare citizens for a long war. 
    • In March 2022, the program accounted for 40% of Ukraine’s total viewership, according to Svitlana Ostapa, the deputy chief editor of Detector Media, a Ukrainian media watchdog. By the end of 2022, viewership of the news program had shrunk to 14% of the television audience. Today, it is down to 10%. 
  • Olena Frolyak, a Ukrainian TV host who works for StarLight Media, denied that the program looked at the situation through “rose-colored glasses.” But she added that bombings and frontline developments are not reported until the government communicates about them. “We have to wait for the official position,” she said.  
  • Many critics say Telemarathon is now doing more harm than good. 
  • “It has a dangerous side, it creates an optimistic view of the situation and then leads to disappointment,” said Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, the head of the Ukrainian parliament’s committee on freedom of speech, who publicly questioned the news broadcast’s effectiveness this month. 
  • Many viewers said that as the threat of a Russian takeover receded, the program’s patriotic overtones became increasingly exaggerated. “They portray events in Ukraine as if everything is fine, as if victory is just around the corner,” said Bohdan Chupryna. 
  • “You don’t want to be like Russia,” said Oksana Romaniuk, the head of the Kyiv-based Institute of Mass Information, “We should think about defending democracy in times of war.” 

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“Kyrgyzstan's bizarre, unjustified crackdown on a news website,” Editorial Board, WP, 01.04.24.

  • What is unfolding there [in Kyrgyzstan] offers a worrisome example of democracy's global retreat and the smothering of press freedom. The latest victim is an online news and investigative outlet, Kloop [which] became one of the most daring and penetrating news organizations in the region.
  • Last August, Kloop revealed that a plan by Barcelona's soccer club to open a training academy in southern Kyrgyzstan was backed by powerful Kyrgyz families, including sons of the head of the country's state committee for national security. One month earlier, Kloop questioned the sale of "huge volumes of scarce electricity" to bitcoin mining firms that have sprung up in the country. 
  • The stories hit a nerve. 
    • On Aug. 22, the Bishkek City Prosecutor's Office filed suit against Kloop, seeking to permanently close one of its three legal entities in Kyrgyzstan. 
    • Next, in September, the Culture Ministry demanded that Kloop retract a story in which an opposition politician was quoted as saying he was tortured while in pretrial detention. 
  • Journalism is not a threat to Kyrgyzstan or any other country. Kloop and others like it must thrive if freedom, democracy and government accountability are to survive.

 

Footnotes

  1. It is also worth skimming the following item: "Can Ukrainian drone attacks hurt Russia?," The Economist, 01.05.24. 
  2. Recent estimates of the number of active military personnel serving in the armed forces of Russia and Ukraine vary, depending on the source: 
    1. IISS: As of 2022, Russia had 1,190,000 active military personnel, compared to Ukraine’s 688,000 active military personnel, according to IISS’s 2023 Military Balance. Of all sources cited here, IISS is typically viewed as more reliable. 
    2. Independent: As of 2023, Russia had about 1,300,900 active military personnel, compared to Ukraine’s 200,000, according to a Dec. 21, 2023, report in the Independent, which cites unspecified “recent figures.” 
    3. Kremlin and Ukrainian MoD: Starting from  Dec. 1, 2023, the Russian armed forces were allowed to increase the number of military servicemen from 1,150,628 to 1,320,000, according to Putin’s Aug. 25, 2022, and Dec. 1, 2023, decrees. As of October 2023, the Ukrainian armed forces had 820,000 military servicemen,  according to Ukraine’s Military Media Center, which the Ukrainian MoD coordinates. When it comes to Putin’s decrees setting the number of positions Russia’s MoD can fill, not all of these positions have been filled. Of 1,150,628 positions for active military servicemen which Putin’s Aug. 25, 2022, decree allowed Russia’s MoD to fill, prior to the Dec. 1, 2023 decree. According to independent Russian military expert Pavel Luzin, the actual military personnel strength of the Russian armed forces was about 750,000-770,000 as of Jan. 1, 2023. 
  3. Rose Gottemoeller is a lecturer at Stanford University. Michael Ryan is a former U.S. deputy assistant defense secretary for European and NATO policy.
  4. It is also worth skimming the following item: "How sanctions on Russia will change the diamond trade," The Economist, 01.04.24.
  5. RG is funded and controlled by Russian authorities.
  6. It is worth skimming the following item: "The Frenemies Who Could Challenge the West’s Sanctions Regime: The BRICS geopolitical group has few achievements to its name. The entry of wealthy Gulf states may change that," Mihir Sharma, Bloomberg, 01.07.24. 
  7. Translated with the help of machine translation.

 

The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 11:00am Eastern time on the day this digest was distributed. Unless otherwise indicated, all summaries above are direct quotations. 

Here and elsewhere, italicized text indicates comments by RM staff and associates. These comments do not constitute RM editorial policy. 

Photo by artbaggage shared under a Pixabay Content License.