Russia Analytical Report, Jan. 23-30, 2023

4 Ideas to Explore

  1. No Russian government would ever accept Ukrainian independence, George Kennan warned in a 1948 paper. The United States should not encourage Ukraine’s separation from Russia, but if it were to occur, Washington should not interfere even though an independent Ukraine would be “challenged eventually from the Russian side,” according to Kennan’s paper, summarized by Frank Costigliola of the University of Connecticut in an FA article. Kennan returned to this subject half a century later. Alarmed by NATO’s decision to expand and to initiate military and naval cooperation with Ukraine, he warned that the West was compelling nations including Ukraine to choose sides. “Nowhere does this choice appear more portentous and pregnant with fateful consequences than in the case of Ukraine,” Kennan warned in a 1997 letter.
  2. There is no military alternative to a negotiated resolution of the Russian-Ukrainian war, in the view of Christopher Chivvis of the Carnegie Endowment. “[I]t would be nice if Ukraine clawed back some more territory. But at what cost and for what strategic gain?” he asks in The Economist. “Getting diplomacy going will require tough conversations to persuade Ukraine to adopt a more realistic approach to its war aims,” Chivvis predicts. In addition, whether Putin “would enter talks with any seriousness is unknown.” Nevertheless, negotiations, which can initially aim for limited ceasefires before broader negotiations are considered, are worth a shot. “Another frozen conflict is preferable to a never-ending war that puts Europe, Ukraine and ultimately the world at risk for years to come,” argues Chivvis.
  3. Rather than provide post-war Ukraine with Article 5-type guarantees, the U.S. will seek to turn it into a bastion capable of deterring future Russian aggression. This is the view that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has come to hold, according to WP columnist David Ignatius. Instead of binding guarantees of collective defense, Ukraine’s security will be ensured by potent weapons systems—especially armor and air defense—along with a strong, noncorrupt economy and membership in the EU, according to Blinken’s vision for Ukraine’s deterrence framework.
  4. Deliveries of Western tanks to Ukraine won’t be a game-changer as the Ukrainian army will receive too few of these MBTs and too late, according to William Hartung of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Moreover, supplies of such sophisticated systems may eventually lead to a harsh Russian reaction, Hartung warns in his commentary for LA Times. However, “another concern raised by analysts of U.S. military aid to Ukraine has been the danger that American weapons could fall into the wrong hands,” Hartung writes days after Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed multiple officials over graft and misconduct. According to Rob Lee of FPRI, however, Leopards and Abrams could still “give Ukraine a better chance of success.”


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • No significant developments.

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“To Fix Its Problems in Ukraine, Russia Turns to the Architect of the War,” reporters Julian E. Barnes, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, NYT, 01.28.23.

  • “Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov … took over the day-to-day running of Russia’s war effort this month by convincing his boss that his predecessor was too passive, American and European officials say. But Gen. Gerasimov’s turbocharged strategy is what led to Russia’s problems to begin with, and Moscow still does not have the troops, ammunition or equipment that military officials say it needs to mass the big offensive promised by the country’s senior military leader.”
  • “Colin H. Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, told reporters last week [in reference to reshuffles in the Russian top brass involved in the war]. ‘… I think it’s more indicative that the Russians have still not figured it out about how they intend to command the fight, and I think the dysfunction among Russian commanders is pretty profound.’”
  • “As he sought to overhaul the Russian military, Gen. Gerasimov elevated the irregular warfare tactics that he falsely believed that Americans were conducting, instead of focusing on what the United States did well—combined arms warfare, blending various military capabilities to create overwhelming force, Seth G. Jones, the national security expert, argues in his book.”
    • “As a result, Russia’s military gained expertise in subterfuge and clandestine tactics, like sending Russian Spetsnaz special forces units, without insignia, to Crimea before Russia illegally annexed the peninsula in 2014. But the war in Ukraine has required a different kind of maneuvering: offensive campaigns by large numbers of ground forces operating in different areas with the goal of seizing land. There, Gen. Gerasimov has been ineffective.”
  • “With Mr. Putin still insisting that Russia will seize the Donbas and even Kyiv, expectations are rising that Gen. Gerasimov will be under immense pressure to carry out a successful offensive this spring, military officials and analysts say.”

“What War Leaders Most Underestimate: Duration and Deaths,” Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, WSJ, 01.27.23.

  • “Committing what is perhaps the cardinal sin of the strategist, Vladimir Putin clearly expected to win fast and easily in Ukraine. He was badly wrong. But the U.S. intelligence community also wrongly expected the war to be over fast. The CIA and other agencies should have known better.”
  • “At the same time, even if Ukraine has the momentum at present in its fight with Russia, the war's winner is far from certain. It is probably true that Mr. Putin's maximalist ambitions, which included deposing the Zelensky government in Kyiv and annexing perhaps half of Ukraine, have been definitively thwarted. But there is no guarantee that Ukraine will keep winning back territory and delivering harsher blows against the Russian army than its own forces suffer themselves. ... Ukraine has many advantages, starting with the courage of its people and massive assistance from the West, but it also faces unfavorable population and GDP ratios, not unlike the Confederacy against the Union in the Civil War.”

“Will tanks set up Ukraine for a spring offensive?” Christopher Miller, Ben Hal and Laura Pitel, FT, 01.27.23.

  • “Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks will be a serious upgrade from the Soviet-era models the Ukrainians have been fighting in. ‘It’s like you have a car from the 1950s and then you sit in a Porsche,’ says a person involved in organizing training for Ukrainian troops. ... However, it could take several months for the bulk of the force to arrive, and it could be considerably smaller than Kyiv had hoped.”
  • “Ukraine says it needs 300 Western heavy tanks to seize back its territories. It needs them fast to conduct a widely expected offensive this spring and to help fend off a possible Russian attack before then.”
    • “One place where Ukraine could try to attack is along the Svatove-Kreminna line, a stretch of the front in the Luhansk province. ... A much bigger prize for Kyiv would be to push southwards into Zaporizhzhia province all the way to the Azov sea, severing Russia’s so-called land bridge to occupied Crimea.”
      • “Either of these directions would be through open terrain, where mechanized force would be indispensable, as opposed to the more urbanized Donetsk province.”
    • “In the meantime, it could be the Russians who attack first. Moscow has been holding back about half of the 300,000 troops that it mobilized in the autumn.”
  • “‘We shouldn’t jump to conclusions that tanks by themselves will win this war,’ says Rob Lee, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. ‘But they are an important contribution, and they’ll give Ukraine a better chance of success in 2023 and in 2024.’”

“Can Biden keep sending Ukraine weapons without provoking Russia?” William D. Hartung of the Quincy Institute, LA Times, 01.27.23.

  • “The tank deal itself will not be a game-changer militarily. The relatively small numbers involved, and the fact that the U.S. systems reportedly may not arrive in Ukraine for six months to well over a year, are just part of the issue. Daniel Davis, who served in an armored cavalry regiment in a devastating tank battle with Iraqi forces in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, has pointed out that to be fully effective in using them, U.S. personnel required more than a year of training.”
  • “There is no objective measure of what might provoke escalation on the part of Moscow, or a reliable prediction of what that escalation might entail. But the tank announcement has sparked fears in Russia that the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization may supply ever more effective and sophisticated systems to Ukraine—which could incite a harsh Russian reaction. ... The Biden administration should proceed with caution in deciding what level of weaponry to provide Ukraine in the coming year.”
  • “Another concern raised by analysts of U.S. military aid to Ukraine has been the danger that American weapons could fall into the wrong hands. There is no indication that this has happened in any significant way thus far, but as the war continues the dangers of weapons being diverted may rise. In the conflicts that the U.S. has been involved in over recent decades, American weapons have ended up with adversaries of the U.S. or of U.S. allies, including the Taliban, Islamic State and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.”

“Will Leopard 2 tanks actually boost Ukraine’s battlefield chances?” Franz-Stefan Gady of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, FT, 01.25.23.

  • “In the case of the Leopard 2, battlefield effectiveness will largely depend on Ukraine’s ability to conduct what is known as combined arms operations, comparable to a deadly game of rock, paper, scissors, in which the strengths of one platform or weapon systems supplements the strengths and weaknesses of another.”
  • “The strength of these tanks lies in sheer numbers: Ukraine must be able to operate and sustain at least one armored brigade consisting of up to 100 Leopard 2s to have a significant impact on the conflict. This will be extremely challenging, but not impossible.”
  • “Russia’s reaction to the Leopard 2 will partially determine its impact. Even were Ukraine to succeed in fielding an entire armored brigade or more, Moscow’s forces are likely to adapt, eventually diminishing its power.”

“Putin is embracing Stalin's way of war,” Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute, WP, 01.26.23.

  • “The Russians started this war as a relatively high-tech blitzkrieg. But after the retreat from Kyiv and the Kharkiv region, and the loss of Kherson, their conduct of operations is rapidly reverting to the way Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union fought the Great Patriotic War.”
  • “Stalin's infamous 1942 Order No. 227, known as ‘Not a step back,’ created penal battalions, or shtrafbats. Staffed with officers and soldiers ‘guilty of the breach of discipline,’ the shtrafbats were sent on kamikaze ‘human waves’ attacks to ‘redeem by blood their crimes against the motherland.’ Those lucky enough to be wounded but not killed were returned to regular units. Reinforced with criminals plucked out of jails and promised pardon after six months in Ukraine, Putin's de facto private mercenary army, the Wagner Group, looks more and more like a shtrafbat: Its soldiers have reportedly been sent on suicide missions or summarily executed for ‘cowardice.’ The Wagner Group has already surpassed Stalin's secret police in cruelty. Those executioners shot ‘traitors,’ but their successors smash heads with a sledgehammer. It might not be long before we see another iteration of Order No. 227—'blocking units’—positioned behind the advancing soldiers to shoot anyone retreating or merely hesitant.”

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

  • No significant developments.

Ukraine-related negotiations:

“Talks between Russia and Ukraine would save lives,” director of the American Statecraft Program at the Carnegie Endowment Christopher Chivvis, The Economist, 01.29.23.

  • “Those who favor continuing the war perhaps believe there is a military alternative to negotiation that resolves the underlying conflict between Russia and Ukraine. There is not. Yes, it would be nice if Ukraine clawed back some more territory. But at what cost and for what strategic gain?”
  • “Getting diplomacy going will require tough conversations to persuade Ukraine to adopt a more realistic approach to its war aims. Western tanks for Ukraine will make this more difficult, but they also strengthen the West’s ability—and its right—to do so. After all, America already limits Ukraine’s use of its weapons in several ways, for example, by prohibiting strikes into Russia. Meanwhile, greater public openness to negotiations among Western leaders might help Mr. Zelensky make the case to his own citizens and security services. And Western military support should continue alongside—deterrence and détente can be complementary.”
  • “Mr. Putin is an autocrat with an axe to grind about NATO. Whether or not he would enter talks with any seriousness is unknown. But the decision to send tanks may encourage him to do so.”
  • “Western powers should and do regularly negotiate with adversaries, including contemptible ones, when it serves national interests and prevents violence and human suffering.”
    • “At first, negotiations wouldn’t seek to settle the conflict once and for all, much less resolve Russia’s litany of gripes about NATO. Diplomats would have to aim low at first, starting with limited ceasefires and transparency measures. The arrangement brokered in July to allow Ukrainian grain exports indicates that negotiations on specific problems can work.”
    • “If a ceasefire held, broader negotiations over deeper differences could then take place later on. Even a temporary end to the fighting would offer a chance for emotions to cool, lives to be saved and resources spared.”
  • “Another frozen conflict is preferable to a never-ending war that puts Europe, Ukraine and ultimately the world at risk for years to come.”

“Will Ukraine Wind Up Making Territorial Concessions to Russia?” Foreign Affairs Asks the Experts, FA, 01.24.23.

Participants in this FA survey were asked to state whether they agreed or disagreed with the proposition that “The most likely outcome of the war in Ukraine is a negotiated settlement that involves Kyiv making some territorial concessions to Russia,” and to rate their confidence level in their opinion.

  • Columbia University’s Kimberly Marten: Strongly Agree, confidence level 8. “Ukraine will probably have to give up Crimea to Russia to reach a peace deal.  I can also imagine a world where Putin remains in office and a border settlement reflects the approximate 2021 lines of control (i.e., much, but not all, of the Donbas being recognized as under Russian control). I do not think such a settlement would be very stable in the long run.”
  • MIT’s Barry R. Posen: Agree, confidence level 7. “[T]he size of Russia and its army relative to Ukraine, and the general tactical advantages that often adhere to the defense, suggest that Ukraine will have to pay a very high price to liberate all its territory, and indeed it may simply prove unable to do so. Therefore, at some point, negotiations seem likely, and it is improbable that Russia will give up entirely at the negotiating table all the land that it might still control on the battlefield.”
  • Stimson Center’s Emma Ashford: Agree, confidence level 4. “Though Ukraine has performed well to this point, it is likely to face steeper obstacles going forward; retaking Crimea in particular would be militarily and politically challenging. It therefore seems likely that territorial concessions from Ukraine—even if that concession is as minimal as the de facto acknowledgment that Crimea will remain under Russian control—would form part of that negotiation, just as Russian concessions on reparations or other issues would also form part of any final settlement.”
  • University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer: Agree, confidence level 5. “It is hard to imagine Ukraine winning the war and gaining back all its lost territory, including Crimea. It is easier to imagine the Russians hanging on to the territory they now control and eventually gaining more territory. … Given those parameters, it seems likely that an eventual settlement will involve territorial concessions by Ukraine. Of course, there might not be a settlement, and instead we will end up with a frozen conflict—something akin to the situation in Korea.”
  • RAND’s Miranda Priebe: Agree, confidence level 8. “Neither side can achieve an absolute victory that would allow it to dictate terms, so any agreement would involve compromise. Given the importance Russia attaches to Crimea, it is unlikely Russia would accept a deal that returned all Ukrainian territory.”
  • The New School’s Nina Khrushcheva: Agree, confidence level 8. “[E]ven if Ukraine does better and Russia worse, ultimately it is a stalemate when they do have to sit down.”
  • CFR’s Thomas Graham: Agree, confidence level 8. “I am less confident that there will be a negotiated settlement than that Ukraine will not recover all its territory that Russia has seized since 2014. In particular, Crimea is almost certain to remain in Russian hands. Moreover, I have doubts that recovering all the land Russia has seized is in fact in Ukraine’s own long-term interests.” 
  • International Crisis Group’s Olga Oliker: Neutral, confidence level 1. “The notion that Ukraine can simply trade some territory for peace thus ignores the political aims behind Russia’s war effort. Moreover, any negotiated settlement is not just about Ukraine; it is about European and indeed global security—if Ukraine and its backers have leverage … then they must use it to ensure that the deal precludes sequels and reboots, which risk being even more dangerous.”
  • Atlantic Council’s Alexander Vershbow: Disagree, confidence level 7. “War is more likely to wind down to a series of temporary cease-fires with no agreement on changes to Ukraine’s borders.”
  • CNAS’ Andrea Kendall-Taylor: Disagree, confidence level 8. “Any settlement that involves Kyiv making territorial concessions would only perpetuate the war by emboldening Moscow to attack Ukraine again in the future. The only stable outcome is one in which Ukraine retakes, at a minimum, the territory Russia has taken since Feb. 24, 2022.”
  • Brookings’ Angela Stent: Disagree, confidence level 7. “Russia has violated every agreement involving Ukraine’s territorial integrity that it has signed in the past 30 years. A negotiated settlement would only be temporary, until Russia decides to continue its attempt to take over all of Ukraine. A lasting negotiated settlement will be possible only if Ukraine defeats Russia.” 
  • American Enterprise Institute’s Leon Aron: Disagree, confidence level 8. “Certainly not in the short run of one to two years. After the savagery perpetrated by the Russian military on Ukrainian civilians and the number of Ukrainian soldiers killed, it is very unlikely that the public opinion in Ukraine would approve of such a settlement.”
  • CFR’s Liana Fix: Disagree, confidence level 8. “A negotiated settlement with Ukrainian territorial concessions would assume that Moscow is willing to compromise on its maximalist war aims of controlling Ukraine. There is little evidence that suggests such thinking in the Kremlin.”
  • Naval War College’s Nikolas Gvosdev: Disagree, confidence level 3. “At this point, too many variables are in play: willingness of the West to continue to support Ukraine and maintain sanctions on Russia; ability of the Russian economy to withstand that pressure and the military’s ability to continue to obtain needed supplies of weaponry and personnel.”
  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Tatyana Stanovaya: Strongly Disagree, confidence level 8. “I am pretty confident that there are no chances that Russia and Ukraine would negotiate any peace deal that would include territorial concessions to Russia. ... There might be cease-fire talks, but not talks about ending the war. The key to this conflict, I believe, is Russian internal changes. It may happen during 2023 or take years.”

“How Not to Negotiate with Russia: We’ve already learned a few things about Putin’s approach to peace talks,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Politico, 01.24.23. Clues from Ukrainian Views.

  • “As Russia’s total aggression on Ukraine nears its first year, some people in the United States and elsewhere in the West continue to suggest that Ukraine needs to engage in peace negotiations with Russia as soon as possible. They may have good intentions, but they don’t seem to recognize that Russia has not proposed any meaningful talks and remains focused on destroying Ukraine militarily. But there’s a bigger point that the ‘peace at any cost’ camp ignores: We have already spent over eight years negotiating [the Minsk process] with Russia. ... Here are five lessons we learned from negotiations with Russia.”
    • “Lesson #1: It’s a mistake to freeze the war and postpone the solution of territorial problems ‘for the future.’”
    • “Lesson #2: Russia doesn’t negotiate in good faith.”
    • “Lesson #3: The de-occupation of Crimea can’t be set aside.”
    • “Lesson #4: Russia does not reciprocate with constructive language and policy.”
    • “Lesson #5: Partners should force Russia, not Ukraine, into concessions.”
  • “What Russia really wants is a pause, not peace. Any hypothetical ‘Minsk-3’ can have only one result: an even bloodier war, which will affect not only Ukraine, but draw in the entire Euro-Atlantic space and the world as a whole. Repeating mistakes will not yield better results.”
  • “My message today is simple. Don’t minsk Ukraine and the world again!”

Interview with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, Izvestia/, 01.30.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “The ‘peace plan’ of V. Zelensky ... is aimed solely at the propaganda effect. It contains deliberately unacceptable preconditions without taking into account the situation on the ground.”
  • “The real intentions of Kyiv are clearly visible in the situation around the February 2015 Security Council Resolution 2202, which approved the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements as an international basis for settlement. Despite the fact that this resolution was unique in its kind, the unanimously adopted document on the settlement in Ukraine, Kyiv openly sabotaged its obligations under the Package of Measures.”
  • “These assessments of ours, as is known, were confirmed by their revelations by A. Merkel and F. Hollande, who in fact admitted that Berlin and Paris saw the Minsk agreements only as a way to gain time in order to prepare Kyiv for full-scale military operations. It turns out that our former partners had such plans since the signing of the Set of Measures for the Settlement.”
  • “Under these conditions, as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov noted, summing up the results of the past year at a press conference on Jan. 18, a dialogue with the current Ukrainian regime is impossible, primarily because Kyiv is not interested in this. Otherwise, why did V. Zelensky sign decree No. 679 on Sept. 30 last year, prohibiting negotiations with the Russian government?”
  • “So there really are no weighty prerequisites for negotiations now.”

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

Kennan’s Warning on Ukraine: Ambition, Insecurity, and the Perils of Independence,” Frank Costigliola of the University of Connecticut, FA, 01.27.23.

  • “George Kennan … is famous for forecasting the collapse of the Soviet Union. Less well known is his warning in 1948 that no Russian government would ever accept Ukrainian independence.”
    • “In a policy paper titled ‘U.S. Objectives with Respect to Russia’ completed in August 1948, Kennan laid out the United States’ ultimate aims in the event that the Russians invaded Ukraine. He realized that Ukrainians ‘resented Russian domination; and their nationalistic organizations have been active and vocal abroad.’ It would therefore ‘be easy to jump to the conclusion’ that Ukraine should be independent. He asserted that the United States should not, however, encourage that separation.”
  • “Should the Ukrainians achieve independence on their own, Kennan advised the State Department, Washington should not interfere, at least initially. It was nearly inevitable, however, that an independent Ukraine would be ‘challenged eventually from the Russian side.’ If in that conflict ‘an undesirable deadlock was developing,’ the United States should push for ‘a composing of the differences along the lines of a reasonable federalism.’”
  • “[50 years later] Kennan, then in his 90s, cautioned that the eastward expansion of NATO would doom democracy in Russia and ignite another Cold War. ... By 1997, Kennan was further alarmed by Washington’s decision to have NATO not only admit the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland but also to initiate military and naval cooperation with Ukraine. The redrawn line dividing east from west was compelling Ukraine and other nations to choose sides. ‘Nowhere does this choice appear more portentous and pregnant with fateful consequences than in the case of Ukraine,’ Kennan warned [Strobe] Talbott in a [1997] private letter.”
  • “Regardless of how Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine ends, the United States has committed itself to sustaining a robust military presence on Russia’s doorstep. If alive today, Kennan would note the danger of cornering the Russians to the point where they might lash out. He would also gesture toward the United States’ multiple problems at home and wonder how this exposed presence in Eastern Europe accorded with the long-term foreign and domestic interests of the American people.”

“Blinken ponders the post-Ukraine-war order,” columnist David Ignatius, WP, 01.24.23.

  • “Russia's colossal failure to achieve its military goals, Secretary of State Antony Blinken believes, should now spur the United States and its allies to begin thinking about the shape of postwar Ukraine—and how to create a just and durable peace that upholds Ukraine's territorial integrity and allows it to deter and, if necessary, defend against any future aggression. In other words, Russia should not be able to rest, regroup and reattack.”
  • “Blinken's deterrence framework is somewhat different from last year's discussions with Kyiv about security guarantees similar to NATO's Article 5. Rather than such a formal treaty pledge, some U.S. officials increasingly believe the key is to give Ukraine the tools it needs to defend itself. Security will be ensured by potent weapons systems—especially armor and air defense—along with a strong, noncorrupt economy and membership in the European Union.”
    • “The Pentagon's current stress on providing Kyiv with weapons and training for maneuver warfare reflects this long-term goal of deterrence.”
  • “[Blinken] backs Ukraine's desire for significant battlefield gains this year. But ... there is a widespread view in Washington and Kyiv that regaining Crimea by military force may be impossible ... partly because Putin has indicated that an assault on Crimea would be a tripwire for nuclear escalation.”
  • “This cohesiveness [of NATO] will become even more important as the Ukraine war moves toward an endgame. This year, Ukraine and its allies will keep fighting to expel Russian invaders. But as in the final years of World War II, planning has already begun for the postwar order—and construction of a system of military and political alliances that can restore and maintain the peace that Russia shattered.”

“The West Is Getting In Too Deep in Ukraine,” columnist Pankaj Mishra, Bloomberg, 01.30.23.

  • “Despite almost a year of harsh economic sanctions, and even severe setbacks on the battlefield, Russia appears no readier to negotiate an end to the war. … Meanwhile, there are no signs that a significant number of Russians have grown angry or disillusioned with their reckless leader. … There is no evidence either that the people and governments of the Global South … are turning decisively against Putin, or that most of the world’s population see Russia’s assault on Ukraine as qualitatively different from the U.S. invasion of Iraq.”
  • “Western governments benefit today from a broad and largely unchallenged consensus among think tanks and mainstream periodicals: Russia’s defeat, if not outright capitulation, is crucial to ensuring Ukraine’s territorial integrity and future as a sovereign nation.”
  • “The future of Ukraine as a democracy, too, grows cloudier when you consider the recent fate of countries showered with weapons and dollars. One of the world’s most corrupt countries before the war, Ukraine seems further away from the prospect of an honest and accountable elite. In the eventual accounting of financial and moral malfeasance during the war, the recent scandal involving officials close to President Volodymyr Zelensky will likely prove minor.”
  • “There are too many signs that the search for allies in what is effectively now the West’s war against Russia is affecting political and moral judgment.”
    • “India is routinely presented in the West as a counterweight to Chinese and Russian autocrats even as its Hindu supremacist government intensifies its assault on democracy and the country ramps up its purchases of Russian oil.”
    • “A bizarre forgetfulness about two world wars prevails as, to wide cheers in the West, Germany rearms and dispatches military hardware to its old killing fields.”
    • “The leaders of Japan, another militarist terror of the 20th century, are re-arming their country on a dramatic scale.”
  • “Such signs of irresponsibility are equally apparent among Western political establishments, who are trying to expand their military footprint abroad even as they struggle against economic crises at home. They are the clearest warning we have of a deeper and more extensive conflagration ahead.”

“The Realist Case for Ukraine,” Jeffrey Mankoff of the National Defense University, FPRI, 01.25.23.

  • “From a realist perspective, ensuring Russia’s defeat in Ukraine would significantly benefit the United States. Not only would it enhance the security of American allies in Europe … but it would also create a more favorable balance of power as the United States pursues its ongoing strategic competition with China. Should the failure of Russia’s war of aggression spark significant change within Russia, the United States and its allies will have an opportunity to correct some of the mistakes that realists identified in the construction of Europe’s post-Cold War security architecture … Even if Russia remains belligerent and aggressive, its failure in Ukraine will leave it weaker, poorer and more isolated.”
  • “In giving aid and succor to Ukraine, the United States should take on board realists’ warnings about the danger of doing too much or taking unnecessary risks. … The Biden administration’s insistence that U.S.-provided arms not be used for attacks on Russian soil, like its refusal to deploy American troops to Ukraine or enforce a no-fly zone … are prudent. Refusing Kyiv’s requests for heavy armor and longer-range artillery that could allow it to mount more effective offensive operations is not. Nor should the United States be coy about seeking Russia’s defeat and the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine as a war aim.”
  • “Kissinger’s career in government notwithstanding, realism has struggled to gain a foothold in American foreign policy because of its sometimes antiseptic, amoral nature. … Adherents of the realist tradition should recognize how the war in Ukraine represents an inflection point for Europe and for the global balance of power.”
  • “The eleven months since Putin’s ill-considered invasion have brought enormous suffering but have also launched a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape international order. … For realists concerned about managing competition over the longer term, the opportunity to build a more stable, balanced order and compete more effectively with Beijing is one that should be embraced. The first step to that end is ensuring the failure of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

“Avoiding a Long War” U.S. Policy and the Trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict,” senior political scientists Samuel Charap and Miranda Priebe, RAND, January 2023.

Potential Benefits of a Long War for the United States




Highly significant benefits



Moderately significant benefits

Fewer Ukrainians would be living under Russian occupation.

The United States has a humanitarian interest in

exposing fewer Ukrainians to Russian occupation.


Less significant benefits

Ukraine could become more economically viable and less dependent on external



Areas under Russian control as of December 2022 are unlikely to prove hugely economically significant.



Ukrainian control of more of its sovereign land may reinforce the territorial integrity norm.


Barring full Ukrainian territorial reconquest, Russia

will remain in violation of the norm.


Potential Costs of a Long War for the United States





Highly significant costs

There would be a prolonged elevated risk of Russian nuclear use and a NATO-Russia war.

Avoiding these two forms of escalation is the paramount U.S. priority.

Moderately significant costs

  • Ukraine would have a greater need for external economic and military support during and after the war.
  • More Ukrainian civilians would die, be displaced or endure hardships stemming from the war.
  • There would be continued upward pressure on energy and food prices, causing loss of life and suffering globally.
  • Global economic growth would slow.
  • The United States would be less able to focus on other global priorities.
  • An ongoing freeze in U.S.-Russia relations would pose challenges to other U.S. priorities.





  • Returning Ukraine to economic sustainability would alleviate strain on U.S. and allied budgets and stockpiles.
  • The United States has a humanitarian interest in reducing the suffering of the Ukrainian people.
  • The United States has an interest in stable energy markets and minimizing global food insecurity and associated human suffering
  • Global economic trends affect the U.S. economy.
  • U.S. resources, forces, and senior-leader attention are not being devoted to other U.S. priorities.
  • Bilateral or multilateral interaction with Russia on key U.S. interests will be highly contentious while the war is ongoing.


Less significant costs

  • There is a possibility of Russian territorial gains.
  • Russian dependence on China could increase.
  • Russia is not likely to make significant territorial gains.
  • Russia will be more dependent on China than it was before the war regardless of its duration.
  • “President Biden has said that this war will end at the negotiating table. But the administration has not yet made any moves to push the parties toward talks.”
  • “The U.S. might ... catalyze the eventual start of a process that could bring this war to a negotiated end in a time frame that would serve U.S. interests. The alternative is a long war that poses major challenges for the United States, Ukraine and the rest of the world.”

“Viktor Orban: West Is ‘In A War With Russia,’” senior editor Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, 01.26.23.

  • “This evening was the third time I've been in a small group session with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. … Orban said that the West needs to understand that Putin cannot afford to lose, and will not lose, because he's up for re-election next year, and he cannot run as the president who lost a war. What's more, he said, Russia cannot allow NATO to establish a presence in Ukraine. … Russia's goal is to make Ukraine an ungovernable wreck, so the West cannot claim it as a prize. At this, they have already succeeded.”
  • “If Russia's coming spring offensive proves successful, then the NATO countries are going to be faced with the question of do we send in soldiers to fight for Ukraine? This is not something Orban thinks the American people are considering, but it is front to mind among a growing number of Europeans, whose countries stand to be devastated if war spreads. … It sounds crazy today, ‘but if you look at the tendency of how we got to this point today, it can't be ruled out.’”
  • “The West is ‘in a war with Russia. That's the reality,’ he said. ‘Every day we are moving further in.’”
  • “A journalist asked the prime minister if he thought the war could go nuclear. ‘I can't exclude that they would use it,’ he said, of the atomic bomb. He clarified that he was talking about tactical battlefield nukes, not mushroom clouds over Warsaw and Berlin—'but I can't exclude that either.’”
  • “Someone pointed out that the Russians have had a sorry battlefield performance to this point. Yes, said Orban, it's true. But if you look at Russian history, this is how it goes with the Russians at war. They start out poorly, but after a while, they figure things out, and then become hard to stop. He expects that will be the case this time.”
  • “Orban made a pointed, and poignant, remark about the Germans in the current war: ‘The Germans are suffering because they know what's in their national interest, but they're not able to say it.’ He meant that the German leadership knows it has no business being involved in a war with Russia, but is, for whatever reasons, unable to say no to Washington.”

“The Triumphs and Tribulations of Peter the Great: What Putin’s View of 18th-Century Warfare Can Tell Us About Ukraine,” Alexander Burns of Franciscan University of Steubenville, War on the Rocks, 01.24.23.

  • “Russia didn’t conquer Crimea on the first attempt, or even the sixth. In the current war, the Russian military made many initial mistakes. But then, the same is true for many of its 18th-century conflicts. Today, Russia retains the ability to reconstitute its forces over a period of months or years. Indeed, the country’s nuclear deterrent makes it even easier for Putin to continue to reenact his fantasy of being a modern 18th-century czar. Only Ukrainian resolve and Western support can determine if his reenactment looks more like Peter’s failure on the River Prut, or Catherine’s conquests later in the century.”

"How Finnish and Swedish NATO Accession Could Shape the Future Russian Threat," Nicholas Lokker, Jim Townsend, Heli Hautala and Andrea Kendall-Taylorm CNAS, 01.24.23.

  • “For Putin, ‘losing’ Finland and Sweden to NATO was collateral damage in the battle to subjugate Ukraine. But while membership in the alliance undoubtedly acts as a shield for Finland and Sweden against Moscow’s malign intentions, it also creates new dynamics in European security that will reshape Russia’s own threat perception and the nature of the challenge it poses to the West. Failure to address this evolving threat could result in a paradoxical situation in which Europe—particularly along its northeastern edges—becomes even more insecure despite NATO’s expanded role in the region. Managing both the short- and long-term consequences of this evolution are therefore critical tasks for NATO, Sweden and Finland going forward.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • No significant developments.

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“Could a Russian Military Collapse Lead to Nuclear War?” senior associate fellow Tim Willasey-Wilsey, RUSI, 01.25.23.

  • “Former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has suggested that a Russian defeat in Ukraine could lead to nuclear war. Former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dismissed the idea as nonsense. So what would happen if the Russian army mutinied or collapsed?”
  • “Medvedev is right that no nuclear-armed country has ever lost a war of national survival. This would be new territory for the whole world, and it would be a high-risk moment. Furthermore, a power struggle in Moscow would raise questions about the command authority over the Russian nuclear arsenal.”
  • “This is when bad or even disastrous decisions could be made. The detonation of a nuclear device over the Black Sea or over central Ukraine as a warning shot to stop the Ukrainian advance might even be at the lower end of the spectrum of options presented to a Russian leadership in disarray. A new nationalist leader in Moscow might argue that NATO countries had enabled the Ukrainian success and should therefore be regarded as targets.”
  • “None of this is an argument for not pushing Russia out of Ukraine, but it is a prompt for Western leaders to communicate their intentions to Moscow with absolute clarity. Fundamental would be an assurance to the Russian government and people that their pre-2014 territorial integrity is not at any risk.”

“Ukraine should—and, properly supported, can—seize Crimea,” Ben Hodges, The Economist, 01.29.23.

  • “Some argue that the Kremlin has a ‘red line’ regarding Crimea and that it is prepared to fight to hold on to it at all costs, including deploying a nuclear weapon if it appeared likely to lose it. Yes, the nuclear threat from the Kremlin must be taken seriously—Russia has thousands of nuclear warheads and it clearly does not care how many innocent people are killed in this war. But I think it is very unlikely it would deploy a nuclear weapon of any type, even for Crimea.”
  • “The Kremlin knows that using such a [nuclear] weapon actually gives it no battlefield advantage, for two reasons. First, there is no large concentration of Ukrainian troops in a single place, so using one nuke would hardly wipe out Ukraine’s soldiers. Second, Russia has no large, mobile exploitation force suitably trained and equipped to operate in a contaminated area. The Chinese and others have also made it clear to the Kremlin that they object to Russia using a nuclear weapon. In fact, Russia’s nuclear weapons are most effective when it doesn’t actually use them.”
  • “Rather than push Ukraine’s leadership toward the negotiating table, America and other Western nations should support Ukraine to win in Crimea.”

Twitter thread: Andrei V Kozyrev on the war in Ukraine, 01.22.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Two opposing justifications are implied for not defeating Russia in Ukraine. It is too strong, a superpower that will use nuclear weapons. It is too weak, an almost failed state that will fall into chaos. The imminence of both hazards is exaggerated. Their realistic appraisal leads to an opposite conclusion. Russia can and should be defeated in Ukraine.”
  • “Putin and his clique, like their Soviet predecessors, are aware that nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought. Not because of millions of potential victims of nuclear war, but because they would perish too. They chase money, power and fame, not suicide. … If Ukraine and the West surrender, the blackmail will have no limits.”
  • “The Kremlin could feel pressed to use nuclear weapons only in response to an invasion threatening the very existence of Russia, Putin's kingdom. The U.S. and NATO should make clear the goal for which they will stay with Ukraine and their definition of victory: the restoration of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in accordance with international law. The victory would be a far cry from an existential threat to Russia or to Putin.”
  • “Putin can securely drop the claims of annexations and return to the internationally recognized borders of both Ukraine and Russia regardless of assertions to the contrary by Moscow propagandists. They will at any moment make a U-turn on command.”
  • “But Putin or the regime after him could keep its grip on Russia for a long time, turning it into a kind of Giant North Korea. A depressed China-dependent country brandishing nuclear weapons. If NATO and Washington won’t fail Ukraine in the current war, in the future Moscow like Pyongyang will not dare to attack a strong America-protected neighbor.”

Dmitri Trenin quoted in “Will the nuclear emergency break work?” Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy/Russia in Global Affairs, 01.23.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Yes, indeed, today we are seeing how the confrontation between the two powers is heating up. It is possible that the crisis will culminate in a new world war. ... The movement of inertia, the denial of the proposition that a real clash is possible has led us to ... Vladimir Putin's ultimatum and the military escalation after a refusal [was given to the ultimatum]. ... Nuclear weapons are also not a guarantee of security, since there is little confidence today that the other side is capable of launching a nuclear projectile. And where there is no fear, there is no security. Is the current nuclear strategy a paper tiger or a death sentence for all mankind? I don't have an answer to this question. But the current international situation is dangerous. The Caribbean crisis lasted thirteen days, and today we have been living with nuclear weapons aimed at each other for a year.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:


“Europe’s Ban on Russia Oil Products Will Be More Disruptive,” oil strategist Julian Lee, Bloomberg, 01.25.23.

  • “Starting Feb. 5, imports of diesel, gasoline and other products used for further processing—including fuel oil and vacuum gasoil—cannot be imported from Russia into EU countries. The U.S. and U.K. already have their own bans in place. The sanctions will be accompanied by a ban on using European ships, insurance and other services to carry Russian oil products anywhere in the world unless they’re purchased at a price below yet to be determined caps. This mirrors the restrictions on crude shipments that were imposed Dec. 5.”
  • “Overall crude flows from Russia haven’t been hurt by the EU ban, with seaborne shipments remaining around 3 million barrels a day for now. ... But things could be very different for refined products trade. Asia is thirsty for crude. India and China both import huge volumes for their massive refining systems. The two nations took about 14.5 million barrels a day in 2021, and that figure almost certainly increased last year. By contrast, they brought in just 3 million barrels a day of refined products from overseas.”
  • “A ready market for Russian refined products outside Europe simply doesn’t exist in the way it did for crude. Many of the newly built plants were designed to maximize the production of diesel, the very fuel for which Russia needs new buyers. Huge discounts will be needed to make it economic to move Russian-refined products to Asia while, ridiculous as it sounds, shipping similar products from Asian refineries back to Europe. Without them, Russia may be forced to reduce processing rates and either boost crude sales or cut production levels—something it has managed to avoid so far.”

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

“How the war in Ukraine met the war on woke,” chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman, FT, 01.30.23.

  • “In his speech on Sept. 30, celebrating Russia’s annexation of four regions of Ukraine, Putin accused the West of ‘moving toward Satanism’ and ‘teaching sexual deviation to children.’ He asserted that ‘we’re fighting to protect our children and our grandchildren from this experiment to change their souls.’”
  • “These arguments are not aimed solely, or perhaps even mainly, at the Russian people. Putin is also flirting with an important constituency in the West—cultural conservatives who are so disgusted by the alleged decadence of their own societies that they are attracted to Putin’s Russia.”
  • “The ‘war on woke’ is now absolutely central to Republican party politics. On these issues, many Republicans feel closer to Putin than to the Democrats. As Jacob Heilbrunn, an astute analyst of conservative America, put it to me recently, the far right of the GOP ‘see Putin as a defender of traditional Christian values and an opponent of LGBTQ, an opponent of transgender and an opponent of the weakening of masculine virtues that were responsible for the rise of the West.’”
  • “The culture wars have become part of today’s geopolitical struggles. But the overlapping alliances in these conflicts are creating strange bedfellows.”


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“How the War in Ukraine Is Boosting Russian Politicians’ Careers,” Meduza journalist Andrey Pertsev, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 01.25.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Previously, ambitious members of the Russian elites climbed the career ladder by taking part in the Leaders of Russia contest and training programs for governors. Now the career pipeline runs through Ukraine, and anyone reluctant to radicalize will find themselves sidelined.”
  • “The presidential administration is unlikely to make managers and lawmakers of actual soldiers and officers, save for a few token cases. The most cunning careerists, therefore, will appropriate the label of ‘veteran,’ earning it through visits to the front lasting only long enough for a photo op.”
  • “So begins the division of Russia’s low- and mid-ranking elites into ‘veterans,’ to whom many doors will be open and jobs guaranteed, and everyone else. The former will rise at the expense of ‘civilians,’ and many will attain power solely on the basis of their wartime service—which may exist in photos only.”
  • “The system’s façade of political and managerial competence will irreversibly give way to a mismatched patchwork quilt, sewn in line with the fickle tastes of the president. Side by side with the ‘veterans’ will be the young technocrats and what remains of the alumni of the All-Russia People’s Front coalition. It will amount to an exercise in negative selection from which only those willing to do anything to draw the leadership’s attention will emerge, while the system continues to deteriorate.”

“The Man Who May Challenge Putin for Power,” Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar, NYT, 01.26.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “President Vladimir Putin of Russia, it seems, has finally noticed that the war in Ukraine created a dangerous competitor to his power: Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the private military company, the Wagner group, whose troops fight alongside the Russian Army.”
  • “On Jan. 10, Mr. Prigozhin reported on his company’s Telegram channel that Wagner militants had taken the Ukrainian city of Soledar. This was his most powerful propaganda victory and convincing proof that Wagner is one of the most combat-ready Russian units. My sources in Moscow say some high-ranking officials started discussing—supposedly half-jokingly—if it was the right time to swear allegiance to Mr. Prigozhin before it was too late.”
  • “It was presumably at this moment that Mr. Putin realized that Mr. Prigozhin might be a bit too popular. So he elevated Mr. Prigozhin’s main enemies, Generals [Alexander] Lapin and Valery Gerasimov, and appointed General Gerasimov as commander of the operation in Ukraine. This is Mr. Putin’s traditional bureaucratic game, which has been effective but may not work this time.”

“Russia outlaws an independent news outlet. Meduza cannot be silenced,” Editorial Board, WP, 01.28.23.

  • “One of the last independent outlets, Meduza, has just been designated ‘undesirable’ by Russia, threatening those who read and disseminate it in the country with criminal penalties.”
  • “The attack on Meduza underscores yet again the extent of Mr. Putin's drive toward totalitarianism—control over all aspects of society. He has criminalized freedom of speech, assembly and religion inside of Russia, and is trying to destroy Ukraine as a democracy. Meduza's survival is vital to keep shining a light on Russia when freedom is at risk.”

“We are not going in the same direction as the West,” Interview with political analyst Sergei Karaganov on Russian TV, Russia in Global Affairs, 01.27.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Since late Soviet times, Russian foreign policy was aimed at rapprochement and integration with the West. This, as is now quite obvious, was a strategic mistake by the late Soviet leadership and the early Russian leadership. Now everything has come to an absolutely clear understanding. We are not going in the same direction as the West, for reasons both ideological and geo-economic.”
  • “Right now, there are two more very important processes that we do not notice that are powerfully spurred on by the special military operation, and these processes are perhaps no less important than a rout of Ukraine and the prevention of this territory becoming hostile to Russia: There is a very rapid nationalization of the elite, [and] the fifth column is getting thrown out, or leaving on its own, moreover with virtually no repression; and finally, the comprador class [i.e., local intermediaries between foreign capital and the Russian market] is being destroyed, that is, the stratum of the bourgeoisie that was created by us semi-artificially in the 1990s. … [W]e have created for ourselves just such a bourgeois elite, which is economically, politically and even mentally dependent on the West. Now the West itself is simply washing them out.”


“Devoted to Putin: Volodin's Views on Russia, West and the Rest,” RM Staff, 01.27.23.

  • “[State Duma Vyacheslav] Volodin’s name often comes up when Russian officials and experts publicly short-list Putin’s potential successors. While Volodin—whose defining trait as a potential successor in Putin’s eyes has been described as ‘unlimited devotion’ to the Russian president—is usually not the top pick, he may nevertheless have a shot at the Kremlin if Putin decides to depart.”
  • “[He is] the fourth highest-ranking official in Russia, but it is unlikely that this outspoken Duma speaker is among the circle of people Putin consults on key aspects of Russia’s external policies.  Had Volodin been part of that small circle, he would have probably been informed of Russia’s forthcoming invasion of Ukraine. … In the know or not, Volodin apparently did not need to catch his breath once the invasion commenced on Feb. 24, 2022, producing a post on his Telegram channel before the day was over that pledged support for the ‘special military operation’ and urged Ukrainians not to resist it.”
  • “His subsequent rhetoric rivals that of other potential successors, such as Dmitry Medvedev, in vitriolic attacks on Volodymy Zelensky’s government and its supporters in the West … A topic on which Volodin has managed to outdo even Medvedev in vitriol is what the Russian authorities should do with the hundreds of thousands of their compatriots who left Russia.”
  • “While competing with Medvedev in chastising Ukraine and its supporters, Volodin has also rivalled another potential successor, Nikolai Patrushev, in disseminating conspiracy theories about the West … In fact, other than his descriptions of often draconian laws … we struggled to find recent claims on Volodin’s Telegram account that are backed by facts. … [K]nowing what the fourth highest-ranking politician in Russia publicly says on issues that impact vital or important U.S. interests … is important, but so is not taking for granted the dubious claims he routinely produces.”

Defense and aerospace:

“What is behind the reshuffle in the command of the ‘special military operation?’” journalist Alexander Golts, Russia.Post, 01.24.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “With the appointment of [Gen. Valery] Gerasimov, the command has been transferred (or gone back) to the General Staff. … What is happening is a particular consequence of a bigger problem: Russia has failed to create a clear system of leadership of the armed forces. As far as one can understand, there has never been a clear division of functions between the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff.”
  • “Such confusion in the command structure has been exacerbated by the desire to preserve an archaic military culture at all costs. In particular, we are talking about the expectation that any order of a senior commander be fully and unquestioningly carried out.” 
  • “Sergei Shoigu’s plans for a gigantic increase in the armed forces (we are talking about the deployment of two dozen divisions), announced as a reform, are bringing us closer toward a mass mobilization army. Such an army can exist only with a constant flow of recruits. To support it, the entire state must labor. Considering the demographic situation in Russia, these plans seem dubious. If it is not propaganda, then an attempt to expand the army by half a million will most likely cause chaos across the entire mobilization system.”
  •  See section on “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:

“Will India Ditch Russia? Debating the Future of an Old Friendship,” Stimson Center’s Sameer Lalwani and Happymon Jacob of Jawaharlal Nehru University, FA, 01.24.23.

  • Sameer Lalwani: “The Indian-Russian relationship is on a long-term downward trend. But the transition will be slow. India’s incremental distancing from Russia will only occur in a prolonged time frame, maybe decades, that provides little utility for U.S. policymakers to shape Russia’s near-term decision-making. (The exception may be any Russian use of nuclear weapons that could shock New Delhi’s calculus, although Indian diplomats see the likelihood of that escalation as ‘minimal.’)”
  • Happymon Jacob: “The long-standing Indian-Russian partnership has become a transactional one steeped in uncertainty. Yes, it may continue this way for some time yet, but should Russia fail to deliver on its defense promises to India, and should Indian officials grow increasingly alarmed by Russia’s ties with China, expect New Delhi to only push Moscow further away.”


“Anatomy of a scandal: why Zelenskyy launched a corruption crackdown in Ukraine,” Ukraine correspondent Christopher Miller, FT, 01.28.23.

  • “The story of overpriced eggs and gherkins [for the Ukrainian military] set off alarm bells for Ukrainians, who, according to the country’s central bank, have donated about $500 million of their own money to the army. Many recognized it as a classic scheme used by powerful officials to line their pockets. That it was money meant to help feed their defenders made it all the more scandalous.”
  • “It was the first domino in a cascade of stories that would lead to resignations and sackings of senior government officials, as well as the biggest government shake-up since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion. In a matter of days, one of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s deputy chiefs of staff, five governors of frontline provinces, four deputy ministers and two members of the president’s ruling Servant of the People party in parliament would resign or be fired because of scandalous or allegedly corrupt behavior.”
  • “Tetiana Shevchuk, legal counsel for Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Action Centre, a leading watchdog, told the FT that Zelensky’s shake-up and crackdown showed he was trying to live up to his [electoral] promise. His measures also include a ban on foreign travel for public servants after some officials were caught taking lavish vacations while civilian men aged 16 to 80 are not allowed to leave the country.”
  • “Shevchuk said that anti-corruption activists had operated under an ‘unspoken agreement’ with the government. ‘It was as follows: We don’t criticize you as long as you do the right thing. If you do something wrong you have time to fix your mistakes.’ But setting up a scheme to steal money from Ukraine’s vital war chest, she added, ‘crossed a red line.’”

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • No significant developments.