Russia Analytical Report, Jan. 9-17, 2023

4 Ideas to Explore

  1. Can the West’s continued commitment to “enabling Ukrainian soldiers to expel Russian troops by force” eventually compel Moscow to withdraw from Ukraine in a negotiated settlement? Yes, if it is combined with the West “maintaining pressure on Moscow … and keeping disagreements with Kyiv private,” James K. Sebenius of Harvard Law School and Michael Singh of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy write in FA. According to George Beebe of the Quincy Institute, however, the West needs to complement such resolve with a preparedness to discuss U.S. and Russian security interests at stake, along with “binding measures” that would limit Ukraine’s ability to host U.S. bases or strategic weaponry, Beebe writes in Responsible Statecraft. If creative, the negotiations with Moscow can produce a commitment for Ukrainian neutrality with language on security guarantees, Stefano Stefanini, a former Italian diplomat in Russia, tells NYT.
  2. While the West should continue to freeze Russian assets according to sanctions, it should refrain from seizing them, even if the goal is to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction, according to Elisabeth Braw of the American Enterprise Institute. “Seizing Russian assets without demonstrating criminality would rob Western companies and individuals abroad of the legal protection that Western governments have ... been prodding other governments to introduce,” Braw writes for FP. The way to raise such reconstruction funds is to add to a future peace treaty a Russian obligation to pay reparations, she writes.
  3. China now perceives a likelihood that Russia will fail to prevail against Ukraine and emerge from the conflict a “minor power,” Chinese officials told FT. In addition, some in the Chinese government now express mistrust toward Putin, who did not inform Beijing of its intention to launch a full invasion of Ukraine, according to five PRC officials interviewed by FT at different times. As part of their country’s attempt at a diplomatic reset with the EU, Chinese officials have been telling European counterparts that Beijing is willing to use its close relationship with Moscow to restrain Putin from resorting to nuclear weapons, FT reported.
  4. Hoping that Putin’s war will become a total failure is tempting, but likely to prove futile for three reasons, according to Michael Kimmage of the Catholic University of America and Maria Lipman of the George Washington University. First, Russia demonstrates a capability to “muddle through economically.” Second, Putin can “depend on the acquiescence of the Russian population.” Third, “outright criticism of the invasion is inconceivable” among the political elite, Kimmage and Lipman write in their commentary on “wartime Putinism” in FA. While it is a “fine-tuned method for avoiding failure,” they write, “wartime Putinism has all the hallmarks of a dead end.”

 

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:

“Russia’s Crime and Punishment. How to Prosecute the Illegal War in Ukraine,” Oona A. Hathaway of Yale Law School, FA, 01.17.23.

  • “While there are courts where Russians can be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, a major piece is missing: there is nowhere to try Putin and other top Russian leaders for launching the war in the first place. For this, a special tribunal for the crime of aggression is needed.”
  • “Creating a court that has jurisdiction to try this crime is an essential step in the global effort to reject Russia’s blatantly illegal war and, with it, Putin’s willingness to destroy the modern international legal order in pursuit of a new Russian empire.”
  • “The only other international court [than the Nuremberg court] with jurisdiction over the crime of aggression is the International Criminal Court (ICC), created in 2002. The treaty that established the court, the Rome Statute, granted the court jurisdiction over the crime of aggression ... No citizen of Russia can be charged for the crime of aggression ... Like the United States, Russia signed but never ratified the Rome Statute. Belarus, too, never ratified the treaty.”
  • “The proposal [for a special tribunal] with the most widespread support at present (and the one I have advocated) is a court created through the U.N. This would require agreement between Ukraine and the U.N., after a vote of the General Assembly recommending its creation.”
  • “Now the task is to create a genuinely international judicial institution with the power to label Putin’s war not just wrong but also criminal. Only once that is built can the world provide justice to all those who have died and suffered in the war—and reaffirm the prohibition against war as an inviolable rule of the international order.”

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“Biden's policy on arming Ukraine might not be popular — but it's right,” Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, WP, 01.16.23.

  • “There has been a method to the West's apparent madness in sticking with the slow-but-steady approach to arming Ukraine. It's not perfect, but it has been pretty good, and in broad terms it should continue to inform our assistance to Kyiv.”
    • “The need to avoid Russian retaliation or escalation is often cited as the main reason for a step-by-step approach. That is an entirely valid concern. ... [I]t made sense to wait and see if Russia would shoot at NATO logistics infrastructure, supply convoys, satellites or even NATO military bases in Eastern Europe. So far, caution has paid off.”
    • “Second, experience has shown that the West was right to take time to assess Ukraine's most immediate and acute needs as a matter of priority at each stage of the fight.”
    • “Third, the West's ‘cautiously aggressive’ approach also acknowledges another reality: that modern weapons systems are complex to use. Learning how to use Patriot missiles takes months.”
  • “The debate over tanks has also revealed the biggest weakness of the incrementalist approach—namely, that it is always reacting to events on the battlefield rather than trying to shape them. ... I think it's time we provide them [tanks]. That's not because doing so will necessarily help Ukraine win the war decisively. Rather, Kyiv deserves a fair chance to win back as much territory as possible.”
  • “Sending tanks will also show Moscow that American resolve remains firm even with war-skeptical Republicans in charge in the House of Representatives—another factor crucial to productive talks.  If this conflict is to have any chance of ending in 2023, as I hope, there is little time to waste in providing Ukraine with a true combined-arms-maneuver warfare capability and then seeing what it can do with it.”

“For Ukraine to Win the ‘Maneuver War,’ Germany Must Move First,” columnist Andreas Kluth, Bloomberg, 01.17.23.

  • “European politics got a huge burst of kinetic energy this week, thanks to the realization in places like Berlin that the war in Ukraine will become kinetic again come spring. That’s when the Russians are expected to launch a new offensive—and the Ukrainians their own counter-attacks to retake occupied territories.”
  • “For the Ukrainians to succeed in that next phase—which think tankers describe as ‘maneuver warfare’—they’ll need super-mobile Western weapons such as battle tanks. But for Kyiv to get those, Western leaders such as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz must first become unblocked. With a new German defense minister and a new stance toward arms shipments, he finally seems to be getting close.”
  • “[But] battle tanks cannot be the West’s last move. The Leopards and Challengers will complement the armored fighting vehicles and artillery already pledged. However, proper maneuver warfare means Ukrainian ground troops will eventually require support from their own skies as well. For them to win the war—and therefore for any prospect of peace—Ukraine will therefore need Western helicopters and fighter jets.”

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

“Freeze—Don’t Seize—Russian Assets,” columnist Elisabeth Braw, FP, 01.13.23.

  • “Why should other countries’ taxpayers have to foot the astronomical bill for the reconstruction of a country that Russia has destroyed? Why not use funds belonging to the well-connected Russians who did nothing to stop the war? Why not take advantage of the convenient fact that it’s already sitting in Western bank accounts?”
  • “Seizing the Russians’ assets without linking them to a crime might be possible through new legislation—but it would create enormous risks for Western companies operating in other countries. That makes wholesale seizure plans different from the seizures of assets that Italy and others have carried out—because those assets had been used in criminal ways. Indeed, seizing Russian assets without demonstrating criminality would rob Western companies and individuals abroad of the legal protection that Western governments have over the past three decades so painstakingly been prodding other governments to introduce.”
  • “The way to assemble the reconstruction funds is to add to a future peace treaty a Russian obligation to pay reparations, just like the victorious powers did with Germany after the two world wars. In 1921, the victors gave Germany a reparations bill of 132 billion gold marks—about $31.5 billion dollars at the time. Today, that sum would be worth approximately $500 billion.
  • “As for the oligarchs, whatever sanctions-evaded assets skilled financial investigators find would be a nice addition. But as stomach-churning as it is to see the Russian elite living the good life—and to see their offspring living it up in the United Arab Emirates or the West—while Ukrainians suffer, Western leaders still need to demonstrate that their assets are linked to crime. They must avoid emulating Russian or Chinese leaders, who arbitrarily take what’s not theirs.

Ukraine-related negotiations:

“Russia and Ukraine Are Not Ready for Talks. But They Might Get There If Ukraine Keeps Winning,” James K. Sebenius of Harvard Law School and Michael Singh of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, FA, 01.11.23.

  • “In determining whether an agreement is possible, negotiators often refer to a concept known as the ‘zone of possible agreement,’ or ZOPA. The ZOPA is the gap between the negotiating parties’ real bottom lines—that is, the difference between the absolute maximum that one side could offer and the absolute minimum that the other could accept. ... [T]here is no ZOPA between Russia and Ukraine—the most Russia is willing to live with is less, and likely far less, than Ukraine is willing to accept.”
  • “To open up a ZOPA that contains feasible and desirable deals, Russia’s BATNA [best alternative to a negotiated agreement]  must deteriorate, militarily and otherwise, so that Moscow will agree to settle for less. At the same time, the BATNA of Ukraine and the West must not deteriorate, and ideally should improve.”
  • “Given the clear lack of overlap between what Ukraine and the West would find acceptable and what Russia would demand, there is little reason to believe that going to the negotiating table right now would produce an outcome that would benefit either Western or Ukrainian interests.”
  • “But Western officials should take heart. In the battle of BATNAs, Ukraine is winning. Ukraine’s forces have fared far better—and Russia’s far worse—than anyone had imagined before the conflict, and Moscow’s hopes for what it can achieve militarily worsen with every inch of territory that Ukraine retakes and holds. If the United States and Europe wish to see Russia leave Ukraine as a result of a negotiated settlement, they must, paradoxically, convince Moscow of their commitment to enabling Ukrainian soldiers to expel Russian troops by force and redoubling other penalties on Russia’s aggression. Doing so means maintaining pressure on Moscow, supporting Ukraine unwaveringly, and keeping disagreements with Kyiv private. Only when such work begins to open up a ZOPA can diplomats succeed in creative dealmaking.”

“Laying the foundations for a settlement in Ukraine,” George Beebe of the Quincy Institute, Responsible Statecraft, 01.13.23.

  • “Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, the United States has strived for two primary objectives: to prevent Putin from re-subjugating the country and to put the Ukrainian government in a strong position to negotiate a settlement that ensures its independence and sovereignty. More than ten months into this ongoing war, we have achieved both these fundamental goals.”
  • “This success story does not mean that either Russia or Ukraine is yet ready for serious negotiations. But it offers a window of opportunity for the United States to prepare the diplomatic ground for an eventual settlement of the conflict—a window that may get smaller over time if we do not act now. The goal of this preparation should be to put Russia on a path toward accepting a limited defeat that protects our and Ukraine’s core security concerns.”
  • “Absent an agreed settlement, Ukraine may well be headed toward a de facto partition in which Russia controls significant parts of the Donbas and has rendered large swaths of Ukrainian territory that lie to its west a virtual no-man’s land.”
  • “Getting Russia to the negotiating table will also require pairing that show of resolve with a subtler message for the Kremlin: that we recognize the United States and Russia both have valid security interests at stake, and that we are open to discussing how to address them.”
  • “Protracted war would keep Ukraine in economic freefall, ensure Russia continues to degrade the country’s infrastructure and make reconstruction practically impossible. Only with peace can Ukraine take advantage of its successes in beating back Russia’s invasion. While a settlement may not be possible for some time, U.S. officials can start laying its foundations today.”

“What Does It Mean to Provide ‘Security Guarantees’ to Ukraine?” chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe Steven Erlanger, NYT, 01.10.23.

  • “What seems clear is that short of a Russian collapse and defeat, with Ukraine winning back all of its territory, any security guarantees are likely to be both partial and fragile. … [A]nything short of NATO membership would involve promises that Kyiv already considers hollow.”
  • “Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former NATO secretary-general, has tried to square the circle in ‘The Kyiv Security Compact,’ a proposal he and his colleagues drafted in the autumn with Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
    • “The core recommendation is for Ukraine’s allies to turn the country into a kind of … porcupine, one so well-armed that Russia would not try to swallow it again.”
  • “Others suggest that individual allies, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Poland, put their own troops into Ukraine postwar … But significant troop presence in a non-NATO member would be seen in Moscow as a further provocation and more evidence to fit Russia’s narrative that NATO is trying to rip Ukraine away from the Russian sphere.”
  • “For many, like Camille Grand, a former NATO assistant secretary-general now with the European Council on Foreign Relations, it remains likely the war will end with Russia having ‘achieved partial objectives.’ A full defeat of Russia and Ukraine joining NATO ‘is only one scenario, and an optimistic one,’ he said.”
  • “The only real guarantee of Ukrainian security is NATO membership, Stefano Stefanini, a former Italian diplomat in Russia and former ambassador to NATO said, however complicated. ... Still, he said, it would be a mistake to underestimate the cynical creativity of diplomats. One could arrive at a point where negotiations produce a commitment for Ukrainian neutrality, but not disarmament, with language about security guarantees, ‘even if anyone not a politician would call them unrealistic,’ he said. … ‘Total victory for anyone seems unlikely,’ he said. So at some point, the diplomats will have to get creative, providing Ukraine some solid prospect of peace and security somehow underwritten by its allies.”

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

“What We’ve Learned From the War in Ukraine,” David Petraeus and Anne-Marie Slaughter reflect on what’s surprised them—and how to prevent future wars,” interview conducted by Ravi Agrawal, FP, 01.10.23.

  • “DP: The conduct of the operations by the Russians has been poorer than I anticipated, and that is quite a surprise given the amount of time they had to prepare. What really surprised me was the sheer incompetence of the Russians ... It’s a mystery to me what they did during those months of maneuvers on the borders of Ukraine.”
  • “AMS: The biggest surprise to me, however, was the reaction, particularly of India but also of Brazil and South Africa. ... India very clearly refused to take a position. And, of course, it’s still buying energy from Russia. It’s still prepared to buy arms from Russia. That is the signaling of a much bigger shift in the global order than most American and European analysts give credit for. ... I suspect Chinese President Xi Jinping is thinking that with friends like these, who needs enemies? Because this almost certainly was not at all what Xi expected when he and Putin met at the Olympics just a year ago and promised a partnership of unlimited boundaries.”

“What the Kremlin Really Hoped to Achieve With Its Ceasefire Proposal,” senior fellow Alexander Baunov, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 01.13.23.

  • “The aim of the ceasefire proposal was to force the Ukrainian army and politicians to reject it in view of the Ukrainian public, who are often left without electricity, water, heating or transport by Russia’s bombing campaign.”
  • “In this context, the proposal fits into the Kremlin’s version of the situation, in which there are some good, potentially pro-Russian Ukrainians on one hand, and an occupying army of Ukrainian nationalists on the other. This version has already been shown to be at odds with reality, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is clearly having trouble letting go of it, because without it, he will lose the historic title he is striving toward, as the ruler who unified all the Russian lands.”

“There is no path to lasting Russian victory,” columnist Gideon Rachman, FT, 01.16.23.

  • “Imagine that Putin’s forces achieved some kind of malign miracle, defeated Ukraine and overthrew the Zelensky government. What then? The reality is that a wounded and isolated Russia would then be stuck in a decades-long guerrilla war that would make Afghanistan look like a picnic. Occupying forces or a collaborationist government in Kyiv would be under constant attack. ‘Victory’ would lock Russia into a long-term disaster.”
  • “How did Putin get his country into this mess? The roots of the problem are his failure to accept the loss of great-power status. ... If Putin had been willing to accept that Russia was permanently in the tier below the superpowers, there would have been opportunities for Russian statecraft to play the role of a balancing middle power. Instead Putin over-reached in Ukraine. The ironic consequence is that Russia is likely to emerge from this war even further diminished as a global power.”
  • “In his bleak article, [Dmitri] Trenin, a former Russian military intelligence colonel and then director of the now-closed Carnegie Moscow Center, argues that ‘while a theoretical path to surrender exists’ for Russia, this option is unacceptable because it would entail ‘national catastrophe, probable chaos and an unconditional loss of sovereignty.’”
  • “Fear of that outcome leads Trenin to conclude that Russia has no choice but to fight on as a ‘warrior country, defending its sovereignty and integrity’ ... But this is a very peculiar definition of patriotism. … The true Russian patriots are those—many of them in jail or in exile—who are determined to stop Putin and his war. Only when that happens will Russia have a chance of rebuilding its moral, economic and international status.”

“The west has changed its thinking on how to outsmart Putin,” Lawrence Freedman. FT, 01.13.23.

  • “The consensus now among leading Western states is that the only way to persuade Russia that it cannot succeed in its war of conquest is for Ukraine’s armed forces to liberate much more territory.”
  • “The Western view is that the only way to shift Putin’s thinking is for Ukraine to get the better of the coming battles. Until it inflicts more defeats on Russian forces and regains lost ground, Moscow is unlikely to budge from its maximalist aims. Military success can never be taken for granted, and even if it comes there is no guarantee that Putin will admit defeat if he still feels able to hang on to power. There are no easy ways to end this war but a further demonstration of the weakness of Russia’s military position will be a good start.”

“NATO's Electoral Message for Erdoğan,” former national security adviser John Bolton, WSJ, 01.16.23.

  • “Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but it isn't acting like an ally. Yet there's a chance he [Edrogan] can be stopped, if the West takes bold action to help ensure his domestic opposition gets a fair shake in upcoming presidential elections. To do so, the alliance ought to put Ankara's membership on the chopping block. Considering expulsion now will allow for the alliance to debate the pros and cons of its membership and emphasize—both to Turkish voters and NATO members—the high stakes of the coming election.”
  • “While Mr. Erdoğan won plaudits for providing Ukraine with drones after Russia's February 2022 invasion, the move was more a publicity stunt to advertise his drone program and shouldn't obscure his continuing threats elsewhere. Perhaps the most visible of these is his scheme to obstruct NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, extorting measures to assist his anti-Kurdish crusade and suppress dissent inside Turkey and the Turkish diaspora.”
  • “Seriously considering Turkey's expulsion or the suspension of its membership is obviously a grave business. But things will only get worse if the alliance fails to confront Mr. Erdoğan's poisonous behavior.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“Xi Jinping’s plan to reset China’s economy and win back friends,” James Kynge, Sun Yu and Xinning Liu, FT, 01.11.23.

  • “A fundamental reset is taking place in Xi’s foreign and economic policies. According to Chinese officials and government advisers, Beijing is putting together policies aimed at improving diplomatic ties that have soured badly and boosting a deeply strained economy.”
  • “From a diplomatic perspective, China’s main aim is to improve relations with some countries in the West, after a period which has at times left Beijing feeling uncomfortably isolated. The focus is on ties with Europe, which have been badly damaged by China’s support for its partner Russia throughout Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
  • “Several Chinese officials in private conversations with the Financial Times strove to put clear daylight between Beijing and Moscow on the issue of Ukraine—a message that has been repeated to some European diplomats. Some are scathing. ‘Putin is crazy,’ says one Chinese official, who declined to be identified. ‘The invasion decision was made by a very small group of people. China shouldn’t simply follow Russia.’”
  • The starting point for Xi’s diplomatic reset is a re-evaluation in Beijing about the benefits of its close relationship with Moscow. China now perceives a likelihood that Russia will fail to prevail against Ukraine and emerge from the conflict a ‘minor power.’”
  • “In private some Chinese officials express at least a measure of mistrust towards Putin himself. Five senior Chinese officials with knowledge of the issue have told the FT at different times over the past nine months that Moscow did not inform Beijing of its intention to launch a full invasion of Ukraine before Putin ordered the attack.”
  • “Beijing’s main ploy is to attempt to reassure European counterparts that it is willing to use the closeness of its relationship with Moscow to restrain Putin from resorting to the use of nuclear weapons, Chinese and European officials say. … Another aspect of Beijing’s strategy is to position itself not only as a potential peacemaker but also as a willing party in any postwar efforts to help rebuild Ukraine, Chinese officials say.”

“Taiwan must not suffer the same fate as Ukraine,” former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, FT, 01.12.23. 

  • “We must learn the right lessons from the war in Ukraine to prevent one in the Taiwan Strait.”
    • “The first lesson is that Ukraine remains a free country because its people were prepared to fight.”
    • “The second lesson is the importance of a strong and unified response from the democratic world.”
    • “Third, ultimately weapons are what counts. Ukraine managed to stop the initial Russian invasion and turn the tide of the war thanks to the supply of superior military equipment from its allies, particularly the U.S.”  
    • “The final and most important way to deter a Chinese move on Taiwan is to ensure a Ukrainian victory in the current conflict.”

Missile defense:

“Cannot Shoot Down or Cannot Miss? Evolution of Missile Defense and Its Consequences for Arms Control,” Alexander Chekov, Oleg Krivolapov, Konstantin Bogdanov, Dmitry Stefanovich and Vasily Klimov, Valdai Club, 01.17.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “The creation of unified contours of combat control of various defensive systems has become ... inevitable due to the expansion and complication of the spectrum of missile threats. But this also provokes the development of countermeasures, including anti-satellite weapons. At the same time, the ‘interlacing’ of control systems for various types of weapons in the medium term might be becoming one of the main sources of escalation risks.”
  • “The logic of missile defense development stimulates a race of offensive and defensive arms. Given growing international tension, this severely limits the space for arms control. At the same time, in such conditions, maintaining communication channels between key actors is of particular importance. There is a need to stimulate dialogue at the expert level, as well as to promote discussion of missile defense at existing international platforms, in particular the ‘nuclear five’ format.”
  • “In the case of Russia, it is expedient to prepare and publish official documents of declarative policy, for example, in the form of the ‘Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the field of aerospace defense.’ The most important component of such a policy is a systematic and detailed description of the domestic approach to limiting missile defense, formulated taking into account the current realities of the military-strategic and international situation.”

Nuclear arms:

“Will Russia Go Nuclear? 7 Key Questions to Consider,” Harvard University’s Graham Allison, Time, 01.05.23.

  • “First: could Putin rationally order a nuclear strike on Ukraine? Unquestionably yes: as rationally as U.S. President Harry Truman dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, killing 140,000 Japanese.”
  • “Second: would Putin’s nuclear attack on Ukraine be a step onto a moving escalator that could end with nuclear bombs destroying American and Russian cities? Yes: Putin certainly commands a nuclear arsenal as deadly as the one wielded by leaders of the Soviet Union in the Cold War.”
  • “Third: under what conditions would Putin be more likely than not to order a nuclear strike? Answer: if conditions on the battlefield force him to choose between a humiliating defeat, on one hand, and a nuclear attack that offers even a slim chance of an acceptable outcome to his war, on the other.”
  • “Fourth: do Russia’s current nuclear posture, doctrine and exercises include the first use of tactical nuclear weapons? Answer: yes.”
  • “Fifth: why are there no U.S. troops fighting on the battlefield alongside brave Ukrainians resisting Russian aggression? … Because as President Biden has said from the outset of the crisis, ‘we will not fight World War III for Ukraine.’”
  • “Sixth: why in these conditions did President Ronald Reagan declare: ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must therefore never be fought?’ Because if the price of a war that completely destroys the enemy is the destruction of one’s own society, as Reagan insisted, ‘no one could call that a victory.’”
  • “Seventh: does the imperative of not fighting a war with a nuclear-armed adversary require passivity when it acts in ways that challenge our interests? Answer: no. But these conditions do create a demand for extraordinary strategic imagination. ... [I]t seems likely that when the intense fighting subsides, Ukraine will emerge as a free, independent, vibrant nation; Putin’s war will be seen by all to have been a colossal strategic blunder; NATO will have been revived and stand strong against future Russian aggression; and most importantly, there will have been no nuclear war.”

“How the war in Ukraine hinders US-Russian nuclear arms control,” Steven Pifer of the Brookings Institution, BAS, 01.17.23.

  • “One challenge confronting the Biden administration is persuading Moscow to agree to a negotiation covering all nuclear arms, including non-strategic nuclear weapons.”
  • “A second challenge arises regarding long-range, precision-guided conventional strike weapons, an area to which Russian officials attach priority but U.S. officials prefer to avoid.”
  • “A third challenge stems from the decreasing amount of time available to negotiate a new agreement. A specific negotiating mandate presumably would be developed within the strategic dialogue, but that dialogue remains in limbo as the clock ticks away. Conventional wisdom holds that an arms control treaty requiring Senate consent to ratification should be finished and submitted to the Senate before presidential politics heat up. The first primaries for the 2024 presidential election loom in just about one year’s time.”
  • “The United States and Russia have an interest in nuclear risk reduction and in constraining their competition in nuclear arms. It was clear already in 2021 that non-strategic nuclear weapons and long-range conventional strike weapons would pose difficult issues in US-Russian discussions on strategic stability, nuclear weapons, and related questions, especially considering the mistrust between Washington and Moscow. That mistrust has only deepened over the past year, and the underperformance of Russian conventional forces in Ukraine, including by their precision-guided, conventional strike systems, will make stability discussions and any resulting negotiations even more difficult and time-consuming.”

Counterterrorism:

  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

“Ukraine’s Consequences Are Finally Spreading to Syria,” Mona Yacoubian of the U.S. Institute of Peace, War on the Rocks, 01.10.23.

  • “In the wake of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the United States should anticipate the Syrian conflict’s shifting power dynamics. This means planning for the possibility of Turkey, Russia and the regime working together to push U.S. forces out of northeast Syria, as well as the possibility of intensified clashes between Israel and Iran within Syria.”
  • “Washington should elevate Syria from its current low standing among U.S. national security priorities.”
    • “Specifically, the United States should launch a new review of Syria strategy in light the conflict’s shifting dynamics.”
    • “The United States should also enhance its diplomatic and security engagement, appointing a Special Presidential Envoy for Syria who can engage on the many challenges emerging from the conflict’s changing landscape.”
    • “Ultimately, the United States should help catalyze a new regional security architecture as the region enters a new phase marked by growing cooperation between Russia and Iran alongside the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal.”

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

“Russia’s energy weapon fails to fire as required,” Chris Giles, FT, 01.15.23.

  • “The geopolitical outlook for energy appears much more favorable than it did when Russia first invaded Ukraine. Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, says that, with European gas demand down 10 percent, ‘the continent has now ended up in a situation, unthinkable just a couple of months ago, where prices need to stay low in order to divert LNG shipments away from Europe, in order not to overwhelm storage facilities.’”
  • “Analysts say there will be further shifts in 2023 away from gas and towards renewable electricity generation, and more reorganization of industrial processes—thus, increasing the security of Europe’s economy and leaving Russia short of its main gas customer.”

Climate change:

“How Russia’s War Is Impacting the Global Environmental Agenda,” environmental journalist Angelina Davydova, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 01.11.23

  • “The Institute of Economic Forecasting within the Russian Academy of Sciences predicts that Russia’s potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will have almost halved by 2050, mainly due to technological limitations. Still, that will not necessarily prevent Russia from achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. That could happen even without any particular efforts by the state, simply as a result of economic recession, which will automatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
  • “A fall in GDP, decrease in Russia’s share in the global economy and depopulation could all reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Russia. To a large extent, we will see a repetition of the 1990s, when Russian emissions fell by over 30 percent—surpassing the country’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol—due to a steep decline in industrial production following the economic fallout from the collapse of the Soviet Union. But that can hardly be considered genuine decarbonization.”

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

“An insider's view of Ronald Reagan's dysfunctional foreign policy team,” contributing editor David R. Hoffman, WP, 01.11.23.

  • “Reagan stood fast for a military buildup and a ballistic missile defense system. By some accounts, he led the United States to triumph in the Cold War. What's often left out of this narrative is the essential role of Mikhail Gorbachev in loosening forces within the Soviet Union that caused it to collapse of its own weakness.”
  • “Philip Taubman's ‘In the Nation's Service: The Life and Times of George P. Shultz’ adds a surprising new dimension to the Reagan saga. Through the eyes of Shultz, the secretary of state, Taubman portrays the Reagan administration as swamped and nearly paralyzed by disorganization and infighting.”
  • “In March 1985, Gorbachev became Soviet leader. He set out to save the Soviet Union from the punishing drain of the Cold War arms race and to open up its calcified, dysfunctional economic and political systems. He became the partner Reagan needed. ... At a critical moment during the Reykjavik summit in October 1986, as Reagan and Gorbachev stood on the threshold of an agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons, Shultz provided the needed push, saying to them both: ‘Then let's do it.’ Although the summit collapsed over Reagan's refusal to give up SDI, it laid the groundwork for future arms-control deals.”
  • “Without [Gorbachev], Reagan would have ended his presidency with little more than a sheaf of anti-communist speeches. Shultz played a prominent role in helping Reagan get results, but it was Gorbachev, first and foremost, who was key to ending the Cold War, struggling in vain to reform and save a doddering, decaying superpower.”

“Kevin McCarthy on Russia, Ukraine and US Interests,” RM Staff, RM, 01.13.23.

  • “When it comes to views on post-Soviet Eurasia, GOP congressman Kevin McCarthy is perhaps best known for his October 2022 assertion that there will be ‘no blank check’ for Ukraine if his party takes control of the House of Representatives in the November 2022 mid-term elections. The ‘red wave’ GOP leaders had hoped for in the mid-terms never materialized, but the Republicans did manage to get a narrow majority in the lower chamber and then elect McCarthy speaker (if only after 15 rounds of voting). This makes the 57-year-old California legislator much more consequential for U.S. domestic and foreign policies, including its approach toward Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

 

II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Can Russia Develop a New State Ideology?” David Lewis of the University of Exeter, RUSI, 01.17.23.

  • “When Vladimir Putin first came to power, he showed little interest in the world of ideas. He seemed to be a ruthless opportunist, not an ideologue. Many analysts overlooked his growing interest in philosophy and history. Some continue to dismiss his rambling essays and speeches as unhinged rants, a litany of anti-Westernism and conspiracy theories.”
  • “But it is a mistake to overlook the role of ideas in Russian decision-making. A toxic mix of pseudo-science, conspiracy theories and apocalyptic geopolitics circulates among many in the Russian elite. Ideologues in Putin's entourage have long promoted radical and extremist ideas. During the COVID lockdown, Putin was reportedly ‘almost inseparable’ from businessman Yuri Kovalchuk, whose worldview 'combines Orthodox Christian mysticism, anti-American conspiracy theories and hedonism.’ Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine in February 2022 is hard to understand outside this ideological context.”
  • “Russian officials promote a confused mix of radical conservative ideas, anti-Westernism and Russian Orthodox and imperialist thought. The regime is now trying to mold these vague ideas into a clear ideological message to bolster domestic support and offer an alternative to Western liberalism. Three basic ideas form the basis for this new ideological framework.”
    • “First, there is Russian exceptionalism.”
    • “The second big idea is that Russia must be at the center of a big geopolitical space.”
    • “The third strand of Russia’s emerging ideology promotes so-called 'traditional values.’”
  • “Most Russians appear apathetic about any new ideology. ... The basic ideas of nationalism, revisionist geopolitics and 'traditional values' have supporters in autocracies and anti-liberal parties across the world. Moscow's promise to rip up the liberal international order has sympathizers from Budapest to Beijing. … The new Cold War—like the old one—will also be a battle of ideas.”

“Wartime Putinism: What the Disaster in Ukraine Has Done to the Kremlin—and to Russia,” Michael Kimmage of the Catholic University of America and Maria Lipman of George Washington University, FA, 01.13.23.

  • “It is tempting to see Putin’s war as a total failure. ... But the regime in the Kremlin is hardly on the verge of collapse. Putin has used the war to clamp down on Russian society, to pull elites even closer to him, and to shore up his domestic position.”
    • “At least for now, Russia shows every sign of being able to muddle through economically.”
    • “And for the time being, Putin can depend on the acquiescence of the Russian population.”
    • “Among the political elite, outright criticism of the invasion is inconceivable.”
  • “Wartime Putinism is a reduced Putinism, and it would be impossible to describe today’s Russia (to Russians) as an ascendant power. It is, rather, an embattled power. This explains the frenzied media campaign to drum up support for the war, which masks the fact that Putin has committed Russia to a long cycle of stagnation. Isolation and sanctions will together contribute to Russia’s economic and technological decline. Nobody can say how long Putin can walk this dispiriting tightrope. Putin’s warpath does not lead from point A to point B but is a circuitous route that leads from point A back to point A. A fine-tuned method for avoiding failure, wartime Putinism has all the hallmarks of a dead end.”

“Public Politics in the Wartime Russian Dictatorship,” Julian G. Waller of the Center for Naval Analyses, War on the Rocks, 01.17.23.

  • “[Russia’s dictatorship] is reminiscent of the more pluralist interwar-era dictatorships or certain bureaucratic-authoritarian states of the mid-to-late 20th century. The small, ‘pro-Western’ flank of the Russian political spectrum—mostly operationalized in political practice as either professional technocrats or the bourgeois ‘protest electorate’—has now been silenced or abruptly excised from the body politic. The regime no longer pretends to be anything other than explicitly, if amorphously, ideological, and internal incentives to lean into a pervasive sense of a beleaguered, ‘fortress Russia’ have risen considerably. But there remains a large swathe of carefully varied positions within what amounts to a ‘wartime authoritarian’ camp, whose factionalism is currently subdued at the top but far more dynamic among lesser elites and what counts for civil society.”

“Ethnic Variation in Support for Putin and the Invasion of Ukraine,” Kyle L. Marquardt of the University of Bergen, PONARS, 01.12.23.

  • “Analyses of data from November 2022 suggest that ethnic Buryats and Tatars diverge from ethnic Russians in Buryatia and Tatarstan (respectively) along two critical public opinion metrics: they are less likely to support both Putin and the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. In addition to demonstrating that there are substantial inter-ethnic cleavages in public opinion in two important regions, this finding has two additional implications for understanding Russian politics.”
    • “First, although Tatarstan has been a relatively restive autonomous republic over the last several decades, Buryatia has not. The fact that similar patterns in public opinion are visible in both regions thus indicates that inter-ethnic differences are not restricted to regions at the high end of the historical mobilization spectrum.”
    • “Second, Russia’s inter-ethnic public opinion cleavages are not necessarily visible when looking at regional averages: both Tatarstan and Buryatia have similar levels of overall support for Putin as the national average; only Buryatia has a substantially lower level of support for the activities of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine.”

“Russians are living in a frightening, distorted reality,” Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, Washington Post, 01.17.23.

  • “The distorted reality that millions of Russians have lived in for years ... took Putin a long time and put in a lot of effort to construct.”
  • “Despite its intensity, Kremlin propaganda is showing signs of losing its effectiveness. Surveys show that the audiences of all three main television networks are overwhelmingly older; younger Russians prefer to get their news from online sources—and find ways to overcome state-imposed firewalls to do it.”
  • “The free world could take to further undermine the Kremlin's hateful messaging would be to support independent Russian media—such as Echo of Moscow, TV Rain and Novaya Gazeta—that were shut down after Putin's attack on Ukraine and are now operating from abroad.”
  • “As high-level conversations begin about a future international tribunal over the Putin regime's war crimes in Ukraine, plans should also be made to bring to account those who incited and enabled them—in the same way Nazi propagandists were tried at Nuremberg, or the operators of Radio Mille Collines at the U.N. criminal tribunal for Rwanda. Speaking recently on one of the television talk shows, Margarita Simonyan, head of the leading Kremlin propaganda outlet RT, warned that in the event of Putin's failure in Ukraine, ‘The Hague [the seat of international courts] awaits even the street sweeper behind the Kremlin wall.’ I don't think anyone would suggest that street sweepers working for the Kremlin should be brought to justice. But the likes of Simonyan, Kiselyov, Solovyov and other Putin regime propagandists certainly should.”

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:

Can Ukraine and Germany Overcome Their Disagreements Over Russia?” Ilya Kusa of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 01.10.23.

  • “The war has prompted Germany to reevaluate its role in the EU. Having long been its economic leader, it now aspires to be the bloc’s security and defense leader, too. Since no cooperation on Eurasia’s security architecture with Russia is possible, Berlin is focusing on active containment strategies. Since any containment of Russia is impossible without active Ukrainian participation, that means Kyiv will be integrated in Western structures in some form.”
  • “Yet Ukrainians will remember what they call ‘Germany’s appeasement of Russia’ in 2014–2022 for some time, making it hard for Germany to earn Ukraine’s complete trust. Also, unless Ukraine restarts its economy, its relations with Germany will remain limited to military aid and financial and humanitarian assistance.”

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“Renewed Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Underlines Russia’s Waning Influence,” Anton Troianovski, WP, 01.17.23.

  • “The conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan is heating up again, and Russia, distracted and weakened by the war in Ukraine, has not stepped in. Defying the Russian presence, Azerbaijanis are testing whether Moscow is still able and determined to impose its will on other, smaller neighbors amid its struggles in Ukraine.”
  • “Since Dec. 12, the mountain road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia has been blocked amid protests by Azerbaijani activists claiming to be opposing illegal mining operations in the area. Azerbaijan's government has endorsed the protests; Armenians say Azerbaijan engineered them and criticize Russian peacekeepers for not keeping the road open.”
  • “Armenia is part of the Russian-led … Collective Security Treaty Organization, and hosts a Russian military base. But so far, the Kremlin, with its hands full in Ukraine, has not taken action to aid its ally.”
  • “There is little clarity on how the current crisis can be resolved. Azerbaijan insists it has not imposed a blockade on Nagorno-Karabakh, and that humanitarian and medical traffic is being let through. But on the ground, the situation appears increasingly dire for Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh who are stranded with limited food and other essentials, and cut off from family members who were in Armenia when the crisis began.”
  • “While Azerbaijan won the 2020 war, it still has not achieved all its aims, including a transportation corridor to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, a separate slice of Azerbaijani territory on Armenia's southwestern border, that would give the country a direct link to Turkey. It is also seeking to exert greater control over the road that is now being blocked, known as the Lachin Corridor.”
  • “Analysts say that there is little chance that Armenia will be able to disentangle itself from its reliance on Russia anytime soon—the latest in a series of lessons for post-Soviet countries about the difficulty of moving out of Moscow's security shadow, especially when instability threatens.”

“America Must Show Strategic Flexibility With Georgia,” Giorgi Lasha Kasradze of Sokhumi State University, NI, 01.14.23.

  • “Even though Georgia does not represent a ‘vital’ security interest for the United States, Washington has made enormous political, financial and military investments to strengthen Georgia’s legitimacy and sovereignty. If Washington wants to strengthen this tie with Georgia, American policymakers must show strategic flexibility by reducing pressure on the leadership in Tbilisi. No great decisions can be made while Georgian policymakers are constantly squeezed between a rock and a hard place.”