Russia Analytical Report, July 10-17, 2023

  4 Ideas to Explore

  1. Having seen one-fifth of the weaponry and armor they’ve sent to the battlefield damaged or destroyed in the first two weeks of their counteroffensive, Ukrainian commanders took a pause to rethink their strategyNYT reported on July 15, citing Western officials. So far, the Ukrainians “taken just five of the 60 miles they hope to cover to reach the sea,” but they are now moving again, and this time they are “more adept at navigating minefields and mindful of the casualty risks,” according to the newspaper. Ukraine’s counteroffensive to date has had only “modest effects,” according to Michael O’Hanlon. This Brookings scholar estimated in a July 10 commentary in WP that Russia still holds just over 17 percent of Ukraine, which is close to the estimate that researcher Katherine Davidson of the Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force has come up with this week (17.5 percent).*

  2. Following Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny, the fate of Russia’s nuclear arsenal should give pause to those who favor or predict Putin’s demise, according to David Gompert. While any attempt by the U.S. to engage Russia on nuclear weapons control could be rebuffed, Washington should still try to engage Moscow in a dialogue on nuclear arms security and the integrity of command and control systems, the former acting DNI writes in WSJ.

  3. Nearly 30 of the 137 members of Russia’s Council for Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP) have signed a statement criticizing “calls to unleash a nuclear war.” The July 13 statement — which has been signed by such leading contemporary Russian experts on nuclear arms control as Alexei Arbatov and Pavel Zolotarev — didn’t specify against whom their criticism was directed, but it came after two prominent SVOP members, Sergei Karaganov and Dmitri Trenin, had called on the Russian leadership to consider using nuclear weapons against European members of NATO. “The idea of a preventive nuclear strike by Russia is being promoted ... moreover, the authors of these speeches and statements propose to strike the main NATO countries,” the statement said. “Hoping that a limited nuclear conflict can be managed and prevented from escalating into a global nuclear war constitutes the height of irresponsibility,” the statement warns.
  4. In the aftermath of PMC Wagner’s rebellion, the Russian MoD has begun to remove commanders from some of the Russian military’s most combat-effective units and formations over claims of insubordination, according to ISW. “The apparent Russian chain of command crisis threatens to demoralize the wider Russian war effort in Ukraine,” in the view of ISW’s analysts. Among those recently dismissed are 58th Combined Arms Army Commander Colonel General Ivan Popov, 106th Guards Airborne (VDV) Division Commander Major General Vladimir Seliverstov and 7th VDV Division Commander Major General Alexander Kornev, according to ISW. Commander of VDV Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky and 31st VDV Brigade Commander Colonel Sergei Karasev may also be fired soon, ISW claims.


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:

“Iran, Russia, and the Challenges of ‘Inter-Pariah Solidarity,’ CSIS’ Mathieu Droin and Harvard’s Nicole Grajewski, War on the Rocks, 07.11.23.

  • “Efforts to drive wedges between Iran and Russia have not proven successful because shared interests between the two countries far outweigh their differences. The ‘pariah-nership’ between Iran and Russia is therefore likely to endure as long as the current regimes are in place.”
  • “When dealing with regimes seeking international attention, Western countries should avoid engaging them in ways that allow them either to ‘save face’ or to ‘lose face.’ The first condones them, the second emboldens them.”
  • “Rather than seeking changes of behavior, Western powers should … accept ‘strategic patience,’ which means remaining in a position of strength while avoiding political moves that could fuel Moscow’s and Tehran’s narratives of Western hostility toward them.”

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

"Russia Killed Off the Black Sea Grain Deal. What Happens Now?", journalist Susannah Savage, Politico, 07.17.23.

  • “Russia on Monday pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a U.N.-brokered accord that has made it possible for Ukraine to export tens of millions of tons of grains and oilseeds over the past year even as the war rages on.”
  • “Even before Russia finally walked away, the Black Sea Grain Initiative had more or less ground to a halt. The number of shipments had fallen, with only 1.3 million metric tons exported in May. No new vessels had been registered under the initiative since the end of June.”
  • “Ukraine has been readying a backup plan to get its grain shipments out without the deal. This hinges in part on a $500 million guarantee fund to cover any damages or expenses incurred by ships moving through the Black Sea and in part on shipping more grain out through Europe’s Danube river.” 
  • “Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed last week that just 3 percent of Ukrainian exports were going to poor countries. Figures compiled by shipping data platform Kpler flatly contradict that assertion.”
  • “Still, any drop in global supplies or volatility on markets — however small — does impact poor countries facing food insecurity. ‘Now that this deal is off the table, it is even more urgent to rethink how to feed the world,’ said aid agency Oxfam, urging more support for small farmers in countries that rely on food imports.”

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“After Suffering Heavy Losses, Ukrainians Paused to Rethink Strategy,” journalists Lara Jakes, Andrew E. Kramer and Eric Schmitt, NYT, 07.15.23.

  • “In the first two weeks of Ukraine’s grueling counteroffensive, as much as 20 percent of the weaponry it sent to the battlefield was damaged or destroyed, according to American and European officials. The toll includes some of the formidable Western fighting machines — tanks and armored personnel carriers — the Ukrainians were counting on to beat back the Russians. The startling rate of losses dropped to about 10 percent in the ensuing weeks, the officials said, preserving more of the troops and machines needed for the major offensive push that the Ukrainians say is still to come.”
  • “Ukraine’s 47th Mechanized Brigade, one of the three Western-equipped and trained units that were deployed early in the campaign, was set to receive 99 Bradleys, according to the leaked U.S. military plans for the counteroffensive from February — still the most recent that have been made public. Data from Oryx, a military analysis site that counts only losses that it has visually confirmed, show that 28 of those Bradleys have been abandoned, damaged or destroyed. Given that the 47th was the only brigade initially slated to receive the Bradleys, that means that nearly one-third of the original vehicles have been lost.”
  • “The losses have also slowed because the counteroffensive itself has slowed — and even halted in places — as Ukrainian soldiers struggle against Russia’s formidable defenses. And despite the losses, the Ukrainians have so far taken just five of the 60 miles they hope to cover to reach the sea in the south and split the Russian forces in two.”
  • “American officials acknowledged that pause and said that the Ukrainians had begun moving again, but more deliberately, more adept at navigating minefields and mindful of the casualty risks. With the influx of cluster munitions from the United States, they said, the pace might pick up.”
  • “The problems come into focus out in the farm fields in southern Ukraine where much of the counteroffensive is being fought. There the Bradley Fighting Vehicles, long coveted by the Ukrainians, have been running over anti-tank mines on a daily basis, soldiers who have fought in the vehicles say.”

“With the counteroffensive underway, 12 charts show the latest from Ukraine,” Michael O’Hanlon, Constanze Stelzenmüller and David Wessel, all of Brookings, Washington Post, 07.10.23.

  • Michael O'Hanlon:
  • “After 16 months of war, the grand total from all sides is about 400,000 casualties — including about 100,000 dead, according to Michael O'Hanlon of Brooking’s estimate
  • “Russian authorities have forcibly deported to Russia more than 19,500 Ukrainian children from occupied regions.”
  • “Ukraine’s counteroffensive to date has had only modest effects. Russia still holds just over 17 percent of Ukraine.”
  • “The level of Western military aid has remained high, with total assistance approaching $250 billion USD. Second, Europe has been even more generous than the United States, when all types of assistance are aggregated (even acknowledging that much of Europe’s financial aid is in the form of loans, not grants).”
  • Constanze Stelzenmüller: The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) records more than 5 million refugees from Ukraine globally, excluding Russia. More than 90 percent of them are in Europe.
  • David Wessel: “Ukraine’s public spending, around 60 percent of it going to the military, continues to far outstrip its revenue.”

“Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 16, 2023,” analysts Kateryna Stepanenko, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, and Frederick W. Kagan, ISW, 07.16.23.

  • “The Russian MoD has begun to remove commanders from some of the Russian military’s most combat effective units and formations and appears to be accelerating this effort.”
    • Among those recently dismissed are 58th Combined Arms Army Commander Colonel General Ivan Popov, 106th Guards Airborne (VDV) Division Commander Major General Vladimir Seliverstov and 7th VDV Division Commander Major General Alexander Kornev, according to ISW. Commander of VDV Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky and 31st VDV Brigade Commander Colonel Sergei Karasev may also be fired soon.
  • “Insubordination among commanders appears to be spreading to some of their soldiers. Russian milbloggers shared an audio excerpt on July 16 in which the alleged elements of the 7th VDV Division threatened that they would withdraw from their positions in occupied Kherson Oblast if the Russian MoD arrests Teplinsky or threatens his life. … Teplinsky himself set the precedent for the acts of insubordination that are currently plaguing the Russian MoD.”
  • “The Kremlin’s chronic disregard for the Russian chain of command is likely hindering Shoigu and Gerasimov in their attempts to suppress insubordination and establish full control over the Russian military in Ukraine.”
  • “The apparent Russian chain of command crisis threatens to demoralize the wider Russian war effort in Ukraine. It is unlikely that the Kremlin will allow the conflict between these commanders and the Russian senior military command to escalate to a point where personnel follow through on threats like the one the 7th VDV division made, although the continued hollowing out of support for the Russian military leadership among field commanders will produce morale issues throughout the theater.”

“Russian Logistics and Sustainment Failures in the Ukraine Conflict Status as of January 1, 2023,” analysts Bradley Martin, D. Sean Barnett, Devin McCarthy, RAND, 2023.

  • “Russia's failures in the war with Ukraine were due to poor planning in that Russia did not correctly assess the logistics requirement, even if it possessed the capacity.”
  • “However, even if Russia had assessed the threat more effectively, it is not clear that Russia possessed the required force structure to execute its plans to dominate Ukraine.”
  • “Russia ran out of critical supplies early in its campaign to rapidly seize territory, but this gap appears to be largely the result of simply underestimating the resistance encountered. Russia did not provide for adequate capacity because it did not believe such a capacity would be necessary.”
  • “However, when the Russian army was required to rely on extended ground transportation, it became increasingly vulnerable to interdiction, particularly when Ukraine came into possession of standoff missile systems.”
  • “Over the course of the conflict, basic issues of poor maintenance and supply support, compounded by a lack of trained and effective maintenance personnel, have affected Russia's ability to carry out the war. To a degree, inability to carry out even basic sustainment has led to failure on the battlefield.”
  • “Also, over the longer term, Russia does not have the capacity for a long war in the face of economic sanctions. Although Russia can continue to generate revenue from oil and gas exports, it does not have the ability to manufacture advanced weapons or even sufficient materiel to keep the Russian army fielded.”

“The Flawed Moral Logic of Sending Cluster Munitions to Ukraine,” Editorial Board, NYT, 07.10.23.

  • “With Ukraine using up ordinary artillery shells at a huge rate (the United States alone has sent more than two million rounds to Ukraine), the cluster munitions, of which the United States has a bountiful supply, could give Ukrainian forces an advantage in prying the Russians from their trenches and fortifications along the 620-mile-long front. Besides, Russia has been using its own cluster munitions, as has Ukraine, from the outset of the war, and Ukraine's leaders have been urgently asking for more.”
  • “This is a flawed and troubling logic. In the face of the widespread global condemnation of cluster munitions and the danger they pose to civilians long after the fighting is over, this is not a weapon that a nation with the power and influence of the United States should be spreading. However compelling it may be to use any available weapon to protect one's homeland, nations in the rules-based international order have increasingly sought to draw a red line against use of weapons of mass destruction or weapons that pose a severe and lingering risk to noncombatants. Cluster munitions clearly fall into the second category.”
  • “The rain of bomblets may give Ukraine a military advantage in the short term, but it would not be decisive, and it would not outweigh the damage in suffering to civilians in Ukraine, now and likely for generations to come.”

“Supplying Ukraine With Cluster Bombs Sends the Wrong Message to the World,” Chatham House’s Patricia Lewis and Rashmin Sagoo, Chatham House, 07.11.23.

  • “How a state conducts itself during a war is important. Irrespective of the aggression by Russia, the rules of international humanitarian law must be respected by all parties to the armed conflict.”
  • “Attention will now need to turn to scrutinizing how Ukraine deploys the US weapons and whether it can live up to its assurances on how they will be used, including preventing their deployment in or near civilian populated areas.”
  • “States that are party to the CCM [2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions] should continue to uphold it. The UK and other treaty members have invested significant diplomatic power to encourage other states to accede to the CCM and they should continue these efforts. The US move sends a poor message, but the fundamental importance and value of the CCM treaty remains.”

“Why liberals protesting cluster munitions for Ukraine are wrong,” columnist and CFR senior fellow Max Boot, WP, 07.12.23.

  • “Russia invaded Ukraine without provocation, and its forces are committing terrible atrocities. The overriding human rights imperative is to liberate all of Ukrainian territory as quickly as possible and end the war. The only way to do that is to send Ukraine all of the weapons it needs — and that includes not only cluster munitions but also F-16s, the longer-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), Gray Eagle drones and other systems that the Biden administration has so far hesitated to provide largely out of misguided fear of the Russian reaction.”
  • “Denying Ukraine all the lawful weapons it needs is misguided. Peace in Ukraine will not come through the work of Western human rights campaigners, important as it is, but through hard fighting by the Ukrainian armed forces. The Ukrainians are in the right, and they deserve all the help we can give them — and that includes cluster munitions.”

“Only Weapons Can End the Ukraine War,” former U.S. vice president and 2024 GOP presidential hopeful Mike Pence, WSJ, 07.13.23.

  • “Today, our highest goal for Ukraine must be for the restoration of peace as quickly as possible. And the fastest path to peace is a Ukrainian victory. We must provide Ukraine with the strength needed to secure peace. Mr. Biden should send Abrams tanks, F-16s, and more long-range artillery shells immediately. The goal isn't simply to give Ukraine what it needs to regain territory taken over decades, but to deter future strikes from Russia.”
  • “My fellow fiscal conservatives are right to be wary of additional spending, especially when our deficits are already so high. Indeed, there is plenty of wasteful spending in all areas of the federal government. We could make our dollars more effective by rejecting Mr. Biden's request for more humanitarian aid for Ukraine, which European nations are more than capable of providing. The U.S. should make giving Ukraine the weapons it needs to win its priority. Humanitarian aid is important, but no amount of humanitarian aid will prevent the Ukrainian people from being transformed into Russian serfs. Only weapons can do that.”
  • “American taxpayers have already received an enormous return on their investment in Ukraine. Russia was once the second most powerful military in the world. Today it is the second most powerful in Ukraine.”
  • “Make no mistake: This is not America's war. But freedom is America's fight. And I believe that if Mr. Putin isn't stopped in Ukraine, the day will come when a NATO ally is directly threatened, tragically pulling American forces into a war that could have been avoided if the U.S. had done more to support Ukraine's courageous stand.”
  • “The Reagan Doctrine is as true and necessary today as it was 40 years ago: If you're willing to fight America's enemies on your soil, the U.S. should give you the means to fight so our servicemen and women don't have to.”

“The House Refuses to Abandon Ukraine,” Editorial Board, WSJ, 07.15.23.

  • “The House passed the annual defense policy bill on Friday…The House bill authorizes $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine, which Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene aimed to strip in an amendment. Her measure failed 341-89. Rep. Matt Gaetz tried to block all further military aid for Kyiv, which lost 358-70. A majority of Republicans joined Democrats in opposing both.”
  • “The GOP isolationists rail against ‘forever wars,’ but the real recipe for extended war is giving Ukraine only enough weapons to fight to a draw rather than to drive Russia out. That's been President Biden's strategy. Former Vice President Mike Pence had it right in our pages this week: The fastest route to peace is a Ukrainian victory.”

“Europe Is Pledging Ukraine Weapons It Can’t Make,” columnist Max Hastings, Bloomberg, 07.15.23.

  • “We inhabit an era when few Western governments can muster the political support to address meaningfully big, difficult issues, of which climate change is foremost, but defense and the rebuilding of crumbling infrastructure come close behind. In a world full of threats, among which China presents a far graver menace than Russia, we shall be profoundly foolish if we fail to retool our industries and rearm our militaries. Ukraine is a historic test of Western will and staying power. Not for the first time in history, the outcome of the struggle will be determined not only on battlefields, but also in the factories of the West.”

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

  • No significant developments.

Ukraine-related negotiations:

“Should America Push Ukraine to Negotiate With Russia?”, analysts Dmytro Natalukha, Alina Polyakova, Daniel Fried, Angela Stent and Samuel Charap discuss an argument written by the latter in June on Ukraine as an “unwinnable war,” FA, 07.13.23. Charap’s original article, "An Unwinnable War,” published by FA in June, can be viewed here.   

  • Dmytro Natalukha of the Parliament of Ukraine: “The conflict can be resolved permanently only when Ukraine and its neighbors feel safe from further Russian encroachment. This is why an armistice like the one that ended hostilities in Korea in 1953 cannot work for Ukraine. … Russia must make a fundamental change to both its domestic and foreign policies before returning to the community of responsible nations. First and foremost, the leaders of a post-Putin Russia would have to demilitarize the country, directing funds away from the army and toward desperately needed social services. In addition, they would have to curtail Russia’s state propaganda machine, which breeds hatred and hostility. As long as the Kremlin opposes the Western, transatlantic community to which Ukraine belongs, a lasting peace will remain impossible. For these reasons, the war will continue until Russia is defeated and Putin’s regime falls.”
  • Alina Polyakova of the Center for European Policy Analysis and Daniel Fried of the Atlantic Council: “A military stalemate is indeed possible. And at some point, negotiations with Russia will be needed to end this war. But Ukraine should start negotiating only when it is in the strongest possible position; it should not be rushed into talks when Russia shows no interest in any settlement terms other than Ukraine’s surrender. Starting negotiations now would mean accepting Putin’s maximalist terms. …If and when negotiations take place, they must be accompanied by security arrangements for Ukraine that would prevent Russia from regrouping and launching another attack.”
  • Angela Stent of Brookings: “Sixteen months of war in Europe have not forged an unconditional anti-Putin coalition. Yet a unified Western policy on Putin, or rather on the need for his removal, is essential for marshalling the material support Ukraine needs to win a decisive victory on the battlefield. The sooner Western governments reach a consensus on Putin—as they did on Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Bashar al-Assad in Syria—the sooner Ukraine will be able to destroy Russia’s invading forces and bring the war to an end… unified Western policy on Putin is crucial. If the goal is to prevent Russia from threatening democracies around the world, allowing it to reach an armistice with Ukraine won’t do much good. Ukraine and its allies must aim to make Russia less anti-Western.” Regardless of what happens at the negotiating table, therefore, Putin cannot remain in power.
  • Samuel Charap of RAND, responding to the above: “My critics seem to see diplomacy as a synonym for surrender rather than as an important tool of statecraft. … All three critiques of my article dispute the applicability of one or another of the historical comparisons I made to past cases of U.S. conflict diplomacy, be it the Korean armistice, U.S.-Israeli security arrangements, or the Bosnia Contact Group. The circumstances of the Russian-Ukrainian war are unique; no historical analogy is perfect. But these examples teach important lessons and demonstrate that U.S. diplomacy has helped bring bloody conflicts to negotiated ends in the past, even as fighting still raged and even when it seemed as if there would be no way to stop it.”

“Western Capitals Must Keep Lines Open to Moscow,” foreign editor Alec Russel, FT, 07.17.23.

  • “Whether there is a Russian rout or a stalemate, as increasingly Ukraine’s backers fear is the most likely scenario, at some stage negotiations are all but inevitable, and the more contacts there are in advance the better.”
  • “The uncertain terrain of Russian politics makes this all the more imperative. Given the bloodbath he presides over, Putin’s opponents are understandably affronted by the argument that we should be wary of a post-Putin order lest his successor is worse. Of course, ideally for the west a Russia would emerge freed from Putin’s kleptocracy. But there are also real concerns about what might happen in the event of a dissolution of his regime. On the minds of western officials is how a collapse of the Russian state could lead to mayhem akin to the collapse of Yugoslavia.”
  • “The west needs to let Moscow know how serious we are in our resolve. It also needs to work out who to talk to and who to trust.”

“After the plenary session of the Future Technologies Forum, Vladimir Putin replied to questions from the media,” Russian President Vladimir Putin,, 07.13.23. Clues from Russian views.

  • “As for Ukraine’s NATO membership, as we have said many times, this obviously creates a threat to Russia’s security. In fact, the threat of Ukraine’s accession to NATO is the reason, or rather one of the reasons for the special military operation.”
  • “With regard to security, we have said many times that all countries have the right to ensure their own security and to choose the path to get there which it believes is the best for it. There is only one limitation related to the fact that while striving to achieve the security of one country, the security of another country must not be jeopardized. Therefore, we operate on the assumption that this principle, which has been repeatedly expressed in various international documents, will be taken into account. Without a doubt, Ukraine has the right to ensure its security.”
  • “By the way, the draft document that I mentioned several times, namely the draft agreement between Russia and Ukraine which was put together in Istanbul and then tossed out by the Ukrainian regime, set out in detail matters related to ensuring Ukraine’s security. We needed more time to see whether we agreed with what it said, but I think that document was acceptable overall. Therefore, we see nothing unusual in what NATO and the G7 have announced, and we are not against discussing issues like this. Again, this can only be done if the Russian Federation’s security is provided for in full.”

Time permitting, also skim: “A Misguided Papal Mission in Moscow,” George Weigel of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, WSJ, 07.14.23.

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

“Ukraine-NATO Primer: Membership Options Following the 2023 Annual Summit,” Harvard’s Eric Rosenbach, Grace Jones and Olivia Leiwant, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 07.14.23.

  • “Ukraine isn’t the only actor that seeks to benefit from NATO membership: the NATO alliance could benefit as well. Ukraine is leading the way in tactics for conventional warfare, as well as employing emerging technology such as drones and AI on the battlefield. As the U.S. plans for a possible confrontation with China over Taiwan, the West can learn from the largest conventional attack since WWII. Furthermore, NATO can capitalize on its investment in Ukraine’s army and fortify its eastern flank. Military aid to Ukraine wouldn’t be going to an Ally, but to the alliance itself.”
  • “Beyond the borders of Europe, Ukrainian membership in NATO would likely send a geopolitical message that the West stands strongly for a rules-based international order.”
  • “If NATO cannot agree on a timeline for Ukrainian membership, some argue for an ‘Israel Model’ for Ukraine. This model of partnership mirrors the U.S.-Israel relationship by prioritizing arms, training, and military support, along with security assurances. Rather than a formal NATO treaty, this proposal would rely on more ambiguous, non-legally binding agreements. The U.S. has provided written security assurances to Israel, and NATO member states could provide either bilateral or multilateral security assurances to Ukraine. The model is not without risks, but is more politically feasible in the short-term than full NATO membership.”
  • “During the Vilnius Summit, Ukraine's Allies signaled their intention to offer long-term security assurances and confirmed that Ukraine will eventually be a member of NATO. President Biden further announced, ‘the members of the G7 are launching a joint declaration of support for Ukraine … [we’re] going to help Ukraine build a strong, capable defense across land, air and sea, which will be a force of stability in the region and deter against any and all threats.’ Additionally, bilateral aid will continue to flow from most NATO nations to Ukraine, and future bilateral security commitments will enhance security assurances.”
  • “With an upgraded NATO-Ukraine Council and a promise Ukraine will not have to execute a MAP, Ukraine’s NATO membership seems inevitable. Without a timeline for accession or a clear end to Russia’s invasion in sight, however, it is highly uncertain when Ukraine will join the alliance.”

“A Modern Maginot Line Is the Last Thing NATO Needs,” Anja Manuel of the Aspen Security Forum, FT, 07.13.23.

  • “In the run-up to the second world war, France built vast, expensive fortifications along its border with Germany, which became known as the Maginot Line… NATO militaries are dangerously close to replicating such failures today.”
  • “Two issues stand out.”
    • “First, expensive precision missiles and other military hardware can be defeated fairly easily.”
    • “Second, inexpensive, easy to replace commercial technologies have proved themselves to be an essential part of Kyiv’s war effort.”
  • “The US and its allies are so far making few efforts to acquire inexpensive, commercially available technologies such as modified drones, or to make communications satellites harder to defeat. They are stymied in part by lobbying from traditional defense contractors, which has resulted in overspending on kit which takes years to build and quickly becomes defunct.”
  • “This week in Vilnius, NATO members reaffirmed their commitment to defending each other, modernizing their forces and achieving the 2% defense spending pledge. The worst outcome would be to invest those funds in a modern Maginot line of expensive, vulnerable defenses. We must learn from Kyiv, and spend better.”

“The NATO Vilnius Summit: Bucharest 2.0?” research fellow Ed Arnold, RUSI, 07.13.23.

  • “The Vilnius Summit communique is unequivocal in stating that ‘Ukraine’s future is in NATO.’ Yet this declaration is essentially the extant policy from the 2008 Bucharest Summit: that Ukraine (and Georgia) ‘will become members of NATO.’ The ‘substantial package’ offered to Ukraine has three strands. First, the development of the Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP) into a multi-year program to support Ukraine’s NATO transition. Second, the establishment of a NATO-Ukraine Council as a consultative and decision-making forum between equals, and to support integration with NATO. Third, removing the requirement for a Membership Action Plan (MAP) – making accession a one-step process. However, this package is less substantial than it appears for three reasons.”
  • “Ukraine’s desired outcome from Vilnius was a definitive timeline and process. Instead, NATO declared that ‘We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met.’”
  • “Too much focus at Vilnius was placed on what NATO can do for Ukraine, rather than the value Ukraine offers to NATO. The latter comes in three aspects.”
    • “First, as a result of the war, the Ukrainian Armed Forces will likely be one of the largest, most modernized and battle-hardened militaries in Europe, possessing a unique and valuable skill – experience of engaging and destroying Russian forces.”
    • “Second, Ukraine’s 2,295-km border with Russia would effectively dilute the force concentrations that Russia could muster on NATO borders, as they would have to disperse across a much wider frontage.”
    • “Third, considering the ambitions of the NATO New Force Model – 800,000 troops at varying levels of readiness – and US security interests in the Indo-Pacific, Europeans will have to significantly increase their material contributions to the Alliance.”
  • “Next year’s Washington Summit will also be the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Washington Treaty, and the significance will be accentuated by the 2024 US presidential election campaign being in full swing. Ukrainian membership of NATO is likely to dominate that Summit, too, and NATO needs to be better prepared.”

“NATO Isn't What It Says It Is,” historian Grey Anderson and writer Thomas Meaney, WP, 07.11.23.

  • “NATO, from its origins, was never primarily concerned with aggregating military power. Fielding 100 divisions at its Cold War height, a small fraction of Warsaw Pact manpower, the organization could not be counted on to repel a Soviet invasion and even the continent's nuclear weapons were under Washington's control. Rather, it set out to bind Western Europe to a far vaster project of a U.S.-led world order, in which American protection served as a lever to obtain concessions on other issues, like trade and monetary policy. In that mission, it has proved remarkably successful.”
  • “Many observers expected NATO to close shop after the collapse of its Cold War rival. But in the decade after 1989, the organization truly came into its own. NATO acted as a ratings agency for the European Union in Eastern Europe, declaring countries secure for development and investment.”
  • “In the realm of defense, the alliance was not as advertised. For decades, the United States has been the chief provider of weapons, logistics, air bases and battle plans. The war in Ukraine, for all the talk of Europe stepping up, has left that asymmetry essentially untouched…The alliance, paradoxically, appears to have weakened allies' ability to defend themselves. Yet the paradox is only superficial. In fact, NATO is working exactly as it was designed by postwar U.S. planners, drawing Europe into a dependency on American power that reduces its room for maneuver. Far from a costly charity program, NATO secures American influence in Europe on the cheap.”
  • “Atlanticists fret over support for the organization being undermined by disinformation and cybermeddling. They needn't worry. Contested throughout the Cold War, NATO remained a subject of controversy into the 1990s, when the disappearance of its adversary encouraged thoughts of a new European security architecture. Today, dissent is less audible than ever before. Left parties in Europe, historically critical of militarism and American power, have overwhelmingly enlisted in the defense of the West.”
  • “The most successful alliance in history, gathering in celebration of itself, need not wait for its 75th anniversary next year to uncork the champagne.”

“This Isn't Your Father's NATO,” Tod Lindberg of the Hudson Institute, WSJ, 07.10.23.

  • “After 9/11, the Vilnius Group of NATO aspirants in Central and Eastern Europe declared themselves allies in fact, if not yet by treaty: They said they regarded the attack on the U.S. as an attack on themselves. It was the right thing to do diplomatically, and it exposed them to additional risk in a world whose future looked suddenly uncertain.”
  • “Ukraine, however, has established that it will fight. Not only in self-defense but also for its European aspirations and, by extension, for Europe, its trans-Atlantic partners, and the values they share. Ukraine is already one of NATO's sharpest teeth in a collective defense arrangement that extends from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. We just need to complete the paperwork.”

“NATO caution on Ukraine risks emboldening Moscow,” Editorial Board, FT, 07.11.23.

  • “US caution over Kyiv’s NATO membership hints at the limits of America’s readiness to continue to underwrite Europe’s security, nearly 75 years after the alliance’s foundation. Russia’s aggression underlines the need for Europe’s democracies to sharply raise levels of defense spending that are still far short of those in the US — and to take far greater responsibility for defending their own continent, including Ukraine.”

“Ukraine: The Empire Strikes Back. In the Debate Over NATO Expansion, the Fate of Ukraine Is Something of an Afterthought,” the Quincy Institute’s Andrew J. Bacevich, American Conservative, 07.14.23.

  • “President Biden is fond of saying that the world has arrived at an ‘inflection point,’ implying the need to change directions. Yet the overarching theme of his approach to foreign policy is stasis. He clings to the geopolitical logic that prompted NATO’s founding in 1949.”
  • “Back then, when Europe was weak and Stalin ruled the Soviet Union, that logic may have possessed some merit. But today the importance attributed to NATO testifies chiefly to the bankruptcy of American strategic thought and an inability to prioritize actually existing U.S. national interests, both foreign and domestic.”
  • “A sound revision of U.S. national security strategy would begin with announcing a timeline for withdrawing from NATO, converting it into an arrangement wholly owned and operated by Europe. The near impossibility of even imagining such an action by the United States testifies to the dearth of imagination that prevails in Washington.”

“NATO Summit: West Has Not Dared to Do Either This or That,” analyst Yuri Fyodorov, Important Stories, 07.13.23. Clues from Russian views.

  • “The absence of clear commitments regarding the admission of Ukraine to NATO, whatever the reason for it, actually means: the United States and countries that support the American position do not want to irritate the Kremlin. There, in turn, this is perceived as proof of the weakness of the West. And if so, then the Russian powers that be will use this weakness to try to impose their conditions on ending the war on both NATO and Ukraine.”
  • “And one more thing: the clear unwillingness of Washington and Berlin to risk their security for the sake of the fastest possible end to the war on Ukraine’s terms will sooner or later cause doubts in the front-line states that the leading NATO countries, in the event of a Russian attack, will fulfill the obligations arising from Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. And then the natural reaction of these states will be to resort to the formula ‘saving the drowning is the work of the drowning themselves.’ Then, in addition to NATO, a military-political structure may well be created, the center of which will be the union of Poland and Ukraine. This will be one of those ‘tectonic shifts’ in the European security system that the United States is trying to avoid.”

“What Ukraine Can Learn From the 'Israel Model,’” columnist Jason Willick, WP, 07.16.23.

  • “As NATO punts on the question of Ukrainian membership, the ‘Israel model’ is gaining currency in Washington as a way to think about Ukraine's long-term defense.”
  • “While international institutions and the European Union have rallied to Ukraine in its time of peril, Israel's long-term experience shows that the West can't always be depended on. Even as the Biden administration touts the Israel model for Ukraine, it is embroiled in a diplomatic feud with Israel over its right-wing government. And if Donald Trump wins the 2024 presidential election, U.S. policy on Ukraine could change.”
  • “One advantage of the Israel model, for decision-makers in Jerusalem, is that they have more freedom to make their own foreign policy decisions than U.S. allies with formal treaties.”
  • “One key difference, of course, is nuclear weapons. While Israel has nuclear weapons and (for now) its regional rivals don't, Ukraine is a nonnuclear state under invasion by a major nuclear power.”
  • “The West has calculated that the risk of war with Russia is too great to outline when and how Kyiv can join NATO. The Israel model, broadly defined, is the path of least resistance. But just as the West sometimes tries to restrain Israel — both in its conflict with the Palestinians and in its showdown with Iran — it might also end up trying to restrain an insecure Kyiv amid a volatile security situation that will last for years. If the Israel model is a workable strategy for Ukraine, the West should be clear-eyed about what it means.”

“The Cold War Trap, How the Memory of America’s Era of Dominance Stunts U.S. Foreign Policy,” University of Virginia Ph.D. candidate Justin Winokur, FA, 07.13.23.

  • “Cold War history has become a straitjacket constraining how Americans perceive the world. Whether they accept or reject the analogy, virtually everyone in U.S. foreign policy circles takes the Cold War as their reference point for world affairs.”
  • “The incongruence between today’s realities and the history of the Cold War has stunted the search for a new American strategy. Washington will soon face a multipolar world for the first time since World War II. Yet Americans remain captured by ideas from a vanishing era when their power reigned supreme.”
    • “To take just one key metric, Harvard’s Avoiding Great Power War Project has shown that the U.S. share of global GDP — a foundation of national power — declined from 50 percent after World War II, to around 20 percent in 1991, to less than 17 percent today.”
  • “There is only one way to escape the unhelpful Cold War framework: study more history. For Americans to think clearly about their approach to a multipolar world, they must learn about states that have navigated multipolar orders in the past. …These histories can help sensitize Americans to a different way of seeing the world: one based on tolerable tradeoffs, not intransigence; on the difficult prioritization of goals, not total victory; on practical policy, not zealotry; on the integration of military and economic power with diplomacy, not brute force; and on coexistence with people whom Americans can neither change nor ignore.”

“The Old Consensus on U.S. Foreign Policy Is Dead,” columnist Fareed Zakaria, WP, 07.15.23.

  • “Today, as Russia wages a brutal war in Europe that seems a throwback to World War II, there is deep division in America about staunchly opposing that aggression.”
    • “According to a recent Gallup poll, 79 percent of Democrats want to help Ukraine regain lost territory, even if that means prolonging the conflict. By contrast, 49 percent of Republicans would like to end the conflict quickly — even if that means letting the Russians hold on to the territories they have acquired by force.”
    • “On NATO, Democrats approve of it by a wide margin, 76 percent to 22 percent, while Republicans are split, with 49 percent approving and the same number disapproving, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March.”
    • “On the broader issue of engagement with the world, 60 percent of Democrats in the same poll said they believe that ‘it's best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs,’ while only 39 percent agreed that ‘we should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems here at home.’ For Republicans those numbers are essentially reversed, with 71 percent wanting to focus at home and just 29 percent believing in an active world role for the United States.”
  • “The Republican Party might be returning to its roots. It bitterly opposed the United States' entry into World War II (until Pearl Harbor). Even after the war, many Republicans opposed NATO and U.S. engagement with the world — even though they were strong anti-communists. (Then, as now, they claimed to want to focus on China.) Dwight D. Eisenhower offered not to run against Sen. Robert A. Taft (the leading Republican of his day) if Taft would endorse NATO. Taft refused, so Eisenhower ran to preserve the United States' engagement with the world and the international peace and stability that it brought. Alas, there is no Eisenhower to redirect the Republican Party today, and the stakes are as high as they were in 1952, if not higher.”
  • “As we look around the world, we see that the single biggest risk to the international order may lie not in the killing fields of Ukraine or across the Taiwan Strait, but rather on the campaign trail in the United States.”

“Republican Party’s Divisions Over Ukraine on Show at Testy Iowa Summit,” correspondent Lauren Fedor, FT, 07.16.23.

  • “Mike Pence was booed by an audience of some 2,000 evangelical Christians in Iowa after the former US vice-president said ‘I believe that it is in the interest of the United States of America to continue to give the Ukrainian military the resources that they need to repel the Russian invasion and restore their sovereignty.’ The audience’s reaction to Pence, who is challenging Donald Trump for the party’s presidential nomination in 2024, underscored the sharp split among Republicans over military support for Kyiv. That divide has cast doubt on whether Congress will approve more aid for Ukraine later this year.”
  • “The Iowa evangelical conference crowd cheered as Ted Carlson told Pence: ‘Your concern is that the Ukrainians, a country most people can’t find on a map, who have received tens of billions of US tax dollars, don’t have enough tanks? I think it’s a fair question to ask, like, where is the concern for the United States here?’”
  • “Tim Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina, also made the case for more military aid at Friday’s summit.”
  • “Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who is polling a distant second behind Trump among Republican voters, has sought to carve out his own position on Ukraine. On Friday, DeSantis told Carlson: ‘My critique of the DC foreign policy elite is that they are doing a blank cheque policy without telling us when we will have achieved our objective. … I’ve always thought Putin is a bad guy. I still think he’s a bad guy. But that’s a separate question . . . you have to make a judgment about what’s in America’s national interests.’”
  • “Vivek Ramaswamy, the biotech entrepreneur and fund manager who launched his long-shot presidential run on Carlson’s now cancelled Fox News show, pitched a more radical position on Ukraine at Friday’s conference. He said he could end the war by convincing Kyiv to cede part of the Donbas region to Russia in exchange for Moscow breaking ties with Beijing, and a US commitment to block Ukraine from joining NATO.”

“Biden Says Democracy Is Winning. It's Not That Simple,” the Hoover Institution’s Niall Ferguson, Bloomberg, 07.16.23.

  • “Is democracy on a roll? You would think so if you listened to President Joe Biden’s speech at last week’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. … But what if democracy, far from being ascendant, is really in retreat? Each year, the nonprofit Freedom House publishes its Freedom in the World report. The latest edition states that ‘global freedom declined for the 17th consecutive year’ in 2022. … So which is it?”
  • “Democracy is not in recession. The invasion of Ukraine has elicited real democratic unity. The response to the challenge posed by China is weaker, but it is real. The idea of a global descent into illiberal democracy or electoral autocracy is exaggerated by dubious statistics.”
  • “But the future of democracy hinges, as it always has, on how far voters in the most important democracy are willing to vote their rights away. And the mechanisms to persuade them to do so have never been more powerful. Democracy is on a roll. The question is whether it is rolling toward a cliff edge. We shall find out in less than 16 months.”

“Europe Keeps Acting Like It Can’t Defend Itself Against Russia,” Rajan Menon of Defense Priorities and Columbia University, NYT, 07.14.23.

  • The Russian Army is no paper tiger. But the right lesson to be taken from the war in Ukraine is that Europeans are fully capable of assuming the principal responsibility for defending themselves. That’s something they ought to do out of sheer self-interest. Like it or not, the focus of the U.S. military will be increasingly focused on the Asia-Pacific as this century advances. America’s European allies have already agreed to play a larger role in Asia-Pacific security to help Washington counter Beijing’s growing power. They should focus instead on defending their own continent. Europe should ditch the decades-long discussions with the United States over better burden sharing and get serious about burden shifting.”

“The West Must Recognize its Hypocrisy,” commentator Martin Wolf, FT, 07.11.23

  • “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a dreadful violation of fundamental moral and legal principles. Many in developing countries also recognize this. But they remember, too, the long history of western countries as imperialists and invaders. Nor do they fail to realize that we care far more about fellow Europeans than about others. Too often, we have viewed grave violations of human rights and international law. Too often, we have viewed such injustices as no concern of ours. Ukraine, many feel, is no concern of theirs.”
  • “Then there is trade. In an important speech delivered in April, Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, repudiated the trading order his country had taken decades to build. More recently, US trade representative Katherine Tai buried it. Her speech raises many issues. Yet what cannot be ignored is the very fact of the volte-face. Many in developing countries bought into the doctrine of trade openness. Many of them prospered as a result. Now they fear they are left high and dry.”
  • “Yet another significant issue is international assistance. Developing countries have been buffeted by a series of shocks for which they were not responsible: Covid, the subsequent sharp rise in inflation, the invasion of Ukraine, the jump in prices of energy and food and then the higher interest rates. The assistance they have received during this era of shocks has been grossly inadequate.”
  • “This question of development assistance links with the challenge of climate. As everyone in developing countries knows, the reason the climate problem is now urgent is the historic emissions of high-income countries.”
  • “We are in a competition of systems. I hope that democracy and individual freedom do ultimately win. In the long run, they have a good chance of doing so. Nevertheless, we must also remember the threats we now confront to peace, prosperity and planet. Tackling these will require deep engagement with China. But if the west is to have the influence it hopes for, it must realize that its claims to moral superiority are neither unchallengeable nor unchallenged. Many in our world view the western powers as selfish, self-satisfied and hypocritical. They are not altogether wrong. We must do far better.”

Time permitting, also skim:

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“China Intensifies Russia Military Drills Amid US Sanctions,” journalist Kari Soo Lindberg, Bloomberg, 07.17.23.

  • “China and the armed forces of Vladimir Putin conducted six joint military exercises together last year, the most in data going back two decades. That accounted for two-thirds of all China’s drills with foreign militaries in 2022, according to data compiled by the US National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs. Five of the exercises took place after Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, the data shows. Four of them were bilateral, while two were held with US adversaries including Iran and Syria.”
  • “On Saturday, China said Russia will soon send its naval and air forces to participate in an annual joint exercise taking place in middle of the Sea of Japan. The People’s Liberation Army said the drill aims to enhance strategic coordination between the two militaries. ‘It sends a signal to all observing, including the US, that this is a relationship that is significant and is growing,’ said Andrew Taffer, a research fellow at the NDU’s Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs. ‘It suggests the possibility that they might work together militarily in ways that undermine US and allied interests.’”

“Preparing for Great Power Conflict: How Experience Shapes U.S. and Chinese Military Training,” analysts Mark Cozad, Keith Gierlack, Cortez A. Cooper III, Susan G. Straus, Sale Lilly, Stephanie Anne Pillion, Kelly Elizabeth Eusebi, RAND, July 2023.

  • “The PLA gains experience through a structured process involving observation of wars and the study of military science, concept development, experimentation, demonstration, and implementation and training across the force.”
  • “The U.S. military has an experiential model based on direct combat, but indirect experimentation figures more prominently as the global threat picture changes to include more near-peer adversaries.”
  • “The nature of both militaries' experiences since 2001 raises questions about preparations for major power conflict and whether the training component of those preparations will be sufficient for operational success.”
  • “China has an advantage in the focus it applies to concepts and capabilities needed to deter, delay, or defeat a U.S. force entering China's neighborhood. China might have the means to make such intervention prohibitively costly, putting U.S. forces into reactive mode.”
  • “The U.S. military has advantages in adaptive and innovative capacity. Ultimately, one of the most significant and enduring advantages enjoyed by the U.S. military has been the quality of its training and the ability to update that training to meet changing conditions and threats.”
  • “Time is an advantage for the United States when it comes to conceptual and functional change in preparing for major power conflict. The PLA's focus on preparing to fight the United States involves massive revisions to the PLA's command culture in an environment already fraught with changing priorities.”
  • “Training and exercise approaches, tools, and infrastructure needed for PLA joint operations are improving but nascent in the absence of experiential pressures like those faced by the United States.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“Russia's Nukes After Putin,” former acting U.S. director of national intelligence (2009-2010) David C. Gompert, WSJ, 07.12.23.

  • “The mutiny of Yevgeny Prigozhin's Wagner militia prompted the U.S. government to assess the risk that the Russian military might lose control of its nuclear weapons. While prudent, this immediate concern barely touches the grave nuclear dangers the world would face in the event of Vladimir Putin's collapse or removal. To be sure, Washington shouldn't hope for Mr. Putin's survival — he belongs at a war-crimes trial in the Hague — but the fate of Russia's arsenal should give pause to those who favor or predict his demise.”
  • “There is no chance of a presidential agreement on control of nuclear weapons. After all, Mr. Putin is a wanted man. Because its conventional military capabilities are weak, Russia is becoming more dependent on its nuclear weapons while shedding established arms-control restrictions. Any attempt by the U.S. to engage the Russian government on control of nuclear weapons could be rebuffed and risk sucking Washington into the quagmire of Russian politics.”
  • “What to do? Though dialogue between U.S. and Russian military leaders on incidents involving drones fell flat, there is no topic more crucial between top officers on both sides than the security of nuclear weapons and integrity of command and control systems. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin should approach Mr. Shoigu about this. The U.S. side would have every interest in keeping such dialogues low-key, but the intensity could be dialed up if conditions change.”
  • “An alternative path would be for the two governments to allow a quasi-official conversation to proceed. Retired senior officers and officials could be chosen and agreed to by both sides to review procedures for ensuring firm control of nuclear weapons despite political change in both countries. One way or another, Washington needs a plan to build confidence that control of Russian nuclear weapons is never in doubt.”

“Prigozhin’s Failed Coup Was a Blessing in Disguise,” Christopher Clary of SUNY Albany, and Joshua Shifrinson of the University of Maryland, FP, 07.12.23.

  • “The United States likely dodged a bullet when this uprising [by Prigozhin] failed to topple Russian President Vladimir Putin. Though a weakened Russia might struggle to sustain its operations in Ukraine, political turmoil in a nuclear-armed state has historically given Washington good cause for hand-wringing, sparking fears about the stability and security of foreign nuclear arsenals. And even though Russia takes considerable steps to secure that arsenal in peacetime, the sheer size of its nuclear weapon and fissile material stockpile leaves it open to major risks.”
  • “A Russian domestic implosion might be good for Ukraine’s battlefield success but deeply injurious to other U.S. interests. Ironically, and for all that Washington has done thus far to support Ukraine, the closer Russia comes to a political collapse, the more likely Washington might be to step back from its efforts to punish Putin’s regime. Otherwise, it risks having to deal with instability and a new, potentially more reckless Russian leader with his finger on the nuclear button — or, even worse, more than one Russian leader. When Baker considered such dangers in 1991, he feared ‘an extraordinarily dangerous situation for Europe and for the rest of the world — indeed, for the United States.’ For all the promise that domestic Russian instability may hold for battlefield progress in Ukraine, it risks opening the door to such extraordinary dangers again.”

“On Calls for Unleashing a Nuclear War,” by 28 members of Russia’s Council for Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP), including leading experts Alexei Arbatov, Pavel Zolotarev, Vladimir Lukin and Anatoly Adamishin, SVOP, 07.13.23.[1] . Clues from Russian views.

  • “Recently there have been speeches and statements, including those made by number of SVOP members, in which … the idea of a preventive nuclear strike by Russia is being promoted in the event military operations in Ukraine and adjacent territories follow a scenario which is negative [for Russia]. Moreover, the authors of these speeches and statements do not limit their flight of fantasy to use of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Ukraine. They also propose to strike main NATO countries.”
  • “Hoping that a limited nuclear conflict can be managed and prevented from escalating into a global nuclear war constitutes the height of irresponsibility. This means that annihilation of tens and perhaps even hundreds of millions of people in Russia, Europe, China, the USA, and other countries are at stake. This is a direct threat to humanity in general. For our country … this would also mean the prospect of losing sovereignty under the pressure by the surviving peoples of the South.”
  • “This is not only a direct threat to all mankind, but also a very specific proposal to kill everyone who is dear to us and whom we love. We, the members of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, consider such proposals absolutely unacceptable and unreservedly condemn them. No one should ever blackmail humanity with the threat of using nuclear weapons or, what’s more, issue the order to use them in combat.”

“A Controlled Burn or Go to Rack and Ruin,” Sergei Karaganov of SVOP, interviewed for Argumenty i Fakty, 07.12.23. Clues from Russian views.

  • “[Re: his earlier calls for Russia to use nuclear weapons first] I am trying to wake up a sense of self-preservation in people, primarily in the West, so that they and we stop hiding our heads in the sand and assess the situation soberly. I hope that just by making such a threat, without using nuclear weapons, but moving up the ladder of deterrence and escalation, we will be able to bring Western elites, who are going out of their mind because of their recent defeats, to their senses, and that they will consequently stop their aggressive policies, roll back, and start dealing with their own problems at last…I’m not calling for a nuclear Armageddon. My idea is to encourage humankind and pacifists like you to abandon what I call ‘strategic parasitism.’ You have become used to peace and forget that pacifists live only because soldiers fight and die for them. Complacence will push us farther towards World War III.”
  • “I think we have thoughtlessly and even irresponsibly raised the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. You can take this as my criticism of the official doctrine. Secondly, at this point, I do not expect the country’s leadership to make immediate changes to the official position. My purpose was to initiate a discussion and bring it into the open so that this fact alone would strengthen our nuclear deterrence.”
  • “[With regard to recent coverage by coverage by FT that claimed Xi Jinping had warned Vladimir Putin against nuclear attack]: “I’m sure this FT publication is a complete fake. True, China opposes the use of nuclear weapons, and it has its own reasons for that. But even if Xi Jinping raised this issue at a meeting with Vladimir Putin, no one could have known about it, especially in the West, because it was a one-on-one conversation.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • No significant developments.

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

“Russia’s War Comes for Academia,” FP fellow Clara Gutman-Argemí, FP, 07.10.23.

  • “Before the war, Ivan Grek would take the train to the provinces bordering Russia and Ukraine. Researching Russia’s remembrance of its past wars, he would stop in small towns to visit friends of colleagues from the United States. The climate of cultural and academic exchange was a ‘fun time,’ recalled Grek, who was educated in St. Petersburg, Russia, and completed his Ph.D. at American University in Washington.”
  • “Those borderlands are now a minefield, thousands of miles away from the muggy parks of Foggy Bottom, where Grek currently works as the director of George Washington University’s Russia program. But out of sight is not out of mind. ‘Russia will still be there,’ he said. Despite mounting challenges to studying Russia, including the war, university boycotts, and broken-down academic exchanges, it is still the same riddle wrapped inside a mystery.”
  • “Unfortunately for Washington, ‘both the U.S. government and the Russian government know less about Russian society than they did before the war,’ Timothy Frye said. ‘I would love to know what’s going on in Russian politics right now. Do I have a great way to study it? Not really.’ For Grek, academic breakdown breeds bad policymaking. ‘If you misunderstand and misinterpret what’s going on in Russia and push the wrong buttons, we can get closer to the third world war.’”
  • “Expertise in regional areas is key, and ignorance leads to missteps. At GW’s Russia program, Grek and his colleagues are looking for workarounds. Online databases and social media offer a stand-in for talking to actual Russians. It’s not ideal. ‘I have a small dream,’ Grek said. ‘I hope that one day there will be a world where we can reengage with Western scholars, Russian scholars, and Ukrainian scholars as we did before.’”


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

"Russia Looks to Economic Redistribution to Shore Up the Regime,” political analyst Ekaterina Kurbangaleeva, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Clues from Russian views.

  • “There is an unprecedented turnover of heavily discounted assets in Russia today, from those belonging to the state to those relinquished or otherwise lost by foreign companies and Russian businesspeople.”
  • “What can the authorities do? The answer is clear: acquire the abandoned assets at the maximum discount, then redistribute them in such a way as befits their industry. Financial firms, natural resources, and other energy companies will be absorbed by state banks and companies in a kind of quasi-nationalization or pseudo-privatization that Russia has perfected over time.”
  • “Nonstrategic assets, such as in retail, will be redistributed among the nouveau riche and the upper middle class… Public servants, including representatives of the security state, may also get in on the action, having enriched themselves through petty corruption, though they will be sure to involve themselves strictly through proxies.”
  • “All this may combine to shore up Putin’s regime. Russia’s social structure had started to resemble an hourglass as the middle class contracted and emigrated. Now that same middle class may also be able to benefit from the country’s current direction, turning a structure that looked like it might break in half at any minute into a far more stable trapezoid shape.”
  • “The middle layer of Russia’s social structure will be shaped by the redistribution of assets among those well-off Russians forced to focus on the domestic market by international sanctions. In return for their loyalty, they will receive high-quality assets at a significant discount, which may turn them into a pillar of the regime and a source of patriotic optimism and even radicalism. There could even be a ‘people’s privatization,’ in which the wealthy are awarded minority stakes in state companies.”
  • “Much will depend on the avoidance of catastrophe on the Ukrainian front, the continued apathy of the public sector, and the success of Russia’s pivot to Asia. Yet the effect could be to extend the regime’s lifespan — and it may well even enable a transition of power down the road.”

“There Is Now a ‘Collective Putin’ in the Kremlin,” contributing editor Ivan Krastev, FT, 07.12.23.

  • “What has changed? Primarily, the relationship between Putin and the Russian elites. He now fears them no less than they fear him. He fears less their voice than their exit. Many of his closest collaborators blame him personally for the current state of affairs. It was Putin’s decision to instrumentalize the competition between Wagner and the defense ministry that ultimately led to Wagner’s march towards Moscow.”
  • “Prigozhin’s mutiny has revealed the central contradiction of Putin’s personnel politics. To win the war, Putin needs ambitious, ruthless leaders like Wagner’s boss. However, to secure his power and guarantee the unity of the elites, he needs to rely on uncharismatic figures such as defense minister Sergei Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff. The fear of the ‘Zhukov effect’ — the emergence of a popular general like Georgy Zhukov, the Soviet commander who captured Nazi Berlin — explains why Prigozhin had to go. The public could view such a figure as an alternative to Putin.”
  • “Stability has trumped the need for more effective leadership. Now, following the Wagner mutiny, Putin faces a tricky choice. He can hardly dismiss Russia’s military leadership without acknowledging that Prigozhin was right. But he can hardly win the war with this leadership. The Wagner insurrection has strengthened the ‘collective Putin.’”
  • “It would be wishful thinking to view Prigozhin’s march on Moscow as a precursor to the end of Putin’s regime. It would also be a mistake to neglect its importance. What it signals is a shift of power from Putin the tsar to the collective Putin.”

“How to Break a Country,” columnist Nicholas Kristof, NYT, 07.15.23.

  • The fundamental truth is that Putin has weakened Russia. It appears to be in a long-term economic and demographic decline that Putin has accelerated. Russia’s only claim to relevance is its nuclear arsenal; as a saying goes, it is ‘Burkina Faso with nukes.’”
  • “Driving through the countries that Moscow once ruled, through societies now united against him, I’m ready to bet that Putin will not be remembered as a modern Peter the Great. Rather, he will go down in history as the leader who broke his country: Vladimir the Lilliputian.”

“A Murder at the Kremlin Walls: Who Ordered Boris Nemtsov Dead?”, Editorial Board, WP, 07.16.23.

  • “In the days before Vladimir Putin's presidency, when Russia sought to become a democracy, Boris Nemtsov was a rising star. … On Feb. 27, 2015, Nemtsov was murdered just outside the Kremlin walls.”
  • “Who ordered the killing, and why? Nemtsov was an unremitting critic of Mr. Putin's autocracy, of the 2014 seizure of Crimea, of the war against Ukraine in Donbas, of the corruption swirling around the Kremlin leader and of the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who pledges loyalty to Mr. Putin and had once sent death threats to Nemtsov.”
  • “Nemtsov's daughter, Zhanna Borisovna Nemtsova, filed a complaint to the European court in 2015, claiming that the Russian authorities didn't go far enough in the investigation. The court's decision, published last Tuesday, found that Russia ‘failed to conduct an adequate and effective investigation of Mr. Nemtsov's assassination’ and ‘failed to address a crucial aspect of the case,’ specifically, ‘who could have commissioned and organized the crime.’ Such a probe, it said, ‘must aim to go beyond the identification of a hitman.’”
  • “The Nemtsov murder preceded the latest Ukraine calamities, but it reflected the underlying decay of Mr. Putin's rule. If a more just Russian government ever takes power, it should properly honor Nemtsov's memory by discovering the truth about who ordered his assassination.”

“The Ruble’s Fall Points to Pain but Not Collapse,” journalist Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg, 07.12.23.

  • “Now, the ruble is at its lowest level since March 2022, and it doesn’t seem to have anywhere to go but down… The Russian currency has been in a marked decline since late 2022. It’s the third worst performer on Bloomberg’s extended list of major currencies so far this year, after the Argentine peso and the Turkish lira.”
  • “Contrary to the headlines that link the decline with the recent mutiny by caterer Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner mercenary army, the ruble’s decline has less to do with that short-lived upheaval than with the fundamentals of Russia’s peculiar wartime economy, a bastard mix of Cold War-era attempts at self-sufficiency and a need to maintain enough market freedom to avoid a collapse.”
  • “Thanks to the ingenuity of finance officials and entrepreneurs, Russia remains economically resilient and can fund its wartime budget, which in 2022 reached a rather underwhelming 4.4% of GDP, a level it is expected to maintain this year. The agility of private companies in restructuring their supply chains and the strong labor market shouldn’t be underestimated — and since the fighting is only felt in a limited way in Russia’s border regions with Ukraine, most of the country still lives in a business-as-usual mode.”
  • “The budget pain, however, cannot be endured forever. According to ING Bank research, 42% of Russia’s population was dependent on government support in 2021. Prigozhin’s insurrection was met with indifference and passivity. But if poverty spreads among the budget-dependent, the next pretender to the throne may have better luck enlisting popular support.”

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:

 “Great-Power Competition and Conflict in Africa,” analysts Marta Kepe, Elina Treyger, Christian Curriden, Raphael S. Cohen, Kurt Klein, Ashley L. Rhoades, Erik Schuh, Nathan Vest, RAND, July 2023.

  • “Potential for competition in Africa is focused in the largest economies, countries with natural resources, and strategically important locations.”
  • “The United States remains a dominant aid donor and military actor in Africa, but China's and Russia's influence-seeking there is growing.”
  • “Great powers have limited motivations for involvement in military conflicts in Africa.”
  • “Great-power competition in Africa may not be a zero-sum game.”
  • “In some of the most-plausible conflict scenarios, the United States, China, and Russia are more likely to support the same actors rather than opposing sides.”
  • “Conflicts with great-power involvement in Africa are likely to involve distinct challenges of deconfliction, harassment, and behind-the-scenes political contests.”

“How to Tame the Russian Mercenaries Who Are Destabilizing Africa,” Editorial Board, WP, 07.17.23.

  • “Despite the uncertainty and confusion [about PMC Wagner’s future in Africa], a few things seem clear.”
    • “First, the Wagner Group remains a pernicious force on the continent, contrary to Russian claims that it is contributing to stability.”
    • “It appears the Kremlin wants to bring the Wagner operatives under more direct command and control. The mercenaries are being asked to sign contracts.”
  • “There might also be some rebranding, possibly changing the group's name or ousting some of its more notorious figures. But Russian mercenaries under a new name and new leadership are still a dangerous and destabilizing force — and must be held to account.”
  • “Biden administration should compete with Russia's aggressive maneuvering, as well as China's, for influence in Africa by focusing on what the United States does best — building the infrastructure of democracy. That takes time. But in the long term, it is the key to ending chronic instability and crippling poverty, reining in corruption and jump-starting economic development. Then leaders in fragile states will no longer have to rely on these modern-day ronin to stay in power.” 

“Trouble in Paradise? New Disputes Cloud Russia-Turkey Relations,” analyst Ruslan Suleymanov, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 07.17.23. Clues from Russian Views. 

  • “By shifting toward Kyiv, the Turkish president is essentially testing Moscow’s new red lines. How strongly is Russia willing to react in a situation when it is simultaneously fending off a Ukrainian counteroffensive and recovering from the uprising by the Wagner mercenaries?”
  • “The cautious reaction from the Kremlin showed that Russia is currently not in a position to escalate tensions with Turkey, which remains the only real mediator in Moscow’s relations with the West and Kyiv, as well as one of its key economic partners. Nor has Erdogan forgotten the support he received from Moscow during his electoral campaign (Moscow granted Ankara a $20 billion gas payment deferral, for example), their close economic ties, or the ability to exert pressure on NATO partners with Russia’s help. Accordingly, the two countries will continue to perform this delicate balancing act, avoiding serious escalations.”


“The EU Isn’t Ready for Ukraine to Join,” CSIS’ Ilke Toygür, and Max Bergmann, FP, 07.16.23.

  • “At least NATO is being honest in signaling that there are still obstacles [that Ukraine faces] to overcome among the allies. That stands in stark contrast to the EU and its messaging on Ukrainian membership. If you think Ukraine’s path to NATO is a struggle, wait until what happens when Ukraine’s EU accession gets serious.”
  • “Were the EU’s budget and redistribution process to remain unchanged, Kyiv would immediately suck in a vast part of the EU budget…To absorb a country with the size, population, low income level, financing, and reconstruction needs of war-torn Ukraine, it would require a major reform of EU institutions, policies, and budget processes. At the very least, this will set off vicious conflicts between current members about the distribution of EU funds.”
  • “Ukraine could be the catalyst to jump-start a new wave of enlargement. The prospect of its membership requires reform, which in turn would remove many of the obstacles that have similarly held up the accession of Western Balkan countries. Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine has already been a catalyst for the EU in another way—by demonstrating to Europeans that their bloc is indispensable to their security. When it comes to defense, in survey after survey, Europeans want the EU to play a much greater role. Critically, support for Ukraine among EU citizens remains incredibly high. Even after a year of sanction packages, millions of refugees, energy decoupling, and a cost-of-living crisis, 74 percent of EU citizens approve of the bloc’s support for Ukraine, according to a Eurobarometer poll.”

"Clouds Gather Over Support for Ukraine,” comment editor Tony Barber, FT, 07.15.23.

  • “I see quite a few problems building up for NATO and the EU as they try to maintain a united front of support for Ukraine. US politics is one concern. But so, too, are the evolving political conditions of parts of central and eastern Europe.”
  • “In Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia, more than 50% of those questioned were against financing military support for Ukraine, according to European Commission’s latest Eurobarometer poll, conducted in June. Opinion is more or less evenly divided on Ukraine’s EU membership in these countries. In these countries more than 50% of those questioned were against financing military support for Ukraine.”
  • “Asked by Pew if they had confidence he will do the right thing in world affairs, only 11% of respondents in Hungary, 28% in Greece and 38% in Italy said yes.”

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • No significant developments.


The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 11.44 AM East Coast time on July 17, 2023.

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

[1] As SVOP notes, this statement does not constitute its position as an organization, but rather reflects the views of those SVOP members who signed it. This summary has been translated with use of machine translation.

Slider photo shared by the Russian presidential press service ( under a CC BY 4.0 license.