Russia Analytical Report, July 18-25, 2022

7 Highlights From This Week

  1. Africa has not supported the West’s sanctions on Russia, but it won’t side with Moscow either: As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has embarked on a tour of the continent, NYT journalists remind us that “no African countries have joined American and European sanctions against Moscow.” At the same time, however: “The overwhelming instinct among authorities on the continent is to remain nonaligned and to stay out of the confrontation between Russia and the West,” Murithi Mutiga, the Africa program director for the International Crisis Group, told NYT.
  2. Putin wants three outcomes from Russia’s campaign in Ukraine: Russian control over Donbas; Kyiv’s capitulation; and the emergence of a new world order, according to Tatiana Stanovaya of R.Politik. Of these three only the first one is realistic, she writes, while pursuit of the other two is futile, something Putin doesn’t realize. “Sooner or later, Mr. Putin will face reality. It is in that moment, when his plans are stymied and his disappointment high, that he is likely to be most dangerous,” potentially leading to a “catastrophic clash” with the West, Stanovaya warns in NYT.
  3. W. Burns: After failing to take Kyiv, Putin is betting on attrition in Ukraine’s east, but he will lose his bet (again). It is the Ukrainians’ resistance, supported by the West, that will lead to Putin’s loss, according to William Burns. “It is hard not to see this as a strategic failure for Putin and Russia,” the CIA director told this year’s Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
  4. Ex-Kremlin advisor says a Russian victory in Ukraine means control over Donbas plus demilitarization and “neutralization” of territories remaining under Kyiv’s control. “For Russia this conflict is about preservation not only of its elites, but the country itself. It could not afford to lose,” Sergei Karaganov claimed in an interview with NYT.  
  5. K.O. Lang: Ukraine’s ascent to the European Union will change the balance of power within the EU. With Ukraine in the bloc, a “new ‘eastern flank of the EU’ would have more weight compared to the member states from the south of the Union, and the formative power of the Franco-German tandem would diminish,” predicts Kai-Olaf Lang of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “Germany would therefore have to invest more in securing the unity of the EU,” he writes.
  6. Japanese MoD: Russia’s national power may decline because of its war in Ukraine. That decline will impact the military balance in the Asia-Pacific and strategic competition between the U.S. and China, according to the ministry’s 2022 white paper.
  7. I. Borogan: Russian security services will transition to mass repressions. Russia’s failures in its campaign to subjugate Ukraine are going to be one of the drivers of this transition, according to Irina Borogan, who has spent decades studying Russia security services. “Maybe the scale will not [be] at the level it was under Stalin, but it certainly will not be the same as in the 1960s and 1970s when only the dissident movement was suppressed,” Borogan predicts in a piece for Sapere Aude translated and republished by MT.


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:

“Putin’s Visit To Iran,” Tatyana Stanovaya, Bulletin No. 14, R.Politik, 07.25.22.

  • “An Iran Dream Deal?”
    • “Russia and Iran are being drawn together by their mutual confrontation with America, even if they remain fierce competitors in the energy sector. Moscow believes that Tehran has potential as a hub for parallel imports and could also share its experiences adapting to a long-term sanctions regime. For Iran, the summit is a symbol of Iran's international importance and a moment of pride for the Raisi government, which has made a concerted effort to engage with non-Western partners.”
    • “Iran might be cautious about getting closer to Russia, especially by increasing Moscow's military capacity in the war against Ukraine and, therefore, complicate a return to the nuclear deal. However, the Iran deal is increasingly being seen as dead in the water anyway.”
    • “Both sides see the planned 20-year strategic agreement as equal to the 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement signed last year between Iran and China.”
  • “Syria:”
    • “The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey met in Tehran for the seventh summit of the Astana Process on July 19. It was set up in 2017 to resolve the civil war in Syria. The main item on the agenda was Turkey's plan to launch a new military operation in northern Syria.”
    • “Middle East expert Kirill Semenov told R.Politik that Moscow would turn a blind eye to any Turkish military operations in the American zone, East of Qamishli, as this would strain Ankara’s relationship with Washington, perhaps to Russia's advantage.
    • After the summit, the three sides signed a declaration which ‘emphasizes their unwavering commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of  the  Syrian Arab Republic.’ Erdogan also agreed that ‘we are all like-minded concerning [the fact] that the Syrian crisis can only be resolved through political means’ ... [However,] On 20 July, Erdogan told (Trk) journalists that he had presented Iran and Russia with certain proposals, seeking to secure their consent for a military operation - meaning that bargaining between the three is only going to intensify.”

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

“Russia Is Taking Advantage of the Invasion-Stirred Migration Crisis,” Elisabeth Braw of the American Enterprise Institute, FP, 07.18.22.

  • “Russian President Vladimir Putin has created a new weapon against the West. More than 6 million Ukrainians have sought refuge in European Union countries; now they’re being followed by a new migration wave from countries harmed by the absence of Ukrainian grain.”
  • “[I]n addition to the Ukrainian refugees, the number of asylum-seekers who arrived in the EU during the first half of this year almost doubled compared with the same period last year. The interim head of Frontex, the EU border agency, is warning of ‘waves of migration’ as a result of Russia blocking exports of Ukrainian grain, which is creating food crises globally.”
    • “Between January and June this year, 114,720 migrants arrived in the EU illegally. Most Ukrainians, whom the EU has committed to hosting, aren’t included in this number. The growing throng of people arriving illegally instead includes Afghans, Bangladeshis, Egyptians, Tunisians, Syrians and Iraqis. On the Central Mediterranean route, Frontex registered 25,164 illegal border crossings, 23 % more than in the first six months of 2021. … But many more people are being smuggled via the Western Balkans; illegal entries into the EU via this route were up by nearly 200 % compared with the same period last year. Many others are arriving via the Eastern Mediterranean and applying for asylum in Cyprus, where numbers were up by 125 %.”
  • “By creating migration waves that will destabilize Europe, Putin is harming the continent without directly using military force against countries outside Ukraine. As ever, Putin is happy to generate chaos that will hurt others—and to take advantage of it for Russia.”
  • “[I]n the longer term, countries should learn that in a globalized world, regimes with little to lose can benefit from unleashing waves of disruption that are cheap, involve little risk, and are virtually impossible to retaliate against.”

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“Digital networks are helping Ukraine resist the Russian invasion. Will they also reshape the future of conflict?” FT’s Gillian Tett, FT, 07.22.22.

  • “The issue at stake is how combatants organize themselves. The Russian military still appears to operate in a hierarchical manner—even though it has potent cyber-hacking and misinformation capabilities. The Ukrainian army, by contrast, gives decentralized teams considerable autonomy to make decisions and innovate, and soldiers communicate directly with their peers in different units.”
  • “So, one way to frame the war between Russia and Ukraine is as a contest between lateral networks and vertical hierarchies. Just as tiny Silicon Valley start-ups can disrupt legacy companies by using agility, speed and bottom-up innovation, the Ukrainian army is trying to compensate for its inferior size with an entrepreneurial spirit and engineers steeped in coding, hacking and video games.”
  • “The Russians launched cyber attacks and physical missiles at data servers and cell towers. The Ukrainians frantically fended off the cyber hacks, drawing on the experience they had gained from earlier attacks and aid from western allies. They were helped by the fact that Diia is a smartphone app, distributed across millions of phones, making it harder to break than a centralised database. ‘Everyone was impressed by how well the Ukrainians did [in defending themselves],’ says Chris Krebs, former White House cyber security head.”
  • “After months of grueling battles, the Russians have made advances in the east of the country, and thus far it is not clear how much the Ukrainians can hold them back. As military experts point out, while networks are effective for resistance campaigns, it is less clear whether they can be used for attack.”

“CIA Chief: Putin Is Betting on Attrition in Ukraine But Will Lose His Bet (Again),” RM Staff, RM, 07.22.22.

  • “Speaking on July 20 at this year’s Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, [CIA Chief William] Burns—who, prior to joining the CIA, served five presidents and 10 secretaries of state over 33 years and rose to become the No. 2 official in the State Department—shared the following insights:”
    • “Grievance, ambition and insecurity form the mindset of a ‘too healthy’ Putin;”
    • “Putin sees controlling Ukraine as part of his destiny;”
    • “Putin is betting on attrition in Ukraine, but will lose his bet (again);”
    • “Russian casualties in Ukraine are significant, unlike its recent advances;”
    • “China treads carefully in its support for Russia even as Xi learns Putin’s lessons in Ukraine with Taiwain in mind;”
    • “Russia and Iran are not natural partners.”
  • [Burns said:] “Against the backdrop of his [Putin’s] original war aims in this conflict, where he really thought he could take Kyiv in less than a week and he thought he could establish his dominance over Ukraine very quickly, it is hard not to see this as a strategic failure for Putin and Russia.”

“How heavy are Russian casualties in Ukraine?” The Economist, 07.24.22.

  • “On June 29th Ben Wallace, Britain’s defense minister, said that 25,000 Russians had been killed. In truth, Mr. Burns was citing the lower bound of America’s estimate; Mr. Wallace the upper end of his. Ukraine’s own tally is 38,500 as of July 19, though the country has an obvious incentive to proffer the highest possible figure. On July 19 Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defense minister, claimed, somewhat implausibly, that 11,000 Russians had died in the battles for Severodonetsk and Lysychansk alone.”
  • “Usually analysts have to make inferences on the assumption that soldiers tend to be wounded in a somewhat predictable ratio to the number killed. ... The choice of a 3:1 ratio by American and Estonian intelligence suggests that 60,000 Russian fighters have been taken off the battlefield, though some soldiers wounded in February or March will have recovered by now. If instead Mr. Wallace’s death toll is correct, it implies 100,000 have been put on the sidelines at one time or another. That rises to a whopping 125,000—equivalent to the entire ground combat force with which Russia started the war—if Ukraine’s new Western artillery has inflated the ratio to 4:1. This multiplier effect means that very high estimates of Russian deaths are less plausible, argues Mr. Kofman. If overall casualties were dramatically higher than the American and British figures, the Russian army would visibly have been in even deeper trouble long ago.”
  • “Perhaps the saving grace for Vladimir Putin … is that there has so far been no serious backlash at home to such profligacy. ‘These are not middle-class kids from St. Petersburg or Moscow,’ noted MI6’s Mr. Moore. ‘These are poor kids from rural parts of Russia. They’re from blue-collar towns in Siberia. They are disproportionately from ethnic minorities. These are his cannon fodder.’”

“Why Russia Keeps Losing Generals,” Austin Wright, FP, 07.20.22.

  • “So far, Russia has reportedly lost at least nine generals on the battlefield and plenty more at home as President Vladimir Putin continues his purge of generals.”
  • “Under Putin, the military has become more subjugated to the Kremlin, not less, even in light of his demands for change. The lack of parliamentary oversight and the politicization of military objectives have created an environment where Putin operates with ‘skewed information that generally overstates the status of armed forces,’ according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.”
  • “Russia’s experience in Ukraine is a prime example. From commanders of rifle battalions and tank divisions to the head of electronic warfare units, the Russian leadership has lost a whole range of top-level leaders. The Russian military command has shown an unwillingness to delegate authority to junior officers. This system means not only that generals tend to appear more in combat and therefore are vulnerable to attack but also that junior officers lack the experience to command battlefield operations when called upon. These losses are further exacerbated by the shortage of officers to take their place—caused, in part, by Serdyukov’s misguided reform efforts.”
  • “Those who escape death on the battlefield may meet a less dramatic fate back home. The efficiency of the military is dependent on the defense minister’s relationship with Putin and their ability to navigate the autocratic nepotism of the Russian state.”
  • “The West and, perhaps more importantly, Russia’s neighbors must take into consideration the nightmare that is Russia’s military leadership. Regardless of this environment, Russia will continue to engage in provocative regional military operations. Learning how to deter them requires Russia’s potential targets to learn how the Russian military works—and where its weaknesses will be next time.”

The Future of China’s Cognitive Warfare: Lessons from the War in Ukraine, Koichiro Takagi of the Hudson Institute, War on the Rocks, 07.22.22.

  • “The Russo-Ukrainian war shows that cognitive warfare alone cannot win wars. Claims by Chinese theorists that they will win a war using cognitive warfare without direct combat are simply not feasible with the current science and technology. In other words, against many analyses, China will not be able to bring Taiwan to its knees solely by indirect means, such as psychological blows through nuclear threats, blockade, decapitation, disinformation dissemination and blocking of communications.”
  • “The war in Ukraine revealed that cognitive warfare and cyber warfare—which use digital means and are conducted in non-physical domains—do not alone provide strategic advantages. If the PLA’s senior officials and strategists come to the same realization, they will continue to emphasize operations in the existing physical domains as well as in the non-physical domains. Indeed, they recognize the coexistence of mechanized, informationized, and intelligentized warfare and will continue to do so.”

Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:

“Russian Sanctions Are Working but Slowly,” Oleg Korenok of Virginia Commonwealth University, Swapnil Singh of the Bank of Lithuania and Stan Veuger of American Enterprise Institute, FP, 07.18.22.

  • “Any assessment of the sanctions and their effectiveness needs to take their indirect nature into account. While they were imposed in response to the Russian invasion, their nature is economic and thus slow-moving. Their effects cannot be expected to materialize on the same timeline as a military attack. Their point … is to restrict economic activity. Reduced economic activity is then expected to translate to reduced military power. But that cannot happen overnight.”
  • “The mechanisms are gradual and relatively slow-moving—a soldier does not get paid on time, a machine breaks down and cannot be repaired for lack of spare parts, complicated electronic systems begin to fail because Russia can no longer get patches for the underlying software.”
  • “They rely on careful planning, require anticipating Russian responses and demand that third-country reactions be taken into account. And while they complement the Ukrainian war effort, they can’t substitute for it. Ukraine’s freedom is being maintained on the battlefield by Ukrainians—increasingly armed by Western economic might. … Give this form of economic warfare time to pay off, then, and strengthen it wherever it is politically palatable.”
  • “Perhaps the most promising options for strengthening the current sanctions include further steps in the areas of energy and finance. In the energy sector, this might include the gradual instatement of an embargo on Russian oil and gas exports to Europe, if domestic opposition can be overcome. Import tariffs on oil and gas might play a similar role and have the advantage of generating tax revenue that can be used to alleviate cost-of-living concerns. More indirect approaches include the imposition of an escrow regime, outside immediate Russian control, to capture Russian earnings or intensified targeting of firms that help Russia export seaborne oil to non-European countries. On the finance front, sanctions could target the remaining major Russian banks, investments by Western firms in Russia, and transactions that take place in rubles.”
  • “If the sanctions aren’t working fast enough, speed them up.”

“Who is losing the economic war—Ukraine, the west or Russia?,” FT’s Tony Barbet, FT, 07.22.22.

  • “What’s the damage to Ukrainian economic output since the Russian invasion in February? In a persuasive analysis for, Mihnea Constantinescu, who is head of research at Ukraine’s central bank, Kalle Kappner and Nikodem Szumilo estimate that economic activity slumped by 45% at the start of the war but recovered to around 85% of prewar levels in April. … In its latest forecasts, the European Commission says eurozone inflation will peak at a record 8.4% in the third quarter. But real gross domestic product growth will be 2.6% this year and 1.4% next year.”
  • “The Kremlin is putting the Russian economy, including the private sector, on a war footing for the long haul. Unveiling a raft of new measures, [then-]deputy premier Yuri Borisov said their purpose was ‘to guarantee the supply of arms and ammunition.’ … Much debate in the west centers on the extent to which sanctions are weakening the Russian war effort. … Mark Harrison, emeritus professor of economics at the UK’s University of Warwick … contends that sanctions are working because they are cutting Russian imports and causing capital flight. ‘Russia’s economy is suffering arterial blood loss at an increasing rate.’”
  • “But isn’t Europe still paying Russia billions of euros for energy supplies? Harrison says it is a misunderstanding to think this money is funding Russia’s war effort. Instead, idle balances of foreign currency are accumulating. ‘If they cannot be used to import resources into Russia, they are not paying for Putin’s war.’”
  • “John Bryson of the University of Birmingham says Russia’s isolation from global supply networks is damaging its research and development and manufacturing systems. The nation’s new ‘sanctions-proof’ Lada car comes without airbags, an anti-lock braking system, emission restriction technologies, satellite navigation and modern seatbelt systems, he says.”
  • “Perhaps what this tells us, though, is that Russia is reserving its most advanced technology for the war effort. There are few if any signs that the Kremlin is thinking of winding down its war.”

“Actually, the Russian Economy Is Imploding,” Yale University’s Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian, FP, 07.22.22.

  • “Business retreats and sanctions are crushing the Russian economy in the short term and the long term. Based on our research, we are able to challenge nine widely held but misleading myths about Russia’s supposed economic resilience. … Myth 1: Russia can redirect its gas exports and sell to Asia in lieu of Europe … With limited pipeline connectivity to Asia, more Russian gas stays in the ground … Gazprom’s published data shows production is already down more than 35% year-on-year this month.”
  • “Myth 2: Since oil is more fungible than gas, Putin can just sell more to Asia … China and India are driving an unprecedented approximately $35 discount on Russian Urals oil purchases … and at times Russian oil has actually sold at a premium to Brent and WTI oil. Furthermore, it takes Russian oil tankers an average of 35 days to reach East Asia, versus two to seven days to reach Europe. … Myth 3: Russia is making up for lost Western businesses and imports by replacing them with imports from Asia … Russian imports have collapsed by over 50% in recent months. … Chinese exports to Russia plummeted by more than 50 % from the start of the year to April.”
  • “Myth 4: Russian domestic consumption and consumer health remain strong: Some of the sectors most dependent on international supply chains have been hit with debilitating inflation around 40-60 %—on extremely low sales volumes. … [F]oreign car sales in Russia fell by an average of 95% across major car companies … Myth 5: Global businesses have not really pulled out of Russia, and business, capital and talent flight from Russia are overstated … over 1,000 companies representing around 40% of Russia’s GDP have curtailed operations in the country … buttressing unprecedented simultaneous capital and talent flight in a mass exodus of 500,000 individuals, many of whom are exactly the highly educated, technically skilled workers Russia cannot afford to lose.”
  • “Myth 6: Putin is running a budget surplus thanks to high energy prices. Russia is actually on pace to run a budget deficit this year equivalent to 2% of GDP … Myth 7: Putin has hundreds of billions of dollars in rainy day funds … [O]f his around $600 billion in foreign exchange reserves … $300 billion is frozen and out of reach.”
  • “Myth 8: The ruble is the world’s strongest-performing currency this year: The official exchange rate is misleading … as the ruble is, unsurprisingly, trading at dramatically diminished volumes compared to before the invasion on low liquidity. … Myth 9: The implementation of sanctions and business retreats are now largely done, and no more economic pressure is needed:. Looking ahead, there is no path out of economic oblivion for Russia as long as the allied countries remain unified in maintaining and increasing sanctions pressure against Russia.”

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • No significant developments.

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

“What If the War in Ukraine Spins Out of Control? How to Prepare for Unintended Escalation,” Liana Fix of the Körber Foundation and Michael Kimmage of Catholic University of America, FA, 07.19.22.

  • “What could threaten the invisible rules that the United States and Russia have established [to avoid direct conflict over Ukraine]? One possibility is sheer accident. The other is a cycle of events that ‘demands’ escalation. … Despite these risks, studied patience and calm can keep the conflict in Ukraine from exploding out of control.”
  • “Western countries cannot deliver Putin from his temptations to enlarge the conflict. Only he can do that, and so far, the United States has acted with circumspection. Washington has established channels for military deconfliction that have served both sides well in Syria. Hopefully, they will continue to do so in Ukraine.”
  • “The United States should remind itself and its allies again and again about the stakes of undesired escalation and the necessity of seeing Russian rhetorical provocations for what they are. The best response to trolling, something Putin loves to do, is ignore it. The same should be true for Putin’s nuclear threats. Verbal ugliness need not always be countered. It, too, can be strategically ignored.”
  • “There is no silver bullet for avoiding a wider war. Talks, negotiations and diplomacy will not do the trick. Putin can be restrained only by the application of force, and the application of force is never without risks.”
  • “The less apocalyptic the perspective of Washington and its allies, the better. The United States and Russia are not on the verge of World War III. Not every move is existential. The Russian military suffers under countless and increasing constraints, whereas the war in Ukraine will constantly turn up new, uncertain, disturbing and frightening contingencies. The world will have to learn to live with it. The Cuban missile crisis lasted for 13 days. The crisis generated by the war in Ukraine will last for a long time to come.”

“Putin Thinks He’s Winning,” Tatiana Stanovaya of R.Politik, NYT, 07.18.22.

  • “Consisting of three main dimensions, [Putin’s] plan is a kind of strategic Russian doll.”
    • “The current, more realistic goal appears to be control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions—which the Kremlin sees itself attaining in a matter of time, a view seemingly vindicated by Russian forces’ effective capture of the Luhansk region—and the land corridor that would secure access to Crimea. For this goal, of minimal geopolitical weight for the Kremlin, Mr. Putin appears to believe that time is on his side.”
    • “The next goal appears to be focused on forcing Kyiv to capitulate. This isn’t about the occupied territories; it’s about the future of Ukraine’s remaining territory ...The aim, in short, would be to deprive Ukraine of the right to build its own nation. ... This second goal sounds fantastical, of course. But for Mr. Putin it is also seemingly inevitable, though it may take longer to achieve.”
    • “Putin’s third strategic goal in the war against Ukraine, and the most geopolitically important of them all: building a new world order. … There is some good news. The very fact that the plan seems realistic to him should, in the short term, prevent any nuclear escalation. But the bad news is that sooner or later, Mr. Putin will face reality. It is in that moment, when his plans are stymied and his disappointment high, that he is likely to be most dangerous. If the West seeks to avoid a catastrophic clash, it needs to truly understand what it’s really dealing with when it comes to Mr. Putin.”

“Back to the Twentieth Century?, Andrew J. Bacevich of Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, The American Conservative, 07.13.22.

  • “As the latest twist in the ongoing history-after-the-end-of-history narrative, the war in Ukraine seemingly presents Washington with something of a godsend—an opportunity for the U.S. to recover its mojo and restore its number one global ranking.  Yet even assuming the best case, that happy outcome is unlikely to occur, for at least four reasons.”
    • “First, despite all of the fashionable talk in foreign policy journals about the revival of Great Power Competition, Russia does not qualify as a great power. It remains Upper Volta with rockets, and the rockets are not particularly accurate.”
    • “Second, however the Ukraine war ends, China will still be China. The vast complexities of the U.S.-China relationship, combining elements of rivalry with mutual dependence, will be largely unaffected.”
    • “Third, regardless of who wins and who loses in Ukraine, the climate crisis will persist, the war itself all but irrelevant to that crisis apart from providing fresh excuses to postpone decisive action.”
    • “Finally, whatever happens in Ukraine, these United States of America will remain disturbingly disunited.”

“Why Russia Believes It Cannot Lose the War in Ukraine,” Serge Schmemann interviews Russian political scientist Sergei Karaganov, NYT, 07.19.22.

  • [When asked “Where was the existential threat that required an all-out invasion?”] “Ukraine was being turned into a spearhead aimed at the heart of Russia. Also we saw that the West was collapsing in economic, moral, political terms. … Problems within the West, and globally, were not solved. That was a classic prewar situation… Moscow decided to pre-empt and to dictate the terms of the conflict.”
  • “This conflict is not about Ukraine. … For Russia this conflict is about preservation not only of its elites, but the country itself. It could not afford to lose. That is why Russia will win even, hopefully, short of resorting to higher levels of violence.”
  • “We are not going to insulate ourselves suicidally from the rest of the world, which is developing largely in the right direction and is becoming larger and freer, while the West is rapidly shrinking. Only history could judge whether the decision to unleash an open confrontation was right. Maybe the decision should have been made earlier. And Covid postponed it.”
  • “I am concerned about the freedom of thought in the future. But I am even more concerned about the growing probability of a global thermonuclear conflict ending the history of humanity. We are living through a prolonged Cuban missile crisis. And I do not see people of the caliber of Kennedy and his entourage on the other side.”
  • “We are not closing ourselves to European culture. Moreover, I suspect that with cancel culture now on the rise in the West, we could remain one of the few places that will preserve the treasure of the European, Western culture and spiritual values.”
  • [When asked “What is your definition of … victory in Ukraine?”] “It is a moving target. The minimum is the liberation from the Kyivan regime of Donbas … and then of southern and eastern Ukraine. Then, Russia’s aim should probably be that the territory left under Kyivan control will be neutral and fully demilitarized.”
  • “Ukraine is an important but small part of the engulfing process of the collapse of the former world order of global liberal imperialism imposed by the United States and movement toward a much fairer and freer world of multipolarity and multiplicity of civilizations and cultures. One of the centers of this world will be created in Eurasia, with the revived great civilizations that had been suppressed for several hundred years. Russia will be playing its natural role of civilization of civilizations. Russia should also be playing the role of the northern balancer of this system.”

“Those who give weapons to Ukraine must understand that the lives of not only Ukrainians are at stake, but also of everyone else,” interview with Noam Chomsky (translated from Russian), Meduza, 07.21.22.

  • “I believe that the cause of this war was a provocation. But this does not justify the war. However, the fact is that within the framework of the propaganda campaign in the United States, it is only allowable to say about the situation in Ukraine that it is absolutely unprovoked aggression—but only from Russia’s side.”
  • “Let me remind you that, besides Putin, other Russian leaders—Yeltsin, Gorbachev, Medvedev—said that Ukraine and Georgia should be surrounded by ‘red flags’ for NATO.”
  • “This war can end either through diplomacy or without it—that is, one side capitulates, while the other does not. If one of the parties does not capitulate, then this entails tragic consequences for Ukraine and everyone else. Russia is clearly not going to capitulate, it has weapons that we all know about. This weapon is capable of destroying not only Ukraine itself, but also many countries beyond its borders. So the real choice is between a diplomatic solution and one that leads to the destruction not only of Ukraine itself, but of the rest of the world.”
  • “Once again, I want to note that I do not dispute the right of the Ukrainian people to make their own choice. But the citizens of the U.S., the U.K., Germany and so on, should also have this choice: are we ready for a war that can destroy us all, or are we ready to make a diplomatic decision?”
  • “If Ukraine asks for this, let it be given any weapon for protection. But those who give weapons to Ukraine must understand that the lives of not just Ukrainians, but also of everyone else, are at stake. The West should remember that the weapons it supplies to Ukraine are capable of bringing the whole world to the brink of a war in which not only Ukraine itself, but the whole world will be destroyed.”

“Too many wild cards to forecast the Ukraine war,” WP’s David Ignatius, WP, 07.19.22.

  • “On the matter of alliances, Putin's dreams of remaking the global order seemed to crumble after his plan for a quick decapitation of Zelensky's regime failed. Rather than shattering NATO, Putin has galvanized it, drawing Sweden and Finland into the pact and putting new pressure on Russia's northern flank. But the ever-wily Putin this week tried to reinforce his diplomatic position along the southern tier, traveling to Iran to meet with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”
  • “Putin's trip to Tehran is a creative attempt to gain political leverage by a leader who knows that brute Russian force of arms, alone, could dig Russia into a conflict from which it might not escape for decades. It's also a reminder of the diplomatic and military wild cards that might alter the current gloomy forecast that both sides will slaughter their way to a deadlock—and that the ultimate outcome of this terrible war remains uncertain.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“Defense of Japan 2022,” White paper by the Japanese Ministry of Defense, July 2022.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine

  • “In the vicinity of Japan, Russia has made moves to strengthen cooperation with China, such as through joint bomber flights and joint warship sails involving the Russian and Chinese militaries, as well as moves to portray such military cooperation as ‘strategic coordination.’ These trends warrant concern and must continue to be closely watched in the future.”
  • “As a result of the current aggression [against Ukraine], it is possible that Russia’s national power in the medium- to long-term may decline, and the military balance within the region and military cooperation with China may change. Furthermore, since the international situation could also be affected across the world, including developments in strategic competition between the U.S. and China and repercussions in Asia, it will be important to closely monitor related trends with intense interest.”
  • “Russia, which has adopted a ‘strong state’ model, recognizes NATO’s military and other activities in the vicinity of Russia as a threat. Having ensured that its nuclear capability rivals that of the U.S., the country has been accelerating the deployment of new weapons, such as planning the mass production and deployment of hypersonic cruise missile ‘Zircon’ from 2022, and improving its asymmetric warfare capabilities through electronic warfare equipment and other measures. Russia had deployed Russian military forces in and around Ukraine since fall 2021, after asserting that it would not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet Union countries to become NATO members. Then, in February 2022, it launched a full-scale aggression against Ukraine.”

“Germany's Energy Crisis and Surrender,” WSJ’s Holman W. Jenkins Jr., WSJ, 07.19.22.

  • “Mr. Putin won't shut off Germany's gas because it wouldn't improve his position.”
    • “He understands democratic society well enough to know that no elected government can be seen submitting to naked blackmail by a foreign dictator. In wrecking the German economy, Mr. Putin would only earn for Russia 100 years of German hostility.”
    • “More importantly, Mr. Putin already has gotten the best terms from the Berlin government of Olaf Scholz he's going to get in his present quandary, with Germany slow-walking aid to Ukraine, providing the stop-loss Mr. Putin needs. Ukraine won't get enough weapons and ammunition to threaten Russia's occupation in the east and annexation of Crimea if Germany can help it.”
    • “There's also the overarching consideration: Mr. Putin is leery of doing anything that would finally break the long spell of Western stupidity that has served him so well.”
      • “Germany's status, after all, as a self-immolator and co-conspirator plays a major role in its present situation. In a shallow gesture of green appeasement, its politicians shut down their nuclear plants, making themselves more dependent on Russian gas to prop up their subsidized, unreliable windmills and solar arrays, which of course have no effect on global climate and don't even significantly reduce Germany's emissions. This stupidity is Western-wide and an asset to Mr. Putin.”
  • “The important battle today is in the south, not the east. If the Ukrainian national project is to survive and not become a hopeless basket case for Western charity, it needs to control its southern coast and ports that are crucial to a functioning economy.”
  • “Use the moment to take away his longer-term hope of keeping Ukraine economically on its knees by pushing aside a blockade that exists more because of the West's unwillingness to challenge it than Mr. Putin's willingness to enforce it. The Ukraine restoration project will be on stronger legs.”

“Rivals Within Reason? U.S.-Chinese Competition Is Getting Sharper—but Doesn’t Necessarily Have to Get More Dangerous,” former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, FA, 07.20.22.

  • “China’s ‘no limits’ strategic partnership with Russia has, following the latter’s invasion of Ukraine, deeply damaged Beijing’s standing in Europe—to the point that even traditional China doves across various European capitals are now skeptical about Beijing’s long-term strategic ambitions.”
  • “Judging by the public fusillades between Beijing and Washington, it appears that there may not be much appetite for a stabilizing framework such as managed strategic competition. In his first meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in March 2021, China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, let loose an almost unprecedented level of public vituperation, lecturing Blinken on ‘deep-seated’ U.S. problems such as racism and accusing the United States of being ‘condescending.’ This exchange was matched by public broadsides between U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe in Singapore in June of this year, when Wei implied that the United States was the real ‘mastermind’ behind Russia’s war in Ukraine.”
  • “Nonetheless, China appears to be edging toward accepting the reality (if not the language) of managing its competitive relationship with the United States. Beijing might, for example, be able to accept a combination of peaceful competition and constructive cooperation within a framework of necessary strategic guardrails.”
  • “Managed strategic competition could help stabilize the U.S.-Chinese relationship over the next decade, when the rivalry between the two superpowers would otherwise reach its most dangerous phase as they come closer to economic parity.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“Russia's Aggressive New Nuclear Strategy,” Royal United Services Institute’s Sidharth Kaushal and Sam Cranny-Evans, WSJ, 07.21.22.

  • “The fact that Russia is willing to contemplate nuclear first use isn't the most important departure from Soviet practice … What is genuinely new about Russian doctrine is that it includes options for limited and flexible nuclear use. During the Cold War, Soviet leaders broadly dismissed the notion of limited nuclear war, scoffing at the idea that nuclear weapons could be used in small numbers simply to signal resolve.”
  • “There are several reasons to consider Russia's aggressive nuclear doctrine at least partially credible.”
    • “The first is that certain Russian weapons can target specific nonnuclear members of NATO.”
    • “The second factor is the increased accuracy of Russian missiles.”
  • “Even if tactical nuclear weapons have limited value against tanks, however, they are much more effective against artillery, infantry and ‘soft-skinned’ logistical vehicles. Longer-range nonstrategic nuclear weapons could be used against air bases and command posts across Europe, without the escalatory effect of large-scale civilian casualties.”
  • “If an opponent feels that military ends can be achieved with nuclear means, it might become necessary for NATO to integrate nuclear deterrence into warfighting. A nuclear-centric Russian military would also have significant implications for NATO's force structure. For instance, the growing utility of light infantry and artillery against tanks is effectively inverted in a nuclear context, where tanks are one of the few assets that can survive a tactical nuclear weapon. If Russia's armed forces devolve back into a nuclear-centric force, as several indicators seem to promise, the West will have to rethink the future of war.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

“Biden has abdicated U.S. leadership on Syria to Russia and Iran,” WP’s Josh Rogin, WP, 07.20.22.

  • “President Biden's trip to the Middle East last week showed that his administration has abandoned any pretense of U.S. leadership on addressing the crisis in Syria. That policy of neglect undermines U.S. and regional interests—and threatens to leave the region's security in the hands of Russia and Iran.”
  • “Administration officials argue that maintaining relatively low levels of violence and focusing on aid and terrorism is about the best the United States can hope for in Syria. But the violence levels only seem low if one ignores the fact that Russia and Assad are intentionally starving millions of innocent people and torturing tens of thousands of civilians in custody.”
  • “So long as Assad's partners in Moscow and Tehran are dominating the diplomacy, Syria will never achieve a sustainable peace. Without a new U.S.-led diplomatic push, Syria will continue to be an exporter of refugees, terrorism, narcotics and instability. Before taking office, Biden's officials acknowledged that.”

Cyber security:

“Russia’s Cyberwar Against Ukraine: A De-Modernized Regime Against a Networked Society,” National University Odessa Law Academy’s Tetyana Malyarenko and Borys Kormych, PONARS Eurasia, 07.22.22.

  • “Since February 2022, Russian cyberwarfare in Ukraine has followed the same course as Russia’s politico-military approach to Ukraine in general. First, it started with declared hybrid warfare, in which cyberattacks would be a significant component and a low-intensity special operation. It has progressed to a non-modern war in which cyber warfare plays a seemingly minor role.”
  • “We suggest this stems from a shortage of modern weapons and technologies in Russia. For example, during the war in Ukraine, it turned out that electronic devices made in France are widely used in the production of Russian tanks, Orlan drones, and aircraft. Communication and information technologies in cyberspace independently and in support of military operations on air, land, and sea turned out to be Russia’s greatest weakness in the Ukrainian war. This was not just the result of Russia’s general technological weakness, exemplified by an observation from the head of the Committee of the Council of Federations of Russia, Andrey Klishas, that Russia’s import substitution program had failed completely. It was also caused by the increase in U.S. intelligence sharing with Ukraine, the participation of U.S. military hackers in offensive and defensive operations in support of Ukraine, and the cooperation between the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, and Microsoft to help Ukrainian government agencies and other organizations defend their cyberspace.”
  • “Unlike conventional forms of Russian-Ukrainian warfare, in which the United States and allies avoid intervention to keep the war from escalating, gray-zone conflict in cyberspace makes it possible to defeat Russian cybersecurity actors without being a party to the conflict. However, cyberwarfare with the participation of the United States and other international cybersecurity actors has been limited. Since the Russian-Ukrainian war is dragging out, cyberwar has every chance of regaining its key role in future operations.”

“Sabotage and War in Cyberspace,” American University’s Joshua Rovner, War on the Rocks, 07.19.22.

  • “Russia’s ... offensive cyberspace operations have been particularly marginal to its conventional military effort [in Ukraine]. Open sources suggest that Russia has rarely used destructive malware since the February invasion.”
  • “This has surprised many observers, who thought the war would follow a different path. I was one of them.”
  • “Cyberspace operations, in short, have not played a key role in this war. ... Because cyberspace is an information domain, cyberspace operations are about gaining information advantages. Intelligence agencies scour the domain in search of details that may be useful to strategists, diplomats and military leaders. They want to know about the strength and disposition of enemy forces, as well as the capabilities and intentions of third parties. In this sense, Russian cyberspace activities are no different from intelligence gathering in past conflicts. Espionage—collecting and interpreting secret information to give political and military leaders decision advantage—is key. Sabotage remains secondary.”

Assess Russia’s Cyber Performance Without Repeating Its Past Mistakes, Gavin Wilde of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, War on the Rocks, 07.21.22.

  • “While attempting to gauge Russia’s cyber successes or failures in Ukraine or any other theater, U.S. strategists must recognize Moscow’s vast ambitions and deep suspicions in the information environment without automatically assuming success nor adopting this conspiratorial mindset as their own.”
  • “In the context of conventional armed conflict—with all the urgency, destruction and violence it entails—the fog of war is perhaps thickest in the information space. Conventional military analysts apply a similar theme to Russian conventional forces’ performance, noting that political assumptions are a precursor to war, but structural choices are key to success or failure within it. The same rubric applies when assessing Moscow’s information warfare, including the natural impediments to its fiercest conceivable expression. An abundance of observed, disruptive cyber activity does not necessarily translate into evidence of strategy on the adversary’s side, nor strategic impact on our own.”
  • “The issue is less that Western observers might have overestimated Russia’s cyber potential in its war on Ukraine, more that they almost certainly underestimate the complexities and frictions which separate intent from execution, intensity from effect. Particularly in the still murky arena of information warfare, the chasm between theory and practice remains wide. Moreover, in an era of apparently robust intelligence insights into the Kremlin’s designs, it may prove far easier to slip into erroneous assumptions based thereon, the foremost being that intention necessarily equals capability.”

Energy exports from CIS:

  • No significant developments.

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • No significant developments.


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“The War in Ukraine: Putin's Inevitable Invasion," Ivan Gomza of the Kyiv School of Economics, Journal of Democracy, July 2022.

  • “The institutional design of personalist regimes is responsible for the invasion of Ukraine in three key ways.”
    • “First, personalist dictatorships do not constrain their leader's foreign-policy decisions. Second, the leader's preferences, personal beliefs, attitudes and character naturally play a much larger role in determining the foreign policy of a personalist regime than those of other regime types.”
    • “Third, growing discontent among Russians probably pushed Putin toward a more aggressive foreign policy in a quest to bolster his support.” 
  • “Why did Putin choose to attack Ukraine? A combination of strategic, ideological and political considerations likely motivated his decision.”
    • “Ukraine was a key strategic target as it had increasingly turned away from Russia to forge closer ties to the West, particularly after 2014. … Ukraine also appeared weak to Putin.”
  • “If Putin spent months preparing for war, why is Russia fighting so poorly?”
    • “First, Putin's personalist rule turned his government into an echo chamber, leaving him without accurate assessments about Ukraine and how much the country had changed since 2014.”
    • “Second, personalist rule has amplified Putin's leadership style to the detriment of military morale and the initiative of top- and midlevel officers.”
    • “Third, his regime is riddled with corruption, and the military is no exception.”

“Why Russian Elites Are Standing By Putin,” Olga Khvostunova of FPRI, FPRI, July 2022.

  • “Historical and structural factors that shaped the country’s security and military elites, their lack of broad based support and pervasive internal culture of mistrust make a coup unlikely. … There are political and psychological reasons for the conformity of those members of the Russian elites who are not satisfied with the situation or unsure what to think about it.”
    • “First, Putin’s Russia is a highly centralized regime where all branches of power are essentially subordinated to the president. Elections are constantly rigged to prevent genuine political opposition to access the political system; media and civil society are subjugated to the state; grassroots movements are suppressed or hijacked; and public opinion is manipulated by relentless and powerful propaganda.”
    • “Second, until the Crimea-related sanctions, the benefits of supporting the regime outweighed opposition and dissent. Since his third term in the office, Putin has increasingly relied on repression to thwart dissent—a tendency that has reached even higher levels after the Ukraine war. … Purges of the elite ranks have become routine, and jailing of such high profile figures as businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former CEO of the Yukos oil company and once the richest man in Russia, or Minister of Economic Development Alexei Ulyukaev, has sent clear signals that no one is untouchable.”
    • “Third, some of the distinct features of Putin’s political leadership are his secrecy and unpredictability, which collide with people’s basic psychological needs for certainty and security. His leadership style taken against the backdrop of the vast repressive apparatus and pervasive presence of the special services in public life generates constant fear. This was amply demonstrated by the anxiety exuded by the members of Russia’s Security Council during a fateful Feb. 21, 2022 meeting where they were forced to publicly agree with Putin’s decision to recognize two pro-Russian separatists territories in Ukraine … as independent—a move that precluded a full-scale invasion as well as implicated participants in war crimes. Similarly … when 37 of Russia’s wealthiest business executives were called to the Kremlin for the meeting with Putin, ‘no one dared issue a whimper of protest.’”

“Russian Special Services: From Political to Mass Repressions,” CEPA’s Irina Borogan, Sapere Aude/MT, 07.22.22.

  • “So far repressions in Russia have only affected people who somehow stood out as citizens and individuals—people who were engaged in political activities or activism, or had the courage to express their opinion on Facebook. People who were not political, who did not express their position, who went to work, got a salary and kept silent were generally not affected. But the war is not unfolding according to the scenario planned by the Russian president and his cronies. The reckless scheme to take Kyiv, put Zelensky in a cage, drive him through the streets to be tried by the international court of justice in the Donetsk People’s Republic now failed.”
  • “So, I think that in the near future the security services will gradually turn from individual acts of political repression to mass totalitarian repression. Maybe the scale will not [be] at the level it was under Stalin, but it certainly will not be the same as in the 1960s and 1970s when only the dissident movement was suppressed.”
    • “Something happened recently that truly reminded me of the 1930s, and not metaphorically. At a meeting with Putin, the head of Rosfinmonitoring discussed possible reprisals against doctors who are recommending foreign-made drugs to their patients. There is information, he said, that in thirty regions of Russia doctors operate these schemes. He promised that the FSB will be brought in to work on the case. After people take Western-made drugs, their minds will apparently change and they will become a fifth column.”
  • “Unfortunately, nothing good awaits those who have left Russia either. The Russian diaspora is in the center of attention of the Russian security services. And this attention will not abate.”

“I still intend to vote — and say no to the war,” Vladimir Kara-Murza, WP, 07.25.22.

  • “Since Putin's invasion of Ukraine in February, more than 16,380 Russians have been detained at antiwar protests across the country. ... [B]ut there are many more people in this country who oppose Putin's war on Ukraine—yet aren't prepared to risk years in prison by speaking out publicly. (The situation that, I believe, would be true of most societies.)”
  • “[T]hat is why September's elections matter. Residents of the capital will have a chance to take a stand on the situation just an hour's flight away from Moscow, where cities continue to be bombed and people continue to die every day as a result of Putin's imperial ambitions. Putin's own United Russia party has placed support for the war—still euphemistically referred to by the state media as a ‘special military operation’— at the center of its municipal campaign platform. Meanwhile, the so-called official opposition parties, such as the Communists or Just Russia, seem to be competing to show who can be the loudest at expressing support.”
  • “The one exception is Yabloko, Russia's veteran liberal party. It has managed to retain access to the ballot in Moscow, and it opposes Putin's war on Ukraine. Some of its leading members, including journalist and historian Lev Shlosberg and Moscow municipal lawmaker Andrei Morev, have been fined for making public antiwar statements. In September, Yabloko will be fielding candidates across Moscow, and even though they won't be able to say much because of the new laws criminalizing antiwar speech, the party's stance is well known.”
  • “‘Our stand for peace is a matter of principle,’ said Maxim Kruglov, a member of the Moscow City Duma and Yabloko's campaign coordinator. The word ‘peace’ is still legal in Russia, at least for now. In a few weeks, Muscovites will get a rare chance to say ‘no’ to dictatorship and aggression, as that anonymous German did with their ballot. I may have few rights in a Russian prison, but that is one I am certainly intending to exercise.”

"Bread and Autocracy in Putin's Russia,” Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Janetta Azarieva and Yitzhak M. Brudny and Eugene Finkel of Johns Hopkins University, Journal of Democracy, July 2022.

  • “The covid pandemic and Russia's war on Ukraine are testing the success of Putin's food-independence project. The results so far have been mixed. These monumental crises—a pandemic, large-scale war and open confrontation with the West—have not produced the empty shelves, breadlines and chronic food shortages seen in the Soviet era, thus vindicating the strategy. Russia's leading role in grain export also allows it to control the food pantries in numerous developing countries and thus to threaten a global famine to achieve geopolitical goals.”
  • “Yet due to the food system's inherent weaknesses—such as limited competition, inefficiency and heavy state intervention—the regime cannot insulate Russians from food-price increases. As long as the Kremlin can ensure plentiful domestic food supplies and keep the most basic food staples, especially bread, minimally affordable, thanks either to price controls or subsidies, Putin need not fear a repeat of the 1917 food riots or the collapse of popular support seen in the late 1980s. Yet if the drive toward complete autarky continues long enough to either impede domestic production or make staple foods unaffordable, the regime will be in severe danger.”

“The War in Ukraine: How Putin's War in Ukraine Has Ruined Russia,” Stanford University’s Kathryn Stoner, Journal of Democracy, July 2022.

  • “If thirty years of uneven post-communist recovery had seen Russia's resurgence, we are now seeing its ruin. Vladimir Putin's autocracy has not just wrought havoc on Ukraine, it has wrecked Russia, too. In a little more than eight weeks, Putin's unjust and ill-conceived war had erased the gains of the last three decades.”
  • “And so the cycle is complete. Three decades after the collapse of the Soviet empire, Russians are being dragged back in time to when Soviet citizens lived isolated from the rest of the world, in a bubble of failed ideology and misinformation. That system fell apart under just the kind of autarky and autocracy that Putin hopes to reimpose. Just as the Soviet system collapsed, Putin is also failing Russia, erasing the gains of the post-communist period in a feckless attempt to rebuild a doomed empire.”

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:

“Russia’s top diplomat seeks to pin blame for hunger on the U.S. and its allies,” NYT’s Anton Troianovski, Abdi Latif Dahir and Vivian Yee, NYT, 07.24.22.

  • “Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has made it clear that he will use the trip [to Africa] to try to pin the blame on the West for food shortages in African countries and to paint Russia as the continent’s faithful ally.”
  • “The U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, is also set to visit the region on Sunday, traveling to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia for talks. But Western attempts at counterprogramming, including editorials and social media posts, have done little to attract more public support in the Middle East.”
  • “Russian disinformation and propaganda have found fertile ground in a region where many Arabs have long harbored anti-American and anti-Western sentiment stemming from the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Western support for Israel. ... While few African leaders have publicly supported Russia, no African countries have joined American and European sanctions against Moscow.”
  • “Murithi Mutiga, the Africa program director for the International Crisis Group, said Russia had several advantages as it sought to win hearts and minds on the continent: a network of elites that studied in the Soviet Union, the ‘lingering loyalty’ of groups it supported in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, and the fact that it supplies arms to numerous African governments. ‘Moscow will, however, be disappointed if it expects more African governments to offer it full backing,’ Mr. Mutiga said. ‘The overwhelming instinct among authorities on the continent is to remain nonaligned and to stay out of the confrontation between Russia and the West.’”

“Russia Still Has Willing Partners in the Middle East, Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations and Beth Sanner of Harvard’s Belfer Center, FP, 07.20.22.

  • “For all of Russia’s military shortcomings and Western efforts to make Moscow an international pariah, not only does Putin remain a capable player in the Middle East, but he also has willing partners there.”
    • “On Tuesday, perhaps in a direct response to U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent trip to the region, Putin traveled to Tehran for a meeting of the Astana Peace Process with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts—a trilateral effort to manage the three governments’ competing interests in Syria’s decadelong conflict.”
    • “During Biden’s visit, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman explained that his agreement with the U.S. president to produce more oil was contingent on market conditions and agreement by OPEC+ members. In doing so, the crown prince, perhaps posturing for effect at home and in the region, was implying that ties to the United States do not trump his relationship with Russia—the most important member of the ‘plus’ part of OPEC+.”
    • “And when it comes to Israel, the differences between interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his predecessor, Naftali Bennett, concerning criticism of Russia for invading Ukraine are a matter of degree. The Israelis continue to need the Russians in Syria to conduct their shadow war against Iran (an effort that is likely to become more challenging as Moscow and Tehran draw closer).”
  • “From where the Saudis, Egyptians, Emiratis, Turks, Israelis and others sit, Russia is a legitimate player.”

“Putin’s ‘New Order’,” Tatyana Stanovaya, Bulletin No. 14, R.Politik, 07.25.22.

  • “On 20 July, Putin made several statements that shed light on how he sees the current world order: ‘No matter how much Western and supranational elites strive to preserve the existing order of things, a new era is coming, a new stage in world history.’ He anticipated ‘truly revolutionary transformations’ and irreversible ‘grandiose changes’ which will lead to the installation of a more ‘equitable, socially-oriented and safe world order ... an alternative to the existing or, one might say, to the previously existing unipolar world order, which by its nature, of course, has become a brake on the development of civilization.’”
  • “Putin has frequently repeated his ideas about the changing world order-over the past few months—it is something that he believes to be both inevitable and positive.”  
  • “If we listen to the comments from Russian elites about the world order, both official and unofficial, it becomes clear just how tangible the sense is that the world is on the cusp of a radical shift in the balance of power away from the West. Even so, there is no concrete strategy or shared vision for this new order beyond a vague feeling that the transition will be good for Russia.” 
  • “The main problem for those devising Russia's foreign policy is that there is no clear understanding of how this ‘new order’ will function beyond the belief that the old system is doomed.”


“Zelensky and people in uniform. What do the high-profile resignations of the Ukrainian security forces mean,” Konstantin Skorkin, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 07.21.22.

  • “After the start of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian elite, contrary to the expectations of many, demonstrated a rare unity ... However, as the hostilities dragged on, the first cracks appeared in this unity. The loyalty of the security forces has become the main problem for President Zelensky, and it has to be solved on the go, in the difficult conditions of the war. The scale of the accumulated problems became clear when, on the same day, Zelensky removed the heads of two key departments from their posts at once—Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova and SBU head Ivan Bakanov.”
  • “The Russian invasion, which called into question the very existence of Ukrainian statehood, nevertheless allowed President Zelensky to solve most of his political problems. Since the beginning of the war, his rating has skyrocketed, he has become a hero in the eyes of world public opinion. Inside the country, the positions of the oligarchs, too busy saving their capital, have weakened, and the once influential pro-Russian forces have now been finally defeated. As a result, relations with the security forces are becoming the main source of domestic political risks for the president.”
  • “Despite the cleansing of the ranks after 2014, there were too many non-professionals, saboteurs and traitors in the Ukrainian security forces—more than 650 cases have already been initiated on the facts of treason against the security forces. However, the Ukrainian president is still limited to changing individuals, rather than reforming institutions. Therefore, there are no guarantees that the new security forces will be more effective than the old ones.”

“As War Nears 6-Month Mark, Ukraine Struggles Against New-Old Foes: Collaborators and Corruption,” RM Staff, RM, 07.22.22.

  • “Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has suspended two senior political allies—the country’s Security Service chief and prosecutor general—alleging they had failed to prevent treasonous collaboration with Russia among scores of their subordinates. Announcing the decision in his nightly video address on July 17, Zelensky said more than 60 employees of the two agencies had ‘remained in the occupied territory and are working against our state.’”
  • “What’s at stake? Collaboration can cost Ukraine land: Early in the war decisions made by senior personnel in Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU, may have helped Russian forces take control of Kherson, the first major city they captured, and with little resistance.”
  • “Is corruption the secret sauce? Immediately after announcing the dismissals, Zelensky went on to update listeners on the search for new leaders of the Specialized Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office and the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine. Prior to Russia’s invasion, corruption was one of Kyiv’s biggest problems, with Ukraine consistently placing in or very near the bottom third of countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. … Though corruption may certainly be a factor in weakening Ukraine’s defenses against Russia, it is the collaboration with Russian forces that has more evident impact on these defenses.”
  • “What’s next? Ivan Bakanov and Iryna Venediktova are not the first top siloviki to be fired in Ukraine over failure to root out collaboration and corruption, and they won’t be the last unless Zelensky shows political will to push through lustration and structural reforms to weed out these two challenges.”

“Ukraine’s accession to the EU: Relations with member states and implications for the balance of power,” SWP’s Kai-Olaf Lang, SWP, July 2022.

  • “In case of accession, Ukraine’s closest partners in the EU would probably continue to be Poland and the Baltic states, as well as other countries in East-Central and South-East Europe. With continual threat perceptions, comparable experiences, and similar views of Russia, Ukraine would strengthen the group of member states calling for a tough stance vis-à-vis Moscow. Poland would be a key partner for Ukraine. Relations with Warsaw are likely to strengthen further in the coming years, for instance through a new bilateral agreement that might be a sort of Élysée Treaty of the East. Kyiv will also continue to deepen its relationships with those EU countries that see themselves as frontline states of the West.”
  • “Ukraine would enter the EU with a clear pro-American stance and would bring its profound security, defense and military ties with the United States (and the United Kingdom), built up during the war, into the Union. This would strengthen the transatlantic ‘club’ in the EU. At the same time, given its non-NATO membership, Ukraine would have an interest in the further development of solidarity and safeguard clauses as well as military capabilities within the framework of the Common Security and Defense Policy and in improving EU-NATO cooperation.”
  • “With regard to the future of the EU, competing goals of Kyiv can be assumed. On the one hand, Ukraine aims to join the EU because it wants ‘more Europe.’ A dilution of European integration is not in its interest, as it would undermine financial and political solidarity. On the other hand, a state fighting for its independence in war will be reluctant to allow sovereignty to be ‘pooled.’ Ukraine would also likely be reluctant to accept differentiated forms of integration, fearing that it would be left out of many projects (as in the case of the Eurozone, of which it would not be a member for a long time).”
  • “Overall, Ukraine’s accession would increase political and socio-economic heterogeneity, which could not simply be eliminated through treaty changes. A new ‘eastern flank of the EU’—enhanced by its close ties with the United States—would have more weight compared to the member states from the south of the Union, and the formative power of the Franco-German tandem would diminish. Germany would therefore have to invest more in securing the unity of the EU. Germany would have an opportunity if Ukraine were to join the Union, as it is a country that would support the Community’s efforts to enhance its security effectiveness and resilience.”

“Challenges to internal security and the rule of law from an EU perspective,” SWP’s Raphael Bossong, SWP, July 2022.

  • “The war in Ukraine affects many areas of non-military security. Fears that Russia might blend terrorists or saboteurs in among the refugees have not materialized for the time being. Concerns about human trafficking and sexual exploitation have prompted national security authorities to take swift countermeasures. Thus far, no massive increase in these crime areas has been reported. In the medium term, however, major challenges arise.”
    • “First, the rapidly growing availability of weapons of war in Ukraine poses a significant risk to the EU’s internal security.”
    • “Second, Ukraine suffers from widespread corruption and weak rule of law.”
    • “Third, the EU has experience with internationally non-recognized borders only in the case of Cyprus.”
  • “In turn, the EU’s Security Union can already benefit from Ukraine during the accession negotiations. Intensive cooperation in military and “hybrid” fields of conflict already exists, especially in cyber defense. At present, it is Western states that provide assistance to Ukraine. But this trend could be reversed, with Ukrainian IT specialists increasingly supporting the EU.”

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“Putin’s Unexpected Challenge: Snubs From His Central Asian Allies,” WSJ’s Evan Gershkovich, WSJ, 07.24.22.

  • “Kazakhstan has joined other Central Asian countries along Russia's southern frontier in staying neutral on the invasion, leaving Belarus as the only ex-Soviet state that has offered full-throated support.”
  • “The growing distance between Moscow and its largest ally in Central Asia represents an unexpected challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin. ... A telling moment came in June, when Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev flew to Russia for Mr. Putin's flagship economic forum in St. Petersburg. Sharing the stage with the Russian president, Mr. Tokayev said Kazakhstan wouldn't recognize the two Moscow-backed separatist states in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine that Mr. Putin says he is liberating.”
  • “Kazakhstan is the only Central Asian nation that borders Russia. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan all lie to the south of Kazakhstan. None have supported the invasion, and Uzbekistan has publicly said it would not recognize the breakaway Donbas republics.”
  • “The partial estrangement has given the U.S. a window to try to regain influence in a region it had stepped back from in recent years.”
  • “While some in the West say Russia's military has been exposed as a paper tiger, one senior official from a Central Asian country said that fear is only growing over Russia's ambitions. ‘It's one thing when they deal with so many others and they have Eastern Europeans and Ukraine to spend their time abusing,’ the official said. ‘Imagine if they don't have Ukraine to abuse. Are we going to be next?’”