Russia Analytical Report, July 25-Aug. 1, 2022

6 Highlights From This Week

  1. Russia stumped by Biden proposal to replace nuclear arms treaty: After the U.S. president announced that his administration was ready to “expeditiously” negotiate a new framework to replace the New START Treaty when it expires in 2026, a Russian diplomat asked Reuters: “Has the White House website been hacked?” But Russian President Vladimir Putin struck a conciliatory tone as diplomats gathered for a month-long U.N. conference to review the world’s major non-proliferation treaty, saying there could be no winners in any nuclear war. 
  2. Creeping Russification in occupied Ukraine: Last week a Russian lawmaker said “integrating new territories” into Russia’s “legal space” could be high on parliament’s agenda next term. Meanwhile, New York Times reporters describe what pro-Russia authorities in occupied Ukraine are doing on the ground: “They have handed out Russian passports, cellphone numbers and set-top boxes for watching Russian television. They have replaced Ukrainian currency with the ruble, rerouted the internet through Russian servers and arrested hundreds who have resisted assimilation.” Next up? “Grass-roots” referenda on joining Russia, possibly as early as September.  
  3. Victory in Ukraine won’t save democracy worldwide: Carnegie’s Steven Feldstein argues that the “pathologies underlying democratic decay” come from within the countries they’re afflicting and are “largely disconnected” from actions by Russia and China. “The notion that defeating Putin could reverse 16 straight years of global democratic decline simply doesn't hold up,” he writes.  
  4. Putin’s new-old police state: Journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan write in Foreign Affairs that, “in its sweeping reach into domestic society, foreign affairs and the military, the FSB [Russia’s Federal Security Service] has begun to look less like its late-Soviet predecessor, the KGB. It now resembles something much scarier: the NKVD, Stalin’s notorious secret police, which conducted the great purges of the 1930s and maintained an iron lock on Russian society into the early years of the Cold War.” 
  5. Reports of Russia’s economic resilience amid Western sanctions are a fiction: A group of Yale scholars using “unconventional data sources” instead of “cherry-picked” Russian statistics argues that: “Russia’s strategic positioning as a commodities exporter has irrevocably deteriorated”; “Russian imports have largely collapsed … leading to widespread supply shortages within its domestic economy”; “domestic production has come to a complete standstill”; “Russia has lost companies representing ~40% of its GDP”; “Putin is resorting to patently unsustainable, dramatic fiscal and monetary intervention”; and “Russian domestic financial markets” have been the world’s worst performing this year. 
  6. Ukraine war stymies the greening of Europe: Facing the threat of Russian gas cut-offs, countries across the continent are reviving coal-fired power plants, spending billions on LNG terminals and pursuing new deals for fossil fuels. “Five months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” writes New York Times energy correspondent Stanley Reed, “Europe is in the grip of an accelerated and increasingly irreversible transition in how it gets its energy… A long-term switch to more renewable sources … has been overtaken by a short-term scramble to make it through the coming winter.” 


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

Nuclear security and safety:

“Dealing with Russian contempt for the IAEA in Ukraine,” Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski of the the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, BAS, 07.28.22.

  • “How the West reacts to the Russian takeover of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant will affect the incentives for future would-be invaders. The top priority in Ukraine is to repel the Russians. But there are useful actions that can be taken in the IAEA context in response to Russian effective dismissal of the Ukraine-IAEA agreement. The IAEA should make clear that it will continue to act in accordance with its agreement with Ukraine. In the extreme, it could also suspend Russia from the agency for interfering with agency inspections. In dealing with this interference, the United States should take the lead.”

“Using Nuclear Reactors for Cover, Russians Lob Rockets at Ukrainians,” Andrew Kramer, NYT, 08.01.22.

  • “Along most of the front line in Russia’s war in Ukraine, when one side lets loose with an artillery attack, the other shoots back. But not in Nikopol, a city deep in southern farm country where the Ukrainian military faces a new and vexing obstacle as it prepares for a major counteroffensive: a nuclear power station that the Russian Army has turned into a fortress.”
  • “Nikopol, controlled by the Ukrainians, lies on the west bank of the Dnipro River. On the opposite bank sits a gigantic nuclear power plant—Europe’s largest—that the Russian Army captured in March. The Russians have been firing from the cover of the Zaporizhzhia station since mid-July, Ukrainian military and civilian officials said, sending rockets over the river at Nikopol and other targets.”
  • “It is, in effect, a free shot. Ukraine cannot unleash volleys of shells in return using American-provided advanced rocket systems, which have silenced Russian guns elsewhere on the front line. Doing so would risk striking one of the six pressurized water reactors or highly radioactive waste in storage. And Russia knows it.”
  • “The attacks from the nuclear plant are complicating Ukraine’s plans in the south, which has become the focal point of the war as Russian advances in the east have slowed.”

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

“As Ukraine Orders Civilians to Evacuate the East, Residents Face a Grim Choice,” Carlotta Gall and Erika Solomon, NYT, 07.31.22.

  • “Thuds from the artillery pounding Ukraine’s embattled east reverberated in the distance, yet it was the shouts of playing children on a recent afternoon [in the Donetsk region] that echoed across the yard near the front line. The scene spoke to the grim choice that residents face after President Volodymyr Zelensky called this weekend for a mandatory evacuation of the region, directing hundreds of thousands of civilians in eastern Ukraine to leave their homes.”
  • “Zelensky’s evacuation announcement is the broadest government directive issued thus far in the war, coming after months of relentless Russian bombardment has destroyed the infrastructure to deliver heat and electricity across eastern Ukraine. Russian forces are now intensifying their offensive in Donetsk Province after seizing nearly all of neighboring Luhansk.”
  • “Fighting is also escalating in Ukraine’s south… In Mykolaiv, the southern city that faced fierce Russian bombardment early in the invasion, officials said that a hotel, a sports complex, two schools and scores of homes were in ruins after Russian shelling early on Sunday [July 31]. Officials described it as the worst shelling there yet—a remarkable assessment given the pounding that the city had already endured.”

“What’s in the Ukraine Grain Deal for Russia?” Alexandra Prokopenko, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 07.26.22.

  • “Following lengthy negotiations mediated by Turkey and the UN, Russia has agreed to unblock Ukrainian ports to allow the export of grain. It’s expected that the deal will make it possible to export 22 million tons of Ukrainian wheat, corn, and other cereals.”
  • “One major factor in Russia’s decision to sign the agreement was Moscow’s partner states in the Middle East and North Africa. … Problems with food supplies, they argued, could destabilize the region, just as they did during the Arab Spring.”
  • “Another incentive for Moscow … was that unblocking Ukraine’s ports will also remove obstacles to Russia’s own grain and fertilizer exports. Easing sanctions to facilitate Russian agricultural exports wasn’t officially a part of the agreement, but was successfully negotiated in parallel with the United States and European Union.”
    • “[I]n 2021, Russia earned $11 billion from exporting grain. The easing in sanctions that Moscow was offered in exchange for signing the agreement will enable it to take advantage of the current high prices on the global market and to make efficient use of its own record harvest.”
  • “It’s not just agricultural exports that are at stake for Moscow, but imports too, which will also be made easier by the grain deal. Russian farmers are heavily dependent on imported seeds for almost everything except wheat … Nearly 90 percent of potato seeds, for example, are imported, along with about 70 percent of rape seeds, and from 30 to 90 percent of fruit and berry crop seeds. Sanctions had also made it difficult for farmers to protect their crops from pests and disease: about one-third of plant protection products are imported, mostly from China and the EU.”
  • “Even these significant advantages, however, are no guarantee that Moscow will abide by the deal, as evidenced by Russia’s cruise missile strike against the port of Odesa less than twenty-four hours after signing the deal. … Moscow may decide at any moment to withdraw unilaterally from the agreement, despite all the benefits for Russian farmers and the economy. During the past five months, President Vladimir Putin has made it clear time and time again that economic logic is of little use in trying to predict his actions.”

“How bad will the global food crisis get?” Chelsea Bruce-Lockhart and Emiko Terazono, FT, 07.27.22.

  • “Has the high price of food passed a peak? Even before the U.N.-brokered grain deal between Kyiv and Moscow gave the green light last week for shipments to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, food commodity prices had been plummeting. Fears of recession, a bumper harvest in Russia and hopes of revived grain trade flows have pushed prices lower.”
  • “But the price declines do not mean the food crisis is over. Analysts say the underlying factors that drove markets higher are unchanged. The ongoing war is only one of a multitude of problems that could sustain higher hunger rates for many years to come.”
  • “The Ukraine conflict came at a time when food prices were already being pushed upwards by a range of factors—mainly droughts affecting key crop-producing countries and supply chains dealing with the residual effects of the pandemic. In poorer countries whose economies have been left in tatters by COVID-19 lockdowns, the war only exacerbated a grim situation.”
  • “And even if the war ended tomorrow, Ukraine’s agricultural and port infrastructure need to be rebuilt and the waters off its coastline demined. The country’s farmers may not be able or willing to come back to work on their land. Many Western government officials and analysts expect the current food crisis to last years.”

“War, Climate Change, Energy Costs: How the Wheat Market Has Been Upended,” Joe Rennison, NYT, 08.01.22.

  • “Like oil, steel, beef and other commodities integral to the economy, wheat shifts in price and availability in response to a complex set of overlapping factors, such as geopolitics and the weather. While the falling price of wheat offers some respite for countries dependent on importing the crop, it may dissuade farmers from planting more.”
  • “Nor does the drop in price address pre-existing problems worsened by a war between two of the world’s biggest producers. Energy prices remain high, affecting the cost of running farm equipment and transporting the wheat to market as well as the cost of fertilizer. And hot, dry weather that crimps crop yields is becoming more common.”

“Destroying the Environment Is a War Crime, Too,” Eugene Z. Stakhiv of Johns Hopkins University, FP, 07.27.22.

  • “While Ukrainians are doing what they can to curb the damage to environmental infrastructure, Russians will use all means of propaganda and misinformation to deny and deflect attention for their own culpability in these environmental war crimes. Russian propaganda is high-volume, rapid, repetitive and continuous.”
  • “A little-known but catastrophic event occurred on Aug. 18, 1941, when the Dnipro hydroelectric power station, located near the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, was destroyed by the Red Army as it retreated eastward before the advancing German army. It is estimated that the resulting flood surge from the dam killed as many as 100,000 unsuspecting civilians downstream, who were given no warning to evacuate. The destruction of that dam was one of the war crimes listed at the Nuremberg trial, implicating Germans, although the Soviets were actually to blame. The world cannot allow such blatant falsifications to smear Ukraine when it comes to accounting for Russia’s war crimes.”

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“Pathways to Russian Escalation Against NATO from the Ukraine War,” RAND’s Bryan Frederick, Samuel Charap, Scott Boston, Stephen J. Flanagan, Michael J. Mazarr, Jennifer D. P. Moroney and Karl P. Mueller, RAND, July 2022.  

  • “[H]orizontal escalation by Russia—that is, the act of expanding the conflict to include other actor, specifically the United States and its NATO  allies—has become plausible, though not inevitable. … This Perspective describes four plausible horizontal escalation pathways.”
    • “Pathway 0: Escalation Spiral That Could Have Already Begun”
    • “Pathway 1: Preemption Against Perceived NATO Intervention in Ukraine”
    • “Pathway 2: Interdiction of NATO Allies’ Military Assistance to Ukraine”
    • “Pathway 3: Domestic Instability in Russia Sparks Aggression”
  • “A Russia-NATO war is far from an inevitable outcome of the current conflict. U.S. and allied policymakers should be concerned with specific pathways and potential triggers, but they need not operate under the assumption that every action will entail acute escalation risks.”
  • “Our assessment of these escalation pathways highlights several key considerations for U.S. policymakers:”
    • “Continue to signal that the United States and NATO allies have no plans to directly enter the conflict.”
    • “Increase force presence in the east and focus on capabilities that strengthen NATO’s defensive posture without appearing to enable a first strike on Russia.”
    • “Holistically consider all new NATO activities and deployments in the east to avoid creating a false impression of preparation for offensive action.”
    • “Keep the locations inside NATO territory that are used to transfer military assistance or provide training to Ukraine dispersed and covert, wherever possible.”
    • “Maintain the message discipline that NATO’s goal is the cessation of conflict, not the end of the Putin regime.”
    • “Recognize the danger that more than one of the escalation pathways described in this Perspective could occur at the same time.”
    • “Remain vigilant that an escalatory spiral could be slow-moving.”
    • “Anticipate possible Russian actions and map out responses to them that are specifically calculated to achieve U.S. goals without prompting escalation.”

“Thousands of nontraditional fighters have joined the Ukraine war,” Andrew Bell and Katherine Karmer, WP, 07.27.22.

  • “What do we know about the role and operations of nontraditional combatants? Our work suggests three key points on how these fighters can impact the protection of civilians in Ukraine.”
    • “Nontraditional combatants come in many forms.”
    • “Looser command structures can mean more war crimes.”
    • “Less training in the laws of war can also lead to more violations.”
  • “Presence of nontraditional combatants can make already dangerous modern battlefields more perilous for civilians. Armed groups, mercenaries, foreign fighters and other combatants who lack strong enforcement structures or intensive training in norms of civilian protection can create far greater risks for civilians. If countries wish to reduce these risks, our research suggests the importance of strengthening command enforcement structures and civilian protection training across the broad spectrum of armed groups engaged in conflict — both in Ukraine and around the world.”

“Ukraine wages a ‘deep war’ to degrade Russian forces as Moscow continues its scorched-earth campaign,” Marc Santora, NYT, 08.01.22.

  • “On multiple fronts, the Ukrainian and Russian militaries were trying to dictate both how and where the battle is fought. Much will turn on which army succeeds in that effort.”
  • “For the Ukrainians, that means attacking the Russians where they are weakest on both the eastern and southern fronts, employing some of the same tactics they used in the early months of the war to drive the Russians from around Kyiv and other cities and towns in the north.”
  • “For the Russians, that means using the kind of brute force that has laid waste to many of the cities now under their control.”

“Why would Ukraine kill its own heroes? Don’t fall for Kremlin propaganda,” Max Boot, WaPo, 08.01.22.

  • “The moral relativism of self-consciously neutral journalism—‘Jack says the moon is made of green cheese, Jill disagrees’—is bad enough when it comes to political reporting. It’s far more noxious in the case of war crimes. Yet many publications are reporting the sickening massacre of 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war on Friday with headlines like this one from The Post: ‘Ukraine and Russia trade blame for attack killing Mariupol prisoners.’”
  • “This might make sense for the Iran-Iraq war, but there is no moral equivalency between Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainians are innocent victims of unprovoked aggression. They are not known to deliberately target civilians, much less their own captured soldiers. The Russians are notorious war criminals and liars who routinely blame someone else for every outrage they (or their allies) commit—including shooting down a Malaysian passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014 and slaughtering civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, this year.”
  • “It is, of course, possible that an errant Ukrainian artillery strike might have hit the prisoner-of-war camp near Olenivka, in eastern Ukraine. But the Ukrainians deny that they fired any artillery in the area on Friday [July 29], and the Russians aren’t claiming a ‘friendly fire’ accident. Russian media claims that the Ukrainians deliberately slaughtered their own soldiers to discourage others from surrendering and to prevent these soldiers, who belonged to the Azov Regiment, from testifying about supposed Ukrainian war crimes. As usual, Russian propaganda makes no sense.”

“Zelensky and some lawmakers want more U.S. military personnel in Ukraine,” Josh Rogin, WP, 07.28.22.

  • “Speaking to a delegation of five U.S. lawmakers last week in Kyiv, Zelensky repeated his requests for more and better U.S. weapons. He also revealed that he has been asking the Biden administration to deploy U.S. military personnel in Kyiv to improve U.S.-Ukraine coordination on all aspects of the war, three of those lawmakers told me.”
  • “To its credit, the Biden administration has given Ukraine an enormous amount of aid - but that entire effort could falter without a new weapons surge. If Putin establishes territorial gains this year, next year he will only push further. Time is running out to give Zelensky what he needs to win or at least negotiate from a position of strength.”

“Might Russia Turn to Terror Bombing Civilians in Ukraine?” RAND’s Karl P. Mueller, RAND, 07.29.22.

  • “Recent Russian missile attacks against civilian targets in cities far away from the front lines have killed scores of Ukrainians, leading to widespread outrage. These events raise the question of whether the war in Ukraine is entering a new phase in which terror attacks might become common.”
  • “Missiles have struck civilian buildings elsewhere across Ukraine, but it is often difficult to distinguish deliberate attacks from those that were aimed at civilian targets because of faulty intelligence, or those that missed intended military targets because the weapons were inaccurate or were fired with little regard for where they landed. This problem is growing more severe as Russia runs low on newer, more-accurate missiles and draws on its stockpiles of older munitions.”
  • “Russian leaders appear to have little concern about causing civilian casualties and may even regard doing so as a useful drain on their enemy's resources and morale, but during the initial months of the conflict they have mainly used air power and missiles in ways that appear intended to contribute to defeating Ukraine's armed forces. … However, it is possible Vladimir Putin could resort to a strategy of maximizing civilian harm and terror if gaining a satisfactory outcome on the battlefield appears out of reach, or if Russia achieves its territorial objectives but Ukraine refuses to accept the situation and continues to fight.”

Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:

“Europe’s fight to stay united over war in Ukraine?” FT’s Guy Chazan, Sam Fleming and Amy Kazmin, FT, 07.29.22.

  • “The EU has shown a united front since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February. But forced to wrestle with soaring inflation, a cost of living crisis and the real prospect of energy rationing in the depths of winter, Europe’s leaders now face a daunting test. Can they continue to hold the line in facing down Russia’s aggression? Or will their solidarity crumble as pushback from angry consumers obliges them to dial down their hostility to Moscow?”
  • “So far, though, there are no signs of a change of heart on Ukraine, either in the corridors of power or in Europe’s population at large. … Meanwhile, EU leaders are urging voters to show what Josep Borrell, the bloc’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, has called ‘strategic patience.’ ‘The war will be long and the test of strength will last,’ he recently wrote in a blog post. But, he added, ‘we have no other choice.’”
  • Economists say that while it’s true that the ruble has recovered from its post-invasion decline, interest rates have fallen to prewar levels and Russia’s oil and gas revenues are up this year, sanctions mean it can’t use all the foreign currency it has earned to buy the high-tech imports it needs to keep its manufacturing industry operating. The Russian military’s ability to produce new tanks and guided missiles has also been affected, U.S. officials say, undermining its war effort.”
  • “EU officials also firmly reject any suggestion that the sanctions are having a more deleterious effect on the European economy than on Russia’s. Valdis Dombrovskis, the commission’s executive vice-president, says that while Brussels is still forecasting growth of 2.7% for the EU this year, economists expect Russia to lose a tenth of its output in the same period.”

“Russia Is Making Heaps of Money From Oil, but There Is a Way to Stop That,” Editorial Board, NYT, 07.29.22.

  • “Nations seeking to help Ukraine are aiming at the wrong target. They have focused on reducing Russia’s energy exports instead of reducing Russia’s earnings from energy exports. Russia is exporting less oil but, in a perverse twist, it is earning more money, according to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, based in Finland.”
  • “The situation is about to take a turn for the worse. New sanctions that the European Union and Britain have agreed to impose on Russia by year’s end are likely to drive oil prices even higher. Some analysts warn that the price for a barrel of oil could exceed $200, well above the spike in the early weeks of the war, when oil prices topped out around $124. That could easily push Western economies into a recession.”
  • “The Biden administration has a plan that could avert this crisis. It would establish a buyer’s cartel—an agreement among Russia’s customers to put a price ceiling on Russian oil. That ceiling would be significantly lower than the current market price, sharply reducing the role of Western consumers in funding the Russian military. But the price would still allow Russia to make some profit, so that it has an incentive to export its oil to members of the cartel.”
  • “A buyer’s cartel is a temporary expedient. After decades of complacent dependence on Russia, European nations are scrambling to adopt new plans to reduce energy use and expand sustainable wind and solar power. The war in Ukraine ought to catalyze similar investments by the United States, which is a net energy exporter but remains dependent on fossil fuel imports. In the meantime, Ukraine needs the sustained support of its allies in what may be a prolonged struggle. It is counterproductive to impose unnecessary pain.”

“Business Retreats and Sanctions Are Crippling the Russian Economy,” Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Steven Tian, Franek Sokolowski, Michal Wyrebkowski, and Mateusz Kasprowicz, SSRN, 07.19.22

  • “Russia needs world markets as an outlet for its commodity exports far more than the world needs Russian commodity supplies... For every incremental pain inflicted on the west by pivoting away from Russian commodities, the damage wrought to Russia is far in excess…Confrontation with the West has decreased Russia's leverage as a commodity exporter in its relationship not only with China, but with other relatively minor partners in the former Soviet bloc.”
  • “Russian imports fell by upwards of around 50% in the initial months following the invasion… exports to Russia from sanctioning and non-sanctioning countries have collapsed at a roughly comparable rate … In desperation, Putin has effectively legalized grey market and intellectual property infringement—and at times has outright encouraged parallel imports.”
  • “Russia has lost companies representing around 40% of its GDP, reversing nearly all of three decades’ worth of foreign investment and buttressing unprecedented simultaneous capital and population flight in a mass exodus of Russia’s economic base.”
  • “The official exchange rate of the ruble given the presence of such draconian capital controls can be misleading … Even the Bank of Russia has admitted that the exchange rate is a reflection more of government policies and a blunt expression of the country’s trade balance.”
  • “Thanks to a massive wave of fiscal and monetary stimulus unleashed post-invasion, Russian state spending and social obligations are now at a magnitude much higher than before. To sustain this unprecedented level of spending, any decrease in Russian gas and oil revenues would force Russia to tap into its ‘rainy-day’ funds … but these reserves are seemingly already dwindling … Russian FX reserves have declined by $75 billion since the start of the war—a rate which, if annualized, suggests these reserves may be spent down within a few years’ time.”

Ukraine-related negotiations:

“The US and Russia Need to Start Talking Before It’s Too Late,” RAND’s Samuel Charap and European Council on Foreign Relations’ Jeremy Shapiro, NYT, 07.27.22.  

  • “As long as both Russia and the West are determined to prevail over the other in Ukraine and prepared to devote their deep reserves of weapons to achieve that goal, further escalation seems almost preordained.”
  • “The United States and its allies should certainly continue providing Ukraine with the matériel it needs, but they should also—in close consultation with Kyiv—begin opening channels of communication with Russia. An eventual cease-fire should be the goal, even as the path to it remains uncertain.”
  • “Starting talks while the fighting rages would be politically risky and would require significant diplomatic efforts, particularly with Ukraine—and success is anything but guaranteed. But talking can reveal the possible space for compromise and identify a way out of the spiral. Otherwise, this war could eventually bring Russia and NATO into direct conflict.”
  • “The determination of both the West and Russia to do whatever it takes to prevail in Ukraine is the main driver of escalation.”
  • “We are witnessing a classic spiral in which both sides feel compelled to do more as soon as the other side begins to make some progress. The best way to prevent that dynamic from getting out of control is to start talking before it’s too late.”

“I’m Ukraine’s Foreign Minister. Putin Must Be Stopped,” Dmytro Kuleba, NYT, 07.29.22.

  • “With global support, Ukraine has already stabilized the front line and is preparing to regain control over territories currently occupied by Russia, first and foremost in the strategically important south. It’s true that we lost some ground in the Luhansk region, because of Russia’s overwhelming advantage in artillery. But we are now slowly but steadily closing the gap, thanks to heavy weaponry supplied by the United States and others. In recent weeks, Russia has failed to make any significant gains. We are determined to turn the tide in our favor and push Russian forces out of our land.”
  • “In that spirit, we in Ukraine call on our partners to increase their support and reject Russia’s fake peace proposals. Nor should they pay any attention to the narrative, amplified by Russian propaganda, of so-called war fatigue. Every war is tiresome, but we need to endure. The price of losing—a crushed Ukraine, a shattered West and a resurgent Russia—is too high to countenance anything else.”

“Ukraine Needs Solutions, Not Endless War,” Steven Simon of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and Jonathan Stevenson of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, NI, 07.29.22.

  • “Ukrainian forces’ impressive military performance has reinforced the view that an outright victory against Russia is possible. But an unqualified Ukrainian win that dislodges the Russian forces from eastern Ukraine is increasingly improbable. Grinding attrition that makes dangerous escalation a tantalizing option for both countries is more likely. Accordingly, a ceasefire and separation of forces should be a priority for the United States and its allies. The United States has the tools and experience to make it happen.”
  • “At this stage, there is a rough consensus that the war will likely end through a negotiated settlement. This settlement will be a variation of the Minsk II agreement … The Russian invasion of Ukraine followed the collapse of Minsk II, of course, but this was less a result of the structure of the agreement than of both sides hardening their positions and believing that there were better options for achieving their goals. The costs of the current conflict will force a recalibration that makes the Minsk disposition more appealing.”
  • “Neither side can fulfill its maximal war aims: Russia cannot conquer all of Ukraine and Ukraine cannot comprehensively eject Russian forces. Each side also needs minimal assurances. Ukraine needs guarantees that Russia won’t keep trying to wipe it from the map while Russia won’t permit NATO to deploy along its border. These are not unreasonable requirements.”
  • “There is also a widespread assumption that because the opposing leaders (especially Putin) are disinclined to negotiate, talks will emerge only from the war of attrition now underway when both combatants are exhausted. This view does not offer a stable interim solution to a profound geopolitical feud. Both sides have serious concerns that could lead to a sharp and swift escalation.”

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

“Ukraine Won’t Save Democracy. The Causes of Democratic Decline Are Internal,” Steven Feldstein of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, FA, 07.26.22. 

  • “The notion that defeating Putin could reverse 16 straight years of global democratic decline simply doesn't hold up. Although a decisive Ukrainian victory might momentarily slow the downward cascade, the pathologies underlying democratic decay are largely disconnected from Russian or Chinese actions.”
  • “Instead, the greater threat to the world's democracies comes from within. A toxic combination of internal factors … has led to a breakdown in shared values in the democratic world. Preventing further democratic decline, let alone reversing it, requires both a clear-eyed understanding of these factors and, more important, a renewed commitment to core democratic values.”
  • “As Western policymakers struggle to counter growing authoritarianism worldwide, they should take care not to overemphasize competition with Russia and China. Already, there is widespread suspicion about U.S. motives. A string of foreign policy blunders has damaged the United States' reputation … U.S. efforts to box in Russia and curtail China's influence have drawn tepid responses in many countries.”
  • “That does not mean that it is not possible for the United States to restore legitimacy to the global democracy agenda, but the task will not come easily.”
    • “One step the Biden administration can take is to signal clearer support for values-based approaches. For every meeting Biden holds with an authoritarian like the Saudi crown prince or the Egyptian president, he should convene an equally well-publicized gathering with Saudi or Egyptian activists to discuss their countries' abysmal records on human rights.”
    • “The Biden administration should also match resources to rhetoric. At the Summit for Democracy slated to take place in 2023, the United States and its allies should announce the creation of an independent fund for global justice and democracy. The goal of such a fund would be simple: to provide the resources and means for local activists, civil society organizations, independent journalists, and ordinary citizens to stand up against injustice, defend human rights, and advance democratic freedoms, particularly in repressive environments like Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Venezuela.”

“Can the ‘Rimland’ Contain China and Russia?” Michael Gurfinkiel, WSJ, 07.29.22.

  • “A new Western global strategy is taking shape. Its development was evident during President Biden’s tour in the Middle East—specifically at the July 14 online summit with the quadrilateral I2U2 Group: Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (the I’s) and the United Arab Emirates’ president Mohamed bin Zayed and Mr. Biden (the U’s).”
  • “[O]ne must consider many analogous developments,” including a NATO “re-energized by the Russian invasion of Ukraine”; the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the embryonic Indo-Pacific alliance of the U.S., Japan, Australia and India; ‘a semiformal Eastern Mediterranean security alliance bringing together France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt;’ and ‘the reinvigoration of an Anglo-Pacific defense community Australia, the U.S. and the U.K., or Aukus;’ among others.”
  • “A U.S.-supported arc of strategic cooperation now stretches from Western to Eastern Eurasia, as a defensive oceanic ‘Rimland’ against the hostile continental powers of Eurasia—China and Russia. Such an approach has a historical pedigree in the grand strategies [of Halford John Mackinder and Nicholas John Spykman] … which underpinned British, American and global Western defense policies during World War I, World War II and the Cold War.
  • The emerging 21st-century Rimland strategy raises several questions.
    • First, is the present continental Eurasian menace real? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. China and Russia are both major military powers, nuclear and conventional. Both are authoritarian, hypernationalist, revisionist imperial states, bent on destroying the Western-centered world order. 
    • The second question is whether Mackinder’s and Spykman’s insistence on geographic constraints and Spykman’s more focused insistence on the Rimland are still valid in the age of planes, satellites and internet. The Chinese certainly think so, as evidenced by their Belt and Road Initiative.
    • The third question is whether all potential Rimland partners fully agree on a coordinated containment strategy against China and Russia. That is so far unresolved. 
    • The fourth and final question is whether the new Rimland strategy is a conscious one. … The available evidence—books, op-eds, reports—suggests that scholars have rediscovered the classic Anglo-American geopolitists since the early 2000s in the context of increasing Chinese and Russian aggressiveness but failed to elaborate it [a strategy] fully until recently.”

“What’s Missing from Mearsheimer’s Analysis of the Ukraine War,” Joe Cirincione, Russia Matters, 07.29.22. 

  • In this response to John Mearsheimer’s June 16 speech on the causes and consequences of the Ukraine war, the author writes that Mearsheimer’s “security equation is missing key variables. The three most important are the security imperatives of Russia’s neighbors, the increasing authoritarianism of the Russian state and the true horror of Russia’s brutal war and occupation.”  
  • “By not adequately weighing these factors, Mearsheimer can explain Putin’s invasion of a peaceful, independent nation as a predictable reaction to Western provocations. He blasts the U.S. and NATO response as an overreaction to a limited conflict. Analyzing only parts of the equation, he arrives at a deeply flawed solution: In my understanding, he essentially calls on the West to militarily abandon Ukraine and to cede it to Russia’s sphere of influence.” 
  • “Mearsheimer’s assurances today that Putin has only ‘limited aims’ and that his February blitzkrieg failed … because the ‘Russian military did not attempt to conquer all of Ukraine’ are as wrong now as they were in 2014 … [when] he counseled that … Putin’s ‘response to events there [in Ukraine] has been defensive, not offensive.’” 
  • “Russia itself provides the rebuttal. In late July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said outright that Moscow’s goal was to free Ukraine’s people from the ‘unacceptable regime’ in Kyiv. … Already, in occupied parts of Ukraine, Russian-backed administrators are introducing rubles as a new currency, handing out Russian passports, hoisting the Russian flag, taking over cell phone service and media and trying to re-educate teachers and children with new, pro-Russian versions of reality.” 


“Russia Will Miss the World Order Putin Upended,” Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, WSJ, 07.25.22.

  • “In his fight to change the world order, Mr. Putin wasn’t afraid to destroy the existing one. Russia has staked everything on its size and might, banking on the prospect that attempts to exclude it from the world order will lead to that order’s collapse—or at least that the economic costs will force the West to adapt to Russian needs.”
  • ’They’ll come crawling back,’ Russians say about sanctions and the exodus of Western brands … None of those companies, or the Western economy as a whole, rely on the Russian market for their success. Russia played no role in the postwar economic miracles of Japan, Spain, South Korea or West Germany. Without a presence in the Russian market the Asian tigers became tigers and Western Europe turned into a continent populated by the middle class. Even China achieved an economic boom, and not by supplying down jackets to the Russian market in the 1990s.”
  • “The world has changed in many ways as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it’s hardly become more accommodating to Moscow’s ambitions. Finland and Sweden are set to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, due to start transporting Russian gas any minute before the war, stands idle. The number of countries lifting visa requirements for Russian nationals had been growing every year; no more. The state-owned media company RT had some success on the global information market; now it is blocked throughout the European Union. … Even sympathetic China has more leverage to buy Russian oil and gas with huge discounts.”
  • By changing the world order, Russia has discovered that it wasn’t only a victim but a part of it—and even a beneficiary.

“Does Anyone Still Understand the ‘Security Dilemma’?” Harvard University’s Stephen M. Walt, FP, 07.26.22.

  • “The security dilemma describes how the actions that one state takes to make itself more secure … tend to make other states less secure and lead them to respond in kind. The result is a tightening spiral of hostility that leaves neither side better off than before.”
  • “Adding new members to NATO may have made some of these states more secure … but it should be obvious why Russia might not see it this way and that it might do various objectionable things in response … NATO officials might regard Russia’s fears as fanciful or as ‘myths,’ but that hardly means that they are completely absurd or that Russians don’t genuinely believe them. Remarkably, plenty of smart, well-educated Westerners—including some prominent former diplomats—cannot seem to grasp that their benevolent intentions are not transparently obvious to others.”
  • “To be sure, a few world leaders have understood this problem and pursued policies that tried to mitigate the security dilemma’s pernicious effects. After the Cuban missile crisis, for example, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev made a serious and successful effort to reduce the risk of future confrontations by installing the famous hotline and beginning a serious effort at nuclear arms control. … In Wright’s telling, Obama understood that sending Ukraine offensive weapons might exacerbate Russian fears and encourage the Ukrainians to think they could reverse Russia’s earlier gains, thereby provoking an even wider war. Tragically, this is pretty much what happened after the Trump and Biden administrations ramped up the flow of Western weaponry to Kyiv.”
  • “Governments must try to manage these problems through statecraft, empathy and intelligent military policies. As Jervis explained in his seminal 1978 World Politics article, in some circumstances the dilemma can be eased by developing defensive military postures, especially in the nuclear realm. … The existence of the security dilemma also suggests that states should look for areas where they can build trust without leaving themselves vulnerable.”

“Why I Won’t Vote to Add Sweden and Finland to NATO,” U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, NI, 08.01.22.

  • “Finland and Sweden want to join the Atlantic Alliance to head off further Russian aggression in Europe. That is entirely understandable given their location and security needs. But America’s greatest foreign adversary doesn’t loom over Europe. It looms in Asia. I am talking of course about the People’s Republic of China. And when it comes to Chinese imperialism, the American people should know the truth: the United States is not ready to resist it. Expanding American security commitments in Europe now would only make that problem worse—and America, less safe.”
  • “As the 2018 and 2022 U.S. National Defense Strategies both acknowledge, the United States cannot defeat China and Russia in two major wars at the same time. … We must do less in Europe (and elsewhere) in order to prioritize China and Asia.
  • “To be clear, America shouldn’t abandon NATO. But it’s time for our European allies to do more. In particular, they must take primary responsibility for the conventional defense of Europe by investing more in their own militaries. All the way back in 2006, NATO member states pledged to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on national defense. It should be higher. The United States spends far more than that on defense. But many NATO members still haven’t met even this minimal commitment.”

“The Paradoxes of Escalation in Ukraine,” Austin Carson of the University of Chicago, 07.29.22.

  • “Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a paradox about escalation has emerged. The West carefully avoids certain kinds of involvement—such as sending Kyiv MiG fighter jets, setting up no-fly zones, and putting boots on the ground—for fear that it will provoke a greater war with Moscow. But Western countries do supply Ukraine with sophisticated artillery and intelligence targeting Russian officers and ships. … The distinctions between these kinds of assistance can seem arbitrary and change over time. Yet those differences are taken seriously by both Russia and the West, and they have helped stop the war from spreading.”
  • “The complexity surrounding what lines NATO, Russia, and Ukraine are willing to respect—and which ones they are not—reflects the fact that the rules of limited war are messy. In Ukraine and other conflicts, escalation is an intricate dance, informed by history, geography and universal distinctions between different kinds of wartime conduct. Both sides feel out what the other will tolerate, usually converging on a shared understanding of what is fair game and what is not.”
  • “To keep conflicts limited, then, warring parties must gradually test each other’s boundaries, as the West has wisely done. By moving slowly, the United States and its allies have managed to help defend the Ukrainians while gauging Russia’s tolerance. NATO should continue to up its involvement at only a gradual pace, figuring out Russia’s redlines by carefully watching how the country responds to Western moves. A deniable Russian drone strike in Poland, for example, could be a sign that NATO has pushed Moscow too far, in which case it should pull back. Above all, NATO must continue to obey the clearest of redlines, fighting only through Ukrainian forces and the keeping actual combat to Ukrainian territory. Otherwise, it risks a far more dangerous conflict.”

“Nuclear Risks: Russia’s Ukraine War Could End in Disaster,” Giles David Arceneaux of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and Rachel Tecott of the U.S. Naval War College, NI, 07.31.22.

  • “The likelihood of nuclear use in Ukraine may be low, but it is not zero. Analysts who quickly dismiss the potential for nuclear escalation—and even most of those who express worries about nuclear conflict—largely oversimplify the many pathways that can lead to nuclear use, whether purposeful or inadvertent. Providing a clearer delineation of those pathways will help policymakers better understand which policy options can more safely advance U.S. objectives, and which policies should inspire greater caution and restraint.”
  • “The concern for analyzing the future trajectory of the war, however, is that analysts have become overly confident in crisis stability and the controllability of escalation. Even if the West and Ukraine do not cross what appear to be Russia’s red lines, the simple act of approaching those thresholds can create the conditions that increase the likelihood of accidental or unauthorized nuclear use and encourage preemptive strikes against a mobilizing Russian nuclear arsenal.”

“Is Russia Isolated? Condemnation of Its Invasion of Ukraine Isn’t Global,” Harvard University’s Joshua Henderson, RM, 07.28.22.

  • “As the West’s increasing punitive measures bear down on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Africa this week, trying to develop economic ties and rally political support from governments there. Why Africa? For one, the continent is forecast to become the world’s “next growth miracle.” As important, not one African country to date has imposed sanctions on Russia, and when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the African Union via videolink, only four African heads of state reportedly attended.”
  • “While some analysts and Western officials claim that Russia is isolated, the inconvenient fact is that condemnation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine is far from universal. … On the U.N. resolution to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and demand its immediate withdrawal, states accounting for half the world’s population abstained or opposed.”
  • “On the U.N. resolution to remove Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council, states accounting for 75% of the world’s population abstained or opposed. These included: the world’s most populous country (China), the world’s largest democracy (India), three leading democracies in Africa (Algeria, two leading democracies in Latin America, and nearly every country in the Middle East).”

“One. More. Time. It’s not about NATO,” Stanford University’s Steven Pifer, CISAC, 07.26.22.

  • “Putin’s decision to launch a new attack on Ukraine appears to have several motivations.” 
    • “One is geopolitical, the Kremlin’s desire to have a Russian sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space and its fear that Ukraine was invariably moving away from Moscow. This is a broader question than Ukraine’s relationship with NATO.  But nothing has done more than Russian policy and actions since 2014 to push Ukraine away from Russia and toward the West.”
    • “Russian domestic politics looks like a second key factor.  For the Kremlin, a democratic, Western-oriented, economically successful Ukraine poses a nightmare, because that Ukraine would cause Russians to question why they cannot have the same political voice and democratic rights that Ukrainians do.  For the Kremlin, regime preservation is job number one.”
    • “The third factor is Putin himself. Reading his July 2021 essay on Ukraine or his Feb. 24 speech on Russia’s recognition of the so-called ‘people’s republics’ in Donbas makes clear that Putin does not accept the legitimacy of a sovereign and independent Ukrainian state. He regards most of Ukraine as part of historical Russia. On June 9, the Russian president voiced the quiet part aloud, implicitly comparing himself to Peter the Great on ‘returning’ historic Russian lands to Moscow’s control. Putin said, ‘Apparently, it is also our lot to return [what is Russia’s] and reinforce [the country].’  He said not one word about NATO or NATO enlargement. Case closed.”

“Realism Is More Than Restraint,” Robert Kaplan of the Center for a New American Security, NI, 07.29.22.

  • “In a world more interconnected than ever before, placing restraint on a pedestal may mean you’ll sacrifice any principle for the sake of it, and consequently run the risk of signaling inaction and weakness. Never tell your enemy what you’re not going to do, is a dictum of realism that an obsession with restraint violates. A foreign policy should not be that doctrinaire and predictable.”
  • “Realism in actual practice has always been synonymous with something far greater than restraint and offshore balancing: that something is statesmanship, just as Kissinger alluded to in ‘A World Restored.’”
  • “A statesman must combine two opposite sensibilities, both of which are synonymous with realism. The first is geopolitics, which judges whole populations according to their natural resources and position on the map. Interests rather than values are paramount. Then there are the psychologies, fears, and passions of great protagonists in a world crisis. For example, Ukraine’s geography, so engulfed by Russia, makes it doomed to be a neutral state, according to the geopolitician. But one can also declare that Ukraine’s fate will ultimately be decided by the actions and sensibilities of individual men: such as Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin. The first sensibility constitutes the realm of fate; the second the realm of human agency. It is in the interaction of these two seemingly opposite tendencies that statesmanship is forged. Statesmanship is about seeing the wisdom and limitations in both positions. And that is the height of realism.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“China on the Offensive: How the Ukraine War Has Changed Beijing’s Strategy,” Bonny Lin and Jude Blanchette of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, FA, 08.01.22.

  • “Beijing has concluded that regardless of the war’s outcome, its own external environment has become more dangerous. Chinese analysts see a growing schism between Western democracies and various nondemocratic countries, including China and Russia. China is concerned that the United States may leverage this growing fault line to build economic, technological or security coalitions to contain it. It believes that Washington and Taipei are intentionally stirring up tension in the region by directly linking the assault on Ukraine to Taiwan’s safety and security. And it is concerned that growing international support for Taiwan will disrupt its plans for ‘reunification.’”
  • “These perceptions of Western interference have put Beijing once again on the offensive. Moving forward, China’s foreign policy will increasingly be defined by a more bellicose assertion of its interests and the exploration of new pathways to global power that circumvent chokepoints controlled by the West.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

“Russia’s War in Ukraine: WMD Issues,” Richard Weitz of the Hudson Institute, Hudson Institute, July 2022.

  • “Many foreign observers consider threats of Russian nuclear weapons use during the Ukraine War credible if extremely unlikely.”
    • “U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has observed, ‘The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility.’”
    • “When he testified before Congress in April, CIA Director William Burns cautioned that U.S. policymakers must take the threat of Russian use of non-strategic (aka tactical) nuclear weapons seriously.”
    • “The U.S. military has elevated its monitoring of Russian activities and prepared for nuclear use contingencies.”
  • “The war will likely further decrease the prospects for nuclear arms control and increase the incentives for further nuclear proliferation.”
  • “Some observers worry that Western wavering in the face of Russian nuclear warnings will only encourage more such threats and thereby elevate the risk of actual nuclear use. Other analysts express concern that Putin will rely more on nuclear weapons should Russia’s conventional forces suffer defeat in Ukraine.”
  • “So far, though, fears of Russian nuclear weapons use have declined. The Russian military has refrained from attacking Ukrainian targets with unconventional munitions and from targeting NATO countries with any kinetic weapons at all. As a result, the U.S. and other governments have become more comfortable providing Ukrainians with more advanced conventional weapons even if they contribute to Russia’s continuing military setbacks.”

“Russia puzzled by Biden proposal to replace nuclear arms treaty,” Reuters, 08.01.22. 

  • “A Russian foreign ministry source expressed puzzlement on Monday [Aug. 1] about a proposal from U.S. President Joe Biden to negotiate a new nuclear arms control framework to replace the New START Treaty when it expires in 2026.” 
  • “Biden said in a statement … that his administration was ready to ‘expeditiously’ negotiate a new framework but that Russia should demonstrate that it is ready to resume work on nuclear arms control with the United States.” 
  • "‘Is this a serious statement or has the White House website been hacked?’ a Russian Foreign Ministry source told Reuters. ‘If this is still a serious intention, with whom exactly do they intend to discuss it?’" 


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

“What Are the Kremlin’s Calculations in Its Gas War With Europe?” Sergey Vakulenko, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 07.27.22.

  • “When Gazprom announced on July 21 that routine maintenance work on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline was complete, Europe breathed a sigh of relief. But just five days later, the Russian gas giant issued a caveat: the pipeline will now operate at just 20 percent of its capacity.”
  • “The most plausible explanation for the recent moves by Gazprom and statements by senior Russian officials is that what we are seeing is not simply a string of technical and legal problems, but a Moscow-orchestrated effort to reduce the supply of Russian gas to Europe as part of the broader geoeconomic standoff between Moscow and the West. The workings of European gas markets offer some insight into what is driving the Kremlin’s strategy in this standoff.”
  • “In the summer … Europe can manage without Russian gas, replacing it with LNG. … In winter, however, even with storage full and all the European LNG terminals working at full capacity, Europe will still need some Russian gas to keep lights on, homes warm and industry working.”
  • “If storage is less than full, there will simply not be enough gas to get through the winter … That situation will put the basic well-being of ordinary Europeans at stake, and will require tough and unpopular decisions from governments, such as energy rationing and industry lockdowns. In Russia’s strategic calculus, that means European governments must either face a severe economic and political crisis at home, or call a truce in their confrontation with Moscow, accommodating some of the Kremlin’s political demands on Ukraine, and lifting sanctions.”
  • “Cutting off gas completely is the strongest weapon at the Kremlin’s disposal, and it is probably more valuable as a threat—at least for now. … [T]here is a view in the Kremlin that when Russia wins the conflict, or at least achieves an honorable peace settlement, the gas trade will be part of a comprehensive agreement with the West … If Russia doesn’t achieve those goals, the destruction of the gas trade with Europe will be far from the biggest problem faced by Putin and his team.”

“Putin Won’t Let OPEC Help Bring Down Oil Prices,” Julian Lee, Bloomberg/WaPo, 08.01.22.

  • “OPEC+ is facing calls to raise production. During his visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this month, President Joe Biden asked the group to pump more to help bring down soaring inflation. This week’s meeting [Aug. 3] will be the first opportunity for all the members to discuss that request.”
  • “If it seriously considers raising output again—and there’s no guarantee that it will—the group could increase everybody’s targets. But that would simply widen the gap between planned and actual production, given that few countries will be able to pump more than they already are. In practice, it is only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that have significant spare production capacity, and even then there are still questions about how much they can do.”
  • “The other alternative would be to make up for the shortfalls of some OPEC+ members by allowing those with spare capacity to pump more, redistributing the unused portions of existing targets. That may be a logical approach, but so far the group has shown no appetite to go down this road. There is likely to be resistance to any plan for redistributing unused allowances.”
  • “I don’t think Russia will give up any of its target to other members, even on a temporary basis, unless it gets something in return. The OPEC countries expended a lot of political capital to bring Moscow into their wider group and will do almost anything necessary to keep it there. They aren’t likely to end Russia’s output target parity with Saudi Arabia, and that would make redistributing the unused portions of other countries’ targets problematic.”
  • “And don’t count on Russia supporting anything that would substantially reduce oil prices. In order to persuade refiners in India to process their crude, Russian sellers have been forced to offer big discounts. The country’s flagship Urals export grade traded at a discount of nearly $35 a barrel to benchmark Brent crude in April-May. Although that’s narrowed more recently, Urals was still trading at $25 a barrel below Brent in the month to mid-July.”

Climate change:

“Europe’s Race to Secure New Energy Sources Is on a Knife’s Edge,” Stanley Reed, NYT, 07.30.22.

  • “As Russia tightens its chokehold on supplies of natural gas, Europe is looking everywhere for energy to keep its economy running. Coal-fired power plants are being revived. Billions are being spent on terminals to bring in liquefied natural gas, much of it from shale fields in Texas. Officials and heads of state are flying to Qatar, Azerbaijan, Norway and Algeria to nail down energy deals.”
  • “Across Europe, fears are growing that a cutoff of Russian gas will force governments to ration fuel and businesses to close factories, moves that could put thousands of jobs at risk.”
  • “So far, the hunt for fuel has been met with considerable success. But as prices continue to soar and the Russian threat shows no sign of abating, the margin for error is thin.”
  • “Five months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe is in the grip of an accelerated and increasingly irreversible transition in how it gets its energy to heat and cool homes, drive businesses and generate power. A long-term switch to more renewable sources of energy has been overtaken by a short-term scramble to make it through the coming winter.”

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

“Brittney Griner and the Total Lopsidedness of Prisoner Swaps With Russia,” NYT’s Serge Schmemann, NYT, 07.29.22.

  • “The swaps are rarely even. Mr. Bout, the Russian who is mooted as the price for freeing the Americans, was notorious in the chaotic years after the collapse of the Soviet Union as an arms dealer to, according to U.S. prosecutors, armed groups and terrorists. Arrested in Thailand in 2008, he was extradited to the United States a couple of years later, charged with supplying arms to Colombian rebels for use against American citizens and officers, among other charges, and sentenced to 25 years in prison, which he has been serving in Illinois.”
  • “It would be painful for prosecutors and those who suffered in the violence he profited from to release him in exchange for people who should not have been imprisoned at all. Mr. Fogel, if he serves his full sentence in Russia, could well die in prison.”
  • “It may be that by agreeing to swap prisoners with autocrats, the United States encourages them to grab more hostages. But it is more important that American citizens should know that if they are imprisoned in a country with a dubious legal system, the U.S. government will do all it can to get them back.”


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Putin’s New Police State. In the Shadow of War, the FSB Embraces Stalin’s Methods,” Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan of, FA, 07.27.22. 

  • “When the war began, the Kremlin planned to use the FSB mainly in Ukraine, as a special operations force that would consolidate a rapid Russian conquest. ... As those plans faltered, however, Putin crafted a different, far more comprehensive mission for the FSB: it would be at the forefront of Russia’s total war effort at home as well as its intelligence operations in Ukraine. And every branch of the service would now be involved.”
  • “In its sweeping reach into domestic society, foreign affairs and the military, the FSB has begun to look less like its late-Soviet predecessor, the KGB. It now resembles something much scarier: the NKVD, Stalin’s notorious secret police, which conducted the great purges of the 1930s and maintained an iron lock on Russian society into the early years of the Cold War.”
  • “Rather than forcing Russians out, where they may be able to encourage opposition movements, the regime has decided that it would be better to keep them under close watch in Russia—an approach last used by the Kremlin during the early stages of the Cold War.”
  • “At the same time, the FSB has become bolder in its pursuit of journalists and others who have long been in exile. … Equally dramatic has been the agency’s growing crackdown on scientists, lawyers and other Russians who have been involved in activities the regime now regards as suspect. … Since June, the Russian financial monitoring agency, together with the FSB, has investigated medical clinics across the country for prescribing Western drugs rather than Russian ones. … The FSB purges have also begun to reach the Russian elite, including senior security officials themselves.”
  • “But the most striking change concerns the FSB’s tactics in Ukraine. Before the war, the FSB’s role was mostly to recruit Ukrainian politicians. Now, the agency is running a massive operation to detain large numbers of Ukrainians in Russia and in the occupied territories of Ukraine. The main task of this operation is ... to recruit assets and send them back to Ukraine, on FSB orders. … Putin is looking more closely at the approach of the NKVD—an agency that was forged by a totalitarian state in wartime. And the long war is what the Kremlin is priming the country for.”

“The anger of the minorities fighting Russia’s war,” FT’s Gillian Tett, FT, 07.27.22.

  • “Recently, some western academics held a Zoom call to discuss the Ukraine war with representatives from minority groups in the Russian Federation, including the Tyvan, Buryat, Sakha, Kalmyk, Yakut and Chechen peoples.”
  • “The Ukraine war has left some minority peoples angry. As one participant on the call explained, views of Russia are ‘more radical compared to the old conformities and silences. They are talking about colonialism and imperialism, ethnic and racial discrimination.’ That’s partly because the Russian army is disproportionately using minority soldiers in Ukraine. And there are widespread media reports that these minorities are suffering per-capita casualty rates far higher than Slavic soldiers. On top of that, the Buryats are sometimes being blamed for the atrocities in Ukraine.”  
  • “It’s important to note, then, that while the invasion of Ukraine is a particularly brutal display of Russian imperialism, it is not an isolated event. Moscow has a long history of racism towards minorities, and Russian rulers have often pitted these groups against one another.”
  • “Could the unrest among these groups spark a revolt? Some western observers hope so. ... It would be over-optimistic to expect these small rebellions to spread far. The Free Buryatia Foundation is based outside the Russian Federation, and people inside Russia are generally terrified of speaking out. And most Buryat soldiers in Ukraine are volunteers, not conscripts. Historically, military jobs were popular in Buryatia because they commanded much higher pay than local work.”

“Do Russians Care About the War in Ukraine?” Peter Rutland of Wesleyan University, Jordan Center/Transitions, 07.26.22.

  • “Public opinion polls consistently find that two thirds of Russians support the military operation in Ukraine. It is hard to understand how ordinary Russians can support a brutal war of aggression against a neighbor which posed no immediate threat to Russia. However, it is not that Russians actively support the war: rather, they are disconnected from political affairs, and are trying to carry on with their daily life as if there was no war. The fact that Russian society is not fully mobilized is an important constraint on Putin’s ability to sustain or escalate the conflict.”
  • “Polling in an authoritarian regime is a tricky business, all the more so when the country is at war. … Nevertheless, the Levada Center has regularly asked Russians about their attitudes towards the ‘military operation.’ They find a high level of support: 74% in April, 77% in May and 75% in June. Age differences are significant: more than 90% of respondents over 65 supported the war versus 36% of those aged 18-24. The May poll found that 44% expected the ‘operation’ to last at least six more months.”
  • “Despite all these reasons to be wary of poll results, the high support level for the war is confirmed by anecdotal evidence—street interviews by journalists or youtubers, and reports of conversations between people in Ukraine and their relatives in Russia.”
  • “However, some observers argue that ordinary Russians are not supporting the war per se. Rather, the dominant mood is one of indifference: they have delegated responsibility for making such decisions to President Vladimir Putin. ... This indifference is a survival mechanism, reflecting the public’s fear of the authorities.”
  • “The picture that emerges, then, is a bleak one, of a browbeaten population who are willing to follow their leaders who are waging a senseless war. But it is an open question whether this is a sufficiently robust social foundation to sustain the sort of protracted war which Putin is apparently intent on pursuing in Ukraine.”

“Ukraine Is the Next Act in Putin’s Empire of Humiliation,” Peter Pomerantsev, NYT, 07.26.22.

  • “When Mr. Putin himself tries to explain why Russia is in Ukraine, he swings between what seem like very different excuses. In a speech in June Mr. Putin compared himself to Peter the Great, on a mission to expand Russian lands. Another time he claimed ‘we had no choice’ but to act in Ukraine, a message that was repeated endlessly on television.”
  • “So which is it? It is neither and both. Mr. Putin likes to perform both sides of the humiliation drama: from the seething resentment of the put-upon Russian everyman to cosplaying Peter the Great. This allows him to appeal to Russians’ deep-seated sense of humiliation, which the Kremlin itself inflicts on people, and then compensate for it. It’s a performance that taps into the cycle of humiliation and aggression that defines the experience of life in Russia, and now Ukraine is the stage.”
  • “If you yearn for sustainable security and freedom, abusive partners and predators cannot be indulged. The only option is to limit the sources of dependency.”
    • “For Ukraine, that means defending its sovereignty on the battlefield and, when negotiations come, making sure it is in a position of strength.”
    • “For Europe it means breaking free of energy dependence.”
    • “For the rest of the world, it means ensuring that we are no longer quite so reliant on Russian food supplies, and that Ukraine is able to export its own grains and fertilizers again.”

“Dark days again in Russia. For prisoners, an endless carousel of absurdity,” Editorial Board, The Washington Post, 07.31.22.

  • “More than at any time in recent memory, the Russian security services are grabbing people arbitrarily and imprisoning them for criticism of Vladimir Putin or his barbaric war against Ukraine.”
  • Prominent recent examples include: Post contributing columnist Vladimir Kara-Murza, arrested in Moscow in April; Ilya Yashin, an opposition leader accused of spreading “false information” about the military; Moscow city politician Alexei Gorinov, sentenced to seven years in prison under the same provision.
  • “There have been 16,403 detentions of people taking a stance against the war in Ukraine since it began. These are once again dark days for Russia.”

“Russia locked up Vladimir Kara-Murza for telling the truth about Ukraine,” WP’s Christian Caryl, WP, 07.28.22

  • “An impressive array of U.S. legislators has called for release [of Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza], as have politicians and human rights organizations around the world. ‘As I said at the time of Vladimir Kara-Murza's arrest, the Kremlin's charges against him are a cynical attempt to silence him,’ U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this month.”
  • “Putin, however, shows little sign of relenting. On June 8, a Moscow court extended Kara-Murza's pretrial detention by two months. His lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, just announced that investigators in Moscow have opened another criminal case against Kara-Murza this month based on his alleged membership ‘in an undesirable organization.’”
  • “Yet Kara-Murza remains upbeat. In a recent letter from prison, he characteristically noted others who have dared to speak out against tyranny. ‘Each of the thousands of Russian antiwar protesters is standing up not only for the people of Ukraine and for the international rule of law but also for the future of our own country,’ he wrote. ‘Each one is giving another reason to hope that a renewed, reformed post-Putin Russia can one day take its place in the community of democratic nations—and in a Europe that would finally become whole, free and at peace.’ Such optimism might sound misplaced at a moment when Russia is once again reverting to despotism. Knowing Vladimir Kara-Murza, though, I know how he would respond to my skepticism: The night, he would say, is always darkest before the dawn.”

“Shut Down by the Kremlin, Independent Russian Media Regroup Abroad,” WSJ’s Evan Gershkovich, WSJ, 07.28.22.

  • “In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin adopted legislation punishing the dissemination of false information about the activities of Russia's armed forces with up to 15 years in prison.”
  • “Russian authorities have since blocked the websites of dozens of the country's independent news media for not toeing the official line on the war, which Russian President Vladimir Putin describes as a special military operation aimed at ridding Ukraine of fascism. Hundreds of journalists have fled the country, while 12 have been charged with violating the new law and three of them are being held in pretrial detention, according to human rights lawyers.”
  • “Now, in capitals across Europe, independent Russian newsrooms have regrouped and are trying to reach audiences in Russia swamped by the state's messaging about its invasion. ‘I consider myself also to be at war,’ TV Rain's editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko said in an interview in Riga last week before launching into a program that covered the latest news from Ukraine and the recent wave of arrests in Russia. ‘My job is for my work here to lead to the possibility that we can get home as soon as possible.’”

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:

“Is Russia Winning the Battle for African Support?” Bloomberg’s Clara Ferreira Marques, Bloomberg/WP, 07.29.22.

  • “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s charm offensive in Africa this week, part of efforts to rally support in the face of growing isolation, has prompted fresh Western hand-wringing. Is Moscow gaining ground in the emerging world? Why can’t African nations see that Russia is waging a war of conquest? On the other side, predictably, it fed propaganda bombast. … Both are wide of the mark.”
  • “Since its invasion of Ukraine in February, there’s no question that Russia has found more friendly, or outwardly neutral, partners in the Global South than the West would like. … [W]hen the 193-member General Assembly voted on a resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine, 35 countries—roughly half from Africa, including South Africa and Senegal—abstained. Others, like Ethiopia and Morocco didn’t vote at all.”
  • “Soviet-era, anti-colonial ties work to Moscow’s advantage here, along with a widespread distrust of the West, nurtured by expanding Russian disinformation campaigns framing the war as the rich world against the rest. No less crucially, there are defense and security links … Russia is also a key exporter of grain and fertilizer to a vulnerable region badly in need of both.”
  • “Still, his destinations—Egypt, Uganda, Republic of Congo and Ethiopia—say a lot about the limits of the Kremlin’s endeavor. Russia’s constrained means (and Africa’s patchwork of political systems) force it to take a selective approach. There are no flashy cash promises from a nation struggling to expand its own sanctioned economy, and while Egypt is a significant trade partner … others are less so. None of the stops feature high up in democratic rankings either, so it’s been less a triumph than a round of autocratic nations happy to get a boost from a like-minded government.”
  • “The trouble is that’s been enough. Too few African nations have seen the benefit of getting off the fence, and that’s as much about nonaligned traditions and Russia’s historic might as it is about Western disengagement. It’s not that Europe and the United States are absent … but they have proven easily distracted by other demands. To help Africa and squeeze Russia, that must change.”


“How the Kremlin Is Forcing Ukrainians to Adopt Russian Life,” Anton Troianovski, Valerie Hopkins, Marc Santora and Michael Schwirtz, NYT, 07.30.22.

  • “They have handed out Russian passports, cellphone numbers and set-top boxes for watching Russian television. They have replaced Ukrainian currency with the ruble, rerouted the internet through Russian servers and arrested hundreds who have resisted assimilation.”
  • “In ways big and small, the occupying authorities on territory seized by Moscow’s forces are using fear and indoctrination to compel Ukrainians to adopt a Russian way of life. ‘We are one people,’ blue-white-and-red billboards say. ‘We are with Russia.’”
  • “Now comes the next act in President Vladimir V. Putin’s 21st-century version of a war of conquest: the grass-roots ‘referendum.’”
  • “Russia-appointed administrators in towns, villages and cities like Kherson in Ukraine’s south are setting the stage for a vote as early as September that the Kremlin will present as a popular desire in the region to become part of Russia. They are recruiting pro-Russia locals for new ‘election commissions’ and promoting to Ukrainian civilians the putative benefits of joining their country; they are even reportedly printing the ballots already.”
  • “Any referendum would be totally illegitimate, Ukrainian and Western officials say, but it would carry ominous consequences.”

“Russian Invasion of Ukraine Widens Spiritual Rifts Among the Nations’ Christians,” Alan Cullison, WSJ, 07.31.22.

  • “When Russia launched its invasion in February, the ground war was coupled with a spiritual one. In Moscow, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, blessed Russian troops and proclaimed the war in Ukraine a metaphysical conflict between the faithful of God and a decadent West.”
  • “That has sent officials from other denominations fleeing to the western reaches of the country to escape the fighting. … [They] include Ukraine’s Catholics, Protestants and members of Ukraine’s own Orthodox Church. Even some clergy of the Ukrainian branch of the Orthodox Church long under Moscow’s putative control fled as its leaders in Kyiv denounced the war and declared the church’s independence.”
  • “The geographic shift underscores a broader spiritual schism under way since President Vladimir Putin first seized Crimea and covertly invaded Ukraine’s east in 2014. Russia’s Orthodox Church has undergirded Mr. Putin’s geopolitical ambitions, holding Russia to be a defender of Russia’s Christian civilization and therefore justified in seeking control over countries of the former Soviet Union and Russian empire. … Critics of the Russian church call it a spiritual land grab.”
  • “Wherever Russian troops arrive, churches have reported visits from Russia’s security services informing them that they need to register their activities or cease meetings,” the author cites Ruslan Khukarchek, founder of a Ukrainian-language Christian newspaper called the Cornerstone, as saying.

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • No significant developments.