Russia Analytical Report, July 5-10, 2023

3 Ideas to Explore

  1. With the NATO summit approaching, is it time to welcome Ukraine into the alliance? Not yet, because Kyiv is not ready for membership, according to Joe Biden. Ukraine should not be invited into NATO so long as Ukraine’s membership  could “draw other members into a shooting war with a nuclear-armed Russia,” according to Max Boot. Ukraine should remain outside NATO for as long as the costs of including this country into the alliance exceed the benefits, according to Justin Logan and Joshua Shifrinson, with whom Katrina vanden Heuvel, James W Carden and Daniel DePetris concur. According to Marc Thiessen and Stephen Biegun, however, this week’s NATO event actually offers a great opportunity for the alliance to make an unambiguous commitment  to invite Ukraine to join the alliance at next year’s summit. Biegun also happens to be first on a list of multiple Western foreign policy experts who called on NATO to grant Ukraine a roadmap to membership at the July 11-12 summit. The leaders of Poland, the Baltic states and Ukraine would like this call heeded, but the reality is that the Biden administration’s cautious position will prevail at the summit, if only because the U.S. outspends the rest of the alliance when it comes to defense, according to Gideon Rachman[1]
  2. Russia’s dependence on China for trade doesn’t make it a vassal of the Middle Kingdom, according to Mikhail Korostikov. That China’s share in Russia’s trade constitutes 22 percent is significant, but not unprecedented, according to Korostikov. For instance,  China accounts for an even larger share (26 percent) of Australia’s foreign trade,  Korostikov writes in a commentary for Carnegie Endowment.  The jailing of Russians accused of having become Chinese intelligence assets also indicates that Russia is ready to defend its interests, even if doing so would be to Beijing’s detriment. Such readiness also proves that Russia is no vassal of China, according to Korostikov. “China does have a certain opportunity to turn Russia into its vassal — but, crucially, it has no compelling reason to do so,” he concludes.
  3. What would a post-Putin Russia look like? Mark Katz sees five possible pathways: 1) Putinism without Putin; 2) democratization; 3) prudent authoritarianism; 4) Chinese overlordship; and 5) the breakup of Russia. “Western governments would undoubtedly prefer that Russia embark on the democratic pathway… but Russia seems especially unlikely to go from rule by Putin directly to democratization,” Katz writes.  “A period of stable prudent authoritarianism, though, might provide the best prospect for a negotiated transition to democracy in Russia later on,” he argues. As the West waits to see which of these scenarios materialize, it is important for the U.S. and its allies to “signal to the Russian population and elites that while it opposes Putinist expansionism, it seeks to cooperate with a Russia that behaves reassuringly toward its neighbors and toward the West,” Katz wrote


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

Nuclear security and safety:

“The Largest Danger at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant: Intentional Sabotage,” Harvard professor Matthew Bunn, BAS, 07.06.23.

  • “The biggest dangers to the Zaporizhzhia reactors involve intentional military action aimed at causing a radiation release. Unfortunately, with Russian military forces in control of the site, there’s not a lot the rest of the world can easily do to stop such an intentional disaster from happening. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has two inspectors on-site, and they can continue to ask that they be given the access needed to look for explosives and to provide additional help to the highly stressed reactor staff at the site. The UN and various individual countries can demand that all parties abide by the principles of nuclear safety in war that IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi laid out in May 2023.”
  • “But at the same time, it’s important to prepare for the worst — as Ukraine did in carrying out recent exercises to test its response to a nuclear disaster. The United States, other countries, and the IAEA are all helping Ukraine prepare for emergency response and can step up that help. In particular, the World Health Organization and others should work with Ukraine to establish a network of trained mental health professionals prepared to help people cope with their fear and depression should an accident occur — often the biggest effects of such a disaster.”
  • “Over the longer term, there’s a need to rethink nuclear safety and security in the context of the possibility that nuclear facilities can be exposed to war, mass civil unrest, or governmental collapse. And there’s a need for new agreements to reduce the chance that major civilian nuclear facilities under international inspection will again be targets of military assault.”

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • No significant developments.

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“Why the Ukraine Counteroffensive Is Such Slow Going; Outgunned, Outmanned and Facing a Deeply Entrenched Enemy, Ukrainian Troops Are Attempting One of the Most Daunting Operations a Military Can Undertake,” journalists Daniel Michaels and Ian Lovett, WSJ, 07.09.23.

  • “Ukraine is now attempting to dislodge an entrenched enemy, one of the most daunting operations any military can undertake. Russian troops have spent months building physical defenses that include bunkers, tank traps and minefields — some more than 15 miles deep.”
  • “In this phase of the war, Ukraine's lack of resources is proving as much of a challenge as the dug-in Russian defenses. Despite the delivery of new Western weapons in recent months—and a promise by the U.S. Friday to send deadly cluster munitions in the future — Kyiv's effort to push south through Russian territory toward the Sea of Azov has stalled. Though Ukrainian officials say they are making progress, and have reclaimed a handful of villages in the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions over the past month, they also acknowledge the herculean nature of their task.”
  • “For Russian forces, who earlier this year tried to take more Ukrainian territory, ‘the offensive wasn't successful, but holding defensive positions will be easier,’ said Michael O'Hanlon, a specialist in security studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. He pointed to the Russian mobilization of more than 250,000 troops last year.”
  • “In 1991, before coalition land forces advanced in Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. led a five-week air campaign to wear down Iraqi positions. Ukraine lacks the firepower and air-superiority that America and its partners had in those fights. Kyiv's air force consists of a small number of Soviet-era fighter jets and helicopters, some supplied by former East Bloc allies now in NATO. The Russians, meanwhile, are deploying advanced Sukhoi fighter jets and Ka-52 helicopters across the southern front.”
  • “Kyiv is trying to soften the Russian defenses before sending troops in, but doesn't have enough ammunition to simply flatten Russian-held villages, as the Russians did in Bakhmut and other parts of eastern Ukraine. Instead, Ukrainian troops usually make artillery strikes only if they have confirmed Russian positions with drones.”

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

  • No significant developments.

Ukraine-related negotiations:

“Jaw to Jaw: Meeting with Russia,” president emeritus of CFR Richard Haass, Substack, July 7, 2023.

  • “There was an NBC News report about a meeting in April between several former senior U.S. national security officials and a group of Russian diplomats led by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. I was one of those present.....Such meetings can be valuable opportunities to keep channels of communication open at moments when official interactions are either nonexistent or unproductive and the stakes high. They permit participants to convey their views on a range of subjects while providing an opportunity to get a better idea of the thinking of those associated with other countries and governments.”
  • “Since there seems to be some legitimate interest in my position mixed in with nasty, ad hominem attacks, let me quickly summarize my views on Russia’s war against Ukraine.”
    • “I am on record supporting large-scale, sustained military support to Ukraine. I believe it critical that Russia’s act of aggression fail, not just for the sake of Ukraine and European security, but to underscore that territory cannot be acquired by force, the closest thing we have to a universal norm of world order. It is also important to demonstrate to other leaders harboring territorial ambitions, among them Xi Jinping, that the costs of aggression would far outweigh potential benefits.”
    • “At the same time, I am skeptical that Ukraine will be able to liberate all of its territory any time soon using military force, and worry that an open-ended war will leave the country and its people in ruins. I also fear that Western willingness to stand by Ukraine could fade over time for reasons both political and strategic. For this reason I wrote an article (with Charles Kupchan) advocating that a cease-fire be proposed at the end of this fighting season should Ukraine fall short of recovering all the territory occupied by Russia.”
    • “Diplomacy should be done with Ukraine’s government, not to it. The interesting news is that the Ukraine government, sobered by how difficult and costly the counteroffensive is proving to be, seems to be contemplating the introduction of a diplomatic dimension thus far largely missing from the conflict. Some of Ukraine’s most ardent supporters might take this into account before they reject out of hand any attempt to explore diplomatic options. Diplomacy is not a favor granted to another side but a tool whose use should be weighed against that of other options to advance one’s foreign policy objectives.”

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

“Fareed Zakaria GPS: Interview With U.S. President Joe Biden,” the CNN journalist interviews the American president, CNN, 07.09.23.

  • “I don't think it [Ukraine] 'is ready for membership in NATO. But here's the deal. I spent, as you know, a great deal of time trying to hold NATO together because I believe Putin has had an overwhelming objective from the time he launched 185,000 troops into Ukraine, and that was to break NATO. He was confident, in my view and many in the intelligence community, he was confident he could break NATO.”
  • “So holding NATO together is really critical. I don't think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war. For example, if you did that, then, you know, and I mean what I say, we're determined to commit every inch of territory that is NATO territory as a commitment that we've all made no matter what.”
  • “If the war is going on, then we're all in a war. You know, we're in a war with Russia if that were the case. So I think we have to lay out a path for the rational path for Russia, for — excuse me, for Ukraine, to be able to qualify to get into NATO. And we have — when the very first time that I met with Putin two years ago in Geneva and he said I want commitments on no Ukraine and NATO, I said we're not going to do that because it's an open-door policy. We're not going to shut anybody out.”
  • “NATO is a process that takes some time to meet all the qualifications and — from democratization to a whole range of other issues. So in the meantime, though, I've spoken with Zelensky at length about this, and one of the things I indicated is the United States would be ready to provide while the process was going on, and it's going to take a while, while that process was going on to provide security ala the security we provide for Israel, providing the weaponry and the needs, capacity to defend themselves if there is an agreement, if there is a cease-fire, if there is a peace agreement. And so I think we can work it out, but I think it's premature to say to call for a vote now because there is other qualifications that need to be met, including democratization and some of those issues.”
  • “I think there is a way to resolve — to establish a working relationship with China that benefits them and us. And the last thing I'll tell you on this, is I also called him after he had that meeting with the Russians about this new relationship, et cetera. And I said, this is not a threat, this is an observation. I said, since Russia went into Ukraine, 600 American corporations have pulled out of Russia. And you've told me that your economy depends on investment from Europe and the United States. And be careful. He listened and he didn't argue. And if you notice, he has not gone full bore in Russia. He is — he talks about nuclear war being a disaster.”

“A Stronger NATO for a More Dangerous World. What the Alliance Must Do in Vilnius — and Beyond,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, FA, 07.10.23.

  • “Ukraine is more integrated with our alliance than ever before, and so we must take steps to reflect this reality. In Vilnius, we will upgrade our political ties by hosting the first meeting of the new NATO-Ukraine Council.”
  • “All NATO allies agree that Ukraine will become a member of NATO. NATO’s door remains open, as we have proved by inviting Finland and Sweden to join last year. Ukraine’s NATO membership is a matter for NATO allies and Kyiv to decide: Russia does not have a veto. In Vilnius, we will set out a strong vision for Ukraine’s future and bring the country closer to NATO.”
  • “NATO does not see China as an adversary. We must continue to engage with Beijing to tackle today’s global challenges, including nuclear proliferation and climate change. At the same time, China should use its considerable influence over Russia to end its illegal war in Ukraine.”
  • “Russia’s pattern of aggression is a stark reminder that we cannot rule out the possibility of an attack against NATO countries.”
    • “We will agree to new, detailed regional defense plans, which are fully connected with the forces, capabilities, and command and control needed to execute them. NATO will have 300,000 troops on higher alert, including substantial air and naval combat power.”
    • “We are adapting our command structures to reflect the new geography of the alliance, with Finland’s membership, which has doubled NATO’s land border with Russia, and soon Sweden’s membership. This is a game-changer for European security and will provide an uninterrupted shield from the Baltic to the Black Sea. We are also substantially increasing cooperation with the defense industry to ramp up production, both for Ukraine’s defenses and for ours.”
  • “This fundamental shift in our collective defense requires a generational commitment to increase defense spending.... Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine has shattered any remaining illusions of peaceful cooperation, so we must spend more and do more together to stay safe.”

“Ukraine Needs a Roadmap to NATO Membership ASAP,” an open letter by 46 foreign policy experts, Politico, 07.05.23.

  • “In Vilnius, the alliance should launch a roadmap that will lead clearly to Ukraine’s membership in NATO at the earliest achievable date. As with Finland and Sweden, the process can bypass the Membership Action Plan in light of the close and ongoing interactions between NATO and Ukraine. NATO heads of state and government should task the Council in permanent session to develop recommendations on the timing and modalities of an accession process for Ukraine for decision at the next NATO summit in Washington in 2024.”
  • “To enhance Ukraine’s security until it joins NATO, NATO and Ukraine at Vilnius should establish a deterrence and defense partnership under which:”
    • “The allies will provide all necessary arms, training, equipment, and intelligence and other support to deter or defeat ongoing and new aggression by Russia; and”
    • “Ukraine will continue to carry out essential steps to expedite its integration into the alliance and its command structures.”
  • “At the Vilnius summit, the allies and Ukraine should upgrade the NATO-Ukraine Commission to a NATO-Ukraine Council.”
  • “In Vilnius, the allies should reaffirm their commitment to enhance coordinated measures to meet Ukraine’s urgent needs for military and defense equipment, focusing directly on air defense systems, long-range missiles and necessary ammunition, tanks and advanced combat aircraft.”
  • “To expand practical assistance to Ukraine, the allies should invite Ukraine to assign additional liaison officers at NATO headquarters and commands.”
  • “The allies should also approve the updated Comprehensive Assistance Package to facilitate Ukraine attaining full interoperability with NATO forces and making a comprehensive transition to NATO standards.”

“NATO’s Next Decade,” several prominent analysts and political figures share their insights on NATO’s future, FP, 07.06.23.

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former NATO secretary-general: “Leaders meeting in Vilnius … must back robust security guarantees and set Ukraine on the path to NATO membership. If they fail to do so, we risk never-ending instability and conflict on European soil.”
  • Dmytro Kuleba, foreign minister of Ukraine: “If NATO leaders are not yet ready to grant an invitation in Vilnius, they should state clearly when they will be. Membership has formal requirements, but an invitation does not. All that is required is strategic foresight and political will.”
  • Angela Stent, author of Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and With the Rest: “NATO’s best scenario for a post-Putin Russia would be a leadership that rejected the imperial mindset of the current Kremlin, realized that domestic development and modernization were more important for Russia’s future as a great power than aggression against neighbors, and was willing to resume discussions on strategic stability and nuclear safety. However, it is unclear how Russian elites and the Russian public, which have been fed a diet of xenophobic, nationalist rhetoric for years, would respond to such a radical change in Moscow’s outlook.”
  • Liana Fix, Europe fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations: “The combination of Russia’s war and China’s stepped-up threats against Taiwan is such a significant turning point that things have to change in order to remain the same. To future-proof the world’s most successful defense alliance for the next decade and ensure the security of the continent, NATO needs to team up with its EU cousin.”

“Don’t Let Ukraine Join NATO. The Costs of Expanding the Alliance Outweigh the Benefits,” the Cato Institute’s Justin Logan and the University of Maryland’s Joshua Shifrinson, FA, 07.07.23.

  • “Ukraine should not be welcomed into NATO, and this is something U.S. President Joe Biden should make clear.”
  • “Admitting Ukraine to NATO would raise the prospect of a grim choice between a war with Russia and the devastating consequences involved or backing down and devaluing NATO’s security guarantee across the entire alliance. At the Vilnius summit and beyond, NATO leaders would be wise to acknowledge these facts and close the door to Ukraine.”
  • “To date, advocates of further U.S. and NATO involvement in the Ukraine war have failed to clarify the U.S. strategic interests at stake. The Biden administration has argued that history shows that ‘when dictators do not pay the price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and engage in more aggression,’ as the president himself put it. But Russia has already paid an enormous price for its aggression.”
  • “The U.S. interest in admitting Ukraine to NATO is even less clear, with a tangle of arguments present in the policy discourse. … Ukraine’s resistance to Russian bellicosity is noble, but noble actions and even effective self-defense do not themselves justify taking on the high risks of an open-ended security commitment. More important, the stakes of the game today do not warrant Ukraine’s accession to NATO.”
  • “Even if Ukraine is, as its foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, argued in Foreign Affairs, ‘defending NATO’s entire eastern flank and sharing what it learns with alliance members,’ it is unclear why it must join the alliance for the United States to reap these benefits. Unless it were to surrender to Russian domination — which Kyiv has demonstrated it is not inclined to do — Ukraine’s geography consigns it to acting as a bulwark against Russia irrespective of NATO membership.”
  • “Admitting Ukraine to NATO would also present problems for the alliance, especially the security guarantees embedded in Article 5 of the alliance’s founding treaty. … The problem with extending such guarantees to Ukraine is twofold.”
    • “First, an Article 5 guarantee could pull the United States into a direct conflict with Russia.”
    • “Extending Article 5 protections to Ukraine could also undermine their overall credibility.”
  • “There is also the question of the costs of defending Ukraine… inviting Ukraine to join NATO would exacerbate the gap between the alliance’s commitments and its capabilities.”
  • “Should Ukraine join the alliance, the burden of finding the resources to defend Ukraine short of nuclear war is … likely to fall disproportionately on the United States.”
  • “Instead of making a questionable promise that poses great dangers but would yield little in return, the United States should accept that it is high time to close NATO’s door to Ukraine.”

“Now Is Not the Time for Ukraine to Join NATO,” The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel and James W. Carden, formerly of the U.S. State Department, Guardian, 07.06.23.

  • “States which have ethnic disputes or external territorial disputes, including irredentist claims, or internal jurisdictional disputes must settle those disputes by peaceful means in accordance with OSCE principles. Resolution of such disputes would be a factor in determining whether to invite a state to join the Alliance.”
  • “At Vilnius, the alliance will find itself under immense pressure from Ukraine’s most stalwart supporters in central and eastern Europe, including Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic. In our view, the interests of Ukraine and of regional security lie in Biden and the core NATO states not yielding to the understandable yet deeply misplaced enthusiasm of the eastern periphery for a victory over Moscow.”
  • “We view the escalatory risks - including nuclear - as perilous and unacceptable. We also view the prolongation of the war as contrary to true U.S. national security interests which (and we realize this is unpopular and heretical) depend on stable and predictable relations between the U.S. and Russia and Russia and Europe. The periphery has, because of its history, its own agenda. But it should not (as it currently does) serve as a substitute for our own.”
  • “What is needed now more than ever is a conception of statesmanship that goes beyond the narrow parameters of the battlefield and instead seeks to lay the foundations of a sovereign and prosperous Ukraine. And although we expect it will not, the alliance ought to take the opportunity at Vilnius to focus on the costs of reconstruction and the creation of an inclusive European security architecture. Such an architecture would seek to overcome the old cold war east-west divide rather than exacerbate and normalize it. After all, it was the lack of such policies that brought us to this tragic point in the first place.”

Ukraine in NATO? My Heart Says Yes. But My Head Says No,” columnist Max Boot, WP, 07.09.23.

  • “There is little doubt that Ukraine has earned the moral right to be part of the Western alliance.”
  • “Yet there is deep and understandable reluctance among Western European states and the United States to admit Ukraine to NATO, because it is at war with Russia and will be for the foreseeable future. This isn't a stable stalemate like the division of East and West Germany or North and South Korea. This is a dynamic, ongoing conflict that, if NATO were to take in Ukraine, could draw other members into a shooting war with a nuclear-armed Russia.”
  • “It's true, as Randy Scheunemann, who was John McCain's chief foreign policy adviser, and Evelyn Farkas, who is executive director of the McCain Institute, argue, that Article 5 — which holds ‘that an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies’ — ‘does not mandate a specific response by member states.’ … But there has always been an implicit assumption that an armed attack on a NATO member would result in military action by other NATO members. If that's not the case, it would risk watering down Article 5 and reducing the overall effectiveness of the NATO alliance. Do we really want to send a message to Putin that he could invade, say, Lithuania and the West won't fight to defend that embattled democracy?”
  • “NATO could try to skirt that difficulty by announcing that Ukraine will not be admitted now but in the future, once its war with Russia is over. But that would create a perverse incentive for Russia to keep fighting so as to prevent Ukraine's entry into the transatlantic alliance.”
  • “The good news is that, even without admitting Ukraine, it is possible for NATO members to bolster long-term security ties with Kyiv and make clear to Russia that it will never be able to destroy Ukraine's freedom. As Eric Ciaramella of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argued in a recent policy paper, Washington's relationships with Israel and Taiwan point the way. Neither is a treaty ally, but in both cases, the United States is bound by law and diplomatic agreements to arm them so that they can resist aggression.
  • Even without offering the guarantees of Article 5, NATO states can greatly strengthen Ukraine's capacity to resist Russian aggression over the long term and make clear to Putin that this is a war he cannot win.”

"Ukraine Should Not Be in NATO," Defense Priorities fellow Daniel DePetris, Newsweek, 07.10.23.

  • “Those who support Ukraine's NATO accession argue that it would send a message to Putin that his ghastly actions have consequences, bolster Europe's security, and provide Kyiv with concrete deterrent against more Russian aggression in the future. Yet all of these claims unravel after basic scrutiny.”
  • “First, the West doesn't need to send Putin messages about the consequences of his policies. He's living those consequences every day his troops are fighting and dying in Ukraine… If Putin's grand plan was regime change in Kyiv, he has already lost with flying colors.”
  • “Bringing Ukraine into NATO would scratch the itch of teaching Russia a lesson. But it would do nothing to end the war or shorten its duration — precisely the opposite. If Putin knows that Ukraine will be invited into the alliance after the war is over, he will have even more reason to fight in order to prevent that outcome.”
  • “The U.S. would also be burdening itself with another security commitment in Europe at a time when the center of gravity in U.S. foreign policy is now focused on Asia.”
  • “It's past time for NATO to close the proverbial open door, not keep it open in perpetuity.”

"Why NATO will have to evolve at America’s pace,” commentator Gideon Rachman, FT, 07.10.23.

  • “The issue that threatens to divide the alliance is Ukraine’s ambition to join it. One camp, including Poland, the Baltic states and Ukraine itself, wants to see the country put on a fast track to NATO membership. Another, led by the U.S. and supported by Germany, wants to slow the process down and to promote other forms of security guarantee for Ukraine.”
  • “The reality is the American view will have to prevail. The U.S. accounts for roughly 70 percent of the total defense spending of all NATO countries. So NATO policy will ultimately be decided in Washington, not Brussels or Vilnius.”
  • “There are also good political, as well as financial, reasons for NATO to be guided by America’s relative caution. The Biden White House is likely to be the most Ukraine- and NATO-friendly administration that the U.S. can currently produce. The Republicans are the party of Donald Trump, not of the late John McCain. Any move to fast-track Ukraine into NATO could easily become an issue in the U.S. presidential election. Senate ratification of Ukrainian membership would not be guaranteed.”
  • “Behind these political facts lies a broader historical reality. NATO came into being in 1949 in the aftermath of the second world war and at the onset of the cold war. The American statesmen who created the alliance had an intellectual and emotional commitment to the defense of Europe that can no longer be taken for granted in Washington. For all their frustrations with the Biden administration, hawkish Europeans should remember that.”
  • “The reality is the American view will have to prevail. The US accounts for roughly 70 per cent of the total defense spending of all NATO countries. So NATO policy will ultimately be decided in Washington, not Brussels or Vilnius.”

“NATO’s Worst-of-Both-Worlds Approach to Ukraine. Why the German Model Won’t Solve a Problem of the Alliance’s Own Making,” M.E. Sarotte, FA, 07.10.23.

  • “Stephen Biegun, a former deputy secretary of state; Ian Brzezinski; Anders Fogh Rasmussen; Randy Scheunemann; and Alexander Vershbow have all recently argued that the current de facto Russian control over many parts of Ukraine should not block Kyiv’s swift accession. Rather, they say, the alliance should treat Ukraine as it did the divided Cold War-era Germany, where only the western portion of the country was able to join NATO until the two Germanys reunified in 1990.”  
  • “Advocates of the German model for Ukraine misread history. Saying that a divided Germany entered NATO, as the New York Times headline does, is inaccurate. What became a member of NATO was a rump state called the Federal Republic of Germany, also known as West Germany.”
  • “Advocates of applying this history to Ukraine are, consciously or unconsciously, proposing accession in mutually exclusive ways. Either they seek to draw a new NATO border within Ukraine, dividing Russian-held from Ukrainian-held territory, or they argue that its membership should include no fixed border at all, allowing Ukraine’s battlefield performance to determine which territory falls under NATO’s protection right away and which territories join later. Each scenario might seem appealing to some advocates, but neither would end well for anyone outside the Kremlin.”
  • “In an ideal future Kyiv will become a NATO member. For that to happen without misleading Ukraine again, it is essential for the alliance to avoid making vague pledges without substance. NATO should avoid phrases such as ‘after the war’ or ‘after the fighting’ and follow the one component of the Cold War German model that is applicable. The alliance should confirm that Ukraine can and will accede when it once again has what West Germany had: fixed borders. But in today’s tragic world, adding Ukraine to NATO while its boundaries are sites of active conflict with Russia would come at a high cost.”
  • “Considering this cost, rather than conduct a divisive debate over membership now, the alliance should instead focus in Vilnius on determining what Ukrainians need to succeed in their counteroffensive — and then getting that support to them swiftly. Put simply, NATO should give Kyiv what it needs to accomplish, as soon as possible, what truly matters: the restoration of fixed borders. They are, after all, the answer to the accession question. Once Ukrainians have those, the alliance should hasten to welcome the country as an ally. Like West Germany, Ukraine can then serve as a clear and strong front line against Moscow.”

“NATO’s Annual Summit Could Define a Decade of Western Security,” editorial board, WP, 07.08.23.

  • “NATO's collective security guarantee, under which all members pledge to respond to an attack on one, means it cannot grant Kyiv's wish for accession without drawing the alliance into the war against Russia. But the leaders can and should craft concrete, long-term plans to give Ukraine top-shelf arms, training and intelligence.”
  • “Done right, with follow-up legal and political guarantees from the United States and other key allies, such a blueprint would amount to a multilateral version of the steady flow of military aid that the United States has long provided Israel. It would turn the tables on Mr. Putin, showing that he cannot outlast the West's determination to help Ukraine defend itself.”
  • “The assurances that Ukraine needs from NATO are urgent, but not the only pressing item on the Vilnius agenda. It's critical that the alliance also approve plans not just to slow but repel possible future Russian attacks on its own front-line members — the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, along with Poland, are most acutely at risk. That would represent a major strategic pivot, critical to NATO's own credibility.”
    • “NATO needs to stop a Russian invasion in its tracks, at the border.”
  • “The unpleasant fact is that the West is facing a readiness race. Russia's navy, air force and submarines remain formidable threats — and its army, though badly depleted by the war in Ukraine, might be able to rebuild itself in as little as three years, according to NATO defense officials. As it happens, that's also the minimum time the alliance will need to reinforce units in the front-line states with the brawn, numbers and infrastructure that would convince the Kremlin that future aggression would fail. The time to start is now.”

“Only NATO membership can guarantee peace for Ukraine,” WP columnist Marc A. Thiessen and former U.S. deputy secretary of state Stephen E. Biegun, WP, 07.09.23.

  • “Here are five reasons we must bring Ukraine into NATO — and a clear plan to do it.”
    1. “To stop Putin.”
    2. “To strengthen Zelensky.”
    3. “To save American taxpayers billions of dollars [as p]eace is cheaper than war.”
    4. “To normalize relations with Russia. As distant as the possibility seems, the West will never build a constructive relationship with Russia until the option of aggression against Ukraine is off the table once and for all.”
    5. “Bringing Ukraine into NATO is good not just for Ukraine; it is good for NATO, too. Ukraine now has the most capable, battle-hardened, NATO-interoperable military in Europe.”
  • In “Vilnius, [there] should be an unambiguous commitment by NATO, led by the United States, to invite Ukraine to join the alliance at the 75th-anniversary summit in Washington next summer. Then, NATO must create the security the alliance will guarantee, by spending the coming year helping Ukraine shape the conflict with Russia to a point where the invitation can safely be extended in 2024.”

A NATO Invitation Will Make or Break Ukraine,” Alyona Getmanchuk of the New Europe Center, New York Times, 07.09.23. Clues from Ukrainian views.

  • “Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership will not go away. Ukraine will be knocking at NATO’s door again and again to remind Western capitals that it was precisely their fear of escalation from Putin’s side that led to Europe’s largest war since World War II.”
  • “America put an end to Mr. Putin’s plans to recreate a Russian empire by helping Ukraine to defend itself. Now it’s time to bury Moscow’s imperialist dreams. There is no better way to do it than by granting Ukraine a political invitation to join NATO in Vilnius now.”

“It is long past time for NATO to admit Ukraine,” BG columnist Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe, 07.09.23.

  • “For nearly a year and a half, the United States and its European allies have rallied impressively behind Ukraine's government. They have showered Kyiv with economic and humanitarian aid. They have sustained its war effort with arms, ammunition, and gear. They have provided lockstep diplomatic support for Ukraine in international forums. They have enforced harsh sanctions against Russia. At this point, Ukraine's membership should be considered a fait accompli. Formalizing Ukraine's status as a NATO ally would not trigger World War III, but it would confront Putin with the final proof that his bid to destroy Ukraine's independence and separate it from the West has failed.”
  • “Ukraine has received a great deal from NATO — military supplies, intelligence, training, and technology. But it asks no other country to put boots on the ground. ‘It has no reason to,’ Zagorodnyuk writes. ‘Unlike smaller NATO states, Ukraine has a vast military force that can handle the Russians all by itself.’ The sooner Ukraine joins the alliance, the sooner Putin's war will end. The Ukrainians have proved their loyalty to the West as few potential allies ever have. It is time now to permanently reciprocate that loyalty and bring Ukraine, once and for all, into NATO's fold.”

“How to End a War: Some Historical Lessons for Ukraine,” François Heisbourg of IISS, Survival, 07.07.23.

  • “The terms of a negotiated trade-off could be as follows: as Bonn did in 1954 when it renounced forcible reunification, Ukraine would foreswear the use of force to recover Crimea, while being fast-tracked into NATO, as West Germany was in 1955. Unless NATO sought, inadvisably, to go directly to war with Russia, this could not happen while the conflict raged but would be part of a post-war dispensation. Russia would remain the de facto occupying power in Crimea and tolerate Ukrainian membership in NATO as it did with West Germany’s in 1955 and then a reunited Germany’s in 1990, possibly with the kinds of ‘no nukes’ clauses contained in the ‘Two Plus Four’ Treaty concluded between the four victors in the Second World War and the two then-existing German states. Getting to that point turns on the fulfillment of several conditions.”
    • “Firstly, as stated earlier, the military status quo needs to shift meaningfully in Ukraine’s favor.”
    • “Secondly, deft and judicious statesmanship is required, especially on the part of Ukraine and Germany.”
    • “Thirdly, the collective West needs to maintain vigorous support for Ukraine’s military effort.”

"NATO, China, and the Vilnius Summit," American University’s Garret Martin and James Goldgeier, War on the Rocks, 07.07.23.

  • “The Russo-Ukrainian war has dramatically illustrated Europe’s dependency on the United States for its defense, heightening European fears of another wild oscillation in U.S. foreign policy after the next election. It’s not just support for Ukraine that is at stake for NATO in November 2024, but the alliance itself, and a big piece of that is whether there will be trans-Atlantic unity on how to deal with the challenges emanating from the Indo-Pacific. Having conversations at NATO now about how the alliance would react in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan would help to ensure a more unified response if Beijing takes such action in the future.”

“What to Expect from the Summit in Vilnius?”, Prokhor Tebin of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia in Global Affairs, 07.10.23.[2] Clues from Russian views.

  • “At the summit, we should expect decisions on further gradual increase in NATO's presence on the eastern flank. At the same time, the tension on the line of contact between NATO and the Union State is already very high. … One hopes that both NATO and Russia will show a certain restraint and prudence in order not to fall into the trap of a security dilemma.”
  • “The topics of ensuring the security of underwater infrastructure and coordinating policies in the field of nuclear deterrence are acute, especially against the backdrop of statements from Warsaw and Minsk.”
  • “The summit is likely to take place in a very tense atmosphere. But this does not entail lower risks for Russia. Even the intensification of NATO's internal contradictions, while is generally beneficial to Moscow, may bring new challenges associated with the independent actions of individual members of the alliance, for example, by Poland.”
  • “The situation at the front [in Ukraine] is now of decisive importance. Political steps, as well as Russia's capabilities in the sphere of economy and industry will have the decisive influence on that situation.”

“Some NATO Countries Are So Afraid of Russia That They Are Not Ready To See Ukraine in the Bloc. To What Extent Is the Alliance Ready To Support the Armed Forces of Ukraine?”, journalist Alexander Zhelenin,, 07.10.23.[3] Clues from Russian views.

  • “It is easy to imagine what would happen if the Western allies go along with part of their countries’ businesses and Moscow, that is, they minimize support for Ukraine, forcing it to negotiate with the Kremlin.”
    • “Firstly, after some time, small countries around Russia will come under the threat of the same attack - Georgia, Armenia, Belarus, possibly rich in oil and gas Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan In addition, the economic situation in Russia will only get worse even after the end of the war with Ukraine.”
    • “Secondly, by ‘forcing’ Ukraine to peace by the West, such a Pandora's box will be opened, which is now even hard to imagine. A number of far from the most democratic regimes in states that are not at all small can conclude that ‘this is possible.’”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“Is Russia Really Becoming China’s Vassal?”, analyst Mikhail Korostikov, Carnegie Endowment, 07.06.23. Clues from Russian views.

  • “[There is] talk that Beijing is using its economic leverage and Russia’s rupture with the West to turn Moscow into a compliant puppet, forcing humiliating, one-sided concessions. These concerns are shared by both the harshest critics of the Russian regime in the West and the pro-war hawks within Russia.”
  • “Upon closer examination, however, it becomes clear that this dependence is not so one-sided, since Russia still has plenty of leverage itself.”
    • “The most commonly cited risk is that of economic dependence, yet even after the record growth since the start of the war, China’s share in Russia’s trade is approximately 22 percent: undoubtedly significant, but not unprecedented. China has an even larger share (26 percent) of Australia’s foreign trade.”
    • “Nearly a year and a half into the full-scale invasion, the relationship between Russia and China is largely following the same rules as before. Chinese investment in Russia increased by 150 percent in 2022, but it remains relatively small, partly because Moscow is not prepared to accept Chinese investment without certain restrictions.”
    • “Furthermore, Moscow has indirectly asserted its independence by imprisoning alleged Chinese intelligence assets. The Russian special services have deliberately publicized these cases, though they would have been easy enough to keep quiet to avoid irritating Beijing.”
  • “The relationship between Russia and China is by no means perfect, but the shared interests of both countries’ leaderships and the strategic logic of the confrontation with the West create a solid foundation for reasonably equal cooperation. Within that interaction, China does have a certain opportunity to turn Russia into its vassal — but, crucially, it has no compelling reason to do so. That situation is unlikely to change in the next five to ten years.”

“Xi Jinping May Be Souring on His ‘Best, Most Intimate Friend’,” Ryan Hass, who was a China policy advisor to former U.S. president Barack Obama, NYT, 07.06.23.

  • “In the wake of the Wagner affair, Mr. Xi’s big bet on the Russian leader isn’t looking so safe. The disastrous Russian war effort, culminating in last month’s aborted insurrection by the Wagner group’s paramilitary chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has exposed Mr. Putin’s Russia for what it is: a weakened, unpredictable nuclear state on China’s border, with a wounded leader whose long-term hold on power is not assured.”
  • “The Chinese president still needs his ‘intimate friend.’ Russia remains the only other country in the world with the means and motivation to partner with China in diluting the role of human rights and democratic governance in the international system. Steady relations also ensure stability along their long land border and keep China supplied with discounted Russian energy, as well as imports of food and military equipment. Both sides can be expected to maintain the appearance of business as usual.”
  • “But Mr. Xi has little to gain from doubling down on Mr. Putin, whose troubles are not helpful for China’s grand plans. Many unresolved questions about the impact of Mr. Putin’s weakening grip in Russia remain. How well Mr. Xi can navigate the fallout, with his partner now diminished, is one of them.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“Why America Has a Launch on Attack Option,” Adam Lowther of the National Institute for Deterrence Studies and Derek Williams, a USAF lieutenant colonel and B-52 weapons system officer, War on the Rocks, 07.10.23.

  • “We do agree with [Natalie Montoya and R. Scott Kemp] when they write, ‘Instead of holding fast to the idea of immediate launch, it is far sounder to build a nuclear capability that can survive a first strike and for which decision-makers are not pressed to make decisions with incomplete information.’ To achieve this objective, it will take strategic decisions like building mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, increasing the number of hardened and deeply buried facilities, and placing strategic bombers on dispersed nuclear alert. Continuing on America’s current modernization trajectory will never achieve what both Montoya and Kemp and these authors desire.”
  • “It is important to maintain an on-alert missile force capable of launching under attack if the United States desires to deter Russia from contemplating a first strike on the nation’s missile fields. Removing the launch-under-attack option will not improve the credibility of American deterrence or reduce the risk of accidental detonation or war. It will only further undermine American credibility. With President Putin suspending Russian participation in the New START Treaty, a breakout from treaty restrictions cannot be ruled out. Such a decision would only make a launch under attack option even more important for maintaining deterrence.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • No significant developments.

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • No significant developments.


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

"Post-Putin Russia: Five Potential Pathways,” Mark Katz of George Mason University, E-International Relations, 07.04.23.

  • “Just as it is uncertain when Putin’s hold on power will come to an end, it is also uncertain how much or even whether Russia will change after it does… [there are] five possible post-Putin pathways for Russia: 1) Putinism without Putin; 2) democratization; 3) prudent authoritarianism; 4) Chinese overlordship; and 5) the breakup of Russia.”
  • “Western governments, including the United States, would undoubtedly prefer that Russia embark on the democratic pathway after Putin. But Russia seems especially unlikely to go from rule by Putin directly to democratization considering the strength of the security forces built up by Putin to suppress democratic movements. A period of stable prudent authoritarianism, though, might provide the best prospect for a negotiated transition to democracy in Russia later on.”
  • “Until that occurs (and it might not occur for a considerable period of time), Western governments should focus on doing what they can to avoid pushing Putin’s successors onto the more negative pathways of prolonged Putinism without Putin, Chinese overlordship, or the breakup of Russia with all the conflicts and potential loss of central control over the Russian nuclear arsenal that this would entail.”
  • “An essential element for managing this will be for the West to signal to the Russian population and elites that while the West expects Russian forces to withdraw from Ukrainian territory, the West does not seek the breakup of Russia. In other words: the West supports the territorial integrity not just of Ukraine, but of Russia too. Western governments should reassure them that the West does not expect Russia to join NATO, but is willing to work with a Russia that is great power enough to balance between the West and China, and that Moscow does not need to subordinate itself to Beijing due to unfounded fears about a Western threat. Finally, the West needs to signal to the Russian population and elites that while it opposes Putinist expansionism.”

"Post-Mutiny: Trust in Prigozhin Below Margin of Error, Support for Peace Talk Grows," RM staff, RM, 07.07.23.

  • “Prigozhin emerged in May 2023 as one of Russia’s 10 most trusted political figures, as measured by the Levada Center. Asked to name “several” political figures whom they most trusted, 4% of Russians named the mercenary boss. A month prior, that figure had stood at 1%.”
  • “The swift rise of Prigozhin’s star on the Russian political scene didn’t last long, however, and, as Levada’s subsequent polls indicate, his decision to rebel holds most of the blame for that. A poll conducted during a period of several days surrounding the June 23-24 mutiny revealed that only 2% of respondents had mentioned him when asked to name political figures they trusted.”
  • “Asked why they thought Prigozhin had rebelled, some 21% of respondents blamed the Wagner chief's “personal ambitions,” 20% pointed to his “justified claims” regarding the defense ministry and other authorities, and 17% blamed it on the conflict between the PMCs and the Russian Defense Ministry."
  • In addition to asking respondents to name political figures they found trustworthy, in its June 28-July 1 poll Levada identified specific individuals and asked respondents to rate their trustworthiness in the aftermath of the mutiny. Asked about Prigozhin, some 22% of the respondents said they trusted him, while 50% said they did not.”
  • “If there is a silver lining in all this, it has to be the increase in the number of Russians who hope for a peaceful end to their country’s war of aggression against Ukraine. One, of course, needs to be aware of the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy, but we could not help noting that the share of Russians voicing support for peace talks had risen to 53% when Levada conducted its June 22-28 poll, as compared with 45% the month before. That’s a positive development, even if it turns out to be short-lived.”

“Is Prigozhin’s Mutiny the Nail in the Coffin for Putin’s Golden Boy, Dyumin?”, journalist Andrey Pertsev, Carnegie Endowment, 07.07.23. Clues from Russian views.

  • “Alexei Dyumin, a former bodyguard of Russian President Vladimir Putin and now governor of the Tula region, has been the subject of much discussion since the short-lived mutiny led by the Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin last month. Although Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko got the official credit for persuading Prigozhin to stand down, many social media channels and anonymous sources claimed it was in fact Dyumin who had played the decisive role in the negotiations and, as a result, strengthened his already special place in the president’s inner circle.”
  • “Right now, Putin seems particularly drawn to projects developed by managers without any obvious political ambition. These are people like Khusnullin and Kiriyenko who, in turn, are not shy about leveraging their contact with the president. But Dyumin has been a different sort of politician for many years now, and time is against Putin’s former golden boy. His governorship has gone from a temporary stepping stone to a career glass ceiling.”

Defense and aerospace:

  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • No significant developments.


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • No significant developments.


  • No significant developments.

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“Karabakh Has Become a Symbol of Both the Beginning and the End of the Post-Soviet Period,” Russia in Global Affairs Chief Editor Fyodor Lukyanov’s interview with Mediamax, 07.09.23.[4] Clues from Russian views.

  • “The post-Soviet history is coming to an end. … A generational renewal has begun, new people have begun to come, cardinal changes are taking place in the world… back in 2020 I wrote that all the countries of the post-Soviet space are entering a period of proving their viability. … The moment has come when this viability has to be proved … and not every country can do that. Russia is no exception. Russia is also going this way - in its own way.”
  • “The Karabakh conflict launched the post-Soviet period And the fact that this conflict is somehow ending symbolizes the post-Soviet period.”
  • “We do not know what Russia will be like as a result of all this because it seems to me that the main essence of the Ukrainian conflict is self-determination. Ukraine is self-determining — it was not a full-fledged nation, but now it is becoming one. And we [Russia] are also self-determining. Now we cannot yet say where the real borders of Russia will be. Ukraine, which will remain outside, will be a real anti-Russia, and it will push away from the whole past.”

The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 1.00 pm East Coast time on July 10, 2023.

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


[1] For these authors’ institutional affiliations please see the relevant summaries below.

[2] Translated with the help of machine translation.

[3] Translated with the help of machine translation.

[4] Translated with the help of machine translation.

Photo shared by the Ukrainian presidential press service via a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.