Russia Analytical Report, June 12-20, 2023

4 Ideas to Explore

  1. Ukrainians' early setbacks are a sign that their offensive will be a long, deadly grind, and not a repeat of their rout of Russian troops in … Kharkiv region late last summer,” according to a new analysis by WSJ reporters Daniel Michaels and Isabel Cole. "It was always going to be difficult," said Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Russian forces “learned from their mistakes in Kharkiv,” Lee told WSJ. Moreover, Mark Cancian of CSIS worries that the current battle may produce the same outcome for the Ukrainian side as the one the Germans had to contend with in the aftermath of the battle of Kursk in 1943, according to WSJ. Yet, “the fighting must continue until Moscow accepts that it cannot achieve territorial gains by military force,” according to Gideon Rose of CFR’s article in FA, entitled “Ukraine’s Winnable War. Why the West Should Help Kyiv Retake All Its Territory.”
  2. While the Ukrainian forces battle on the ground, Western nations should prepare and execute  “a counteroffensive of their own” in the form of a massive recovery program for Ukraine, according to Lawrence Summers of Harvard University, Philip Zelikow of University of Virginia, and ex-president of the World Bank Robert B. Zoellick. This counteroffensive should focus on the economic and political reconstruction of Ukraine. “Bank robbers should not expect banks to honor their safe deposit boxes,” the trio argues in an article for FA. Western countries should prepare to use frozen Russian assets to help fund that reconstruction, which should begin by next year, according to Summers, Zelikow, and Zoellick. “Reconstruction will be most successful if Ukraine sets the priorities, the United States leads on security assistance, and the EU leads on reform and economic assistance,” according to a June 2023 RAND report.
  3. Debate has reemerged among some of Russia’s best-known foreign and defense policy pundits on whether Moscow should initiate use of nuclear weapons to dissuade the West from providing further support to Ukraine. Sergei Karaganov – who has advised Putin’s Security Council and is an honorary head of Russia’s Council for Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP) — fired the first salvo.  He argued that Russia should use “God’s weapon” to “hit a bunch of targets in a number of countries in order to bring [them] to reason” if the West refuses to “back down” over Ukraine” and “leave us alone.” In his response to Karaganov, Dmitri Trenin appeared to agree with his SVOP colleague’s recipe for compelling the U.S. and its allies to “leave Russia alone.” If Russia were to use nuclear weapons first against European members of NATO, Americans are unlikely to sacrifice Boston for the sake of Poznan,” according to Trenin. Ivan Timofeev, director of the Russian International Affairs Council disagreed with Karaganov and Trenin, asserting that “the preventive use of nuclear weapons will [not] solve the problems of relations between Russia and the West.” Rose Gottemoeller, one of America’s leading nuclear arms experts, also responded to Karaganov’s article, observing that “Russia has been seized with an apocalyptic fever,” while also outlining a number of measures the U.S. should pursue to break that fear.
  4. The war in Ukraine may not deter China from trying to seize Taiwan because the two conflicts are not comparable in the view of Chinese officials, according to WSJ’s Yaroslav Trofimov. Of multiple Chinese officials who scoff at any comparisons between Ukraine and Taiwan — pointing out that no major nation grants diplomatic recognition to Taiwan's authorities — one is PLA Lt. Gen. He Lei. “It’s like comparing the beauty of a person with the beauty of a pig. Ukraine is a sovereign country, while Taiwan is an unalienable part of China’s sacred territory,” Gen. He was quoted as saying in WSJ.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

“Securing Zaporizhzhia with Diplomacy and Deterrence,” RUSI’s Darya Dolzikova and Jack Watling, War on the Rocks, 06.16.23.

  • “Ultimately, the only sustainable resolution to the threats facing the ZNPP is the withdrawal of Russian troops and personnel from the plant and the return of the facility to Ukrainian authorities. In the meantime, though, Ukraine’s partners should pursue four lines of effort to help to prevent a radiological incident at the plant.”
    • “First, pressure should be placed on Russian authorities and Rosatom management at the ZNPP to grant the International Atomic Energy Agency all requested access.”
    • “Second, diplomatic pressure should be applied to create a deconfliction mechanism between the Ukrainian and Russian militaries to allow for the continued supply of water, diesel fuel, emergency equipment, and spare parts, as well as the rotation of workers and International Atomic Energy Agency personnel.”
    • “Third, Ukraine’s partners should make clear to Russia that it does not stand to benefit from engineering — or carelessly permitting — an accident at the ZNPP.”
    • “Fourth, the attractiveness of manufacturing a radiological incident could be further decreased by reducing its likely impact on Ukrainian military forces. This could be achieved by providing them chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training and equipment to ensure that they have the right capabilities to respond to the situation.”

"The Breach of Ukraine’s Kakhovka Dam and the Nearby Nuclear Plant," HKS Belfer Center’s Mariana Budjeryn, Boston Globe, 06.13.23.

  • “Amid the fog of war and the absence of a smoking gun, the blame for the destruction of the dam has not been independently established. But precedent, expertise in dam engineering, and basic common sense all point to the Russian Federation… Now, as the much-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive has launched, the massive destruction and disruption caused by the flooding in southern Ukraine is meant to distract and stymie Ukraine's military maneuver.”
  • “The breach of the Kakhovka dam caused another set of concerns: some 150 kilometers upstream from it is the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant… It's been occupied by Russian troops since March 5, 2022. … The plant's cooling systems rely on the supply of water from the Kakhovka reservoir created by the dam. … There are reasons for a cautious sigh of relief that a major nuclear disaster is not imminent. … The longer-term repercussions of the dam breach and the draining of the reservoir for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are much more drastic, however.”
  • “Without repairing the dam and refilling the reservoir — a major and costly engineering undertaking — it will be impossible to restart the plant's operation, even after its potential liberation from the Russians. The reactor units cannot be put back online to generate electricity at full capacity without an abundant and reliable supply of water for cooling, which the dam's reservoir had provided.”
  • “Unable to use the plant itself, Russia has rendered the plant unusable for Ukraine, a $30 billion asset — capable of generating 6 gigawatts a year, a quarter of Ukraine's pre-war electricity needs — stolen and then left wasting for years to come. Another troubling question is that if the Russians are not restrained in causing a major humanitarian and ecological disaster by blowing up a dam … what else are they capable of? Would they cause a similar or worse calamity if the Ukrainian counteroffensive forces them to retreat…?”
  • “As the international community ponders these prospects, the ghost of the Chernobyl catastrophe, the world's worst nuclear accident that in 1986 covered swaths of Ukraine and Europe in radioactive fallout, returns to haunt. The parallels are uncanny: Chernobyl, the Kakhovka dam destruction, and the potential disaster at Zaporizhzhia all expose the lies of the governments in Moscow and their callous indifference toward massive and needless human suffering.”

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

“Reconstructing Ukraine. Creating a Freer, More Prosperous, and Secure Future,” RAND’s Howard J. Shatz, Gabrielle Tarini, Charles P. Ries, James Dobbins, RAND, June 2023.

  • “Ukraine's reconstruction and recovery should be a U.S.-Europe partnership.”
    • “Reconstruction will be most successful if Ukraine sets the priorities, the United States leads on security assistance, and the European Union (EU) leads on reform and economic assistance, especially in light of Ukraine's potential EU accession. But both the United States and European countries will need to be involved with each."
    • “Successful reconstruction will require strong linkages for international trade and investment, as well as a welcoming environment for international business."
    • “To pay for reform and reconstruction, foreign government aid is needed; governments can fund higher-risk needs with conditionalities to ensure that Ukraine remains on the right track. But just as or more important, private financing and Ukraine's own resources are needed as well. Russia's international reserves — now frozen in the West — also could be an important source of funding.”
    • “Ukraine's reconstruction will need a strong, trusted inspector general to safeguard the integrity of assistance, especially because of Ukraine's record of corruption since gaining independence in 1991.”
  • “Security is essential for Ukraine's reconstruction; without security, reconstruction will falter.”
    • “Durable security arrangements supported by the West will help Ukraine deter and defend against future Russian attacks and will be critical if business and investments are to flow.”
    • “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) provided security for European reconstruction after World War II and the Cold War and deployed more than 100,000 peacekeepers to the Western Balkans after the break-up of Yugoslavia, enabling recovery.”
    • “Arrangements for Ukraine's security could take a variety of forms and might require new models beyond NATO membership.”
    • “While stronger measures of deterrence might make renewed fighting less likely, they could also raise Russia's threat perceptions, leading Moscow to take desperate measures.”

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“Why Ukraine's Offensive Will Likely Be a Slow, Costly Grind; Kyiv and Moscow Have Spent Months Preparing for Fighting Along a Vast Front Line,” journalists Daniel Michaels and Isabel Coles, WSJ, 06.19.23.

  • “Military orthodoxy says that an army on the offensive that is hitting entrenched enemies should start with airborne barrages, followed by an overwhelming ground assault advancing beneath flying gunships blasting open a path. Ukraine hasn't had that option.”
  • “Ukrainians' early setbacks are a sign that their offensive will be a long, deadly grind, and not a repeat of their rout of Russian troops in the northeast region of Kharkiv late last summer.”
  • “‘It was always going to be difficult,’ said Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Russian forces ‘have been preparing for a long time. They learned from their mistakes in Kharkiv.’”
  • “Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, compared the current situation to the World War II Battle of Kursk, a Russian city near eastern Ukraine. In the spring of 1943, attacking Nazis and defending Soviets knew they would square off somewhere in the region and both sides prepared. When Germany launched its offensive, it became clear that they had waited too long and the Soviets had been strengthening faster, Cancian said. … Similarly, Kyiv and Moscow have both been improving their positions over recent months, so the looming fight will test ‘who is getting stronger at a faster rate,’ Cancian said. While the advantage probably goes to Kyiv, he said, ‘I worry about Kursk.’”

“Russia, Learning From Costly Mistakes, Shifts Battlefield Tactics,” journalists Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Julian E. Barnes, Natalia Yermak, NYT, 06.17.23.

  • “The team of soldiers had been out of their Ukrainian armored personnel carrier for only a matter of minutes when the tree line in front of them erupted in Russian gunfire. The dozen or so soldiers, sent to reinforce a trench, found themselves pinned down for hours… One soldier fighting for Ukraine was killed and nine were wounded in the battle, which took place in March near the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut…  The ambush was a deadly demonstration that the Russian military was learning from its mistakes and adapting to Ukrainian tactics, having grossly underestimated them initially.”
    • “‘Never seen that much fire, from so many positions,’ a soldier recounted in a mission report obtained by The New York Times.”
    • “Russian troops, the report said, showed a ‘high level of skill and equipment.’”
    • “The March mission report said: ‘Assumed to be Wagner group,’ the report read. ‘Evidence of being well-trained. … Used effective fire and maneuver,’ it continued, describing ‘the best equipped Russian soldiers.’”
    • “Russian trenches have frequently proved better built than their Ukrainian counterparts, Ukrainian soldiers said. The March mission report said the bunkers were akin to ‘Vietnam-style spider holes’ and ‘so deep as to be undetectable by drone.’”
  • “Interviews with 17 Ukrainian soldiers, a Russian prisoner of war, officers, foreign fighters and Western officials, as well as a review of documents and videos, show that, in recent months, the Kremlin’s gains, especially in Bakhmut, have come in part because of a series of adaptations.”
    • “Russian armored columns, for instance, no longer rush into areas where they can be quickly damaged or destroyed. Troops are more often using drones and probing attacks… And the mercenary Wagner Group has shown an ability to outpace Ukrainian defenders with a combination of improved tactics and disposable ranks.”
    • “Moscow’s forces have improved their defenses, artillery coordination and air support, setting up a campaign that could look very different from the war’s early days.”
    • “Mostly neutered since the invasion, the Russian air force has adapted its tactics and munitions, including glide bombs, to attack Ukrainian forces without risking their aircraft.”

“France’s Top General on Lessons From the Battlefield: The Armée Learns From Ukraine and From a Big Field Drill at Home,” The Economist, 06.18.23.

  • “[General Thierry Burkhard France’s top soldier, in charge of all of its armed forces] reflects on the lessons emerging from the exercise and from the war in Ukraine. ‘A high-intensity war is fought on a completely different scale,’ he says. ‘I probably underestimated that.’ During two decades of counter-insurgency in Afghanistan and the Sahel, the death of ten soldiers was a ‘national tragedy, and rightly so,’ says the general. ‘That is what is happening in Ukraine every half hour — for weeks on end.’”
  • “In the Iraqi city of Mosul, recalls General Burkhard, jihadists being tracked by French forces would resort to subterfuge to avoid aerial surveillance. Now it is French forces that have to contend with a cheap drone capable of detecting a tank, he says, and weapons of ‘extreme precision’ that can destroy it. ‘We see a form of transparency on the battlefield,’ he says, ‘an ability to see almost everywhere.’ Armies have to learn to reduce their electronic emissions and to stay on the move. Command posts not only have to be disguised, but must mask the traffic moving in and out. All of this requires a change in habits and mentality, says the general.”
  • “The priority, says General Burkhard, is integrating platforms together: ‘We have to be able to have five drones in the air linked to an artillery battery, three missile-launchers, a tank and in fact have enough agility to decide what we want to do with what we see.’ Having lots of things is useless if they cannot talk to each other. ‘Coherence…must precede mass.’”
  • “‘We can no longer hope to have permanent superiority in all areas,’ he argues, pointing out that neither Russia nor Ukraine has managed to gain air superiority. ‘Superiority in terms of permanent connectivity … is also an illusion.’”

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

“The Other Counteroffensive to Save Ukraine: A New European Recovery Program,” Lawrence H. Summers of Harvard University, Philip Zelikow of University of Virginia, and ex-President of the World Bank Robert B. Zoellick, FA, 06.15.23. 

  • “As Ukrainians risk their lives battling for national survival, the United States, European countries, and their allies should prepare a counteroffensive of their own against Russian aggression: a massive new European recovery program to begin operation by next year.”
  • “This counteroffensive would be nonviolent, centered on economic and political reconstruction. But it would help secure a lasting Ukrainian victory. An ambitious recovery program that recalls the Marshall Plan would sustain Ukraine, make Europe more secure, brighten the future of surrounding regions, and revitalize the European project itself. That would be a real triumph over Russia’s effort to plunge Europe back into a darker age.”
  • “To give this plan credibility, Western countries should prepare to use frozen Russian assets to help fund Ukraine’s reconstruction. … There is no scenario in which Russia gets its money back while its victims go uncompensated. … It is time to move from sanctions to state countermeasures… bank robbers should not expect banks to honor their safe deposit boxes. Except in this case, the banks are national governments with jurisdiction over sovereign accounts they would ordinarily respect.”
  • “Far from a dangerous precedent, a transfer of Russian assets would be a powerful warning to other countries that may be considering wars of aggression. It would be a reminder of how costly it can be to assault global norms in a world that is still so deeply interconnected.”
  • “A new European recovery program centered on Ukraine and funded by Russian assets is not only a key to winning the peace; it is a key to winning the war and countering Moscow’s strategy of attrition and ruin. Russia left the means to sustain such a program in the hands of free countries. They should literally capitalize on that mistake.”

“An Eyebrow-Raising Payout at LetterOne,” Editorial Board, FT, 06.13.23.

  • “LetterOne is an unusual property owner, founded in 2013 as an investment vehicle to manage part of the proceeds of the sale of the Russian oil company TNK-BP. Its co-founders, Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, who had built up the Alfa Group empire in Russia, decided to extract as much of their capital as possible from the lawless economy and put it to work in safer jurisdictions. By the end of 2021, LetterOne had acquired assets including the Holland & Barrett health food chain and a stake in the Turkish mobile phone operator Turkcell, and boasted $27bn of equity.”
  • “The trouble began for LetterOne last year when several of its leading shareholders, including Fridman and Aven, were placed under sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Their shareholding in LetterOne was frozen, leaving the non-sanctioned but passive Russian shareholder Andrei Kosogov as the only significant minority investor. Fridman and Aven were strictly forbidden from exercising any control over LetterOne. The holding company faced a rocky time trying to preserve its banking relationships as a result of the tightening sanctions regime.”
  • “The managers claim they battled tirelessly to keep the investment fund alive, with regulators and bankers monitoring them to ensure they complied with the sanctions regime. But documents seen by the Financial Times show that the managers were astonishingly well rewarded for their efforts. Davies was paid $40mn over the past two years, although $22mn of this was approved by pre-sanctioned shareholders for 2021. Other managers also received lavish payments. Ten executives received a total of $65mn in discretionary bonuses and retention payments in 2022.”
  • “The intent of the sanctions imposed on LetterOne’s shareholders was to punish Russia and support Ukraine. In that spirit, if they have not already, LetterOne’s managers should at least donate part of their fortuitously acquired fortunes to the Kherson flood relief fund.”

Ukraine-related negotiations:

The Korea Model. Why an Armistice Offers the Best Hope for Peace in Ukraine,” Carter Malkasian of the Naval Postgraduate School, FA, July/August 2023.

  • “Today, as during the Korean War, an independent state is bearing the brunt of an act of aggression, and the ruler on the other side is bent on winning. As during the Korean War, great powers are center stage and nuclear weapons lurk in the background. And as during the Korean War, neither side seems likely to deliver a knockout blow on the battlefield, and neither side seems interested in pursuing a comprehensive peace deal. Given the similarities, some of the same pitfalls that delayed the Korean armistice could hamper efforts to forge one in Ukraine.”
    • “As in Korea, it might take a prolonged period of fighting to convince the parties to start negotiating.”
    • “Another roadblock [is that...] Putin appears committed to dismantling an independent, democratic Ukraine and averse to losing any of the Ukrainian territory that his forces have seized since 2014.”
    • “U.S. domestic politics could also complicate negotiations, as they did during the Korean War. No matter what approach he takes, U.S. President Joe Biden will face an array of attacks on his Ukraine policy as the 2024 election approaches, especially if negotiations start in the coming months.”
    • “Ukraine should not be expected to toe the Western line. As Eisenhower learned in dealing with Rhee — and as subsequent U.S. presidents discovered in dealing with leaders in South Vietnam and Afghanistan — a junior partner rarely does whatever Washington wants.
  • “Given all the potential obstacles to an armistice in Ukraine, some might argue that the more realistic option would be to wait for the conflict to freeze, as did the fighting in eastern Ukraine after Russia’s 2014 invasion… The problem is that a frozen conflict would buy Russia time to eventually return to full-scale war.”
    • “If pursuing negotiations is a gamble, it is one with low risks and high potential rewards. Failure would merely yield the same result as doing nothing. Success, however, could preserve Ukraine, allay wider fears for democracy, deter further Russian aggression, and put fears of an escalation to rest. The kind of stable, durable peace the Korean armistice produced would be a victory not just for Ukraine and its supporters but for the entire world, as well.”

“David Fells Goliath, Then There’ll be Talks: How Ukraine Can Win,” senior associate fellow Greg Mills, RUSI, 06.13.23.

  • “Kyiv’s aim for its much-anticipated offensive is for Ukraine to arrive at the negotiating table in a position of strength. After all, this table is where ‘every war ends’, says Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, ‘and our task is to bring Ukraine to the table in the strongest position possible.’”
  • “Whatever happens, from a Ukrainian perspective, the war has to be finished quickly, before Russia manages to get its industry behind its war effort. Russia has so far done an exceptional job of shoring up its economy, even though it has taken a hammering from Western sanctions. It seems now to be gearing itself up for a long war — although Putin will have to explain why even greater numbers of Russian boys are dying in this war, when the Ukrainians were supposed to have greeted them as liberators.”
  • “Those thinking of making peace in this neighborhood will not only have to think of questions of international law, sovereignty, human rights, and moral legitimacy in seeking compromise, but also about putting in place the conditions that will prevent a return to conflict.”

“Meeting With Heads of Delegations of African States,” Russian President Vladimir Putin, in prepared remarks shared with heads of delegations of African states in St. Petersberg’s Constantine Palace,, 06.17.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Russia has never rejected any talks. I would like to underline that, with the assistance of President Erdogan, as you know, Turkey hosted a whole series of talks between Russia and Ukraine to work out confidence-building measures … and draft the text of the treaty. We never agreed with the Ukrainian side that this treaty would be confidential yet we never showed it to anyone or commented on it.”
  • “The draft treaty was initialed by the head of the group of negotiators from [Kyiv] — he signed it. Here it is, it exists. It is called: The Treaty on Permanent Neutrality and Guarantees of Security of Ukraine. … Moreover, there are addenda to it. You know — I will not even dwell on this — they deal with armed forces and other things.”

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

“Joining NATO Won't Keep Ukraine Safe From Russia,” Stephen Wertheim of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, NYT, 06.16.23.

  • “No matter how this war ends, the risk of recurrence may be high. Since 2014, NATO has demonstrated it does not wish to fight Russia over Ukraine. Should Ukraine join and Russia reinvade, the United States and the rest of NATO would have to decide whether to wage ‘World War III,’ as President Biden has aptly called a direct conflict with Russia, or decline to defend Ukraine and thereby damage the security guarantee across the alliance.:
  • “Any formula for lasting peace must acknowledge this complexity. When negotiations take place, President Volodymyr Zelensky should return to a proposal Ukraine reportedly broached in March of last year to stop pursuing NATO membership. Instead, a postwar Ukraine, as Mr. Zelensky has suggested, should adopt an ‘Israeli model,' building a large, advanced army and a formidable defense industrial base with extensive external support.”
  • The European Union, for its part, should establish a path for Ukraine to join the bloc quickly to attract investment for reconstruction… Moscow is more likely to put up with Ukrainian membership in the E.U. than in U.S.-led NATO.”
  • “Ukraine needs a vision of genuine victory -- of a prosperous, democratic and secure future -- not the Pyrrhic victory of NATO dreams and Russian invasions. Its international partners should start to provide that vision this summer. It's time to move to a less propagandistic phase of public debate, one that learns from the past to shape the future. However one judges the wisdom of NATO enlargement to date, it is a good thing that Ukraine, the United States and their allies can still take actions to affect Russia's conduct and are not simply hostage to Moscow's darkest drives. They should make the toughest choices with the clearest eyes.”

“Ukraine’s Winnable War. Why the West Should Help Kyiv Retake All Its Territory,” CFR’s Gideon Rose, FA, 06.13.23.

  • “Rather than limiting conventional military aid to Ukraine, accordingly, the United States and Europe should increase the flow: more armor, artillery, and ammunition; improved air defenses; squadrons of fourth-generation jet fighters — the conventional works, for as long as it takes. Such a course is not only the right thing to do. It is also the best way to end the war, either by teeing up the possibility of a durable negotiated settlement or by allowing Kyiv’s forces to gain positions that they could defend indefinitely with continued assistance.”
  • “The fighting must continue until Moscow accepts that it cannot achieve territorial gains by military force. Until that psychological turning point is reached, Ukraine and its backers will have little choice but to keep frustrating Russia militarily. When Russia is ready to accept such an outcome, sanctions and other restrictions could be lifted.”
  • “For the larger conflict to end, Russia will have to continue evolving. So will Ukraine. Domestic democratization is the war’s second front, and the struggle there will continue long after the guns in the East and the South are silent. The providers of foreign aid are right to care about corruption and accountability. The Ukrainians do, too.”

“A Drawn-Out Ukraine War Should Not Change U.S. Strategy,” former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, A. Wess Mitchell, FP, 06.14.23.

  • “Sequencing remains the best strategy for the United States to handle the two-front challenge from China and Russia. Helping Ukraine to defeat Russia by ejecting it from its territory is the best way to pursue such a strategy — for two reasons.”
  • “First, a protracted war hurts Russia more than it hurts the United States.”
  • “Second, the war in Ukraine has not been accompanied by a shortening of the strategic window in which China is likely to be ready to make a military move against Taiwan.”
  • “A shift away from a sequencing strategy would carry risks of its own. Over the past year and a half, the United States has made a major, sustained political, military, and economic investment in Ukraine’s success on and off the battlefield. It has sent more than $113 billion in aid, shifted tens of thousands of troops to the European theater, and made the rallying of international allies behind the Ukrainian cause the centerpiece of U.S. global strategy. A commitment of this scope makes the United States’ credibility as a great power intimately bound up in what happens in Ukraine.”
  • “Underlying all of this is the need to use the current window wisely: to prepare for and thereby hopefully avoid a catastrophic war with China. That Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine much sooner than Chinese President Xi Jinping was ready to move against Taiwan represents the greatest strategic opportunity for the West in decades.”

“Will Russia’s Break With the West Be Permanent?,” Michael Kimmage of Catholic University of America and Maria Lipman of George Washington University, FA, 06.19.23.

  • “The breakup between Russia and the West has acquired an aura of permanence. For Putin’s Russia to rethink its ties to the West, the West would have to withdraw its military support for Ukraine and agree to a neutral Ukraine or a divided Ukraine in which Russia has dominion over at least half of the country.”
  • “This is highly unlikely to happen. For the West to rethink its ties to Russia, Russia would have to end the war, participate in the war crimes trials of Russians, turn Putin over to The Hague, and pay war reparations to Ukraine. This, too, is highly unlikely. No matter how long the war continues, and regardless of how it ends, it will almost certainly leave in place a crucial new reality of twenty-first-century international relations. Russia will be absent from the West and the West absent from Russia, an abyss of hostility between them.”

“Europe’s Real Test Is Yet to Come. Will the Continent Ever Get Serious About Its Own Security?” Radek Sikorski, former foreign and defense minister of Poland, FA, July/August 2023.

  • “Putin is unlikely to win militarily in Ukraine, and Western sanctions will probably prevent Russia from building a new army capable of threatening Europe for half a decade or so. But even that outcome would not protect Europe from its worst nightmare: a conflict between the United States and China that consumes Washington and leaves Europe to defend itself.”
  • “To prepare for the nightmare scenario, Europe must not only augment its defenses but also find closer sources of raw materials and reshore its industries and supply chains.” 
  • “To survive and prosper in a world of battling giants, Europe must transform itself from a militarily weak confederation into a genuine superpower.”

“Great-Power Competition and Conflict in Latin America,” Irina A. Chindea, Elina Treyger, Raphael S. Cohen, Christian Curriden, Kurt Klein, Carlos Sanchez, Holly Gramkow, Khrystyna Holynska, RAND, June 2023.

  • “The potential for great-power competition in Latin America converges on the most populous and economically developed countries in the region. … Among the three competitors [US, China and Russia], the United States retains the lead in most domains of national power in the region, but China is making significant advances.”
  • “Although China's influence-seeking is growing most significantly, the most-plausible conflict scenarios with great-power involvement that we examined involve Russia more than China, at least in the near term.”
  • “The potential for the three competitors' involvement in Latin American conflicts is driven primarily by geopolitical concerns rather than economic and security-related ones. … A reduction in the level of U.S. engagement in Latin America could create conditions that intensify strategic competition.”
  • “The United States, China, and Russia have limited appetites for conventional military engagement in the region, but the United States is the most likely competitor to become engaged and sustain support for proxies because it has higher stakes in Latin America than its rivals do.”
  • “In the conflict scenarios that we examined, the United States and its competitors could plausibly back opposing sides, in dynamics reminiscent of the Cold War.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“Despite Rumors of War, the U.S. and China Can Manage Their Relationship,” Harvard professor Graham Allison, WP, 06.14.23.

  • “As the Biden administration and Congress struggle to get their heads around the challenge posed by China today, they should reflect on lessons learned in America’s success in winning the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Just because fundamental and irresolvable differences in values and interests compel the United States and China to be formidable rivals does not mean a hot war is a viable option.”
  • “Seared by the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, Kennedy understood that America’s strategy toward its deadliest adversary had to change. While he never wavered in his core commitment to a strategy of containment that sought to prevent Soviet expansion, he nonetheless argued that the United States should now live and let live in a world of diverse political systems with diametrically opposed values and ideologies. … To survive, the two superpowers would have to find ways to constrain their competition, compromise and even cooperate.”
  • “U.S.-China relations have now deteriorated to their worst state since they were formally established about a half-century ago. The first step in stabilizing relations is ‘getting back to Bali’ — reviving the high-level dialogue established between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Bali last November.”
  • “Biden and Xi recognize that war between the two nations would be suicidal for both. They understand that the most dangerous flash point is Taiwan. While the nations’ differences over Taiwan are irreconcilable, irreconcilable does not mean unmanageable. To start, both sides should reiterate the principles they have already agreed to in the three U.S.-China Joint Communiques that have allowed citizens on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to see greater increases in their incomes, health and well-being than in any equivalent period in their long histories.”
  • “Much like the United States and the Soviet Union, the United States and China are condemned to compete and to cooperate. Can Biden and Xi find a way to build a world safe enough to allow the competition between America’s liberty-centered democracy and another nation’s party-led autocracy to continue peacefully for long enough for one to triumph? It has happened before.”

“Why the War in Ukraine May Not Deter China,” chief foreign affairs correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, WSJ, 06.16.23.

  • “Mirroring Russia's rhetoric dismissing Ukraine's elected government as an illegitimate ‘Kyiv junta’ and presenting itself as a liberator, China insists that the majority of the Taiwanese are really on its side. ‘If we use military force to resolve the Taiwan issue, we would target the extreme minority of Taiwanese independence elements and foreign forces that interfere, and not the people of Taiwan,’ said PLA Lt. Gen. He Lei.”
  • “Like other Chinese officials, Gen. He scoffed at any comparisons between Ukraine and Taiwan, pointing out that no major nation grants diplomatic recognition to Taiwan's authorities. ‘It's like comparing the beauty of a person with the beauty of a pig. Ukraine is a sovereign country, while Taiwan is an unalienable part of China's sacred territory,’ he said. ‘Conflicts between two countries must be resolved through peaceful negotiations.’”
  • “To many Taiwanese, the parallels with Ukraine are crystal clear. While fears of a Chinese invasion have been present ever since the Communist Party seized China's mainland in 1949, last year's Russian invasion drove home that the unthinkable can actually happen, sometimes with frightening speed.”
  • “‘I hope that Xi has learned the good lesson from Ukraine: If you invade and try to bully a neighboring country, you are going to fail and the whole world will stand together more than you can imagine,’ said Wang Ting-Yu, a senior member of the Taiwanese parliament's defense committee. ‘But if Xi Jinping has learned the lesson that he wouldn't make the strategic and tactical mistakes like Putin, that Putin is stupid but Xi Jinping is smart, the lesson of how to win a war instead of how to not have a war — then the Ukrainian lesson may become a tragedy for China.’”

“Ukraine Is a Test for Future Wars and the West Is Failing,” Johns Hopkins University professor Hal Brands, Bloomberg, 06.14.23.

  • “That’s no way to use a crisis — or to win the contest for the future of global order. The war in Ukraine gave the democracies a chance to get ahead of impending challenges from a bellicose China and an angry, embittered Russia. They may not get another.”

Missile defense:

Nuclear arms control:“A New Approach to Arms Control. How to Safeguard Nuclear Weapons in an Era of Great-Power Politics,” CEIP's Ulrich Kühn and Harvard's Heather Williams,” FA, 06.14.23.

  • “Regardless of who is to blame, arms control as we know it has come to an end. This means that the United States must convert the G-7 pledge to induce ‘responsible’ nuclear behavior into a new agenda. Instead of focusing on weapons numbers, the United States should try to encourage responsible behaviors and help stigmatize irresponsible ones. Responsible behaviors include transparency about nuclear arsenals, risk reduction efforts, crisis communication channels, and restraints on potentially escalatory activities. This new approach will allow Washington to provide practical principles for responsible nuclear behavior in an era of rising nuclear risks, and — perhaps most important — serve as an opportunity to further strengthen relationships with U.S. allies and partners, including in the global South, to involve a wider and more diverse group of states in promoting responsible nuclear behavior.”
  • “In the current competitive environment, a behavior-based approach could be arms control’s last lifeline. It is worth accepting its potential risks.”
  • “Once nuclear peer competitors find it in their interests, a return to more formal arms control agreements should be on the agenda. Until then, arms control that focuses on behavior might be the most promising way to manage competition and to avoid global instability and, ultimately, nuclear use. The resulting framework may look very different from arms control of the past. But it would be better than a future in which proliferation proceeds in the absence of any shared guardrails for handling the most dangerous weapons in the world.”

“The US and Russia Must Re-Assess Their Strategic Relations in a World Without New START,” former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer, BAS, 06.13.23.  

  • “The good news is that both sides [US and Russia] say they will continue to observe New START’s numerical limits [in spite of Russia’s suspension of the implementation of the treaty].”
  • “Continued adherence to the 1988 Ballistic Missile Launch Agreement and 1989 Agreement on Reciprocal Notification of Major Strategic Exercises will be crucial to reduce the risk of misinterpretation resulting from ICBM or SLBM launches or of some heavy bomber exercises.”
  • “Restoration of a US-Russian dialogue on issues related to nuclear arms control and strategic stability issues would be a positive development, even though the two sides are not implementing New START-mandated monitoring measures and no early breakthrough could be expected. Washington has already expressed readiness, and Moscow has yet to take up the offer. Expectations should be modest though. As with New START, Putin may consider a stability dialogue a plum to be denied Washington so long as it continues its support for Ukraine.”

“Russia’s Options for Theatre Missile Coercion,” RUSI’s Sidharth Kaushal and Matthew Harries, RUSI, 06.19.23.

  • “[The authors are not suggesting that] Russia cannot conduct low-yield strikes in Europe — the country’s arsenal of low-yield capabilities is too large and robust, and the range of potential targets is too broad. But improvements in European IAMD [integrated air and missile defense] could potentially require Russian plans for limited nuclear use to involve greater numbers of weapons, complicating their assumptions regarding escalation management. The assumption that nuclear weapons can be coordinated artfully with diplomacy is likely to be increasingly problematized.”
  • “Additionally, Russia would need to be more judicious in its use of dual-use missiles for conventional strike missions, if a larger number of missiles are needed for many sub-strategic nuclear missions. This, in turn, would constrain Russia’s options for conventional counter-value targeting. Cumulatively, this could have the effect of pushing Russia towards the nuclear doctrine it espoused in 1999, when that year’s Zapad exercises involved the early and large-scale use of low-yield nuclear weapons against a putative opponent (likely NATO).”
  • “The balance depends, of course, on whether the success rate differs from what Russia, NATO and Ukraine would reasonably have expected, a question which cannot be definitively answered based on open sources. But it should at least give cause to question some of the assumptions about what a Russian conventional missile campaign or ‘limited’ nuclear strike might look like, which have been common in public discourse since the beginning of the war. In particular, a Russian attempt at ‘limited’ nuclear use against NATO might be more complicated than feared, but — were it to occur — it would be more escalatory and even more potentially damaging than is sometimes hoped.”

"A Difficult but Necessary Decision. The Use of Nuclear Weapons Can Save Humanity From a Global Catastrophe,," Council for Foreign and Defense Policy’s Sergei Karaganov, Profil/Russia in Global Affairs, 06.13.23. Clues from Russian views.

  • “Russia and its leadership seem to be facing a difficult choice. It becomes increasingly clear that a clash with the West cannot end even if we win a partial or even a crushing victory in Ukraine. … There will still remain a part of it with an even more embittered ultranationalist population pumped up with weapons ― a bleeding wound threatening inevitable complications and a new war. Perhaps the worst situation may occur if, at the cost of enormous losses, we liberate the whole of Ukraine and remain in ruins with a population that mostly hates us. Its ‘redemption’ will take more than a decade.”
  • “Any option, especially the latter one, will distract our country from making an urgently needed step to shift its spiritual, economic, and military-political focus to the east of Eurasia. … while present-day Ukraine, primarily its central and western regions, will sap managerial, human, and financial resources out the country.”
  • “A more attractive option would be liberating and reincorporating the East and the South of Ukraine, and forcing the rest to surrender, followed by complete demilitarization and the creation of a friendly buffer state. But this would be possible only if and when we are able to break the West’s will to incite and support the [Kyiv] junta, and to force it to retreat strategically.”
  • “Truce [with the West] is possible, but peace is not. Anger and despair will keep growing in shifts and turns. This vector of the West’s movement unambiguously indicates a slide towards World War III. It is already beginning and may erupt into a full-blown firestorm by chance or due to the growing incompetence and irresponsibility of modern ruling circles in the West.”
  • “The advance of artificial intelligence and the robotization of war increase the threat of even unintended escalation. In fact, machines can get out of the control of confused elites. The situation is aggravated by ‘strategic parasitism’ ― over the 75 years of relative peace, people have forgotten the horrors of war and even stopped fearing nuclear weapons. The instinct of self-preservation has weakened everywhere, but particularly in the West."
    • "For many years I have studied the history of nuclear strategy and come to an unambiguous, albeit seemingly not quite scientific, conclusion. The creation of nuclear weapons was the result of divine intervention. Horrified to see that people … had unleashed two world wars within the life-span of one generation, sacrificing tens of millions of lives, God handed a weapon of Armageddon to humanity to remind those who had lost the fear of hell that it existed. It was this fear that ensured relative peace for the last three-quarters of a century.” Invoking God could be part of Karaganov’s overall effort to utilize Nixon’s madman ploy in an effort to coerce the West.*
    • “That fear needs to be revived. Otherwise, humanity is doomed. What is being decided on the battlefields in Ukraine is not only, and not so much, what Russia and the future world order will look like, but mainly whether there will be any world at all or the planet will turn into radioactive ruins poisoning the remains of humanity. By breaking the West’s will to continue the aggression, we will not only save ourselves and finally free the world from the five-century-long Western yoke, but we will also save humanity.”
  • “We can keep fighting for another year, or two, or three, sacrificing thousands and thousands of our best men and grinding down tens and hundreds of thousands of people who live in the territories that is now called Ukraine and who have fallen into the tragic historical trap. But this military operation cannot end with a decisive victory without forcing the West to retreat strategically, or even surrender. … Therefore, it is necessary to arouse the instinct of self-preservation that the West has lost. … We will have to make nuclear deterrence a convincing argument again by lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons set unacceptably high, and by rapidly but prudently moving up the deterrence-escalation ladder. … There are many steps on this ladder. I have counted about two dozen. [Things] may also get to the point when we will have to urge our compatriots and all people of goodwill to leave their places of residence near facilities that may become targets for strikes in countries that provide direct support to the puppet regime in [Kyiv]. The enemy must know that we are ready to deliver a preemptive strike in retaliation [1] for all of its current and past acts of aggression in order to prevent a slide into global thermonuclear war. … We need to move up the containment-escalation ladder fairly quickly.”
  • “For a quarter of a century, we did not listen to those who warned that NATO expansion would lead to war. … As a result, we have got a severe armed conflict. The price of indecision now will be higher by an order of magnitude. But what if they do not back down? What if they have lost the instinct of self- preservation completely? In this case we will have to hit a bunch of targets in a number of countries in order to bring those who have lost their mind to reason. Morally, this is a terrible choice as we will use God’s weapon, thus dooming ourselves to grave spiritual losses. But if we do not do this, not only Russia can die, but most likely the entire human civilization will cease to exist.”

“Preventive Nuclear Strike? No,” director of the Russian International Affairs Council Ivan Timofeev, Russia in Global Affairs, 06.19.23. Clues from Russian Views. [2]

  • Sergei Karaganov's article about the need to make a difficult choice in favor of a preventive nuclear strike on the Eastern European country of NATO, as expected, has caused a great resonance … The official [Russian] position is clearly different from the decisions proposed in the article.”
  • “I don’t believe the preventive use of nuclear weapons will solve the problems of relations between Russia and the West. It will significantly worsen Russia's international position, not to mention the risks of escalation into a full-fledged nuclear exchange with the use of strategic offensive weapons.”
  • “Even a military victory in the Ukrainian conflict will not solve the problem. The West will continue to vigorously deter Russia, achieving its [Russia’s] material exhaustion and creating conditions for revolutionary upheavals. … To use the expression of the author [Karaganov], the West will not leave us alone. …  [According to Karaganov’s logic, there is only one thing that will make West leave Russia alone] … actual use of nuclear weapons, but without subsequent transition of the nuclear conflict to the level of strategic weapons.”
  • “The implementation of this approach is extremely dangerous. This approach underestimates the Western elites and their determination to climb the ladder of escalation with Russia… It also overestimates the chances of… acceptance of a Russian nuclear strike by China and other world majority countries. [This approach also]  overestimates the desire of the world majority to throw off the ‘yoke of the West.’ It overlooks the possible catastrophic consequences for Russia itself.”
  • “If the proposals under discussion are risky and unlikely to resolve problems with the West, is there an alternative? … Moscow has the opportunity to consolidate the status quo on the battlefield, weather the tsunami of sanctions and stop attempts at internal destabilization. Yes, the price is already high. But a preventive nuclear strike will not let [us] recoup the losses and will not lead to a solution to the problem. Over time, Russia will have the opportunity to close the ‘bleeding wound’ or reduce the loss of ‘blood,’ because Moscow is far from being the only headache for the US and the West.”
  • “In addition, the turn to the East can increasingly make the western direction for Russia a secondary, and then a tertiary one.”
  • “Hopes for reconciliation with the West in the current conditions are illusory. Rivalry with the West is a long-term factor with all the costs and losses that follow. Ultimately, however, international relations are doomed to anarchy and competition. You can not underestimate the opponent, consider the representatives of his elite as weaklings. The result can be erroneous decisions.”
  • “Nuclear weapons remain important as a deterrent. In the event of a direct military aggression against Russia and a threat to the very existence of the state, their use may become inevitable in full compliance with the current Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the field of nuclear deterrence. In other cases, other foreign policy instruments should be used.”

“Ukrainian Conflict and Nuclear Weapons,” Dmitri Trenin of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, Russia in Global Affairs, 06.20.23. Clues from Russian Views. [3]

  • “In his recent article Sergei Karaganov brought a most difficult question of the use of nuclear weapons into public space as the special military operation in Ukraine entered in the 16th month.”
  • “The Americans outwardly calmly reacted to the deployment of Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus. Such a "fearlessness" is a direct result of the geopolitical changes of the last three decades and the generational change in the ruling elite in the United States and in the West in general. This is an extremely dangerous delusion. The trajectory of the Ukrainian war points to an escalation of the conflict that would evolve both horizontally, through the expansion of the theater of operations, and vertically, through an increase in the power of the weapons used and the intensity of their use. It must be soberly recognized that this trajectory leads in the direction of a direct armed clash between Russia and NATO. If the momentum is not stopped, then such a collision will occur, and in this case, the war, having spread to Europe, will almost inevitably become nuclear. And after some time, a nuclear war in Europe will most likely lead to an exchange of strikes between Russia and the United States.”
  • “As for  Russian nuclear strikes against NATO countries: Hypothetically speaking, Washington would most likely not respond to these strikes with its own nuclear strike against Russia because it would fear of Russian retaliation against the US. The absence of such a reaction will dispel the myth that has been created for decades around Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and lead to the deepest crisis of NATO - perhaps even to the collapse of the organization. It cannot be ruled out that the Atlantic elites of the NATO and EU countries will panic under these conditions and then they will be swept away by national forces that will see with their own eyes that the security of their countries actually depends not on the non-existent "nuclear umbrella" of the United States, but on building balanced relations with Russia. It may turn out that America will leave Russia alone.”
    • “It is possible that the calculation described above will be correct. But it is also possible that it won’t be quite so. Yes, it is probable that a US nuclear strike on Russia will not immediately follow [Russia’s strike on Europe]. Americans are unlikely to sacrifice Boston for the sake of Poznan, just as during the Cold War they were not going to sacrifice Chicago because of Hamburg. But it is also likely that there will be some kind of response from the United States. This non-nuclear response ... is likely to be painful for us. ... It is unlikely that the Russian leadership will capitulate after such a response: at this stage, it will be about the very existence of Russia. Most likely, a retaliatory strike will follow - and this time, one can assume, it will target the main adversary rather than its satellites.”
  • “There is no need to scare anyone with words anymore. It is necessary to prepare for a possible application practically, carefully working through the possible options and their consequences.”
  • “In order to avoid a general catastrophe, it is necessary to return fear to politics and public consciousness: in the nuclear age, this is the only guarantee for the preservation of mankind.”

“The West Must Act Now To Break Russia’s Nuclear Fever: Putin’s Threats Are a Symptom of a Wider Anxiety That the US and NATO Are Bent on Russian Dismemberment,” ex-NATO DSG Rose Gottemoeller, FT, 06.15.23.

  • “Russia has been seized with an apocalyptic fever during the war in Ukraine. … More recently, former president Dmitry Medvedev threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Europe, and Sergei Karaganov, of Moscow’s Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, urged the Kremlin ‘to hit a bunch of targets in a number of countries in order to bring those who have lost their mind to reason’. In short, the US and its NATO allies must back off support to Ukraine or be annihilated.”
    • “As a first order of business, we can clarify that strategic defeat of Russia does not mean its dismemberment, but it does mean its exit from Ukraine, its willingness to atone for the invasion and the horrors that followed, and its readiness to repair the massive war damage.”
      • “To bolster that message, we need to restore certain key principles of the post-cold war detente. One is that ready military forces should not deploy near borders without notifying their neighbors of the reason why.”
  • “We also need to work hard to restore nuclear cooperation. Putin suspended Russian participation in the New Start treaty out of the mistaken notion that the US would submit to his demands on Ukraine. America does not link nuclear arms limits to other issues: they are an existential necessity in their own right, and if Putin cannot recognize that, then it is to his own country’s detriment. His nuclear forces lose an important means to predict US behavior just as America is embarking on a two-decade modernization of its nuclear triad.”
  • “Finally, we need to figure out how to work with Russia.”
  • “The key is to start thinking now about both what we will require of Moscow after its defeat in Ukraine, and how we ensure our own future security. While Russia’s interests cannot come at the cost of any other country, we can acknowledge that they are valid. Making that clear may help break the nuclear fever: it is to everyone’s benefit that we make that happen.”

“U.S. Nuclear Deterrence Is No Longer Enough,” author Edward Luttwak, WSJ Letters, 06.20.23.

  • “By not using nuclear weapons, not even the least in magnitude, not even symbolically at high altitude with no casualties caused, and by persisting in this renunciation even as Russia itself is attacked by drones and raiders, Vladimir Putin has done something notable. He has made it politically impossible for the U.S. to rely on nuclear weapons to protect the territories of its European allies against invasion, thereby depriving those allies of the ‘extended deterrence’ substitute for the armed forces they could have but refuse to pay for.”
  • “For decades, such ‘tripwire’ forces were plausible enough, but less so over time and not at all now. It follows that the aerial nuclear bombs for fighter-bombers that remain in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and even Turkey under ‘dual-key’ command should be withdrawn, for their use to stop a Russian invasion is no longer credible.”
  • “On the other hand, Ukraine's ability to resist invasion proves that by restoring compulsory military service and spending not much money wisely, the European allies can be secure with their own forces, with the U.S. nuclear guarantee persisting in full force only to deter a Russian nuclear attack.”

“Towards a New Missile Crisis in Europe?” research fellow Emmanuelle Maître, FRS, 06.06.23.

  • “The strategic arms control architecture is collapsing, and in this context, it may appear unrealistic to hope for the re-emergence of a regulatory framework on medium-range and intermediate-range systems, nuclear or otherwise, in Europe. However, most NATO European countries continue to defend the idea that arms control agreements could have a positive effect on their security. In particular, they worry about the fact that Russia’s arsenal of short-range nuclear weapons is unregulated and could potentially be used to escalate a crisis in Europe through a variety of delivery vehicles including ballistic, cruise and hypersonic weapons. In the absence of any prospect for legally binding treaties in the short term, several tracks can be followed in priority to limit destabilization linked to the deployment of multiple missile systems on the European continent.”
    • “First, the escalation potential of dual-capable systems has been clearly established. Russia appears unlikely to change its practice on that matter, but it is important for NATO states to keep being very clear about the type of warhead that is coupled to their systems and to keep rejecting the benefits of any form of ambiguity. More specifically, transparency is needed on doctrine and employment policy regarding new systems, especially hypersonic gliders, deployed in Europe.”
    • “Second, in a tense environment, missile tests may be misinterpreted and lead to escalatory maneuvers. Making sure that appropriate communication is made before tests, especially through the multilateral pre-launch notification mechanism of The Hague Code of Conduct against the proliferation of ballistic missiles (HCoC), is essential. On that matter, states may usefully consider whether their traditional assessment of what needs to be pre-notified and what does not is still adequate, given deployment and technology evolutions. The HCoC covers only ballistic missiles, and therefore cruise missiles and some hypersonic gliders may not be covered despite their ability to fly over thousands of kilometers while carrying WMDs. Reforming the scope of the Code may seem out of reach right now, for political reasons, but it does not prevent some of its subscribing states from adopting a wide interpretation of their reporting requirements.”
  • “Preventing the advent of a new missile crisis in Europe will require the improvement of the strategic environment in the short term and a return of the political appetite for negotiated arms control.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

“AI Has Entered the Situation Room,” Stanley McChrystal, retired four-star U.S. Army general, and Anshu Roy of Rhombus Power, FP, 06.19.23.

  • “At the start of 2022, seasoned Russia experts and national security hands in Washington watched in disbelief as Russian President Vladimir Putin massed his armies on the borders of Ukraine. ....But in Silicon Valley, we had already concluded that Putin would invade — four months before the Russian attack. By the end of January, we had predicted the start of the war almost to the day.”
    • “How? Our team at Rhombus Power....was looking at a completely different picture than the traditional foreign-policy community. Relying on artificial intelligence to sift through almost inconceivable amounts of online and satellite data, our machines were aggregating actions on the ground, counting inputs that included movements at missile sites and local business transactions, and building heat maps of Russian activity virtually in real-time.”
  • “We got it right because we weren’t bound by the limitations of traditional foreign-policy analysis. We weren’t trying to divine Putin’s motivations, nor did we have to wrestle with our own biases and assumptions trying to interpret his words. Instead, we were watching what the Russians were actually doing by tracking often small but highly important pieces of data that, when aggregated effectively, became powerful predictors. All kinds of details caught our attention: Weapons systems moved to the border regions in 2021 for what the Kremlin claimed were military drills were still there, as if pre-positioned for future forward advances. Russian officers’ spending patterns at local businesses made it obvious they weren’t planning on returning to barracks, let alone home, anytime soon. By late October 2021, our machines were telling us that war was coming.”
  • “Ready or not, AI already makes it possible to look at a multitude of possible futures and for us to know with surprisingly quantifiable likelihood which of them may or may not happen. Even more importantly, it gives policymakers the capacity to war-game and pressure-test possible responses during a real crisis situation — in minutes or hours, not days or weeks as in traditional tabletop exercises. The quantity of data we analyze helps predict the next card in an opponent’s deck with previously unimaginable confidence. It is increasingly difficult to catch a technologically equipped nation by surprise.”
  • “If AI makes it possible to consistently deduce your opponent’s next step, how will that affect diplomatic and negotiating strategy? The possibilities are dizzying.”

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:

“The Treacherous Path to a Better Russia. Ukraine’s Future and Putin’s Fate,” Andrea Kendall-Taylor of CNAS and Erica Frantz of Michigan State University, FA, July/August 2023.

  • “Rather than seeking to decipher Kremlin intentions — which a new leader will have an incentive to misrepresent to secure concessions from the West — the United States and European countries should be prepared to clearly articulate their conditions for an improved relationship. Such conditions should include, at a minimum, Russia’s full withdrawal from Ukraine, reparations for wartime damage, and accountability for its human rights violations. As much as the United States and European countries will want to stabilize relations with a post-Putin Russia, Moscow must also be interested in the proposition.”
  • “Given the dim prospects for and the uncertain outcome of any future protests, the expectation of U.S. and European officials should be that Russia will remain an autocracy even after Putin departs. ... Managing relations with Moscow therefore requires a long-term and sustainable strategy to constrain Russia and its ability to wage aggression beyond its borders. Such a strategy should also aim to weaken the grip of authoritarianism in Russia over time.”
  • “Corruption has been a key enabler of the Putin regime; illicit networks entrench regime interests and prevent individuals outside the regime from gaining influence within the system. To weaken these barriers, Washington must properly enforce sanctions on the Kremlin’s cronies in the business world, combat money laundering, make financial and real estate markets in the United States and Europe more transparent, and support investigative journalists in their bid to uncover such corruption. The United States can also bolster Russian civil society.”
  • “Ultimately, however, Washington and its allies can do little to directly shape Russia’s political trajectory. … the more decisive Russia’s defeat in Ukraine, the more likely it is that Russia will experience profound political change, one hopes for the better.”

“How Far Back Can We Trace the Current Russian Anti-Americanism?”, European University (St. Petersburg) professor Ivan Kurilla, Dekoder/Russia.Post, 06.20.23.

  • “The first to turn towards anti-Americanism were the more educated members of Russian society — those who relied more on the success of the reforms and had idealized the United States in previous years, and then became disillusioned with the reality.”
  • “In the 1990s, opportunities for direct interaction with the US expanded dramatically for the educated classes, who were previously a stronghold of pro-American sentiment. Trips to America became much more accessible and frequent, as did the possibility of studying at American universities, meeting with American businessmen, missionaries, tourists, students, and finally, the head-on collision with American business and culture (as McDonald's and Hollywood came to Russia). One unexpected consequence was the emergence of ‘anti-Americanism by acquaintance,’ when a better understanding of the US led to disillusionment among those who had previously held utopian views of the United States.”
  • “Large-scale anti-American sentiment was still not a thing of the 1990s, but the emotional foundations were formed during this decade.” 


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

Why Putin Will Never Agree to De-escalate,” Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center’s Maxim Samorukov, FP, 06.13.23. Clues from Russian views.

  • “Regardless of how worn-out Russians may be, therefore, Putin will stick to his selective perception of reality, looking for reasons for and ways to further escalate his addictive crusade against the current world order. Putin has not even made any bones about his intentions: His key decisions over the past months — from tightening the military draft system to massively investing in weapons production — clearly indicate that he is bracing his country for a long war. It is hard to see how the upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive could affect these calculations, regardless of how successful it turns out to be.”
  • “No one in Russia appears to be able to stop Putin, but that is not to say they are eager to continue his undertaking once he is out of the picture. Even then, Russia is unlikely to get a democratically inclined, let alone pro-Western leadership. Rather, Putin will most likely be succeeded by a group of his henchmen who share a similar world outlook, including his view of the West and Ukraine.”
  • “Still, even if autocratic and paranoid, the next Russian leadership is bound to be less oriented toward a single man at the top. It has been a consistent pattern in Russian and Soviet history that harsh autocratic rulers purged any potential rivals so thoroughly that their departure was inevitably followed by a less powerful, more collective leadership, with none of its members able to impose their whims on all the others. By the very fact of being a collective, Russia’s rulers after Putin will inevitably tread more cautiously, elaborate decisions more thoroughly, and react more rationally, especially on the issues related to the war.”
  • “This difference may prove decisive. Given the current state of ever-increasing tensions, it is worth pondering the question of who in Russia is more likely to press the nuclear button: a lonely autocrat obsessed with historical grandeur, or a group of gray apparatchiks bogged down in their internal squabbles? The wrong answer may cost us the planet.”

“Don’t Count the Dictators Out. The Underappreciated Resilience of Today’s Autocracies,” Lucan Ahmad Way of the University of Toronto, FA, 06.20.23.

  • “Putin’s autocracy has benefited immeasurably from the legacies of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.”
    • “First, the long era of Soviet totalitarian rule effectively prevented a strong civil society from taking hold.”
    • “Second, Putin’s control of Russia has been bolstered by an extensive and effective security service that can be traced directly to the political police created in 1917.”
    • “Russia’s revolutionary legacy has also benefited Putin by reducing the likelihood of a military rebellion, even amid such a disastrous campaign as the war in Ukraine.”
  • “Of course, even the most powerful revolutionary autocracies do not last forever, and China, Iran, and Russia are not invincible. The regimes in Tehran and Moscow are more vulnerable than the one in Beijing. … The Russian government’s vulnerability comes from the regime’s concentration of power in one man’s hands.”
  • “Revolutionary autocrats and their successors present one of today’s most intractable challenges to international order. Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine despite Russia’s close ties to Europe demonstrates that economic linkage and common material interests are not sufficient to preserve the liberal world order. Democracies must instead unite and mount a defense of democratic values — providing military support for democracies under attack, as well as diplomatic and material assistance for those opposing dictatorship.”  Multiple scholars, including Graham Allison, have questioned whether the liberal world order exists.*

"Russia’s Showcase Economic Forum Is Now a Charade,” nonresident scholar Alexandra  Prokopenko, Carnegie Politika, 06.19.23.

  • “Once dubbed the ‘Russian Davos,’ the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) is less and less international every year. Investors and foreign media used to see Vladimir Putin’s keynote address as an economic road map and indication of the Russian president’s mood. This year, neither Western media nor investors were in attendance, and as the Ukrainian counteroffensive gets under way amid the shelling of Russia’s border regions, what matters most is not what Putin said, but what he didn’t.”
  • “The Russian government likes to talk about the sustainability and long-term growth of the economy, but over the past year, officials have reprogrammed themselves to think in the short term. Investors, meanwhile — regardless of where they are from — prefer long-term planning horizons.”
  • “The excessive optimism of Putin and his ministers smacks of attempts to convince not so much mythical investors as themselves that business as usual is possible — and even compatible with their threats to unleash nuclear war.”
  • “No sane investor could fail to see past the charade of this talk of a favorable economic climate to the devastating fighting in Ukraine, calls for nuclear strikes, and high-profile infighting between Russian mercenaries and the Defense Ministry. After a quarter of a century, SPIEF has been transformed from a prestigious investment forum to a platform for an aging autocrat who has somehow managed to convince himself that everything is going according to plan.”

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

“Russian Private Military Companies Thriving Due to War with Ukraine,” Ryan Bauer and Erik E. Mueller of RAND, MT, 06.16.23.

  • “The growing number of competitors ... may push more Russian PMCs to pursue profitable contracts beyond Ukraine. Wagner and others have already engaged in operations in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. And they sow misery wherever they go. During operations in Africa, Syria and Ukraine, Wagner personnel have committed mass executions, rape, child abductions and torture.”
  • “PMCs could cause the security situation in those places to further deteriorate in other ways, too. They often import fighters from various countries. With the right connections in a country, they could recruit incarcerated violent offenders or former members of armed groups and criminal organizations, unleashing these actors back on the population.”
  • “The Ukraine war is likely to be a catalyst for bloodshed elsewhere in the world at the hands of Russian PMCs. Moscow is likely to continue relying on Wagner and other PMCs because they supply low-cost and low-footprint forces. The results could be catastrophic for civilian populations where Russian PMCs do business.”


“Ukraine’s Counter-Offensive, and What Comes After,” journalist Isaac Chotiner’s interview with King’s College London researcher Marina Miron, New Yorker, 06.15.23.

  • “There are a lot of unknown variables, and I think Zelensky is underestimating how difficult it will be. I mean, it’s good for the morale of the people and of the soldiers to say, “We will retake every inch of the territory. We will get the Russians out.” But the actual procedure and how to operationalize this aim has not been thought through perhaps as well as it should have been.”
  • “I’m not blaming Zelensky. I think that for him it’s quite a difficult job to end up in that situation in the first place without having actually expected it or prepared for it and having to play it by ear. But the problems that Ukraine also faces in terms of its economy, in terms of corruption — and corruption is not something that has just resurfaced, because it has existed since the fall of the Soviet Union, when Ukraine became independent — will have to be addressed. Once the violence reduces, these problems will be coming to the fore, and Ukraine will have to deal with them. I don’t know to what extent the current leadership is capable of addressing all of those problems once it’s time to do so. We keep hearing, “The corruption issue can be dealt with later on. Right now, we have the war, and so we have to focus on that, on getting the Russians out.” I don’t think that there is a concrete game plan for what happens afterward.”

“Ukraine Clamps Down on Corruption as Western Supporters Cast Watchful Eye,” journalist David L. Stern, WP, 06.19.23.

  • “Last month, anti-corruption investigators said they caught [Vsevold] Knyazyev [chief justice of the country’s Supreme Court] ‘red-handed’ receiving a payment of about $450,000 — a ‘second tranche of illegal benefits’ in a corruption scheme potentially involving other members of Ukraine’s Supreme Court and judiciary.”
    • “‘Obviously, [we're asking] were there other cases [of bribery]?’ said a European diplomat in Kyiv, speaking on background due to the sensitivity of the issue. ‘And of course I'd like to see [whether] the current justice reform was not compromised by Knyazyev?’”
  • “The investigation that ensnared Knyazyev is the biggest since the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) were established eight years ago … Shevchuk of the Anti-Corruption Action Center said Zelensky has ‘no role’ in Knyazyev's case and should let NABU and SAPO ‘do their job.’ But on other fronts in the anti-corruption fight, Zelensky and his party, which enjoys a majority in the country's legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, are falling short.”
    • “A bill that would reinstate the public declaration of officials' assets has stalled in parliament.”
    • “An ‘anti-oligarch bill’ forced some of the billionaires to sell off their media holdings, while the war with Russia depleted their wealth and influence — especially among those whose fortunes were based in the country's east. But for others, their business empires remained largely intact.”
  • “Anti-corruption activists credit the heads of NABU and SAPO — Semen Kryvonos and Oleksandr Klymenko, respectively — as playing a major role in the rejuvenated anti-corruption campaign. But observers also question cases that NABU and SAPO are aggressively pursuing against a number of former officials. The cases hinge on procedural questions, which officials say resulted in losses to the state budget, but so far, no accusations of bribery or personal enrichment have been made.”

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • No significant developments.



[1] Here and elsewhere RM relied on a translation circulated by Karaganov for the summary of his article, but we also would like to note that, in our view, the Russian-language original  “упреждающий удар возмездия” would be more accurately translated as “a preemptive strike of retaliation.”

[2] Translated with the help of machine translation.

[3] Translated with the help of machine translation.

[4] A worthwhile supplemental read for those with access, by the same authors: What AI Can Tell Us About Putin’s Next Steps in Ukraine

*Here and elsewhere, italicized text indicates a note from RM staff.


Slider photo shared by DepositPhotos under its Editorial Use licensing policy.