Russia Analytical Report, June 20-26, 2023


Prigozhin’s Mutiny: What Happened, Why Now and What’s Next?   

Who is Mr. Yevgeny Prigozhin, and what was the real purpose of his “march for justice,” which brought his 25,000-strong PMC Wagner past some of Russia’s nuclear depots and as close as 200 km to Moscow this past weekend? Was it an anti-Putin mutiny meant to install the political leader of Russia’s most powerful private army in the Kremlin? Or was the ex-convict really just trying to convince Vladimir  Putin to take his side in his feud with Russia’s top generals, Sergei Shoigu and Vladimir Gerasimov, over what he sees as their poor conduct in the Ukraine war? Has Russia’s incumbent president been weakened by the mutiny, or has he emerged strengthened? As importantly, what’s next for Russia, and for other countries whose national interests have been affected by developments in Moscow? There is only one thing we can say with certainty after having combed through hundreds of primary and secondary sources in the past three days: there is, as yet, no sufficient evidence to give definitive answers to any of these key questions. Nevertheless, we have managed to identify some of the most thoughtful analytical efforts that can help to start thinking what these answers could look like:

What just happened? To get an idea how the Wagner march was launched and how close it took them to the Kremlin, we recommend that you consult the Institute of War Studies’ June 23, 24 and 25 dispatches.

Why did it happen? In addition to an account straight from Prigozhin’s mouth (the Russian-language original of his June 25 statement can be found here,  while the English-language summary can be found in the body of this digest below[1]), we recommend that you read:

How will this affect Russia’s war against Ukraine, if at all? The following items offer some preliminary clues:

What does the failed mutiny mean for Putin and Russia? We suggest that you consult the following item to help form an opinion:

What does the failed mutiny mean for other countries (e.g., U.S. and China)? Again, we recommend the following multiple commentaries:

Last, but not least: Who is Prigozhin and what is PMC Wagner? To refresh your memory on this, please read:

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

Prigozhin’s mutinty: drivers and impact:

Straight from the horses’ mouths:

Vladimir Putin: “Address to Citizens of Russia,”, 06.24.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Russia is waging a tough struggle for its future, repelling the aggression of neo-Nazis and their patrons. … This battle, when the fate of our nation is being decided, requires consolidation of all forces… Therefore, any actions that split our nation are essentially a betrayal of our people, of our comrades-in-arms who are now fighting at the frontline. This is a knife in the back of our country and our people.”
  • “A blow like this was dealt to Russia in 1917, when the country was fighting in World War I. But the victory was stolen from it: intrigues, squabbles and politicking behind the backs of the army and the nation turned into the greatest turmoil, the destruction of the army and the collapse of the state, and the loss of vast territories, ultimately leading to the tragedy of the civil war.”
  • “We will not allow this to happen again. We will protect our people and our statehood from any threats, including from internal betrayal. What we are facing is essentially a betrayal. Inflated ambitions and personal interests have led to treason – treason against our country, our people and the common cause which Wagner Group soldiers and commanders were fighting and dying for shoulder to shoulder, together with our other units and troops. The heroes who liberated Soledar and Artemovsk, towns and villages in Donbass, fought and gave their lives for Novorossiya and the unity of the Russian world. Their memory and glory have also been betrayed by those who are attempting to stage a revolt and are pushing the country towards anarchy and fratricide – and ultimately, towards defeat and surrender.”
  • “Once again, any internal revolt is a deadly threat to our statehood and our nation. It is a blow to Russia, to our people. Our actions to defend the Fatherland from this threat will be harsh. All those who have consciously chosen the path of betrayal, planned an armed mutiny and taken the path of blackmail and terrorism, will inevitably be punished and will answer before the law and our people.”
  • “Those who staged the mutiny and took up arms against their comrades – they have betrayed Russia and will be brought to account. I urge those who are being dragged into this crime not to make a fatal and tragic mistake but make the only right choice: to stop taking part in criminal actions.”

“Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Answer to Multiple Questions by Mass Media With Regard to Latest Events,” Prigozhin’s press service/Meduza, 06.26.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “PMC ‘Wagner’ is the most experienced and combat-ready unit in Russia, which has achieved good results in Ukraine. As a result of intrigues and ill-conceived decisions, the PMC was supposed to cease to exist from July 1. Most of the fighters refused to sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense, realizing that they would be sent into a meat grinder. We were going to leave on June 30 and hand over our equipment near the headquarters of the SVO [special military operation]. We did not show any aggression, but a missile attack was carried out on us with about 30 fighters were killed. This served as a trigger - we decided to advance immediately. … The purpose of the march was to prevent the destruction of the Wagner PMC and bring to justice those who made so many mistakes during the course of the military defense.”
  • “We stopped when the first detachment deployed its artillery and conducted reconnaissance - and it became obvious that a lot of blood would be shed. We felt that the demonstration was sufficient. At this time, Lukashenko extended his hand and offered to find solutions for the further work of the PMC. … The columns turned back and went to the camps.”
  • “During the entire march, we advanced 780 kilometers.... It took us one day [to reach a point located]  200 kilometers away from Moscow, we entered and took control of the city of Rostov [on-Don] ..... Our march revealed serious security problems throughout the country - we blocked all airfields and military units. In 24 hours, we covered the distance that corresponds to the distance from the point, where Russian troops were on February 24, 2022 to Kyiv.  We have given a master class of what February 24, 2022 could have looked like. We did not have the goal of overthrowing the existing regime or of the legally elected government. We turned around so as not to shed blood.”

Drivers and triggers of the mutiny:

“Why Wagner Chief Prigozhin Turned Against Putin,” journalists Benoit Faucon, Joe Parkinson and Thomas Grove. WSJ, 06.26.23.

  • “The full story behind why Prigozhin launched — then stunningly halted — his revolt isn't yet known. But the elements include the culmination of military infighting, financial pressures and Prigozhin's personal political ambitions, according to Russian defectors, military analysts and Western intelligence officials.”
    • “Those who followed [Prigozhin] during his rise knew him as a political animal with wild ambitions for money and power.” 
    • “After years of rapid growth that saw Wagner play a leading role in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the mercenary outfit was facing pressure. Russia’s defense ministry was tightening the noose around the company, starving it of recruitment, finance and weapons. Putin, who long promoted rivalries among his subordinates to prevent succession challenges, was siding with defense chiefs against Prigozhin.”
    • “A key trigger was the June 10 Russian Defense Ministry order that all volunteer detachments would have to sign contracts with the government by July 1, a move to bring Wagner under formal military control. Prigozhin refused.”
  • “When Prigozhin mounted his stunning Saturday takeover of the Rostov military command post, he dispatched a 5,000-strong column led by a key commander named Dmitry Utkin, known for his tattoos of Nazi symbols, toward the capital. By then Prigozhin said Wagner's strength had been whittled down to 25,000 men.”
  • “As of Sunday afternoon, Wagner remained in charge of the Millerovo military airfield in southern Russia, according to European intelligence officials. It wasn't clear when and how Prigozhin would leave for Belarus, and how many of his men would follow suit. The officials speculated that he could use the airfield to fly senior Wagner loyalists to the relative safety of the company's operations in Africa. If Prigozhin goes to Belarus he would be unlikely to stay long, fearing possible reprisals from the Kremlin, the officials added.”
  • “Opinion is still divided on whether Prigozhin's aim was to leverage more influence within Putin's security system or ultimately seize power. Also unclear is whether he coordinated his actions with factions within Russia's sprawling security services or even inside the Kremlin itself. His column initially faced little resistance. … By early June, Wagner and Russia's regular army were behaving as if they were enemy forces.”

“‘He Went Nuts’: How Putin’s Caterer Served a Dish of High Treason,” Moscow bureau chief Max Seddon, FT, 06.24.23.

  • “Although Putin appeared shocked by his former caterer Prigozhin’s “treason,”... the chaos indicated how years of covert warfare, poor governance and corruption had created the greatest threat to his rule in 24 years.”
  • “’They never should have fought with a [private militia] during a war. It was a mistake to use anything except the army,” a former senior Kremlin official said. “It’s nice to have during peacetime, but now you just can’t do it. That’s what led to this story with Prigozhin — “[Putin] brought it upon himself.’”
  • The roots of Prigozhin’s revolt date back to 2014 when Prigozhin set up Wagner as a way for Russia to disguise its involvement in a slow-burning war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The group … gave Russia plausible deniability for sorties as far away as Syria and Mozambique. But for all its ostensible independence — the Kremlin claimed to know nothing about it, while Prigozhin denied for years that the group even existed — Wagner was a big part of Russia’s official war machine.”
  • “Initially run by GRU, Russian military intelligence, Wagner was lavishly funded from the national defense budget and often competed with the armed forces for lucrative contracts, according to people close to the Kremlin and security sources in the West.”
  • “’The main reason Prigozhin happened at all is because Russia . . . couldn’t create an effective army. They had to create an ersatz army instead, and it was obvious from the start that creating a parallel army has huge risks,” said Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based defense think-tank.”
  • “As one of the few members of Russia’s elite not privately appalled by the war, Prigozhin’s belligerence helped him emerge as a hardline political figure. He urged Putin to adopt a state of total war’ modeled on North Korea, reveled in a murder Wagner militiamen appeared to commit with a sledgehammer and sent a replica of the weapon to a senior lawmaker so he could pose with it.”
  • “His rise horrified many of Moscow’s elites, who feared he would be used to beat them into backing the war effort or simply seize their assets with Putin’s support. That dependence appears to have lulled Putin into a false sense of security. It convinced him that he could allow Wagner to undermine the defense ministry while keeping it under control, according to Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center … ‘He thought Prigozhin was totally dependent and [ . . .] could be routed in one second if needed.’”
  • “An important trigger appears to have been Putin’s decision to back the defense ministry’s attempts to bring Wagner to heel... ‘He went nuts, flew into a rage and went too far. He added too much salt and pepper,’ one former Kremlin official said [of Prigozhin]. After Russia captured Bakhmut last month, Wagner’s forces left the front lines, prompting Prigozhin to muse about whether they would return at all. Then, Putin supported defense minister Sergei Shoigu’s attempt to bring the jumble of militias fighting in Ukraine under the army’s control. ‘He was pushed to this when he realized he was being driven into a corner, losing power and control over Wagner,’ Pukhov said. ‘He didn’t just want to sink into obscurity.’”
  • “Russia’s belief that it could outlast Ukraine and the west in a long war has proved a ‘dangerous illusion,’ Pukhov said. ‘Dragging the war out has huge domestic risks for Russia. The first destabilizing blow came even earlier than they thought. Now the risks are only going to grow.’"

“A Huge Humiliation’: Failed Russian Putsch Exposes Deep Flaws in Putin’s Regime,” Moscow bureau chief  Max Seddon, FT, 06.26.23.

  • “‘It’s a huge humiliation for Putin, of course. That’s obvious,’ said a Russian oligarch who has known the president since the 1990s. ‘Thousands of people without any resistance are going from Rostov almost to Moscow, and nobody can do anything. Then [Putin] announced they would be punished, and they were not. That’s definitely a sign of weakness.’”
  • “‘It turns out you can start a revolt against the president, and be forgiven. That means the president isn’t that strong.’ said Alexei Veneditkov, the well-connected former editor of the Ekho Moskvy radio station.”
  • Once the revolt began, Prigozhin appears to have had little idea of how to see it through successfully, according to a person who has known the warlord since the early 1990s.’I don’t think he had anything particular in mind. He just decided to go and convince Putin that he should get to keep all the money they took away from him,’ the person said. ‘Then the situation got completely out of control. … At some point he realized he didn’t know what to do next. You get to Moscow, and then what? You open the doors of a dozen prisons, some unimaginable freaks come out, the country goes to shit, and then you get to the Kremlin . . . and you don’t know what to do.’

“The Wagner Group Is a Crisis of Putin’s Own Making,” journalist Joshua Yaffa, New Yorker, 06.24.23.

  • “Earlier this month, the Defense Ministry announced that all independent ‘volunteer’ units — meaning Wagner most of all — had until July 1st to sign contracts that would fold them into the larger military structure. Putin signed off on the plan. Prigozhin had been protected because he was needed — his Wagner troops were the only ones advancing across the Russian front in Ukraine. But, if that advance is over, and Wagner were to answer to Shoigu, then what’s the necessity in keeping Prigozhin around? Prigozhin must have felt the danger growing. Thus, the move to mount what, by all accounts, looked like a military coup — albeit one led by an ostensibly private mercenary outfit.”
  • “Certainly, the speed and ease with which Wagner forces effectively captured Rostov-on-Don on Saturday morning was startling. Still, Prigozhin blinked, and this may well be the apex of his influence and role in Russian politics, though the strangeness with which this episode ended suggests its true finale may be yet to come.”
  • “Even if Putin, with Lukashenko’s help, managed to defuse the crisis and keep his rule intact, he is the clear loser in this drama. In an address on Saturday morning, he called Prigozhin’s actions ‘internal betrayal’ akin to treason [but then] .. he agreed to let a supposed traitor walk without consequences, after he seized a Russian city with a million-person population for the better part of a day, and boasted of shooting down Russian military helicopters along his march to Moscow. Such a reversal by Putin is not the behavior of a secure, confident autocrat.”

A summary of reflections on the mutiny, Carnegie's Tatiana Stanovaya, Telegram, 06.25.23.[2] Clues From Russian Views

  • “Prigozhin rebelled not to seize power and not to march on the Kremlin; Prigozhin rebelled out of despair, being thrown out of Ukraine, with no way to fully save Wagner, in conditions where… Putin ignores you, publicly supporting your most dangerous enemies.”
  • “[Prigozhin's] plan was to make a fuss, attract Putin's attention and bargain for comfortable conditions for further work — a role, security and money. … Prigozhin was absolutely unprepared for Putin's reaction or [for playing] the role of revolutionary. Nor did he expect that it would be so easy to get so close to Moscow, where he would have no choice but to ‘seize the Kremlin’ in what would have guaranteed that he would be wiped out along with his fighters.”

“Mutiny in Russia Blurs the Line Between Patriots and Traitors,” Carnegie’s Andrei Baunov, FT, 06.27.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Prigozhin’s goal seems to have been not to overthrow but to partly replace the ruler. Removing Shoigu would have allowed Prigozhin to demonstrate his importance not only as a mercenary commander but as a politically influential figure. Prigozhin’s attack on Shoigu … was an attempt to secure that position for himself.”

Impact on the Russian-Ukrainian war:

“How the mutiny in Russia will shape the battlefield in Ukraine,” The Economist, 06.24.23.

  • “Mr. Prigozhin has punctured the Kremlin’s authority. His small band of forces, not much more than a brigade’s worth, contrived the first land-based threat to Moscow since Hitler in 1941 — even if it proved to be, quite literally, ephemeral. Mr. Putin was counting on a long war in which the West would grow tired of arming and funding Ukraine.”
  • “Moreover, Mr. Prigozhin has also punctured Mr. Putin’s rationale for war. In a video posted on June 23rd he rubbished Russian claims that Ukraine had bombed the Donbas region for eight years and that Ukraine and NATO intended to attack Russia. The war, he said, was in fact launched for the benefit of Russia’s ‘oligarchic elite’. That might prompt unsettling questions among Russia’s rank-and-file. ‘Who,’ asks John Foreman, British defense attaché in Moscow until recently, ‘would want to fight on for a Russian regime which has shown such weakness, declaring a mutiny and then rowing back within the day?’”

“Kyiv must seize this moment. Otherwise, stalemate might be inevitable,” Graham Allison of Harvard University, Washington Post, 06.26.23.

  • The extraordinary coup attempt by a Russian mercenary leader provides Ukraine with an unexpected opportunity to press whatever advantages it has in its war with Moscow. If it does not seize this chance and break the stasis that governs the battlefield in eastern Ukraine, we will enter a very different chapter in this conflict.
  • As s we enter the fourth week of Ukraine’s counteroffensive — the inescapable fact is that the prognosis is more of the same. So far, Ukrainian attackers have been able to take back fewer than 50 square miles each week. On both sides of the divide, each dug trenches, planted mines and built defenses making it difficult for the other to mobilize the 3-to-1 advantage offensive forces usually need to force a breakthrough.
  • To put the matter in perspective: Today, Russia controls about 17 percent of the territory that was previously Ukraine’s. If Ukrainian forces are no more successful in the weeks ahead than they have been so far, Ukraine will not recapture all of its territory for 16 years.
  • History reminds us that wars hinge on many contingent factors. Their outcomes are no more predetermined than the results of the NBA championship or the World Cup. If the failed insurrection makes Russian soldiers manning the front lines less willing to risk their lives, Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s mutiny could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
  • If Ukrainian forces remain bogged down over the course of the summer, we should expect the political dimension of this war to determine events. Many of Ukraine’s supporters in Europe and even in the United States will join the global south’s chorus calling for both sides to stop the killing and begin serious negotiations about a cease-fire.
  • If they reach an agreement, or even a de facto cease-fire, expect all parties to declare “victory” for what they have achieved at this point — and do their best to sell that story to their key constituents. Should this happen, the world will celebrate the end of fighting and call that “peace.”

“A Hot Take on Drivers and Consequences of Prigozhin's Mutiny,” Carnegie’s Michael Kofman, Twitter/Russia Matters, 06.25.23.

  • “It wasn’t a good showing for Russian state capacity or competence to respond to this kind of challenge.”
  • “Wagner was unexpectedly successful because they moved much faster and more deliberately than Russian forces, which seemed to lack orders, largely allowing Wagner units past unopposed.”
  • “But Prigozhin also miscalculated in part because this was an act of desperation. He had limited aims, and didn't appreciate the implications of his mutiny. I was puzzled by his theory of victory. A run on Moscow to do what? Get attention? Storm the Kremlin with a battalion?”
  • “Putin’s inaction & the slowness of the Russian response has become typical. I’ve often described him as a master procrastinator. The problem with Wagner was growing, it would reach a crisis point after the June 10 declaration by MoD [of the need for PMCs to sign contracts with MoD], Putin was likely warned and did nothing.”
  • “Prigozhin had declared that Wagner would not sign contracts with the Russian military, designed to neuter their autonomy. Theatrics ensued, but this standoff was clearly going to end poorly. The trajectory was a downward spiral from his May ultimatums leading into a crisis.”
  • “Wagner’s autonomy will end in the context of this [Russian-Ukrainian] war. In states like Mali the situation might be different.”
  • “After Bakhmut, the military was far less dependent on Wagner. Folks often conflated Bakhmut for the entire Russian winter offensive, and Wagner’s role as though it was omnipresent on the front. It was quite narrow, and Wagner was not used for defense in the south.”
  • “My conclusion is that Prigozhin ultimately lost. Wagner will also lose out. But Putin lost as well, and the regime was wounded.”

“Putin Finally Learns the Lesson All Tyrants Learn,” columnist Max Boot, WP, 06.24.23.

  • “If the Russians are distracted with infighting, Ukraine might have the opportunity to score more battlefield successes — and that in turn could further undermine Putin’s hold on power. There is a lesson here for all future tyrants who might think of launching wars of aggression. Are you paying attention, Xi Jinping?”

Financial/economic impact:

“Some Notes on the Russian Coup That Wasn’t,” editor Bryce Elder, FT, 06.26.23.

  • “The White House was actively engaged in reaching out to key domestic and foreign producers about contingency planning to keep the market well supplied if the crisis impacted Russian output. A significant concern was that President Putin would declare martial law, preventing workers from showing up to major loading ports and energy facilities, potentially halting millions of barrels of exports.”
  • “RBC Capital Markets’ Helima Croft wrote that [S]everal market commentators on Saturday were speculating that the end of the Putin regime could mean the roll back of Russian energy sanctions and a return of Russian exports to Europe. We continue to contend that sanctions will remain in place while Putin remains in power.”
  • “Over at Goldman Sachs, Daan Struyven and team have a Q&A that includes some useful stuff around the possibility of an oil market supply shock: History suggests that the probability of a significant and persistent decline in Russia oil supply is closely related to the probability of a major domestic civil conflict (e.g. involving other domestic opponents to the war) or a major military conflict (e.g. with Ukraine), leading to the destruction of oil infrastructure. The fact that Putin invoked what happened during the Russian Revolution of 1917 in his address yesterday suggests that the perceived probability of significant domestic upheaval at some point has likely risen.”

Impact on developments within Russia:

“Just How Much Trouble Is Vladimir Putin In?”, survey of experts, Politico, 06.26.23.

  • Kathryn Stoner of Freeman Spogli Institute: “This undermines the narrative of Putin the all-powerful both at home and abroad … But it doesn’t provide evidence of a serious undermining of his authority.”
  • Nikolai Sokov of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation: “Prigozhin’s adventure was not a coup, perhaps not even a mutiny. Putin classified it as such, but it’s worth noting that Prigozhin did not utter a single word against Putin. The thrust of his statements and action was against ‘Moscow generals. he clearly treated Putin as the highest arbiter… I do not anticipate any impact on the war. I do not anticipate any weakening of Putin and regime from this event. In fact, his support among the military might increase — both from Shoigu and top brass.”
  • Tatiana Stanovaya of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center: “Prigozhin’s rebellion wasn’t a bid for power or an attempt to overtake the Kremlin. Prigozhin’s objective was to draw Putin’s attention and to impose a discussion about conditions to preserve his activities — a defined role, security and funding. These weren’t demands for a governmental overthrow; they were a desperate bid to save his enterprise.”
  • Matthew Rojansky of U.S. Russia Foundation: “Putin is unlikely to respond by accepting the need to back down from a disastrous war that has now, perhaps, become existential for his dictatorship. Instead, Putin may well see doubling down as the solution to all his problems — declaring martial law and a new round of mobilization to enable stepped up repression, to distract from his weakness at home, and to try to make the war match his dark fantasy of a fight for survival for Russia itself.”
  • Erica Frantz of Michigan State University: “Once the dust settles … and it likely will, given that others with arms did not join Prighozin’s rallying call — Putin will probably emerge even stronger in terms of immediate internal threats to his rule. When dictators survive public challenges like this, they often ratchet up repression in the period after and engage in all-out campaigns to signal their strength.”
  •  Rose Gottemoeller of Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies: “Nuclear weapons failed Putin as a guarantee against external meddling. We learned on June 24 that they are no help to him internally, either.”

“Putin: Disastrous but Indispensable for the System He Created?”, the Quincy Institute’s Anatol Lieven, Responsible Statecraft, 06.25.23.

  • “President Putin has emerged strengthened from whatever it was exactly that may or may not have happened in Russia this weekend; strengthened, that is, compared to his situation of ten days ago – which is not saying a great deal. For months now, the open public dispute between Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group, and the leadership of the Russian Defense Ministry had escalated to the point where Putin’s inability or unwillingness to end it was undermining his authority.”
  • “Prigozhin’s attacks were so damaging to the regime both because of the prestige that Wagner amassed in Russia as a result of its fighting record in Ukraine, and because his criticisms have been essentially true. Not only did Shoigu and Gerasimov plan and conduct the invasion of Ukraine with monstrous incompetence, recklessness and indifference to civilian deaths and suffering, but since they have both held their present positions since 2012, they bear direct personal responsibility for the logistical chaos, lack of coordination, and generally lamentable condition of the Russian armed forces. Equally true have been Prigozhin’s attacks on elite corruption, the evasion of taxes and military service by the rich, and finally – and most strikingly of all – the lies about Ukraine told by the regime (and above all by Putin himself) to justify the invasion.”
  • “Prigozhin’s abortive rebellion this weekend seems likely to have been what is called in German a Flucht nach vorn – an ‘escape forwards,’ driven not by considered hope of success but fear of the alternatives and the existing situation. Prigozhin had good reason to fear that unless he acted first, Shoigu and Gerasimov would use the vastly superior power of the Russian armed forces to destroy him; or perhaps just to have him assassinated, something that is always easier on a battlefield. Above all, the precipitating factor may have been Putin’s announcement on June 14 that Wagner was to be brought under the full control of the Defense Ministry. This indicated that Putin was finally coming off the fence and siding with Shoigu and Gerasimov against Prigozhin.”
  • “At the start of the Cold War, George Kennan wrote presciently that if Communist Party authority faltered, ‘Russia might be changed overnight from one of the strongest to one of the weakest and most pitiable of national societies.’ It is possible to wonder whether that may be true today of Putin’s authority, however diminished.”

“Putin’s Weakness Unmasked,” chief editor David Remnick’s conversation with Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar, New Yorker, 06.24.23.

  • “‘They [Putin and Prigozhin] split the moment when Prigozhin started believing he was popular,’ said Zygar, who in n January, 2023, he wrote an Op-Ed column in New York Times entitled ‘The Man Challenging Putin for Power.’ ‘I am feeling a little prophetic this morning,’ Zygar told me.[3]
  • “When I asked Zygar what was the most striking aspect of the uprising, he said, ‘Putin is weaker. I have the feeling he is not really running the country. Certainly, not the way he once did. He is still President, but all the different clans’ — the factions within the government, the military, and, most important, the security services — ’now have the feeling that ‘Russia after Putin’ is getting closer.’”
  • “There is every possibility that Putin will, at least in the short term, muster the loyalties he needs to eliminate Prigozhin from the picture. However, that does not mean that Putin can be serene about his position in the long term.”
  • “If Putin were to fall sometime soon, Zygar says, he could be succeeded by extremely hard-line elements supported by the security services, or a ‘relatively’ more liberal clan represented by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and the mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin.”
  • “The atmosphere is somewhat reminiscent of the latter days of Joseph Stalin, in the early fifties, when he was planning yet another purge… while rivals such as Georgy Malenkov and Nikita Khrushchev ‘waited patiently’ for the old man to die so they could make their move. … There is no guarantee that the current chaos in Russia is purely good news for the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky. Zygar is concerned that after such a domestic embarrassment like the Prigozhin affair Putin might lash out abroad and escalate the war in Ukraine.”

“’Prigozhin’s Rebellion, Putin’s Fate, and Russia’s Future, A Conversation With Stephen Kotkin,” FA editors interview Kotkin, a visiting scholar with the Applied History Project at the Belfer Center, FA, 06.24.23.

  • “I have long been calling the Putin regime ‘hollow yet still strong.’ It remained, and remains, viable as long as there is no political alternative. … Putin has unwittingly launched a stress test of his own regime. He had already lost his mystique with the bungling of the aggression against Ukraine. Mystique, once lost, is near impossible to regain. The old cliché about the emperor and clothes.”
  • “I’ve been saying for some time that the way to get Putin’s attention, to destabilize his regime, was to identify and recruit a defector from the inside, a Russian nationalist, a person who appeals to Putin’s base, but one who recognized the separate existence of a Ukrainian nation and state. Preferably a defector in uniform.”
  • “[Prigozhin] represents an alternative that might have appeal: an authoritarian Russian nationalist who recognizes the war is a mistake and, whether fully intentionally or not, effectively ends the war, or at least the current active phase of it. That’s the one kind of person who could threaten Putin.”
  • “Here’s the bottom line: … an alternative was allowed to arise. All this unfolded in real time, on video, over months and months. Putin did not intervene earlier and allowed things to get to this point. Stunning. Either he has descended into utter incompetence or he has less operational control than his media machine has been letting on. Or both. I expected him to be better at Authoritarianism 101. I expected him to understand this was the one threat in real time. I expected him to end the games, end the pitting of rivals against each other to control them, because it had become dangerous to him personally. I overestimated him. I would not want to make the opposite mistake and underestimate him now, though.”
  • “If Washington, NATO, Ukraine, are seen as backing Prigozhin, in cahoots with Prigozhin, it could have the effect of undermining whatever chances he might have to catalyze an end to the aggression.”
  • “After all the Sturm und Drang, we could be right back where we started: Putin in power in Moscow and Ukraine facing a counteroffensive that will be very difficult to pull off.”

"Vladimir Putin’s Generals Vulnerable Despite Surviving Revolt," Moscow Bureau Chief Max Seddon, FT, 06.26.23.

  • “‘Shoigu and Gerasimov are so bad in their jobs that it’s dangerous to Putin to leave them in place,’ said Dara Massicot, a senior political scientist at the US-based Rand Corporation. ‘But loyalty and stability are number one for Putin. I just don’t see how he’s going to have these terms dictated to him like this.’”
  • “‘Shoigu and Gerasimov are now obvious lame ducks and they will be removed, I think,’ said Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based defense think-tank. He did not exclude the possibility that the two men’s departure could have been part of the brokered deal that led to Prigozhin standing his men down. The Kremlin has denied this.” That a man who sits on the MoD's board of experts can say the head of the MoD & chief of GS could be removed indicates he can say that and get away with it. This could be a piece of evidence that Shoigu and Gerasimov may be removed, after all.*

“Putin Uses Prigozhin's 'Betrayal' to Strengthen His Grip on Russia,” Stratfor, 06.24.23.

  • “The demise of Yevgeny Prigozhin...will result in a serious weakening of the Wagner Group in Russia and its allies' ability to oppose Putin, thereby consolidating the Kremlin's power. Still, the June 23-4 events will make it more difficult for Putin to continue echoing the military leadership's claims that Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine is going according to plan. This will provide Putin with stronger grounds to eventually reshuffle military leaders, possibly including Shoigu and/or Gerasimov, as well as other high-ranking officials responsible for economic mobilization in support of the war effort.”
  • “The Kremlin will also almost certainly use the incident to step up the repression of liberal Russians. While many of the Russian opposition movement's leaders do not sympathize with Prigozhin, as he is considered a bandit and warmonger who kills in Ukraine while pushing for escalation inside Russia, some enthusiastically shifted their stance to support him during the rebellion in hopes of destabilizing Putin's regime. For example, influential opposition voice and former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky called for Russians to arm themselves and prepare to support Prigozhin's move on Moscow, though it does not appear such calls achieved any result.”
  • “While the short-term impact of these events will have a minimal impact on the Ukraine war, Ukrainian forces could step up attacks and push up the timetable of their counteroffensive to capitalize on the chaos.” 

“Prigozhin’s Rebellion: What We Discovered, and What We Still Need to Know,” Emily Ferris, RUSI, 06.256.23.

  • “Personnel changes within the Ministry of Defense may yet occur, but Putin will have to exercise caution so as not to appear to acquiesce with any of Prigozhin’s original demands. This means that for now, Shoigu’s position is likely assured, particularly given his fundamental qualities of loyalty and longevity of service that Putin so values, and which are difficult to come by.”
  • “Other unsung figures in the negotiations may yet be rewarded, with potential promotions to come. Russia’s ambassador to Belarus, Boris Gryzlov, and Nikolai Patrushev (Security Council), as well as Anton Vaino (Presidential Administration), all likely played key roles in seeing the negotiation through. Rumors abound that governor of the Tula region Alexei Dyumin was instrumental… [he may be] offered a more senior post in the Ministry of Defense.”

“Putin’s Armor Has Been Pierced. Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s revolt has already revealed Putin’s domestic control to be slipping,” Yale School of Management’s Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon M. Huntsman Jr., and the Global Mangitsky Justice Campaign's William F. Browder, FP, 06.24.23.

  • “Regardless of Prigozhin’s unsavory background, his revolt has already — even after just one day — accomplished what many political experts said could not be done: a major challenge to Putin’s rule from within Russia. Remarkably, according to Prigozhin and apparently verified by Putin, Prigozhin’s Wagner contingent seized control of the major city of Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, a crucial artery in Russia’s resupply lines into Ukraine.”
  • “Even more damaging for Putin is the fact that despite his declaration of massive force and strength to the stop the uprising at all costs, the image being projected across Russia and across the world is one of weakness, not strength, since Putin has effectively lost control of the Frankenstein’s monsters of his own creation.”
  • “A classic divide-and-conquer leader, Putin long nurtured Wagner as a counterbalance to the formal Russian military structure, personally granting Prigozhin increased paramilitary authority. … But such divide-and-conquer tactics only work when the leader has the unquestioned power, standing, and capacity to play rival factions off each other so no one power center becomes too independent. The fact that these rival power centers are now turning on him is a testament to how Putin’s power has already slipped. … This is not even considering the potential opportunities for Ukraine to further press its advantage.”
  • “The question now is what this aborted revolt means for the loyalty of Russia’s ill-trained and demoralized regular forces, as well as for the notoriously complacent Russian population, the rattled oligarchs, and already disenchanted national leaders from China to Chechnya. The specter of ‘loose nukes’ is another unspeakable implication of a Russian civil war with unclear control of strategic weapons.”
  • “[Putin’s] authority will never be what it once was as the emperor is revealed to be increasingly naked.”[4]

“Putin is Finished,” an interview with economist Vladislav Inozemtsev, Novaya Gazeta Evropa, 06.24.23.[5] Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Putin has been engaged in negative selection for too long and placed absolutely incompetent and inadequate people in important places. And what Prigozhin said about Shoigu and the Ministry of Defense is true, that is, the scale of idiocy and insanity exceeded all permissible limits. Therefore, everything that Putin did failed, and against this background, the Wagnerites looked like the most combat-ready unit. Attempts to stop them and put them under the command of Shoigu could not but cause a painful reaction. Prigozhin understood that they were trying to deprive him of this gang of his, and the next step would be already and, most likely, his life. Prigozhin had no way back, because the confrontation was on the rise.”

"The Putin System is Crumbling," chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman, FT, 06.25.23.

  • It would be a mistake to believe that anything is inevitable — including Putin’s downfall. His friend Recep Tayyip Erdoğan got through a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 and is still clinging on to power. But the odds on Putin’s survival are clearly getting worse.

"Vladimir Putin Is Reaping the Fruits of His Own Misjudgments," editorial board, FT, 06.25.23.

  • “The instability at home could yet weaken resolve and provide openings for Ukraine’s counter-offensive.”
  • “Putin’s response might be to fall back on the terror tactics that have served Soviet and Russian leaders for centuries: stepping up the crackdown that has snuffed out independent media and banished prominent opposition figures to the modern gulag. The weekend’s unrest serves as a reminder, too, that if Putin is ever toppled, it could be by more hardline elements determined to prosecute the war in Ukraine in still more vicious fashion. For now, though, a president once seen as having led Russia out of the mayhem of its post-Soviet transition is reaping the fruits of his own calamitous misjudgments.”

“Prigozhin’s Mutiny Is the Beginning of Putin’s End,” the Wilson Center’s Lucian Kim, FP, 06.24.23.

  • “Under an agreement brokered by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, charges against Prigozhin will be dropped, and he will be allowed safe passage to Belarus. But the deal hardly eliminates the threat that Prigozhin — or someone like him — poses to the Kremlin in the future.”

"Vladimir Putin Has Created His Own Worst Nightmare," chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman, FT, 06.25.23.

  • “The rebellion of Wagner forces, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, is the final confirmation of how catastrophically wrong the war in Ukraine has gone for Putin. … It is hard to believe that Putin can ultimately survive this kind of humiliation. His prestige, his power, even his life, are now on the line.”

Impact on Russia’s relations with great powers:

“Putin Looked Into the Abyss Saturday — And Blinked,” David Ignatius, WP, 06.24.23.

  • “President Vladimir Putin looked into the abyss Saturday and blinked. After vowing revenge for what he called an ‘armed mutiny,’ he settled for a compromise. The speed with which Putin backed down suggests that his sense of vulnerability might be higher even than analysts believed. Putin might have saved his regime Saturday, but this day will be remembered as part of the unraveling of Russia as a great power — which will be Putin’s true legacy.”
  • “What’s notable about this mad 24 hours is that Putin managed to defuse the crisis without any big military confrontation. He has been humbled by a headstrong crony, to be sure, but he’s still in control. It was a close shave, not a decapitation. Putin is easy to caricature, but he has an unusual gift, if one can call it that, for authoritarian rule.”
  • “The Biden administration’s response to this mad day in Russia seemed to be a version of the advice attributed to Napoleon: ‘Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.’ That, as well as the usual Biden prescription: focus on allies and partners.”
    • “The message in all these calls, I’m told, was ‘cool it.’ Don’t make the crisis in Russia more dangerous by seeking to intervene or profit from the disarray. This message was focused especially on Ukraine; U.S. officials stressed their desire that Kyiv not seem to take advantage of the strife in Russia in ways that might spiral into an even more dangerous moment. The Ukrainians, from what we can see, followed that advice.”

“Russia’s Internal Rebellion. Putin Survives in Power, but Prigozhin’s Revolt Reveals the Ukraine War’s Failure,” editorial board, WSJ, 06.25.23.

  • “The best result from this costly, tragic war would be a stronger Western alliance free of the post-Cold War illusions that Russia and China pose no threat and the welfare state can replace the will and money required for national defense.”

“Xi’s Bet on Putin Looks Even More Risky After Russian Rebellion,” journalists Lucille Liu, Rebecca Choong Wilkins and Kari Soo Lindberg, Bloomberg, 06.26.23.

  • “China gave a vote of confidence in Putin on Sunday, noting the Russian president’s strong relationship with Xi while saying it was necessary to ‘safeguard the common interests of both sides’ amid a ‘complex and severe international situation.’ Asked directly about Putin’s deal with Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, China’s Foreign Ministry said it supports Russia’s bid to maintain ‘national stability’ in dealing with an ‘internal affair.’”
  • “But despite the show of support, the stunning challenge to Putin’s authority instantly raised questions about the long-term implications for Xi.”
    • “‘This chaotic sort of conclusion can only be seen as a loss for Beijing,’ said Raffaello Pantucci, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. ‘It highlights the fragility of its most important partner on the world stage, it highlights the weakness of a man President Xi had sought to show himself close to and, if it leads to the end of the war, then it will free up some Western assets to refocus on China.’”
    • “While Xi consolidated power last year securing a precedent-defying third term, and faces no immediate threat to his rule, his diplomatic support for Putin in the wake of the war has inextricably linked the two men. They both oversee authoritarian governments that possess nuclear weapons and oppose democratic values espoused by the US and its allies.”
    • “‘What’s happened in Russia reinforces the message that Xi Jinping needs to continue to maintain a very, very tight grip and continue to be suspicious of the military,’ said Tai Ming Cheung, director of the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and author of the book Fortifying China: The Struggle to Build a Modern Defense Economy.”
  • “The Wagner mutiny highlights at least three risks Xi will not want to ignore.”
    • “The first and most important priority is to ensure the political loyalty of the Chinese military, in particular its senior commanders.”
    • “Second, China will want to head off rivalries among different branches of the military early.”
    • “Finally, Prigozhin’s antics are a reminder to Xi that nationalism is a double-edged sword.”

“Prigozhin's Insurrection Creates Headaches for Russia-China Alliance, Jake Cordell, MT, 06.25.23.

  • “‘China will look with great concern at recent events in Russia,’ said Rana Mitter, professor of the history and politics of modern China at the University of Oxford. ‘In particular, they are likely to have fresh doubts about how unified Russian forces are, as well as the overall capacity Putin has to control his regime.’”
  • “Sari Arho Havren, a Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) associate fellow specializing in Chinese foreign affairs, said: ‘Xi likely sees the background of the Wagner mutiny as serious incompetence. The rebellion clearly dented Putin's prestige — and the main consequence is how weak Russia's power structure now appears in the eyes of others. The Chinese Communist Party has a fear of chaos and instability in its DNA.’”
  • “‘This cements Russia’s status as a junior partner,’ said Livia Paggi, the managing director and head of political risk at J.S. Held. ‘Russia has already become completely dependent on China, for instance on oil and gas sales. It will be even more so now — there’s no doubt about it.’ ‘China needs a Russia that it can be a proper partner with. And for China to have a partner, they have to be strong. Russia can’t be in tatters — it doesn’t work.’”
  • “‘ China will support Putin if he remains in charge in Moscow. If Putin falls, Beijing will wait for the dust to settle and cultivate the new power structure, perhaps with a fresh chance to counsel that Russia extricate itself from Ukraine and refocus on long-term competition with the United States/Western alliance,’ according to John K. Culver, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub and a former CIA officer.”

“Russia’s Uprising Is a Serious Threat to China as Well,” Hal Brands, Bloomberg, 06.24.23.

  • “President Xi Jinping needs a friendly, relatively strong Russia that can challenge American power in Europe while Beijing pushes its influence in Asia. He stands to lose a great deal from a Russia that falls into civil war, or one that is humiliated in Ukraine and convulsed by civil strife. The current unrest also raises the threat of conflict between ex-Soviet states in China’s backyard, such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan… Xi is coming face to face with the possibility that the man he called his ‘best, most intimate friend’ may be far weaker and less competent than he seemed. That’s at least one just outcome of a very unjust war.”

Who is Mr. Prigozhin and what is PMC Wagner?

“The Man Who May Challenge Putin for Power,” Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar, NYT, 01.26.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “President Vladimir Putin of Russia, it seems, has finally noticed that the war in Ukraine created a dangerous competitor to his power: Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the private military company, the Wagner group, whose troops fight alongside the Russian Army.”
  • “On Jan. 10, Mr. Prigozhin reported on his company’s Telegram channel that Wagner militants had taken the Ukrainian city of Soledar. This was his most powerful propaganda victory and convincing proof that Wagner is one of the most combat-ready Russian units. My sources in Moscow say some high-ranking officials started discussing—supposedly half-jokingly—if it was the right time to swear allegiance to Mr. Prigozhin before it was too late.”
  • “[Eventually] Mr. Putin realized that Mr. Prigozhin might be a bit too popular. So he elevated Mr. Prigozhin’s main enemies, Generals [Alexander] Lapin and Valery Gerasimov, and appointed General Gerasimov as commander of the operation in Ukraine. This is Mr. Putin’s traditional bureaucratic game, which has been effective but may not work this time.”
  • “Many Russians, zombified by propaganda, are frustrated that the army is not winning. Kyiv was not taken in a few days as promised. By appointing General Gerasimov supreme commander, Mr. Putin assumes responsibility for all subsequent defeats. And it doesn’t weaken Mr. Prigozhin, who did not criticize this appointment.”
  • “This means that, in the near future, Mr. Prigozhin may challenge the president, and Mr. Putin may no longer be able to oppose his former chef.”

“Abominable Showman: The Rise of Wagner’s Yevgeny Prigozhin. Putin Created Him. Could the Outspoken Mercenary Become the Next President?” journalist Paul Wood, The Economist, 06.12.23.

  • “Moscow is now abuzz with speculation about Yevgeny Prigozhin’s political ambitions. He has established himself as a showman, a provocateur and a wit, if a somewhat crude one. When the European Parliament criticized Wagner, he sent them a violin case, a reference to his ‘orchestra’. Inside was a sledgehammer spattered with red paint – or was it blood? He says he’s going to run for president – of Ukraine.”
  • “Marat Gabidullin, a grizzled veteran who says he left his position in Russia’s official armed forces in 1993… suspects that his old boss doesn’t want the top job in his home country. ‘The president of Russia is responsible for everything, all mistakes, all failures,’ Gabidullin says. Instead, he thinks Prigozhin would like to move into the role left by the death last year of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, an ultra-nationalist politician who acted as a licensed critic of the regime.”
  • “Fiona Hill, formerly the official in charge of Russia policy on America’s National Security Council, is also drawn towards the theory that it is politically useful for Putin to be opposed from the right: it makes him seem reasonable by comparison. She believes that this calculation is behind a recent slew of articles in the Russian press talking up the possibility of a Prigozhin presidency.”
  • “Hill thinks one reason the president keeps Prigozhin so close is to look tough by association, an image he dearly craves. When Hill was researching Putin’s biography a few years ago she came to suspect that all the stories that make up the Russian leader’s personal lore – the scrappy kid fighting in the courtyard of his Leningrad apartment block; his KGB personality assessment saying that he suffered from a ‘diminished sense of danger’ – came from Putin himself.”
  • “’Sometimes I wonder how tough Putin really is,’ she says. ‘Having sat right next to him, he doesn’t really exude it himself in person… his physicality is tightly wound but he’s not physically intimidating.’ Perhaps Prigozhin suspects his boss is not as powerful as he pretends to be. Perhaps, suggests Hill, he looks at Putin and asks himself, ‘Why not me?’ 

“Wagner Founder Has Putin’s Support, but the Kremlin’s Side-Eye,” Moscow bureau chief Anton Troianovski, NYT, 02.11.23.

  • “Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the once secretive tycoon, is confounding Moscow's Kremlin-allied elite by starting to dabble in politics alongside waging war in Ukraine. … Spewing vulgarities, disregarding the law and displaying loyalty to no one but Mr. Putin, Mr. Prigozhin is becoming a symbol of wartime Russia: ruthless, shameless and lawless, while his mercenary force takes thousands of casualties in one of the bloodiest battles of the war.”
  • “Even the Kremlin appears to be trying to keep Mr. Prigozhin's political rise in check. Sergei Markov, a pro-Putin political analyst and former Kremlin adviser who appears frequently on Russian state television, said that officials had been transmitting an unusual directive to Moscow's talking heads in recent weeks: 'Don't excessively promote Prigozhin and Wagner.'”
  • “Mr. Markov said that even as the Kremlin tries to keep Mr. Prigozhin's popularity in check, he has Mr. Putin's personal backing. 'He is very clearly defending Prigozhin,' he said. 'Because the number of people who have their claws out for him in the bureaucracy is huge.'”
  • “'Prigozhin is behaving like a public politician,' said Aleksandr Kynev, a political scientist in Moscow. 'But there are practically no vacancies in public politics in Russia today.'”
  • “Some analysts also believe that Mr. Prigozhin could yet turn on Mr. Putin, especially in the event of new Russian military setbacks in Ukraine. Given his access to a private army as well as his personal, uncompromising image, Mr. Prigozhin is uniquely positioned to cause problems for the Kremlin. 'As long as Putin is relatively strong and able to maintain the balance between groups of influence, Prigozhin is safe for him,' Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recently wrote. But, she went on, 'war breeds monsters, whose recklessness and desperation can become a challenge to the state should it show the slightest weakness.'”

"Why Putin Needs Wagner The Hidden Power Struggle Sustaining Russia’s Brutal Militia," Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan of the Center for European Policy Analysis, FA, 05.12.23.

  • “[Putin] knows that the longer the war continues the more this power will grow, and the harder it may be for him to exercise control. And since he tends to view the world in terms of threats, the relative power of the military is something that concerns him — in some ways even more than the army’s performance on the battlefield. … Putin has resorted to increasingly unorthodox methods to rein in the generals.”
  • “For Prigozhin, despite the extraordinary casualties suffered by his solders, this is a win-win situation. He recognizes that he will never pose a political threat to Putin because he has no other backing within the Russian ruling elite apart from Putin’s own patronage. And Putin has been careful to keep it that way.”
  • “With his special status — loosely managed by the GRU, tolerated by the military, and protected by Putin — Prigozhin hopes to keep his unique position in the Kremlin’s increasingly medieval court. And in this situation, even Prigozhin’s outrageous attacks may be part of the design: the more he acts like a wicked court jester, the better. This is a familiar type in Russian history.”
  • “Many sectors of Russian society, in particular the country’s bureaucracy, are watching the Wagner boss’s escapades with horror and disgust. Right now, Wagner is burning through more ammunition than any other Russian unit, which can be justified only as long as Wagner is doing what Prigozhin promised — making advances in Bakhmut”.
  • “If things go south on the battlefield, this enormous monthslong campaign — in which Wagner has sacrificed thousands of human lives and destroyed huge quantities of war material — could start to look like a colossal waste of scarce resources. But whether Putin would see a serious Wagner setback as a capital offense is another matter. The Russian president has a long record of making effective use of failed bureaucrats, politicians, and other henchmen — former president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev comes to mind. Prigozhin could be next.”

“Band of Brothers: The Wagner Group and the Russian State," András Rácz, senior research fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, CSIS, 09.21.20.

  • “The Russian government has found Wagner and other private military companies to be useful as a way to extend its influence overseas without the visibility and intrusiveness of state military forces. As a result, Wagner should be considered a proxy organization of the Russian state rather than a private company selling services on the open market.”
  • “Russia builds on the Soviet Union’s long history of operating proxy forces abroad. … The Kremlin has developed its own view of PMCs. Instead of approaching the question from the budgetary perspective — namely that PMCs are more flexible and cheaper than the regular military — Russia perceives them mainly as political-military tools of state influence, which can be employed under the cover of plausible deniability.”
  • “While Wagner is frequently referred to as a private company connected to the Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, there are several factors indicating that the entity is closely linked to the Russian state.”
    • “There is evidence indicating that the Wagner Group was subordinated to the Russian military in Ukraine.”
    • “Wagner extensively relies on Russian military infrastructure, from using a shared base to being transported by Russian military aircraft to using military health care services.”
    • “The Russian state is also documented supporting the Wagner Group with passports and, as implied by the recent events in Belarus, even by presidential-level political intervention.”
  • “Considering these factors, the transatlantic scholarly discourse about the Wagner Group should change. Instead of using the Russian narrative, according to which Wagner is a private military company, Wagner should be viewed as a classic proxy organization and handled accordingly. In this context, the fact that Wagner intends to appear as a private military company should be considered of limited relevance.”

"Russia’s use of semi-state security forces: the case of the Wagner Group," Barnard College's Kimberly Marten, Post-Soviet Affairs 35, no. 3, 03.26.19.

  • “Russia is unusual among strong states with highly professionalized militaries in its use of PMCs, because Moscow continues to tolerate PMCs operating from its territory that are not legally registered or controlled (and that are referred to frequently as being technically unconstitutional). The Wagner Group is not the only Russian PMC. But Wagner and its predecessors stand out because of the detailed reporting available about their involvement in so many significant events for Russian diplomacy and war.”
  • “The Russian state has frequently used Wagner and its predecessors in the same ways that other rational states use PMCs: to save costs, to avoid military conscript casualties, and for reasons of plausible deniability. These patterns were especially marked in Russia’s major military conflicts of recent years, in eastern Ukraine and in Syria. … With time, though, plausible deniability became harder and harder to achieve … Whatever use Wagner continues to be for the Russian state today, it would be difficult to argue that at this point plausible deniability is still a major reason for its deployment.”
  • “With time it appears that Wagner (or perhaps, in Africa, some other PMC that is being funded by Wagner’s patron Prigozhin) is being used for another purpose entirely: to blur the distinction between state-supported military activities abroad, and the private use of force abroad by an oligarch with a criminal past who is connected to Putin.”
  • “Moscow has blown hot and cold in its treatment of Wagner and its predecessors. … It gave this PMC’s leaders military medals for service and bravery, and buried this PMC’s forces with military honors for their work in both eastern Ukraine and Syria.”
  • “Taken together, these points suggest that it is the corrupt informal network explanation that provides a more complete understanding for Russia’s continuing use of groups like Wagner, and for its decision not to legalize PMCs as of yet. They also suggest that while at times Wagner may work on behalf of rational state interests, at times it also embroils the Russian state in both physical and reputational risks that a rational state might want to avoid.”

Nuclear security and safety:

“Wargame Shows Attacks on Reactors Would Cause Meltdowns and Military Paralysis,” Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, BAS, 06.26.23.

  • “…the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC) designed and hosted a wargame. The game assumed Russia will re-invade Ukraine 15 years from now—in 2037—when both sides will have substantial numbers of long-range, accurate missiles and drones. It also assumed Ukraine and Eastern NATO countries will have new reactors of U.S. design on their territory.”
  • “The game’s play revealed how the uncertainties and dangers of military attacks against nuclear power plants can paralyze decision-making and fundamentally alter the course of wars. The military disruptions these uncertainties introduce may far outstrip the safety issues any reactor radiological release might otherwise present. The game’s play revealed three reasons why.”
    • “The US and its allies are unprepared. … What was stunning throughout the game’s play was the reluctance of the players—other than those representing Ukraine and Poland—to act even after Russian military assaults were made against nuclear power plant sites in Ukraine and NATO countries.”
    • “Reactor attacks can paralyze allied responses. … Such [NATO] alliance strains can only be addressed in one of two ways: The reactors either must be defended actively or passively so well that radiological releases and electrical failures appear nearly impossible, or alliance war plans and responses must be devised and agreed to in advance and be sufficiently dramatic to deter such attacks. Neither will be easy.”
    • “Legal disagreements about reactor attacks. Attempts to settle the question of whether military assaults against nuclear plants constitute war crimes or if subsequent radiological releases qualify such attacks as nuclear weapons use can themselves become significant wartime distractions.”

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  •  No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

"How to support the reconstruction of Ukraine," editorial board, FT, 06.20.23.

  • “Securing the funding requires several steps that will build confidence that post-conflict Ukraine will be ’investable’”
    • “The first is to provide clarity on who, among donor countries, agencies, and international financial institutions and development bodies, will be responsible for what, and where the public money will come from.”
    • “A second priority is to provide war risk insurance to cover losses for foreign and Ukrainian investors — which are outside the scope of commercial insurance — potentially via IFIs and export credit agencies.”
    • “Third, guarantees are needed that reforms will continue to build up Ukraine’s institutional capacity to absorb and utilize such sums, and further curb long-endemic corruption. These should be tied to Kyiv’s ambitions to join the EU.”
    • “A final piece of the jigsaw should be the security guarantees, or commitments to provide Ukraine with the means to deter future Russian onslaughts, that Nato will discuss at next month’s summit in Vilnius. Even with war insurance, private businesses will not launch big projects if Ukraine is in a state of “frozen” conflict and Russia could renew its aggression. The US is, for now, dragging its feet on such guarantees. Yet the arms and funds that western allies are pouring in to help Ukraine win the war will be for nothing if they allow it to lose the peace.”

“Is there enough money to rebuild Ukraine?,” WP Editorial Board, WP, 06.25.23.

  • “Ukraine is... struggling to pay its short-term bills. As the conference on Ukraine convened, aid packages to help stabilize Kyiv's finances - including paying government and military salaries - were announced by the European Union, the United States, Britain and others. Yet the biggest of those, a proposal by the E.U. to provide Kyiv with $55 billion through 2027, featured less than $19 billion in grants. That would leave Ukraine, whose economy has shrunk by a third since Russia's invasion, to repay the balance, some $36 billion in loans. What's more, the E.U.'s overall proposal was at the lower end of a range of up to nearly $80 billion.”
  • “What's more, the most likely means to secure long-term financing for Ukraine from the International Monetary Fund, a key player, will be predicating repayment on Kyiv's eventual access to the Russian assets. That would be uncharted territory for the IMF and among the riskiest bets it has ever made.”
  • “The sobering conclusion is that even if the war draws to an end soon, which is unlikely, Ukraine's long path to recovery will pose an ongoing challenge to the West. Yet promoting its success is also the surest way to show that Russia's neo-imperial land grab has failed.”

"Ukraine and its partners are beginning to win the peace," commentator Martin Sandbu, FT, 06.22.23.

  • “Here are nine takeaways from the annual Ukraine recovery conference
    • “First, there is a meeting of minds that didn’t exist before.”
    • “Second, Ukraine and its western partners are converging around Kyiv’s vision for how reconstruction should look.”
    • “Third, some concrete new commitments have been made.”
    • “Fourth, however, it is still unclear where Ukraine is going to get the roughly half that is still missing from the $14bn funding it needs for emergency reconstruction just this year.”
    • “Fifth, Ukraine and its partners have got into a productive groove when it comes to coordinating economic plans.”
    • “Sixth, there is now a widely shared expectation that Ukraine will join the EU — and that this is not an empty promise.”
    • “Seventh, there is a lot of private sector interest in Ukraine.”
    • “Eighth, Ukraine is continuing its impressive, indeed world-leading, use of digital technology to boost transparency and good economic management.”
    • “Ninth, the URC has even prompted some progress on how to make use of Russian state assets to pay for rebuilding what that state has destroyed.”

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“Minefields and Menace: Why Ukraine’s Pushback Is Off to a Halting Start,” journalists Andrew E. Kramer and Eric Schmitt, NYT, 06.26.23.

  • “Three weeks into a counteroffensive critical to Ukraine’s prospects against Russia, its army is encountering an array of vexing challenges that complicate its plans, even as it wields sophisticated new Western-provided weapons. Not least is a vast swath of minefields protecting Russia’s defensive line, forming a killing field for Ukrainian troops advancing on the open steppe of the south.”
  • “These obstacles have turned the early stages of the counteroffensive into a slow and bloody slog, limiting Ukraine’s forces to about four miles of territory gained in their farthest advance so far. That’s less than half the distance Ukraine needs to cross — threatened by mines and relentless Russian artillery bombardment — to reach Russia’s main defensive positions.”
  • “Despite the counteroffensive’s slow progress, Ukrainian officials say the main battles to breach Russian defenses are still ahead, and with the bulk of Ukraine’s force still kept in reserve, it is early to gauge success or failure, they contend.”
  • “In Washington, officials in the Biden administration are publicly urging patience even as they privately fret that the initial progress has been slow. One senior administration official called the results of the first couple of weeks ‘sobering,’ adding, ‘They’re behind schedule.’”
  • “The senior U.S. military official also acknowledged the slower-than-hoped-for pace of operations but added that this was not unexpected given the extensive Russian defenses, and cautioned against drawing any broad conclusions based on the initial operations.”
  • “Success for Ukraine now hinges on how many tanks, armored vehicles and soldiers it can preserve before reaching the primary defensive line and in a battle to break through. Over the winter, Ukraine and Western allies trained and equipped about 40,000 soldiers for the attack.”

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

  • No significant developments.

Ukraine-related negotiations:

“Next Step in Ukraine? Send in the Diplomats,” former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, WP, 06.20.23.

  • “We need to launch a diplomatic surge to help Kyiv navigate peace negotiations, rebuild Ukraine and sustain economic pressure on Russia to help win the peace.”
  • “First, President Biden should appoint a special envoy for peace talks.”
  • “Second, Biden should appoint a new ambassador or special coordinator for Ukraine's reconstruction.”
  • “Third, Biden or Secretary of State Antony Blinken should appoint a de facto ambassador to the Russian diaspora.”
  • “Fourth and finally, Blinken must appoint a new high-profile sanctions coordinator now that James O'Brien - the current coordinator — is moving to another job.”
  • “While helping Ukrainian warriors win the war, the United States also needs to do more to help Kyiv win the peace. The time to gear up for this enormous mission is not after the war ends, but now.”

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

“Americans Know Victory in Ukraine Matters. A new poll shows that voters still support military aid for Kyiv,” WSJ Editorial Board, 06.25.23.

  • A survey released Sunday, conducted by the Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, finds that three-quarters of Americans think it’s important to the U.S.that Ukraine wins the war against Russian aggression. That includes 86% of Democrats and 71% of Republicans.
  • Donald Trump demurred this year when asked who should win the war, but Americans don’t share his confusion. Nearly 60% support sending U.S. military aid to Ukraine, a figure that has held roughly steady since a November 2022 survey. When presented with details that the U.S. has spent only 3% of its annual Pentagon budget on military aid for Ukraine, while Kyiv has held most of its territory, nearly two in three respondents say the aid was “worth the cost.”
  • 85% think a strong military is essential, and roughly three-fourths said the U.S. should promote trade and human rights in the world.
    • All of this shows that Americans aren’t isolationists. They are ready to make sacrifices when their leaders make the case for doing so in the American security interest. As Congress debates more support for Ukraine or ponders a bill to shore up Taiwan’s defenses, it’s worth keeping in mind that an abiding instinct among voters is that the world is better and more peaceful when the U.S. influences events.

“A model for how the West can support Ukraine? Israel,” editorial board, WP, 06.21.23.

  • “Short of a ratified treaty, no guarantee will be as ironclad as Ukraine would like and deserves, given the sacrifice it has made and the broader burden of European security it has assumed. Nonetheless, the West can and should take steps to enfold its security cooperation with Ukraine — whose terms in dollars and weapons systems could be spelled out in detail — in a political and legal framework. As in the case of Tel Aviv, the United States should sign a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine. That should be buttressed by a congressional resolution, which might also specify conditions holding Ukraine to account through mechanisms ensuring the transparency and scrutiny of the aid it receives.”
  • “Neither an MOU nor a congressional resolution would be binding but both would signal seriousness of intent. Critically, so would sustained increases in the defense budgets of major European powers. Among them, only Britain now meets NATO's goal of devoting 2 percent of total annual economic output to military spending, a benchmark agreed to by the alliance's members in 2014.”
  • “Reaching that minimum benchmark, along with an explicit long-term commitment to Ukraine's defense, is the key to persuading Mr. Putin to reassess his calculus that time remains Russia's ally and to rid him of the assumption that "Ukraine fatigue" will eventually subvert the West's resolve. The Russian tyrant is counting on knees buckling in Washington and across Europe as the war drags on. It is incumbent on the Biden administration and Ukraine's other allies to demonstrate that they cannot be outlasted.”

“Ukraine Could Be Forced to Compromise,” columnist William A. Galston, WSJ, 06.20.23.

  • “Charles de Gaulle once dreamed of a Europe stretching “from the Atlantic to the Urals,” and for a fleeting moment after the collapse of the Soviet Union, this dream seemed possible. Now it’s clear that Europe must end at Ukraine’s border with Russia. For the peace of the world, the West must establish this border and defend it against future aggression from a nation that will never be European.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“How Advanced is Russian-Chinese Military Cooperation?”, analysts Dmitry Gorenburg, Elizabeth Wishnick, Paul Schwartz, and Brian Waidelich, War on the Rocks, 06.26.23.

  • “Overall, Russian-Chinese military-technical cooperation continues to operate at a high level, though there is potential for further growth if the two sides can overcome lingering concerns over issues such as reverse engineering, competition in global arms markets, reluctance to share sensitive technologies, and an enduring preference to maintain self-sufficiency in defense production.”
  • “There is the political symbolism of Russia and China supporting each other in fighting against what they consider to be U.S. efforts to preserve its global hegemony. To this end, joint statements by senior leaders, such as the February 2022 announcement of a “friendship without limits” by Putin and Xi, highlight that the two countries have similar strategic positions on global issues.”
  • ‘Concrete actions such as arms deals and major joint exercises have a strong symbolic component, showing that the two countries are working together to address global challenges and to strengthen each other’s positions in the world. These symbolic benefits are particularly important for Russia as it seeks to counter the perception that it is isolated internationally as a result of its invasion of Ukraine.”
  • “On the other hand, there is a clear sense that China gains more from the defense relationship than Russia does in terms of the material benefits of military cooperation.”
  • “Although the overall rapid expansion of Russian-Chinese military cooperation in terms of military-technical cooperation and joint exercises that was clearly in evidence in 2014–2019 has not been as evident in the last three years, the continued frequency of security consultations and the issuance of statements reaffirming close military ties during the 2020–2022 period suggests that this lull is most likely the product of external circumstances rather than a change in the willingness of either party to continue to pursue the development of an ever-closer military relationship.”
  • “These actions would indicate that the two countries are potentially on the path to a deeper level of military cooperation that might create serious threats to U.S. allies and partners and greatly increase the challenge facing U.S. military planners. Evidence that Russia and China are engaging in this type of cooperation will be more significant than further ritual statements about unlimited friendship made at summit meetings.”

“Sino-Russian Cooperation Under the Influence of Internal and External Factors,” researcher Wang Wen, Valdai Club, 06.26.23.

  • “The total volume of trade between China and Russia amounted to 68 billion US dollars in 2015 and increased in 2018 to 107 billion US dollars, in 2021 - to about 147 billion US dollars, and in 2022 - to about 195 billion US dollars. The average growth rate for seven consecutive years exceeded 20 percent.”
  • “Engaged in ‘hard’ disengagement with Russia, the U.S. is also trying to carry out a ‘soft’ separation with China. It includes limiting foreign investment of Chinese companies, abuse of export controls, suppression of Chinese high-tech companies, and so on. However, this does not limit China's technological development.”
  • “I would like to put forward some proposals for optimization in five aspects: trade structure, energy cooperation, agricultural cooperation, investment finance and infrastructure.”
    • “First, there is a need for structural optimization of bilateral trade between China and Russia. China and Russia should steadily increase the total volume of trade, but they should also strive for structural optimization and study the potential space of interaction.”
    • “Secondly, China and Russia should strive for a breakthrough in energy cooperation. Two countries need to steadily develop traditional energy cooperation, while not neglecting new methods and expanding cooperation in the field of green energy.”
    • “Thirdly, China and Russia should not forget about cooperation in the field of agriculture. It is necessary to establish channels of investment cooperation in adjacent regions to optimize the business environment.”
    • “Fourthly, China and Russia must agree on rules in the field of finance and investment. Two countries need to create independent financial institutions, continue to promote settlements in their own currencies and pragmatically increase mutual direct investment.”
    • “Fifth, China and Russia should cooperate in infrastructure construction. The two countries should increase investment in infrastructure, especially in the adjacent regions.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

Nuclear war is a bad way to solve problems,” Alexey Arbatov, Konstantin Bogdanov and Dmitry Stefanovich of IMEMO, Kommersant, 06.21.23[1]. 

  • “Recently, the idea that nuclear weapons can be used to quickly and successfully complete the military operation in Ukraine has been promoted in the Russian public discourse. Specifically, it is proposed to quickly climb up all of the steps of the escalation ladder to intimidate the West with nuclear weapons as much as possible. If [the West] does not retreat, then it is proposed to launch a nuclear strike on a group of targets in a number of NATO countries that are most actively helping Ukraine. Thus, it is being proposed to impose a ‘strategic retreat and capitulation’ on the West, to put an end to its centuries-old neo-colonial domination and to achieve ‘a bright future’ through nuclear war.”
  • “A number of comments need to be made in case the underlying provisions of this scenario reflect the direction of thought of a certain group in the [Russian] elite”:
    • “First, the position of Russia’s supreme leadership on this issue has been clearly expressed.  Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stressed: ‘there is no provision for a pre-emptive strike in our nuclear weapons doctrine. Our concept is based on a reciprocal counter strike.[2] … Nuclear weapons are created to ensure our security, in the broadest sense of the word, and the existence of the Russian state. First, we see no need to use it; and second, considering this, even as a possibility, factors into lowering the threshold for the use of such weapons,” he said: ’Nuclear weapons are created to ensure our security, in the broadest sense of the word, and the existence of the Russian state. First, we see no need to use it; and second, considering this, even as a possibility, factors into lowering the threshold for the use of such weapons.’”
    • “Second, this topic is also touched upon in the new Foreign Policy Concept of Russia, which states: In order to ensure ‘strategic stability, eliminating the prerequisites for unleashing a global war, risks of using nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction … the Russian Federation intends to give priority attention ... to preventing the aggravation of interstate relations to a level capable of provoking military conflicts, including with the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction;.’ Russia's military doctrinal documents also contradict the aforementioned proposals.”
  • “Everyone has the right to express a point of view that differs from the official one - as long as it is convincingly substantiated. But here lies the key drawback of such initiatives, and this is our third point. The opinion that nuclear weapons can be regarded as a kind of ’sterile’ strike tool that, if applied, would yield a lower level of side factors is erroneous. .... In fact, nuclear weapons, in terms of the totality of their destructive properties, remain the ’dirtiest’ of all types of weapons of mass destruction.”
  • “The notion that the use of nuclear weapons can stop the escalation and solve strategic problems that conventional forces have not been able to solve is highly questionable and most likely erroneous.”
  • “A nuclear strike will take the conflict to a fundamentally different level of unpredictability and greatly increase the stakes of confrontation. ...Once this Rubicon is crossed, it will become much more difficult to stop. ... The parties will be left with nothing but further nuclear escalation in terms of the number, capacity and geographical coverage of the means involved.”
  • “It is unlikely that anyone could have imagined then [in the 1960s], or even a few years ago, that such ideas of the final victory over the West with the help of nuclear war would be revived in our day. Meanwhile, in the mentioned article, the author [Sergei Karaganov], on the basis of the deja vu principle, again calls to go ’through all the thorns and traumas’ to the future, which he sees as ’bright - multipolar, multicultural, multicolored, enabling all countries and peoples to build their own and common destiny.’ Radioactive ruins, which this game of "nuclear roulette’ is likely to generate i  the worst foundation for a brighter future. Fans of sensational ideas and dangerous gambling should remember this.”

"Putin’s Nuclear Scare Tactics Will Fall Flat," journalist Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg, 06.21.23.

  • “Both Ukraine and the West likely are right to take Russia’s nuclear doctrine at face value: No nukes will fly until Russia faces an existential threat, such as a massive invasion of its internationally recognized territory. No matter what the Kremlin and its various messengers may say, Ukraine’s efforts to liberate its own territory do not represent such a threat, not even to Putin.”

“Why We Won’t Be Able to ‘Sober Up the West with a Nuclear Bomb,” the Higher School of Economics; Fyodor Lukyanov, Profil/Russia in Global Affairs, 06.23.23. This is a response to Sergei Karaganov’s article in Profil: “A Difficult but Necessary Decision.” Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Nuclear weapons are becoming more and more accessible both technologically and financially. Are Russian minds the only ones who are thinking about the likelihood of using them as a way out of a difficult military-strategic situation? Certainly not. Such musings are gradually filling the global public space. This only confirms the idea...[that] the institution of deterrence, just like other institutions of the last century, is in crisis. A sharp intensification of the discussion will not help strengthen this institution, but will bring it to its final collapse, and the use of nuclear weapons will not make one come to his senses, but will formally remove a common taboo, with barely predictable consequences. Further actions will not be dictated by considerations of one sort or another, but by the reaction to each next step of the other side. Playing a nuclear staring game is a gamble. But if things go wrong, net damage will by far exceed any hypothetical gains for everyone.”
  • “The taboo on the use of nuclear weapons is undoubtedly losing its grip. We must get prepared for every contingency. It would be rational not to scrap the taboo completely, preventively, but to try to preserve it as at least some kind of restraint. This does not mean that the topic itself cannot be touched, just the opposite. Sanctimoniously shying away from the very thought of nuclear weapons use would be tantamount to playing ostrich. In this sense, we must thank Sergei Karaganov for stating his position so straightforwardly. Discussing it should be part of the efforts to work out a new understanding of strategic stability in place of the one that cannot be restored anymore.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

“Who Blew Up the Nord Stream Pipeline?”, Emma Ashford of the Stimson Center, FP, 06.23.23.

  • “Why would Ukraine, so dependent on Western aid and weapons, risk angering Western European states? It seemed hard to believe. But the motive was certainly there. Destroying the pipeline would hurt Russia and remove a potential source of Russian leverage over Europe in the future. It would tie the hands of Germany and other states; no matter how hard the winter, it would now be impossible for these states to reverse sanctions and reopen the pipeline. And it would ensure that most Russian energy exports to Europe would still need to transit Ukraine.”
  • “More broadly, two decades of contention between Western and Eastern Europe over energy security provides a plausible way of explaining such a choice. The destruction of Nord Stream fits neatly into disagreements over which states within the sprawling European community get to decide exactly what constitutes a shared European energy security. It is a reminder that, despite 18 months of public unity, interests diverge across Europe.”
  • “It’s currently unclear whether Russian energy will ever again flow to Europe in large quantities. But one thing is certain: The destruction of Nord Stream once again places Ukraine and other Eastern European states in a position of greater leverage on the energy question. Destroying Nord Stream is an understandable enough choice from the point of view of a country engaged in a desperate war for survival. But it may prompt Ukraine’s partners to reassess just how closely their interests actually align with Kyiv.”

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:

  • No significant developments.

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:

“Fate of Vulnerable Minority Looms Over Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace,” fellow Laurence Broers, Chatham House, 06.26.23.

  • “After a hiatus of several months, Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations resumed in May – and readouts from intensive meetings in Washington, Brussels, Chisinau, and Moscow suggest an agreement on normalization of relations between the two states is feasible.”
  • “There is now a critical mass of issues at the inter-state level on which eventual agreement looks possible, such as border delimitation, resolving humanitarian issues, and the much-discussed connectivity agenda. Many observers sense a historic opportunity to finally turn the page on 35 years of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.”
  • “Armenia’s shift towards recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and Azerbaijan’s new de facto control over its borders highlight the vulnerability of the Karabakh Armenian population. … This vulnerability is acknowledged by Nikol Pashinyan’s readiness to abandon the secessionist project in Karabakh being predicated on Azerbaijan’s offering of guarantees for the Karabakh Armenian population.”
  • “Between secession and ethnic cleansing lies a third way – the reframing of Karabakh Armenian rights as those of a national minority claiming protections under instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, and the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, while also having specific security needs in the short to mid-term.”
  • “But the international legal landscape is arguably more hospitable to national minorities than to unrecognized secessionist republics which have scant protection under international law. Some Azerbaijani analysts have advocated for Baku to shift to more persuasive and less coercive ways to speak to the Karabakh Armenians it deems to be its citizens.”





[1] All items identified further down in this introduction are also summarized in the body of this digest below.

[2] Translated with the help of machine translation tools.

[3] RM included a summary of his piece in the January 23-30, 2023 issue of its weekly analytical digest and it can be found here.

[4] Leonid Bershidsky also made the about the naked emperor in “The Wagner Mutiny Leaves Putin a Naked Emperor,” Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg, 06.25.23.

[5] Translated with the help of machine translation tools.

[1] Translated with the help of machine translation.

[2]  Russian original was “ответно-встречный удар (“otvetno-vstrechny udar,”) which has often been

translated in Western publications as “launch-on-warning” and which the Kremlin staff translated as either “reciprocal counter strike” or “retaliatory strike.”


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

Photo obtained from, shared via CC 4.0 license.