Russia Analytical Report, June 21-27, 2022

This Week's Highlights

  • On the eve of the NATO summit, scholars including Rose Gottemoeller of Stanford University, Michael E. O’Hanlon of Brookings, Lukas Mengelkamp of University of Marburg and Alexander Graef and Ulrich Kühn of University of Hamburg offer their recommendations on how to strengthen the alliance’s capability to deter Russia, while also paving the way for what Gottemoeller describes as “negotiated restraint on weapons of mass destruction” with Moscow.
  • Continuing apace, the war in Ukraine will hit some 125,000 deaths if it lasts a year, well past the 80th percentile of wars since 1816 as measured by The Correlates of War Project, according to Paul Poast of the University of Chicago. “This war will be among the deadliest of the last 200 years even if NATO and Russia manage not to slide into direct conflict—a prospect that carries the risk, though small, of the use of nuclear weapons,” he writes in The Washington Post.
  • Mark Katz of George Mason University draws parallels between Putin’s war in Ukraine and two other conflicts: the Crimean War of 1853-1856 and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979-1989. The similarities include large-scale external support for the country Russia was at war with and that, in both cases, “the decision to end the conflict was not made by the Russian leader who began it.”
  • John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago asserts that “the United States is principally responsible for causing the Ukraine crisis.” Speaking publicly this month, he said: “The tragic truth is that if the West had not pursued NATO expansion into Ukraine, it is unlikely there would be a war in Ukraine today and Crimea would still be part of Ukraine.”
  • The Quincy Institute’s Anatol Lieven explains how, in his view, Russia can be persuaded to withdraw from the territory it has occupied since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24. 
  • FT columnist Edward Luce notes how many of “the rest” have not joined the West in trying to isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and in helping Kyiv’s war effort. Only four of 55 African leaders attended Volodymyr Zelensky’s “recent virtual address to the African Union, which had finally agreed he could speak to them after 10 weeks of asking,” according to Luce.
  • Robert McCauley of Boston University has studied the Central Bank of Russia’s response to Western sanctions and warns that managers pondering how defend their reserves from punitive measures could seek to avoid U.S. country risk more than the dollar. “Offshore dollars and synthetic dollars, out of the immediate reach of U.S. law, can substitute for onshore dollars,” he writes in the FT.
  • Anton Troianovski of the New York Times has interviewed some of Russia’s business leaders and top intellectuals to conclude that there are no signs of a broad challenge to Putin by the elites. The interviews, he writes, “show … that the mood spans a spectrum from desperation to exhilaration, but with one common denominator: the sense that the country’s future is out of their hands.”

NB: The next Russia Analytical Report will appear on Tuesday, July 5, because of the U.S. Independence Day holiday.

 

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian and economic impact of the Ukraine conflict:

“How the G-7 can tip the scales toward Ukraine,” former World Bank president Robert B. Zoellick, The Washington Post, 06.26.22

  • “The G-7 must create and commit to an economic plan worth hundreds of billions of public and private dollars to do much more than simply meet Ukraine’s immediate humanitarian needs.”
  • “Ukraine must co-own the plan. In doing so, Ukraine needs to confront the obstacles that stymied reforms since independence in 1991: corruption, the domination of oligarchs who resisted competition, manipulation of the energy sector, and out-migration of talent.”
  • “To jump-start economic life, Ukraine — like Europe in 1948 — needs basic shelter and housing, transport systems, social infrastructure such as schools and medical facilities, and primary inputs for production. The aid should be through grants, not loans; some 90 percent of the Marshall Plan support were grants.”
  • “With a sound recovery, Ukraine’s reconstruction offers great potential. The country enjoys high levels of education; the world has witnessed Ukraine’s powerful technological and digital capabilities. Modern productive capacity, designed for a zero-carbon future, will serve the world well.”
  • “Finally, the G-7 should declare that Russia owes compensation to Ukraine under international law.”

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“The war in Ukraine is on track to be among modern history's bloodiest,” Paul Poast of University of Chicago, The Washington Post, 06.23.22

  • “The Ukrainian war may seem minor next to the two world wars of the 20th century, which killed tens of millions of soldiers and civilians. But those are extreme outliers that skew our understanding of international conflict. The Correlates of War Project, an academic enterprise with data extending back to 1816, offers a more comprehensive picture… The top 25 percent of wars, in terms of intensity, witness just over 200 battlefield deaths per day, according to the project's data. The Russia-Ukraine war already passes that threshold.”
  • “At a continued pace, the war will hit some 125,000 deaths if it lasts a year, well past the 80th percentile of wars.”
  • “This war will be among the deadliest of the last 200 years even if NATO and Russia manage not to slide into direct conflict — a prospect that carries the risk, though small, of the use of nuclear weapons.”

“The Other Big Lessons That the U.S. Army Should Learn from Ukraine,” David Barno and Nora Bensahel of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, War on the Rocks, 06.27.22

  • “At the end of May, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth publicly identified several key lessons that her service is learning from the war in Ukraine. Russian battlefield failures, she argued, affirmed the critical importance of leadership, training, discipline, and effective logistics during protracted conflicts. She also stressed that the Army needs to reduce electronic signals, especially from cell phones; defend against advanced drones; and maintain munitions stockpiles and the defense industrial base.”
  • “As David Johnson has rightly noted, the U.S. military cannot simply assume that it would do better than the Russian military if their roles were reversed. He also argues that the war in Ukraine gives the Army ‘the same opportunity for introspection’ as the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which caused the Army to completely overhaul its warfighting doctrine. But as he pointedly observes, the Army may fail to grasp this unique preview of future war and simply find lessons in Ukraine that buttress its current thinking.”
  • “To take advantage of this opportunity, Army leaders need to go beyond the broad lessons that Wormuth discussed last month. They need to rigorously reexamine the ways in which the service trains, organizes, and equips its soldiers, and must be willing to change the Army’s trajectory wherever necessary. They cannot afford to miss the lessons of this terrible modern war, so that the Army is as prepared as possible for the challenges that it will face in the future.”
  • See also section on “Defense and aerospace” below.

Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:

“What Russia’s fortress balance sheet can tell us about the dollar’s future,” Robert McCauley of Boston University, FT, 06.23.22

  • “In response to the initial wave of western sanctions after the first Ukrainian crisis, the Central Bank of Russia moved its dollars out of the US — but, to a remarkable extent, held on to them. Instead of offloading dollar exposure, Russia fortified its finances in four ways:”
  1. “It increased reserve levels.”
  2. “It stockpiled gold.”
  3. “It reduced its exposure to countries, not currencies.”
  4. “It modestly cut down on its dollar holdings.”
  • “The first lesson of the CBR’s reserve fortifications is that even a central bank preparing for sanctions might mostly maintain its dollar share, despite the US pre-eminence in sanctions and despite an official policy of de-dollarization. Offshore dollars and synthetic dollars, out of the immediate reach of US law, can substitute for onshore dollars.”
  • “The second lesson is that effective country diversification may have to go to uncomfortable lengths. The broad imposition of sanctions frustrated Russia’s diversification, China apart.”
  • “With 20-20 hindsight, the Russian authorities might have sought less a fortress balance sheet and more a siege stockpile.”
  • “In sum, as reserve managers ponder how to defend their reserves from sanctions, they could seek to avoid US country risk more than the dollar. That means the dollar’s share of FX reserves, properly measured, might not suffer much. Any real risk to the dollar’s use would come only if reserve managers are willing to extend their allocations into higher-risk countries. That also raises questions for the $3 trillion of reserves in China, which faces limits in diversifying its country risk.” 

Ukraine-related negotiations:

“A Peace Settlement in Ukraine,” Anatol Lieven of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, The Nation, 06.22.22

  • “The basic challenge for any peace process is clear-cut. It is to persuade Russia to withdraw from the territory it has occupied since the start of the invasion on February 24. Nothing less than this could possibly be acceptable to any Ukrainian government.”
  • “How then can the Russian government be persuaded to withdraw from the new territory its forces have occupied since February? Firstly, by fighting the Russian army to a standstill, and inflicting such heavy casualties that a continuation of large-scale Russian offensives becomes impossible.”
  • “This military success having been achieved, the next step is to offer Russia something that Putin can use to claim that a peace settlement represents at least a limited success for Russia.”
    • “The first of these demands [by Russia] was for a treaty of Ukrainian neutrality. President Zelensky has already accepted this in principle, referring—reasonably enough—to the fact that in the run-up to the war NATO governments, including the Biden administration, repeatedly refused to promise NATO membership in the foreseeable future.”
    • “The second Russian demand, for the ‘demilitarization’ of Ukraine, is obviously completely unacceptable as it stands, and indeed in March Russia appeared to be backing away from it.”
    • “The Russian demand for the ‘denazification’ of Ukraine is equally unacceptable as it stands.”
    • “The last Russian demand raises the truly difficult issue, that of territory.”
      • “In Crimea, a referendum on Russian or Ukrainian sovereignty should be organized by the UN.”
      • “In the Donbas, a UN peacekeeping force should be established on the whole territory of the two provinces, accompanied by a mission tasked with organizing a referendum there after a fixed period that will allow most refugees to return home.”
    • “The interests both of Ukraine and of humanity demand that we should seek this compromise now, not after years of suffering and destruction, with dire side effects for the wider world.”

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

“The Causes and Consequences of the Ukraine Crisis,” John J. Mearsheimer of University of Chicago, National Interest/ European Union Institute, 06.23.22

  • “First, the United States is principally responsible for causing the Ukraine crisis. This is not to deny that Putin started the war and that he is responsible for Russia’s conduct of the war. Nor is it to deny that America’s allies bear some responsibility, but they largely follow Washington’s lead on Ukraine. My central claim is that the United States has pushed forward policies toward Ukraine that Putin and other Russian leaders see as an existential threat, a point they have made repeatedly for many years. Specifically, I am talking about America’s obsession with bringing Ukraine into NATO and making it a Western bulwark on Russia’s border.”
  • “Second, the Biden administration has reacted to the outbreak of war by doubling down against Russia. Washington and its Western allies are committed to decisively defeating Russia in Ukraine and employing comprehensive sanctions to greatly weaken Russian power. The United States is not seriously interested in finding a diplomatic solution to the war, which means the war is likely to drag on for months if not years. In the process, Ukraine, which has already suffered grievously, is going to experience even greater harm. In essence, the United States is helping lead Ukraine down the primrose path. Furthermore, there is a danger that the war will escalate, as NATO might get dragged into the fighting and nuclear weapons might be used.”
  • “The taproot of the [Ukraine] crisis is the American-led effort to make Ukraine a Western bulwark on Russia’s borders. That strategy has three prongs: integrating Ukraine into the EU, turning Ukraine into a pro-Western liberal democracy and, most importantly, incorporating Ukraine into NATO. The strategy was set in motion at NATO’s annual summit in Bucharest in April 2008.”
  • “Starting in early 2021 Ukraine began moving rapidly toward joining NATO. Even so, some supporters of this policy argue that Moscow should not have been concerned, because ‘NATO is a defensive alliance and poses no threat to Russia.’ But that is not how Putin and other Russian leaders think about NATO and it is what they think that matters. There is no question that Ukraine joining NATO remained the ‘brightest of red lines’ for Moscow.”
  • “The efforts of [Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov and Putin to get the United States and its allies to abandon their efforts to make Ukraine a Western bulwark on Russia’s border failed completely. Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded to Russia’s mid-December demands by simply saying, ‘There is no change. There will be no change.’ Putin then launched an invasion of Ukraine to eliminate the threat he saw from NATO.”
  • “The tragic truth is that if the West had not pursued NATO expansion into Ukraine, it is unlikely there would be a war in Ukraine today and Crimea would still be part of Ukraine. In essence, Washington played the central role in leading Ukraine down the path to destruction. History will judge the United States and its allies harshly for their remarkably foolish policy on Ukraine.”

“What the Mighty Miss. The Blind Spots of Power,” Ngaire Woods of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2022

  • “The leaders of powerful countries can protect themselves from the pitfalls of power and make sure that short-term expediency doesn’t get in the way of the big picture.”
    • “A first line of defense from error lies in the group around a leader. Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States each have a cabinet comprising ministers who are selected by the head of government. China has the Politburo Standing Committee. In theory, these bodies take collective responsibility for the decisions a government makes. That needs to happen in practice.”
    • “Beyond the cabinet, other institutions need to be fully functioning. Public officials and technocrats, the courts, legislatures, the media, and public opinion each play a role in making sure the leader is not blinded by power.”
      • “The leaders themselves need these checks and balances so that someone will tell them when the emperor is wearing no clothes.”
  • “International relations and institutions also play an important role in preventing a powerful leader from miscalculating. The 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan might have gone better had Biden chosen to act multilaterally, not unilaterally.”
  • “International cooperation can still offer vital restraints to leaders blinded by power. … Diplomacy and open discussion with other countries can provide information, perspective, and, indeed, a check on the actions of a leader. At this volatile juncture in world politics, leaders should commit to a back-to-basics approach centered on adherence to the core UN Charter. They should eschew broader interventionist agendas that lack global support. The clarity of international law will help even the most powerful actors see clearly.”

“The west is failing to quarantine Russia,” columnist Edward Luce, Financial Times, 06.24.22

  • “Vladimir Putin is hated and feared by most of the west, just as Volodymyr Zelensky is lionized. But the west has not been joined by most of the rest. When Indonesia hosts the G20 summit in November, Putin will be there in spite of Washington’s demand that Russia be expelled. Only four out of 55 African leaders attended Zelensky’s virtual address to the African Union, which had finally agreed he could speak to them after 10 weeks of asking.”
  • “Here is rule number one of my unwritten primer on global diplomacy: Avoid navel-gazing. Good diplomacy sees things from other points of view and takes them into consideration. I fear that the US and the west in general are missing a big underlying reality in the global reaction to Putin’s barbarism: The Ukraine war is boosting demand for a multipolar world, which is very different to what we have been telling ourselves.”
  • “To much of the world, Ukraine is just another humanitarian tragedy. The fact that the west sees it as existential is an irritation. Africans and Arabs and Latin Americans know that when there is a clash between US ideals and interests, the latter generally win. We should be wary of judging those who make similar trade-offs.”
  • “Telling ourselves repeatedly that we are in a war of light versus darkness in which there is no middle ground is not a diplomatic strategy.”

“One War Too Many: Will Putin Follow Brezhnev and Nicholas I to Ruin?” Mark Katz of George Mason University, The National Interest, 06.26.22

  • “There is no guarantee, of course, that the current war in Ukraine will turn out as badly as the Crimean War did for Tsarist Russia or as the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan did for the USSR. But there is one similarity that the ongoing war in Ukraine shares with these two earlier wars: large-scale external support for the country Russia was at war with.”
    • “What began with Nicholas I seizing territory from the weak Ottoman Empire turned into war between Russia, on the one hand, and the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom, France, and Piedmont (the most powerful Italian kingdom before Italian unification) on the other. Nicholas I could not prevail against this coalition.”
    • “Similarly, while the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan quickly overran most of that country, the internal opposition against it received massive support from several external powers, including the United States, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and others.”
    • “In Ukraine now, Moscow is not only facing determined opposition from Ukraine, but Ukraine is receiving large quantities of arms from the United States and several European countries.”
  • “There is, though, another common factor that these three conflicts share which has more ambivalent implications for Ukraine now. In the Crimean War, the decision to end the conflict was not made by the Russian leader who began it, Nicholas I, but by his successor, Alexander II. Similarly, it was not Brezhnev, the Soviet leader who began the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, but the third Soviet leader after him, Mikhail Gorbachev, who decided to withdraw Soviet forces from there.”
  • “If the war in Ukraine, then, conforms to the patterns set by the Crimean War and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, then the following seems likely to occur: 1) Russia will not prevail against continued Western-backed Ukrainian resistance; 2) Putin will continue to prosecute the war no matter what the cost to Russia so long as he remains in power; and 3) Putin’s successor is more likely than Putin to extricate Russia from a war that it cannot win.”

“Why Putin Needs Peter the Great,” Oxford’s Andrei Zorin, Russia Matters, 06.23.22

  • “Putin’s attitude toward history may at first glance seem contradictory. On one hand, he is a diehard traditionalist… At the same time, his approach to history is deeply postmodern. … [He adheres to the idea] that historical truth is a spurious concept and one has to believe in facts and interpretations that are beneficial to Russia. According to him, history provides answers to all political questions and he—as a direct successor of powerful monarchs who extended Russian borders and military glory—is entitled to interpret it and to explain its meaning.” 
  • “Putin’s reference this month to Peter the Great is to be read along these lines. … Peter was a passionate Westernizer … and, by the same token, a warrior who greatly expanded the borders of his country. … Having become president, Putin aspired to emulate Peter. … Putin always believed his mission is to restore if not the historical dimensions of the former empire then at least its status as a great power and its global sphere of influence.
  • “Now the Petrine Europeanism of Putin’s early days is dead and the West is perceived as a metaphysical evil threatening the very existence of Russia. Petrine expansionism, on the contrary, is alive and well. Putin not only directly threatens Baltic states that were annexed by Russia in the first quarter of the 18th century, but also implicitly formulates a doctrine under which Russia can ‘claim back’ all the territories that sometime belonged it or were included in its sphere of influence.”
  • “Invading Ukraine, Putin planned to take revenge for what he perceived as the defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War… Putin models his historical vision on the stories of great Russian victories over Western powers… [T]hese wars began for Russia with a string of defeats and ended in triumph.
  • “However, Russian history knows military conflicts of a different type… Started by disoriented autocrats and their clientele to bring new dynamism to a stagnant and decaying empire with a ‘short and victorious war,’ they turned out to be protracted and bloody and were eventually lost, leading the country to deep existential crisis and sometimes to utter ruin.”

“Russian Military Forecasting and Analysis. The Military-Political Situation and Military Potential in Strategic Planning,” by RAND’s  Clint Reach, Alyssa Demus, Eugeniu Han, Bilyana Lilly, Krystyna Marcinek, Yuliya Shokh, RAND, June 2022

  • “Given the large military potential imbalance between the two sides, the continued cohesion of the NATO alliance will likely force Russia to resolve political grievances without resorting to the use of force against NATO.”
  • “NATO cohesion creates at least three operational problems for Russia. First, Russia would have to fight a collection of countries that together possess a preponderance of military potential that could prove decisive in the event of a protracted conflict. Second, NATO cohesion could force Russia to launch attacks throughout Europe, making a split in the alliance more unlikely. Third, NATO cohesion could expose Russia's relatively limited inventory of long-range conventional munitions (strategic nonnuclear deterrence potential). Long-range conventional capability would be essential to preclude the use of a large swath of European territory to flow in additional forces and to launch attacks against Russian forces.”
  • “Russia will likely seek to avoid simultaneous confrontational relations with China and the West over the next two decades, which could inhibit its flexibility in foreign policy decisions.”
  • “Current and future development of Russian military strategy will be from a position of overall weakness relative to the United States and its allies.”
  • “Finally, the framework used in this report offers a useful approach to evaluate deterrence vis-à-vis Russia. For example, because the framework emphasizes the deterrence value of strategic nonnuclear capabilities, the degree of U.S. and allied superiority in long-range precision munitions offers one key input to gauge the level of deterrence against Russian military aggression.”

“Strengthening the US and NATO defense postures in Europe after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” by the Brookings Institution’s Michael E. O’Hanlon, Brookings, 06.21.22

  • “As 2022 unfolds, and tragedy in Ukraine continues, NATO is nonetheless in strong military and political shape. … Yet more change is needed.”
    • “In the crucial Baltic region, NATO should shift from what has been an impressive tripwire stance since 2017 to a modest but meaningful forward-defense posture. NATO should have enough combat power in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and nearby locations that it could immediately resist any Russian attack, be it in the form of ‘little green men,’ other covert aggression, or a more classic cross-border attack.”
  • “The good news is that these changes do not require huge additional expense and therefore need not fundamentally disrupt the Pentagon’s understandable desire to focus much future modernization on the Indo-Pacific.”
  • “NATO’s longstanding policy of not basing combat units in eastern member states — as a nod to Russian security sensitivities — is no longer relevant in light of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.”
  • “If the Army and Air Force permanently station small numbers of units abroad, in Poland and the Baltics, rather than maintaining a new forward posture with frequent rotations of numerous units, they can likely sustain this burden without enlarging their force structures.”
  • “Permanently stationing 15,000 more American troops in the Baltics and Poland, while asking European and Canadian allies to make similar additional efforts in eastern Europe as well, is an affordable and prudent response to the increased Russian threat to NATO’s forward regions.”

“A Confidence-Building Defense for NATO,” Lukas Mengelkamp of University of Marburg, Alexander Graef and Ulrich Kühn, both of University of Hamburg, War on the Rocks, 06.27.22

  • “Adopting confidence-building defense today would enable European allies to shoulder the main responsibility for defending NATO’s eastern front without having to commit forces that they currently do not have or cannot afford to deploy. This would buy Europeans time to reinvest in their national forces where necessary and to do so under a common European defense scheme. It would also lift some of the burden that President Vladimir Putin’s war has put on America for European defense. A spider and web approach would not make U.S. forces in Europe entirely redundant.”
  • “Confidence-building defense could also, in the long term, help to build confidence with Moscow. Permanently staging large-scale heavy-armored formations in the immediate vicinity of the NATO-Russia contact zone could be misperceived by Moscow as threatening an offensive operation against Russian territory. Avoiding this would reduce the risk that Russia feels pressured to launch a first strike. If NATO is not dependent on maintaining large forces on Russia’s borders, discussing strictly reciprocal and verifiable conventional arms control limits with Russia might eventually become possible. Given the manifold uncertainties that NATO is facing, confidence-building defense remains the best way to simultaneously reassure allies in a realistic and feasible way while avoiding further escalation with Moscow.” 

“NATO must show Putin it is serious about defense,” Estonian Defense Forces Commander Martin Herem, FT, 06.23.22

  • “Estonia and its fellow NATO members need to shape up.”
    • “First, governments must trust military personnel to build readiness. Not in drawing up defense or security policy, but in proposing the best solutions according to military science.”
    • “Second, states must invest wisely. There is no point in acquiring the most modern technology if you don’t have the people, the skills or the funds to sustain it, or enough ammunition to use it, in case of a conflict.”
    • “Third, NATO and its allies need to prepare much more comprehensively for swift and viable deployments at the first signs of aggression. We must deny Russia any military success anywhere on the alliance’s territory.”
    • “Finally, we must demonstrate our military readiness, not through rhetoric, but through actions, with a clear explanation of what we are doing and why. Real defense capabilities would speak to the Kremlin far louder than our words have done.”

“The G-7 Agrees: Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Is a ‘Zeitenwende,’” Tobias Bunde, FP, 06.21.22

  • “If the world’s democracies want to prevail in a new era of systemic competition, it will not be enough for the G-7 and its like-minded partners to agree. They need to build and sustain a broader coalition of countries, including those who do not primarily see the world as shaped by a dichotomy between democracies on the one side and autocracies on the other.”
  • “Liberal democracies need to actively counter the impression that their agenda is selfish and myopic. Instead, they need to reach out to third countries, willing to listen and to respond to their concerns. By doing so, the G-7 and its partners can prove that their solidarity is not limited to the victims of military aggression on the European continent but that they are willing to muster the same amount of solidarity when it comes to other urgent global threats—threats like climate change or global inequality that hit developing states particularly hard.”
  • “Only if they reconcile their response to the war in Ukraine with the fight against persistent nontraditional threats can democracies demonstrate that they have better answers to the pressing challenges of our time than their autocratic competitors.”

“Wishful thinking in the Ukraine-Russia war,” columnist Alex Beam, Boston Globe, 06.24.22

  • “Even — especially — in wartime, there are two sides to every story, as RAND Corporation researcher David Johnson illustrates in an excellent essay on shaping perceptions in the Ukraine war. For example, Johnson cites widespread media coverage of a botched Russian Army river crossing, supposedly resulting in 485 deaths and huge materiel losses. Johnson adds that the ‘Russians have, however, conducted several successful river crossings … [that] receive scant media attention.’ Johnson suggests that the ‘struggling Russian army’ story line is ‘likely the result of a sophisticated all-media Ukrainian information campaign, reinforced by positive stories from journalists whose access is carefully managed by the Ukrainian government.’”
  • “Here are other examples of wishful thinking when it comes to this ghastly war”:
    • “A recent Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report notes that ‘only about 10 percent of total Russian sovereign eurobonds [are] vulnerable to a “real” default (i.e., unable to be serviced), which is not much.’ Debt service, Carnegie reports, shouldn't be hard while ‘Russia is also receiving large foreign currency inflows from exports.’”
    • “After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, unsubstantiated reports circulated that Putin was suffering from the effects of cancer treatment, or that he was ‘shaking uncontrollably’ during formal meetings. Then just last week he was recorded delivering a three-hour long speech to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, ‘relaxed and frequently cracking a smile’ according to the The New York Times.”
  • “The Russia-Ukraine war cries out for a negotiated settlement, and the inevitably harrowing peace negotiations should have started weeks ago. But two politicians who have spoken up for peace talks have been roundly denounced — President Emmanuel Macron of France derided as a ‘surrender monkey,’ and Henry Kissinger blasted for suggesting that Ukraine will have to cede some territory in hypothetical peace talks.”
  • “Before invading Ukraine, Putin cynically wagered that Western Europe would put a higher premium on winter warmth, thanks to Russian gas exports, than on Ukrainian sovereignty. But a cynical wager isn't necessarily a losing bet.”

Se perdessimo, la Russia rischierebbe di spaccarsi” ["If we lost, Russia would risk breaking apart”], interview of Higher School of Economics’ Sergei Karaganov to Italy’s Limes magazine, 06.03.22 (English text provided by author)

  • “There is a perception [in Russia] that [this] is an existential war, most of the population supports the president. Most of the elite are supporting but also asking for a definition of what victory is… The question is how we define the victory. And this can be only a decision of the political leadership.”
    • “Russia took over most of Eastern and Southern Ukraine and then could achieve some armistice: that would be a victory.”
    • “If Russia takes control over all left bank (of Dnipro River) it would be even more of a victory.”
  • “I don’t think Russia should take control of the full territory of Ukraine because it would be a huge burden. We strangely believed in Brzezinski’s toung-in-cheek utterance that Russia without Ukraine cannot be a viable empire. In my vision, Russia with Ukraine could not be a viable great power. Siberia, not territory of what is now Ukraine, made Russia a great power.” 
  • “We are living under very dangerous circumstances. I would call it a prolonged Cuban missile crisis. I think one of the biggest tasks for leaders, also for pundits like myself, is to avoid a nuclear world war that would finish off humanity.”
  • “Western dominance can’t be returned. The world is becoming more free. But instability comes with this freedom.”
  • “Chinese are, of course, very cautious, but they understand that if Russia loses, they would become totally vulnerable.”
  • Asked whether he sees a “risk of a disaggregation process of the Russian Federation starting as consequence of a prolonged conflict”: “We know it’s a possibility and we are openly talking about that and discuss that. We recently had an impressive discussion at the Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. We were talking about the absolute need of a victory exactly to avoid that kind of a scenario.” 

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“Will China and Russia Stay Aligned?,” Foreign Affairs expert survey, 06.21.22

FA surveyed an array of experts on China and Russia, their emerging partnership, whether this alignment will last and asked whether they agree or disagree that Chinese-Russian alignment will be a durable feature of the international system, rating their confidence on a scale of one to 10. A sampling of the responses is below.

  • Brookings Institution’s Angela Stent: “China may well be uncomfortable with the scale of violence in Ukraine and the far-reaching sanctions on Russia… But Xi needs his fellow autocrat Putin to stay in power and does not want to see Russia lose this war. … China and Russia need each other and Russia is resigned to its role as the junior partner.” Strongly agree, confidence level: 8
  • FPRI’s Stephen Blank: “This relationship is founded on strong, durable ideological and geostrategic interests that will not go away, as they are rooted in strong domestic factions and political structures in both countries.” Strongly agree, confidence level: 10
  • Quincy Institute’s Andrew Bacevich: Agree, confidence level: 6
  • CSIS’s Bonny Lin: “As U.S.-Chinese competition intensifies, China sees more value in deepening relations with Russia… Even if Russia is significantly weakened by the conflict in Ukraine, Beijing may believe that Russia could regain some of its power in the coming decades.” Agree, confidence level: 8
  • Georgetown University’s Charles Kupchan: “Partnership between Moscow and Beijing is here to stay—for now. … The war in Ukraine has only deepened Russia’s strategic and economic dependence on China. Nonetheless, there are cracks beneath the surface… The West should remain on the lookout for opportunities to put distance between Moscow and Beijing.” Agree, confidence level: 8
  • Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer: “Xi shares much of Putin’s worldview, but their interests are deeply asymmetrical. … Massive uncertainty in where this goes, especially given the potential for greater NATO-Russia confrontation.” Agree, confidence level: 3
  • Higher School of Economics’ Sergei Karaganov: Agree, confidence level: 9
  • Fudan University’s Feng Yujun: “The gap between the comprehensive national strength of China and Russia is widening day by day… China’s development has been achieved within the existing international order, which Russia strongly wishes to overturn.” Disagree, confidence level: 9
  • Russian Academy of Sciences’ Nadezhda Arbatova: “The current Russian-Chinese closeness is based on their international conflicts with the ‘collective West’ led by the United States. … Sooner or later [Russia] will come back to its European vocation… Its anti-Westernism will be abandoned as ideology. … China is an embodiment of genuine Asian culture and nationhood striving for global expansion as a superpower of the 21st century.” Disagree, confidence level: 10
  • Peking University’s Wang Jisi: “The Sino-Soviet alliance in the 1950s was claimed to be ‘unbreakable’ and ‘seamless.’ But when their differences were made open, the friendship soon turned to hostility.” Disagree, confidence level: 8
  • Princeton University’s Stephen Kotkin: “Moscow’s vassal status vis-à-vis China does nothing for Russia’s human capital, infrastructure or governance… At the same time, Russia’s purported contribution to China’s strong anti-Western orientation is exaggerated… Both China and Russia need the West more than they need each other… And if Russia becomes destabilized, which cannot be excluded, China is ultimately a predatory power out to secure its perceived interests.” Disagree, confidence level: 7
  • Harvard University’s Nargis Kassenova: “I would think there is no alternative for Russia but to keep and strengthen alignment with China in the near to medium future (5–7 years).” Agree, confidence level: 7

“Containing China Amid the Ukraine Crisis” by former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the U.N. Zalmay Khalilzad, The National Interest, 06.24.22

  • “Among the foreign policy challenges currently faced by the United States, two pose the greatest potential risk to our security and the future of the global order. One is the challenge posed by China as a rising power seeking to overtake the United States as the world’s preeminent power. The other is Russia, a declining power committing a shocking act of aggression against Ukraine in a futile bid for imperial restoration.”
  • “The poor showing of Russia in Ukraine has also created new opportunities for more defense cooperation with countries such as India and others that relied heavily on Russian military equipment.”
  • “It is also important that the United States pay attention to the Middle East to preclude Iranian hegemony in the region.”
  • “In Central and South Asia, we should promote regional connectivity, reform, and cooperation.”
  • “When it comes to China, the United States should pursue a comprehensive containment strategy and do so on a bipartisan basis.”
    • “First, the United States should strengthen its might for the range of challenges that China can pose.”
    • “Second, we need to ensure our technological lead.”
    • “Third, we should examine and address shortcomings and vulnerabilities in our supply chain.”
    • “Fourth, we need to respond to the Chinese use of trade and economic relations to change the balance of interests in key regions, especially Asia.”
    • “Fifth, we need to be alert to Chinese weaknesses—and decide how best to enlarge or increase them.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“Weapons of mass destruction: What will be new in the 2022 NATO strategic concept?,” Stanford University's Rose Gottemoeller, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 06.27.22

  • “This week’s NATO Summit in Madrid will launch a new Strategic Concept, NATO’s statement of its strategic goals and objectives, its purpose in life.”
  • “A focal point of the new Strategic Concept is bound to be weapons of mass destruction, because of Russia’s frequent chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats during the current crisis.”
  • “NATO leaders seem set on making resilience against nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological attacks a centerpiece of alliance declaratory policy in the new Strategic Concept. In this way, they will add deterrence by denial to the alliance’s considerable capacity to deter by threatening retaliation.”
  • “NATO, in brief, will resume the two-pronged approach to deterrence that it pursued during the Cold War: denying the enemy the ability to achieve its war aims by ensuring that NATO forces, populations, and territory will survive an attack (deterrence by denial), and threatening overwhelming retaliation against an attack (deterrence by punishment).”
  • “This two-pronged deterrence approach is sensible at a time of heightened chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, but it is difficult and expensive to accomplish for both military forces and civilian populations, especially when civilians might be skeptical of the need to pursue burdensome defense measures. … So NATO countries will have to pay careful attention to investing in capabilities and educating their publics in a smart way, if they are to achieve a credible deterrence by denial posture.”
  • “One other vital nuclear policy issue will be on the table: the willingness of the NATO allies to continue to pursue nuclear arms control and nonproliferation cooperation with Russia.”
  • “In the face of Russia’s onslaught against Ukraine, there is no way that Russia and NATO countries will be returning to the negotiating table any time soon. … However, the notion that NATO would abandon negotiated restraint on weapons of war is also highly unlikely, because of NATO’s firm and long-standing commitment to a dual-track approach, combining deterrence and defense with détente and dialogue.”
  • “As difficult as such talks are to imagine at this moment, NATO will want to prepare itself for an eventual return to negotiated restraint on weapons of mass destruction.”

“What If Russia Uses Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine?” former Atlantic editor Eric Schlosser, The Atlantic, 06.20.22

  • “President Joe Biden has made clear that any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would be ‘completely unacceptable’ and ‘entail severe consequences.’ But his administration has remained publicly ambiguous about what those consequences would be. That ambiguity is the correct policy.”
  • “Nevertheless, there must also be open discussion and debate outside the administration about what is really at stake. During the past month, I’ve spoken with many national-security experts and former government officials about the likelihood of Russia using nuclear weapons against Ukraine… Although they disagreed on some issues, I heard the same point again and again: The risk of nuclear war is greater today than at any other time since the Cuban missile crisis. And the decisions that would have to be made after a Russian nuclear strike on Ukraine are unprecedented.”
  • “We must be ready for hard decisions, with uncertain outcomes, that nobody should ever have to make.”
  • “None of the national-security experts I interviewed thought the United States should use a nuclear weapon in response to a Russian nuclear attack on Ukraine.”

Counterterrorism:

  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

“Russia’s gas squeeze: a moment of truth for Europe,” FT Editorial Board, 06.23.22

  • “Russia is tightening its natural gas squeeze on Europe.” 
  • “The IEA is right to say the overall answer to today’s energy squeeze and to the climate crisis is the same: a ‘massive surge’ in investment to accelerate the transition to clean energy.”
  • “Surging prices are already prompting businesses and households to cut energy use; governments must have measures in place to protect the most vulnerable from hardship — and to encourage moves to insulate homes. But many governments could do more through carefully targeted information campaigns to help consumers understand how to conserve power, and explain the real reason, beyond climate efforts, why prices are so high. Russia should not be allowed to achieve through energy blackmail what it cannot achieve on the battlefield.”

“Why the US could be the real winner in the energy wars,” foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman, FT, 06.27.22

  • “Russia and the EU are locked in a race against time. The Russian goal is clearly to engineer an economic crisis in Europe this winter — so weakening the EU’s support for Ukraine. The government of Hungary, noted for its indulgent attitude to Putin, is already pressing for a quick ceasefire in Ukraine, citing the threat of economic catastrophe.”
  • “In the short term, the global energy crunch caused by the war in Ukraine is increasing demand for non-Russian fossil fuels — including coal, the dirtiest of the lot. Germany is reopening mothballed coal plants. And China is clinging even tighter to its most reliable form of domestic energy production — coal.”

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • See other sections.

II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“From Russian Elites, No Sign of Broad Challenge to Putin,” Moscow bureau chief Anton Troianovski, NYT, 06.23.22

  • “Aleksandr Y. Lebedev looks like a prime target for sanctions meant to prompt Russia’s elites to turn against the Kremlin. … But Mr. Lebedev has a message for anyone expecting him to now try to bring down President Vladimir V. Putin: ‘It’s not going to work.’ In that matter, he insists, he is powerless. ‘What, am I supposed to now go to the Kremlin with a banner?’ Mr. Lebedev said by video call from Moscow. ‘It’s more likely to be the opposite.’”
  • “Leading Russian business owners and intellectuals fled their country after the invasion on Feb. 24, settling in places like Dubai, Istanbul and Berlin. But many others who were well-connected at home and had close ties to the West stayed behind, struggling to redefine their lives. As they did, their paths diverged — illuminating the watershed of choices that the war represents for wealthy and influential Russians, and the long odds that any broad coalition of Russians will emerge to challenge Mr. Putin.”
  • “A handful are speaking out against the war while remaining in the country, despite great personal risk. Many, like Mr. Lebedev, are keeping their head down. And some have chosen to throw in their lot with the Kremlin. ‘What we have is what we have,’ said Dmitri Trenin, who until April ran the country’s marquee American-funded think tank, the Carnegie Moscow Center, relied on by the West for independent assessments of Russian politics and policies. Now he has switched roles completely, defining the West as ‘the enemy’ and describing ‘strategic success in Ukraine’ as Russia’s ‘most important task.’”
  • “The mood of the so-called Russian elite — a kaleidoscope of senior officials, business executives, journalists and intellectuals — has been closely watched for any domestic backlash to Mr. Putin’s decision to go to war. If their dismay at the country’s sudden economic and cultural isolation were to cross a threshold, some Western officials believe, Mr. Putin might be forced to change course. Yet what is happening in reality, interviews show, is that the mood spans a spectrum from desperation to exhilaration, but with one common denominator: the sense that the country’s future is out of their hands.”
    • “‘They are drinking,’ said Yevgenia M. Albats, a journalist still in Moscow, attempting to characterize those elites who were dismayed by the decision to go to war. ‘They are drinking very heavily.’”

“Putinism delays a reformist turn in the cycle of Russian history,” Europe editor Tony Barber, FT, 06.22.22

  • “No liberal turn is imaginable under Putin. Yet Russia’s history goes in cycles: dictatorship under Joseph Stalin, reform under Nikita Khrushchev, stricter conditions under Leonid Brezhnev, liberalization under Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, repression under Putin. Though we do not know when, the cycle will surely turn again.”
  • “The irregular nature of Putin’s power structures makes it hard to identify who might embody the next turn of the cycle.”
  • “Whatever lies ahead, the west would do well to understand that its influence over Russia’s internal political direction is limited. A country free of imperial instincts and focused on improving the lot of its people would naturally be in the west’s interests. But Russia, shaped by old traditions of rule as well as its more recent past, will in the end make its own choices.”

“The Sorcerers’ Apprentices: Can Georgy Shchedrovitsky be responsible for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?,” independent researcher Ilya Kukulin, Russia Post, 06.26.22

  • “Recently, several articles appeared at once in the Russian-language internet media showing in some way how the current political elites – who have unleashed an aggressive war against Ukraine and indirectly against the West as a whole – were influenced by the methodologists (metodologi), an intellectual and social movement that formed over several decades starting in the 1960s in Moscow, centered on the charismatic philosopher Georgy Shchedrovitsky (1929-94).”
  • “The main idea of these articles is that many actors around President Putin, including Sergey Kiriyenko, have been influenced by the methodologists and that it was the methodologists who came up with the ‘Russian world’ doctrine, which, in a highly revised form, became one of the justifications for the invasion.” 
  • “In post-Soviet Russia, a myth about betrayal, which, as is claimed, could have been the only cause of the USSR’s defeat in the Cold War, apparently has emerged among part of the post-Soviet security forces. Such a myth denies all legitimacy to the post-Soviet order. The desire to get back at the West has led the believers in this myth down the road of conspiracy theories and political technology, which promises to transform large communities of people and give them a new purpose in life.”
  • “Georgy Shchedrovitsky can’t be directly blamed for this monstrous transformation. That said, the programmatic anti-humanism, equally programmatic elitism (and thus anti-egalitarianism) and ‘managerial governmentality’ of his teachings gave reason to the ‘power fetishists’ to believe that in the organization of a community (and politics is always action in a community, civitas), values are an instrumental and secondary matter.”

Russian demographer Aleksei Raksha’s interview to Novy Prospect: “The country will become smaller if measures are not taken to improve the situation,” 06.20.22

  • “It [fertility], of course, will decline for objective reasons. This is a drop in income, uncertainty about the future and new fears that have appeared. The decline in the standard of living affects the number of all children born, except for the first-borns. Although this category is also likely to be affected by the current situation. But this is not the only reason. The lack of a timely decision by the federal center to extend the most effective demographic measures, in particular, 450,000 rubles payments in lieu of mortgages to families with many children, also had a negative impact.”
  • “The current demographic decline is the echo of the 1990s when the number of births decreased by more than 2 times from 1987 to 1999. We will reach the bottom sometime around 2029-2030.”
  • “In any case, we will see a decrease in the number of children born in 2023 and 2024 and we can set an anti-record in this area since the worst years of the Second World War (1943-1944) or even over the past 250 years, if we take the territory of the modern Russian Federation.”
  • “Over time, this will lead to an increase in the share of pensioners and a decrease in the size of pensions, an increase in the retirement age, a decrease in the number of able-bodied population and, as a result, a slowdown in growth or a reduction in GDP, and a slowdown in economic development. The country will become smaller if measures are not taken to improve the demographic situation in the near future.”

“The Fall and Fall of Dmitry Medvedev,” reporter Amy Mackinnon, FP, 06.23.22

  • “The former president’s descent into a barely intelligible rage against the Western machine mirrors Russia’s broader shift from annoying neighbor to an existential threat to Europe—and maybe worse. ‘It’s one of the [bigger] intrigues of current domestic policy,’ said Tatiana Stanovaya, a Russian political analyst and founder of the R.Politik consultancy. … ‘Russia has changed. And Medvedev has to show that he belongs to this Russia,’ Stanovaya said.”
  • “Speculation about Putin’s health has electrified tabloids in the West, as the Russian president continues to keep his distance from crowds and even his own senior officials two years into the pandemic. These rumors have not gone unnoticed in Moscow either. Although Putin’s health is a closely guarded secret, it has underscored the political and physical mortality of Medvedev’s long-standing patron. ‘He’s fighting for his future place in post-Putin Russia,’ Stanovaya said.”

“Breaking Up: It’s Time to Prepare for Russia’s Disintegration,” Julian Spencer-Churchill of Concordia University, The National Interest, 06.26.22

  • “Putin’s emerging conservative social program may have staved it off, or his poorly calculated gamble in Ukraine may have accelerated the mobilization against his revanchism. However, Putin’s desperate attempt to shore up Russian geography before a liberal regime permanently closes the window of opportunity is rational. What is certain is that a liberal constitution in Moscow will lead to further secession of Russian minority territories. It is time that Western strategists think clearly about their preferred geopolitical organization of Eurasia before, rather than while, Russia begins its spontaneous disintegration.”

Defense and aerospace:

Far from the battlefield, Moscow’s generals fight a falling birth rate,” former demography correspondent Norma Cohen, FT, 06.24.22

  • “Despite the vast combat operation currently under way in Ukraine, the Kremlin has refrained from a full military mobilization and refused to admit that it is at war. There are plenty of strategic reasons for this decision, but an underlying demographic weakness may also be partly to blame: Russia has been producing too few babies.”
  • “The data for Russia indicates that its total fertility rate fell to about 1.3 babies per woman aged 15 to 44 in the early 1990s, according to the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. To maintain a stable population, the national average needs to be closer to 2.1 babies.”
  • “Three years later, concerns were growing among Russia’s military leadership that low fertility was becoming a national security issue, with Lieutenant-General Vladimir Shamanov, then commander of airborne forces, proclaiming this a ‘great danger that we can no longer ignore.’ Shamanov’s fears are borne out in the data: While the number of men aged 18 to 27 is expected to grow sharply from severely depressed levels by 2035, the size of the slightly older cohort aged 30 to 35 will fall by 50 percent over the same period, according to a study carried out on behalf of Finland’s Defense Research Agency.”
  • “The difficulty for defense chiefs is that as the war continues, new demographic factors could make things worse. Since the 1990s, deaths have been outstripping births nearly every year, although immigration has offset roughly half that population decline. This is significant given that foreigners aged 18 to 30 have been allowed to serve in Russia’s military since 2015.”
  • See also section on “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:

“Germany is struggling to give shape to a new foreign policy,” Le Monde columnist Sylvie Kauffmann, FT, 06.26.22

  • “In Germany’s case today, the code word here is Zeitenwende, or ‘turning point,’ as announced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a speech delivered to the Bundestag in February, three days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
  • “Conversations with politicians tiptoeing around the meaning of German leadership usually involve a range of considerations about responsibility, ambition, culture or co-operation. But they will have to come up with a more precise definition for the new role that SPD co-leader Lars Klingbeil envisages for Germany on the world scene, ‘after 80 years of restraint.’ An initiative from Green foreign minister Annalena Baerbock might help: she will soon launch a public debate to include German citizens in the creation of the country’s first ‘National Security Strategy.’”
  • “But many questions remain unanswered. Will there also be a Zeitenwende where Germany’s policy towards China is concerned? How will the change in posture prompted by the war in Ukraine affect the new dynamic inside the EU? Will the €100bn fund help to shape a new European defence industry? Wait, German officials say, the Zeitenwende is still a ‘learning process.’ But Europe these days does not have the luxury of time.”  

Ukraine:

  • See other sections.

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“A problematic inheritance: toothless constructions, sons and wars,” Kirill Rogov of Vienna’s Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), Russia Post, 06.22.22

  • “Without embarking on a discussion about how and who started or used the unrest that broke out in Kazakhstan at the beginning of the year, note that it turned into a fierce struggle between Nazarbayev's clientele and elites grouped around Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Tokayev emerged the victor thanks to the active participation of Moscow, while the Nazarbayev clan was defeated, meaning the end of the Nazarbayev era.”
  • “The current referendum, in which the population overwhelmingly supported the proposals of the incumbent Tokayev, basically represented a plebiscite to affirm his victory – a standard tactic of personalist autocrats – and annul the institutional props for lifelong rule that had been so carefully put in place by Nazarbayev. Nazarbayev can be no longer seen as founder of Kazakh statehood.”
  • “Tokayev's constitutional amendments may seem like a move toward democratization. … Yet one should not be fooled… As happened with Nazarbayev, guarantees can be subsequently revisited if Tokayev manages to bring the security forces and law-enforcement system to heel. The only thing limiting Tokayev is his age – he is only a year younger than the aged Vladimir Putin. Thus, it looks unlikely that he’ll have enough time to sufficiently rearrange the system around himself. In any event, the problem that confronts him now, after the new constitutional amendments, is that of succession. And it is nearly impossible to solve, as we know.”

Photo of NATO and G7 summit, March 2022, by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street, shared via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.