Russia Analytical Report, June 5-12, 2023

4 Ideas to Explore

  1. It is too early to assess the progress of Ukraine’s counteroffensive as neither Ukraine nor Russia yet committed their main forces to the fighting, which has intensified in the past week as Ukrainian forces probed Russian defenses along multiple axes in the south and east. This follows from The Economist’s interview with a source in Ukraine’s general staff, who sees commanders on both sides engaged in a “chess game” to draw out each other’s reserves. Of multiple Ukrainian attacks, it is an advance near the Zaporizhzhia region city of Tokmak that may evolve into the “main push” as it would threaten Russia’s main road to Crimea, according to The Economist.
  2. The Russian-Ukrainian war will end someday, but for the peace to be lasting, the West needs not only to help Ukraine to recover much of its lost territory, rebuild and enter EU; it must also refrain from treating Russia as a “permanent pariah,” according to Oxford’s Margaret MacMillan. Otherwise, “the future for both countries will be one of misery, political instability, and revanchism,” MacMillan warns in her essay for FA.
  3. The U.S. should attempt to reduce tensions with Russia by taking a number of unilateral steps in the nuclear arms domain, according to Harvard Professor Matthew Bunn. Inferring lessons from John F. Kennedy’s 1963 speech at American University, Bunn urged the White House to take several steps, including taking a portion of U.S. nuclear missiles off alert,  committing to not being the first to use nuclear weapons unless the very survival of the U.S. and its treaty allies are at stake, and to pledge the U.S. would never deploy its missiles where they could reach Moscow or Beijing in just a few minutes. “None of those steps would endanger U.S. security. If reciprocated, each of them would improve security significantly,” Bunn argued in NI. In a commentary for The Hill, Harvard researcher Francesca Giovannini also called for using Kennedy’s nuclear legacy to avoid a direct clash between NATO and Russia, but warned that “Putin is not Khrushchev, and today’s America is no longer Kennedy’s America.” And according to Harvard fellow Nicole Grajewski’s take on lessons of Kennedy’s 1963 speech, “The relevance of Kennedy’s speech to the current U.S.-Russia arms control situation is clear: it calls for a return to diplomacy, open dialogue, and a recognition of shared interests.”
  4. Developing and maintaining effective international regulation of AI is of vital importance, but doing so would require the normalization of the United States’ relations with China and Russia, according to American author Robert Wright. The effectiveness of any such regulation would require “grained and intrusive monitoring and … periodic refinement of the rules — things much harder to reconcile with a Cold War atmosphere,” Wright argued in his commentary for WP.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

"Thwarting Nuclear Terrorism Through Data-Sharing," high school junior Sergey Shkolnikov, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, June 2023.

  • “One way to decrease the likelihood of non-state nuclear acquisition is an international database for nuclear weapons, which would increase accountability and confidence without decreasing a state’s war-waging capabilities, and may be more feasible in the short term than a total nuclear-zero or an actual reduction of arm stocks. Such a database would ideally begin with inventories of nuclear weapons and fissile materials, and expand to include locations, practices, and technology.”
  • “One of the biggest risks inherent to nuclear stockpiles is the possibility of unstable non-state actors such as terrorists gaining access to them... Transparent accounting for these nuclear weapons, while not reducing a state’s war-waging capabilities, could be an important step toward the reduction of nuclear risk by demonstrating international cooperation while allowing states to bolster and maintain their security.”

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • No significant developments.

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

"Ukraine Is Counter-Attacking in Multiple Directions, With Mixed Results," The Economist, 06.11.23.

  • “Ukraine is just a week into its counter-offensive against the Russians, but already the reports from the frontlines range from upbeat to gloomy.”
    • “On June 11th its 68th brigade reported that it had liberated Blahodatne, a village in Donetsk province, 10km inside Russian-occupied territory. Russian military bloggers suggested that the raid had gone much deeper still, and taken in other nearby villages. There was some progress made near Bakhmut further north-east, too, with Ukrainians advancing to encircle the devastated town that has been the only real focus of Russia’s offensive efforts for the past year.”
    • “That progress contrasted with less encouraging news from another counter-offensive operation taking place further south and west, in the Zaporizhia region. Full-frontal fighting along the Orikhiv-Tokmak axis there has been hard going, a military source conceded, with Ukraine taking significant losses of armour and personnel.” 
  • “The full shape of Ukraine’s plans is yet to become clear. The scale of the deployment along the Tokmak axis — and the town’s strategic role as both a rail hub and a gateway to strike at the Russian main road to Crimea — suggested at one point that it might grow into a main push. But a source in Ukraine’s general staff urged caution. ‘We haven’t committed our main forces, and the Russians haven’t committed their main forces.’ Both were involved in a ‘chess game’ to draw out each others’ reserves, he said.”

"The High Stakes of Ukraine’s Offensive," WSJ Editorial Board, WSJ, 06.11.23.

  • “Ukraine's counter-offensive has begun against Russian forces in the country's occupied east and south, and the stakes are extremely high for Kyiv and the West.”
  • “A particular strategic objective will be to drive to the Sea of Azov. This would break up Russian supply lines to its troops in the south. It will also disrupt Russia's so-called land bridge connecting Russian-occupied Donetsk to the Crimean peninsula. ...Crimea is also likely to be a Ukrainian target, even if it can't be entirely retaken.”
  • “Russia retains the military advantage in number of troops and firepower. It can also still do considerable damage from the skies, even if it doesn't have total air superiority. Experienced Chechen forces loyal to Russia are said to be moving to the front lines, replacing troops from the mercenary Wagner Group that have been taking heavy losses.”
  • “But the Wagner Group and Russian leaders are increasingly at odds. Russian army troops also suffer from low morale and poor training, especially compared to Ukrainian forces … Russia remains a slower adapting top-down force, as it demonstrated during the failure of its initial assault on Kyiv in 2022.”
  • “Ukraine's greatest advantage has been the willingness of its people to fight and die for their homeland. … The stakes for Europe and the U.S. are great. A Ukraine advance that recaptures much of its land would vindicate Western military and financial support. ... A Ukrainian failure to advance would encourage the isolationists on the U.S. right and left to block more support. … Backing Ukraine is in America's national interest.”

"Dam Disaster Complicates Ukraine’s Counteroffensive," Editorial Board, FT, 06.07.23.  

  • “In net terms, the breaching at Kakhovka deals a setback to Ukraine’s incipient counteroffensive. It complicates what is widely assumed to be Kyiv’s central military aim: driving southwards to sever the land bridge between Russia and Crimea that is arguably the one big strategic and symbolic gain from Moscow’s invasion.”
  • “Ukraine’s main southern thrust is unlikely to have come across the Dnipro. But by knocking out a road crossing, widening the river even more and waterlogging land to its east, the dam collapse will make it almost impossible in the near term for Kyiv’s soldiers to stage assaults from there aimed at tying down Russian forces.”
  • "The Kakhovka incident highlights Russian forces’ ability to compensate for their shortcomings — and the lengths to which President Vladimir Putin is prepared to go. The chances of Ukrainian breakthroughs cannot be written off. Yet even as Western allies hope for a decisive shift within months, they will have to be ready to persevere in their support for the long haul.”

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

Corralling Moscow’s foreign wealth,” Martin Sandbu, FT, 06.07.23.

  • Immobilising Russian assets abroad — and ultimately confiscating them — makes a tangible and significant difference to Moscow’s capacity to wage war. That includes not just official reserves but the unsanctioned surpluses we should think of as ‘shadow’ reserves. So what should be done now? Here are five proposals for leaders who want to make a difference:
    •    Disclose all information about official reserves immediately: pass regulations requiring central banks and private financial institutions to post on their website and keep updated the holdings of the CBR.
    •  Identify and publish transaction details for the bank accounts of western subsidiaries of Russia’s extractive exporters, where the hard currency payments are received, and trace as far as possible where the money goes from there.
    •  Sanction the NCC [National Clearing Center]
    • For the Russian hydrocarbon sales that remain legal, require payments above estimated production costs (perhaps $20-$30) to be paid into escrow accounts.
    • Toughen the squeeze on hydrocarbon revenues by lowering the price cap, and introduce similar restrictions on EU imports of Russian gas.

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • No significant developments.

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

“How Wars Don’t End. Ukraine, Russia, and the Lessons of World War I,” Oxford University’s Margaret MacMillan, FA, 06.12.23.

  • “Ukraine and its supporters may well hope for an overwhelming victory and the fall of the Putin regime. Yet if Russia is left in turmoil, bitter and isolated, with many of its leaders and people blaming others for its failures, as so many Germans did in those interwar decades, then the end of one war could simply lay the groundwork for another.”
  • “Leaders with the power to take their countries into war — or hold them back — can rarely be considered mere machines tabulating costs and benefits. If Putin had made the proper calculations at the beginning, he would probably not have invaded Ukraine, or at least he would have tried to extricate Russian forces as soon as it became clear that he would not get the rapid, cheap conquest he expected. Emotions — resentment, pride, fear — can influence decisions great and small, and as 1914 showed, so can the experiences of those making the decisions.”
  • “Even prolonged wars eventually end, sometimes when one belligerent can no longer fight, and sometimes through negotiation. The latter outcome, however, is only possible when both sides are prepared to talk and compromise.” 
  • “Georges Clemenceau, the French prime minister in 1919, once said that making peace is harder than waging war. We may well be about to rediscover the truth of his words. Even if the war in Ukraine can reach something like an ending, building peace in its wake will be a formidable challenge. Losers do not easily accept defeat, and victors find it hard to be magnanimous.” 
  • “The fate of the Axis powers after World War II offers at least hope that the Russia of today may one day be as distant a memory as is the Germany of 1945. For Ukraine, there is the promise of better days if the war can be wound down favorably for it, with the country recovering much of its lost eastern territories and its Black Sea coast, as well as being admitted to the EU. But if that does not happen and the West does not make a sustained effort to help Ukraine rebuild — and if Western leaders are determined to treat Russia as a permanent pariah — then the future for both countries will be one of misery, political instability, and revanchism.”

“How the West Can Secure Ukraine’s Future. Kyiv Needs a Binding Commitment Before NATO Membership,” CEIP’s Eric Ciaramella, FA, 06.07.23.

  • “In the run-up to July’s NATO summit in Vilnius, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pressing for his country to be admitted to the alliance, although he acknowledges that this is ‘impossible’ until the war ends. Ukraine also faces a long road ahead in its quest to gain membership in the EU, which offers its own security guarantee. A solution in the meantime would be the creation of interlocking multilateral agreements that can sustain a well-trained and well-equipped Ukrainian military. The West can bolster this arrangement, modeled in part after the U.S. defense relationship with Israel, by making clear, codified, long-term commitments to Ukraine to ensure that Kyiv can plan for its future security needs. This approach would give Ukraine security until it becomes a member of the EU and — perhaps one day — NATO.”
  • “A future security arrangement for Ukraine must be built on solid legal and political foundations. … The United States and European countries should work with Kyiv on a new framework agreement to define their strategic goals and collective commitments. These should include the financial and practical parameters of long-term support for Ukraine’s self-defense, as well as mechanisms for consultation and support for Ukraine’s defense industry.”
  • “Ukraine’s long-term security relationship with the West must be decided without Russian input. Crucially, however, the arrangement leaves open the possibility of a future confidence-building dialogue with Moscow along the lines of the prewar proposals floated by the United States and its allies. In late 2021 and early 2022, NATO allies were prepared to give Russia assurances that they would not deploy offensive ground-based missile systems or station permanent combat forces in Ukraine. Moscow rejected these proposals and invaded anyway. In the future, the arrangement’s political framework and consultative mechanisms would lay the groundwork for Ukraine, the United States, and Europe to negotiate these issues jointly with Russia if the Kremlin changed course and accepted Ukraine’s independence and borders.”
  • “The return to a Cold War–like security order in Europe is now a fact of life. Ukraine has become the fulcrum of this new order. NATO membership might not yet be in the cards for Kyiv, but leaving Ukraine without a reliable security arrangement would be a grave mistake. The United States and Europe must begin now to devise a workable plan, even as the war rages on.”

“The Key to Ending the War in Ukraine? Attacking Crimea,” the Atlantic Council’s John E. Herbst and Daniel Fried, WP, 06.06.23.

  • “[Ukraine’s] path to victory is anything but straightforward. But one way or another, it likely passes through Crimea.”
  • “Crimea represents a point of maximum leverage. It is exactly where Ukraine needs to make battlefield gains to bring this war to a successful conclusion.”
  • “A Ukrainian advance that put Crimea within Ukrainian artillery range would create a huge and expensive logistical problem for Russian President Vladimir Putin. His military and civilian administration in Crimea would be particularly threatened if Ukraine were also able to fully destroy, or even keep under steady fire, the bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting the peninsula directly with Russia. Such a setback would have political ramifications in Moscow, and the fissures that we currently see in the Putin regime would grow.”
  • “Putting serious pressure on Crimea is the fastest way to end the war on conditions acceptable to Ukraine. Kyiv does not want a negotiated cease-fire that Moscow would exploit to rearm and resume the war at a more propitious time. Only this kind of ringing defeat will force Russia to finally accept Ukraine as a fully sovereign state. A stalemate born of an overabundance of Western caution, on the other hand, will just embolden Putin to keep trying — and needlessly prolong Russia's hideous war of aggression.”

“The Eyes of the World Are Upon Ukraine,” columnist Paul Krugman, NYT, 06.07.23.

  • “If Ukraine wins this war, some of its supporters abroad will no doubt be disillusioned to discover the nation’s darker side. Before the war, Ukraine ranked high on measures of perceived corruption — better than Russia, but that’s not saying much. Victory won’t make the corruption go away. And Ukraine does have a far-right movement, including paramilitary groups that have played a part in its war.”
  • “Yet like the flaws of the Allies in World War II, these shadows don’t create any equivalence between the two sides in this war. Ukraine is an imperfect but real democracy, hoping to join the larger democratic community. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a malevolent actor, and friends of freedom everywhere have to hope that it will be thoroughly defeated.”
  • “The point is that the stakes in Ukraine right now are very high. If Ukraine’s counteroffensive succeeds, the forces of democracy will be strengthened around the world, not least in America. If it fails, it will be a disaster not just for Ukraine but for the world. Western aid to Ukraine may dry up, Putin may finally achieve the victory most people expected him to win in the war’s first few days, and democracy will be weakened everywhere.”
  • “On the eve of D-Day, Dwight Eisenhower told the expeditionary force, ‘The eyes of the world are upon you.’ Now the eyes of the world are upon the armed forces of Ukraine. Let’s hope they succeed.”

“Strengthening Ukrainian Resiliency in the Medium to Long Term,” Harvard Kennedy School’s Ilya Timtchenko, HKS Belfer Center, May 2023.

  • “The longer the war continues, the more damage Ukraine’s economy and infrastructure will suffer as Russian missiles hit Ukrainian cities. A protracted war means a heightened chance of disasters affecting millions of people across the globe, such as an environmental disaster caused by a nuclear plant explosion, or a global food crisis among poorer nations due to Russia’s blocking of Ukraine’s ports. In turn, this means the costs of the war continue to grow. It could require one trillion dollars to rebuild war-torn Ukraine and potentially hundreds of billions to continue to equip Ukraine’s army.”
  • “Despite increased Western support for Ukraine, there is a significant risk that the longer the war extends, the more likely it is that Ukraine’s partners will grow weary of the war and that transatlantic unanimity will falter, particularly if the war in Ukraine becomes a polarized issue domestically in the United States.”
  • “A prolonged war in Ukraine means higher expenses for the country – both in terms of the economy and lives lost – as well as for the U.S. and Ukraine’s other allies in terms of support, with an even more embattled Russian regime that is unlikely to acknowledge defeat given sunken costs and no politically viable alternative. This long-term prospect raises the risk of Russia making increasingly irrational, desperate decisions with negative consequences for Ukrainians and the international community. Therefore, the United States and allies must confidently continue to support Ukraine during their time of need. A more empowered Ukraine now means a shorter war timeframe in the future and, therefore, less costs for the U.S."

“Macron Tries a Mea Culpa on NATO and Ukraine,’” columnist Lionel Laurent, Bloomberg, 06.07.23.

  • “Emmanuel Macron’s love of sweeping, De Gaulle-style rhetoric has gotten the French leader into hot water with his allies — whether it was declaring NATO ‘brain dead,’ arguing the need to not ‘humiliate’ Russia after the Ukraine invasion, or casting Europeans as American ‘vassals.’ Which is perhaps why Macron is now trying a more conciliatory tack.”
  • “Macron’s mea culpa has wider aims. It extends a hand to Eastern and Baltic states that have viewed Paris as an unreliable security partner, building more bridges inside the EU at a time when recession is now adding to Germany’s headaches. And with US politicians seemingly more focused on China than Ukraine, Macron clearly sees a chance to elbow his way into a leadership role.”
  • “Macron is right to try a new approach, and the gospel of a more self-reliant Europe is worth preaching. But even a message as simple and popular as supporting Ukraine may not be enough to truly galvanize Europe or propel Macron’s agenda forward. If Paris fails to back up words with action or real diplomatic investment — which wouldn’t be the first time — this may not be the last mea culpa Macron offers his partners.”

"‘We Lost an Opportunity To Listen to You’: Why Macron Is Embracing Eastern Europe,” Brookings fellow Tara Varma, Brookings, June 6, 2023.

  • “On May 31, 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech at GLOBSEC, a security conference organized by a think tank in the Slovak capital Bratislava, wherein he formalized his much-awaited opening to the East of Europe.”
  • “Macron’s speech in Bratislava last week had several purposes.”
    • “Firstly, it was meant as tacit atonement for his previous overtures to Russia.”
    • “Secondly, the speech was intended to acknowledge how the contributions of Central and Eastern European countries have helped the EU become a stronger geopolitical actor.”
    • “Finally, the president wanted to reassure his listeners that France is indeed not seeking to build a European Union that excludes the new aspirants in Eastern Europe or pushes the trans-Atlantic alliance aside.”
  • “Macron being Macron, he doesn’t shy away from ambitious goals. He wants Europe to be at the table for the arms control discussion. He also confirmed that the conference on air defense, which he had announced at the Munich Security Conference in February 2023, would take place on June 19, 2023, in Paris, and he invited all EPC participating countries to attend it. One can be hopeful that the Macron method in foreign policy is taking a more inclusive turn and that Macron’s opening to Eastern Europe is now on track.”

“Consolidating Germany’s Russia Policy,” Eastern Europe and Eurasia Division researcher Susan Stewart, SWP, June 2023.

  • “The ‘Zeitenwende’ in international politics implies a need to improve strategic thinking and better prepare for future challenges. Germany is already doing so by drafting strategic documents on national security and relations with China. With respect to Russia, a similar approach suggests itself.”
    • “First, because Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has significantly worsened the situation in Europe and beyond for the foreseeable future.”
    • “Second, because the conception of a Russia policy based on the principles declared since 2022 offers an opportunity to correct previous mistakes and transform measures that have emerged from a crisis situation into long-term policy.”
  • “Military deterrence must be a key element of the security component of policy towards Russia. For Germany, this means building up the Bundeswehr to the point where it can (together with alliance partners) credibly defend the country if necessary. … The recently adopted course of economic decoupling from Russia should be contin­ued for the foreseeable future. This is not only due to existing sanctions, but also because supporting the Russian economy means bolstering a regime that is not only waging an unprovoked, brutal war against its neighbour but furthermore regards Germany and the EU as enemies and has attempted for years to undermine the foundations of their peaceful, democratic, and rules-based order.”
  • “Germany has a good chance of re­gaining the trust of its neighbours in energy matters, as it has already taken decisive steps to become independent of Russian energy supplies and to increase the produc­tion of renewable energy. The EU’s embar­goes on coal, oil, and oil products from Russia, which have now come into force, are also helping to ensure that Germany and other EU member states renounce their dependence on Russian energy sources.”
  • “The major change at the political level con­sists of a drastic reduction in the number and extent of contacts. This not only fol­lows from the discontinuation of cooperation in most areas, but also represents a conclusion based on experiences from pre­vious years that, in certain cases, dialogue is of no help and can even be counterproductive. If the other side is not interested in a better understanding of Germany’s posi­tion, but instead intends to continue ham­mering home its own stance, dialogue can­not produce the desired results.”
  • “At present, it is difficult to do much more than encourage those actors who still have ties to civil society to preserve them to the extent possible.”
    • “The above analysis suggests that a new Euro­pean security order must be created without Russia.”

“Keeping America close, Russia down, and China far away: How Europeans navigate a competitive world,” senior policy fellows Jana Puglierin and Pawel Zerka, ECFR, 06.07.23.

  • A public opinion poll conducted by ECFR across 11 EU countries in April revealed:
  • “Russia’s war on Ukraine has shown European citizens that they live in a world of non-cooperation. But their cooperative foreign policy instincts are only slowly adapting to this new reality.”
  • “Europeans want to remain neutral in a potential US-China conflict and are reluctant to de-risk from China – even if they recognise the dangers of its economic presence in Europe. However, if China decided to deliver weapons to Russia, that would be a red line for much of the European public.”
  • “Europeans remain united on their current approach to Russia – though they disagree about Europe’s future Russia policy.”
  • “They have embraced Europe’s closer relationship with the US, but they want to rely less on American security guarantees.”
  • “European leaders have an opportunity to build public consensus around Europe’s approach to China, the US, and Russia. But they need to understand what motivates the public and communicate clearly about the future.”

"Ukraine’s Dam Explosion Is a Red Line: Russia Must Feel the Consequences," former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Richard Shirreff, FT, 06.09.23.

  • “Truly, the horsemen of the apocalypse have descended upon Ukraine. With the Kakhovka dam breach, Russia has seemingly added a grotesque act of environmental terrorism to brutal occupation, the continuing loss of a generation of young Ukrainian men and women in combat, the massacre of civilians and the destruction of cities on a scale not seen in Europe since 1945.”
  • “This war is not only against Ukraine, but also against the west and Ukraine joining the west. Even when Kyiv has achieved its military objectives (which, with the full-blooded support of its allies, it can do), Russia will remain an angry, humiliated, traumatized, revanchist state determined to eliminate Ukraine and rebuild another Russian empire.”
  • “The only way to keep Europe free of war for generations to come is for NATO to establish a line of deterrent steel around its eastern frontier, with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia and, perhaps one day Belarus, inside. This means the alliance needs to be prepared for the worst case: war with Russia.” 

“How Russia Went from Ally to Adversary,” contributing writer Keith Gessen, New Yorker, 06.19.23.

  • “The development of Russia in the post-Cold War period was not the result of a Western plot or Western actions. Russian officials chose, within a narrow range of options, how to behave, and they could have chosen differently. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, in February, 2022, was no more inevitable or foreordained than the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in 2003. Still, it’s worth asking what other course we might have followed.”
  • “Mary Sarotte, in her book on NATO, argues that a slower pace of expansion might have caused less damage to Russian internal politics; in time, with less pressure from an expanding West, Russia might have come around. Ther suggests that, in place of Western triumphalism and complacency, a more serious reckoning with the revolutionary ideals of 1989 — a striving for democracy and freedom of the sort that was utopian even by Western standards — could have led to a different result. In Vladislav Zubok’s book on the demise of the Soviet Union, the top American officials — Scowcroft, Baker, and Bush — are depicted as thoughtful and sympathetic but also, in the end, keeping their cards, and their cash, too close to their vests. Everyone in the former Soviet bloc looked to America for guidance and inspiration. Never had the prestige of the United States been higher in that part of the world. We had an astonishing amount of moral capital. What did we do with it?”
  • “Ultimately, the West chose the West. We extended our writ where we could, and dug in where we had to. This meant, among other things, keeping the structures we already had in place and expanding them, as opposed to inventing new ones. Back in 1990, three months after the ‘not one inch’ meeting, Gorbachev had waxed lyrical to Baker about a new pan-European security arrangement. The American Secretary of State’s response was polite, but firm: ‘It is an excellent dream, but only a dream.’”

"Why the UN Still Matters Great-Power Competition Makes It More Relevant — Not Less," UCLA's Kal Raustiala and Viva Iemanjá Jerónimo, a Political Scientist who recently graduated from Yale, FA, 06.07.23.

  •  “The United States and China are likely to be increasingly adversarial in the decade ahead. But politics makes strange bedfellows. Although there is substantial scope for disagreement and division at the UN, the history of the Cold War suggests that there are also powerful incentives to cooperate.”
  • “As always, the organization will remain unable to tackle issues that directly implicate core interests of the great powers. That is not a bug in the system, but a feature. It was Roosevelt’s belief — one shared by Churchill and Stalin — that the great powers would only participate in the institution if they possessed the added protection of a veto over Security Council actions. By embedding the leading powers in a body with the unprecedented capacity to impose its will on others, the framers of the UN ensured that the UN would not suffer the fate of its predecessor, the League of Nations, which proved unable to halt the outbreak of a major conflict in the 1930s.”
  • “As a result, serving as a venue for great-power cooperation remains the chief way the UN maintains its relevance. There are currently a dozen active peacekeeping missions in the field and 15 ongoing sanctions regimes against member states. The cooperation of the United States and China was required to set up and sustain each of these. Together, these actions make an important difference on the ground. But they also permit the Security Council, collectively, to command and control a wide variety of global actors.”
  • “As long as the UN remains the primary institution of global governance, those who dominate the organization will find compelling reasons to preserve it. The UN continues to be the best tool for achieving a rules-based international order — at least one in which the leading powers set the rules.”

“We Are Throwing Off the Western Yoke,” the Higher School of Economics’ Sergei Karaganov, interviewed by Business Online/Russia in Global Affairs, 06.07.23.[1] Clues from Russian Views.

  • “The world was different even a year ago. For example, China has turned during this time from a great economic power into a great foreign political power. … The trend of the past several years is the liberation of the world from the yoke of the West.”
  • “We are in the state of the most powerful and growing world earthquake. … After earthquakes, new continents, countries arise. … That's how a new world is created.”
  • “I believe that this kind of conflict [over Ukraine]  is a failure my generation, because we could have prevented an open war in Europe, which, perhaps, is now only in the initial phase. It was necessary to act earlier and more decisively. We appeased for too long. … As for our chance for victory, it is great. … Although the struggle will be very long.”
  • “We act as the icebreaker of the new world, and many countries are taking advantage of our actions to break the five-century ice of Western domination and domination. We are fighting against a very strong but weakening and retreating civilization.”

“Can you imagine what would have happened if we had gotten involved in this confrontation — that was practically inevitable — if China had not stood behind us? Just as China would have been qualitatively weaker if Russia had not stood behind it. … We must move to the East. Mentally, economically, politically. … We are throwing off the western yoke.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

"A Final Reckoning? Sino-Russian Relations Amid Russia’s War on Ukraine,” Mikhail Troitskiy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, PONARS, June 2023.

  • “Authoritarian states find it difficult to engage in ‘deep negotiation’ about far-reaching economic deals and alignments. Such deals either create unwanted autonomous centers of political and economic gravity within those authoritarian countries or compromise the ideological agendas that authoritarian leaders use to justify their rule.”
    • “For example, how can Russia be ‘completely sovereign’ — as its leaders have suggested it should be — if large investors from other countries are allowed to pull the strings in Russian economics and politics?”
  • “There is likely a significant potential for economic engagement between Beijing and Moscow if Russia were to evolve toward a rule-of-law pluralistic society rather than a patronal national-security state. That potential may be unlocked once Russian bureaucracies see as their mission their country’s prosperity instead of self-enrichment and advancement of whichever policy their patrons fancy.”
  • “For many decades, it has been common among analysts globally to scare the United States and its allies with the strengthening of the Sino-Russian quasi-alliance: unless Washington becomes more attentive to Moscow’s interests and aspirations, Russia is going to fall irreversibly into China’s embrace. But in fact, what we have been observing so far have been suboptimal conditions for full-scale Sino-Russian economic engagement. Their interdependence may begin to flourish if there is at least limited political transition in one or both counterparts.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms

“Biden Must Heed JFK’s Lessons on Rolling Back Nuclear Dangers,” Harvard Kennedy School’s Matthew Bunn, NI, 06.10.23.

  • “Sixty years ago … Kennedy made the case that the horrors of a potential nuclear holocaust made it urgent to find a path to peace and that doing so required both sides of the Cold War to change. He announced that the United States would unilaterally stop testing its nuclear weapons until a treaty banning such tests could be reached.”
  • “Kennedy’s initiative … drew on the ideas of psychologist Charles E. Osgood, who had published a paper on a strategy he called ‘Graduated Reciprocation in Tension-Reduction,’ or GRIT. The concept was that with two sides in a high state of tension, one side could unilaterally take a tension-reducing step — large enough to be noticed, but small enough not to endanger its security — and challenge the other side to take a step of its own. Osgood argued that the challenge should not be a specific demand, because, in such a state of high tension, the other side would likely see a specific demand as asking too much. Osgood proposed that the first step be accompanied by an unambiguous statement of a new, peaceful policy — exactly what Kennedy did in his American University address.”
  • “Today, … the need for reducing tensions is urgent, and there is more Biden could do.”
    • “He could announce that a portion of U.S. nuclear missiles would be taken off alert: surely not all of them need to be ready for immediate launch.”
    • “He could commit that the United States would never use nuclear weapons first unless the very survival of our country or one of our treaty allies was at stake.”
    • “He could commit that the United States would never deploy its missiles where they could reach Moscow or Beijing in just a few minutes.”
    • “He could offer to let Chinese or Russian experts monitor U.S. weapons-maintenance experiments to confirm American compliance with the nuclear test ban.”
    • “He could commit that all U.S. nuclear enrichment and plutonium reprocessing activities would be available for international inspection to confirm they were not being used to make new material for nuclear weapons.”
  • “None of those steps would endanger U.S. security. If reciprocated, each of them would improve security significantly. They might be a first step toward new arms restraints that could take the place of New START — the last remaining treaty limiting U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear force numbers — when it expires in early 2026. … The world today is very different from the world of six decades ago. But the need to manage hostility among nuclear-armed states is no less. Biden should draw on Kennedy’s example and pursue new steps to reduce nuclear dangers.”

“Where Does Kennedy’s Nuclear Legacy Leave Us 60 Years Later?”, Francesca Giovannini, The Hill, 06.10.23.

  • “While continuing our support to Ukraine, we owe it to future generations to try our best to avoid a direct clash between NATO and the Russian Federation. Striking a balance between assessing realistic risks of escalation and maintaining our steadfast support for Ukraine will prove increasingly challenging as the war endures. So, what ought to be done to achieve such a balancing act? Kennedy’s words might provide helpful guidance.”
    • “First, let’s work to deter without provoking. To achieve this goal, we have to balance our allocation of resources better.”
    • “Second, let’s have a frank discussion on the costs and benefits of arms control with Russia today.”
    • “Most importantly, let’s get clear-eyed on what we are prepared to concede should the Russians accept to come to the table and negotiate new arms control proposals.”
    • “Finally, let’s think seriously about how we can fight and win against the Russian propaganda machine.”
  • “I fully support Kennedy’s vision for a peaceful world. However, Putin is not Khrushchev, and today’s America is no longer Kennedy’s America. We have to be aware of these profound historical differences and begin rethinking our approach to arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament with that clarity in mind. But we should never give up our hope and aspirations for greater peace and a more harmonious world. We ought it to the whole humanity who will come after us.”

"Reflections on John F. Kennedy's 1963 American University Commencement Speech," Harvard Kennedy School's Nicole Grajewski, HKS Belfer Center blog, 06.07.23.

  • “Kennedy’s speech came at a critical juncture in Cold War history when tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union had reached an alarming level. Months prior to the speech, the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 marked one of the most perilous moments in Cold War history.”
  • “Against this backdrop, President Kennedy emphasized the imperative to focus ‘on a more practical, more attainable peace’ through ‘a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned.’ It was a call for a manageable peace that did not eradicate differences between the superpowers but recognized a common interest in averting the devastation of nuclear war.”
  • “Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, was reportedly moved by Kennedy’s call for peace and his acknowledgment of the shared human condition that transcended ideological boundaries. In fact, the speech was broadcast multiple times on Soviet Radio and published in Pravda the next day. True to form, Soviet media suggested that the speech was inspired by Khrushchev’s peaceful coexistence.”
  • “The challenges that Kennedy sought to address in his speech are just as relevant today. Over the past two decades, we have witnessed a decline in regimes, treaties, and confidence-building measures which have resulted in a severe crisis in arms control. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the statements made by Vladimir Putin, expressing a willingness for nuclear use, have further exacerbated the precarious state of arms control. These developments have contributed significantly to the current crisis, demanding urgent attention and a renewed commitment to finding viable solutions.”
  • “The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the last pillar of U.S.-Russian arms control, has been put into jeopardy. … The situation remains dire, demanding renewed efforts to overcome the current impasse and work toward effective arms control agreements. The relevance of Kennedy’s speech to the current U.S.-Russia arms control situation is clear: it calls for a return to diplomacy, open dialogue, and a recognition of shared interests, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.”

“US/NATO-Russian Strategic Stability and the War in Ukraine,” Mary Chesnut, Research Analyst in the Russia Studies Program at CNA Corporation, CNA, 06.23.

  • “This paper examine[s] US/NATO-Russian strategic stability in the Russo-Ukrainian war. After assessing real and hypothetical instances of horizontal and vertical escalation, it appears that avoiding and deterring horizontal escalation on both sides, at least in this conflict, may be easier and more successful given appreciation for the inherent risks of two nuclear weapons states fighting each other directly.”
  • “By contrast, vertical escalation may be more challenging to deter, and red lines may be harder to gauge. This is in part due to the fact that the effects of Western vertical escalation may compound slowly over time. Two major additional escalation challenges arise where there is significant ambiguity between sides: (1) What does Russia consider ‘Russian homeland’ or ‘Russian territory’?, and (2) When does Western support become direct involvement? The inherent ambiguity in these questions presents opportunities for deliberate risk manipulation as well as miscalculation.”
  • “In addition, while the US has attempted to prevent the deterioration of crisis stability from having a spillover impact on arms race stability by de-linking the two issues, Russia has consistently stressed throughout the conflict that it could not divorce the matter of bilateral arms control from ‘geopolitical realities.’ As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its subsequent political linkages, the future of the New START nuclear agreement and of US-Russian nuclear arms control is uncertain.” 
  • “Finally, there are a variety of wide-ranging near-term and long-term impacts that flow from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Near-term impacts include several NATO reactions to enhance security and reassure alliance members, the stagnation of the Strategic Stability Dialogue (SSD), and Russia’s suspension of and noncompliance with the New START treaty. In the long term, the security dilemma response loop poses significant risks for US-Russia and NATO-Russia relations, Russia may have an increased Russian reliance on its nuclear arsenal, and the already-complicated environment for negotiating future US-Russian bilateral nuclear arms control agreements may become more tenuous.”

“Russia and the United States in the context of strategic instability: what are the risks of nuclear escalation?” Higher School of Economics’ Lev Sokolshchik\, RIAC, 06.07.23. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “The dynamics of the Ukrainian crisis, which is rapidly developing in a spiral of escalation, causes serious concerns. It is increasingly evident that it is not as much the fate of Ukraine that is being decided, but that of Europe its security, and even more widely - of the entire world order.”
  • “The strategic culture of the Western elites has degraded so much that ideological fears and anti-Russian hysteria can lead to a direct collision between Russia and NATO and the escalation of the conflict to a new military-strategic level.”
  • “At least since 2018, Russian leadership has been making clear that in its view the existence of the world makes no sense if it exists without Russia.” 
  • “If we still consider the option of nuclear escalation, then an exchange of nuclear strikes between the United States and Russia and total nuclear war is less likely than a tactical use of nuclear weapons. However, even the limited use of nuclear weapons would create a situation in which it is extremely difficult to predict and control the further development of events. This, in turn, is fraught with a slide into a full-scale nuclear war.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

“To Blunt the Threat of Harm From AI, First Prevent Cold War II,” Robert Wright, WP, 06.07.23

  • “You don't have to buy the most catastrophic AI scenarios — such as the ones in which AIs gain power and deem humans a disposable nuisance — to believe technology is at a dangerous historical juncture. Focus instead on the socially destabilizing end of the spectrum, and imagine where present trends could lead within a few years. Whatever AI's eventual benefits (which will be many), it is pretty much guaranteed to:”
    • “Cause big waves of unemployment.”
    • “Give partisan online warriors powerful new ways to stoke tribal conflict.”
    • “Give malicious hackers more potent tools.”
    • “Give ‘mind hackers’ — people who aim to draw the vulnerable into dark worlds for malign purposes — new tools.”
  • “Isn't it at least possible that the AI challenge is so momentous that it, not Cold War II, should be the organizing principle of U.S. foreign policy? Maybe if this grave and conceivably existential challenge can't be dealt with amid deep international tensions, then the United States should try to lessen the tensions?”
    • “Some of the people who best understand the technology's emerging capabilities think the answer is yes. Geoffrey Hinton, sometimes called ‘the godfather of AI,’ fears that AI may constitute an ‘existential threat’ and believes that responsibly governing it will be impossible in an environment of bitter competition between the United States and China.”
  • “The effective international regulation of AI will call for fine-grained and intrusive monitoring and for periodic refinement of the rules — things much harder to reconcile with a cold war atmosphere. Ideally, there will be, in addition, the kind of organic transparency afforded by an atmosphere of economic engagement, cultural exchange and scientific collaboration. In other words, what's needed is a world more like that of a couple of decades ago, before America's relations with China (and Russia) started to go downhill. That this world existed suggests that returning to it is possible, even if doing so will require sustained effort and a reordering of foreign policy priorities on both sides.”
  • “Increasingly, national security will require wise international governance. And wise international governance will require a change of course.”

“Ground Rules for the Age of AI Warfare. How to Keep Autonomous Weapons From Stumbling Into Conflict,” Lauren Kahn, a Research Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, FA, 06.06.23.  

  • “In 2020, around 90 percent of U.S. reconnaissance flights over the Black Sea were intercepted by Russian jets, according to the U.S. military. NATO said it had intercepted Russian aircraft on over 300 occasions that same year. .... The use — and the interception — of increasingly high-tech, AI-enabled systems is simply the latest iteration of such techno-tactics.”
  • “When the inevitable happens, and a partially or fully autonomous system is involved in an accident, states will need a mechanism they can turn to — a framework to guide the involved parties and provide them with potential off-ramps to avert unwanted conflict. The United States took a small step in this direction when it released a declaration in February that distilled its vision for responsible military use of AI and autonomous systems. … [But] a more comprehensive framework, with more buy-in from other governments, is sorely needed.”
  • “For inspiration, states could look to an underappreciated episode of the Cold War. In the 1970s, U.S. and Soviet leaders calmed rising tensions between their navies by setting rules for unplanned encounters on the high seas. Governments today should take a similar route through the uncharted waters of AI-driven warfare. They should agree on basic guidelines now, along with protocols to maximize transparency and minimize the risk of fatal miscalculation and miscommunication. Without such a foundational agreement, future one-off incidents involving AI-enabled and autonomous systems could too easily spin out of control.”
  • “States willing to take the initiative could build on existing momentum for stricter rules. The private sector appears willing to at least somewhat self-regulate its AI development. And in response to member state requests, the International Civil Aviation Organization is working on a model regulatory framework for uncrewed aircraft systems and has encouraged states to share existing regulations and best practices.”
  • “The need for clearer norms, for a baseline mechanism of responsibility and accountability, is as great as it is urgent. So is the need for a protocol for handling interstate skirmishes involving these cutting-edge systems. States should start preparing now, since the real question regarding such incidents is not whether they will occur, but when.”

Energy exports from CIS:

“Nord Stream Sabotage Probe Turns to Clues Inside Poland,” journalists Bojan Pancevski, Drew Hinshaw and Joe Parkinson, WSJ, 06.10.23.

  • “German investigators are examining evidence that suggests a sabotage team used Poland, a European Union member and NATO ally, as an operating base to blow up the Nord Stream pipelines built to transport Russian gas through the Baltic Sea. The probe by Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office is examining why the yacht they believe was used to carry out the operation journeyed into Polish waters. Other findings suggest Poland was a hub for the logistics and financing of last September's undersea sabotage attack.”
  • “German investigators have fully reconstructed the entire two-week long voyage of the Andromeda — the 50-foot white pleasure yacht suspected of being involved in the sabotage and pinpointed that it deviated from its target to venture into Polish waters.”
  • “The previously unreported findings were pieced together with data from the Andromeda's radio and navigation equipment, as well as satellite and mobile phones and Gmail accounts used by the culprits — and DNA samples left aboard, which Germany has tried to match to at least one Ukrainian soldier. … Taken together, the details show that the boat sailed around each of the locations where the blasts later took place — evidence that fortified investigators' belief that the Andromeda was instrumental in last year's destruction of the pipeline. Investigators have concluded that one explosive used in the operation was HMX, also known as octogen, a colorless substance well-suited for demolishing underwater infrastructure.”
  • “German investigators say they also are looking into why the yacht was rented with the help of a travel agency based in Warsaw that appears to be part of a network of Ukrainian-owned front companies with suspected links to Ukrainian intelligence, according to people familiar with the investigation. … While recent findings appear to have strengthened the view of investigators that Ukrainians staged the plot, they also are examining whether Polish territory may have been used for the attack. Their probe also found that a white van — sighted in a German port by security cameras and eye witnesses — carried Polish license plates and was used to supply its crew, according to people familiar with the investigation.”
  • “Investigators first found the yacht following an October tip-off from a western intelligence service. The information came from a person in Ukraine who gathers intelligence for a small European country. Officials in that European country have since questioned why bigger powers with extensive surveillance capabilities and personnel in Ukraine didn't get wind of the plot on their own or alert others if they did.”

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

"‘Territorial Dispute’ or ‘Vital National Interest’? GOP Presidential Hopefuls Split on Ukraine Conflict," RM Staff, RM, 06.09.23.

  • “We analyzed public statements the 10 declared GOP primary candidates have made on the Russian-Ukrainian war since Moscow launched its invasion on February 24, 2022 [and found] a lack of uniformity in their positions on various aspects of the conflict, but indicated that at least some of them, predictably, have sought to reflect the relevant attitudes of the majority of the Republican electorate.”
  • “One issue that has proven divisive is whether … opposing Russia in Ukraine is a vital American national strategic interest.”
    • “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rejected the notion, initially dismissing the war as a ‘territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia.’”
    • “Former president Donald Trump appeared to agree, answering the same question with: ‘No, but it is for Europe. … That is why Europe should be paying far more than we are, or equal.’”
    • “In contrast, former vice president Mike Pence said ‘we support those who fight our enemies on their shores, so we will not have to fight them ourselves.’”
    • “Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said that Ukraine’s loss of the war would have international consequences for freedom: ‘What we have to understand is that a win for Ukraine is a win for all of us, because tyrants tell us exactly what they’re going to do.’”
  • “The candidates also seem to be divided on whether the United States should prioritize the pursuit of a peaceful resolution to the conflict or provide unwavering support to Ukrainian forces until they achieve victory.”
    • “Trump said he supports a speedy peace settlement paired with a decline in globalism.”
    • “Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy appears to toe a similar line, pushing to swiftly end military support and negotiate a peace deal.”
    • “In contrast, Haley said: ‘This is a war about freedom, and it’s one we have to win.’”
    • “Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson said: ‘I’m very much supportive of Ukraine. I believe they’re fighting a battle that helps reflect a free Europe,’ as reported by The Hill, and his presidential website describes Russia as a “threat to our national security.”


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Political Risks Rise for Putin As Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Begins,” reporters Catherine Belton and Francesca Ebel, WP, 06.11.23.

“’Foreign Agents’: From Stigmatization to Demonization,” Maxim Krupskiy, Visiting scholar at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and Non-Resident Fellow, The Russia Program at George Washington University, Russia.Post, 06.07.23.

  • “Attempts by the authorities to extend the ‘foreign agents’ legislation to those who have not been assigned this label themselves indicate that the Kremlin is seeking to monopolize the realm of information and ideas and bar ‘foreign agents’ from any contacts with the Russian society. Such legal constraints call for an ideological justification, which, among other things, is the declared fight against destructive influence on the Russian spiritual and moral values.”
  • “In the aftermath of the Russian aggression against Ukraine the status of ‘foreign agent’ was imposed on dozens well-known figures who spoke out against it - popular artists, writers, journalists, scientists, and bloggers with an audience of tens of millions. So far, Russian law has not provided for any bans on interaction with "foreign agents" for third parties, which enabled, for example, businesses or educational institutions to continue interacting with them. Yet, over one year into the war and no end to it in sight, the Kremlin appears to be increasingly concerned about securing control over information.”
  • “It is also possible that the rhetoric of protecting spiritual and moral values and demonization of foreign influence is used as a way to consolidate the political elite itself. Public commitment to traditionalism and condemnation of the West have become a pledge of allegiance to Putin's regime and its war against Ukraine.”

“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?’ 

“Russia’s Opposition Fails To Unite Against Putin,” reporter Max Seddon, FT, 06.10.23.

  • "Russia’s browbeaten opposition gathered in Brussels to plot a path back to democracy this week, with Vladimir Putin’s main rivals in jail or exiled and squabbling about how to move forward.”
  • “Rather than uniting Russia’s liberals, the war in Ukraine has deepened existing rifts and added new controversies, such as backing a military defeat for Moscow and Kyiv’s demands for reparations, which some see as politically toxic among Russians.”
  • “’They have these infights, and maybe it will take some time,’ said Andrius Kubilius, a Lithuanian MEP who invited the opposition groups to the European parliament this week. ‘It would be good if they were able to show more unity around some kind of strategy.’”
  • “Though the EU had hoped to bring them together, the splits were yet again on display when followers of jailed anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, the most popular Russian opposition leader, refused to take part in the parliament’s event.”
  • “The EU, which sent senior officials to the conference, sought to cajole the opposition into crafting a cogent plan for democracy and rallying Russians against the war. ‘We want to work with Russia, but a different Russia,’ said Michael Siebert, eastern Europe and central Asia director for the EU diplomatic service. But the opposition groups remain divided on how to achieve that different Russia — and who should lead it.”
  • “Some European officials hoped the Russian opposition could follow its Belarusian counterparts in creating a united platform and centralized office that could lobby westerners on Russians’ behalf and help the anti-war diaspora. But the Brussels conference ended without any immediate prospects for such a step.”

“The future of Russia — and its opposition,” Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an exiled Russian businessman, Politico, 06.05.23.

  • “Around 70 anti-war and opposition groups met in Berlin in April to agree on a common declaration, which has now been signed by 30,000 Russians. This common position is that the war is criminal, that the regime that unleashed it is illegitimate and must be removed from power, that Ukraine’s sovereignty within its 1991 borders must be restored and war criminals punished, that the victims of the aggression must be compensated and that all political prisoners and prisoners of war must be released. We also believe that a future Russian leadership must abandon imperialism, both internally and externally.”
  • “We all agree that our joint focus should be on three areas: the coordination of anti-war initiatives and humanitarian aid for Ukraine; media support for anti-war activism and counterpropaganda; and help for Russian citizens whose interests are no longer represented by Putin’s criminal regime.”
  • “For us, reaching a negotiated agreement with Putin about medium- or long-term issues is out of the question. Merely replacing Putin with another individual with yet another name — without a transition to a parliamentary model of governance with free and fair elections — will change nothing.”

“Vladimir Putin’s War on Ukraine Makes a Mockery of Law,” Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, WP, 06.07.23. Clues from Russian views.

  • “The law — both Russian and international — prohibits the waging of aggressive war. But for more than 15 months, the man who calls himself the president of my country has been waging a brutal, unprovoked, aggressive war against a neighboring country: killing its citizens, bombing its cities, seizing its territories.”
  • “Today in our country, it is not those who are waging this criminal war but those who oppose it who face judgment: Journalists who tell the truth. Artists who put up antiwar stickers. Priests who invoke the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." Teachers who call a spade a spade. Parents whose children draw antiwar pictures. Lawmakers who allow themselves to doubt the appropriateness of children's competitions when children are being killed in a neighboring country.”
  • “[But] in addition to legal laws, there are laws of history, and no one has yet been able to cancel them. And then the real criminals will be judged — including those whose arrest warrants have already been issued by the International Criminal Court. As you know, war crimes have no statute of limitations. I have some advice for all of those who organized my and other show trials against opponents of the war by trying to present opponents of the authorities as ‘traitors to the Motherland,’ for all of those who are so nostalgic for the Soviet system: Remember how it ended. All systems based on lies and violence end the same way.”

"Russian Elite Is Souring on Putin’s Chances of Winning His War," Bloomberg News, 06.08.23.

  • “A mood of deepening gloom is gripping Russia’s elite about prospects for President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, with even the most optimistic seeing a ‘frozen’ conflict as the best available outcome now for the Kremlin.”
  • “Many within the political and business elite are tired of the war and want it to stop, though they doubt Putin will halt the fighting, according to seven people familiar with the situation, who asked not to be identified because the matter is sensitive. While nobody’s willing to stand up to the president over the invasion, absolute belief in his leadership has been shaken by it, four of the people said.”
  • “The most favorable prospect would be negotiations later in the year that would turn it into a ‘frozen’ conflict and allow Putin to proclaim a Pyrrhic victory to Russians by holding on to some seized Ukrainian territory, two of the people said.” 
  • “Most in the elite are keeping their heads down and getting on with their work, convinced they can’t influence events, according to four of the people with knowledge of the situation. Putin shows no indication of wanting to end the war, five of the people said.”
  • “’Officials have adapted to the situation but no one sees any light at the end of the tunnel - they’re pessimistic about the future,’ said Alexandra Prokopenko, a former Russian journalist and central bank advisor who’s now a non-resident scholar at the Berlin-based Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center. ‘The best they hope for is that Russia will lose without humiliation.’”

“How Putin’s War Became Russia’s War. The Country Will Struggle to Reckon With Its Crimes in Ukraine,”  Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Eugene Rumer, FA, 06.09.23.

  • “Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine has become the defining event of his years in power. Even if he rules for another quarter century, Russia’s president will forever be considered a war criminal. But the consequences of the war are even more far-reaching: it promises to leave a stain on Russian society and politics that will remain even after Putin is gone.”
  • “The changes wrought by Putin over his decades in power have ensured that Russia will not suddenly emerge from his reign a changed country. He has co-opted the country’s elite, even its supposedly liberal wing, implicating them in Russia’s crimes in Ukraine. He has won the public’s support for the war, exploiting both society’s indifference and its nostalgia for Russia’s imperial history. And he has poisoned Russia’s relationship with the West in ways that any successor will struggle to reverse.”
  • “By making Russian society complicit in the war, Putin has forestalled the possibility of a dramatic break with his rule—even after he exits the political stage. And he has created a vexing problem for the United States and its allies, one that is no less challenging than the issue of how to contend with China.”
  • “As to whether Putin’s heirs will be able or willing to fundamentally change course and begin to atone for his crimes—it is, at best, an open question.”

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:

“How Austria Became Putin’s Alpine Fortress,” journalist Matthew Karnitsching, Politico, 06.05.23.

  • “Considering how deep Russian interests are burrowed into the country’s politics and economy, untangling the Austro-Russian relationship might no longer even be possible.”
  • “While the rest of Europe cut its dependence on Russian gas by more than half in 2022 to 19 percent, Austria purchased 60 percent of its gas from Russia, compared to 80 percent before last year’s invasion. Last year, Austria paid €7 billion euros for Russian gas.” 
  • “Even so, the increased scrutiny of Austria’s Russian ties has pushed Vienna to change its tune. Asked by POLITICO whether he still viewed Austria as a “bridge” to Moscow, a line repeated by generations of Austrian politicians, Alexander Schallenberg, Austria’s energetic foreign minister,  was resolute. ‘If you want to act as a bridge, you need two shores and at the moment they don’t exist,’ he said. ‘When a country is driven by neo-imperialistic wishful thinking and believes it can redraw borders with rockets and tanks and simply negate the existence of a neighboring country, then there won’t be another shore.’”
  • “So far, however, the change of rhetoric hasn’t resulted in large swings in policy — and given the prevailing political winds, such swings may never arrive.”

“What Putin and Biden really mean when they argue about ‘the West’,” writer Joshua Keating’s review “The West: A New History in Fourteen Lives” by British classical archaeologist Naoíse Mac, WP, 06.09.23.

  • “The great repeated theme of Putin's rhetoric is that the West constantly falls short of what Mac Sweeney elsewhere calls ‘the principles that most Westerners consider to be central to Western identity today, principles of fundamental human equality and rights, social liberalism, and toleration.’ It is not all that surprising that many governments in the "Global South," another constantly invoked but vaguely defined directional grouping, have not fully bought into the Western narrative of the Ukraine war as an existential struggle for global democracy and self-determination. Many of them, after all, have extensive experience with Western imperialism and militarism, which is not to say the corruption and autocracy of Russia present a more appealing alternative.”


“Inside the High-Stakes Clash for Control of Ukraine’s Story,” Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, Semafor, 06.05.23.

  • “Journalists covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine are engaged in a running, low-grade conflict with the Ukrainian government, which many believe uses access and accreditation to shape their stories. Articles and broadcasts from outlets including NBC News, The New York Times, CNN, The New Yorker, and the Ukrainian digital broadcaster Hromadske have led to journalists having their credentials threatened, revoked, or denied over charges they’ve broken rules imposed by Ukrainian minders.”
  • “The largely unreported conflict spilled briefly into public in late May when the well-known Ukrainian photographer Maxim Dondyuk complained on Instagram that the military press office was threatening to revoke his accreditation after his haunting images appeared in a New Yorker article portraying the trench life of Ukrainian draftees on the front line.”
  • “The New Yorker blowup is the latest in a running series of conflicts between the media covering the war and the Ukrainian authorities, which have had to ramp up a massive press operation as they fight for their country’s life against an invader four times their size. Their military press office vets journalists and issues passes which allow them to travel to certain areas, often with press handlers, and to interview officials, after signing a document stating that journalists will abide by rules outlined by the military.”
  • “Ukrainian journalists face more intense pressure than foreign correspondents to present an optimistic view of a conflict their friends and family are dying in, noted Nastya Stanko, a correspondent for Hromadske. She was among a number of journalists, including from CNN, who had their credentials temporarily suspended after broadcasting from Kherson after the Ukrainian government had retaken it but before they had permission.”
  • “The journalistic tensions do reflect a deeper friction: American, French, or British journalists write for publics who are largely sympathetic to Ukraine — but whose interests aren’t identical. The subjects most likely to draw ire from Kyiv include morale, casualties, and the role of fighters with far right ties in the war effort, a favorite Russian propaganda topic. Crimea is also high on the list.”

“Russia’s Willing Collaborators,” Geoff Dancy, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, Kathryn Sikkink, Ryan Family Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, Mykhailo Soldatenko, Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School, and Patrick Vinck, Research Director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, FA, 06.08.23.

  • “The historical record makes clear that blunt, sweeping policies that lack appropriate targeting criteria or that border on purges are unlikely to succeed and could well backfire, undermining the same democratic institutions they are intended to strengthen.”
    • “Put simply, democracy-enhancing lustration should be done with a scalpel, not a machete. Also, the consequences and publicity of the lustration process should be proportional to the level of cooperation.”
    • “Second, and relatedly, the lustration process should be insulated as much as possible from potential political and corruption interests to avoid its weaponization.”
    • “Finally, the law should clearly define the timespan and criteria that are in play.”
  • “That Ukraine is grappling with the thorny issues relating to formerly occupied areas is a significant triumph: at the start of the Russian full-scale invasion, few observers might have predicted that Kyiv would not only resist the onslaught but also be able to liberate significant territory from Russian control. But this means that it will be all the more crucial for Ukraine to rebuild democracy in these areas—and address concerns about collaboration by the people who live in them. Indeed, the cohesion of Ukrainian society, as well as the country’s future security, may depend on it.”

“Will the 22ers Become a New Political Generation?” Timothy Garton Ash, a Professor of European Studies in the University of Oxford, FT, 06.06.23.

  • “Surely, though, Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine must galvanize a new pan-European political generation. If the largest war in Europe since 1945 doesn’t do it, then what?  People often respond enthusiastically to this idea. I, too, would love to see a new political generation with a sense of shared purpose to drive the European project forward. But neither opinion polls nor my conversations with young Europeans offer any strong evidence that it yet exists.”
  • “In Ukraine, I have met many young people for whom the war obviously will be the defining moment of their political lives: a cross between 1939 and 1989. In Poland and Estonia, I have seen a similar effect, although less strongly.”
  • “There are large differences in attitude even between those central and east European countries closer to the war zone. In recent polling done for the Globsec think-tank, roughly a third of Bulgarian and Slovak respondents say the west is primarily responsible for the war in Ukraine. A shocking 50 per cent of Slovaks agree with the statement that “the US poses a security threat to my country.”
  • “The generational breakdown is even less clear cut. In-depth analysis of polling done for our research project and the European Council on Foreign Relations shows that just 46 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds describe Russia as an adversary, compared with more than 60 per cent of those aged over 60.”
  • “Only in support of Ukraine’s prospective EU membership are young Europeans generally more positive than the old.”


Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • No significant developments.



[1] Translated with the help of machine-translation.

Slider photo shared by the Ukrainian presidential administration via a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.