Russia Analytical Report, March 6-13, 2023
4 Ideas to Explore
- Vladimir Putin’s conviction that the U.S. somehow encouraged North Caucasus-based terrorist groups prior to one such group’s deadly hostage-taking raid in Beslan in 2004 played a major role in his turn away from the West, according to David Ignatius’ analysis of a new book, “Hand-Off: The Foreign Policy George W. Bush Passed to Barack Obama.” “We never got back on track” after Beslan, Ignatius quotes former NSC senior director for Russia Thomas Graham as writing in the book. In his effort to ascertain if Putin’s conviction was grounded in any plausible evidence, Ignatius turned to a Russia Matters investigation of Russian claims that the U.S. government supported Chechen separatism. That investigation concluded that, while Washington was willing to treat some of the North-Caucasian separatists as a party with valid political concerns, no evidence could be found to suggest that this tacit political support ever resulted in the operational or financial support of armed groups operating in Chechnya by U.S. authorities.
- New points of tensions are emerging between Washington and Kyiv, and they include questions about who was behind the sabotage of Nord Stream; the brutal, draining defense of the strategically unimportant city of Bakhmut; and the Ukrainian leadership’s plan to fight for Crimea, where Russian forces have been entrenched for nearly a decade. These are some of the insights that Politico’s Jonathan Lemire and Alexander Ward have gleaned from conversations with 10 U.S. officials, lawmakers and experts. “For now, Biden continued to stick to his refrain that the United States will leave all decisions about war and peace to Zelensky. But whispers have begun across Washington as to how tenable that will be as the war grinds on—and another presidential election looms,” the Politico journalists write.
- Russia has refrained from taking actions that would escalate its war with Ukraine beyond the latter’s borders, indicating its unwillingness to engage in a direct conflict with the U.S., but a significant risk of escalation remains, according to the Annual Threat Assessment (ATA) of the U.S. Intelligence Community released on March 8. Moscow's military forces have experienced significant losses in the Ukraine conflict, reducing their ability to pose a conventional military threat to European security and operate assertively globally, necessitating increased reliance on nuclear, cyber and space capabilities, according to ATA-2023. The U.S. intelligence community believes that Russia's military failures in the conflict could harm Putin's domestic popularity, while widespread corruption within will hinder Russia's economic performance. Nevertheless, China will persist in its diplomatic, defense, economic and technological partnership with Russia to challenge the U.S., according to the ATA.1
- The successful evasion of Western sanctions by some of Russia’s richest raises the question of whether it’d more effective to go after the managers of the oligarchs’ wealth. A group of U.S. scholars in a recent issue of PNAS Nexus believe the answer is “yes.” “Our ‘knock-out’ experiments pinpoint … vulnerability to the small group of wealth managers themselves, suggesting that sanctioning these professional intermediaries may be more effective and efficient in disrupting dark finance flows than sanctions on their wealthy clients,” according to Ho-Chun Herbert Chang of USC and his co-authors from Dartmouth. “This vulnerability is especially pronounced amongst Russian oligarchs, who concentrate their offshore business in a handful of boutique wealth management firms,” they write. In a separate commentary for MT, Russian journalists Farida Rustamova and Maxim Tovkaylo explain why a recent attempt by Kremlin-linked Russian billionaires to have the personal sanctions against them lifted with the help of the country’s opposition is both surprising and comical.
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda
Nuclear security and safety:
“The narrow field of options for safely managing Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant,” Mark Hibbs of Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program, BAS, 03.10.23.
- “No single reactor-management option for reducing risk will minimize or address all hazards for as long as the war continues, especially since the design basis of the plant does not include risks associated with warfare and foreign military occupation.”
- “The decision last September to idle all six reactors [at ZNPP] may not prevail, and reactors may be ordered to go critical and their nuclear fuel sustain a fission chain reaction.”
- “A separate option—to mothball the plant and banish the probability of a severe accident—may so far have been rejected at least in part following a plant-specific safety assessment.”
- “Perhaps all six reactors will be managed in a regime fluctuating between periods of shutdown and low-power operation. The choice may reflect a balancing act, taking into account the interests of regulators and safety experts, managers and operators, diplomats, and, ultimately, military commanders.”
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:
- No significant developments.
Iran and its nuclear program:
- No significant developments.
Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:
“Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine. The US should not hold back evidence for the prosecution,” Editorial Board, BG, 03.12.23.
- “The Biden administration dithers over whether to turn over its own treasure trove of evidence gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies on Russian atrocities committed in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court—a move already approved by Congress last December.”
- “Blocking the effort, according to a report in The New York Times, is the Pentagon, which still has lingering fears that somehow, sometime cooperating with the ICC—which the United States is not a member of—will come back to haunt U.S. military forces.”
- “Ukraine will continue to bring some captured Russians to justice itself. It has already convicted 25 Russian soldiers of war crimes in its own courts. And the creation of a Nuremberg-like tribunal to try high-level officials is surely not out of the question. The U.S. has a moral obligation to further all of those efforts.”
Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:
“2023 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” DNI, 03.08.23.
- “Putin probably miscalculated the ability of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the degree to which it would have some success on the battlefield.”
- “The Russian military has and will continue to face issues of attrition, personnel shortages, and morale challenges that have left its forces vulnerable to Ukrainian counterattacks.”
- “The full effects of Russian partial mobilization will only begin to be felt into the spring and summer. Although Russian forces continue to concentrate on the Donbas, they probably will not be able to take all of it in 2023.”
- “Russia will continue to use energy as a foreign policy tool to try to coerce cooperation and weaken Western unity on Ukraine, although sanctions resulting from the war are reshaping Russian energy relationships in both predictable and unpredictable ways.”
- “Russia has used food as a weapon by blocking or seizing Ukrainian ports, destroying grain infrastructure, occupying large swaths of agricultural land thereby disrupting the yields and displacing workers, and stealing grain for eventual export.”
- “Evidence of atrocities committed by Russian forces against Ukrainian military personnel and civilians will continue to emerge as Ukrainian forces retake territory.”
- “Moscow’s military forces have suffered losses during the Ukraine conflict that will require years of rebuilding and leave them less capable of posing a conventional military threat to European security and operating as assertively in Eurasia and on the global stage. Moscow will become even more reliant on nuclear, cyber, and space capabilities as it deals with the extensive damage to Russia’s ground forces.”
“Ukraine as Russian Imperial Action: Challenges and Policy Options,” Michael Hikari Cecire of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, RUSI, 03.09.23.
- “To achieve the conditions for a just peace, Ukraine urgently needs line-breaking capabilities in the near term—well before the six-month-plus horizon—as may be the case with GLSDBs, large numbers of main battle tanks, and almost certainly tactical fast-jet aircraft. ATACMS may be worthwhile in this regard, as would a means to accelerate deliveries of GLSDBs and other capabilities of the same type already in Western inventories, as well as large quantities of unmanned combat aerial vehicles and, of course, the full use of Starlink or a comparable system. While this would likely provoke a heightened Russian military response, it is precisely Ukraine’s ability to go on the offensive sustainably, shorten the kill chain and neutralize Russian military infrastructure that is most likely to force the conditions for a true and defensible peace agreement.”
Punitive measures related to Russia’s war against Ukraine and their impact globally:
“Complex Systems of Secrecy: The Offshore Networks of Oligarchs,” Ho-Chun Herbert Chang, Brooke Harrington, Feng Fuc and Daniel N. Rockmorec, PNAS Nexus, February 2023.
- “Following the invasion of Ukraine, the U.S., U.K. and EU governments–among others–sanctioned oligarchs close to Putin. This approach has come under scrutiny, as evidence has emerged of the oligarchs’ successful evasion of these punishments.”
- “To address this problem, we analyze the role of an overlooked but highly influential group: the secretive professional intermediaries who create and administer the oligarchs’ offshore financial empires. Drawing on the Offshore Leaks Database provided by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), we examine the ties linking offshore expert advisors … to ultra-high-net-worth individuals from four countries: Russia, China, the United States and Hong Kong.”
- “We find that resulting nation-level ‘oligarch networks’ share a scale-free structure characterized by a heterogeneity of heavy-tailed degree distributions of wealth managers; however, network topologies diverge across clients from democratic versus autocratic regimes. While generally robust, scale-free networks are fragile when targeted by attacks on highly-connected nodes. Our “knock-out” experiments pinpoint this vulnerability to the small group of wealth managers themselves, suggesting that sanctioning these professional intermediaries may be more effective and efficient in disrupting dark finance flows than sanctions on their wealthy clients. This vulnerability is especially pronounced amongst Russian oligarchs, who concentrate their offshore business in a handful of boutique wealth management firms.”
- “Our findings suggest that the offshore financial system operates as a scale-free network, both globally and on the level of nations, and thus shares the same type of structural vulnerabilities as other scale-free networks, such as the Internet. … Most connectivity is concentrated in a few nodes: in the case of Russian oligarchs’ offshore networks, the high-connectivity nodes consist of a small group of wealth managers. The network structure we have uncovered can explain why earlier rounds of sanctions directed at those oligarchs—the sparsely connected nodes in our analysis—could largely be evaded by some prominent individuals, despite direct seizure of some of their assets.”
“Alfa Tycoons as Victims? Come On,” journalists Farida Rustamova and Maxim Tovkaylo, MT, 03.10.23. Clues from Russian Views
- “Reports emerged last week that members of Russia's opposition have been making overtures to Western officials since the fall, requesting [in multiple letters] that sanctions on senior managers of Alfa Group, a consortium that owns the largest retailer and private bank in Russia, be lifted. The tycoons in question are Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, German Khan and Alexei Kuzmichev. None of them have publicly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
- “A particularly dubious part of the various letters submitted in defense of Alfa Group management is the claim that they have never met Putin. The letters state that the businesses owned by Fridman and his partners cannot be considered close to the Russian government, Putin, or anyone in Russia's corridors of power.”
- “This is an interesting—frankly astonishing—claim. One only has to recall how, in 2013, Alfa and their partners received an eye-watering $28 billion from state-owned oil giant Rosneft for their share in a joint venture with British oil company BP. The head of Rosneft was none other than Igor Sechin, a close confidant of Putin.”
- “The Rosneft deal is just one example of Alfa Group’s close connections with the Kremlin—there are many others. Our sources said that, while Fridman was Alfa Group’s pointman for the company’s contacts with Dmitry Medvedev during his time as Russian president, Aven was responsible for managing relations with Putin.”
- “Even if Fridman and Aven manage to sell their stakes in Alfa Group that does not wipe the slate clean when it comes what appears to be their historic high-level links with Kremlin officials.”
- “It’s both surprising—and comical—that the first attempts by Kremlin-linked Russian billionaires to get personal sanctions against them lifted with the help of the country’s opposition ignited such a bitter feud.”
“It is time to tighten sanctions on Russian state assets,” European economics commentator Martin Sandbu, FT, 03.12.23.
- “The massive sanctions imposed on Russia after Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine should be assessed by three main criteria: have they dissuaded Putin; do they disable his capacity to wage war; and can they force Russia to pay for the destruction it has wrought?”
- “On the first test, sanctions have clearly disappointed, but there may be nothing that could dissuade Putin from his obsession with recolonizing Ukraine.”
- “On the second, the Russian military is weakened by its lack of precision arms and the economy’s struggles to replenish depleted weaponry.”
- “And for the third objective of making Russia pay the price, financial sanctions are the only game in town.”
- “To be consistent and effective, sanctioning countries must freeze the assets of Russian energy exporters, and target the banks through which their earnings are channeled. For the EU, that means finally sanctioning Gazprombank, the main conduit for European gas payments with a subsidiary in Luxembourg.”
- “The Moscow Exchange’s National Clearing Center retains euro and dollar correspondent accounts in Frankfurt and New York, respectively. ... Some of Moscow’s hard currency surplus probably remains in those accounts. In parallel, the sanctioning coalition should follow the money flows, tracking past transactions to establish where the surplus has ended up so as to freeze what is still within Putin’s reach. New payments should go into escrow accounts.”
- “Which brings us to the third necessary action. Ukraine’s friends must complete the job of weaning themselves off Russian energy.”
- No significant developments.
Great Power rivalry/new Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:
“The moment when Putin turned away from the West,” columnist David Ignatius, WP, 03.09.23.
- “[Putin’s] invasion of his neighbor was the illegal, unjustifiable act of a ruthless authoritarian. But in assessing the roots of such a conflict, it’s useful to understand the mind of the adversary—and to see clearly the pathway to disaster. So, here are some little-known facts: ... The Russian-American counterterrorism alliance ruptured after a Sept. 1, 2004, attack by Chechen separatists on a school in Beslan. ... Three days after … Putin delivered a blistering speech ... in an unmistakable reference to the United States, Putin added: ‘Some would like to tear from us a ‘juicy piece of pie.’ Others help them … reasoning that Russia still remains one of the world’s major nuclear powers, and as such still represents a threat to them.’”
- “Did Putin have any grounds for his claim afterward that America was aiding the Chechen separatists? According to a careful review of the evidence by the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School, Putin was ‘partially correct.’”
- “Bush had maintained a surprisingly close relationship with the Russian leader, centered on a counterterrorism alliance. … But Putin came to believe that America was an unreliable, hypocritical partner—and that belief would curdle into the open feud that has deepened, year by year. … In late 2004, Putin's anger at what he saw as the West's machinations would increase when Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko won the presidency over the Kremlin-backed candidate, Viktor Yanukovych.”
- “Putin's turn away from the West may have been inevitable. The Russian leader is an authoritarian, and he wanted to protect Russian influence in the former Soviet space. But [Thomas] Graham poses an intriguing query in summarizing the classified record: ‘Did the United States and Europeans miss something fundamental in the Russian situation and psyche at the time? Did they misread the situation and fail to craft an offer of cooperative relations that adequately accounted for Russian interests and perspectives?’”
- “By late , according to several former officials, U.S. intelligence was gathering reports that Putin's security chiefs were urging him to break decisively with Bush and adopt a more aggressive policy.”
“America Is Too Scared of the Multipolar World,” Harvard University’s Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy, 03.07.23.
- “Although the Biden administration recognizes that we are back in a world of several great powers, it seems nostalgic for the brief era when the United States didn’t face peer competitors. Hence its vigorous reassertion of ‘U.S. leadership,’ its desire to inflict a military defeat on Russia that will leave it too weak to cause trouble in the future and its efforts to stifle China’s rise by restricting Beijing’s access to critical technological inputs while subsidizing the U.S. semiconductor industry.”
- “Even if these efforts succeed … restoring unipolarity is probably impossible. We are going to end up in 1) a bipolar world (with the United States and China as the two poles) or 2) a lopsided version of multipolarity where the United States is first among a set of unequal but still significant major powers (China, Russia, India, possibly Brazil and conceivably a rearmed Japan and Germany).”
- “In a multipolar world, the other major powers will gradually take on greater responsibility for their own security … India is building up its military force as its economy grows, and pacifist Japan has pledged to double its defense spending by 2027. That’s not entirely good news, of course, because regional arms races have their own risks … But … it’s not as if the United States has done such a great job keeping order in the Middle East, Europe or even Asia in recent decades.”
- “Assuming the United States remains first among unequals in an emerging multipolar order, its leaders should not be overly concerned. Washington will be in an ideal situation to play the other major powers off against each other, and it can let its partners in Eurasia bear more of the burden of their own security. Although U.S. leaders have long concealed their realist proclivities behind a cloud of idealistic rhetoric, they used to be pretty good at balance-of-power politics. As multipolarity returns, their successors just need to remember how this is done.”
“‘Little fissures’: The U.S.-Ukraine war unity is slowly cracking apart,” Jonathan Lemire and Alexander Ward, Politico, 03.12.23.
- “Publicly, there has been little separation between Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, an alliance on full display last month when the American president made his covert, dramatic visit to Kyiv. But based on conversations with 10 officials, lawmakers and experts, new points of tension are emerging: The sabotage of a natural gas pipeline [Nord Stream] on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean; the brutal, draining defense of a strategically unimportant Ukrainian city [Bakhmut]; and a plan to fight for a region [Crimea] where Russian forces have been entrenched for nearly a decade.”
- “‘I do think the administration is split, the National Security Council split’ on what weapons to send to Ukraine, said Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who’s in constant touch with senior Biden officials. ‘I talk to a lot of top military brass and they are, in large part, supportive of giving them the ATACMS.’”
- “A recent report that the Pentagon was blocking the Biden administration from sharing evidence of possible Russian war crimes with the International Criminal Court also put another dent in the unity narrative.”
- “Among those who have expressed doubt about support for the long haul is House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has said that the U.S. would not offer a ‘blank check’ to Ukraine and rejected Zelensky’s invitation to travel to Kyiv and learn about the realities of war.”
- “For now, Biden continued to stick to his refrain that the United States will leave all decisions about war and peace to Zelensky. But whispers have begun across Washington as to how tenable that will be as the war grinds on—and another presidential election looms.”
“Vladimir Putin is much more broke than we think,” editor and columnist Edward Luce, FT, 03.10.23.
- “If you torture the statistics long enough, eventually they’ll confess. On that timeless maxim, Vladimir Putin managed to conjure a minor 2.1% contraction in Russia’s economy last year against the double digits that we were expecting. The bizarre thing is that we believed him! The IMF and World Bank dutifully recycled Moscow’s official 2022 growth numbers, prompting soul-searching about Russia’s resilience. If Russia could withstand the most sweeping western sanctions since the days of South African apartheid, perhaps we needed to rethink. I am no statistician. I do know, however, that there are deep grounds to mistrust Russia’s official data about anything.”
- “As Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, doyen of the Yale School of Management, points out, Rosstat, Russia’s official statistics agency, has been through a leadership flux in the past year and was already a badly compromised agency. At any rate, Putin got the numbers he wanted. Rosstat predicts that Russia will grow by 0.3% in 2023. I predict that this will be nonsense.”
- “Three million of Russia’s most educated people have left the country, taking with them their intellectual capital and energy.”
- “Back home, the Russian state is cannibalizing refrigerators and other white goods for the chips it can no longer import.”
- “According to Sonnenfeld’s monitoring team at Yale, 1,000 of the 1,200 top foreign corporate investors in Russia have now fully pulled out of the country. Their revenues accounted for 35% of Russia’s gross domestic product before the invasion of Ukraine.”
- “A vassal state the size of Russia is all well and good until you [China] have to start paying the bills. The bad news is that Putin will be increasingly tempted to take desperate measures to bring this war to a favorable conclusion. This week’s salvo of Russian nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles targeted at key Ukrainian infrastructure was a worrying indicator of what a cornered Putin might do.”
“Russia’s Threat to Security and Moral Values Has Bolstered the West’s Resolve,” Nigel Gould-Davies of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, FA, 03.08.23.
- “The resilience of transatlantic unity has discredited defeatist assumptions that the West will weaken before Russia does. Putin still believes that it will; his theory of victory depends on this outcome. Western unity must not be taken for granted, therefore, but rather sustained in four ways.”
- “First, the United States and its allies must remind one another that any end to the war that leaves Russia in a position to renew its campaign against Ukraine poses a long-term threat to vital Western interests.”
- “Second, the West must reinforce the moral case for unity by meticulously documenting and publicizing Russia’s abuses—primarily those committed against Ukrainians but also those committed against its own citizens.”
- “Third, the United States and its allies must develop domestic policies to sustain their commitment to Ukraine—in particular, targeted welfare policies to ensure that poorer citizens are protected from the economic fallout of the war. Security begins on the home front.”
- “Finally, Western governments must remain vigilant about Russia’s efforts to sow doubt and division.”
“New Russian Law on Northern Sea Route Navigation: Gathering Arctic Storm or Tempest in a Teapot?”, postdoctoral research fellow Andrey Todorov, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 03.09.23.
- “The new Russian law on the navigation of warships in the NSR [Northern Sea Route], signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 5, 2022, ... recognizes that the NSR includes waters with different legal statuses … it refers to the NSR as a single ‘historically emerged national transportation route of the Russian Federation,’ subject to a single set of rules regulating shipping in the area. Under the NSR Rules of Navigation, which were updated in 2020, vessels must obtain permission from national authorities to enter the water area. The Rules also set out detailed requirements for access to various areas of the NSR.”
- “Some commentators contend that the adoption of the Act gives the United States cause for conducting a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the NSR ... No matter how controversial the new Act may appear in the eyes of the United States, would the game be worth the candle, given that the Act amounts to a detailed regulation of the existing permission-based regime for controlling warships’ access to the internal waters of the NSR?”
- “On the bright side, the Russian government’s explicit recognition that the NSR Rules of Navigation, which cover not only internal waters but the whole maritime area of the NSR, do not apply to warships should alleviate one of the United States’ key concerns regarding the NSR regime, raised in the 2015 diplomatic note. This could open up a new opportunity for the United States and Russia. While the disagreement over the legal status of the NSR straits will remain relevant and unresolved in the long term, the option of settling a part of the dispute and ‘agreeing to disagree’ on other critical elements seems to be the best available for both sides in the current situation.”
“Has a New Cold War Already Begun?” Lawrence J. Korb of the Center for American Progress and Penn State’s Steve Cimbala, NI, 03.10.23.
- “Russia’s war against Ukraine is not only a series of tactical military engagements—Vladimir Putin is also fighting a war against the very foundations of the existing European system of states that once invited him to join, and the heritage of Western civilization. His concept of ‘Eurasianism’ would replace a European order built on political democracy and market economics with one imposed by a Russian autocracy based on a twenty-first-century version of the former Russian empire.”
- “Unfortunately, Putin is not alone in his willingness to put aside the values of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment in favor of authoritarianism, imperialism, and autocracy. China, which the Biden administration and the Pentagon define as a pacing threat, is also attempting to expand its global influence and military power in order to reduce American influence in the Indo-Pacific region.”
- “In addition to China, Russia’s war against Ukraine is also supported by Iran and North Korea.”
- “Vladimir Putin’s war against Western civilization, under the banner of reborn Eurasianism, is, in theory and in practice, a rearward march into a worse world. The current struggle is being fought within and across the boundaries of states, including the clash between the best ideas about civil society and the worst distortions of history’s lessons. It is important to remember that bad ideas can destroy just like smart bombs, which is why the Biden administration must keep its contacts with Russia open and its nuclear modernization program going.”
“The incalculable moral cost of proxy wars,” Brown University’s Stephen Kinzer, BG, 03.09.23.
- “Ukraine embodies all that is appealing—and all that is appalling—about proxy war. Countries that want to fight Russia can do so without sending their own soldiers, so there is little public backlash. We applaud the Ukrainians' willingness to die, but we don't share it. Ahead may lie the other great danger of proxy wars: It's hard to end them. They can become ‘frozen conflicts’ or, even worse, ‘forever wars.’”
- “Soon after President Biden took office, he ended the long proxy war in Afghanistan by withdrawing American troops. The proxy wars now destroying Syria, Yemen and Ukraine are different in many ways, but like the one in Afghanistan, they will rage until big powers tire of them. In the meantime, blood will drench those countries' soil and their sons and daughters will continue dying.”
“Proxy Warfare in Strategic Competition,” Stephen Watts, et. al., RAND, March 2023.
- “States sponsor local proxies for a complex combination of reasons.”
- “Geopolitical factors, including security and diplomatic concerns, are typically the primary motives. Major powers usually begin to engage in proxy wars out of a sense of acute vulnerability to the actions of other states. As they develop their capabilities, they frequently begin to engage in proxy wars on a much wider basis, often drawing themselves and other states into more conflicts.”
- “Ideological factors, such as communism or shared ethnic or religious identities, also play a role, providing a motive for competition and sometimes providing ready-made local allies with similar ideologies.”
- “Economic factors, including the direct costs of conflict and concern for protection of investments and trade, usually play a more restraining role, especially for those powers whose economic fortunes might be harmed by such conflicts.”
- “The prospect of the increasing use of proxy warfare has several implications for U.S. defense policy.”
- “State-supported militants usually pose greater threats to governments than those without such support. The United States may get drawn into such conflicts to protect its allies and partners.”
- “If the U.S. Department of Defense has focused exclusively on high-intensity, conventional warfighting contingencies, it is likely to be poorly prepared for the challenges posed by nonstate actors who are functioning as proxies for other major powers.”
China-Russia: Allied or aligned?
“2023 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” DNI, 03.08.23.
- “Strategic competition between the United States and its allies, China and Russia over what kind of world will emerge makes the next few years critical to determining who and what will shape the narrative perhaps most immediately in the context of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which threaten to escalate into a broader conflict between Russia and the West.”
- “Russia’s military action against Ukraine demonstrates that it remains a revanchist power … Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine is a tectonic event that is reshaping Russia’s relationships with the West and China, and more broadly in ways that are unfolding and remain highly uncertain. Escalation of the conflict to a military confrontation between Russia and the West carries the greater risk … Moscow will remain a formidable and less predictable challenge to the United States in key areas during the next decade but still will face a range of constraints. Russia will continue to pursue its interests in competitive and sometimes confrontational and provocative ways, including by using military force as it has against Ukraine and pressing to dominate other countries in the post–Soviet space to varying extents.”
- “Despite global backlash over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China will maintain its diplomatic, defense, economic and technology cooperation with Russia to continue trying to challenge the United States.”
- “China has the capability to directly attempt to alter the rules-based global order in every realm and across multiple regions, as a near-peer competitor that is increasingly pushing to change global norms and potentially threatening its neighbors.”
- “Efforts by Russia, China and other countries to promote authoritarianism and spread disinformation is helping fuel a larger competition between democratic and authoritarian forms of government.”
- “China and Russia will maintain their strategic ties driven by their shared threat perceptions of the United States, which create potential threats in areas such as security collaboration, specifically arms sales and joint exercises, and diplomacy.”
“For China, arming Russia would be folly,” Editorial Board, WP, 03.12.23.
- “China's long-term interests, mercantile and otherwise, depend much more heavily on the West than on Russia. Its trade with the United States and Europe would be vulnerable to sanctions if Beijing added fuel to the fire in Ukraine by shipping arms to Russia. The United States and its NATO partners are the destination, collectively, for more than a quarter of Chinese exports; other U.S. allies, including Japan and South Korea, account for at least another 10%. By contrast, Russia ranked No. 15 on China's list of export destinations in 2021, accounting for just 2% of exports.”
- “Moscow's disastrous, unprovoked invasion has exposed Mr. Putin's regime for what it is — tyrannical, corrupt and puffed up. Bogged down in a war against an adversary with a third of its population and a tenth of its gross domestic product, Russia is hardly the formidable military power it bragged of being. If Mr. Xi imagined Mr. Putin would be a formidable counterweight to what he regards as the overbearing might of the United States, he should be disappointed. In fact, Russia has become an albatross for China, and doubling down by arming the Kremlin's inept forces would only taint China's standing in the world.”
- No significant developments.
“This would be an arms race of a different kind,” Columbia University’s Robert Legvold, interviewed by Fyodor Lukyanov, Russia in Global Affairs, 03.08.23.
- “First, New START is not dead, but it is dying. Second, the fate of the treaty has now become a derivative of the military campaign in Ukraine. And as long as this confrontation continues, the foundations of this treaty will continue to be undermined. Third, New START will not be the basis for further work on arms control, but it could remain a platform for a common effort to develop this theme.”
- “If we don't save it [New START], we can say that the whole system of treaties that has existed since the 1970s will end at that. ... The prospects for a settlement between China and the United States will also come to naught.”
- “This would be an arms race of a different kind. It is doubtful that there will be a desire to quickly increase the numbers of nuclear weapons. In China, yes, but not in the U.S. and Russia. There would be pursuit of superiority in quality.”
- “I don't know what U.S. policy is going to be with respect to nuclear testing. There is a faction in the Republican Party that stands for their renewal. If the United States moves in this direction because of the general decline in the arms control situation, Russia will respond symmetrically. I personally doubt that Russia will be the first to take steps towards resuming testing, but everything will depend on the general atmosphere in the context of what is happening in Ukraine. This is what determines everything.”
- No significant developments.
Conflict in Syria:
- No significant developments.
“The time to negotiate rules for AI in nuclear weapons is now,” co-founder and principal of Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel LLC Anja Manuel, FT, 03.08.23.
- “In February in The Hague, Bonnie Jenkins, the U.S. State department’s under secretary for arms control, put forward 12 non-legally binding norms to govern military uses of AI. They include an exhortation that humans should always control any launch of nuclear weapons, and that the Geneva Conventions should apply. She emphasized that ‘we have an obligation to create strong norms of responsible behavior concerning military uses of AI.’”
- “This is a great, if limited, start. Urgent steps should be taken to double down on these efforts. As Henry Kissinger, former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and others have warned, China, the U.S. and Europe are all in danger of sleepwalking into conflict, given this era of new technology that we don’t really understand and can’t control.”
- “It is true, as sceptics may argue, that even 75 years of painstakingly negotiated arms control agreements have not banished nuclear weapons from the world. Those negotiations have, however, succeeded in the most important measure of all: since the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons have not once been used in war.”
“Starlink and the Russia-Ukraine War: A Case of Commercial Technology and Public Purpose?” associate director of the Technology and Public Purpose Project Amritha Jayanti, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 03.09.23.
- “The commercial space technology Starlink grabbed headlines in the wake of the Russian-Ukraine war. Just two days into the conflict, Elon Musk, CEO and founder of SpaceX, the company that operates Starlink, agreed to supply Ukraine with the technology to ensure they had reliable internet connectivity and communication. Starlink has since been touted as critical in the war effort, but it has not come without hazards.”
- “By May 2022, over 150,000 Ukrainians were using Starlink on a daily basis. ... Starlink has undoubtedly played an important role in basic communications and strategic field operations in the wake of the war. From a technical standpoint, low orbit constellations have proven to be reliable, dynamic, and resilient. However, the shifting tide of Musk’s support highlights the risks of direct supply of critical technology to warzones by commercial actors.”
- “Government leaders need to build stronger public-private relationships with rising tech companies, as well as establish coordination plans to ensure commercial technologies are responsibly deployed in areas of conflict or other crises. ... It is imperative that we act swiftly to update our procurement and response systems as more private companies own the development and deployment of critical technology.”
“The US Military Needs to Create a Cyber Force,” former supreme allied commander of NATO James Stavridis, Bloomberg, 03.08.23.
- “The creation of a U.S. Cyber Force would move America beyond the current ‘pick-up team’ approach to cybersecurity, wherein each of the armed forces has a small number of cyber experts (most of whom rotate in and out of pure cyber jobs). The pay and benefits of many of the members of the Cyber Force would have to be at least somewhat competitive with the civilian sector, much as physicians and scientists on active duty in today’s military receive bonuses and additional compensation benefits.”
- “As the U.S. looks to a future that includes not only great-power cyber competition from Russia and China, but also mid-level cyberattacks from nations such as Iran and North Korea, the time is nigh. The nation should move forward with a dedicated U.S. Cyber Force.”
Energy exports from CIS:
“Russia’s energy conflict with Europe is turning attritional,” Sergey Vakulenko of the Carnegie Endowment, FT, 03.08.23.
- “Both sides [Russia and the West] appear to have exhausted their immediate offensive capacity and switched to a war of attrition, hoping that time will be on their side. Russia’s hopes are for a hot summer and cold winter that will see increased gas requirements, plus a demand surge from China. Russia still has some pipeline gas going to Europe and Turkey. It may consider cutting Europe off completely, but the cost would be high. Moscow would lose its last remaining allies, such as Serbia and Hungary, along with an important trade channel via Turkey.”
- “The West’s arsenal is limited, and most of the tools at its disposal have already been deployed against Iran and Venezuela. Europe will continue to diversify its energy portfolio, but gigawatts of solar and wind power cannot be added overnight. And major new LNG production volumes will only start to come online at the end of 2024.”
- “This is a novel conflict of unseen scale that has not been fought before. And just as the first world war did, it may signify a new era, this time in economic warfare, with new strategies, devastating new effects and, in the end, a new world energy order.”
- No significant developments.
U.S.-Russian economic ties:
- No significant developments.
U.S.-Russian relations in general:
- No significant developments.
II. Russia’s domestic policies
Domestic politics, economy and energy:
“Don’t Trust Russia’s Numbers. Moscow has made economic statistics a central part of its information war,” Agathe Demarais of the Economist Intelligence Unit, FP, 03.13.23.
- “Even if Russia’s reported GDP decline [2% in 2022] were truthful, it is clear that three factors artificially boosted the Russian growth number in 2022.”
- “First, the economic growth figure has been fueled by Russia’s turbocharged production of military gear.”
- “Second, Russia’s export earnings jumped in 2022 because of the war-induced spike in energy prices.”
- “And third, Western embargos on technology and other goods as well as sinking Russian consumer demand led to a plunge in imports, which dropped by almost 10% during 2022, according to Russia’s official data.”
- “Even more important than what Russia’s ‘growth’ really means, however, is the fact that the Kremlin’s figures cannot be trusted. ... Moscow’s goal is clear: to argue that sanctions do not work, thereby undercutting those who think they are a key tool to stop or contain Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This strategy rests on three pillars.”
- “The Kremlin communicates heavily using cherry-picked forecasts, presenting them as facts and forgetting to mention that they are massively outside expert consensus.”
- “Moscow also delays the release of statistics that don’t fit its narrative.”
- “Finally, the figures it does release are of dubious quality—and frequently revised later.”
- “Vladimir Putin hopes that turning Russia into a black box will help support his claims that sanctions do not work, confusing Western policymakers, journalists and citizens. Given Putin’s belief that he is waging an existential war against the West, this is fair game. The real problem is in Western countries: Experts and media quoting Russia’s recession figure should probably take the time to question their data instead of amplifying the Kremlin’s talking points.”
"Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment," analysts Kateryna Stepanenko and Professor Frederick W. Kagan, ISW, 03.12.23.
- “The conflict between the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin likely reached its climax against the backdrop of the Battle of Bakhmut. The Russian MoD—specifically Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of the Russian Gen. Staff General Valery Gerasimov—is likely seizing the opportunity to deliberately expend both elite and convict Wagner forces in Bakhmut in an effort to weaken Prigozhin and derail his ambitions for greater influence in the Kremlin.”
- “The Russian MoD had been increasingly restricting Prigozhin’s ability to recruit convicts and secure ammunition, forcing Prigozhin to publicly recognize his dependency on the Russian MoD.”
- “The Russian military leadership may be trying to expend Wagner forces—and Prigozhin’s influence—in Bakhmut.”
- “The Russian military leadership is likely attempting to avenge itself on Prigozhin for a conflict that he initiated in May 2022. ISW assessed on Jan. 22 and Feb. 26 that the Kremlin likely lent Prigozhin its support when Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to replenish his forces with volunteer recruits to avoid declaring highly unpopular mobilization.”
- “Prigozhin overestimated Putin’s reliance on Wagner forces and attempted to replace Russian military and political leadership with Wagner-affiliated figures. … Prigozhin’s obvious military-political ambitions likely alarmed Putin in October, when his regime was most vulnerable to public scrutiny.”
- “Putin is a … highly calculating actor who likely sought to manage the emerging threat to his control by gradually reintroducing the Russian MoD into prominence and power. … Putin had ultimately allowed the Russian MoD to retake control of the Bakhmut direction from Prigozhin in January as Wagner forces failed to deliver the promised victory over Bakhmut by the end of 2022.”
- “Prigozhin is unlikely to regain Putin’s favor ... [or] reach his previous heights.”
“Putin is planning a Soviet-style punishment for his critics,” Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, WP, 03.13.23.
- “There is hardly a practice of the Soviet repression of dissent that has not been revived by Vladimir Putin's regime in Russia. ... But there is one repressive Soviet practice that is yet to return—and it looks like this oversight will soon be corrected. One after another, senior Russian lawmakers have called for stripping those they deem traitors—that is, Russians who oppose Putin and the war—of their citizenship. The speaker of Russia's parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, recently lamented the lack of a procedure for doing this. ‘But I think there ought to be one,’ he added.”
- “Their chance is coming soon. Later this year, the Russian parliament will vote on amendments submitted by Putin that would expand the grounds for canceling the citizenship of naturalized Russian citizens. Senior lawmakers have already proposed widening the measures to include natural-born citizens as well.”
- “But we also know how this ends. Shortly before the collapse of the Soviet regime, all those who had been deprived of their citizenship for political reasons were officially reinstated in their status and in their rights.”
Defense and aerospace:
“Russia's Asymmetric Response to 21st Century Strategic Competition: Robotization of the Armed Forces,” researchers Krystyna Marcinek and Eugeniu Han, RAND, March 2023.
- “Drones, robots and the algorithms supporting them are supposed to be cheap force multipliers that increase the effectiveness of military operations while decreasing personnel losses and reliance on manpower.”
- “The Russian military seeks to substitute unmanned capabilities for soldiers rather than augment and support capabilities that soldiers have already.”
- “Military drones and robots are expected to take over numerous combat, reconnaissance and support roles. Russian leaders might endorse fully autonomous systems if such systems become technologically feasible.”
- “The realization of Russia's vision for the robotization of its Armed Forces would entail a major shift in technological sophistication.”
- “Russia's efforts still lag behind the United States, Israel, China and others. The first Russian armed drone entered into service in late 2020.”
- “Russia uses its combat deployments to test new systems and concepts of operations.”
- “Russia's long-term ability to deliver on its robotization vision will depend on it building an innovation system that uses the power of private firms, academia, the military-industrial complex and the Armed Forces to develop next-generation AI-driven platforms.”
- “The key inputs of the innovation system will be negatively affected by the sanctions and export controls that were imposed on Russia in 2022.”
- “The Russian government is already employing sticks and carrots to limit brain drain.”
- “Russia might try to employ cyber theft, industrial espionage, and covert supply chains to access necessary software and hardware.”
- “Innovation networks and the institutional environment likely will remain weaknesses of the Russian innovation system, but Russia might seek collaboration with China.”
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
“The Russia That Might Have Been. How Moscow Squandered Its Power and Influence,” director of the Carnegie Russia-Eurasia Center in Berlin Alexander Gabuev, FA, 03.13.23.
- “Around 2003, Russia got lucky. The U.S. invasion of Iraq coupled with China’s spectacular economic boom led to a sharp increase in global commodity prices. The Kremlin’s coffers were suddenly flooded with revenues from the sale of oil, gas, metals, fertilizers and other products on the global market. This windfall allowed Russia to quickly repay its foreign debts and nearly double its GDP during Putin’s first two presidential terms. Despite mounting corruption, most ordinary Russians found that their incomes were rising.”
- “With these strong economic and political foundations, Russia was well positioned to become a global power between East and West.”
- “Now, Putin has squandered all that. Driven by his growing appetite for power, Russia has been transformed into an authoritarian regime over the past decade, with Russian society and the country’s elite largely unable and unwilling to hinder the process. That transformation is largely responsible for Moscow’s failure to grasp these opportunities and redefine Russia’s world stature. Instead, Putin’s steady accumulation of power transformed a robust foreign-policy-making process, rooted in impartial analysis and interagency deliberations, into an increasingly personalized one. As a result, Putin and his inner circle succumbed to growing paranoia about perceived military threats from the West, and their decisions did not undergo the intellectual and institutional scrutiny they needed. Ultimately, this drove the nation into the strategic and moral catastrophe of its war in Ukraine.”
- “Russia will gradually drift toward an economic and political model resembling Iran’s—and will become increasingly dependent on China. The greater tribulation for Russia may be that such an Iranian-style outcome could be quite durable, and every year that it lasts will further diminish the chances that Russia will resolve the conflict with Ukraine, repent for harm done, restore ties with the outside world, and bring balance and pragmatism to its foreign policy.”
Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:
“2023 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” DNI, 03.08.23.
- “Russia probably will continue to maintain its global military, intelligence, security, commercial and energy footprint, although possibly in a reduced role, and build partnerships aimed at undermining U.S. influence and boosting its own.”
- “In the Middle East and North Africa, Moscow will continue to use its involvement and the activities of the private security company Wagner in the Central African Republic, Libya, Mali and Syria to increase its influence.”
- “In the Western Hemisphere, Moscow will seek to maintain its influence by continuing its diplomatic overtures and economic engagements mostly with the countries that it sees as key players or close partners, including Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.”
- “In the post–Soviet states, Moscow is less capable of intervening in Belarus, Central Asia, and the South Caucasus than it was in 2020 in Belarus and in 2022 in Kazakhstan––in both cases to prevent expressions of popular dissatisfaction with the government from leading to regime change. Russia’s deployment of much of its ground forces and associated security personnel to Ukraine this past year probably has reduced the likelihood of Russian military intervention in other post–Soviet states.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s interview with Channel One’s The Great Game political talk show, Russian Foreign Ministry, 03.10.23. Clues from Russian Views.
- “The Russian Federation is still a priority in the West’s plans, rhetoric and actions. In parallel, the sanctions wars against China have begun, in particular bans on China’s access to any materials and technologies that could help Beijing make breakthroughs (semiconductors, microchips and more). … I am sure that the sanctions pressure on China will only increase.”
- “There is no doubt that India, an Asian country that is rising along with China, is subjected to increasing pressure by the West … They are ‘courting’ India all the way. They see it as a counterbalance to China, considering the presence of long-term problems in relations between Delhi and Beijing, including border disputes. We, as the Russian Federation, are trying to help them resolve these problems and overcome all differences.”
- [In a response to a question on his conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the G-20:] “It has already been said on both sides that we discussed the strategic stability situation in the context of the New START treaty and the Ukrainian issue ... I have given detailed explanations. Especially with regard to New START. ... We talked constructively, without emotion, shook hands when we met and parted. It was a normal conversation. ... An absolutely civilized conversation.”
- “We keep saying that we are not walking away from negotiations, but we do not beg for them. We do not see any possibility for negotiation right now.”
- [With regard to bombing of the Nord Stream:] “In Western states … an attack targeting critical infrastructure is equated to a declaration of war. In this particular case, if it’s established that a terrorist attack against a NATO country’s critical infrastructure was perpetrated by another NATO country it will bring up the question about the rationale for NATO, which declares as its goal protecting member countries from outside attacks, but at the same time makes possible attacks on one of its members from within the bloc.”
“Zelensky's heroic wartime leadership has deep historical roots,” book review by Harvard University’s Serhii Plokhy, WP, 03.09.23.
- “The basis of Volodymyr Zelensky's personal courage and the solidarity of Ukrainians resisting unprovoked Russian aggression are among the key themes of Olga Onuch and Henry E. Hale's deeply researched and well-argued book, ‘The Zelensky Effect.'”
- “The Zelensky effect, as the authors define it, is the manifestation of Ukrainian civic identity since the start of the all-out war, though its origins are far older. Looking for the sources of Ukraine's inclusive national identity, which crosses linguistic, ethnic and religious lines, Onuch and Hale follow the life story of Zelensky and his generation from the final decades of the USSR to the current war.”
- “The vision of a multiethnic and multicultural Ukrainian nation was initially formulated in the middle of World War I by Mykhailo Hrushevsky, who was the first scholar to make a persuasive historical case that Russia and Ukraine were separate entities.”
- “In 1917, Hrushevsky's vision of a multiethnic and multicultural Ukraine served as the political foundation of the first modern Ukrainian state, known as the Ukrainian People's Republic.”
- “When Vladimir Putin ordered his armies into Ukraine in February 2022, the new Ukraine embodied by Zelensky fought back. Zelensky was both product and architect of Ukraine's new sense of identity. That identity has grown stronger over the course of the war, helping to ensure Ukraine's survival as an independent nation-state after Putin's Russia confronted it with an existential challenge. In their conclusion, Onuch and Hale write that ‘Ukrainian civic identity was what had produced not only Zelensky, but 44 million Zelenskys.’”
"The World Isn’t Slipping Away From the West," Comfort Ero of the International Crisis Group, FP, 03.08.23.
- “Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last February, commentators in Europe and the United States have lamented that few countries outside the West have offered Kyiv real backing. A common question posed to me in the last year is why so many countries have sat this one out. Indeed, politicians and diplomats in Africa, Asia and Latin America have offered Ukraine limited support and suggested the West is in part to blame for Russia’s war.”
- “Non-Western countries have good reason to maintain a certain distance from the West as well as Russia. Admittedly, some leaders in the global south are motivated by a rosy—and sometimes wrong-headed—view of Moscow as a former backer of Cold War liberation struggles against colonial powers, especially in Africa. But recent history may better explain their actions and perceived turn toward Russia.”
- “For many leaders, the coronavirus pandemic and the West’s decision to hoard vaccines rather than waive intellectual property rights raised questions about the value of international cooperation.”
- “In the first months of the war in Ukraine, Western officials seemed so focused on Moscow’s aggression that they did not initially acknowledge the gravity of the conflict’s global ripple effects as food and energy prices spiked, compounding the economic aftershocks of the pandemic.”
- “My colleagues at International Crisis Group and I have argued that the West is right to offer Ukraine military backing, whereas Russia is not yet ready for serious peace talks. But we should be humble enough to understand why this approach creates a sense of cognitive dissonance outside the West. It’s no wonder that many officials from countries in the global south feel that the West is demanding their loyalty over Ukraine—after not showing them much solidarity in their own hours of need.”
Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:
““Is Putin About to Get His Gas Union With Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan?,” fellow Temur Umarov, Carnegie Endowment, 03.13.23.
- “It seems the ‘tripartite gas union’ proposed by Vladimir Putin last year, from which Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan initially disassociated themselves, is taking shape after all.”
- “The fact is that the countries’ [Kazakhstan’s and Uzbekistan’s] gas outputs are insufficient to cover both rapidly growing domestic consumption and export obligations. The share of gas in Kazakhstan’s energy balance is constantly growing: 57% of people there had gasified homes by the end of 2021, as opposed to 30% in 2013. In Uzbekistan, gas accounts for over 80% of the national energy balance.”
- “The optimal solution would be to start importing gas from Russia and Turkmenistan, since infrastructure for pumping gas from those countries is already in place. ... But reliance on Ashgabat alone won’t solve the problem.”
- “Turkmenistan has let its new partners down before.”
- “Second, Turkmenistan can only supply gas: it is unable to render technological assistance.”
- “In any event, Russia is due to start gas shipments to both countries this month. While no details have been disclosed—nor are they expected, since it’s risky right now to publicly discuss cooperation with Moscow—they will likely be regular shipments to cover growing domestic needs. Closer gas cooperation with Moscow brings both dangers and rewards. On one hand, regular shipments will ensure economic growth, reassure the public, and help resolve problems with China. On the other hand, Russia will have even greater leverage over the Central Asian states. That will complicate Tashkent and Astana’s multi-vector foreign policies, and force them to indefinitely postpone the process of distancing themselves from Russia.”
“From Syria to Nagorno-Karabakh: an assessment of Russian-Turkish ‘cooperation/rivalry,’” researchers Igor Matveev and Yeghiya Tashdzhyan, Valdai Club, 03.13.23.
- “Despite all the difficulties and the continued blockade of the Lachin corridor (the only land route connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia), Russian troops remain the only guarantors of the security of the Karabakh Armenians. Contrary to what many analysts thought, Armenia's defeat in the 2020 war did not diminish Russia's influence in Armenia. On the contrary, Russia now enjoys great influence, despite Yerevan's irritation towards Moscow due to the latter's inability to prevent Baku's attacks on Armenian territory or the blockade of the Lachin corridor.”
- “On the other hand, officials in Baku do not hide their true intentions. They do not want the extension of the mandate of the Russian peacekeepers in 2025 and insist on the ‘reintegration’ of the entire Karabakh into Azerbaijan. If Baku does its job and engages in demographic engineering by forcing the Armenians to leave Nagorno-Karabakh, then there will be no more justification for the Russian presence in the region, and Moscow will lose leverage.”
- For a comparison of ATA-2023 with ATA-2022, see Alexandra Sdranovic’s March 10 RM blog post.
- This interview was translated from Russian into English with the help of machine translating tools.