Russia Analytical Report, March 7-14, 2022

This Week’s Highlights

  • “Russia has been a giant of the nonproliferation regime. The major treaties of the twentieth century all benefitted from the skills of Russian negotiators and the wisdom of Russian experts. The invasion of Ukraine may end this admirable tradition,” writes former NATO deputy secretary general Rose Gottemoeller. “Russia could become more isolated and cease to play any responsible international role … With Russia at best a less reliable partner, China’s role in the international arms control regime will become increasingly vital. … If Russia absents itself from nuclear diplomacy, the United States and China will have to consider how they, budding superpower rivals, can develop a greater partnership to resolve problems in the global arms control regimes.”
  • To prevent Russia’s war in Ukraine from escalating into a broader conflict, Thomas Graham of the Council on Foreign Relations advises the U.S. to increase deterrence efforts with NATO allies. While both victory and defeat will be hard to define, Graham argues that due to “the destructiveness of modern weaponry and the ever-present risk of escalation to the nuclear level, a negotiated settlement, in which neither side wins or loses, is to be preferred to pressing for victory—that is, Russia’s capitulation. It should be possible to find one that leaves the transatlantic community stronger and peace in Europe more secure.” 
  • “Russia’s intended campaign—an assault strike predicated on speed and Ukrainian political weakness—has tipped into a joint combat operation requiring logistical and communications planning that does not seem to have been in place,” the Financial Times reports, citing analysts. The Russian campaign has been hampered by poor planning and inadequate equipment, such as “cheap, unencrypted Chinese radios” and personal cell phones used for communication, while military vehicles are outfitted with “civilian-grade” tires. However, according to a senior British intelligence official, the danger “is that in seeking to extricate itself from its tactical disasters in Ukraine, Moscow ‘blunders into a strategic dead-end with even worse consequences’—for Ukraine, and possibly the world.” 
  • Outrage at Russia’s assault on Ukraine has left few in the West looking for “ways to end the conflict short of the Kremlin’s capitulation,” writes George Beebe, vice president and director of studies at the Center for the National Interest. “But unless we do, we are unlikely to find ourselves in a new Cold War. We may instead be in a very hot one,” he warns. While the U.S. must ensure that Russia does not win the war, “we must recognize that Putin can make everyone else suffer horrifically if Russia must lose. Diplomacy is our only way out of this dead end. To encourage the Russians to end the fighting, we must face the painful reality that they need a viable path toward a future in which sanctions are eased and NATO is not in Ukraine, while at the same time safeguarding Ukraine’s security.”  
  • Carnegie’s Alexander Gabuev lays out the factors behind the Kremlin’s decision to wage war on Ukraine. These include war planning that, in order to avoid leaks, “was reduced to a clandestine operation developed by just a handful of people in uniform and the president himself,” with too few generals included to ask the “what if” questions necessary for “serious contingency planning” and preparing for scenarios beyond “just a speedy victory of the Russian troops.” The response to Western sanctions, Gabuev writes in a Twitter thread, “was even more flawed since Putin has kept his economic team entirely in the dark” and has been lulled by the narrative that Russia’s economy “is nearly sanctions-proof, and all it takes is just throwing some more money to fix a few outstanding issues.” A final element, according to Gabuev, is a serious lack of Russian expertise on Ukraine. 
  • As Western sanctions squeeze Russia’s economy and skilled professionals race for the exits, Maxim Mironov, an associate professor of finance at IE Business School, predicts that “the Russian government will probably introduce exit visas for certain categories of workers or close the country altogether. Those who are nostalgic for the Soviet Union will finally learn what it was really like.” He urges the U.S. and Europe to “relax some of their most sweeping punitive measures, such as those that prevent ordinary Russians from accessing their own money, obtaining basic necessities, and traveling to Western countries. … If it continues to target all Russians with crippling sanctions, the West will impoverish and immiserate Russia—and possibly bolster Putin.”


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

Nuclear security and safety:

“The Fallout From Russia’s Attack on Ukrainian Nuclear Facilities,” William Potter, War on the Rocks, 03.10.22. The author, a professor of Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, writes:

  • “Among the factors that distinguish the premeditated Russian attacks on Ukraine’s nuclear plants (excluding here the possibly inadvertent attack on the nuclear waste site near Kyiv) from prior incidents is the fact that they occurred during wartime and involved civilian nuclear power facilities, some of which were operational.”
  • “Although a number of multilateral efforts have been undertaken during the past three decades to prohibit attacks on nuclear facilities, no formal legal instruments specifically proscribing attacks have yet been adopted. Instead, we are left with a smorgasbord of restraints, generally lacking enforcement mechanisms, embodied in the Geneva Convention, international humanitarian law, and multiple International Atomic Energy Agency pronouncements, including the statement cited above.”
  • “In addition to violating this body of legal and political constraints, Russian attacks on Ukrainian nuclear facilities are a direct assault on the international norms regarding nuclear violence that have developed since the advent of the nuclear age. These norms underpin a taboo or tradition against nuclear violence in its many forms.”
  • “Ironically, only a few months ago, this taboo appeared to have been strengthened by the joint statement made by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that a nuclear war could not be won and must never be fought. While most international attention correctly is focused on the departure from that principle due to the reckless nuclear weapons threats made by President Vladimir Putin during the past two weeks, Russian attacks on civilian nuclear power facilities also have the effect of weakening the norm against nuclear violence.”
  • “At this moment, Russian war planners regard Ukraine’s nuclear power plants as weapons in their campaign against Kyiv. However, as a nation with many nuclear power stations, Russia is undermining norms from which it continues to benefit. Nuclear reactors everywhere are “Trojan horses,’ potentially providing targets for cyber operations, sabotage, or other forms of attack. As such, Moscow also has a major stake in reinforcing a strong norm against attacking nuclear power plants.”

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

"Will Russia Torpedo the Iran Nuclear Deal?" Hamidreza Azizi, Nicole Grajewski, The National Interest, 03.10.22. The authors, respectively a fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin; and a research fellow with the International Security Program at Harvard’s Belfer Center and doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, write:

  • “The onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine cast a dark shadow over ongoing talks in Vienna to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). On March 5, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov demanded ‘written guarantees’ that Western sanctions over Ukraine ‘will by no means affect our right to free and full-fledged trading, economic, investment, military and technical cooperation with Iran.’ Lavrov’s demand has stoked concerns that Moscow may try to take the JCPOA talks hostage in order to reap benefits for ‘sanctions-busting,’ or to leverage the JCPOA as a bargaining chip to reach a deal with the West over Ukraine.”
  • “Currently, Iran faces a complicated domestic and international environment. The Islamic Republic has for decades tried to depict Russia as a ‘strategic partner’ despite decades of mistrust. Russian obstruction of the Vienna talks would thus incite huge public backlash and criticism of Ebrahim Raisi’s emphasis on ties with Russia. Besides, the Iranian leadership seems to be more interested now in reviving the JCPOA, as the increasing oil prices contribute to the recovery of the country’s sanctions-hit economy.”
  • “But given all the complexities associated with Moscow’s role as a party to the JCPOA, the only viable option for Iran to circumvent Russia and to achieve sanctions removal would be to pursue bilateral talks with the United States — something Tehran has so far refused to do. Russia’s inflexibility may eventually prompt the Iranians to reconsider their tough position and engage in direct talks to determine a resolution that would marginalize Moscow’s role in the JCPOA. Washington has already declared its readiness for bilateral engagement with Tehran. As such, the ball seems to be now in the Iranian court to save the JCPOA from becoming collateral damage of Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

War in Ukraine—Military aspects:

"A serious failure’: scale of Russia’s military blunders becomes clear," Sam Jones, John Paul Rathbone, Demetri Sevastopulo, Financial Times, 03.12.22. The authors, correspondents for the newspaper, write:

  • “Russia’s intended campaign — an assault strike predicated on speed and Ukrainian political weakness — has tipped into a joint combat operation requiring logistical and communications planning that does not seem to have been in place, say analysts.”
  • “When, several days in, Russian commanders realized they needed to pivot to using more serious firepower, they did so chaotically: huge columns of tanks and artillery moved forward, but the Ukrainians blew up bridges, causing advances to stall. Russian planners appear to have failed to anticipate this basic response … Even Russia’s feared anti-aircraft systems were left vulnerable to cheap Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones operated by the Ukrainians. … On the ground, meanwhile, the thousands of anti-tank missiles western powers have been supplying to Ukraine for weeks have proved effective, with mobile foot soldiers able to ambush and attack isolated advanced clusters of Russian light vehicles and stationary heavy units stuck in columns with unprotected flanks.”
  • “On social media, pictures have been posted of Russians using cheap, unencrypted Chinese radios, and their own mobile phones to contact commanders. … Inadequate equipment has been the cause of other failings: images have been shared by Ukrainians of Russian vehicles with shredded tires stuck in mud. Experts say the tires are almost certainly cheap, civilian-grade versions of those the Russian military need, suggesting, as in the case of the radios, endemic corruption in Russia’s defense procurement.”
  • “The biggest question that continues to perplex analysts, though, is why Russia has still not made use of its vastly superior air power to better protect its forces, and reverse the debacle on the ground.”
  • “The failures have resulted in a widespread, if perhaps temporary, collapse in morale, according to the Pentagon and British defense intelligence. There is even evidence of Russian soldiers sabotaging their own equipment, officials have said. … The danger, said one retired senior British intelligence officer, is that in seeking to extricate itself from its tactical disasters in Ukraine, Moscow ‘blunders into a strategic dead-end with even worse consequences’ — for Ukraine, and possibly the world.”

“Putin’s Nuclear Bluff How the West Can Make Sure Russia’s Threats Stay Hollow," Olga Oliker, Foreign Affairs, 03.11.22. The author, director of the Europe and Central Asia Program at the International Crisis Group, writes:  

  • “Russian nuclear use would become far more plausible if Moscow feels that direct NATO military involvement is inevitable. The Kremlin believes that in a war between NATO and Russia, the West would inevitably target Russian leadership and preemptively strike its nuclear capabilities. This, of course, would meet all the criteria in Russia’s nuclear use doctrine, perhaps leading Moscow to launch the first bomb.”
  • “That means the West must be careful in how it handles the ongoing invasion. Member states should continue to supply Ukraine as it defends itself, but NATO should not institute a ‘no-fly zone’ over Ukraine, which would entail using Western airpower or the threat thereof to stop Russian aircraft from flying in Ukrainian airspace, potentially bringing NATO and Russian forces into direct military combat. They should slow plans to supply equipment such as fighter jets, which could require the use of their own airfields. They should promise to ease old and new sanctions if Russia de-escalates and withdraws its forces.”
  • “Such caution and concessions may not bring emotional satisfaction; there is certainly a visceral appeal to proposals that would have NATO forces directly help Ukraine. But these would dramatically heighten the risk that the war becomes a wider, potentially nuclear conflict. Western leaders should therefore reject them out of hand. Literally nothing else could be more dangerous.”

"The No-Fly Zone Delusion: In Ukraine, Good Intentions Can’t Redeem a Bad Idea," Richard K. Betts, Foreign Affairs, 03.10.22. The author, a professor of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, writes:

  • “The war in Ukraine is the agonizing outcome of Putin’s outrageous response to two errors on NATO’s part.”
    • “The first of these was the alliance’s declaration, in 2008, that Ukraine and Georgia would one day join it.”
    • “Once the goal of NATO membership was declared, however, the second mistake was not accomplishing it right away and thus immediately establishing NATO’s deterrent guarantee.”
  • “The resulting tragedy is heartbreaking. But trying to cope with it by belatedly entering the war directly — desperately endorsing a no-fly zone with no assurance it would not lead to a bigger disaster — would only compound the tragedy. NATO should help Ukraine, but its assistance must remain below the established threshold for escalation. That would include more or less what the alliance has already been doing: where possible, providing relief for civilian refugees and weapons, ammunition, food, and logistical support to Ukraine’s military.”
  • “The urge to help Ukraine is laudable. But the only things worse than watching the country’s slow-motion defeat would be to promise direct military intervention and then fail to follow through or, worse, to up the ante and turn what is now clearly a new cold war into a hot war — one that could produce destruction and casualties in the wider world on a scale that would make even the devastation of the current war in Ukraine seem insignificant.”

"Arming Ukraine Is Worth the Risk: The West Can Raise the Cost of Russian Aggression," Stephen Biddle, Foreign Affairs, 03.11.22. The author, professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, writes:

  • “The transfer of weapons to Ukraine can, in fact, accomplish three important goals.”
    • “First, it gives Ukraine a chance to exploit Russian errors and further stall Moscow’s offensive, if Russia’s military performance continues to be as poor as it has been so far.”
    • “Second, if Russia adapts and improves its performance, it will likely topple the existing regime in Kyiv no matter how much support Ukraine receives — but weapons transfers can make the Russian invasion more expensive, perhaps intolerably so.”
    • “Third, if Kyiv does fall and the Ukrainian military is driven from the field, arms transfers will still prove useful: they can facilitate an insurgency to contest Russian dominance of the country and give Ukrainians a chance to oust the occupying power and restore self-government.”
  • “Such aid alone is unlikely to be decisive in swaying the war in Ukraine’s favor, and it will incur an inherent risk of escalation. But it represents a way to give Ukraine a fighting chance while limiting the risk of a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia.”

"Occupying Ukraine Won’t Be Easy," Bartle Bull, Douglas A. Olivant, The Wall Street Journal, 03.11.22. The authors, respectively a former foreign editor of Prospect Magazine and a senior fellow at New American and the Foreign Policy Research Institute, who served with the National Security Council during the Bush (43) and Obama administrations, write:

  • “For Mr. Putin in 2022, the lesson is that invasion with a relatively light force relies heavily on initial success. His 190,000 troops for the Ukraine invasion are 35 percent fewer than the U.S.-led coalition used to take Baghdad in 2003, for a country 50 percent more populous and roughly a third larger. … Should he eventually take and establish a firm hold over Kyiv and other key Ukrainian cities, Mr. Putin will find himself in an entirely different phase of the effort: occupation. The Soviet experience in Afghanistan in 1980-89 and the U.S. experience in Iraq in 2003-11 give a sense of how tall an order Mr. Putin has chosen.”
  • “The crucial factor in any insurgency is the population. While theorists disagree on whether co-opting or terrorizing is the more effective approach, gaining the population’s cooperation one way or another is essential.”
  • “Terrain will also be an important factor, both in the current invasion phase and in any longer-term Russian pacification and occupation. Afghanistan’s mountains provided vital sanctuary for anti-Soviet insurgents and serious tactical and logistical challenges for the occupiers. Iraq (except Kurdistan) and Ukraine are both flat and open. That would tend to work in Russia’s favor in Ukraine.”
  • “But another factor balances the odds somewhat, or even — given the highly publicized nature of war in the age of social media — favors the Ukrainian side. Ukraine’s population is 69 percent urban, close to Iraq’s 70 percent. (Afghanistan’s population in the 1980s was about 75 percent rural.) Already, we are seeing that Ukraine’s towns and cities may prove analogous to Afghanistan’s mountains: treacherous terrain for an invader and occupier.”
  • “An insurgency in Ukraine would present a decisive challenge to any Russian occupying force. The question is whether there is an escape for Russia from this historical precedent, whether through means ancient — overwhelming terror against civilians — or modern — use of social media, or creation of new alliances. Regardless, the U.S. will want to start planning for a potential long insurgency as in Afghanistan in the 1980s."

War in Ukraine—Sanctions:

"Why Strangling Russia’s Economy Could Backfire: Harsh Sanctions Could Make the Country a Bigger, Badder North Korea," Maxim Mironov, Foreign Affairs, 03.11.22. The author, an associate professor of Finance at IE Business School and a former investment director at Promsvyazcapital in Moscow, writes:

  • “In a matter of days after Putin’s invasion, the West has largely reversed three decades’ worth of economic integration with Russia. … As a result of these and other measures, Russians will soon face shortages of basic products — not just luxury goods such as iPhones and iPads, the import of which is now banned, but also more ordinary goods and commodities such as clothes, cars, household appliances, and food.”
  • “Russia is highly dependent on international trade. But even companies that still wish to transact with Russia will soon have trouble moving goods to and from the country. Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping container operators, has announced that it will halt shipments to Russia. … Russia’s central bank has $650 billion in foreign exchange reserves, but Washington and Brussels have already frozen more than half of those funds.”
  • “It is not just what Moscow is trying to keep out that should scare Russians; it is what Moscow is trying to keep in. Everyone who can get out of the country will do so. … The government understands this, which is why it has introduced a raft of measures designed to retain skilled information and technology professionals, including a three-year tax holiday and heavily subsidized mortgages and loans. But such measures won’t work. Skilled professionals are already racing for the exits.”
  • “Soon, therefore, the Russian government will probably introduce exit visas for certain categories of workers or close the country altogether. Those who are nostalgic for the Soviet Union will finally learn what it was really like.”
  • “The United States and its allies should therefore rethink their sanctions strategy. … Western countries should make allies of them in a more targeted attempt to squeeze Russia’s leaders. Washington and Brussels should relax some of their most sweeping punitive measures, such as those that prevent ordinary Russians from accessing their own money, obtaining basic necessities, and traveling to Western countries. … If it continues to target all Russians with crippling sanctions, the West will impoverish and immiserate Russia — and possibly bolster Putin.”

"The corporate retreat from Russia is going to be messy," Cat Rutter Pooley, Financial Times, 03.09.22. The author, a business writer for the newspaper, writes:

  • “While the oil and gas groups garnered praise for their decision to exit equity investments, the reality of their entanglements with Russia has become clearer in recent days. Shell’s misguided purchase of a cheap Russian oil cargo flushed out a fresh set of commitments to stop trading Russian oil and cut it from its supply chain. But Shell acknowledged that phasing out Russian gas was a ‘complex challenge’ that would take years.”
  • “Years-long, too, may be the litigation that arises from international companies breaking their contracts regarding Russia. There has been no time to negotiate the legal niceties. That is clearly the right way round in the circumstances: act first, worry about the details later. Still, companies quitting the country may find themselves on the hook for substantial damages claims down the line.”
  • “It is understandable to want clarity from companies over exit plans. No one wants to be the one propping up Vladimir Putin’s regime. But many businesses have been in Russia for 30 years now. The realities of extricating themselves are going to be slow and complicated.”

"The Russian Sanctions Regime and the Risk of Catastrophic Success,” Erik Sand, Suzanne Freeman, War on the Rocks, 03.08.22. The authors, respectively an assistant professor in the Strategic and Operational Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College, and a Ph.D. candidate in the MIT Political Science Department, write:

  • “No nuclear armed power has ever faced the possibility of regime collapse due to economic pressure. It is conceivable that the Russia regime might consider nuclear use if economic pressure were significant enough to threaten its existence. What does this possibility mean for Western policymakers?”
    • “First, it does not necessarily mean they should reduce the economic pressure they are applying, but sanctions aren’t free.”
    • “Second, policymakers should anticipate how Russia might direct its military toward objectives that will help ameliorate the effects of sanctions or increase economic pain in the West.”
    • “Most importantly, it is vital that Western leaders combine sanctions with off-ramps for Moscow, especially if the conflict drags on.”
  • “The war in Ukraine is still in its early days. Economic pressure acts slowly, and the West may not achieve the economic isolation it desires. Still, the sanctions may work, and Western leaders cannot simply assume Vladimir Putin will throw in the towel. If they do, they may find themselves waking up as the U.S. Pacific Fleet did one Sunday morning in December 1941.”

War in Ukraine—Great Power rivalry/New Cold War:

"Raging Toward the Abyss with Russia," George Beebe, The National Interest, 03.11.22. The author, vice president and director of studies at the Center for the National Interest, writes:

  • “As Russia’s unconscionable invasion of Ukraine has brought the ‘post-Cold War’ period to a violent close, many are convinced that we have entered a new age of cold war with Russia. Few have welcomed this, but most seem confident the West will prevail. After all, we know the story of how the first Cold War turned out. … Ronald Reagan stood up to the Evil Empire, freedom proved superior to tyranny, and sensible reformers eventually came to power in Moscow. Our fears of global annihilation never materialized.”
  • “But we are not in some modern revival of that imagined morality play. We are in an intensifying escalatory spiral with a bitterly aggrieved nuclear power that, under the pressures of a stumbling military campaign and asphyxiating economic sanctions, may soon face a choice between accepting national humiliation and doing something we have long thought to be unimaginable: directly attacking a NATO member or even the United States.”
  • “Washington’s recent decision to activate military deconfliction channels with Russia was wise, as was NATO’s choice not to pursue a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which would have required direct engagement with Russian aircraft and air defenses. We must be careful, however, not to allow our goal to slide from deterrence and punishment of Russia into regime change, which would be more likely to provoke Putin’s retaliation than his removal.”
  • The United States … can and should ensure that Russia does not win this war. But we must recognize that Putin can make everyone else suffer horrifically if Russia must lose. Diplomacy is our only way out of this dead end. To encourage the Russians to end the fighting, we must face the painful reality that they need a viable path toward a future in which sanctions are eased and NATO is not in Ukraine, while at the same time safeguarding Ukraine’s security.”
  • “In our outrage over Russia’s bloody assault, very few in the West believe we should seek ways to end the conflict short of the Kremlin’s capitulation. But unless we do, we are unlikely to find ourselves in a new Cold War. We may instead be in a very hot one.”

"Putin Is Angry, but He Isn’t Mad," Michael O'Hanlon, The Wall Street Journal, 03.09.22. The author, who holds a chair in defense and strategy at the Brookings Institution, writes:

  • “Has Vladimir Putin lost his mind? Almost certainly not. He appears to have miscalculated badly in his invasion of Ukraine. But history is laden with aggressors who thought wars would be much easier than they turned out to be. It’s a natural human tendency, especially in dictatorships or juntas. Think of the kaiser and World War I, the Tojo regime leading into World War II, Kim Il Sung in Korea, the Soviets in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein against Iran and Kuwait.”
  • “Before the invasion, Mr. Putin appears to have become overconfident in his own judgment and his armed forces … Combine that overconfidence with wounded pride about Russia’s place in the world and anger at his adversaries, and you have a psychology capable of making a big miscalculation — without needing insanity to explain the misjudgment.”
  • “What about the nuclear threats? There are precedents for Mr. Putin’s putting his forces on alert early in the invasion: The U.S. did the same during the 1973 Middle East war to discourage Soviet intervention. The Russian leader’s pre-invasion vow to meet resistance with ‘consequences that you have never experienced in your history’ was most likely an attempt at deterrence through intimidation.”
  • “The implications of all this are twofold.”
    • “First, Mr. Putin has probably begun to realize he made a mistake. He may look for a way to mitigate it. The West should consider whether there is a way to ensure Ukraine’s long-term security without North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership, in exchange for Russian withdrawal and commitment to a verifiable arrangement.”
    • “Second, if Mr. Putin is rational, NATO can deter him from attacks against Poland and the Baltics by moving more troops there.”
  • “We already knew that Mr. Putin was angry, arrogant and autocratic. We have learned that he is also more reckless than we had appreciated. But his behavior can otherwise be explained simply by allowing for the kinds of mistakes that leaders often make. Given that he has his finger on the nuclear trigger, that’s a relief.”

"Preventing a Wider European Conflict," Thomas Graham, Council on Foreign Relations, 03.08.22. The author, a CFR distinguished fellow, writes:

  • “As is the case with the current crisis in Ukraine, Moscow’s intentions will remain ambiguous. The indicators of an approaching escalation in the conflict beyond Ukraine are likely to fall into three categories.”
    • “The first indicators that political and military conditions are increasing the risk of broader conflict include a breakdown in channels of communication with Moscow.”
    • “Second are the indicators that Moscow is preparing for a broader conflict, which it would undoubtedly argue had been forced by Western actions.”
    • “Third are the indicators that Moscow is intentionally seeking to widen the conflict.”
  • “The Biden administration is already taking steps to prevent the spread of conflict in Europe and harden the resilience of allies and partners in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
  • “Critically, the United States should confront the urgent crisis in Europe without unduly sacrificing focus on the strategic challenge in the Indo-Pacific, and to prepare for a major change in the geopolitics of the Eurasian supercontinent. A tall order but not an impossible task.”
  • “As the United States repositions itself in the global arena, it will need to come to an understanding with its allies on how it wants a broader conflict with Russia to end. In a prolonged conflict, Moscow will seek to divide the allies in part through calls for peace negotiations. When to negotiate is a delicate question on which the United States and its allies are sure to have different opinions. Washington will have to work hard to forge a consensus.”
  • “Both victory and defeat will be hard to define. But given the destructiveness of modern weaponry and the ever-present risk of escalation to the nuclear level, a negotiated settlement, in which neither side wins or loses, is to be preferred to pressing for victory — that is, Russia’s capitulation. It should be possible to find one that leaves the transatlantic community stronger and peace in Europe more secure.”

“Is a Ceasefire Agreement Possible? A Negotiation Analysis of the Russia-Ukraine War,” Arvid Bell and Dana Wolf, Russia Matters, 03.12.22. The authors, head of the Negotiations Task Force at Harvard’s Davis Center and head of the Law and Security Program at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, respectively, write: 

  • “This assessment applies negotiation analysis methods to the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine—and, indirectly, NATO—to determine the likelihood of a negotiated ceasefire agreement that would end the Russian invasion and open the door to a more comprehensive peace deal. As of this writing, we assess that the probability of such a ceasefire is very unlikely (5-20%) but not an ‘almost no chance’ outcome (1%-5%) that can be fully dismissed.” 
  • “We also argue that the current mix of escalatory and de-escalatory actions by the parties is meant to improve their negotiating positions by influencing the other parties’ perceptions of ‘no-deal options’—i.e., the options that would be left open to them if no deal can be reached. Most dramatically, with Moscow opting to target civilians and lay siege to Ukrainian cities, its goal seems to be to convince Kyiv that it is better off with an unfavorable agreement on Russia’s terms than with a terrible alternative—the complete destruction of Ukraine.” 
  • “For more fruitful negotiations to begin, Russia’s interest in a cease-fire must be heightened, even if it remains lower than Ukraine’s.”  

“President Putin’s Rationality and Escalation in Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine," Kimberly Marten, PONARS Eurasia, 03.09.22. The author, chair of Barnard College's Political Science Department, writes:

  • “‘Rationality’ is a word that gets stretched for rhetorical effect. To understand whether Putin is likely to attack a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member-state or use nuclear weapons, it is helpful to consider a standard social science definition of rationality….What many of these social science definitions have in common are three basic tenets: (1) a rational actor has a set of goals and acts on them; (2) the actor’s goals are more or less consistently prioritized over time; and (3) the actor does a fairly complete search for information before taking action.”
  • “Despite [his]  well-prioritized goals, Putin seems to have had astonishingly poor intelligence in the leadup to his decision to invade Ukraine…. Putin did not understand how strong the Ukrainian resistance would be, nor that his own forces were undermotivated with inadequate logistic support. We know this because the state-run Novosti news agency accidentally published an article on February 26, two days into the invasion, falsely declaring that the Ukrainian government had fallen and that Russian forces had successfully reestablished Russian unity with Ukraine.”
  • “In other words, Putin apparently believed that he would have a quick and easy victory, not the hard slog his forces, in fact, faced. Putin also seems to have seriously underestimated the unity of global economic actors, led by the United States, in condemning his actions and imposing extraordinarily harsh sanctions on Russia.”
  • “The danger of the current situation is not that Putin will wantonly cross over NATO borders or climb the nuclear escalation ladder, even if he is living in a bubble. Instead, it is the possibility of miscalculation and inadvertent escalation between two rational but nuclear-armed adversaries.”
  • “The fact that Ukraine has accomplished so much up until now with Western support has infuriated Putin, but his fury is not likely to lead to intentional self-immolation. It is a miscalculation, not madness that the United States and NATO must guard against.”

"Time for NATO to find a way out of the escalation trap in Ukraine," John Raine, IISS, 03.11.22. The author, a senior advisor for due diligence at IISS, writes:

  • “NATO is dangerously predictable. It has no means to surprise. This has given confidence to Putin that he knows the edges of his maneuver space. What NATO might need to regain the advantage is an unheralded adaptation of its defense posture and possibly its doctrine. It must change the perception of NATO as a static treaty organization around which Putin can maneuver with confidence. … A combination of initiatives may have the desired effect without splitting the Alliance.”
    • “Firstly, NATO must do much more of what it is already doing by supplying material, which will affect the strategic balance of the conflict. It must be resolute in securing physical supply lines, legal authorities and a robust narrative.”
    • “Secondly, NATO must adopt a concept of humanitarian intervention that enables it effectively to project force to protect life. … NATO needs both an immediate humanitarian package and a long-term formula for humanitarian intervention if necessary protected by NATO force.”
    • “Thirdly, it needs to create a legal and policy framework for pre-emptive action on the grounds of imminence. Concern that this will play into the Russian narrative of NATO aggression may now be misplaced – that narrative is already beyond reversal thanks to the state control of the media in Russia.”
  • “A revised framework for intervention will be challenging. But a similar step was taken by the US and other NATO members to establish the legal framework required to intervene pre-emptively against terrorists when waiting for a terrorist attack to happen before acting in self-defense was too late.”
  • “There is a parallel now with Russia. The abundance of intelligence on Putin’s intent and capabilities compared to the inability to act is leaving NATO exposed to embarrassment and moral hazard. It will be more than embarrassment if, thanks to intelligence and courageous media reporting, NATO has full visibility of Russia as it destroys Ukraine city by city but cannot act. It will be damage to NATO’s credibility and authority at a time when it is most desperately needed.”

"How the War in Ukraine Could Get Much Worse," Emma Ashford and Joshua Shifrinson, Foreign Affairs, 03.08.22. The authors, respectively a Senior Fellow in the New American Engagement Initiative at the Atlantic Council and an associate professor of International Relations at Boston University, write:

  • “Although the Biden administration has been relatively careful and judicious in its approach to arming Ukraine, it may be rapidly approaching a more perilous period of this conflict. Ukrainian defenses have operated better than anticipated. Still, the odds are on Russia’s side. … Pressure is likely to mount for Western governments to offer additional assistance to Ukraine, particularly if an insurgency erupts in Russian-occupied areas.”
  • “The Biden administration should be extremely wary about responding to such pressure. In particular, arming and backing an insurgency would blur the line between being a supporting actor and being a co-combatant.”
  • “The United States must also be prepared to restrain its allies. For example, it may be tempting for the countries closest to the conflict to consider unilateral steps such as supporting an insurgency or offering Ukrainian fighters safe haven on their territory. Nevertheless, it would not be out of line to make clear that the United States might interpret Article 5 commitments loosely in such instances, meaning that should Russia retaliate, the United States might not be obligated to respond with military force. Amid the present spiral, Biden and his team must determine where the United States’ own limits fall and focus on remaining well within them.”
  • “The most effective way to curtail the risks of escalation in Europe is to end the conflict in Ukraine. This will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to do in the near term given the brutality of Russian behavior, the irreconcilable demands of each side, and the West’s understandable desire to support Ukraine. At some point, however, the United States may need to use its leverage with all parties … to bring about a ceasefire or settlement.”
  • “Such a move would amount to a sea change in U.S. policy thus far. But because the alternative may be to get pulled into a direct military engagement with Russia, hardheaded consideration of U.S. interests may require a course adjustment. Ultimately, the only thing more tragic than the present war would be an even bigger, bloodier one.”

“Could Ukraine become neutral, like Switzerland? Five things to know,” Audrey Kurth Cronin, The Washington Post (Monkey Cage), 03.09.22. The author, a distinguished professor of international security and the founding director of the Center for Security, Innovation and New Technology at American University, writes: 

  • “There’s no single theory of ‘neutrality’—it’s a malleable concept tailored to the interests and circumstances of the specific country, especially after the Cold War. Here are five things to know about neutrality.” 
  • “1. Neutrality does not mean the country disarms. Switzerland, Sweden and Finland are non-NATO members with strong militaries, including robust air defense systems. They purchase arms from whomever they wish. … [T]he predominant form of neutrality today is well-armed nonalignment—and a defensive, armed neutrality would appear the feasible option for Ukraine.” 
  • “2. Neutrality doesn’t undermine sovereignty. Negotiators will argue over specifics, but neutrality need not restrict national sovereignty any more than arms control agreements do.” 
  • “3. The key to neutrality is not joining military alliances. Khrushchev had a good reason for supporting Austrian neutrality. Would Putin accept a neutral Ukraine? He might not—if Putin is fighting an irredentist war, seeking to reincorporate what he considers ethnic Russian kin, there is nothing to negotiate about. But he might consider fallback options if he sees no way to achieve those aims without provoking a broader European war.” 
  • “These three things are at the heart of all forms of permanent neutrality: promising not to join military alliances, protecting a country’s territory and promising not to host foreign troops. Other terms are negotiable and vary from place to place.” 
  • “4. Neutral countries often join trade and economic organizations… EU accession wouldn’t necessarily put Ukraine at odds with being a European neutral. The question will be whether EU membership matters as much to Putin as membership in NATO clearly does.” 
  • “5. Would Ukraine have the neutrality option? No neutrality agreement could happen without Ukrainians seeking and accepting it. Since World War II, externally imposed neutrality has invariably failed—as in the case of Laos in 1962, during the Vietnam War. … For now, it’s unclear whether neutrality is an option—or when it might become one.” 

"It’s time to ask: what would a Ukraine-Russia peace deal look like?" Anatol Lieven, The Guardian, 03.04.22. The author, a senior research fellow on Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, writes:

  • “The West should back a peace agreement and Russian withdrawal by offering Russia the lifting of all new sanctions imposed on it. The offer to Ukraine should be a massive reconstruction package that will also help Ukraine to move towards the West economically and politically rather than militarily.”
  • “The demands by the Russian side are that Ukraine should sign a treaty of neutrality; engage in ‘demilitarization’ and ‘denazification;’ and recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea, which was seized back by Russia after the Ukrainian Revolution. These demands are a mixed bag of the acceptable, the unacceptable, and the undefined.”
    • “President Volodymyr Zelensky has publicly hinted that a treaty of neutrality may be on offer; and he is right to do so.”
    • “As to ‘demilitarization’ and ‘denazification’, the meaning and terms of these will have to be negotiated.”
  • “There remains the demand for recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea. Ukraine has already lost Crimea, and cannot recover it, as Serbia cannot recover Kosovo, without a bloody and unending war that in this case Ukraine would almost certainly lose. Our principle in all such disputes must be that the fate of the territories concerned must be decided by local democratic referenda under international supervision. This should also apply to the Donbas separatist republics.”
  • “These proposals will be denounced as ‘rewarding Russian aggression’; but if Putin’s original aim really was to subjugate the whole of Ukraine, then by such an agreement Moscow would fall far short of its maximal goals. Moreover, such an agreement would give Russia nothing that it had not in practice already achieved before launching the invasion. The West is morally right to oppose the monstrous and illegal Russian war and to have imposed exceptionally severe sanctions on Russia in response, but would be morally wrong to oppose a reasonable agreement to end the invasion and spare the people of Ukraine terrible suffering. America’s own record over the past generation gives no basis for such self-righteous hyper-legalism.”

"Putin Has No Good Way Out, and That Really Scares Me," Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times, 03.08.22. The author, an opinion columnist for the newspaper, writes:

  • “In the coming weeks it will become more and more obvious that our biggest problem with Putin in Ukraine is that he will refuse to lose early and small, and the only other outcome is that he will lose big and late. But because this is solely his war and he cannot admit defeat, he could keep doubling down in Ukraine … until he contemplates using a nuclear weapon.”
  • “The easy, low-cost invasion he envisioned and the welcome party from Ukrainians he imagined were total fantasies — and everything flows from that. … Given the resistance of Ukrainians everywhere to the Russian occupation, for Putin to ‘win’ militarily on the ground his army will need to subdue every major city in Ukraine. That includes the capital, Kyiv — after probably weeks of urban warfare and massive civilian casualties. In short, it can be done only by Putin and his generals perpetrating war crimes not seen in Europe since Hitler. It will make Putin's Russia a permanent international pariah.”
  • “Moreover, how would Putin maintain control of another country — Ukraine — that has roughly one-third the population of Russia, with many residents hostile to Moscow? He would probably need to maintain every one of the 150,000-plus soldiers he has deployed there — if not more — forever.”
  • “There is simply no pathway that I see for Putin to win in Ukraine in any sustainable way because it simply is not the country he thought it was — a country just waiting for a quick decapitation of its ''Nazi'' leadership so that it could gently fall back into the bosom of Mother Russia.”
  • “So either he cuts his losses now and eats crow — and hopefully for him escapes enough sanctions to revive the Russian economy and hold onto power — or faces a forever war against Ukraine and much of the world, which will slowly sap Russia's strength and collapse its infrastructure. … Putin's Russia is not too big to fail. It is, however, too big to fail in a way that won't shake the whole rest of the world.”

"Enforcing a No-Fly Zone in Ukraine Would Be Catastrophic," Sumantra Maitra, The National Interest, 03.08.22. The author, a national security fellow at the Center for the National Interest, writes:

  • “It is important to understand what an NFZ [ed: no-fly zone] would require, why it would almost inevitably intensify a dangerous escalatory spiral with Russia, and why such a measure is not in the American interest.”
  • “Imposing any form of NFZ in Ukraine would, by definition, make the United States a combatant in a war with Russia, a country that has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. It would require Western jets to patrol Ukrainian airspace, which would make them potential targets of Russian long-range surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs) based in Russia and Belarus. That threat, in turn, would require Western jets to suppress Russian air defenses by destroying Russian SAMs, radars, and armor on Russian and Belarussian territory, in addition to engaging in direct air-to-air combat with Russian jets.”
  • “It is crucial to remember that thus far in Ukraine, Russia has refrained from using its best assets, and the top-tier Russian air force has stayed out of the action. One can speculate that the Russian command is preserving their forces in case the war expands to a regional or continental scale. An NFZ, however, would almost certainly invite the top-ranking Russian assets into the fray.”
  • “The suggestion that this would deescalate rather than intensify the war in Ukraine is far-fetched. The idea of an NFZ is predicated on Russian self-restraint. Russia has already declared that it would regard a Western NFZ over Ukraine as an act of war. That would include any NATO bases being used for operational support for Ukraine. To believe that Vladimir Putin and Russian commanders would sit idly as NATO forces attack Russian planes and air defenses is folly.”
  • The Biden administration has consistently — and wisely — insisted that the United States will not go to war with Russia over Ukraine, recognizing that such involvement could easily escalate to nuclear strikes. In the interests of ending this war and bringing peace to Ukraine, this insistence should remain our policy. There should be no imposition of any No-Fly Zone in Ukraine.”

"The west cannot turn its back on ordinary Russians," Ivan Krastev, Financial Times, 03.11.22. The author, chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria, and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, writes:

  • “It was only a matter of hours after Vladimir Putin attacked Ukraine that Marina Davidova, the esteemed Russian theatre critic, wrote an open letter against the war. … Davidova soon became subject to vicious harassment … Fearful for her life, she fled Russia. Once she got out, however, Davidova was surprised to discover a twisted new reality. When in Moscow, she had been treated by the secret service as a traitor. But in western Europe, she was now perceived as a Russian occupier, possibly an agent … It was her passport, not her story, that mattered. Sotto voce, her friends told her that the idea of a ‘good Russian’ was now a thing of the past.”
  • “Russia today is a brutal police state and in Putin’s worldview to be a traitor (and for the president any citizen who opposes the war is a traitor) is far worse than to be an enemy. Putin once put it with terrifying clarity: ‘Enemies are right in front of you, you are at war with them, then you make an armistice with them, and all is clear. A traitor must be destroyed, crushed.’”
  • “In his unsettlingly prophetic 2006 novel, Day of the Oprichnik, the Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin imagines a future for his country as a medieval-style theocracy where the monarchy has been restored, flogging is back, and the official ideology is a kind of corruption-friendly mysticism. A Great Wall divides Russia from the west, all goods come from China, and all ideas emerge from an imagined past.”
  • “It is easy to imagine tomorrow’s Russia resembling Sorokin’s nightmares. Europe will never feel secure sharing a border with a Russia like this. Turning our backs on those Russians courageous enough to oppose Putin’s war, even to those who do not have the will to oppose it but at least the decency not to support it, will be a strategic mistake.”
  • “Three decades ago many in the west naively believed that a democratic future was the only possible path for post-Soviet Russia. Now we are making a comparable mistake in assuming that a post-Putin Russia could not be anything but his Russia with another strongman ruler.”

"India’s disappointing silence over Ukraine," Editorial Board, Financial Times, 03.13.22. The newspaper's editorial board writes:

  • India has a history of remaining circumspect when Moscow embarks on a military offensive. When the Soviet Union invaded Hungary in 1956, or Czechoslovakia in 1968, or Afghanistan in 1979, or when Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, India did not condemn the aggressor, preferring to maintain its interests with both sides, and its ability to mediate. It is nevertheless disappointing — and no longer in India’s own interest — that New Delhi has taken such a passive stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
  • “Over the past decade, India has been getting much closer to the U.S. strategically, and Delhi seems to have believed that it could get closer to Washington while maintaining its strong ties to Russia. For example, it procured the S-400 missile system from Moscow, despite US warnings that would be incompatible with a deeper defense partnership. In its dealings with Moscow and Washington, India has hoped to run with the hare and hunt with the hound.”
  • “In the new, post-invasion world, such an approach no longer looks viable. A choice not to criticize Russia is also a choice that could reverberate in the future and put strains on New Delhi’s relations with Washington — the one ally that could make a difference in any future dealings with China. To best secure India’s interests, Modi ought to apply all the pressure he can on Putin to end his disastrous war.”

"The UN Is Another Casualty of Russia’s War: Why the Organization Might Never Bounce Back," Richard Gowan, Foreign Affairs, 03.10.22. The author, U.N. director at International Crisis Group, writes:

  • “With the Security Council facing a period of increasing fragmentation and paralysis, the United States and its allies will need to see what parts of the UN system they can still use to limit international instability.”
  • “The Ukrainian conflict marks the most severe test for multilateralism since the end of the Cold War, and the full scale of its impact on international diplomacy is still unclear. But it may still be possible to preserve significant parts of the UN system to face future crises.”

"The Return of Pax Americana? Putin’s War Is Fortifying the Democratic Alliance," Michael Beckley and Hal Brands, Foreign Affairs, 03.14.22. The authors, respectively an associate professor of Political Science at Tufts University, and the Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, write:

  • Washington should eschew directly military intervention in Ukraine. It should ignore impassioned calls to pursue regime change in Russia or China—an objective the democratic world lacks the power to achieve at a cost it can tolerate. The United States must also remain selective about where it competes most vigorously with Moscow and Beijing: eastern Europe and East Asia matter tremendously, whereas parts of Central Asia and Africa do not. Above all, the United States and its allies must remain patient. Truman acknowledged, in 1953, that the Cold War wouldn’t end anytime soon, but he argued that ‘we have set the course that we can win it.’ That’s a reasonable standard for U.S. policy in the early 2020s.”
  • “Even an economically devastated, militarily constrained Russia will retain the ability to make geopolitical trouble. China will be a formidable rival for decades, even if it is prevented from overturning the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. The free-world offensive during the Korean War was an emergency program, but it created enduring strategic advantages that largely determined the Cold War’s outcome. The Ukraine crisis can have a similar effect in another long twilight struggle if it motivates the United States and its allies to get serious about defending the world order that has served them so well.”

"An International Relations Theory Guide to the War in Ukraine," Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, 03.08.22. The author, Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University, writes:

  • “What do some well-known international relations theories have to say about the tragic events in Ukraine? Which theories have been vindicated (at least in part), which have been found wanting, and which might highlight key issues as the crisis continues to unfold? Here’s a tentative and far-from-comprehensive survey of what scholars have to say about this mess.”
    • “Liberal ideologues who dismissed Russia’s repeated protests and warnings and continued to press a revisionist program in Europe with scant regard for the consequences are far from blameless. … Liberal theories that emphasize the role of institutions fare somewhat better by helping us understand the rapid and remarkably unified Western response.”
    • “Realism may be the best overall guide to the grim situation we now face, but it hardly tells us the whole story. For example, realists rightly downplay the role of norms as strong constraints on great-power behavior, but norms have played a role in explaining the global response to Russia’s invasion.”
    • “It is also impossible to understand these events without considering the role of misperception and miscalculation. … Governments and individual leaders are … operating with imperfect information and can easily misjudge their own capabilities and the capabilities and reactions of others.”
    • “Prospect theory, which argues that humans are more willing to take risks to avoid losses than to achieve gains, may have been at work here as well. If Putin believed Ukraine was gradually moving into alignment with the United States and NATO … then preventing what he regards as an irretrievable loss might be worth a huge roll of the dice.”
  • “The bottom line is that the scholarly literature on international relations has a lot to say about the situation we are facing. Unfortunately, no one in a position of power is likely to pay much attention to it, even when knowledgeable academics offer their thoughts in the public sphere. Time is the scarcest commodity in politics—especially in a crisis—and Jake Sullivan, Antony Blinken, and their many subordinates are not about to start leafing through back issues of International Security or the Journal of Conflict Resolution to find the good stuff.”

"The Weakness of the Despot: An expert on Stalin discusses Putin, Russia, and the West," David Remnick, The New York Times, 03.11.22. The author, editor of the magazine, interviewed Stephen Kotkin, a professor of history at Princeton University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, who said:

  • “Russia is a great power, but not the great power … In trying to match the West or at least manage the differential between Russia and the West, they resort to coercion. They use a very heavy state-centric approach to try to beat the country forward and upwards in order, militarily and economically, to either match or compete with the West. And that works for a time, but very superficially.”
  • “Even if the Ukrainians succeed in their insurgency, in their resistance, there will be countless deaths and destruction. We need a way to avoid that kind of outcome. That would mean catalyzing a process to engage Putin in discussion with … someone to engage him in some type of process where he doesn’t have maximalist demands and it stalls for time, for things to happen on the ground, that rearrange the picture of what he can do.”
  • "There’s now quite a lot of worry inside the Chinese élites, but Xi Jinping is in charge and has a personal relationship with Putin. Xi has thrown in his lot with Putin. But how long that goes on depends upon whether the Europeans begin to punish the Chinese. The Europeans are their biggest trading partner. The Chinese are watching this very closely. They’re watching (a) our intelligence penetration, (b) the mistakes of a despotism, and (c) the costs that you have to pay as the U.S. and European private companies cancel Russia up and down. Xi Jinping, who is heading for an unprecedented third term in the fall, needed this like a hole in the head.”
  • “The pressure is on to be maximalist on our side, but, the more you corner them, the more there’s nothing to lose for Putin, the more he can raise the stakes, unfortunately. He has many tools that he hasn’t used that can hurt us. We need a de-escalation from the maximalist spiral, and we need a little bit of luck and good fortune, perhaps in Moscow, perhaps in Helsinki or Jerusalem, perhaps in Beijing, but certainly in Kyiv.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

"It’s Time to Offer Russia an Offramp. China Can Help With That," Wang Huiyao, The New York Times, 03.13.22. The author, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, a nongovernmental think tank based in Beijing, writes:

  • We are now in an escalatory spiral. Mounting pressure on Mr. Putin will likely make the situation more dangerous as Russia’s leader feels pushed to take increasingly extreme measures — such as what we’ve seen in the past few days with the Russian army’s siege tactics and attacks on civilian areas.”
  • “The United States and its allies might be reluctant to have China play any role in this crisis, given that they view Beijing as a strategic rival. That’s foolish and shortsighted; the conflict’s immediate dangers far outweigh any competitive considerations. Ukraine itself sees the potential of Chinese-led conflict resolution.”
  • “So far, China has called for dialogue and says it supports humanitarian aid efforts. But Beijing’s interests in more proactive involvement are growing by the day.”
    • “China has a significant economic interest in a quick resolution to the Russian-Ukrainian war.”
    • “Russia and Ukraine are crucial components of the Belt and Road infrastructure program as well as conduits for China’s trade with Europe.”
    • “China is also uniquely positioned to act as a neutral mediator between a Western-supported Ukraine and Russia.”
  • “It is not in Beijing’s interests to rely solely on an anti-Western alliance with Moscow. Russia may possess a mighty military, but its economy is in long-term structural decline, with a GDP not much larger than that of Spain. For all the talk of ties with Moscow, it is worth remembering that China’s economic interests with Russia are dwarfed by those it shares with the West.”
  • “The longer the war goes on, though, China may find itself in a position of diminishing returns in its close relationship with Russia. This makes the argument for Beijing to take on an active mediation role even more compelling. … Beijing’s goal would be to find a solution that gives Mr. Putin sufficient security assurances that can be presented as a win to his domestic audience while protecting Ukraine’s core sovereignty and NATO’s open-door policy.”

"Beijing takes ‘war lessons’ from Russia’s military tactics in Ukraine," Kathrin Hille, Financial Times, 03.09.22. The author, a China correspondent for the newspaper, writes:

  • “For the PLA, the Russian operations — which Beijing refuses to call an invasion — are live lessons in the kind of warfare Chinese troops have not experienced in almost half a century. Beijing fears that, not having been in real combat since the 1979 border war with Vietnam, its military is suffering from ‘peace disease’, a lack of battlefield experience and fighting spirit.”
  • “According to information released by the Ukrainian side and by the US government, Russia’s ground forces appear to have run into severe problems with communications and logistics. Convoys of armored vehicles are said to have run out of fuel, Russian soldiers have been left stranded not knowing directions, and key Russian equipment such as Pantsir anti-aircraft missile trucks have been abandoned by their crews.”
  • “Russian ground troops’ communications troubles in Ukraine highlight the risks of a centralized command structure on the battlefield as it can leave soldiers helpless when they are cut off. Although the PLA is experimenting with devolving more command functions to lower ranks in exercises, analysts observe that the Chinese Communist party’s concerns over political control and loyalty is hindering that process.”

Missile defense:

“After four decades and $200 billion, the US missile defense system is no match for a Russian nuclear attack,” Jim Puzzanghera, The Boston Globe, 03.13.22. The author, a reporter for the news outlet, writes:

  • “‘This idea of an impenetrable shield against an enormous arsenal of Russian missiles is just a fantasy,’ said Laura Grego, a fellow at MIT's Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy … ‘It's too hard to do.’”
  • “Russian nuclear missiles are more sophisticated than those from North Korea, Soofer said. So the U.S. would need to fire multiple interceptors at an incoming Russian missile to destroy its warheads, and the system could quickly get overwhelmed.”
  • “In a 2018 speech, Putin said Russia was developing nuclear weapons designed to evade U.S. missile defenses. Arms control advocates said that's a downside of the U.S. missile defense effort—it leads Russia and China to try to upgrade their nuclear weapons.”
  • “Grego said a spaced-based system remains infeasible today, potentially requiring thousands of interceptors because of the complications of orbits and the Earth's rotation. ‘Even if you had a Death Star, you need lots of Death Stars,’ she said, harkening back to Star Wars. ‘For strategic missile defense, which is defending the U.S. homeland from Russian missiles, it isn't really a political decision. Physics has done that for you. It's just too hard. You're not going to do it.’”

Nuclear arms:

“Russian military doctrine calls a limited nuclear strike ‘de-escalation.’ Here’s why,” Nikolai N. Sokov, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 03.08.22. The author, a senior fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, writes:

  • “In 1999, at a time when renewed war in Chechnya seemed imminent, Moscow watched with great concern as NATO waged a high-precision military campaign in Yugoslavia. The conventional capabilities that the United States and its allies demonstrated seemed far beyond Russia’s own capacities. And because the issues underlying the Kosovo conflict seemed almost identical to those underlying the Chechen conflict, Moscow became deeply worried that the United States would interfere within its borders. By the next year, Russia had issued a new military doctrine whose main innovation was the concept of ‘de-escalation’—the idea that, if Russia were faced with a large-scale conventional attack that exceeded its capacity for defense, it might respond with a limited nuclear strike.”
  • “To date, Russia has never publicly invoked the possibility of de-escalation in relation to any specific conflict. But Russia’s policy probably limited the West’s options for responding to the 2008 war in Georgia. And it is probably in the back of Western leaders’ minds today, dictating restraint as they formulate their responses to events in Ukraine. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine shows, nuclear threats are real, present and dangerous.”

“How to Stop a New Nuclear Arms Race With Russia Going Rogue; America Must Cooperate With China,” Rose Gottemoeller, Foreign Affairs, 03.09.22. The author, the Steven C. Házy Lecturer at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes:

  • “Furious at the response to its war in Ukraine, Russia might cut itself off from everything that it has accomplished in controlling and limiting nuclear weapons. … Russia has been a giant of the nonproliferation regime. The major treaties of the twentieth century all benefitted from the skills of Russian negotiators and the wisdom of Russian experts.”
  • “The invasion of Ukraine may end this admirable tradition. Russia could become more isolated and cease to play any responsible international role, as Medvedev’s threat to leave the New START treaty and shutter the embassies in Moscow suggests. … Russian isolation in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine will jeopardize further progress on nuclear nonproliferation.”
  • “Washington and Moscow should begin by restoring constraints on intermediate-range ground-launched missiles, also known as INF missiles, in Europe. … Russia and the United States will have a harder time coming to an agreement about replacing the New START treaty, currently in force but set to expire in 2026.”
  • “With Russia at best a less reliable partner, China’s role in the international arms control regime will become increasingly vital. … If Russia absents itself from nuclear diplomacy, the United States and China will have to consider how they, budding superpower rivals, can develop a greater partnership to resolve problems in the global arms control regimes.”
  • “If China and the United States can demonstrate successful cooperation … it will help other powers breathe more easily and feel reassured that the world is not heading into a free-for-all of weapons of mass destruction. The crisis in Ukraine can be the shock that boots the global community into redoubling its efforts to constrain such weapons. If states do not seize this chance, they risk ushering in a new, terrifying arms race.”

"We shouldn’t be even this close to nuclear war," Stephen Kinzer, Boston Globe, 03.09.22. The author, a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, writes:

  • “The world is closer to nuclear combat now than it has been at any other time in the last half-century. Both Russia and the United States have developed tactical nuclear weapons designed for use on battlefields. Some of them are one-third as powerful as the atomic bombs with which the United States incinerated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.”
  • “President Biden deserves credit for not replying to Putin’s nuclear threats with counterthreats. Yet Americans are now caught in a spiral of emotion … Relentless images of Russian bombing and suffering Ukrainians provoke outrage and demands for punishing revenge. That can lead us to lose sight of the terrible stakes. By arming Ukraine and seeking to smack Russia, we may be sleepwalking toward the ultimate nightmare.”
  • “Both Russian and American military planners have placed nuclear combat on their list of possible tools in wartime. It’s right there on the ‘threat continuum’ after covert action, sanctions, cyberattacks and conventional war—as if it’s simply another step up the coercive ladder. Until we remove that step, the danger of holocaust will hang over our planet.”
  • “Nuclear war is beyond our lived experience and even our imagination. The prospect seems distant and improbable. It isn’t. One way to lessen the immediate danger would be for the United States and NATO to declare unequivocally that we will never use nuclear weapons in Ukraine and ask Russia to pledge the same. Then, if we emerge from this crisis alive, all nuclear powers should devote themselves urgently to assuring that we never reach such a dangerous threshold again.”
  • “The responsibility lies mainly with Russia and the United States, which have more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. If these two countries could assure each other that neither would ever be the first to use those weapons, the world would instantly become far safer.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

“Preventing Cyber Escalation in Ukraine and After,” Jason Healey, War on the Rocks, 03.09.22. The author, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs, writes:

  • “How can Washington reduce the risk of cyber attacks escalating into a direct conflict with Russia?”
    • “First, by recognizing it. Cyber conflict may be an intelligence contest or a pressure release in peacetime and something quite different during or after a major war in Europe. Cyber war may be far easier to stumble into when states fear the wolf at their door.”
    • “Second, escalation control requires a better understanding of political psychology — specifically the mindset and desperation of one inscrutable, increasingly isolated, and blood-covered tyrant. There were more than enough expert commentators who believed that Putin would never invade Ukraine because it objectively seemed so irrational. Assessments of cyber escalation must also cover seeming irrationality, including the misperceptions, mistakes, and miscalculations that can lead even the most rational leaders to get caught up in an escalatory spiral that is no longer under their control.”
    • “Third, preventing escalation requires military and intelligence leaders to understand and respect cyber capabilities. Cyber capabilities are not ‘magic invisible weapons’ but rather real weapons with massive, cascading consequences. They have a range of advantages and restrictions that sober-minded national leaders should approach as they would any other weapon.”
    • “Finally, even if we dodge a bullet this time, we should not become complacent. Personally, I would put the chances of cyber conflict escalating into a Russia–NATO war at less than 10 percent. With luck, escalation will not happen, and I will be written off as a ‘cyber catastrophist.’ ‘Cyber doesn’t work like that,’ we will tell ourselves. ‘Remember the lessons of the Ukrainian cyber non-war. Cyber doesn’t escalate. It isn’t useful on the battlefield or for coercing other states.’”
  • “This will hopefully continue to be true for weeks or even years. But the world is in the first few decades of an information age that will continue for a long time. The existential stakes of cyber conflict rise as more countries become more digitized and more reliant on vulnerable information technology.”

"Russia–Ukraine: Pressing the right button at the right time," Marcus Willett, IISS, 03.10.22. The author, senior advisor for cyber at IISS, writes:

  • “Theories abound as to why Russia has not used destructive cyber operations in its offensive on Ukraine so far. Perhaps Ukrainian cyber security has improved, especially with Western help. Maybe the widespread skirmishing of cyber ‘partisans’ from both sides has got in the way. It could be that the Russians are keeping Ukrainian networks operating for their own purposes, including to assist their intelligence gathering. And it is of course unlikely that everything the Russians may be doing has been made public.”
  • “This crisis is likely to confirm that Russia is neither an economic nor conventional military superpower and, particularly because it lacks the most sophisticated means and methods of delivering destructive cyber precision against high-value targets, also not a cyber superpower. In all three categories, it is outmatched by the US. Russia is a superpower only in the sense that it has a massive strategic nuclear arsenal, hence how quickly Putin turned to threatening its use.”
  • “But it would be a mistake to assume that, just because destructive cyber operations have so far appeared to be off the table in the current conflict, Russia is not capable of conducting them if push came to shove. In extremis, the Russians might care less about the risk of an indiscriminate use of cyber capabilities in Ukraine causing damage beyond Ukraine’s borders. As Western governments have been warning, we must be well prepared for that eventuality and not lulled into any false sense of cyber complacency, especially given the threat is likely to arise more from Russian desperation than strength.”

"The missing ‘cybergeddon’: what Ukraine can tell us about the future of cyber war," Rafal Rohozinski, IISS, 03.09.22. The author, principal at the SecDev Group and senior fellow at Canada's Centre for International Governance Innovation, writes:

  • “While the expected cyber war in Ukraine has yet to materialize, this doesn't mean that all is quiet on the cyber front. The extraordinary sanctions imposed on Russia by NATO and numerous countries around the world have significant implications for software programs, networks and devices. Companies such as Oracle and SAP – widely used by Russian banks, telecommunications operators and government institutions – suspended their operations in Russia, raising the prospect of licenses being revoked and thus rendering most databases inoperable. Likewise, Autodesk, a program commonly used for computer-aided design and manufacturing, and Microsoft have also pulled their licenses, among many others.”
  • “The net result is that Russia’s military and economy may be left bereft of the digital tools needed to build, field or employ weapons and materiel in pursuit of its objectives in Ukraine. In fact, the entire Russian economy could be forced into a pre-information-technology age.”
  • “There are signs that Russia is belatedly waking up to the importance of the cyber front. Russia’s information warfare has been more present and robust in recent days, with the volume of pro-government disinformation increasing. Russian authorities have taken extraordinary steps to further silence opposition at home, threatening anyone criticizing the Russian army with a 15-year prison sentence. A government decree ordered Russian websites to remove scripts that make them vulnerable to cyber attacks, and to switch to domestic domain-name servers.”
  • “Digital defenses are starting to take shape, and this may signal a shift towards a more dangerous phase of the cyber war. But the ‘cybergeddon’ we expected to see in the first major clash between advanced industrial states in the twenty-first century is not the one we got.”
  • “This may change, and rapidly. Cyber may yet become an axis in Russia's confrontation with NATO and a decisive factor in the Russia–Ukraine war. And, if we are lucky, it might also prevent the conflict from escalating into an unprecedented global catastrophe.”

Energy exports from CIS:

  • No significant developments.

Climate change:

"The climate spillover of Russia's war," Ben Geman, Andrew Freedman, Axios, 03.14.22. The authors, reporters for Axios, write:

  • “Russia's war on Ukraine could speed or slow the global transition to clean energy, with pressures already apparent in both directions. … Global CO2 emissions are at record highs, and need to plunge to keep the Paris Agreement goals within reach. The invasion began as UN-convened scientists published a landmark report on the quickening pace and growing severity of climate change.”
  • “Here are ways the crisis could accelerate climate action.”
    • “The European Commission hopes to end reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027 and plans to release a proposal in May.”
    • “The White House, many Democrats and environmentalists are pushing to translate Russian aggression into stronger deployment policies.”
    • “With prices at record levels (albeit not when you adjust for inflation), electric cars could start to look more attractive for the plug-curious.”
  • “The crisis is also creating new obstacles.”
    • “Climate has been pushed from the spotlight by the biggest war in Europe since World War II, on top of COVID and inflation.”
    • “The industry and Republicans say high prices and Europe's reliance on Russia make a case for more U.S. leasing and LNG export approvals. But that could lock in new fossil infrastructure for decades. …  The White House backs more near-term oil production and LNG shipments, even as it pushes clean energy as a lasting fix.”
    • “Europe is burning more coal right now. Bloomberg reports that coal use at European power plants earlier this month was up 51 percent from a year ago amid high natural gas prices and efforts to isolate Vladimir Putin.”
    • “Russia is a key supplier of clean energy materials. Think nickel, copper and other minerals used in EVs and other clean tech.”
  • “‘I have no idea how this kind of meta-crisis shakes up the U.S. energy landscape … if it kind of reverts back to 'drill, baby drill' or 'boy, it's time to get out of hydrocarbons,’ said Nikos Tsafos of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.”

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

“Why regime change in Moscow is not the goal,” James Hohmann, The Washington Post, 03.10.22. The author, a columnist for the news outlet, writes:

  • “Who can say for sure that whoever or whatever follows Putin in Moscow will be more reasonable? Putin is a leader who has been closely studied in the West for decades; multiple U.S. presidents have met and negotiated with him; anyone who takes his place is likely to be untested and unknown. This is why calling for regime change with a nuclear state is very dangerous business.”
  • “The Biden administration is not alone in its caution. After a spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said sanctions are ‘intended to bring down the Putin regime’ and France's finance minister said the hope is to ‘cause the collapse of the Russian economy,’ both governments quickly walked back these comments last week.”
  • “For now, the U.S. government hopes to avoid becoming a co-belligerent in the war with Ukraine, which might incite Putin to expand his war aims. That is in no nation's interest. But there's also a recognition that more aggressive steps may become necessary if Putin behaves more viciously and Western options for deterrence dwindle. Perhaps one day, the benefits of giving Putin a taste of his own medicine will more clearly outweigh the costs. But that day has not yet come.”

"Russia is a mineral powerhouse — and its war with Ukraine could affect global supplies," Sharon E. Burke, The Boston Globe, 03.09.22. The author, president of Ecospherics and a former official in the Obama, Bush (43), and Clinton administrations, writes:

  • Russia is a mineral powerhouse beyond titanium, too, mining everything from platinum and gold to cobalt and lithium. While there’s much discussion of the Russian influence over global oil and gas markets, the attack on Ukraine could have a significant impact on the global supply of these materials — and on the US economy.”
  • “The Biden administration’s Feb. 24 announcement of new measures to strengthen mineral supply chain security … is important to US prosperity and national security, and not unrelated to the current conflict, given Russia’s mineral wealth.”
    • “First, the administration is making investments in the diversification of sources. That includes funding for the departments of Energy and Defense to develop domestic reserves of rare earth elements, lithium, and nickel, promote recycling and refining of materials, as well as recovery of minerals from waste sources, such as coal ash.”
    • “There are also some policy changes, such as an update to the list of critical minerals, reforms to antiquated mine-permitting laws, and revised environmental standards. The Department of Defense will work with other agencies to strengthen the National Defense Stockpile.”
    • “[D]iplomatic work to diversify the source countries for minerals is just as important as developing more domestic supplies, given rising demand and natural limits on some US resources.”
    • “Finally, given that environmental, social, and governance challenges tend to go hand in hand with mineral extraction — and the corruption and autocracy in Russia are a case in point — the US Agency for International Development has an important part to play in US policy, too.”
  • “While all of these initiatives are a welcome step forward, the Biden administration should pull them all together into a comprehensive strategy. In addition to the near-term risk of mineral supply disruptions, there are even bigger stakes in the coming years. As the transition toward a high tech, clean energy economy picks up speed, demand for these materials may grow anywhere from 400 to 4,000 percent, so the revamped policies are also about sustainable growth for the future.”

"The downfall of Russia’s oligarchs," Oliver Bullough, The Spectator, 03.05.22. The author, an investigative journalist, writes:

  • “Our idea of the Russian oligarch was born in the 1990s, when a tiny group of men emerged from the wreckage of the Soviet economy, using their nous to seize anything with real value. ... The oligarchs’ behavior was unsustainable and, in 1998, the economy collapsed under the weight of mismanagement. Russia defaulted on its debts, and – in his quest for a new prime minister – then-President Boris Yeltsin chose a barely-known ex-spy: Vladimir Putin. The oligarchs appear at first to have thought they could control him, but this was a miscalculation.”
  • “He [ed: Putin] responded to criticism from media outlets by shutting them down. … Putin then went for the money. In 2003, police officers arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the richest man in the country. He had had the erroneous idea that he was still able to speak and act as if he was an independent actor, rather than as if he existed solely at the pleasure of the Kremlin.”
  • The people we call oligarchs now, a Russian joke goes, are not really oligarchs, they’re just working as oligarchs. And there’s truth in that, a Russian billionaire today is as likely to be someone who got rich running a state company, or selling things to the government, as obtaining a natural resource in a rigged privatization auction in the early post-communism days. They didn’t need chutzpah to get rich; they were just friends with Vladimir Putin.”
  • “This is not to say that many oligarchs have not hedged their bets, and evacuated significant chunks of their fortunes out of Putin’s reach. … But that does not mean they are willing to risk taking on the Kremlin; they have seen what happens to people that did.”
  • “The inevitable conclusion is that the assets of oligarchs are de facto, if not de jure, under Putin’s control. Hoping these people will put pressure on Putin is in vain, but that does not mean we should not sanction them. On the contrary, we need to do so to deprive him of resources he could use to wage war, to undermine our societies, or to attack our friends.”


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Inside Putin’s circle—the real Russian elite; As the west focuses on oligarchs, a far smaller group has its grip on true power in Moscow. Who are the siloviki—and what motivates them?” Anatol Lieven, Financial Times, 03.11.22. The author, a senior fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, writes:

  • “In describing Vladimir Putin and his inner circle, I have often thought of a remark by John Maynard Keynes about Georges Clemenceau, French prime minister during the first world war: that he was an utterly disillusioned individual who ‘had one illusion—France.’ Something similar could be said of Russia’s governing elite, and helps to explain the appallingly risky collective gamble they have taken by invading Ukraine. Ruthless, greedy and cynical they may be—but they are not cynical about the idea of Russian greatness.”
  • “These men are known in Russia as the ‘siloviki’ … A clear line should be drawn between the siloviki and the wider Russian elites.”
  • “The siloviki have been accurately portrayed as deeply corrupt—but their corruption has special features. Patriotism is their ideology and the self-justification for their immense wealth. I once chatted over a cup of tea with a senior former Soviet official who had kept in touch with his old friends in Putin’s elite. ‘You know,’ he mused, ‘in Soviet days most of us were really quite happy with a dacha, a color TV and access to special shops with some western goods, and holidays in Sochi. We were perfectly comfortable, and we only compared ourselves with the rest of the population, not with the western elites.’”
  • “Above all, for deep historical, cultural, professional and personal reasons, the siloviki and the Russian official elite in general are utterly, irrevocably committed to the idea of Russia as a great power and one pole of a multipolar world.”
  • “The Russian establishment sees encouragement of Ukrainian nationalism as a key element in Washington’s anti-Russian strategy. Even otherwise calm and reasonable members of the Russian establishment have snarled with fury when I have dared to suggest in conversation that it might be better for Russia itself to let Ukraine go. They seem prepared, if necessary, to fight on ruthlessly for a long time, and at immense cost and risk to their regime, to prevent that happening.”

"Konstantin Rymchukov: 'Russia Is Fully Switched Off From the West,'" Jacob Jelibrunn, The National Interest, 03.09.22. The author, editor of the magazine, interviews Nezavisimaya Gazeta chief editor Konstantin Remchukov, who says:

  • “Putin has stopped any rhetoric about a transition. There is no more talk of a transition of power. Putin ended it. Now being surrounded by unfriendly states—they are officially called unfriendly by our authorities—it is unacceptable for our leader to leave.”
  • “He said the international rule of law does not exist any longer. The West misuses the General Assembly. … He also spoke of a moral failure of the West—the empire of liars. He said it is impossible to talk with the West because they will always cheat and deceive you. They are immoral. … He also mentioned that Ukraine as a state is not valid.”
  • “Putin believes that the world in the last hundred years is based on the end of world wars. World War I resulted in the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations; World War II, in Yalta, Potsdam and the United Nations. Now I understand that Putin thinks we shouldn’t wait until the end of World War III to set up the new world order. He tried to impose his vision and to create a crisis so that the world will think it is on the brink of a nuclear disaster, prompting it to sit down and negotiate a new world order recognizing the national and geopolitical interests of the Russian Federation.”
  • “We are fully switched off from the West. In the Soviet era, there were trains that went to Berlin or Paris. Now there is not even a flight. The income of the middle-class is frozen. They’ve become like paupers with the fall of the ruble. With the iron curtain, we had imports. You could travel to Paris or New York. Now it seems to be over. There is no competition of information. It is all propaganda again. No transition of power. No competition in the information field. No alternative to what the Kremlin imposes with its media resources.”

“Would a Russian Coup Solve Anything?” John R. Deni, The Wall Street Journal, 03.14.22. The author, a research professor at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, writes:

  • “Although a coup in Moscow could bring an end to Russia's disastrous war in Ukraine, a new ruler or regime would face the same domestic political incentives and would likely end up behaving in similar ways.”

"Meet Russia’s oligarchs, a group of men who won’t be toppling Putin anytime soon," Stanislav Markus, PONARS Eurasia/The Conversation, 03.07.22. The author, an associate professor in the University of South Carolina's Department of International Business, writes:

  • “As the sanctions decimate oligarchs’ wealth, could that prompt them to abandon Putin or change the course of the war? Some oligarchs are already speaking out against the war, such as Alfa Group Chairman Mikhail Fridman and metals magnate Oleg Deripaska—both of whom have been sanctioned by the West.”
  • “I believe we will see increasingly vocal opposition to the war from the oligarchs. At the very least, their willingness to do the Kremlin’s dirty work by trying to influence Western politicians will likely subside significantly. But there are two crucial limits to their influence and ability to affect Putin’s behavior.”
    • “For one thing, the oligarchs do not work well together. In Russia’s ‘piranha capitalism,’ these billionaires have mostly sought to outcompete their rivals for government largesse. Individual survival with a view to the Kremlin, not the defense of common interests such as sanctions’ removal, has been the oligarchs’ modus operandi. The Kremlin, for its part, has promised state support to sanctioned companies, especially in the banking sector.”
    • “More importantly, it is the guns, not the money, that speak loudest in the Kremlin today. As long as Putin retains his control over the siloviki … the other oligarchs, in my view, will remain hostages to his regime.”
  • “The generals are more likely to sway Putin than the oligarchs—and an economic collapse may be even more convincing still.”

“The Intellectual Catastrophe of Vladimir Putin,” Paul Berman, Foreign Affairs, 03.13.22. The author of, among other books, “Power and the Idealists,” writes:

  • “Putin was no more able than Khrushchev and Brezhnev to achieve the ultimate success, which would be the creation of a Russian state sufficiently sturdy and resilient to avoid any further collapses. … And his worries have brought him to … a belief that dangers to the Russian state are external and ideological, instead of internal and structural.”
  • “Nicholas I recognized that an upsurge of liberalism on the borders of his own country was destined to revive the conspiracies of the arrested and exiled liberal aristocrats. He responded by invading Poland, and for good measure he swallowed the Polish state into the tsarist empire. … Stalin set out to crush liberal or liberalizing inspirations in the Soviet Union. But he set out to crush them also in Germany … and in Spain during the Civil War there … When World War II came to an end, Stalin set about crushing those same inspirations in every part of Europe that had fallen under his control.”
  • “In 1956, when communist Hungary decided to explore some faintly liberal possibilities, Khrushchev detected a mortal danger to the Russian state … He invaded Hungary. Brezhnev came to power. … A liberalizing impulse took hold among the communist leaders of Czechoslovakia. And Brezhnev invaded. Those were the precedents for Putin’s small-scale invasion of a newly liberal and revolutionary Georgia in 2008 and his invasion of Crimea in the revolutionary Ukraine of 2014.”
  • “Why, finally, has Putin invaded Ukraine? It is not because of NATO aggression. And it is not because of events in ninth-century Kyiv and the Orthodox-Catholic wars of the 17th century. It is not because Ukraine under President Volodymyr Zelensky has gone Nazi. Putin has invaded because of the Maidan Revolution of 2014. The Maidan Revolution was the revolution of 1848 precisely—a classic European uprising animated by the same liberal and republican ideas as in 1848.”

"Russia’s Dual Challenge: Aggression and State Rupture," Janusz Bugajski, The National Interest, 03.08.22. The author, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, writes:

  • “Escalating internal vulnerabilities are likely to make the Russian regime more aggressive and confrontational to demonstrate its strength before its capabilities seriously dissipate. To ensure its survival Russia needs to develop into a genuine federal democracy with a growing economy. But with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating amid punishing Western sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable.”
  • “The Russian state’s accelerated decline and the emergence of quasi-independent entities will challenge the NATO alliance’s ability to respond. One cannot assume that Russia’s fracture will be swift through a sudden collapse of the government or by a state-wide revolution. It is more likely to be an evolving process that accelerates at critical junctures.”
  • “The triggers for rupture can include an attempted transfer of power by Putin to a successor; an explosive protest against economic impoverishment; an inter-ethnic clash that escalates into a wider conflict; a violent provocation by hard-liners or nationalists that escapes police control; mutinies in the military as a result of the failed war in Ukraine; or intra-military clashes based on ethnic allegiance.”
  • “State rupture will also impact neighboring countries. Some will be susceptible to conflict spillover or subject to Moscow’s provocations … Other states will benefit from Russia’s cleavages by easing their security concerns and regaining lost territories. A federal collapse will also impact major powers’ positions and strategies and could lead to significant strategic realignments that further raise China’s stature.”
  • “The United States needs to develop an anticipatory strategy for managing Russia’s demise by supporting regionalism and federalism, acknowledging aspirations to sovereignty and separation, calibrating the position of other major powers, developing linkages with nascent state entities, strengthening the security of countries bordering Russia, and promoting transatlanticism and transpacificism among emerging states. Neglecting Russia’s state failure could prove more damaging to Western interests than preparing to manage its international repercussions.”

Defense and aerospace:

On why Putin's invasion of Ukraine was rooted in lies, misconceptions, and intelligence lapses: Twitter thread by Alexander Gabuev, 03.09.22. The author, chair of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s (CEIP) Asia-Pacific Program, writes:

  • War preparation was conducted in high secrecy in order to avoid leaks. Instead of a rigorous interagency process, the whole war planning was reduced to a clandestine operation developed by just a handful of people in uniform and the president himself.It looks like even during the planning of the military campaign, there weren't enough generals able to ask ‘what if’ questions that could help to do serious contingency planning and get ready for other scenarios than just a speedy victory of the Russian troops. ... Needless to say, the preparation to the Western sanctions response was even more flawed since Putin has kept his economic team entirely in the dark.”
  • “Since 2014 various ‘sanctions task forces’ in the 🇷🇺 [ed: Russian] government … claimed that they have looked into all possible sanctions scenarios, including Iran & North Korea, and did contingency planning accordingly. Vested interest around import-substitution … might be another factor explaining why Putin was lulled by the narrative that 🇷🇺 [ed: Russian] economy is nearly sanctions-proof, and all it takes is just throwing some more money to fix a few outstanding issues. As a result, neither the war plan, nor the plan to address the economic fallout of possible Western sanctions was rigorously discussed and carefully vetted.”
  • “The other element of Putin calamitous decision to go to war was a long-standing paradox of the Russian foreign policy: the Kremlin has a more nuanced understanding of China or the Arab World than of its closest neighbors in the post-Soviet space, especially Ukraine. The reasons are many. To start with, the Russian Empire has never perceived Ukraine as a ‘colony,’ and thus has never developed a discipline to study Ukraine as ‘the Other.’ When Putin wrote that Russians and Ukrainians are ‘one people,’ he actually meant it. These problematic assumptions … led to a giant flaw in the Kremlin's understanding of Ukraine. Hence 🇷🇺 [ed: Russian] diplomats & spies who didn't bother to learn the language or study the culture, and policymakers operating on stereotypes.”
  • “The Clandestine nature of Putin's decision-making on national security and deplorable state of Russian expertise on Ukraine were among factors contributing to ruinous decision to start this ugly war - a tragedy for Ukraine, and a catastrophe for Russia.”

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:

"Ukraine war and anti-Russia sanctions on top of COVID-19 mean even worse trouble lies ahead for global supply chains," Tinglong Dai, The Conversation, 03.11.22. The author, a professor at Johns Hopkins University's Carey Business School, writes:

  • “Supply chains … were already in disarray because of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in massive shortages, disruptions and price inflation. The war and resulting sanctions against Russia have immediately put further strains on them, prompting skyrocketing energy prices and even fears of famine. But beyond these short-term effects, I believe the war in Ukraine could drastically reshape global supply chains in a way the pandemic never did.”
  • “Russia accounts for less than 2% of global gross domestic product, while Ukraine accounts for only 0.14%. As a result, they have little direct impact on global supply chains – except in a few very important areas:”
    • “Russia supplies nearly 40% of Europe’s natural gas supply and 65% of Germany’s. It is the third-largest oil exporter in the world, accounting for 7% of all crude oil and petroleum product imports into the United States.”
    • “Russia and Ukraine account for nearly one-third of all global wheat exports. Several countries, including Kazakhstan and Tanzania, import more than 90% of their wheat from Russia.”
    • “Ukraine produces 90% of the semiconductor-grade neon used in the United States. Russia, on the other hand, provides the United States more than a third of its palladium, a rare earth metal also required to make semiconductors.”
    • “Russia is a dominant exporter of titanium and titanium forgings.”
  • “While the direct effects of the war on supply chains are relatively limited, the impact on the global movement of goods and services has been significant – I believe even greater than from COVID-19.”
  • Russia’s war against Ukraine is still ongoing, and there’s no way to know for certain how long the sanctions will remain in place or whether companies that have chosen to leave Russia will return. But I believe one thing is certain: Global supply chains, like the rest of the world, will never be the same again as a result of this war.”

"The UN’s indictment of Russia and its long-term consequences," Greg Austin, IISS, 03.10.22. The author, a senior fellow for cyber space and future conflict at IISS, writes:

  • “Responding to a veto in the United Nations Security Council by Russia, on 2 March 2022 the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) supported a resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of Russian military forces from the entirety of Ukrainian territory. It acted not only to assert a moral position that the invasion is wrong, but also to set in train certain potential consequences for Russia and its leaders that will be played out in politics and in court rooms for the next ten to 20 years.”
  • “The ICJ held a hearing on 7 March following an application from Ukraine to denounce claims by Russia, used to justify its invasion, that it was merely acting to prevent the genocide of Russian-speaking minorities in Ukraine. Kyiv has called on the court to take provisional measures, including a ruling that Russia must stop its military operations. (Provisional measures represent, in essence, an interim injunction that preserves the rights of the parties pending a final judgement of the court.)”
  • On 28 February, the chief prosecutor of the ICC announced that he would open an investigation on possible war crimes in Ukraine. This would be the ICC’s second such investigation, after one that ran from 2014 to 2020 and which concluded in a statement that evidence of war crimes had been found and that formal investigation (against individuals) would proceed. Like the 2020 statement, the 2022 statement declared that ‘there is a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine.’”
  • “No permanent member of the U.N. Security Council has ever been subject to such formal rebuke and investigation by the U.N. and related agencies, and U.N. members, for what the General Assembly says by overwhelming vote is the crime of aggression. The ICJ and ICC act independently of the realpolitik of great powers, however. There is nothing that any future settlement between Russia and the West could do to avert the levying of charges against Russia or its leaders, should these tribunals, or others in domestic jurisdictions, find them guilty of war crimes.”


  • See "War in Ukraine" sections above.

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • No significant developments.