Russia Analytical Report, May 15-22, 2023
7 Ideas to Explore
- U.S. and NATO leaders are discussing an Israeli-style security agreement for Ukraine that would give priority to arms transfers and advanced technology and that would be concluded sometime this summer, WSJ reported. This security agreement would be linked to a process of moving toward future membership in NATO for Ukraine but stop short of actually making the North Atlantic alliance a party to any conflict with Russia, Western officials told this newspaper. The agreement — based on a proposal known as the Kyiv Security Compact — is expected to be signed following the NATO summit on July 11-12 in Vilnius.
- To establish a lasting peace in Europe, the West must take two leaps of imagination, according to Henry Kissinger. The first is for Ukraine to join NATO, as a means of restraining it, as well as protecting it, he told The Economist. The second is for Europe to engineer a rapprochement with Russia, as a way to create a stable eastern border, according to Kissinger. He also doubts that China and Russia can work well together. “I have never met a Russian leader who said anything good about China,” he told The Economist. “And I’ve never met a Chinese leader who said anything good about Russia.”
- A new security organization needs to be established to deter Russia from further attacks while creating a framework and vision for a future security architecture that could, perhaps, include Moscow, Georgetown’s Lise Howard and Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon argue. “Thinking of Russia as a permanent rogue state is problematic,” they write, adding that “with 11 times zones and 6,500 nuclear warheads, Russia cannot be contained or isolated this way.” An Atlantic-Asian Security Community could “provide a serious security commitment to Ukraine, while holding out a vision for eventual Russian membership should the opportunity arise,” Howard and O’Hanlon write in an analysis for Brookings.
- “The notion that using nuclear weapons should be a last resort but not an unthinkable option has … framed common thinking [in Russia] about escalation in war,” according to Dmitry Adamsky of Reichman University. This “new nuclear normal in Russia is likely to increase the obedience of operators in response to escalatory nuclear orders from Russia’s leadership,” he warns in his article for FA. “And if Russia experiences civilian-military instability, the chances of unsanctioned use could go up,” Adamsky claims.
- The deficiencies of Russian forces are most pronounced when they conduct offensive operations against Ukrainian forces, according to Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds of RUSI. Alongside these deficiencies, however, “Russian forces have demonstrated that much of their equipment is effective, highly lethal and adaptable to a range of threats,” the analysts write. “Overcoming Russian forces will also increasingly depend upon the tactical proficiency of Ukrainian training, force generation, and equipment maintenance, rather than on the introduction of additional systems,” they write in an article for RUSI.
- One reason why Russia has to urgently decide whether it is a “state-civilization” or the “anti-West” is that Russians have themselves “generated an aggravation of the crisis” in relations with the West by “raising the stakes and striking first,” deputy speaker of the Russian Senate Konstantin Kosachev said this week. In his view, Russia should view itself as a state-civilization while pivoting to the East. This pivot should be pursued “not because the West is closed, but because … that’s where the center of world development is,” Kosachev said in his address to Russia’s Council for Foreign and Defense Policy.
- That convergence of Russian and Chinese interests is so wide-ranging it is a “historical anomaly, unthinkable in terms of the behavior of two neighboring great powers,” according to Andrey Sushentsov, program director of Russia’s Valdai Discussion Club. It can be explained, however, by the fact that “at this stage, the strategies of China and Russia are linked by a common goal of ending unilateral US dominance,” Sushentsov writes in an analysis for Valdai’s web site.
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda
Nuclear security and safety:
- No significant developments.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:
- No significant developments.
Iran and its nuclear program:
- “Tehran’s participation in the SCO is attached to Iranian desires for greater intra-regional cooperation on overlapping security challenges and for increasing its strength.”
- “Both bilaterally and multilaterally, Iran has continued to view the organization as a means of bolstering external legitimacy, strengthening the regime, fostering security-oriented regionalism, and promoting the transition to a more equitable world order.”
- “SCO has presented itself as an institutional alternative to the Western-led international order while legitimating state-centric norms and practices within Central Asia. Amid external pressures and perceived attempts to challenge sovereign inviolability, the SCO’s support for the Iranian regime demonstrates this purpose.”
- “In addition to enabling the Iranian regime to withstand external pressure, the SCO has served as a platform to legitimize its ideas about regional and international order — the basis for bonding among Tehran and its fellow member states.”
Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:
- No significant developments.
Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:
- “Alongside their deficiencies, Russian forces have demonstrated that much of their equipment is effective, highly lethal and adaptable to a range of threats. While there are serious deficiencies in Russian capabilities, these are most pronounced in conducting offensive operations. Conversely, many of Russia’s combat support arms have not only demonstrated reasonable proficiency but have also shown that they are able to adapt to emerging threats.”
- “Ukrainian troops, while superior in their morale and often in their training, continue to face a range of hard military tactical challenges in reclaiming their country’s territory. Overcoming these challenges requires sustained and appropriately targeted support from their international partners that reflects the evolution of the tactical situation.”
- “Overcoming Russian forces will also increasingly depend upon the tactical proficiency of Ukrainian training, force generation, and equipment maintenance, rather than on the introduction of additional systems. The complexity of Russian fortifications requires Ukraine to undertake a multifaceted process of shaping, breaching and exploitation demanding the preparation of its units and a range of complex capabilities. It is vital that Ukraine’s partners prioritize establishing a sustainable process for individual, collective and staff training to the AFU. Ukraine, today, has the initiative. But as the Russian military adapts, there can be no room for complacency.”
- “Even if the Ukrainian army makes substantial progress, it seems doubtful that the war can be won this year. That would require either a change of leadership in the Kremlin or a total collapse of Russian forces — and neither is likely. But the Ukrainians have a good opportunity to regain the initiative, which they lost after the success of the Kharkiv and Kherson counteroffensives last year. That could give them a fighting chance to regain control of their pre-2014 borders next year, a retired U.S. Army officer who advises the Ukrainian military told me.”
- “The role of the United States and its allies should be to give the Ukrainians every possible piece of equipment — including lots of F-16s and longer-range missiles — to enable their battlefield success rather than to undercut them by pushing for premature negotiations that might prolong, rather than end, the conflict. The Ukrainians have already far outperformed expectations, and there is no reason they cannot continue to do so — as long as the West continues to give them the unstinting support they need, expect and deserve.”
Punitive measures related to Russia’s war against Ukraine and their impact globally:
- “Until now, Moscow had mostly focused its retaliatory measures on squeezing European energy markets. But after a string of court decisions in Europe freezing Russian assets there, the Kremlin has begun escalation and created a legal framework for the temporary nationalization of foreign assets in the country.”
- “With its new legal mechanism, it’s unlikely that the Kremlin will employ a uniform approach to foreign investors. Instead, it will cut separate deals with investors depending on their connections in Russia.”
- “As a result, western companies may find themselves in limbo. In the West, they are under public pressure to sever ties with Russia, but sanctions forbid them from selling their stakes to the majority of Russian businesses.”
- “So far, neither Russia nor Europe has a comprehensive strategy on how to deal with the stranded assets. The breakdown of ties will almost certainly exacerbate the conflict as the Kremlin seeks ways to punish Europe for imposing sanctions and supporting Ukraine. The appetite of Putin’s cronies to seize Western assets in Russia will only add insult to injury.”
- “With pressure from sanctions building for Russia, and Beijing’s own tensions with the West growing, it is going to be increasingly difficult for Chinese businesses to keep flying under the sanctions radar. The trend of some high-profile Chinese companies limiting their exposure to Russia appears to be spilling over to state-owned enterprises, which have traditionally been seen as less vulnerable to sanctions risks and more willing to invest in Russia.”
- “Others, however, are learning to adjust. In the first quarter of 2023, China’s exports to Russia grew by an astonishing 67.2 percent. Before 2022, Chinese state-owned energy companies dominated Beijing’s economic engagement with Moscow. Today, private consumer-oriented companies and regional producers with limited international exposure appear to be taking the lead.”
- “Task central banks and supervisory authorities with the identification of Russian foreign assets to ensure that funds cannot be used to widen monetary and fiscal policy space.”
- “Limit channels for energy-related transactions to improve transparency.”
- “Strengthen documentation requirements for financial institutions within the price cap regime to allow for more effective implementation and enforcement.”
- “Punish sanctions violators through their reliance on the international financial system.”
- “Address loopholes in the sanctions regime, including, possibly, through the strategic and limited use of secondary sanctions.”
- “Current thinking about security architectures to help Ukraine focus on NATO membership for Ukraine, on the one hand, and a ‘porcupine’ strategy on the other, by which NATO countries would enhance arms exports to Ukraine so as to maximize the odds of successful self-defense. … If NATO membership would go too far, the porcupine concept does not go far enough.”
- “Our proposal envisions a new security organization that would include both European and ideally also Asian states.”
- “Its first action would be to deploy an armed training and monitoring mission into Ukraine for a long-term and open-ended presence, in part to serve as a tripwire against renewed Russian attack.”
- “An Atlantic-Asian Security Community (AASC) could be formed out of some combination of like-minded Western states, notably Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and frontline countries near Russia, as well as Ukraine.”
- “The twin initial objectives [of AASC] would be to deploy and supervise a military presence that would deter Russia from further attacks, especially in the short to medium term, while creating a framework and vision for a future security architecture separate from NATO that could perhaps include Russia someday.”
- “AASC member states would pledge to defend this training and monitoring mission if it found itself under attack and develop plans in advance for how they would do so.”
- “The AASC could be created with or without Russian acquiescence — though preferably with. In addition to its immediate purpose, it would also be intended to support the vision of a future post-Putin Russia that could once again be a responsible contributor to European and global security. … Alternatively, the AASC could be modified and renamed at such a future juncture if that seemed a more promising path to Russian rehabilitation.”
- “Thinking of Russia as a permanent rogue state is problematic. With 11 times zones and 6,500 nuclear warheads, Russia cannot be contained or isolated this way. Further, if the West helps Russia go rogue, we weaken our own security as Russians will be motivated to undermine the West any way they can, for the foreseeable future. Cooperation on matters such as countering North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions, where the West and Moscow often did work together for the first two decades of this century, will likely remain elusive for many years to come.”
- “An Atlantic-Asian Security Community could provide a serious security commitment to Ukraine, while holding out a vision for eventual Russian membership should the opportunity arise.”
- “Even though China’s leverage is currently modest, it is likely to grow if the war bogs down into a stalemate. China will then be the only party with real influence over Russia, as well as the only world power Putin can trust to be an advocate for Russian interests.”
- “The US and its allies should keep nudging China to turn its rhetoric of peace into action. China’s evolving attitude toward the war may be too nuanced for many — and is obviously being driven by pure self-interest, not altruism. That doesn’t mean the West can’t turn the shift to its advantage and, more importantly, Ukraine’s.”
- “We deplore the violence, war crimes, indiscriminate missile strikes, terrorism, and other atrocities that are part of this war. The solution to this shocking violence is not more weapons or more war, with their guarantee of further death and destruction.”
- “As Americans and national security experts, we urge President Biden and Congress to use their full power to end the Russia-Ukraine War speedily through diplomacy, especially given the grave dangers of military escalation that could spiral out of control.”
- “The immediate cause of this disastrous war in Ukraine is Russia’s invasion. Yet the plans and actions to expand NATO to Russia’s borders served to provoke Russian fears.”
- “A failure of diplomacy led to war. Now diplomacy is urgently needed to end the Russia-Ukraine War before it destroys Ukraine and endangers humanity.”
- “In diplomacy, one must attempt to see with strategic empathy, seeking to understand one’s adversaries. This is not weakness: it is wisdom.”
Great Power rivalry/new Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:
- “Kissinger begins his analysis by condemning Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. ‘It was certainly a catastrophic mistake of judgment by Putin at the end,’ he says. But the West is not without blame. ‘I thought that the decision to…leave open the membership of Ukraine in NATO was very wrong.’ That was destabilizing, because dangling the promise of NATO protection without a plan to bring it about left Ukraine poorly defended even as it was guaranteed to enrage not only Putin, but also many of his compatriots.”
- “The task now is to bring the war to an end, without setting the stage for the next round of conflict. Kissinger says that he wants Russia to give up as much as possible of the territory that it conquered in 2014, but the reality is that in any ceasefire Russia is likely to keep Sevastopol, at the very least. Such a settlement, in which Russia loses some gains but retains others, could leave both a dissatisfied Russia and a dissatisfied Ukraine.”
- “In his view, that is a recipe for future confrontation. ‘What the Europeans are now saying is, in my view, madly dangerous,’ he says. ‘Because the Europeans are saying: ‘We don’t want them in NATO, because they’re too risky. And therefore, we’ll arm the hell out of them and give them the most advanced weapons.’’ His conclusion is stark: ‘We have now armed Ukraine to a point where it will be the best-armed country and with the least strategically experienced leadership in Europe.’”
- “To establish a lasting peace in Europe requires the West to take two leaps of imagination.”
- “The first is for Ukraine to join NATO, as a means of restraining it, as well as protecting it.”
- “The second is for Europe to engineer a rapprochement with Russia, as a way to create a stable eastern border.”
- “He doubts that China and Russia can work together well. True, they share a suspicion of the United States, but he also believes that they have an instinctive distrust of one another. ‘I have never met a Russian leader who said anything good about China,’ he says. ‘And I’ve never met a Chinese leader who said anything good about Russia.’ They are not natural allies.”
- “The Chinese have entered diplomacy over Ukraine as an expression of their national interest, Kissinger says. Although they refuse to countenance the destruction of Russia, they do recognize that Ukraine should remain an independent country and they have cautioned against the use of nuclear weapons. They may even accept Ukraine’s desire to join NATO.”
- “As Ukraine enters a pivotal stage in its war with Russia, U.S. and NATO leaders are coalescing around a vision for shoring up Ukrainian defenses and seeking to guarantee the country's sovereign future. It is a security model that Western leaders, including President Biden, have compared to what Israel has now.”
- “An Israeli-style security agreement for Ukraine would give priority to arms transfers and advanced technology, Polish President Andrzej Duda said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. This security agreement would be linked to a process of moving toward future membership in NATO for Ukraine but stop short of actually making the North Atlantic Treaty Organization a party to any conflict with Russia, according to Western officials familiar with the talks.”
- “With NATO membership for Kyiv possibly years away, a set of binding security arrangements would be a way of helping the Ukrainian military immediately as it gears up for an expected counteroffensive aimed at pushing Russia back from the territory it claimed after storming the country last year.”
- “Biden, who visited Poland in February, discussed the Israeli-model concept, Duda said. It is now gaining traction among Western allies as part of the agenda for the NATO summit in July in Vilnius, Lithuania's capital. The security agreement — based on a proposal known as the Kyiv Security Compact — is expected to be signed following the NATO summit, officials familiar with the talks said. A U.S. administration official said discussion of an Israeli model emerged as a way to address the core of Ukraine's security issues, recognizing that it wouldn't achieve NATO membership soon. But even if based loosely on Israel's security model, the official said, the contours of Ukraine's defense agreement remain fluid.”
- “Senior officials in several European capitals, including Paris and Berlin, said they agreed in principle with the plan, which would involve a series of bilateral assurances within a multilateral framework. NATO, Ukraine and other officials said they expect the parties to a security-guarantee compact to include the U.S., U.K., Germany and France. … Ukrainian officials have previously expressed an openness to the notion of security guarantees as a deterrent against Russian aggression.”
- “There seem to be four stable choices for Ukraine that won’t just pause the war.
- “First, Ukraine could become a full NATO member protected by the alliance’s guarantee.”
- “Second, Ukraine could receive some kind of new NATO status, which de facto integrates its armed forces with NATO militaries without the collective defense clause under Article 5.”
- “Third, Ukraine could sign bilateral security guarantees with select countries that pledge to come to Kyiv’s aid in the event of war.”
- “And fourth, the West could turn Ukraine into a bristling porcupine, armed to the hilt with massive Western training and other support, so that it would be all but impossible for Russia to swallow.”
- “It goes without saying that these options are not mutually exclusive. Helping rearm and train Ukraine will probably be part of any scenario. In the short term, however, only a clear, committed porcupine strategy is likely to be both politically feasible and truly capable of deterring Russia.”
- “First, there is still no consensus among NATO member states on whether Ukraine should join the alliance; a premature push by some members will likely trigger vetoes by others.”
- “Second, a new NATO status of de facto integration into the alliance short of an Article 5 guarantee could be the worst of both worlds for Kyiv: It could trigger further Russian escalation while leaving Ukraine uncertain about the precise military support it would receive in case of war.”
- “Third, security guarantees by Western powers without a concrete military commitment would be a no-go for Ukraine for similar reasons.”
- “The strongest deterrent against a future war in Eastern Europe will lie not only in Ukraine’s capacity to be a bristling porcupine, but also in all of Europe’s ability to defend itself against future Russian aggression.”
- “Admitting Ukraine while it’s still fighting to liberate territory would be both impractical and dangerous, potentially drawing NATO into direct military conflict with Russia. But failing to address the issue would be equally shortsighted. Biden and his counterparts should instead use the Vilnius summit to reiterate their intention to admit Ukraine once the situation stabilizes and the government in Kyiv meets the conditions of membership. No significant developments.”
- “Short of full membership, there is plenty NATO and its member states can do to draw Ukraine closer and start preparing its postwar defense.”
- “The alliance should now improve coordination and support, including by doubling a NATO fund for Kyiv that provides about $275 million annually in nonlethal military aid - a move under consideration - and by formalizing more regular consultations. There are also sensible proposals to improve interoperability of Ukraine's own weapons stocks and NATO's, many of which Kyiv is already using against the Russian invaders. The Ukrainian government's defense procurement policies can also be aligned with NATO's.”
- “With Russian troops occupying 17 percent of Ukrainian territory, it is premature to lay out detailed plans for Kyiv's accession to NATO.”
- “Preparing Ukraine for eventual NATO membership could be the right strategy after the war - especially if it ends with Russian troops driven out of Ukraine.”
- “It was always obvious that NATO’s enlargement to Ukraine and to Georgia was a provocation for Putin. So we should have been doing something to address this security dilemma all along – in 2008, but also earlier, especially after 2004 and the big enlargement to Eastern European countries and the Baltic states of both NATO and the European Union. When this happened, we immediately left all the other neighboring countries, including Ukraine, in a strategic gray zone. The debates that we're having now in NATO about how to defend Ukraine and countries like Moldova and how to create security guarantees for them - we should have been having them on the very day after this massive enlargement of NATO.”
- “How are you going to defend Ukraine? NATO membership is meaningless unless there is some ironclad guarantee that you're going to be involved in a genuine collective defense. And as a matter of fact, we are defending Ukraine right now except for boots on the ground. I would argue we also would have done the same for non-NATO-countries like Sweden, Finland, Ireland or Iceland had they been attacked.”
- “We are trying to deny Vladimir Putin the ability to completely control in perpetuity the territories that he sees as his own, as being part of Russia’s empire. And that does include Crimea at this point. As a result of Putin’s devastating, brutal war and all the atrocities, previous discussions about the management of Crimea can't be on the table anymore. That is a real dilemma, because people say we would then be in perpetual conflict forever. Not necessarily. We need a big diplomatic surge.”
- “The path forward is to try to find a much larger diplomatic effort that pulls together a larger number of countries that have a vested interest in ending this. It's very hard to say what a negotiation would look like, because it really depends on the context.”
- “There is going to be a future of Russia under Putin if he stays in place, whether we like it or not. If we are talking about a Russia that starts to play some kind of positive role on the world stage: no, that's unlikely. Russia will continue to set itself apart from Europe and switch its geopolitical outlook to the Middle East and other places. … Russia is becoming increasingly dependent politically as well as economically on China. There is a future for Russia. It's just a very different one, I think, than most Russians thought it would be.”
- “The mounting pressure on Ukraine is closely linked to the 2024 US presidential election. Donald Trump’s emergence as the Republican frontrunner increases the fear that the next US president will radically change policy on Ukraine. Trump has bragged that he could end the war in a day, a rather different message from ‘as long as it takes’. Even a presidential election campaign dominated by Trump is likely to visibly undermine America’s bipartisan consensus on Ukraine.”
- “This gives Vladimir Putin reason to hope that, if he can keep Russia fighting for another 18 months, the Trumpist cavalry might appear over the horizon.”
- “Even if Ukraine fails to make a breakthrough and western support for Kyiv does begin to falter, that will not be the end of the matter. Ukrainian officials point out that, unlike their western backers, they will never have the luxury of walking away from the conflict.”
“Dare To Use More Strategy – Why Interest-Driven Politics Are More Likely To Preserve World Peace Than Purely Value-Based Foreign Policy,” former German general Erich Vad, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 05.15.23.
- “Russia is waging a war of aggression. It is true that the West stands by Ukraine’s side and helps. But the exclusive focus on arms deliveries is problematic. The West has no political-strategic concept, it has neither defined the political ‘end point’ of the war nor formulated realistic political goals. There is no European vision and strategy on how to deal with Russia in the future.”
- “Arms deliveries to stabilize Ukraine are and will remain important. However, the political and strategic goals of the arms deliveries must also be defined and the related questions answered: Do you want to achieve readiness for negotiations with the delivery of tanks? Do you want to recapture Donbass and Crimea? Or do you want to defeat Russia militarily?”
- “Without a political-strategic overall concept that ensures the Clausewitzian primacy of politics and keeps an eye on possible peace after the war, arms deliveries have only limited value. In Clausewitz's tradition of thought, the West constantly moves on the tactical level and threatens to lose sight of the political and strategic perspectives.”
- “In a foreseeable multipolar world, which will by no means become safer through mutual strategic disentanglement, a repeat of the Cold War with an Iron Curtain in the East would not be a good option from a European perspective. It will therefore remain the task of all geopolitically responsible actors to keep an eye on the strategic dispositions of security policy in order not to endanger world peace.”
- “Within days of Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022, the State Department undersecretary of state for political affairs, Victoria Neuland, declared that the U.S. objective in the conflict is the ‘strategic defeat’ of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”
- “But when the real work of waging war commences, President Joe Biden, and the public whose endorsement he seeks, must, in word as well as deed, answer the question: What indeed does such high-sounding rhetoric really mean? How will we know when we have arrived at such a solemn and expansive if indefinite objective as Russia’s strategic defeat?”
- “Indeed, by declaring such an outsized and unambiguous purpose — for that is what a pledge to achieve Russia’s ‘strategic defeat’ requires — the Biden administration risks a policy debacle not unlike Barack Obama’s famous declaration that Syria’s ‘Assad must go.’”
- “Clearly, the Biden administration is no closer to defining a scale for measuring the degree to which the war’s essential achievement in Washington’s calculus — that is Russia’s strategic defeat — has been, or indeed can be, achieved.”
- “Events of the past year have at least made it clear that Washington’s commitment to Russia’s strategic defeat has not been accompanied by a U.S. guarantee of Ukraine’s ‘victory,’ however defined.”
- “The U.K. and the U.S. are great allies, but on Ukraine there’s a disagreement brewing. The Brits would like the Americans to be more aggressive, and the U.S. wants the U.K. to be more cautious.”
- “It isn’t only weapons; it’s people too. U.K. special forces from the British Army’s SAS and SRR regiments and the Navy’s SBS units are operating very close to the front lines.”
- “Coordination on Ukraine between Washington and London remains unparalleled in the West. But for London, the risk of provoking the Kremlin is viewed as less important than the reward of enabling Ukraine’s victory. And that is as much about Churchill, Brexit and Novichok as it is about Ukraine.”
- “The West should support Ukraine's goal of retaking Crimea not only because the peninsula is sovereign Ukrainian territory but also because retaking it would deprive Russia of Sevastopol, the best naval base on the Black Sea. Until Russia loses Sevastopol, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa will continue to churn as Moscow retains veto power over regional peace, which it has had since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.”
China-Russia: Allied or aligned?
- “One month into the war, a group of top Chinese strategists from different academic disciplines, including the authors of Unrestricted Warfare, an influential 1999 book on new non-military and non-lethal methods of warfare, gathered informally in Beijing to analyze the impact of the Ukraine conflict on the global order. They assessed that the conflict was unlikely to end soon and that China could benefit from a prolonged fight.”
- “Although it is not clear if China’s leadership fully agreed with these experts’ positions, many of their suggestions have been embraced by Beijing. … The strategists’ cautious optimism about Beijing’s ability to turn the conflict to its advantage, however, soon collided with reality. … By the middle of 2022, Chinese experts saw the prolonged conflict in Ukraine as harmful to Chinese interests.”
- “Beijing’s concerns over the Ukraine conflict intensified over the past year. Not only was Russia facing strong Ukrainian military resistance and running low on weapons and munitions but Chinese experts were also concerned about the possibility of direct U.S.-Russian confrontation and nuclear escalation. These two scenarios could make it impossible for China to stay on the sidelines. … These shifting assessments have caused Beijing to alter its approach toward the conflict in Ukraine. Whereas it previously stayed on the sidelines, China has cautiously stepped into the arena in recent months.”
- “Overall, China likely views its diplomatic efforts as affording it a greater role to determine the course of the war, which it views as being manipulated and prolonged by the United States. … China’s evolving foreign policy discourse is not favorable to Ukraine. .. if China wanted to maintain its position that the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity is nonnegotiable, then Lu Shaye’s questioning of the sovereignty of post-Soviet states might be the solution.”
- “The international community should not place too much hope on China’s mediation efforts, nor alter any existing efforts to deter Russian aggression or to create conditions for ending the conflict. China’s efforts are likely to be high in profile but slow and questionable in substance.”
- “At some level, the critics of U.S. support for Ukraine have a point. Deterrence vis-à vis China is eroding. Unlike the American-Russian military balance, at least some military trends are going in China’s favor. As a result, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, unlike President Vladimir Putin, can afford to be patient. No matter what the United States does in Ukraine, in the long run, China will be more difficult to deter as its power and ambition grow.”
- “As a matter of policy, however, the key question is how the United States will use the tools it has today to maximize its deterrent effects. From an operational perspective, the Ukraine War has not hurt the military balance versus China. In fact, the United States has demonstrated that it can continue to pursue its Indo-Pacific-focused capabilities while still aiding Ukraine. Moreover, the Ukraine War may even help in the long run if it spurs both the United States and its allies to understand that industrial warfare is not just a topic for the history books and to prepare accordingly.”
- “More importantly, if indeed deterrence is primarily a psychological effect, then another key question is, what packs more of a punch: a few extra Javelins and HIMARs sitting in Taiwan, or seeing a fellow authoritarian regime with whom you have a friendship that knows ‘no limits’ impale itself invading a smaller, weaker neighbor?”
- “In an increasingly precarious world, there is an understandable draw toward strategic reductionism — to focus on China as ‘pacing threat’ to the exclusion of everything else. Giving in to this temptation is a mistake. As a global power, the United States faces multiple challenges; it simply lacks the luxury of getting to choose one adversary in one region. But even if it did get to choose, deterrence is an elastic commodity. While the United States does face some binary strategic choices, deterring China versus fighting Russia in Ukraine is not one of them.”
"To Avert War With China, the U.S. Must Prioritize Taiwan Over Ukraine," former deputy assistant secretary of defense Elbridge A. Colby and Alexander Velez-Green, former national security advisor to Sentaor Josh Hawley, WP, 05.18.23.
- “How do we ensure Taiwan can be defended while still securing important but secondary U.S. interests in Europe?”
- “First, the United States must accelerate delivery of critical weapons to Taiwan.. the Biden administration … must favor Taiwan over Ukraine for any weapons that both need.”
- “Second, the administration and Congress need to urgently expand U.S. defense production by reinvigorating our anemic defense industrial base — and fast.”
- “Finally, for all its talk about deterring China, the administration has made Ukraine's defense its clear priority with regular high-level engagement, congressional briefings and requests for funds. By contrast, the administration left U.S. Indo-Pacific Command with almost $3.5 billion in unfunded priorities this year.”
- “None of this means we should abandon Europe. Instead, our allies must take primary responsibility for Europe's conventional defense, relying on the United States mainly for its extended nuclear deterrent and select conventional capabilities that do not detract from our ability to deter China. Our European allies must also take the lead in helping Ukraine.”
- “The common interests of Russia and China range from the economy and energy to the military sector. This situation is a historical anomaly, unthinkable in terms of the behavior of two neighboring great powers. However, at this stage, the strategies of China and Russia are linked by a common goal of ending unilateral US dominance.”
- “The participants in the new edition of the protracted confrontation have high stakes. Russia has put its vital interests as a great power and [and its role of the] conductor of multipolarity at stake. China, having joined the confrontation, cannot afford to rewind time and return to the position of a minor player acquiring the benefits of Western globalization. What the United States did not realize was that by moving into a hegemonic position, they were putting their financial system on the line.”
- “There is a danger in this situation: now the US cannot afford to lose and will seek to have the initiative, escalating tension in different parts of the world.”
- No significant developments.
- “The notion that using nuclear weapons should be a last resort but not an unthinkable option has become routine in Russian media and has framed common thinking about escalation in war. This recurring belligerent nuclear rhetoric — official and unofficial alike — has somewhat eroded the nuclear taboo, even if unintentionally. …The sources of nuclear normalization are unclear. It may be a naturally emerging, bottom-up phenomenon that reflects the zeitgeist. The war, after all, has routinized violence and brutality in the country’s public consciousness, and the bellicose environment has radicalized much of the population. But the messianic-existential aura that the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church have given to the war has also contributed to nuclear normalization.”
- “The merging of military’s embrace of nuclear operations with the normalization of nuclear weapons in the public consciousness is an unprecedented nexus, one that may have long-term implications for various segments of the Russian strategic community.”
- “For the political leadership, this nexus preserves the centrality of Russia’s nuclear arsenal in national security, justifies the allocation of resources for the arsenal’s modernization, and turns nuclear coercion into a morally acceptable tool. It also affords an easier path to assertive muscle flexing, if the Kremlin and the military brass, already frustrated with the West’s neglect of their nuclear saber rattling, sense that Russian coercive potential needs a recharge. This nexus further enhances Russian nuclear orthodoxy, strengthens the members of Russia’s security elite calling to intertwine spiritual and physical deterrence, and nurtures an ideology that mixes nationalism, messianism, militarism, religious conservatism, and the veneration of nuclear might.”
- “Although Putin has endorsed Russia’s nuclear orthodoxy, he is a symptom and not a source of the phenomenon. Whatever happens to him, the national security elite is likely to continue merging messianic rhetoric and escalatory signaling to maintain ambiguity and increase Western confusion.”
- “The current relatively relaxed state of mind among Western analysts about the prospects of Russian nuclear brandishing makes it more difficult for them to decipher the genuineness of the escalatory and eschatological intents of Russia’s leadership and of the country’s nuclear operators. But the new nuclear normal in Russia is likely to increase the obedience of operators in response to escalatory nuclear orders from Russia’s leadership. And if Russia experiences civilian-military instability, the chances of unsanctioned use could go up.”
- No significant developments.
Conflict in Syria:
- No significant developments.
- No significant developments.
Energy exports from CIS:
- “‘The Russian price cap is working, and working extremely well,’ Wally Adeyemo, the deputy Treasury secretary, said in an interview. ‘The money that they’re spending on building up this ecosystem to support their energy trade is money they can’t spend on building missiles or buying tanks. And what we’re going to continue to do is force Russia to have these types of hard choices.’ Some analysts doubt the plan is working nearly as well as administration officials claim, at least when it comes to revenues. They say the most frequently cited data on the prices that Russia receives for its exported oil is unreliable. And they say other data, like customs reports from India, suggests Russian officials may be employing elaborate deception measures to evade the cap and sell crude at prices well above its limit. “
- “‘I’m concerned the Biden administration’s desperation to claim victory with the price cap is preventing them from actually acknowledging what isn’t working and taking the steps that might actually help them win,’ said Steve Cicala, an energy economist at Tufts University who has written about potential evasion under the cap.”
- “‘The direct beneficiaries are mostly emerging market and lower-income countries that import oil from Russia,’ Treasury officials noted in a recent report. The officials were referring to a handful of countries outside the Group of 7 — particularly India and China — that have used the cap as leverage to pay a discount for Russian oil. Neither India nor China joined the formal cap effort, but it is their oil consumers who are seeing the lowest prices from it.”
- No significant developments.
U.S.-Russian economic ties:
- No significant developments.
U.S.-Russian relations in general:
- “The goals of the United States in its relationship with Russia are in a state of flux and could change over time. Therefore, we make recommendations about how U.S. policymakers should think about less-hardline approaches depending on their objectives.”
- “If the United States Wishes to Adopt a Less-Hardline Approach to Russia as a Means of Stabilizing the Relationship, It May Need to Engage in Negotiations over Core Russian Security Concerns..:. a less-hardline approach that addresses core security concerns is more likely to stabilize relations durably than one that touches on only secondary areas of dispute or matters of shared interest to both sides. In the context of the U.S.-Russia relationship, this would likely mean that if the United States hopes to use a less-hardline approach to stabilize the U.S.-Russian relationship in the future, it will likely need to broaden the scope of negotiations to address fundamental conflicts of interest, first and foremost regarding Ukraine but also missile defense and the regional order in Europe and Eurasia. In the past, the United States has assessed that the costs of accommodating Russia on these issues was too high.”
- “If the United States Adopts a Limited Less-Hardline Approach to Achieve Narrower Goals, the United States Should Remain Alert That the Relationship Will Likely Deteriorate over the Unresolved Issues:The United States could pursue a limited less-hardline approach to Russia (one that does not address Russia's core concerns) to achieve narrower aims rather than a more general stabilization of the relationship. Such an approach may produce some successes, but history suggests that if the United States chooses such an approach, it should remain prepared for future deterioration of, or crises in, the U.S.- Russia relationship.”
- “The Best Timing for U.S. Outreach to Russia May Be During a More Constructive Period in U.S.-China Relations or When There Are Tensions in the Sino-Russian Relationship: Russia's relationships with China and the United States are not entirely divorced from one another. In past periods of tension with China, such as in the 1970s, Russia has sought more-constructive relations with the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a hedge; conversely, the recent nadir in U.S.-Russia relations has been accompanied by the closest China-Russia relations in recent memory. The current high level of tensions between the United States and China greatly reduces any concerns that Russia might have about a prospective U.S.-China entente. However, if U.S.-China relations were to become more constructive, Moscow might feel greater insecurity regarding its global standing and might approach negotiations with Washington from a more constructive perspective.”
- “As Policymakers Evaluate Less-Hardline Approaches, They Should Consider the Effects of Any Hardline Policies That They Sustain Simultaneously: When evaluating the effects of less-hardline approaches, an accounting should be made of the full range of U.S. policies that a rival experienced — along with other factors, such as domestic politics and relations with third countries. Focusing only on correlations between cooperative gestures and undesirable behavior by U.S. rivals can lead to unfounded assessments about the costs and benefits that should be expected from less-hardline options.”
- “Analysts Should Generate and Compare Options for Less-Hardline U.S. Approaches to Russia: China's rise and U.S. domestic challenges mean that the United States may consider less-hardline approaches toward Russia in the future. U.S. analysts should consider which specific approaches would be viable, given U.S. and Russian interests, the preferences and behavior of the countries directly affected by U.S.-Russia competition (e.g., Ukraine), U.S. alliance dynamics, and other factors. It would be useful for analysts to generate options for U.S. policymakers to weigh — and to implement if the opportunity to employ a less-hardline approach emerges. Scholars could also examine whether there are conditions under which less-hardline approaches embolden rivals.”
II. Russia’s domestic policies
Domestic politics, economy and energy:
- “Vladimir Putin’s international warlord in chief — the convicted criminal Yevgeniy Prigozhin, head of Russia’s Wagner Group, a mercenary army — has lately cast a spotlight on the deepening fissures in Moscow’s military apparatus:”
- “First, Prigozhin threatened to withdraw from Bakhmut his Wagner mercenaries. Then he rescinded the threat. Then he reiterated it.”
- “In the process, he took what was widely interpreted as a public swipe at Putin, his patron — although the target could also have been Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu — referring to a certain unnamed ‘geezer’ who must be ‘a complete moron.’”
- “Arguably, Prigozhin … is a convenience for the Russian tyrant, providing him with a counterbalance to the regular military and any potential threat it might pose to the regime.”
- “The Prigozhin spectacle … is nonetheless a symptom of the regime’s dysfunction and mismanagement of the war, and it raises questions about Putin’s grip on power. It should also transmit some lessons about Russia to the West.”
- “One is about the Kremlin’s disastrous leadership, which has been inflexible, ill-informed and incoherent, a major reason for the Russian military’s sclerotic performance on the battlefield and the invasion’s strategic failure.”
- “Another takeaway from the domestic criticism of Russia’s military performance, amplified by Prigozhin’s public invective, is that all is not calm among Russia’s elites. And if restiveness continues to mount in this critical constituency in Putin’s regime, the result might easily be growing instability in Moscow, which the West is likely to exploit.”
- “There are multiple conceivable dangers in that scenario. They include the impossibility of predicting who might succeed Putin if he were to fall from power, or whether that successor would represent a greater or lesser threat to international stability. And in any shake-up in the Kremlin, questions would be raised about the security and chain of command of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, the world’s biggest. The West, then, should proceed with due caution — but also a sense of opportunity.”
- “More than a year into the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, my western friends often ask me: why don’t Russians protest? The answer is that some do — but protest is largely futile in the face of a decade-long Kremlin crackdown.”
- “If governments and people abroad want Russians to protest more, they should support Russian civil society and help us to overcome the fear. Together we can fight this evil.”
Defense and aerospace:
- See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.
Security, law-enforcement and justice:
- No significant developments.
III. Russia’s relations with other countries
Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:
- “Pretoria has declared itself neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war, saying it prefers a peaceful solution to picking sides. Yet its actions lean clearly towards Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”
- “The contortions South Africa has gone through highlight a wider issue. Developing countries have a legitimate aspiration to push for a new world order that better represents their interests in a multipolar world. They are right to point out that institutions created after the second world war — from the IMF and the World Bank to the UN — no longer reflect the world we live in.”
- “Defenders of South Africa’s position point out it is a sovereign country with a sovereign foreign policy. That does not mean Pretoria can pass off a pro-Russian stance as somehow neutral. South Africa has benefited from much international goodwill, born of its overthrow of the apartheid regime. As such, it enjoys preferential access to the US and European markets, a huge boon for its car-making and other industries. If Pretoria wants to throw in its lot with Putin, that is its choice. But it should realize that such choices have consequences.”
Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov at the XXXI Assembly of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, Russian Foreign Ministry, 05.20.23. Clues from Russian Views.
- “We have entered the phase of the sharpest confrontation with the aggressive bloc that is composed of the US, the EU and the North Atlantic Alliance. [They have set] the loudly and openly: ‘defeating Russia on the battlefield.’…The Western expert community is already openly discussing the ‘order’ for the development of scenarios for the dismemberment of our country. They are not hiding that the existence of Russia as an independent center is incompatible [in their view] with the achievement of the goal of the global dominance of the West.”
- “If we look at the global trends, events related to Ukraine are accelerating the transition to a multipolar system of international relations. Washington has used the Ukrainian crisis to consolidate its camp… at the same time, a fault line emerged between the ‘collective West’ and the global majority, the countries of the Global South and East.”
- “The era of transition to multipolarity and of the refusal to obey the hegemon has come.”
“Russia: ‘state-civilization’ or ‘anti-West’?” Speech by Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Konstantin Kosachev at the XXXI Assembly of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, Russia in Global Affairs. Clues from Russian Views.
- “The choice of whether to feel [we are] a civilization or not … is really a matter of self-determination. Russia has to [make that choice] while on the march, as they say [for two reasons]:”
- “First, this is our tradition.”
- “Second, we have ourselves generated an aggravation of the crisis by raising the stakes and ‘striking first.’”
- “The choice has already been made in favor of the ‘state-civilization’ … if we are a state-civilization, then it is time for us to stop defining ourselves through the West.”
- “Today there should be a pivot to the East not because the West is closed, but because it is beneficial to us and that’s where the center of world development in. [We are] FOR a multipolar world, not AGAINST the West.”
- “We must do this in our own and common interests, rather than build a bloc against the West. The world majority does not want either the West’s diktat or participation in a new cold war. This [would require] a proactive [policy on Russia’s part].”
- “In one of the most profound examples of how President Vladimir Putin's brutal invasion has backfired, some Ukrainians are now trying to erase Russia — and the Russian language — from their culture and landscape.”
- “Ukraine is a country where many, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, grew up with Russian as their native tongue. But now the language is vanishing from public life and fading even in some daily private conversations.”
- “Russian-language books have been pulped. Russocentric museums have been pressured to shutter. Streets named after Russian sites, poets and Soviet army generals are marked for a change.”
- “Zelensky last month signed two laws barring the use of Russian place names and requiring Ukrainian citizens to know the Ukrainian language.”
- “Ukraine can and should inherit the rights of a fallen Russia. Remove the Russian Federation from its seat as a permanent member and transfer it to Ukraine. Memory permits it, morality wishes it, and an open debate among united and sovereign nations could decide it.”
Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:
- “The West has thus now unambiguously aligned its position on the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan with support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine. This is due not only to a renewed realization of the advantages of upholding this cornerstone principle of world order centered on the UN Charter, but also to the recognition that Azerbaijan is the indispensable country for the advancement of the West’s strategic energy and connectivity ambitions in the Caspian Sea basin, and Eurasia more broadly”
- “This, in turn, implies a strong connection between supporting the establishment of enduring peace between Baku and Yerevan along lines proposed by the former in spring 2022 and broader Western interests in what Zbigniew Brzezinski called the ‘strategically pivot states’ of Eurasia, like Azerbaijan.”
- “And this, in turn, implies the relativization of a values-first U.S. foreign policy in the face of more solidly realist geopolitical and geoeconomic considerations.”
- “In the present case, this involves understanding the implication of the contrast between the fact that Azerbaijan’s president was the ‘first post-Soviet leader to publicly distance himself from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.’”
- “Washington and Brussels seem now to be closely coordinating their efforts: the outcome of the American thread of the process looks to have been seamlessly woven into the European one. … In other words, when it comes to engaging strategically with the Silk Road region, particularly in the context of providing support to Armenia-Azerbaijan normalization and the anticipated peace dividend, the EU is no longer even pretending that geopolitics and geo-economics are not intrinsically linked. This is a direct consequence of the EU’s decision to impose sanctions on Russia, in close coordination with the United States.”
- “The five peace principles that Azerbaijan put forward in Spring 2022, as noted above, continue to be the primary basis of the negotiations. … If Armenia actually strikes a deal with Azerbaijan, then normalization with Turkey will swiftly follow. The resulting peace dividend would provide Yerevan with significant diplomatic, economic, and security benefits whilst bringing Armenia back into the regional fold after three decades of political isolation.”
- “Although a derailment remains a possibility, the train does appear to be nearing its station. … All things considered, Azerbaijan’s intensifying centripetal allure may indeed turn out to be the reason the peace process crosses the finish line.”
 This summary has been machine-translated.
 Translated with the help of machine translation.
 Translated with the help of machine translation.
 Translated with the help of machine translation.