Russia Analytical Report, May 6-13, 2024

4 Ideas to Explore

  1. Russian forces have captured 10 settlements across 100 sq km of territory along Ukraine’s northern border as of May 13, advancing much faster in the north than their grinding gains in the east of the country, according to FT. Fighting had already broken out near Lyptsi, a village north of the city of Kharkiv, suggesting that Russian forces may have advanced within 10 miles of the city, according to NYT“The situation is on the edge,” Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, told NYT in reference to the ongoing combat in the Kharkiv region.  Russia, which is reportedly yet to commit large numbers of troops to the offensive that began on May 10, would need at least four times as many troops as it currently has to try to capture the city of Kharkiv, a Ukrainian military source told FT. Thus, rather than try to take Ukraine’s second largest city, Russian forces may make a hard push in the direction of Sumy in several days, according to Budanov.
  2. Vladimir Putin’s post-inaugural decision to replace former emergency situations tsar Sergei Shoigu with career economist Andrei Belousov as Russia’s defense minister suggests that the Russian autocrat is doubling down on his war-of-attrition strategy, according to The Economist. Putin believes he can outproduce Ukraine and its Western backers, and Belousov would be instrumental in doing so, this British newspaper argued. Both The Economist’s sources and ISW’s analysts interpreted Belousov’s appointment as a signal that Putin expects the war to be protracted. Belousov's appointment also “shows that Putin has serious concerns over corruption levels and misuse of funds within the Russian military, conflicts between the military and the Russian DIB and the perceived inefficacy of the Russian MoD as a whole,” ISW wrote in its assessment of Putin’s May 12 government reshuffle. Belousov’s appointment indicates Putin wants closer control over Russia’s defense spending—and a pliant official to do it, two people who know both men told FT. “He’s absolutely not corrupted ... He’s a workaholic. He’s a technocrat,” one of the two people said in reference to Belousov.
    1. It appears that a confluence of multiple factors have shaped Vladimir Putin’s post-inaugural decision to replace Shoigu with Belousov. Of these, it is, perhaps, Putin’s discontent with Shoigu’s management of the MoD’s record-large budget that played the decisive role in Shoigu’s ouster rather than the performance of MoD forces in Ukraine. (Signs that Putin may be discontent with the way Shoigu’s team managed the MoD’s money emerged last month when investigators arrested his deputy Timur Ivanov over alleged bribery. That arrest was then followed by an announcement of an investigation into the alleged embezzlement of money meant for procuring bullet-proof vests for combatants, which could reportedly end up targeting another of Shoigu’s then-deputies, Aleksei Krivoruchko).1

      Had Shoigu’s military command skills mattered, Putin would have probably fired both Shoigu and chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov after the failure of the initial blitzkrieg in Spring 2022 or, perhaps, after Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in Fall 2022. Another tell-tale sign that that the military setbacks in Ukraine by themselves were not a sackable offense (at least at the ministerial level) follows from the fact that heads of Russia’s intelligence and security services, which were reported to have underestimated Ukraine’s capacity for resistance, all kept their jobs in the post-inauguration reshuffle. In fact, the only top silovik to lose his job in addition to Shoigu in the most recent change of guard was Nikolai Patrushev—who used to be one of the closest and most hawkish of Putin’s long-time confidants. Patrushev had to yield his post as secretary of the Security Council (which he received after being relieved from the post of director of the Federal Security Service by Putin) to Shoigu. That Putin gave Shoigu this new, though less important, job rather than fire him into oblivion and that Patrushev’s son Dmitry will serve in the new cabinet as a deputy premier indicates that Putin continues to ensure that the departure of key figures in his team whose performance he is longer satisfied with is incremental, so that they do not feel alienated/consider plotting against him.*

  3. What should be expected from Russia’s relations with the West, as well as with China and post-Soviet Eurasia, during Putin’s new term? RM posed this question to several of America’s leading Russia experts. Robert Legvold, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, and Brookings Institution non-resident senior fellow Angela Stent said they were skeptical that Russia’s relations with the West may undergo a significant improvement for the duration of the war in Ukraine, while Paul Saunders, president of the Center for the National Interest, believes even an end to that war “will probably not be sufficient” to attain such an improvement as long as Putin remains in charge in Russia. In contrast, Brandeis University Professor Gary Samore believes that a Trump victory may lead to an improvement in relations between Washington and Moscow. As for Russia’s relations with China, both Center for the National Interest senior fellow Andrew Kuchins and Angela Stent believe Putin will attempt to further strengthen Russian-Chinese ties. Legvold concurs with Stent’s assessment of where relations between Moscow and Beijing are likely to head on Putin’s watch. Kuchins also expects Russian-Chinese alignment to strengthen in Putin’s new six-year term, but rules out an alliance between the two countries unless there is a military conflict over Taiwan, while Samore and Saunders both note the likelihood of growing Russian dependence on China.
  4. The United States should seek negotiations on ending the Russian-Ukrainian war now, according to George Beebe and Anatol Lieven. While Western aid to Ukraine should be continued, this aid should be “envisioned not as a means to secure victory but as a source of leverage in negotiations,” these Quincy Institute experts write in Harpers. The two senior experts argue that “the United States will have to make the first move toward talks and, given that time is on Russia’s side, will have to assure the Russians in advance that it is prepared to accept certain basic conditions—especially Ukraine’s military neutrality—in the context of a broader settlement.” Emma Ashford, Joshua Shifrinson and Stephen Wertheim also believe that “the time has come to encourage negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.” “If Ukrainian forces, buoyed by new aid deliveries, can stabilize the front line, then the summer of 2024 may prove to be a favorable negotiating window,” they write in FP. According to Ashley Tellis of CEIP, however, “even as Ukrainian resistance is thus bolstered, the United States should resist calls for a premature negotiation between Ukraine and Russia that freezes the status quo to Moscow’s advantage.”


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

“Kharkiv's mayor fears his city could become 'a second Aleppo,’” Josh Rogin, WP, 05.13.24.

  • Ever since Ukraine's second-largest city repelled Russia's invasion attempt in the early months of 2022, Kharkiv has stood as a national success story in the grueling war with its larger neighbor. Against overwhelming odds, Ukrainian forces pushed back the attackers and denied Russian President Vladimir Putin one of his key early war aims. In the midst of that fight, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov told me in an interview he was determined to keep his city free — which was not a given at the time.
  • Two years after that victory, however, Terekhov leads Kharkiv as it once again faces an existential threat. Amid an unprecedented Russian bombing campaign and a potential second invasion attempt, he is trying to save innocent lives and keep the lights on for more than 1 million residents. And once again, his city's survival depends on our help.
  • One important change from Russia's initial attacks, Terekhov told me, is that the Russian killers now employ a more diverse and brutal catalogue of weapons, thanks in part to new supplies from Iran, North Korea and China. Guided aerial bombs, often aimed at residential neighborhoods, are the Russians' preferred executioner by day. At night, they turn to ground-to-ground missiles and Shahed killer drones.
  • "They are leveling residential neighborhoods on purpose," he said. "Their aim is to terrorize people, to make them leave Kharkiv and then to damage and destroy it. … We need to do everything we can not to allow the Russians to make Kharkiv into a second Aleppo."
  • On Friday, Russian forces launched a new offensive on the Kharkiv region, advancing several armored columns on the border, which lies only 25 miles from the city. 

“The world’s rules-based order is cracking. Human-rights lawyers are trying to save laws meant to tame violent rulers,” The Economist, 05.09.24.

  • Rarely have international courts been busier. In The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is considering war-crimes prosecutions against Israeli leaders, including Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, over the conflict in Gaza. It has already issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, for war crimes in Ukraine. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), also in The Hague, is weighing genocide charges against Israel. In Strasbourg the European Court of Human Rights will hear a request in June for Russia to pay compensation to Ukraine.
  • And yet, for all the legal action, rarely have activists seemed gloomier about holding rulers to account for heinous acts. “We are at the gates of hell,” says Agnès Callamard, head of Amnesty International. Countries are destroying international law, built over more than seven decades, in service of “the higher god of military necessity, or geostrategic domination”.
  • For a time after the cold war the world seemed to move towards an international rules-based order with less conflict, more democracy and open trade. Lawyers looked forward to “universal jurisdiction”—a borderless fight against impunity. Some leaders, such as Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia and Charles Taylor of Liberia, even stood trial for atrocities. But the order, always imperfect, is breaking up because of intensifying geopolitical rivalries—and efforts to uphold it may only expose its weaknesses.
    • Russia blatantly violated the UN Charter by invading Ukraine. China supports Russia abroad, represses minorities at home and bullies neighbors. 
    • America, the chief architect of the system, undermined it with the excesses of its “war on terror”, not least after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Now critics accuse it of being complicit in atrocities by supporting Israel’s war on terror. 
    • Israeli forces have killed tens of thousands of Palestinians in an attempt to destroy Hamas, which killed or kidnapped some 1,400 Israelis on October 7th.
  • Human-rights lawyers hope to close some gaps in international law, whether by new agreements (some call for a special tribunal to prosecute Russia for aggression) or by existing courts extending their remit. They also want new curbs on AI and autonomous weapons. But they cannot hold back states bent on violence. Arrest warrants limit leaders’ international travel. But don’t expect to see Mr Putin in the dock. So what is the point of the court battles? Lawyers offer three answers: to impose a reputational and perhaps economic cost on those who spill blood wantonly; to strengthen the negotiating hand of their victims in future diplomatic talks; and, at a minimum, to establish a credible historical record of atrocities.

“Russia is using toxic chemical weapons, wrecking a ban it helped create,” Editorial Board, WP, 05.06.24.

  • The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention was one of the most important disarmament treaties to follow the Cold War, one of several that reduced tensions and built norms discouraging some of war's many horrors. With the support of the Soviet Union and later Russia, it eliminated an entire class of weapons using chemical agents. But in Ukraine, Russia is now using chemical weapons it once agreed to outlaw.
  • The State Department announced on Wednesday that Russia has used a chemical agent, chloropicrin, against Ukrainian forces, in violation of the treaty. Chloropicrin is a choking agent whose use as a weapon is banned. It also has commercial applications as a soil fumigant in agriculture. 
  • In a statement to the executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which met from March 5 to 8, Ukraine's representative made only passing reference to the discovery of chloropicrin in some improvised explosive devices. But Ukraine has provided evidence that a large number of other substances, including riot-control agents, are being used in the onslaught from Russia. The statement to the executive council said Ukraine is "in grave peril" from Russian use of toxic chemicals against its troops. "We have recorded 346 individual toxic chemical incidents in 2024 so far — equivalent to 6 Russian breaches of the CWC per day," the statement said, adding that the chemical weapons are used to force Ukrainian troops out of their trenches to where they can be targeted by artillery. Ukraine has alleged that Russia used chemical agents banned in warfare — including tear gases known by their shorthands CS and CN — 371 times in March 2024 alone and 1,412 cases between February 2023 and March 2024. The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits the use of tear gas in military conflict.
  • Even before the Ukraine war, Russia was straining the fabric of the treaty. ...Disarmament treaties are not perfect. But without them, the world will be more dangerous. With the Kremlin's latest activity, leaders in Russia and elsewhere will feel even less compunction about breaching norms developed the hard way, from the epochal slaughter in the 20th century.

“Ukraine's Stolen Children Fight to Get Home: 'This Is My Country,'” Oksana Grytsenko, Stephen Kalin and James Marson, WSJ, 05.12.24.

  • Valeria Sydorova walked toward the Russian border post, her nerves steeled by the proximity of her goal: to get home. The 17-year-old had wiped her phone of anything the Russians might find suspicious, had traveled solo for hundreds of miles and was now within touching distance of Ukraine. ... Valeria is one of some 20,000 children who Ukraine says have been forcibly removed by Russia from occupied territory. Ukraine and its Western allies say Russia is committing a war crime and seeking to erase the children's Ukrainian identities. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the forced transfers. Russian officials say they are protecting the children from war, but they also acknowledge that they are seeking to re-educate the children and turn them into loyal Russians.
  • Ukraine, the children and their families are in a race against time to get them back before they are lost for good. Several hundred children have managed to return home, on their own or with the help of relatives, friends, charities, Ukrainian authorities, foreign governments and Russian volunteers. 
  • Valeria made it. ... She left Russia behind and burst into tears when she saw a Ukrainian border guard. Now, she's in Kyiv, enrolled in medical college and living with a foster mom. "Perhaps now I'm again living the life that disappeared for me when my mother died," Valeria said.

“Ukrainian moms are a wall holding off Russia's aggression,” Olena Zelenska, WP, 05.12.24. Clues from Ukrainian Views

  • More than 19,000 of our children are being held captive in Russia. Their families are tormented by uncertainty.
  • Since the beginning of Russia's brutal full-scale invasion, the mothers of Ukraine have - as caregivers, first responders, medics, soldiers and breadwinners - fought for the survival of their families and their country. They are part of a fight for the survival of the democratic world order.  It is a fitting story to tell on Mother's Day, when there is an important message I am ready to scream out loud: We need the help of the whole world to set these children free. One Ukrainian mother may be powerless, but thousands and millions of us standing together can succeed.
  • Every Ukrainian mom today is a part of a great wall holding off Russian aggression against the world. There are missile fragments and bullets in their hearts, and there are children behind their backs - and not just their own children. That's because, in a civilized world, there are no other people's children.

For more analysis on this subject, see:

Military and security aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“Facing Russian Advance, a Top Ukrainian General Paints a Bleak Picture,” Constant Méheut, Maria Varenikova and Michael Schwirtz, NYT, 05.13.24. 

  • Ukraine’s military is confronting a “critical” situation in the country’s northeast, facing troop shortages as it tries to repel a Russian offensive that has been advancing for several days, en. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said in a video call from a bunker in Kharkiv on May 13.
  • Russian troops surged across the border last week to open a new line of attack near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city after Kyiv, capturing at least nine settlements and villages and forcing thousands of civilians to flee. “The situation is on the edge,” Budanov said. “Every hour this situation moves toward critical.”
    • Fighting on Monday was raging on the outskirts of Vovchansk, a small town about five miles from the Ukrainian-Russian border, northeast of Kharkiv.
    • Ukrainian civilians said Monday that fighting had broken out near Lyptsi, a village north of Kharkiv, suggesting that Russian forces may have advanced within 10 miles of the city.
    • Russian forces have so far managed to push about five miles into Ukrainian territory and seize some 50 square miles of land, according to online maps of the battlefield posted by the Institute for the Study of War.
      • “The enemy is currently achieving tactical success,” the General Staff of Ukraine acknowledged in a statement early Monday.
  • Like most Ukrainian officials and military experts, General Budanov said he believes the Russian attacks in the northeast are intended to stretch Ukraine’s already thin reserves of soldiers and divert them from fighting elsewhere. That is exactly what is happening now, he acknowledged. He said the Ukrainian army was trying to redirect troops from other front line areas to shore up its defenses in the northeast, but that it had been difficult to find the personnel.
    • “All of our forces are either here or in Chasiv Yar,” he said, referring to a Ukrainian stronghold about 120 miles farther south that Russian troops have assaulted in recent weeks. “I’ve used everything we have. Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone else in the reserves.”
  • Military analysts say that Russia has yet to commit large numbers of troops to the offensive — probably deploying just a few thousand soldiers — and that much would depend on Moscow’s next move.
  • General Budanov said he expected the attacks in the Kharkiv region to last another three or four days, after which Russian forces are expected to make a hard push in the direction of Sumy.

“Russia attempts breakthrough in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region,” Isobel Koshiw, FT, 05.13.24. 

  • Maps compiled by Deepstate indicated that [as of 05.13.24] Russian forces have captured three more villages in Ukraine’s north-eastern Kharkiv region, and a battle is under way for control of Hlyboke, a village 40km north of Kharkiv; as they press ahead with a new offensive intended to draw Ukrainian forces away from front lines in the east. Since launching the operation on Friday, Russian troops have occupied about 10 settlements across 100 sq km of territory along Ukraine’s northern border.
  • Russia’s operations have so far been focused on the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine, particularly around the critical stronghold of Chasiv Yar. But Ukrainian officials believe Russia now wants to draw Ukrainian forces away from the battles in the east, where Kyiv is outgunned and struggling to hold its defensive lines. Moscow is also looking to exploit its superior resources ahead of the delivery of new military aid to Ukraine from the US, after a hold-up in Congress was resolved and a new aid package passed last month.
  • Russian forces are advancing much faster in the north than their grinding gains in the east of the country. However, Ukrainian officials and analysts said they had not yet managed a significant breakthrough.
  • A Ukrainian defense forces source told the FT on Monday that Russia would need at least four times as many troops as it currently had for a ground offensive on Kharkiv, and maintained that Moscow’s goal was to stretch Ukraine’s forces.
  • On Monday, the Ukrainian army said it had replaced its commander for Kharkiv in an effort to boost its defense of the north-eastern region. Ukraine’s general staff said there was fighting around settlements in the grey zone south of Pylna and on the outskirts of Vovchansk. It said reserves had been deployed to “stabilize the situation.”

“Ukraine will hold if it gets the arms it needs, says a top general. An interview with Lieutenant General Oleksandr Pavliuk, head of Ukraine’s ground forces,” The Economist, 05.10.24.

  • General Pavliuk says the critical phase of the war will come in the next two months. With American assistance only beginning to reach the front lines, Vladimir Putin’s generals are throwing in all the combat-ready materiel they have to test Ukraine’s exhausted and undersupplied troops. “Russia knows that if we receive enough weapons within a month or two, the situation could turn against them.”
  • Ukraine urgently needs more air defense, he says, and the anticipated delivery of F-16 fighter jets by early June will offer a significant psychological boost. But it remains uncertain whether Ukraine will receive the newer versions of the F-16 (block 50 onwards) that are needed to challenge Russia’s bombers. These stay at a distance, out of range of Ukrainian air defense, while dropping heavy guided bombs on front-line positions at a rate of 130 per day.
  • The commander believes Russia will continue to focus on Luhansk and Donetsk, the eastern districts that have borne the brunt of the war. But intelligence suggests Russian forces will soon stretch defenses by attacking the north-eastern districts of Kharkiv and Sumy. “
  • The general refuses to comment on reports that miscommunication led to the loss of positions [in the Ocheretyne area], attributing it instead to “insane” pressure, “overwhelming [Russian] air superiority”, and an artillery ratio that reached 20:1. Over the whole range of the front, Russian guns are firing seven times as many shells as Ukraine’s.
  • Ukraine still holds Chasiv Yar,  [which is] the key to a cluster of towns and cities behind it, the last urban centers of the Donbas that remain in Ukrainian hands. General Pavliuk appears to be preparing public opinion for what some believe to be inevitable. He argues that losing Chasiv Yar would have no “decisive significance”; it is just “a regular urban settlement.”
  • One of the most urgent tasks on the general’s desk is raising ten new brigades in preparation for the Russian offensive. ... Part of this new force will be deployed to protect the capital. Two and a half years after the Russian army was stymied there, it has not abandoned its ambition to ultimately take the city, the general says.
  • General Pavliuk, who was seconded to the capital in 2022 to help stop the attempted blitzkrieg, says Russia’s threat is fundamentally different from what it was at the start of the war. The Russian army can no longer execute sweeping raids on multiple fronts, he says ... The story remains Russia’s strategic failure, he argues. 

“Sergei Shoigu’s sacking points to yet more attrition in Ukraine,” The Economist, 05.13.24. 

  • News of the dismissal of Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister of 12 years, in the middle of war ... raised eyebrows. Replacing him with Andrei Belousov, a technocrat with no previous direct relations to the security bloc, was even more unexpected. ... [T]he dutiful Mr. Shoigu [was offered] a soft landing as secretary of the national security council. The fate of the incumbent Nikolai Patrushev, one of his most trusted aides and a hardline nationalist idealogue, remains unclear. Despite their appalling performance in 2022, the heads of Russian intelligence agencies, including Alexander Bortnikov, who has run the FSB security service for 16 years, remain in place.
  • Mr. Belousov, 65, is a long-time ally of the president, and appears to share his world view. A macroeconomist who has had a hand in most of Russia’s recent budgets, he is expected to consolidate oversight of Russia’s military economy. Spending on the armed forces this year is estimated at some $120bn, a third of total government spending. Russian arms factories have been working overtime, but some think that the country’s defense industry could plateau next year. Alexandra Prokopenko of the Carnegie Endowment, a think-tank, points out that Mr. Belousov is no dove. He has worked with Mr. Putin since 2008, was one of the few economists to support the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and “always believed that Russia is circled by enemies.”
  • The new appointment also suggests that Mr. Putin is doubling down on his war-of-attrition strategy. The president believes he can outproduce Ukraine and its Western backers. This approach has already yielded dividends in the manufacture of certain weaponry, such as artillery and guided aerial “glide bombs,” which have devastated Ukrainian forces. “The appointment of Belousov is a signal that the war is serious and for a long time,” says Konstantin Kalachyov, a political analyst and former Kremlin adviser. “The calculation is that Ukraine’s allies will get tired first.”
  • A source close to the Kremlin says the switch is not expected to have any impact on combat operations, at a moment when Russia is intensifying operations in the Kharkiv region in the north-east of Ukraine. Mr. Putin had already cut his defense minister out of many operational discussions, the source says, preferring instead direct, multiple daily contacts with Valery Gerasimov, his top general (who himself has long been rumored to be in line for replacement). 

“Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, May 12, 2024,” ISW, 05.12.24.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced Sergei Shoigu with Andrei Belousov as Russian Minister of Defense on May 12, moving Shoigu to the position of Security Council Secretary in place of Nikolai Patrushev. These high-level reshuffles following the Russian presidential election strongly suggest that Putin is taking significant steps towards mobilizing the Russian economy and defense industrial base (DIB) to support a protracted war in Ukraine and possibly prepare for a future confrontation with NATO. 
  • Belousov's appointment to the position of Russian Defense Minister is a significant development in Putin's efforts to set full economic conditions for a protracted war. ... Dmitry Peskov announced Belousov's appointment ... and explained that "it is very important to fit the economy of the security bloc [domestic security power vertical] into the country's economy," suggesting that the Kremlin intends for Belousov to integrate and streamline the DIB and industries affiliated with Russia's security and defense forces with wider domestic economic policy.
  • Several Russian insider sources similarly responded to Belousov's new position and claimed that it shows that Putin has serious concerns over corruption levels and misuse of funds within the Russian military, conflicts between the military and the Russian DIB, and the perceived inefficacy of the Russian MoD as a whole. An unnamed Russian federal official told Russian opposition outlet Vazhnye Istorii that Belousov will work in his new role to "competently organize work and logistics processes, ensure the necessary production and supplies, orient the economy towards the 'special military operation,' and squeeze the technological maximum out of the defense industry." A prominent Kremlin-awarded milblogger noted that Belousov's new role "means the beginning of a large-scale audit and restructuring of all financial models" in the Russian MoD.
  • Belousov's nearly decade-long tenure as an economic minister in the Russian federal government and his more recent involvement managing various domestic DIB innovation and drone projects, prepare him well to lead the struggling Russian MoD apparatus. 
  • Shoigu's replacement of Patrushev as Security Council Secretary is in line with Putin's general pattern of quietly sidelining high-level security officials by granting them peripheral roles within the Russian security sphere rather than simply firing them. 
  • Aside from Patrushev's dismissal, Putin largely reappointed the heads of core Russian security services, suggesting that he maintains a core cadre of loyal siloviki. Putin reappointed Vladimir Kolokoltsev as Minister of Internal Affairs, Sergei Naryshkin as Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Alexander Bortnikov as Director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), and Viktor Zolotov as Director of Rosgvardia  ISW previously assessed that Russian security services and affiliated siloviki, particularly Bortnikov, were key constituencies for Putin's election to his fifth term, and Putin has relied heavily on the work of the aforementioned security agencies to maintain regime stability, particularly following the failed Wagner Group rebellion.

“Who is Andrei Belousov, Russia’s new defense minister?” Max Seddon, Anastasia Stognei and Polina Ivanova, FT, 05.12.24.

  • In his final public appearance as Russia’s defense minister on Thursday, Sergei Shoigu saluted President Vladimir Putin near Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum on Red Square, clad in a general’s uniform bedecked with medals. Andrei Belousov, appointed as his successor on Sunday, is cut from a different cloth. A Soviet-trained economist, Belousov has never served a day in the army and has served Putin in various roles as a civilian adviser on economics.
  • Putin’s surprise tapping of Belousov to run the defense ministry indicates the president wants a major shift in the handling of his two-year invasion of Ukraine, according to people who know both men, as well as Russian analysts. A champion of statist industrial policy and a technocrat with no power base of his own, Belousov’s appointment indicates Putin wants closer control over Russia’s record Rbs10.8tn ($117.2bn) defense spending — and a pliant, no-nonsense official to do it, the people who know him said.
    • “He’s absolutely not corrupted. And that’s going to be very different from what we have now in the ministry of defense. Shoigu and everyone around him were really commercial guys,” said a person who has known Putin and Belousov for decades. “Belousov . . . won’t pretend to lead the army like a general with all these medals. He’s a workaholic. He’s a technocrat. He’s very honest, and Putin knows him very well,” the person added.

For more analysis on this subject, see:

Military aid to Ukraine:

“The UK should not rule out sending troops to Ukraine – despite Putin’s nuclear threats,” Keir Giles, Chatham House, 05.10.24.

  • The Kremlin has responded with predictable theatre to comments from foreign secretary David Cameron, after he said Ukraine is free to use weapons supplied by Britain to launch strikes inside Russia. That theatre was both diplomatic … and nuclear: Moscow announced it would be holding exercises involving tactical nuclear weapons in the near future to remind the world yet again that it has them.
  • Britain has repeatedly taken the lead in supplying weapons systems such as long-range missiles or main battle tanks to Ukraine. In the process it has shown that fears of ‘escalation’ in Washington and Berlin stem from a highly successful Russian con trick.
  • French president Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly warned that European troops could be forced to intervene if Ukraine is unable to halt Russia’s aggression. It’s vital that Russia understands that, since the last thing Moscow wants is a direct military clash with NATO countries.
  • In any case, publicly ruling out a Western troop presence in Ukraine makes no sense, whether or not it’s a realistic proposition for some NATO countries. Just the possibility is one of the Kremlin’s greatest fears. … [M]ore European leaders – and the UK – should follow Macron’s lead and preserve ‘strategic ambiguity’ (that is, not telling your adversary what you’re not going to do).
  • Over the course of the last two weeks, Europe as a whole has woken up to the campaign of sabotage and disruption that Russia has been waging across the continent. There’s no doubt Russia could step this up still further.
  • There’s one traditional way of hurting the West that Russia may not yet have employed. Throughout the Cold War and even in tsarist times, Moscow poured effort and resources into sponsoring terrorist groups to carry out attacks against European cities.
  • European countries can do little about Russian electronic warfare installations that have been sowing havoc with European air and maritime traffic. But for Ukraine, no holds should be barred and it’s in everybody’s interest that the jamming should be deterred or disrupted.
  • When considering how far the West should go in working with Kyiv, the fundamental question is still the same: whether Europe wishes to stop Russia in Ukraine, or allow Moscow’s war of reconquest to claim more victims further West.

For a detailed description of U.S. aid to Ukraine, see: 

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

“Raiffeisen has been a rogue operator in Russia for too long,” Patrick Jenkins, FT, 05.13.24.

  • There is a simple, extraordinary fact about the business of Raiffeisen Bank International — one that exemplifies why the west has failed to hobble the Russian economy, in spite of an apparently onerous sanctions regime imposed on the country since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. For the past three years, the profits generated by the Austrian bank’s Russian arm have exceeded the entirety of the group’s other operations.
  • Raiffeisen is in a difficult spot. Even if it genuinely wants to exit the country, doing so is subject to the Kremlin vetting any buyer. In the meantime, restrictions imposed by the Russian regime mean the bank cannot repatriate profits from the country to its Austrian parent via dividends. ... That leaves Raiffeisen with close to €5bn of capital trapped in Russia. The bulk of customer deposits and retained profits are deposited with Russia’s central bank, where it earns 16 per cent interest.
  • Alexander Schallenberg, Austria’s foreign minister, declared in a recent interview with Reuters that it was “delusional” to think the west as a whole could decouple from Russia. But the US and EU should maintain the pressure. There is a strong argument for adding the likes of Raiffeisen’s Russian bank to those frozen out of Swift access, thus closing a huge loophole in efforts to stifle Moscow’s links to the global economy.

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

“Coming to Terms: The Diplomatic Path to a Secure Ukraine,” George Beebe and Anatol Lieven, Harpers, May 2024.2

  • More than two years into Russia’s invasion, it is increasingly clear that the Ukrainian army is not capable of reconquering the territories lost to Russia; instead, without continued and massive Western aid, the Ukrainians will suffer eventual defeat owing to Russia’s huge economic and demographic superiority, and the long-term continuation of such aid cannot be guaranteed. 
  • Sanctions have not cratered Russia’s economy or crippled its war effort. Russia has corrected many of the problems that plagued its forces during the war’s first year and pursued an attrition strategy that is steadily exhausting Ukraine’s supply of fighters, emptying Western weapons stockpiles, and sapping U.S. and European political patience. Current trends are pointing not toward a lasting stalemate but toward Ukraine’s eventual collapse.
  • The United States should seek negotiations now. As the shake-up in Ukraine’s military leadership earlier this year and news reports of the exhaustion of Ukrainian troops portend, its time may indeed be much shorter than most Western analysts realize. The soldiers on the front lines speak of back-to-back deployments, falling numbers of troops, declining supplies of ammunition, and apparently inexhaustible Russian reserves. Western aid should therefore be continued, as the alternative is likely to be a situation in which Russia will dictate, rather than negotiate, terms of a settlement. But this aid should also be envisioned not as a means to secure victory but as a source of leverage in negotiations. The only viable terms for such a compromise are that Russia abandons its hopes of conquering more Ukrainian territory and reducing the whole of Ukraine to a client state—and in return, the West meets Russia’s basic concerns about its own security and provides a path toward reestablishing normal economic relations.
  • The United States will have to make the first move toward talks and, given that time is on Russia’s side, will have to assure the Russians in advance that it is prepared to accept certain basic conditions—¬especially Ukraine’s military neutrality¬—in the context of a broader settlement. Equally importantly, only the United States can propose and implement wider European security arrangements that could persuade Russia to moderate some of its specific ambitions in Ukraine. This is also in accordance with an old diplomatic maxim that if a particular issue is resistant to agreement, then the solution may be to broaden it in order to find other areas where compromise is possible.
    • It ... seems clear that no Ukrainian government would officially cede these territories to Russia. ... The only answer therefore is the one pursued in Cyprus over the past half century: to leave the territorial issue for future negotiation, while both sides promise not to change the armistice line through force.
    • Agreeing to a treaty of neutrality for Ukraine would be a largely symbolic concession by the West. U.S. and NATO leaders have repeatedly stated that the alliance will not send troops to defend Ukraine. 
    • Concerning “demilitarization” and limits on NATO forces near Russia’s borders, any such agreement must include elements of reciprocity: verifiable limits on the number of Russian troops and missiles deployed in Kaliningrad, in Belarus, in Russian regions bordering Ukraine, and in the occupied areas of the country.
    • Short of NATO membership, what other security guarantees can the West give Ukraine to deter future Russian aggression? As in any international agreement, the search for absolute guarantees is pointless. The way forward is to create a settlement that Russia can live with, while making clear the price that Russia would pay for violating its terms: the resumption of massive Western arms transfers to Ukraine and the automatic reimposition of full economic sanctions on Russia.
    • Moscow has never articulated specifically what it means by the “denazification” of Ukraine, which it consistently cites as one of its war aims. If it means dictating the composition of future Ukrainian governments, this is obviously unacceptable. If, however, Russia is prepared to compromise on this issue, then there are two ways it could be reframed, and they are things Ukraine should be doing anyway—and that the West should be demanding—as part of Ukraine’s path to membership in the European Union.
      • The first is the adoption of some version of Germany’s laws banning neo-Nazi parties and insignia. 
      • The second would be to repeal Ukrainian laws curtailing the linguistic and cultural rights of the Russian minority in Ukraine—laws that might violate E.U. rules on minority rights.
  • The biggest question of all is whether the United States can ride the coattails of history moving through Ukraine and achieve a stable balance of power in Europe and beyond. If we lack such foresight, we are very likely headed toward a world in which Ukraine becomes a dysfunctional wreck, a weak and divided West faces decades of nuclear tension with Russia, and Washington has bumbled its way into uniting China, Russia, Iran and North Korea against us. Let us hope our leaders do not fail this test of statesmanship.

"She Was at the Top of the State Department. Now She’s Ready to Talk: As Victoria Nuland steps down, she gets real about a world on fire," Nahal Toosi, Politico,

  • Can Ukraine win this war against Russia? And how do you define winning? Let’s start with the fact that Putin has already failed in his objective. He wanted to flatten Ukraine. He wanted to ensure that they had no sovereignty, independence, agency, no democratic future — because a democratic Ukraine, a European Ukraine, is a threat to his model for Russia, among other things, and because it’s the first building block for his larger territorial ambitions.  Can Ukraine succeed? Absolutely. Can Ukraine come out of this more sovereign, more economically independent, stronger, more European than it is now? Absolutely. And I think it will. But we’ve got to stay with it. We’ve got to make sure our allies stay with it.
  • But can it get all its territory back, including Crimea?  It can definitely get to a place where it’s strong enough, I believe, and where Putin is stymied enough to go to the negotiating table from a position of strength. It’ll be up to the Ukrainian people what their territorial ambitions should be. But there are certain things that are existential.  Any deal that they cut in their interest and in the larger global interest has to be a deal that Putin is compelled to stick to. We can’t be doing this every six months, every three years. It has to actually lead to a deal that includes Russian withdrawal.
  • Was it a mistake not to push the Ukrainians harder to go for some sort of negotiated end to the war in 2022, especially the fall of 2022?  They were not in a strong enough position then. They’re not in a strong enough position now. The only deal Putin would have cut then, the only deal that he would cut today, at least before he sees what happens in our election, is a deal in which he says, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.” And that’s not sustainable.
  • You’ve had a long career, especially when it comes to Europe. Where did the U.S. go wrong in its understanding of Russia? With regard to both Russia and China, after the end of the Cold War, the prevailing wisdom among all of us — right, left and center — was that if you could knit Moscow and Beijing into the open and free global order that we had benefited from for so many years, that they would become prosperous, and they would become strong contributing members of that order. And that’s what we tried for a very long time.
  • What is the lesson we should learn about foreign policy in general when it comes to the experiences we’ve had in Russia and China?  We should always try to talk both to leaders and to people, to the extent that we’re allowed. We should always offer an opportunity to work together in common interest.
  • If Trump wins, and leaves NATO or limits America’s role in NATO, does the alliance fall apart? What happens?  First and foremost, America suffers. Because if you look at every single one of the challenges we have globally, even as we make the security commitment to Europe, it is the European countries who have contributed more to Ukraine — on the security side, on the economic side, etc. It is the European countries who have to adapt their policies toward China if you want to have an impact on China’s eagerness to coerce others. It’s the European countries who we need to help fund the Haiti mission, to help defeat terrorism in Africa, and provide prosperity.

For more analysis on this subject, see:

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

“What Does America Want in Ukraine? Washington’s current approach is a strategic cop-out—and risks making another forever war,” Emma Ashford, Joshua Shifrinson and Stephen Wertheim, FP, 05.09.24. 

  • As the geopolitical analyst Ian Bremmer noted, “America continuing to send Ukraine [$]60 billion in support year after year [is] unrealistic no matter who wins the presidency.” Current aid will mostly help to put Ukraine in a better position for future negotiations. It will ameliorate shortfalls in ammunition and weaponry, making it less likely that Ukrainian forces will lose more ground in coming months. Yet Ukraine still faces other challenges: insufficient fortifications, a yawning manpower shortage, and a surprisingly resilient Russian army. On the whole, Ukraine remains the weaker party; Western assistance has not altered that reality.
  • How should one determine when the moment for negotiations has arrived? If Ukraine keeps fighting without talking, will its bargaining power improve or diminish?
  • The current approach is a strategic cop-out. Its primary benefit is to paper over differences among Ukraine’s supporters. The risk is that the war will join the ranks of forever wars and end in one of three ways: in defeat, on worse terms than could have been obtained earlier, or on the same terms at a higher human and financial toll.
  • For all the effort the Biden administration has put into delivering aid to Ukraine, it has also set U.S. strategy on autopilot. There appears to be no plan other than to try to keep the money flowing—the new aid could last as little as six months or as long as 18 months—which will work until it doesn’t.
  • Instead, the administration should publicly acknowledge that Ukrainian and American interests are not identical and that Kyiv’s stated aim of liberating every inch of Ukrainian territory is not realistically achievable. America’s most important interests are to safeguard Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign state and to avoid direct conflict with Russia. Each of these should take priority over the further liberation of territory. Accordingly, U.S. leaders should encourage and incentivize Ukraine to prioritize defense over offense, a process that is already beginning. 
  • No less important, the time has come to encourage negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. If Ukrainian forces, buoyed by new aid deliveries, can stabilize the front line, then the summer of 2024 may prove to be a favorable negotiating window. 
  • Finally, Washington should lean on its European allies to spend the money and place the orders to equip Ukraine. 

“Russia is ramping up sabotage across Europe. The Kremlin believes it is in a shadow war with NATO,” The Economist, 05.12.24.

  • The fire that broke out in the Diehl Metall factory in the Lichterfelde suburb of Berlin on May 3rd was not in itself suspicious. ... What raised eyebrows was the fact that Diehl’s parent company makes the IRIS-T air-defense system which Ukraine is using to parry Russian missiles. There is no evidence that this fire was an act of sabotage. If the idea is plausible it is because there is ample evidence that Russia’s covert war in Europe is intensifying.
    • In April alone a clutch of alleged pro-Russian saboteurs were detained across the continent. 
    • A number of Baltic states have accused Russian intelligence services of recruiting middlemen to attack property and deface monuments. 
    • None of this is new. In 2011 the GRU blew up an ammunition depot in Lovnidol in Bulgaria. It followed that up with two explosions at the Vrbetice arms depot in the Czech Republic in October and December 2014, where ammunition bound for Ukraine was being held. 
    • Russian cyber operations have also grown bolder.
  • “...disturbingly,” notes Keir Giles of Chatham House, a London think-tank, citing the sabotage as well as other actions, like aggressive GPS jamming in the Baltic region, “the patterns of behavior match predictions of what Russia would attempt to do in advance of an open conflict with NATO.” 

“Nobody Is Competing With the U.S. to Begin With. Conflicts with China and Russia are about local issues that Washington can’t win anyway,” Anatol Lieven, FP, 05.01.24. 

  • U.S. security elites are obsessed with the threat posed by China and Russia to U.S. global primacy. This is a serious strategic miscalculation. The United States’ global network of powerful allies and bases (of which China and Russia have hardly any), unrivaled blue-water Navy, and possession of the only truly global currency mean that no other country can challenge Washington on the world stage as a whole.
  • Nor indeed is there any real evidence that they wish to do so. It is not just that a non-nuclear attack on NATO is impossibly far beyond Russian capabilities; until its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia devoted great efforts to trying to woo Germany and France. Russia has no interest in provoking the United States into a maritime blockade that would devastate Russia’s energy exports, nor China in disrupting a global trading and financial system on which it depends for most of its trade. No U.S. ally or alliance system is under threat from a rival power as long as they and the United States restrict themselves to their own defense. Washington is in firm control of the great economic powerhouse of Western Europe and maritime East Asia, as well as its own hemisphere.
  • All other things being equal, U.S. global primacy is already secure for a very long time to come. The problem is that all other things are not equal. Since the end of the Cold War, too many U.S. strategists have forgotten a fundamental rule both of geopolitics and of war: that all real power is in the end local and relative. That is to say, it is the amount of force, money, or influence that a state is able and willing to bring to bear on a particular issue or place compared with the amount that rival states can bring to bear. So, what is true of the world as a whole may be totally untrue of eastern Ukraine or the South China Sea.
  • Yet the United States has found itself challenging Russia, China, and Iran on ground where they hold vast and growing advantages. Washington is replicating a classic military error: risking your main position by committing resources to the defense of ultimately undefendable outposts and, in the process, risking both exhaustion and so many local defeats in detail that in the end they bring about complete defeat.
  • The immediate issue is the war in Ukraine. By proposing NATO membership to a country that no U.S. administration ever intended to go to war to defend, Washington has exposed Ukraine to likely disaster and the United States and NATO to severe humiliation. U.S. high-tech weaponry has been important to the Ukrainian defense, but industries in the United States and European Union are failing very badly in providing Ukraine with sufficient quantities of basic ammunition. Western countries also, of course, cannot provide Ukraine with new soldiers to reinforce its severely depleted ranks—unless they go to war themselves and risk nuclear annihilation for places that until very recently nobody in the West considered vital. On the other hand, Russia’s ability to defeat Ukraine in the east of that country—at huge cost to Russia in casualties and equipment—by no means indicates either the ability or the desire to launch a direct attack on NATO.
  • The wise strategic course for the United States is therefore to seek a compromise peace—akin to the 1955 Austrian State Treaty, negotiated with the Soviet Union—whereby the great majority of Ukraine is independent but neutral and the issue of the Russian-occupied territories is deferred for future negotiation (the approach Washington has taken to Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus for the past 40 years). Such a deal should be seen not as a U.S. defeat but a tactical withdrawal to prepared positions from an indefensible salient. This should be combined with European rearmament and moves to strengthen the defenses of existing NATO members that border Russia, including most especially the Baltic states.
  • There is no cowardice or disgrace in conducting a limited and orderly withdrawal. Every great strategist has done this when necessary. On the contrary, having the moral courage to do this is precisely one of the qualities of true statesmanship—especially when the United States’ goal of maintaining its global primacy isn’t even at issue.

“Trump Is Unlikely to Abandon Ukraine—and Might Dangerously Escalate the War,” Michael Kimmage, WSJ, 05.09.24.

  • Because of continuing U.S. support for Ukraine and the impossibility of accepting such a humiliating defeat, a second Trump term would likely follow one of two scenarios: The war could simply go on as it did before, or the U.S. could become much more deeply involved.
    • The first possibility would be continuity. Fearful of defeat, Trump could maintain Biden administration policies on Ukraine, refusing to push Ukraine toward negotiations and continuing to provide various kinds of military aid—weaponry as well as intelligence and targeting information. In a second term, Trump's relations with Western Europe would surely be as bad as they were in his first, but his antipathy for the continent was never driven by Ukraine or Russia. He tends to be more fond of Eastern Europe and chose Warsaw for his first European speech as president. In 2025, while feuding with risk-averse Germany, Trump might find common ground with anti-Russian Poland.
    • The second scenario for a Trump presidency is one of steady escalation. Responding to the battlefield, Trump might change the U.S. calculus and furnish Ukraine with weapons systems that the Biden administration was reluctant to allow. He might let Kyiv use U.S.-supplied weapons on Russian territory.
      • Like Putin, Trump might refuse to declare tactical nuclear weapons off limits in Ukraine. Trump could do this to strengthen his hand at the negotiating table, as a bluff or just to separate himself from his predecessors. He could approach the question of nuclear war not according to the cautious old orthodoxies but according to his own unknowable rules.
      • Alternately, Trump might escalate without wishing to escalate. His anarchic style of communication creates risks, and he doesn't work through layers of professional staff, quietly developing strategies and then deploying them with discipline. He shoots from the hip, most often via social media. Unable to end the war in 24 hours, Trump might up the ante, and Putin might respond in kind. 
        • Trump and Putin could become prisoners of their respective appetites for confrontation. 
  • Whoever is elected in November, the war stands little chance of ending in the months and years to come. Because of the election, however, an entirely new phase of the war might begin in late January.

“NATO Cannot Survive Without America. If Trump Pulls Out, the Alliance Would Likely Fall Apart,” Hans Binnendijk, R. D. Hooker, Jr. and Alexander Vershbow, FA, 05.13.24. 

  • If Trump is reelected and follows through on his anti-NATO instincts, the first casualty would be Ukraine. Trump has opposed additional military aid to Kyiv and continues to fawn over Russian President Vladimir Putin. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is already trying to Trump-proof aid to Ukraine by coordinating it under the aegis of the alliance rather than the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group. Should the United States weaken or terminate its defense commitment to Europe under Trump, European countries would feel more vulnerable and may become increasingly reluctant to send Ukraine their own vital military supplies. With dramatic aid cuts, Kyiv could be forced to negotiate an unfavorable agreement with Moscow that would leave Ukraine a rump state militarily and economically vulnerable to Russia. Should Ukraine’s defenses collapse altogether, brutal repression and forced Russification await some 38 million people.
  • The disastrous consequences would only start there. A deflated NATO would struggle to mount an effective conventional deterrent against further Russian aggression. Russia is now on a war footing, spending six percent of its GDP on defense, and its authoritarian leader is committed to an ultranationalistic mission to consolidate his rule over what he calls the “Russian world,” an unspecified geographic space that extends well beyond his country’s internationally recognized borders. Moscow could reconstitute its armed forces relatively quickly. After subjugating all of Ukraine, Putin would probably focus on the Baltic states—NATO members covered by the alliance’s security umbrella but claimed as historic Russian lands by Putin. Should NATO’s conventional deterrence be weakened by the withdrawal of U.S. support, Russia would only be tempted to act more brazenly.
  • NATO without the United States might limp along, but it is more likely that the alliance would collapse altogether. 
  • The damage would not be limited to Europe. If Trump wants to withdraw from NATO to punish allies for their inadequate defense spending, why would the United States maintain its commitments to its Asian allies, many of whom currently spend even less than NATO countries? 
  • The United States’ economy might also suffer. Should a breakdown of deterrence trigger a general war with Russia or China, the economic costs would be staggering. 
  • After World War II, having learned the dangers of isolationism, the United States remained engaged and paved the way for the founding of NATO and 75 years of relative peace in Europe. The United States must not forget the painful lessons of the last century. To do so would risk undercutting U.S. global leadership, undermining the Washington-built international order, and making the world safer for authoritarian rule.

“Russia is Winning the Global Information War,” Dominik Presl, RUSI, 05.07.24.

  • In recent years, Russia has been quietly expanding its activities and heavily investing in its operations in the Global South, with disturbing levels of success.
  • The success of Russia's information warfare in the Global South, while not absolute, is undeniable. It is managing to leverage various existing historical grievances and disillusionment with Western policies, often justified, to shape perceptions and public opinion in its favor. And today, it is reaping the benefits of years of patiently investing significant resources in its information operations around the world, while at the same time continuing to expand those efforts and activities, both in scope and intensity.
  • At the same time, the West has largely failed to come up with a meaningful response or strengthen its public outreach in these regions in order to counter Russian disinformation efforts. While the US launched the Global Engagement Center in 2016, an agency at the US Department of State, tasked with ‘exposing and countering foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts’, it is unclear whether this has been given sufficient support to be able to fulfil its mission. And while the EU increased its funding to tackle Russian disinformation campaigns in the Sahel region in 2023, so far its efforts remain limited.
  • The West would be wise to intensify efforts to counter Russian disinformation, debunk false narratives, and expose the adverse consequences of Moscow's actions, not just in Europe and North America but across the globe. Failure to do so risks a widening divergence in global perceptions of Russia and its war in Ukraine, with potentially far-reaching implications for geopolitical dynamics.

“Biden's Escalation Fears on Russia and Iran Have Dangerous Consequences,” Jakub Grygiel, FP, 05.09.24. 

  • Restraint has become the West’s guiding strategic principle, seemingly preserving a modicum of international stability by keeping wars from escalating out of control. Even if Israel and Ukraine don’t heed them, such requests to practice restraint are dangerous. They incentivize the attacker to be more aggressive, not less. By conveying to Russia or Iran—and by extension, China—that Western partners will be pressed to absorb the attack and fight a strictly defensive war on their own territory, Western policymakers achieve the opposite of what their risk aversion intends: They elevate the risk of a widening war. They are making aggression relatively cost-free for imperial powers, to be fought only on the attacked country’s land or thwarted by expensive defensive means. Paradoxically, restraining allies that have been attacked is destabilizing; the Western attempt to control escalation ultimately makes it more likely.
  • It is dangerous to believe that a regional equilibrium will be maintained simply by pouring a lot of money into defensive systems and denial technologies. Front-line states must have the ability—and support of their allies—to strike the enemy behind the apparent safety of its borders and not just absorb its attacks. For deterrence to be restored or strengthened, these states have to be able to retaliate with offensive actions.

“For Putin, Gaza is an endless gift. For Biden, Israel’s war on Hamas is a serious drain,” Edward Luce, FT, 05.08.24. 

  • The mafia supposedly asked cui bono (who benefits?) when trying to figure out who was behind a hit. There is no evidence that Russia’s Vladimir Putin had anything to do with Hamas’s horrific slaughter of 1,200 Israeli civilians last year. But Russia has been a leading beneficiary. To reach that conclusion, you have only to ask, cui malo (who loses?). The biggest answer geopolitically is Joe Biden. As Israeli forces move into the Gazan enclave of Rafah, that is only likely to get worse.
  • Anything that is bad for Biden is good for Putin. As he is the only defender of a “rules-based international order” in the 2024 presidential election, a Biden victory would be bad news for Moscow. As Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told the FT Weekend Festival last weekend, a Biden second term would tee up Ukraine for a 2025 counteroffensive against Russian-occupied territory.
  • A Donald Trump victory would mean Ukraine’s enforced capitulation to Russian terms at the negotiating table. The more chaos there is in Gaza between now and November, the harder it will be for Biden to defeat Trump. That is what makes the Israel Defense Force’s move into eastern Rafah this week so dangerous to Biden. 
  • Biden will need to bear one thing in mind. What is good for Netanyahu is good for Putin, and therefore for Trump. 

“The great regression. The world’s economic order is breaking down,” The Economist, 05.09.24.

  • The golden age of globalization caused an unprecedented decline in global poverty. The number of Chinese living in extreme deprivation, for instance, has fallen from 800m to almost zero. “Starting around 1990, developing economies began to grow more rapidly and catch up to the higher income levels enjoyed by advanced economies,” says Douglas Irwin of Dartmouth College. Research published in March suggests that inequality within countries has declined, too. Moving away from global integration thus presents a massive risk to the world’s poor, in particular.
  • Nonetheless, politicians appear wedded to deglobalization, which they see as a means to secure a slice of “the industries of the future.” Narendra Modi, who is about to be re-elected as India’s prime minister, is spending vast sums on a “production-linked incentives” scheme to boost its share of global manufacturing. China’s leaders, meanwhile, are spending a fortune to strengthen their country’s position as the global leader in clean energy and electric vehicles. Donald Trump, who may win a second term as America’s president in November, is mulling a 60% tariff on all Chinese goods. He may well revive an old threat to quit the WTO altogether. Joe Biden, the incumbent, is only slightly better. He is convinced that subsidies can turn a services-dominated economy back into a manufacturing powerhouse. The EU, for its part, wants the WTO to allow space for industrial policy in future trade deals. At the same time tensions between the West and China make economic warfare ever more likely, even as they reduce the chance of meaningful reform to global institutions. As deglobalization gathers pace, its true costs are likely to become clear.

“Inevitable Fractures: The Ukraine War and the Global System,” Ashley J. Tellis, CEIP, 05.13.24. 

  • The Ukraine war brought the recessed cleavages in the global system to the fore, but it did not cause them. These fractures are an inevitable consequence of the decades of global hegemony enjoyed by the United States. This hegemony—understood as a singular concentration of power that underwrites systemic leadership—has a long history. It first burst upon the international arena after the American Civil War, but its presence was felt only gradually as the United States entered the rivalries of the European state system during the first half of the twentieth century.
  • It is possible that in years to come, the rise of China will produce a new return to bipolarity but, on current trends, it is most likely that such a condition will manifest itself as “asymmetrical bipolarity because China’s growing economic size may not be matched by other achievements, such as technological supremacy, globe-girding military capabilities, alliance partnerships, rule-making influence in international institutions, or attraction in soft power. Therefore, despite the rising crescendo of claims about the arrival of multipolarity, unipolarity, centered on U.S. hegemony, defines the current structure of the international system.
  • As long as the global system is ...cleaved between the United States and its challengers, international politics will be marked by a persistent fracture that pits Washington and its allies—those that share its liberal politics and its interests and benefit from its protection—against states that are opposed to them, and which may share varying degrees of mutual affinity. 
  • Given that the Ukraine war has now clarified the extent and the depth of these cleavages, the United States should neither be surprised nor deterred by them. Rather, it should resolutely pursue its own interests in the circumstances. Above all, this means that Washington should not desist from continuing to invest in the maintenance and expansion of the liberal international order. Doing so is not optional, nor is it, as is sometimes believed in the United States, a gratuitous act of charity. On the contrary, it is fundamentally necessary to preserve the global order that protects U.S. interests and enhances its prosperity—both of which bolster America’s continued hegemony.
  • Where protecting the liberal order is concerned, the most important task facing the United States today is ensuring the defeat of Russian aggression in Ukraine.....The resources required for this purpose are significant but not beyond the reach of the United States and its Western allies. The total U.S. spending in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, which came out to over $5 trillion, dwarfs the $136 billion or so committed thus far to Ukraine. Both the United States and its other Western partners can do much more given their larger resource base and because the stakes in successfully resisting Russia are just as high, if not higher, than the wars in the Middle East. 
  • Even as Ukrainian resistance is thus bolstered, the United States should resist calls for a premature negotiation between Ukraine and Russia that freezes the status quo to Moscow’s advantage.
  • Along the way, the United States must fix the leaky sanctions regime that has enabled Russia to sustain its war effort, engaging both its antagonists and the bystanders who have contributed to keeping Moscow afloat.
  • If the United States were to elect a personality like Donald Trump as its president or for that matter any other individual who is willing to turn back some eighty-odd years of postwar U.S. global leadership, the resulting convulsions in the international order would be far more devastating than the current fractures witnessed over the Ukraine conflict.

“We Need Regime Change in Iran and Russia,” Garry Kasparov, WSJ, 05.08.24.

  • In supporting Ukraine, the U.S. and Europe have failed to establish the most basic element of strategic planning -- a clearly defined goal.
  • Supporting Ukraine "for as long as it takes" isn't a goal. Supporting Israel while telling it not to root out Hamas terrorists isn't a goal. Supporting Ukraine until it is whole and free is a goal. Promoting long-term peace in Europe and the Middle East by doing everything possible to accelerate the downfall of hostile regimes in Russia and Iran is a goal.
  • I believe in America and I believe the free world will prevail. Its economic, technological, cultural and military advantages are so great that only self-destructive politics can prevent success. They have already delayed it.
  • We need goals, a strategy for victory, and bold leadership, starting with the recognition that we are at war and the courage to take political risks to change its course. The future of American democracy -- and of the entire free world -- depends on it.

“Global Russia as a synonym for ‘balance,’” Andrey Sushentsov, Valdai Club, 05.09.24.Clues from Russian Views (this organization is affiliated with the Russian authorities)

  • History shows that at moments when Russia's vital interests are affected, its people are ready to maintain confrontation for as long as necessary. The confrontation with the West over Ukraine is such a moment.
  • Unlike other major threats that our country has faced in past eras, the current crisis is not one of the largest. In the current conflict, Russia is pursuing its policy without excessive overexertion of forces. ... Therefore, on the current scale, Russia can maintain a military conflict with the West as long as it is necessary to achieve its goals.
  • Russia's global mission is its prosperity - it has no other idea than to achieve a fair place in the international order and a high standard of living for its citizens. If we analyze what Russia symbolizes for the world today, I would use the word “balance.”
  • The Russia of tomorrow will be an advanced, prosperous, constantly improving state that shows the world a model of success and independent development. Russia will undoubtedly be the center of gravity for many European states after the Ukrainian crisis is over. The Russian factor cannot be ignored, no matter how much the United States tries to convince its European allies of the need for this obstruction.  

For more analysis on this subject, see:

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“Putin Can’t Offer Enough for China’s Help in Ukraine,” Minxin Pei, Bloomberg, 05.12.24. 

  • Ironically, even Russia’s recent successes on the battlefield may be working against Putin. If Russian forces were losing badly, Xi might feel more pressure to bolster his ally. As things stand, the $61 billion in military aid Congress passed to support Ukraine will most likely help the country stave off defeat but not achieve a decisive victory over Russian forces. A stalemated war probably serves Chinese interests better than any other scenario because it can distract the US and give Xi more time to build China into an economic fortress.
  • When he meets Putin, Xi will be keenly aware of their misaligned timelines. The two leaders may announce a slew of new deals so Putin will not go home empty-handed (the most important one to watch is whether they can ink an agreement on the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline). But Xi is unlikely to provide Putin the kind of military support that would cross Western red lines.
  • For their part, the US and Europe would be wise not to overreact to the images of pomp and pledges of comity that will surely come out of Beijing. Sanctioning major Chinese banks, as the US has threatened to do, would not only cause chaos in international trade. It would put Xi in a position where he has nothing more to lose.
  • In this case, the West has the same incentive as the Chinese leader — to play for time. The underlying tensions between Russia and China will persist for the next two to three years and could become harder to manage if Putin starts losing again on the battlefield. The skeptics could yet be proven right.     

“America’s China Strategy Has a Credibility Problem. A Muddled Approach to Economic Sanctions Won’t Deter Beijing,” Emily Kilcrease, FA, 05.07.24. 

  • In future crises or conflicts in U.S.-Chinese relations, the economic dimension will be critical. Yet Beijing currently has good reason to doubt the credibility of Washington’s sanctions threats. This is because the United States’s response has been muted in the face of recent Chinese provocations, including Beijing’s efforts to erode democracy in Hong Kong, the dispatching of a spy balloon over the United States, and Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
  • Washington’s restraint dangerous, encouraging China to assume that it would not face harsh sanctions even if conflict broke out over Taiwan, the South China Sea, or other potential flash points. This question is becoming more pressing as the United States grows increasingly concerned about China’s support of Russia’s defense industrial base. That support was at the top of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s agenda during his recent visit to Beijing, which was quickly followed by a fresh raft of sanctions on Russia’s defense suppliers, including a handful of entities in China. Washington must decide whether to ramp up the use of its most powerful sanctions on Beijing now, as part of the broader effort to support Ukraine, or to preserve its leverage to deter or respond to a direct confrontation between the United States and China later.
  • Sanctions alone cannot deter Chinese aggression. Instead, they should be used as an important component of a broader strategy of integrated deterrence that deploys all instruments of national power to influence Chinese thinking about the costs of its aggressive foreign policy, including any potential actions against Taiwan. 
  • Strategic restraint on financial sector sanctions must be balanced with the need to build credibility for the threat of their imposition. For example, the United States may be approaching the point where it needs to impose sanctions on Chinese banks facilitating the continued flow of microelectronics to Russia, thereby powering its war machine. Months of U.S. diplomatic efforts and more limited technology sanctions have failed to dissuade Chinese companies from shipping these critical goods to Russia. A U.S. response that does not use powerful sanctions, after repeatedly calling out problematic Chinese actions, risks being read by Beijing as indicative of Washington’s reluctance to robustly target Chinese financial institutions. 
  • The most credible sanctions threat will be one that is supported by U.S. allies and partners. 
  • War with China would be an economic catastrophe. Sanctions can help avoid it, but only if the United States plays its modest hand well. A better sanctions strategy is essential to this effort, and so, too, is ratcheting up pressure on Russia. If the United States and its partners cannot effectively isolate Russia from the global economy, then there is little hope that they would fare better against the far greater challenge of China. Both Beijing and Washington are learning important lessons from the ongoing battle over Ukraine, and the United States must make sure that China is impressed by U.S. credibility and resolve. If Beijing is not, then the U.S. sanctions threat, modest though it may be, will be removed as a meaningful deterrent from U.S.-Chinese conflict scenarios. That would make the current situation even more dangerous.

“Why Russia and China Won’t Go the Distance in the High North,” Elizabeth Buchanan, RUSI, 05.08.24.

  • The realities of the Sino-Russian relationship (dubbed by both as one of ‘mutual benefit’) in the Arctic is best grasped when the limits of the partnership are considered. There are, first and foremost, limits in terms of geographical boundaries. The Russian Arctic Zone is the lion’s share of the Arctic region, home to the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and a vast percentage of Arctic resources. The Russian Arctic Zone is also the geographical ‘limit’ of Sino-Russian Arctic ‘cooperation’ as well. 
  • Russia watches, with tempered suspicion, Beijing’s Arctic high sea missions and scientific research agenda in what China sees as a global commons. Yet within the Russian Arctic Zone, Russia welcomes Chinese engagement, but on Kremlin terms. Since 2014, with Western sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and sustained aggression in Ukraine, Moscow has had a cashflow problem.
  • Russia’s Arctic strategy is built on both economic security and frontier border security objectives. The Sino-Russian relationship lends itself to these economic security interests and ambitions, but it is less effective at navigating Russia’s Arctic ‘siege mentality.’ This is largely because of the kind of increased interest and activity that China is undertaking in the Arctic – and against which Russia seeks to secure its vast open frontier. Any deterioration in Sino-Russian ties could threaten this delicate balance.
  • Sino-Russian mutually beneficial cooperation and engagement within the Russian Arctic Zone is not a Sino-Russian alliance in the Arctic. In a somewhat Confucius-informed position, Beijing wants to ‘seek harmony and keep differences’ when it comes to engagement with Russia in the Arctic. Both countries will remain engaged proactively and collaboratively across industrialization projects, diplomatic relations and various commercial dealings in the Russian Arctic Zone. But when this ‘win-win’ situation sours, Western Arctic states may indeed be faced with another Arctic security threat – a conflict between Russia and China in the Arctic.

“Defending Taiwan by Defending Ukraine. The Interconnected Fates of the World’s Democracies,” Jaushieh Joseph Wu, FA, 05.09.24. 

  • Just as the fight to protect democracy in Ukraine has global implications, so, too, does the defense of Taiwan. According to Bloomberg Economics, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would cost the global economy around $10 trillion, the equivalent of nearly 10% of global GDP—dwarfing the impacts of the war in Ukraine, the COVID pandemic, and the global financial crisis of 2008–9. 
  • The international community could do even more to deter Chinese aggression. There are three areas that like-minded countries could address more assertively to preserve the status quo.
    • The first is China’s gray-zone coercion, which involves activities such as disinformation campaigns, election interference plots, and military provocations such as jet sorties that routinely cross the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
    • The second area where Taiwan needs more help is economic integration.
    • The third area where Taiwan’s friends could do still more is in pushing back against the misinterpretation of a UN resolution that Beijing promulgates to justify its encroachments on Taiwan’s rights.
  • Taiwan is a responsible member of the international community, and its position on maintaining the cross-Strait status quo will not change. But it needs the world’s democracies to do their utmost to help maintain peace through strength and unity. By continuing to support Ukraine in its fight for survival in the face of Russian aggression, the world’s democracies have demonstrated exactly the kind of resolve and moral clarity that Taiwan also needs from them. We cannot allow this century to witness the birth of a world order in which authoritarians can stamp out justice and freedom. In the coming years, the fate of Taiwan, like that of Ukraine, will be a crucial test that the world’s democracies must not fail.

“Xi Jinping’s unproductive European tour,” FT editorial board, 05.10.24. 

  • In his five-year absence from the continent, China’s economic growth has slowed and Beijing has drawn the west’s ire by tacitly supporting Russia in its war in Ukraine. While the Chinese leader could have treated the trip as an opportunity for rapprochement with Europe, he chose instead to sow divisions.
  • [Xi’s] confidence underestimates the extent to which the majority of EU countries now see China both as a security threat, exacerbated by its growing ties to Russia, and an economic threat, given its potential to undercut European manufacturing just as the economy recovers from the pandemic and a surge in energy prices. 
  • With domestic demand slowing and the US market essentially closed to Chinese EVs, ..Europe remains the largest market left for Beijing, and an important prize for Xi. The EU is also deploying tools, such as its foreign subsidies regulation — which allows Brussels to block companies subsidized by foreign governments from public procurement bids, mergers and acquisitions — that give it real leverage. If it is to make headway in its economic and foreign policy goals with Beijing, Europe will need to project greater unity and resolve, and, taking a leaf from the Chinese leader’s own book, be ready to adopt more hardball tactics.

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“The world must reject Russia’s nuclear posturing – but not ignore the danger,” Christopher Chivvis, The Guardian, 05.08.24. 

  • The problem is that the closer NATO hugs Ukraine, the more Russia is sure to brandish its nuclear weapons, and the greater the chances it actually uses them. In response to Macron and Cameron’s remarks last week, the Kremlin on Monday issued an angry statement full of accusations at the West in which it announced that Russia would soon conduct a tactical nuclear weapons exercise near Ukraine. This underscores yet again that Vladimir Putin considers these weapons fair game in this war.
  • The fact is that Putin’s nuclear redlines are nearly impossible for Ukraine, NATO, or anyone outside Putin’s innermost circle to know with the certainty needed in light of the gravity of the issue....Putin himself may not even know for sure what his red lines are until he perceives Ukraine as having crossed them on the battlefield. This is a serious problem, one that the US Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, referenced in her latest testimony to Congress. That Putin’s threats are irresponsible doesn’t mean the West can blithely ignore them. Too many of Ukraine’s hardline advocates are saying otherwise, claiming that Russia would never use nuclear weapons, despite its threats or that, in any case, the West cannot give in to “nuclear blackmail.” But in light of the stakes, these attitudes seem cavalier.
  • Obviously, NATO cannot and should not quiver, cut, and run every time Russia rattles the nuclear saber. Nor is NATO doing so. But western leaders need to be clear-eyed about the risks and prudent in their approach. Rather than envisioning how incremental military steps to help Ukraine might someday bring about a heretofore elusive victory, leaders need to think about how to open up alternative paths to peace – paths that don’t rely on military means alone and in which negotiation can play a larger role in the western strategy. The other options are just too dangerous.

“Clues Show Where Russia Could Store Nukes in Belarus,” Christoph Koettl, NYT, 05.10.24. 

  • A New York Times analysis shows security upgrades unique to Russian nuclear storage facilities at a Cold War-era munitions depot in Belarus. These new security features and other upgrades at a munitions depot in central Belarus reveal that Russia is building facilities there that could house nuclear warheads. If Russia does move weapons to this location, it would mark the first time it has stored them outside the country since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
  • The New York Times analyzed satellite imagery and photos, and spoke with nuclear weapons and arms control experts, to track the new construction, which started in March 2023. The site is 120 miles north of the Ukrainian border at a military depot next to the town of Asipovichy. Some of the recently built structures there have features that are unique to nuclear storage facilities at bases inside Russia. For example, a new, highly secure area is surrounded by three layers of fencing, in addition to the existing security perimeter of the entire base. Another telltale sign is a covered loading area connected to what appears to be a concealed Soviet-era underground bunker.
  • Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, who has analyzed the site, said that the nuclear developments in Belarus ''appear designed to unnerve NATO's easternmost member states, but will not give Russia a significant new military advantage in the region.''
  • William Moon, an independent consultant and former official with the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency, told The Times that the design of the Asipovichy upgrades, with triple fencing, one main entry and an emergency exit, resembles the Russian nuclear warhead storage sites he has seen in person. Mr. Moon, who worked on nuclear warhead security with Russia, said, ''When we were working with their standards, they would require that third layer fencing.''
  • In recent weeks, construction began on what may be new buildings. ''The details are still uncertain, but construction has clearly entered a new phase,'' said Mr. Kristensen. An air defense system has also been brought in to protect the site. 
  • Asipovichy is part of nuclear history. The same site that Russia is building out today was likely used to store nuclear weapons during the Cold War. 

“Decades of Wars?", Sergei Karaganov, Horizons, Spring 2024. Clues from Russian Views

  • For many decades, relative peace on the planet has been maintained due to the fear of nuclear weapons. In recent years, however, the habit of living in peace, the aforementioned intellectual degradation, and clip thinking in societies and elites have spurred the rise of “strategic parasitism.” People no longer fear war, even a nuclear one.
  • A new qualitative and quantitative arms race is underway. Strategic stability, an indicator of the likelihood of nuclear war, is being undermined on all sides. 
  • When it preemptively (although belatedly) launched a military operation against the West, Russia, acting on old assumptions, did not expect the enemy to unleash a full war. So, we did not use active nuclear deterrence/intimidation tactics from the very start. And we are still dragging our feet. By so doing, we not only doom hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine and tens of thousands of our men to death, but we also do a disservice to the whole world. The aggressor, which the West de facto is, remains unpunished. This clears the way for further aggression.
  • We have forgotten the basics of deterrence. Reduced significance of nuclear deterrence benefits an actor with greater conventional military potential and human and economic resources, and vice versa. 
  • A viable nuclear deterrent and a security buffer in Western Ukraine should guarantee the end of the aggression. 
  • Russian doctrine already provides for the use of nuclear weapons to counter a wide range of threats, but real policy in its current form goes further than the doctrine. We should clarify and strengthen the wording and take the corresponding military-technical measures. The main thing is that we demonstrate our readiness and ability to use nuclear weapons in the event of extreme necessity.
  • I have no doubt that the doctrine is already being updated, to which many concrete steps testify. The most obvious one is the deployment of long-range missile systems in fraternal Belarus
  • Russia’s policy should be based on the assumption that NATO is a hostile bloc that has repeatedly proven its aggressiveness and is de facto waging war against Russia. Therefore, any nuclear strikes on NATO, including the preemptive ones, are morally and politically justified. This applies primarily to countries that provide the most active support to the Kyiv junta. ...I have repeatedly written that if Russia delivers a preemptive retribution strike on any NATO country, the U.S. will not respond. That is unless the White House and the Pentagon are populated by madmen who hate their country and are ready to destroy American cities for the sake of Poznan, Frankfurt, Bucharest, or Helsinki.
  • From my point of view, Russian nuclear policy and the threat of retaliation should also deter the West from the massive use of biological or cyber weapons against Russia or its allies. 
  • I believe it appropriate to gradually raise the minimal yield of nuclear warheads to 30 to 40 kilotons, or 1.5 to 2 Hiroshima bombs, so that potential aggressors and their populations understand what awaits them. Lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, and increasing their minimal yield, is also necessary to restore another lost function of nuclear deterrence: the prevention of large-scale conventional wars.
  • Improving the credibility and effectiveness of nuclear deterrence is necessary not only to end the war that the West unleashed in Ukraine, or to peacefully put the West in a much more modest, but hopefully worthy, place in the future world system. Above all else, nuclear deterrence is needed in order to stop the approaching wave of conflicts, to ward off an “age of wars,” as well as to prevent their escalation to a thermonuclear level. 
  • Sooner or later, Russia will have to change its official nuclear non-proliferation policy. The old one had some utility, as it reduced the risks of unauthorized use and nuclear terrorism. But it was unfair to many non-Western states, and stopped working long ago. ...Needless to say, some countries should be permanently and firmly denied the right to possess nuclear weapons [Germany and Japan]
    • A sustainable nuclear balance must be established in the Middle East between: Israel, if and when it overcomes its fall from grace due to the atrocities it committed in Gaza; Iran, if it withdraws its pledge to destroy Israel; and one of the Gulf countries or their commonwealth.

For more analysis on this subject, see:


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

A Russia-linked network uses AI to rewrite real news stories, The Economist, 05.10.24.

  • In early March a network of websites, dubbed CopyCop, began publishing stories in English and French on a range of contentious issues. They accused Israel of war crimes, amplified divisive political debates in America over slavery reparations and immigration and spread nonsensical stories about Polish mercenaries in Ukraine. That is not unusual for Russian propaganda. What was new was that the stories had been taken from legitimate news outlets and modified using large language models, most likely one built by OpenAI, the American firm that operates ChatGPT.  An investigation published on May 9th by Recorded Future, a threat-intelligence company, found that the articles had been translated and edited to add a partisan bias. In some cases the prompt—the instruction to the AI model—was still visible. These were not subtle. More than 90 French articles, for instance, were altered with the following instruction in English: “Please rewrite this article taking a conservative stance against the liberal policies of the Macron administration in favor of working-class French citizens.”
  • Recorded Future says that the network has ties to DC Weekly, an established disinformation platform run by John Mark Dougan, an American citizen who fled to Russia in 2016. CopyCop had published more than 19,000 articles across 11 websites by the end of March 2024, many of them probably produced and posted automatically. 
  • These crude efforts are unlikely to persuade discerning readers. And it is easy to exaggerate the impact of foreign disinformation. But AI-enabled forgeries are still in their infancy and likely to improve considerably. 

Energy exports from CIS:

“Russia's Global Energy Role: War, Sanctions, and the Energy Transition,” Paul J. Saunders, Energy Innovation Reform Project, April 2024.

  • Russia’s energy exports affect US national interests given their significance to both Russia’s economy and the global economy. Yet Russia’s role in the global energy system is under increasing pressure from the convergence of US and Western economic sanctions and an ongoing but uncertain global energy transition … The evolution of Russia’s global energy role during the next 5–10 years will influence the country’s domestic and foreign policies, its relations with China and India, and the success of Russian aspirations to enlist the Global South in dismantling the international system built by the United States and its allies in the post–World War II and post–Cold War eras.
  • The reality of Russia’s integration into the global energy system—and its specific consequences for America and its allies in Europe and Asia—has constrained policy toward Russia, especially efforts to punish Moscow over the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
  • Russia has had mixed success in adapting to US and Western sanctions, which have been in place now for two years. It has largely succeeded in redirecting its oil exports, albeit at reduced efficiency and higher cost.
  • Notably, Russia’s global energy role extends beyond the country’s well-known fossil fuel reserves, production, and exports. Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear energy firm, dominates global nuclear reactor exports (70%), holds the largest market share in uranium enrichment services (46%), and has $200 billion in orders. … Russia is also an important producer of energy-related minerals and metals, such as nickel. … Looking to the future, restrictions on investment and technology will likely pose compounding challenges for Russia’s energy sector. 
  • For America, Russia’s evolving global energy role has four important implications.
    • First, despite the economic and technological pressure on Russia, the country’s political system is not on a trajectory to near- or mid-term collapse.
    • Second, Russia is reorienting not only its energy trade, but also its foreign relations. 
    • Third … a timely increase in US LNG production and exports could both assist US allies and raise questions about the economic viability of Russia’s projects.
    • Finally, while existing US and Western sanctions are increasing inefficiency, inconvenience, and costs for Russia’s energy sector. Russia has so far found solutions. Some might not be good, but most are good enough.
  • In pursuing costly self-isolation from the West, Russia is considerably deepening its dependence on China. This greater reliance on Beijing won’t serve either Russia’s interests or America’s.

“Why Ukraine Should Keep Striking Russian Oil Refineries. Washington’s Fears About Energy Markets Are Misplaced,” Michael Liebreich, Lauri Myllyvirta, and Sam Winter-Levy, FA, 05.08.24.

  • Ukraine has so far concentrated its attacks on Russian oil refineries, not oil fields or crude oil export infrastructure. The distinction is important. After oil is extracted from a well, it is transported through pipelines and other infrastructure to refineries, where it is converted into products to be distributed to end users. In 2023, Russia extracted an estimated 10.1 million barrels of oil per day. Of this, around 50% was exported to refineries abroad, and the remaining 50% was refined domestically, creating products such as gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, and chemical feedstocks. Half these refined products were consumed domestically, with a substantial proportion diverted to fuel the Russian war machine. 
  • The Ukrainian strikes have dealt a significant blow to Russia’s refining capacity, knocking out up to 900,000 barrels per day. Repairs will be slow and expensive, in part because refinery stacks—where oil is distilled into its constituent parts—are huge and complex pieces of equipment that take years to design and build, and in part because Western sanctions are hampering Russian firms’ access to specialized components.
  • Russia’s oil storage capacity is limited. When a refinery is destroyed or damaged, therefore, extracted crude oil cannot simply be stocked for later use. This leaves Russian producers with just two options: increasing exports of crude oil or shutting wells and reducing production. Both options are painful for Russia, but increasing exports is less so than scaling back extraction. Russia can sell its oil only to select countries, including China, India, and Turkey, whose facilities are equipped to use the specific oil grades produced in Russia. These countries thus have leverage over Russia to buy at lower-than-market prices. Once the oil is refined, however, the final products can be sold internationally—meaning that Russia must pay market price to meet its domestic and military fuel needs.
  • Data from recent months confirm that, as expected, Russia is exporting more crude oil at the same time that its refined fuel exports have hit near-historic lows. 
  • Western markets may not be hurting, but Russia is feeling the pinch. Since the Ukrainian strikes began, diesel production has fallen by 16% and gasoline production by 9%. The average weekly wholesale price of gasoline and diesel in western Russia rose by 23% and 47%, respectively, between the end of 2023 and mid-March. In April, the cost of gasoline hit a six-month high, up more than 20% from the start of the year. Russia imported 3,000 tons of fuel from Belarus in the first half of March—up from zero in January—and the Kremlin has been forced to ask Kazakhstan to ready 100,000 tons of gasoline for supply in case of shortages.
  • Ukraine’s campaign is working. It is inflicting pain on Russian energy markets, and it is putting exactly the kind of pressure on Moscow that the U.S.-led sanctions regime was designed for but has had limited success in delivering.
  • To keep the risks low, the United States should neither help Ukraine proceed with these attacks nor even publicly encourage them. But nor should it try to dissuade Kyiv from this course of action. Despite the U.S. Congress’s recent approval of $61 billion in military aid, Ukraine is at its most fragile point in more than two years. Strikes on Russian refineries alone will not force Moscow to capitulate, but they do make the war more difficult and expensive for Russia—and so, if nothing else, when the time comes for negotiations, they may push the Kremlin to make concessions.

“The EU should call time on Russian LNG imports," Editorial Board, FT, 05.12.24. 

  • Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the EU has had remarkable success in slashing its reliance on natural gas piped in from Russia. Partly this has been by switching sources and reducing demand, and partly by increasing imports of liquefied natural gas. Some of the latter, however, still come from Russia, whose LNG imports to the EU have actually increased; Moscow made an estimated €8.2bn from such sales last year — vital funding for its war. 
  • The EU is now proposing to ban member states from trans-shipping Russian LNG to third countries. That will push up Moscow’s costs, forcing it to take much longer routes. The bloc also plans to bar EU involvement in new Russian LNG projects, crimping the Kremlin’s future revenues. Neither move, however, would much dent Moscow’s current earnings from EU LNG sales. EU members ought instead to move towards a total ban on Russian LNG — as Finland, Sweden, Poland and the Baltic states are reportedly pushing for.
  • Europe has made great strides towards weaning itself off Russia’s gas. With a final, concerted push, it could finish the job.

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

“Expert Survey: What to Expect From Putin’s Fifth Term?”, RM Staff, RM, 05.10.24.

  • What should we expect from Russia’s relations with the West, as well as with China and post-Soviet Eurasia, during Putin’s new term? And just how long may his rule last? We posed these questions to several of America’s leading Russia experts. 
  • Robert Legvold, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, and Brookings Institution non-resident senior fellow Angela Stent said they were skeptical that Russia’s relations with the West may undergo a significant improvement for the duration of the war in Ukraine, while Paul Saunders, president of the Center for the National Interest, believes even an end to that war “will probably not be sufficient” to attain such an improvement as long as Putin remains in charge in Russia. Although Putin said in his inauguration speech that Russia was willing to talk to the West, as long as the latter did not seek to undermine Russia, “it is unlikely that relations with the West will improve as long as the Russia-Ukraine war continues,” Stent wrote in written answers to RM’s questions. “Even a victory by Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election would not necessarily change this dynamic, and the Kremlin understands this,” she added. In contrast, Brandeis University Professor Gary Samore believes that a Trump victory may lead to an improvement in relations between Washington and Moscow. “If Trump is elected and Russia wins the war (e.g. Russia captures Kyiv or forces Kyiv to accept a humiliating ceasefire), Putin may try to improve relations with the U.S. (a new arms control treaty to replace New START) and Europe (restore economic ties and lift sanctions) and reduce dependence on China,” according to Samore.
  • As for Russia’s relations with China, both Center for the National Interest senior fellow Andrew Kuchins and Angela Stent believe Putin will attempt to further strengthen Russian-Chinese ties. “That relationship will strengthen, since Beijing now believes that Russia will prevail in its war with Ukraine and Xi wants Putin to remain in power so that the two countries can continue to create a ‘post-West’ order,” Stent wrote. Legvold concurs with Stent’s assessment of where relations between Moscow and Beijing are likely to head on Putin’s watch. Russia will continue to “forge closer relations with China,” even if “the United States and China do manage to balance the tension between rivalry and the need for cooperation,” according to Legvold’s answers to RM questions. Kuchins also expects Russian-Chinese alignment to strengthen in Putin’s new six-year term, but rules out an alliance between the two countries unless there is a military conflict over Taiwan, while Samore and Saunders both note the likelihood of growing Russian dependence on China.
  • As for the duration of Putin’s reign, Kuchins expects Putin to rule for “as long as his health is reasonably robust,” while Samore expects the Russian dictator to rule even longer—until he dies in office” … Saunders explains that the dilemma of succession may force Putin to rule for life. Stent acknowledges that Samore’s prediction is a distinct possibility, noting that there is no reason to believe that Putin will appoint a successor during this term. Yet, that does not necessarily mean Putin will rule until his death. “Many Russians believe he will rule for life. But Putin can—and sometimes does—surprise,” she writes.


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Putin’s new term will show if the system he built can survive without him,” Nikolai Petrov and  Ben Noble, Chatham House,

  • Russian presidents appoint new governments at the start of each presidential term – including a new prime minister. It was not surprising to see Mikhail Mishustin reappointed in that role. Mishustin and his team have been very effective for Putin, especially during wartime. Also, the political cycle is not yet over, and it makes sense for Mishustin to remain and finish tasks that can be held up as wins for him and the president.
  • Sticking with Mishustin was likely the easiest option. In that respect it is indicative that Putin’s broader model of personnel decision-making has stopped working, especially following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
  • The most important personnel issue – that of Putin’s successor – remains. The president’s recent meeting with Alexei Dyumin, a former bodyguard often listed as a potential successor, could be significant.
  • [Andrei] Belousov’s appointment as defense minister shows the importance Putin places on economic efficiency with the war effort. His appointment will allow space for figures like Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, to grow in influence.
  • By the next presidential election, Putin will be 77. His generation of officials is already starting to disappear from the scene – and the president has no one to replace them with, except his own close associates and the children of trusted courtiers. At the same time, another system operates at a lower level – a system that is technocratic, more modern, and institutionalized. The key characters of this system are people like Mishustin and Sergei Kiriyenko, first deputy chief of staff of the Presidential Administration.
  • This coming presidential term will show whether Putin is able and willing to allow the system to transition from his more personalist model to this second, newer model.
  • As for the war on Ukraine, Putin is not interested in ending it any time soon.

“Russia’s Pro-Putin Elites. How the Dictator Recruited Them to His Anti-Western Agenda,” Tatiana Stanovaya, FA, 05.09.24. Clues from Russian Views

  • In March, a group of terrorists attacked the Crocus City Hall, a music venue and vast shopping complex on the outskirts of Moscow. .... Rather than fragmenting, Russia’s elites are becoming increasingly bellicose and marching in lockstep with the regime. The terrorist attack and its aftermath have demonstrated the country’s imperturbability. Russian society is aligned with the state and broadly accepts Putin’s resolute hostility to Ukraine and the West.
  • Many of Russia’s elites readily blur the distinctions between Islamist terrorists, Ukrainians, and Americans, viewing them as components of a world system defined by its hostility to Russia. In their view, it makes no difference who perpetrated the Crocus City Hall attack. The important thing is that the attack was further evidence of a broad conspiracy against Russia, emanating from a global order that must be transformed.
  • More than two years of war have made the Russian elites more anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian than ever, binding them to Putin as their sole assurance of survival. The anti-Western narrative is now pervasive across all segments of the elite, including the siloviki (members of the security services), technocrats within the administration, former liberals now serving Putin, and hawks. This uniformity significantly narrows the potential for future dialogue with the West. The very idea of compromise with the West is repellent to many in the elite. 
  • The war and Putin’s escalating confrontation with the West are foreclosing the space for internal divisions and disagreements. In matters of national security and geopolitics, Putin has managed to forge an impressively homogenous political landscape where nothing can challenge the commitment to the war in Ukraine and hostility to the West. 
  • Judging by off-the-record talks I had with contacts in Moscow, it became clear that nobody is looking for an exit strategy from the war or an opportunity to initiate dialogue with the West; nobody is concerned with persuading the West to ease sanctions; nobody is hungry for compromise with Ukraine, at least under its current leadership. There is no conjecture about what would constitute an acceptable deal to end this conflict. Instead, the Russian leadership and elites are proceeding on the basis that Russia cannot afford to lose the war, and to ensure it does not, the country must keep up the pressure on Ukraine, for no matter how long. 
  • Some observers argue that Ukraine should acknowledge that it cannot retake all the territories conquered by Russia and that Kyiv should be willing to cede land to Moscow to pave the way to peace. But that may not be enough for the Kremlin and the elites that serve it. Putin’s dispute over territory is a strategy rather than a final objective; his ultimate goal is not the seizure of a few provinces but the disbanding of Ukraine as a state in its present political form.
  • As Russian leaders weigh which nuclear options might best deter the West from taking bolder steps in Ukraine, many within the Russian elite welcome the escalation. “How does Europe not understand this?” one Moscow source in policymaking circles told me. “There’s noticeable excitement among the elites and the military: the prospect of engaging NATO soldiers is far more motivating than confronting Ukrainians. For Putin, any form of intervention would be a welcome scenario.”
  • Among Russian elites, the prevailing belief is that only a military defeat or a prolonged, severe financial crisis could halt their country’s momentum. Right now, neither seems imminent. 
  • Neither terrorist attacks nor the prospect of Western boots on the ground in Ukraine can deter this broadly shared commitment to an anti-Western strategy. Attempting to appease Putin is futile, and wishfully seeking for fragmentation within Russia is unlikely to be effective as long as the country remains financially robust, maintains the upper hand over Ukraine, and secures total domestic control. The authorities are rapidly becoming more hawkish, the elites are increasingly embracing Putin’s war agenda, and the broader society is unable (or indeed unwilling) to exert the kind of pressure that might push Russia in a different direction. Western leaders face the unenviable task of determining how to engage with a Russia that has grown increasingly self-confident, bold, and radical.

“The Perils of ‘Putinism,’” Andrew C. Kuchins and Chris Monday, NI, 05.07.24.

  • One faulty assumption on which the Russian studies community has become fixated recently is the notion of “Putinism,” a nebulous floating signifier that supposedly explains the nature of Russia and its regime. Even worse, this term leads to the misleading framing of Putin as an absolute dictator with total control over the system. While Putin certainly does exercise a level of power unacceptable to liberal democratic systems, he operates under a number of key constraints.
  • There are many inconsistencies with the Putinism framework. The first problem is its tautological nature. If Putinism is simply how Putin rules Russia, this does not tell us much about what distinguishes the Putin regime from its Soviet and imperial predecessors. 
  • More troubling is that adding the “ism” to Putin suggests that he is an outlier in his leadership style for Russia and for the contemporary world. Neither is true. 
  • Some may point to Putin’s long tenure in power, twenty-four years and counting. But in the Russian context, this has been the norm.
  • However, our principal disagreement with the term Putinism is that it prevents a more accurate understanding of how the Russian system functions. … [H]istorian Edward Keenan’s seminal article from 1986, “Muscovite Political Folkways” [argues] … “[…] the Muscovite, and later Russian, systems tended to prefer oligarchic and collegial rule, to avoid the single leader, and to function best when the nominal autocrat was in fact politically weak.” In this view, political elites are best understood as representing key clans with sometimes divergent interests.
  • Indeed, Putin’s greatest political skill is clan management within a complex polity with multiple interest groups competing for power and influence. … A vast corporate bureaucracy is required to manage the state, but efforts are always made to centralize power as a means of maintaining control.
  • Whether Putin is weak or strong is a matter for debate, and the system’s profound non-transparency makes it very difficult to evaluate despite the loud chorus of “experts” purporting to understand the Kremlin definitively. … The system is designed to prevent outside manipulation, and this is a key pillar of Putin’s understanding of sovereignty.
  • [I]n 2014, in response to the annexation of Crimea and conflict in the Donbas, the Obama administration made another poor calculation, believing it could peel off the oligarchs from supporting Putin in response to the economic losses they would incur due to sanctions. The Biden administration has made the same mistake. Isolating Russia from Western investment and financial institutions has made it much easier for the leadership to control revenue flows and consolidate power.
  • [W]hile there does not appear to be any great imminent risk of destabilization, the long-term sustainability of the system under so much pressure is a question mark. Never in its long history has Russia ever been as isolated from the West as it is today. That is deeply suboptimal for Russia’s future, nor is it in the interests of Europe or the United States—or even China and India as they draw benefits from this in the short term. However, as long as Russia is on a war footing and Vladimir Putin is the leader, this is not likely to change. Bringing more balance back to Russia’s geopolitical position will be the task for future leadership.

“No More Utopias. What Kind of Future Should Russia Want?”, Oleg Kashin, Russia.Post, 05.08.24.

  • Morning, February 24, 2032. To mark the tenth anniversary of the start of the special military operation, Russian President Sergei Sobyanin lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden near the Kremlin walls.
  • Recalling the events that no one is ashamed to call war, Russian officials stress that 10 years ago the special military operation succeeded in thwarting the plans of Western leaders to destroy the Russia-China political alliance – now serving as the guarantor of stability throughout the world – and bring into NATO Ukraine, whose people, having accepted a neutral status, have proven their desire for peace.
  • Since the Ukrainian Dream party came to power, the new Russia-Ukraine border was demarcated and the peace and amity agreement was signed, the authorities in both countries have been keen to avoid confrontational rhetoric and cautiously blame former Western leaders for the tragedy that started a decade ago. 
  • Additional agreements under the peace treaty provide for several loans to Ukraine over the next 40 years, as well as the joint development of a number of oil and gas fields in Western Siberia. The Ukrainian right-wing press calls these steps veiled reparations, but officials from both countries have repeatedly pointed out that mutual benefit is the foundation for the cooperation.
  • The special military operation has a formal end date, but it never took the place of Victory Day in the public consciousness and seemingly will not – in fact, the fighting stopped long before the conclusion of an official ceasefire agreement, and it took several more months for the troops to return to their bases in Russia.
  • There is a lot of talk about the Ukrainian war in the media, films are made and books are written, but the unspoken social contract implies that arguing about whether it was worth fighting in the first place or whether Putin was right will not make anyone better off.
  • Probably, everything will turn out completely different – it will be worse. But while the future has yet to arrive and you can still guess at it, it is worth remembering that the optimistic scenario is just this.

"Should Russia Survive Putin?", Sam Greene, CEPA, 05.08.24.

  • Some, fearing the loss of control over Russia’s nuclear arsenal, as well as the potential for inter-ethnic warfare across 11 time zones, will call for the West to tip the scales in favor of Moscow. Others, perhaps recalling George H.W. Bush’s infamous “Chicken Kyiv” speech, will want to seize the opportunity to put an end to Russian imperialism once and for all. Washington and its allies should resist this temptation, for at least three reasons.
    1. First, absent direct military involvement, the ability of the West to affect the outcome of such a large and complex political process will be minimal, while the potential to deepen animosities and deprive itself of leverage will be immense.
    2. Second, the West itself is likely to be divided over how and whether to intervene, precisely at a time when maintaining transatlantic solidarity in the face of uncertainty will be of paramount importance.
    3. And third, trying to shape the future of Russia — likely in vain, and likely at great cost — will only distract the West from focusing on the critical issues over which it has genuine leverage, such as providing security for Ukraine, and pushing ahead on the next round of European Union enlargement.
  • In fact, for as long as the war in Ukraine continues, the conversation about whether Russia can and should survive in its current form is a harmful distraction. For those who fear Russia’s disintegration, an unlikely event in any circumstance, it creates an unreasonable reticence to support Ukraine. For those who would welcome Russia’s demise, it engenders a kind of magical thinking, as though the war might more easily be won in Russia than in Ukraine. Either approach costs lives.

“Speech at the inauguration ceremony as President of Russia” in “Vladimir Putin has been sworn in as President of Russia,” official web site of the Russian president, 05.07.24. Clues from Russian Views

  • You, the citizens of Russia, have confirmed that the country is on the right course. This is of great importance right now, as we face serious challenges. I see this as your deep awareness of our common historical goals, and unwavering resolve to defend our choices, our values, our freedom and Russia’s national interests.
  • I am confident that we will pass through this difficult pivotal period with dignity and emerge even stronger. We will undoubtedly accomplish everything we have planned for the long term, all the far-reaching projects aimed at achieving our development goals.
  • Our top priority is the preservation of the people. 
  • We have been and will continue to be open to strengthening good relations with all countries that view Russia as a reliable and honest partner. Indeed, those constitute the global majority.
    • We are not rejecting dialogue with Western states. The choice is theirs: whether they intend to continue trying to contain Russia’s development, continue the policy of aggression, the relentless pressure they have been exerting on our country for years, or seek a path to cooperation and peace.
    • To reiterate, we are open to talks, including on security and strategic stability, but not to negotiations from a position of strength. We are open to a conversation without arrogance, conceit or exceptionalism – a dialogue on an equal footing and with respect for each other’s interests.
  • Together with our partners in Eurasian integration and other sovereign development centers, we will continue to build a multipolar world and an equal and indivisible security system. In this complex, rapidly changing world, we must strive to be self-sufficient and competitive, opening up new horizons for Russia, as we have done many times throughout our history. But we must also remember its lessons and never forget about the enormous price we paid for internal unrest and troubles. 
  • We must ensure reliable continuity in the development of our country for decades to come and bring up new generations who will strengthen Russia’s might and develop our state based on interethnic accord, the preservation of the traditions of all ethnic groups living in Russia, a civilizational nation united by the Russian language and our multi-ethnic culture.
  • Together we win!

Defense and aerospace:

  • See section Military aspects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 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:

“India-Russia Relations in Troubled Times: Steady but Stagnating,” Aleksei Zakharov, Asie.Visions, No. 140, Ifri, May 2024.

  • Moscow and New Delhi have demonstrated divergent approaches to the advancement of their strategic partnership. While Russia has rushed into reinventing the old friendship with India, the latter has acted with greater discretion.
  • New Delhi has demonstrated a nuanced approach to navigating the Russia-Ukraine conflict, staying on good terms with Moscow and the West. India’s record imports of Russian crude and other commodities, at times in defiance of Western sanctions, have allowed for a considerable boost in bilateral trade. While this “oil connection” may benefit both the Indian and Russian economies, it should not be misperceived as a leap forward in partnership.
  • The structural challenges appear to still prevent the two sides from reinvigorating the economic ties. Furthermore, their geopolitical understanding is waning, and their defense cooperation is currently in a state of limbo. As long as the war in Ukraine persists, India seems to be prioritizing maintaining the status quo in its relationship with Russia over pursuing new initiatives. This may help to prevent the two sides from drifting apart too far in the near term but is unlikely to lead to any substantive progress in their relationship.


  • No significant developments.

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“How Putinism Spreads: A Case Study in Georgia; A new law would expose Georgian civil-society groups to political harassment,” WSJ Editorial Board, WSJ, 05.08.24.

  • The citizens of Georgia want to join the European Union, but Russia wants to stop them. 
  • The ruling Georgian Dream party sparked this political crisis by introducing legislation that would target civil-society groups that receive more than 20% of yearly funding from foreign sources. The U.S. Agency for International Development has provided some $6 billion in aid to Georgia since 1992, while the EU also offers support. The law would impose new disclosure rules and oblige these civic institutions to state they are "pursuing the interests of a foreign power."
  • The model is Russia's foreign agent law, adopted in 2012 as Mr. Putin consolidated power. Russian civic organizations soon faced audits, raids, fines and other harassment that forced many to disband. Georgia's nonprofits, independent media and civic institutions fear they'll soon be targeted.
  • The Georgian Dream and its allies likely have the votes to pass the foreign-agent legislation and override a veto. But the police response has galvanized protesters. Georgians understand that this is how Putinism spreads, insidiously and in stages, as challengers to the ruling party are stigmatized, prosecuted and harassed as foreign agents.

For more analysis on this subject, see:



  1. See section “Security, law-enforcement, justice and emergencies” in the May 10 issue of the  Russia in Review digest for details of this second investigation.
  2. Adapted from “The Diplomatic Path to a Secure Ukraine,” a paper that was published in February by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
  3. Also see: “Former top U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland talks to Meduza about winning in Ukraine by remaining tough on Putin and getting real about Chinese ‘neutrality’,” Meduza, 05.13.24.
  4. The Baltic Sea.
  5. At its meeting on May 13, the State Duma approved candidates for posts of deputy prime ministers in the new Russian government: Denis Manturov - First Deputy Prime Minister; Dmitry Grigorenko - Deputy Prime Minister, Chief of the Government Staff; Tatyana Golikova - Deputy Prime Minister; Alexander Novak - Deputy Prime Minister; Alexey Overchuk - Deputy Prime Minister; Marat Khusnullin - Deputy Prime Minister; Vitaly Savelyev - Deputy Prime Minister; Yuri Trutnev - Deputy Prime Minister; Dmitry Patrushev - Deputy Prime Minister; Dmitry Chernyshenko - Deputy Prime Minister. Ministerial nominations are expected to be considered by the State Duma and the Federation Council on May 14. Overall, 8 out of 10 deputy prime ministers in the previous government retained their posts in the new government. Newcomers among the prime minister's deputies: the son of former Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev, Dmitry, as well as Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev. (Meduza, 05.13.24, Istories, 05.13.24)

The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 11:00 am Eastern time on the day this digest was distributed. Unless otherwise indicated, all summaries above are direct quotations. 

*Here and elsewhere, the italicized text indicates comments by RM staff and associates. These comments do not constitute a RM editorial policy.

Slider photo by National Police of Ukraine available under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. No changes were made.