Russia Analytical Report, Nov. 21-28, 2022

6 Ideas to Explore

  1. Key U.S. officials have begun to wonder whether “the U.S. has already reaped all the advantages the Ukraine war has to offer,” according to Hal Brands of Johns Hopkins University. “As time passes, the cost may get higher [for the U.S.]—in distraction from other regions, in scarce munitions consumed, in vulnerability to crises that break out elsewhere,” Brands writes in his commentary for Bloomberg. “If the situation in the Taiwan Strait is deteriorating as rapidly as American officials say, then the premium on ending the Ukraine conflict relatively soon may get higher,” Brands warns.
  2. Following the U.S. midterm elections, pressure is building in Washington to boost tracking of weapons supplied to Ukraine, according to WP. “Most in Washington are in agreement that, generally, the push for more oversight is a good thing,” this daily reports. As of early November, U.S. monitors had performed just two in-person inspections of U.S.-supplied weapons in Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February, according to WP.
  3. The Russian-Ukrainian war is chewing up stockpiles of artillery ammunition at a rate that Kyiv’s Western suppliers are struggling to keep up with, according to NYT. Over the summer, the Ukrainians were firing 6,000-7,000 artillery rounds per day in Donbas, while the U.S. produces only 15,000 rounds per month, according to this daily. If the Pentagon donated to the Ukrainian military all the “dumb” rounds it is to purchase for regular artillery in 2022, the latter would use them up in two weeks, according to RUSI estimates cited in FT. In addition to Ukraine’s uphill battle in acquiring sufficient artillery rounds from its Western partners, a third of some 350 Western-made howitzers donated to Kyiv are out of action at any given time, according to NYT.
  4. The idea that a price cap at $65-$70 a barrel will have an impact on Putin’s decision-making is ridiculous, according to Bloomberg columnist Javier Blas. To defund Putin, the cap, which the EU needs to agree on by Dec. 5, would need to be not higher than the $45-a-barrel mooted by European diplomats to their American counterparts, according to Blas. “There is still huge uncertainty over how hard EU sanctions will hit Russia’s crude exports when they come into effect on Dec. 5, or if they will have any impact at all,” according to another Bloomberg writer, Julian Lee.
  5. The U.S. and Russia still need to discuss further steps in bilateral arms control despite Moscow postponing the meeting of the U.S.-Russian Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), which was to discuss the implementation of New START. Washington and Moscow can rely on the technical experts—who will participate in the BCC meeting when it takes place—to develop a framework for a follow-on treaty, according to Rose Gottemoeller of Stanford University.
  6. During his pre-invasion visit to China on Feb. 4, Putin won Xi’s consent to secretly agree that their countries would come to each other’s aid militarily, but only in the case of a foreign invasion, according to long-time Russia watcher Owen Matthews. “That extremely canny and prescient proviso, inserted at Chinese insistence, would effectively exclude territories recently annexed during wartime, thus releasing Beijing from any commitment to respond to attacks on annexed territories in Ukraine,” Matthews writes in a preview of his forthcoming book on the Russian-Ukrainian war for the Spectator.


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:

“Will Iran Have Free Rein After Ukraine?” Mark N. Katz of George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, NI, 11.27.22.

  • “Tehran is not pleased with how much Russia cooperates with its Gulf Arab and Israeli adversaries, but up until now, Iran has had to grin and bear it. ... But this might change with Moscow now increasingly dependent on Iran in Ukraine. Iran has not only supplied Russia with armed drones but reportedly deployed advisers to help Russian forces use them. Russia also might soon be buying Iranian short-range ballistic missiles.”
  • “But what does Iran want from Russia? This is not yet clear, as neither Moscow nor Tehran have indicated what this might be.”
    • “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and U.S. intelligence sources have suggested that Iran might seek more from Russia in the nuclear realm. Observers have already noted that while Russian diplomats were publicly pressing Iran to agree to the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), they have stopped doing so since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.”
    • “Given its greater focus on Ukraine, Moscow might countenance a greater degree of Iranian influence in Syria and a reduced willingness to abide by the Russian-Israeli deconfliction agreement to repay Tehran for its military support. Blocking any United Nations Security Council effort to punish Iran for hostile behavior toward Gulf Arab states might be another.”
  • “Just like many European nations were loath to give up their dependence on Russian gas after Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine, Israel and the Gulf Arab states might prove unwilling to give up their long-held hopes about how Russia can help restrain Iran. However, Russia’s increased dependence on Iran for military support might eventually force them to.”

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

“Russia Traffics in Ukrainian Children,” columnist Nicholas Kristof, WP, 11.23.22.

  • “The Ukrainian government count is 11,461 children known by name and taken without families to Russia or Russian-controlled areas.”
  • “Many of the children taken to Russia were removed from institutions such as children’s homes, boarding schools and hospitals. Some of these youngsters didn’t have parents, but when they did, families were apparently not consulted.”
  • “Children are not spoils of war. A government should not traffic in thousands of children. These elementary propositions underscore the moral stakes of the war in Ukraine, and it’s important for the world to stand firmly on the side of right.”

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment,” Grace Mappes and Frederick W. Kagan, ISW, 11.27.22.

  • “The Russian military clearly assesses that Ukrainian forces could cross the Dnipro River and conduct counter-offensive operations in eastern Kherson Oblast, possibly threatening all of the critical ground lines of communications from Crimea to the mainland. Russian forces have been digging trench lines and concentration areas in eastern Kherson since early October 2022 in obvious preparation for the withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro River and Kherson City. Russian troops are preparing either to defend in depth or to conduct operational or strategic delay operations.”
  • “Russian forces clearly do not expect to be able to prevent Ukrainian forces from getting across the river, nor are the Russians prioritizing defensive positions to stop such a crossing. The Russian military is setting conditions for a protracted defense in eastern Kherson Oblast that could allow the establishment of a solid Ukrainian lodgment on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River.”

“A Ukrainian attempt to retake Crimea would be bloody and difficult. And Western support can hardly be relied on,” The Economist, 11.27.22.

  • “Ukrainian commanders are coy about their next moves. ‘If we telegraphed our plans on social media and on tv, we’d achieve nothing,’ says Mykhailo Zabrodsky, a former commander of Ukraine’s air assault forces, who remains close to the planning process. The lieutenant-general insists an operation to take back Crimea is not only possible, it was something that was being prepared for 2023.”
  • “But Ukraine seems likely to focus its firepower elsewhere first. Cutting Mr. Putin’s land bridge, the occupied territory linking mainland Russia to Crimea, remains the priority. Russian military planners understand this too, and have devised and manned defensive lines accordingly.”
  • “Ukraine’s Western backers have refrained from talking down Ukraine’s military ambitions in public. Ukraine likewise insists they have not held back military planners in private either. But gaps appear to be opening up in the rhetoric. … Gen. Mark Milley, who is on the more cautious end of government opinion … said on Nov. 16 that a Ukrainian victory in Crimea was unlikely to be ‘happening any time soon.’ Ukraine’s military planners understand that America, and the weapons it supplies, are the key to whether it will ever happen at all.”
  • “Political leaders in Kyiv privately concede that retaking Donbas and Crimea is more complicated than issuing public slogans. They accept that a large proportion of the population there remain hostile toward Kyiv.... But Mykola Bielieskov, an analyst at Ukraine’s National Institute for Strategic Studies, says Mr. Zelensky is now tied to his promise to return Crimea. ... Ukraine’s war president might be maneuvering himself into a corner. An attempt to bring Crimea back under Ukrainian rule would be a costly military endeavor—and would cause splits with allies that he cannot afford to alienate.”

“Pressure builds to step up weapons tracking in Ukraine,” correspondent Karoun Demirjian, WP, 11.27.22.

  • “House Republicans, who will hold a slim majority in the next Congress, have warned the Biden administration to expect far tougher oversight of the extensive military assistance it has provided Ukraine. … Most in Washington are in agreement that, generally, the push for more oversight is a good thing. But experts caution there are credible limitations to ensuring an airtight account of all weapons given to Ukraine that are likely to leave Biden's harshest critics unsatisfied.
  • “To date, the megaphone for demanding change has been controlled primarily by the GOP. … Yet the reckoning could begin before the Republican takeover. A series of provisions on offer in the House-passed version of this year's annual defense authorization bill would require a web of overlapping reports from the Pentagon and the inspectors general who police transfers of articles of war, plus the establishment of a task force to design and implement enhanced tracking measures. And unlike the rising GOP chorus of Ukraine skepticism, such line items—while yet to be reconciled with the Senate's version of the bill, which is still pending in that chamber—largely enjoy bipartisan support.”
  • “The specter of deadly materiel falling through the cracks has many alarmed—especially with the West pouring smaller, less-traceable arms into the country as Ukrainian civilians face desperate challenges to their basic survival.”
  • “The State Department has a limited budget for weapons inspectors positioned in Ukraine, and thus cannot examine every incoming shipment, according to officials. As of early November, U.S. monitors had performed just two in-person inspections since the war began in February—accounting for about 10% of the 22,000 U.S.-provided weapons, including Stinger surface-to-air missiles and Javelin antitank missiles, that require enhanced oversight.”
  • “Thus far, the Biden administration has resisted pressure to send inspectors or other military personnel too deeply into Ukraine, for fear of fomenting a wider conflict.”

“U.S. and NATO Scramble to Arm Ukraine and Refill Their Own Arsenals,” correspondents Steven Erlanger and Lara Jakes, NYT, 11.26.22.

  • “In Ukraine, the kind of European war thought inconceivable is chewing up the modest stockpiles of artillery, ammunition and air defenses of what some in NATO call Europe’s ‘bonsai armies,’ after the tiny Japanese trees. Even the mighty United States has only limited stocks of the weapons the Ukrainians want and need, and Washington is unwilling to divert key weapons from delicate regions like Taiwan and Korea, where China and North Korea are constantly testing the limits.”
  • “Now, nine months into the war, the West’s fundamental unpreparedness has set off a mad scramble to supply Ukraine with what it needs while also replenishing NATO stockpiles. As both sides burn through weaponry and ammunition at a pace not seen since World War II, the competition to keep arsenals flush has become a critical front that could prove decisive to Ukraine’s effort.”
  • “The amount of artillery being used is staggering, NATO officials say ... ‘A day in Ukraine is a month or more in Afghanistan,’ said Camille Grand, a defense expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who until recently was NATO’s assistant secretary general for defense investment.”
  • “Last summer in the Donbas region, the Ukrainians were firing 6,000 to 7,000 artillery rounds each day, a senior NATO official said. The Russians were firing 40,000 to 50,000 rounds per day. By comparison, the United States produces only 15,000 rounds each month.”
  • “In total, NATO countries have so far provided some $40 billion in weaponry to Ukraine, roughly the size of France’s annual defense budget. Smaller countries have exhausted their potential, another NATO official said, with 20 of its 30 members ‘pretty tapped out.’ But the remaining 10 can still provide more, he suggested, especially larger allies. That would include France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.”

“Ukraine: ammunition shortage will drive sector consolidation,” Lex/FT, 11.26.22.

  • “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shattered a number of comfortable beliefs. One was that Europe could rely on Russia for energy. Another was that high-intensity conventional warfare was a thing of the past. ... At one point Ukraine was estimated to be firing 20,000 shells a day, and Russia three times that amount. Today Ukraine is reportedly firing between 4,000 and 7,000.”
  • “As a point of comparison, the 2022 U.S. artillery munitions budget of $174 million includes over 75,000 rounds of ‘dumb’ ammunition, according to analysis by the Royal United Services Institute. That would equate to about two weeks of Ukrainian shelling at current rates”
  • “How much might that cost? Analysis of press releases and military blogs suggests a standard, U.S. 155mm ‘dumb’ howitzer shell costs over $800. At an average rate of fire, a fortnight of shelling by Ukrainian armed forces would cost more than $62 million. ‘Smart’ precision-guided 155mm shells cost almost $200,000 each.”
  • “Ammo—especially the smaller caliber stuff—is still a fragmented market. There is more consolidation to come. Making the best of existing capacity will be crucial to the war effort because ramping up new production lines will take a very long time.”

“Artillery Is Breaking in Ukraine. It’s Becoming a Problem for the Pentagon,” reporters John Ismay and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, NYT, 11.25.22.

  • “Ukrainian troops fire thousands of explosive shells at Russian targets every day, using high-tech cannons supplied by the United States and its allies. But those weapons are burning out after months of overuse, or being damaged or destroyed in combat, and dozens have been taken off the battlefield for repairs, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials.”
  • “A third of the roughly 350 Western-made howitzers donated to Kyiv are out of action at any given time, according to U.S. defense officials and others familiar with Ukraine’s defense needs.”

“Russians, fall back. How many Ukrainian territories Russia captured and lost in 9 months of full-scale war,” Istories, 11.24.22. 

  • “By the end of March, the Russian army had occupied 125,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory. This represented the maximum amount of territory Russia managed to capture in nine months of full-scale war. If one were to include annexed Crimea and the territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions occupied since 2014 into the count, then Russia controlled about 168,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian lands ... [After that, however,] the Russian army carried out three major retreats. As a result, the Russian army lost control of the 60,000 square kilometers of land it previously occupied. This constitutes almost half the territory occupied since the start of full-scale war.”
    • “At the end of March, Russian troops retreated from Kyiv and Chernihiv, losing more than 40,000 square kilometers of territory. ... [Meanwhile,] about 80,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory remained under Russian control.”
    • “In early September, the Armed Forces of Ukraine broke through the Russian defenses in the Kharkiv direction near the city of Balakliya and launched a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region. At that time, Russia lost control over the Kharkiv region and lost control of almost 10,000 square kilometers of occupied territory.”
    • “Two more months passed and Russian troops left the city of Kherson, the only regional center that had been conquered during this time. As a result, the area occupied by Russia in Ukraine shrank by another 4,800 square kilometers.”
  • “By the ninth month of the war, Russia retained control of only half the territories it conquered since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. As of Nov. 24, almost 65,000 square kilometers remained under Russian control in the Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. This area is comparable in size to an average Russian region, such as Stravopolsky Krai.”

“How Ukraine Can Make the Most of the Winter Lull,” former assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs Mark T. Kimmitt, WSJ, 11.23.22.

  • “Winter is coming, which will make it difficult for Ukraine to continue its advances against Russia. The next several months—known by historians as rasputitsa, or disagreeable travel—have been the great enemy of Eurasian armies for centuries. Soldiers call this period ‘General Mud,’ shorthand for the harsh environmental conditions that brought Russia's French and German invaders to their knees in 1812 and 1943, respectively. But the harsh winter should be seen as a time to make preparations for the spring, not to pause all operations.” The Battle of Moscow took place in September 1941- January 1942. It was during that period that mud and then frost helped to hamper the German offensive. One should also keep in mind that weather conditions do not necessarily prevent offensive operations. 2015’s Battle of Debaltseve, in which Ukrainian forces were encircled, took place in January-February.[1]
  • “Allies shouldn't merely continue to resupply crucial equipment and ammunition, HIMARS rockets and air-defense assets. They should also conduct operational planning symposia with the Ukrainian military, consisting of workshops on lessons learned in 2022 and operational planning for 2023.”
  • “On the battlefield, the West should beef up its support for Ukraine's deep-fires campaign against supply depots, logistical routes, command centers and second-echelon support units well beyond Russian frontlines.”
  • “These military activities must be supported with a robust diplomatic and information campaign. ... Diplomatic efforts must also continue to isolate Russia from the international community in general, and from arms shipments from such countries as Belarus, North Korea and Iran in particular. The West should pressure neutral allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to take a firm stand on the war instead of attempting to appease both sides.”
  • “Russian forces likely won't be driven back to the preinvasion borders by the end of this year. Nor will Crimea be liberated by then. But with the proper reconstitution, planning and training this winter, in addition to the resumption of Ukraine offensives soon after the spring thaw, those aren't unreasonable goals for 2023.”

Potential directions of counter-offensives by the armed forces of Ukraine,” Semyon Pegov’s War Gonzo team,, 11.26.22. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Many are now talking about a possible offensive by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
  • “The Zaporizhzhia direction is, of course, very attractive for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. But there is bare steppe and their troops will have nothing to cling to. There are no large settlements there.”
  • “Now about the prospects for an attack on Svatovo. In this direction, the Russian army has already built an even line of defense. And even periodically counterattacks. Svatovo—on the left bank of the Red River.”
  • “An attack by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Russia’s Belgorod region [is less probable]. They [the Ukrainians] have problems on their side of the border.”
  • “Now to the Kinburn Spit ... there is no talk of an amphibious landing yet. ... Several large islands on the left bank of the Dnipro are currently in the ‘grey zone.’ For the full control of the Ukrainian army, they are not needed now. But in case of a breakthrough attempt, Belogrudy Ostrov and Bolshoi Potemkin may look promising to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. And if the Ukrainian army suddenly really acts as we have described... then it will launch a direct assault on Oleshky, even along the Antonovsky bridge. And a little to the west from the side of Pridneprovsky, an attempt to force the Dnipro is also possible.”

“Ukraine and the Future of Offensive Maneuver,” Columbia University’s Stephen Biddle, War on the Rocks, 11.22.22.

  • “What ... does this [Ukraine’s successful offensive maneuvers] mean for the U.S. military looking forward?”
    • “First, offensive maneuver is apparently far from dead. Even in the face of modern weapons, breakthrough is still possible, and especially so when astute offensive operations on interior lines pose dilemmas for thinly stretched defenses like those of the Russians in Kherson and Kharkiv since mid-summer. … Ukraine’s ability to succeed with what they have is a powerful demonstration that offensive maneuver has not been rendered impossible by new technology.” 
    • “Second, while offensive breakthrough is still possible under the right conditions, it remains very hard to accomplish against deep, prepared defenses with adequate supplies and operational reserves behind them. This is not a novel feature of new technology … Exposed defenders are increasingly vulnerable to long-range weapons and sensors, but covered and concealed positions remain highly resistant to precision engagement. Shallow, forward defenses can be ruptured with well-organized combined arms attacks, but deep defenses with meaningful reserves behind them still pose much harder problems for attackers. Overextended positions without secure supply lines can be overwhelmed, but consolidated positions with viable logistical support are still much harder and more costly to overcome.”
    • “Third, neither shallow, vulnerable defenses nor deep, robust ones are universal features of modern war. Both have occurred regularly since 1900, and both have occurred, at various times and places, in Ukraine since February. And this in turn casts doubt on the advisability of redesigning modern militaries around an assumption that new technology has made effective offensive maneuver either impossible or available on demand. Successful offense has long been very difficult, and it has normally required both demanding preparations and a permissive defender. But it offers decisive outcomes when conditions allow it, and such conditions recur with enough frequency to suggest that its demands are worth meeting.”

Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:

“Russia vs Europe: Who Is Winning the Energy War?”, Khalifa University’s Li-Chen Sim, RM, 11.23.22.

  • “The current energy crisis … has most directly engulfed Russia and Europe, although it has also significantly impacted other countries, non-energy goods and services and diplomatic ties. Some analysts have declared that Russia is winning the energy war; others counter not only that this is a ‘myth’ but that Russia faces ‘economic oblivion.’ Who is right?”
  • “The answer depends on the time horizon: In the short to medium term, Russia will look very much like a victor, thanks to its economic resilience despite lower-volume energy sales and Western sanctions, while Europe will pay a steep price for its delay in transitioning away from dependence on Russian fossil fuels. But in the long term, I expect Russia to decline as an energy superpower due to the structural problems plaguing this sector, while Europe stands to benefit from its redoubled efforts to wean itself off Russian energy, to bring online locally generated renewable and low-carbon energy and to cut energy consumption overall.”
  • “Russia’s ‘victory’ is likely to be short-lived. This is partly because Russia effectively ceased its own gas exports to the EU in September 2022 and because EU sanctions will stop purchases of seaborne Russian crude oil and all oil products beginning, respectively, on Dec. 5 and Feb. 5. With the EU contributing, by some counts, 54% of Russia’s revenues from fossil fuel exports for the first six months of the war, the upcoming embargoes will diminish both Russia’s export earnings and its ability to fund its military operation in Ukraine.”
  • “I believe that in the longer run Russia is likely to turn from a ‘strategic petro-state’—too significant on global energy markets to sanction effectively—into a ‘reduced energy power.’ Claims of ‘peak Russia’ have resurfaced, making it harder to argue that Russia is not in decline.”

“Western sanctions catch up with Russia's wartime economy,” reporters Catherine Belton and Robyn Dixon, WP, 11.26.22.

  • “For months, Putin claimed that the ‘economic blitzkrieg’ against Russia had failed, but Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine are digging ever deeper into Russia's economy, exacerbating equipment shortages for its army and hampering its ability to launch any new ground offensive or build new missiles, economists and Russian business executives said.”
  • “Recent figures show the situation has worsened considerably since the summer … Figures released by the Finance Ministry last week show a key economic indicator—tax revenue from the non-oil and gas sector—fell 20% in October compared with a year earlier.”
  • “The Kremlin has trumpeted a lower-than-expected decline in GDP, forecast by the International Monetary Fund at only 3.5% this year, as demonstrating that the Russian economy can weather the raft of draconian sanctions. But economists and business executives said the headline GDP figures did not reflect the real state of the Russian economy because the Russian government effectively ended the ruble's convertibility since the sanctions were imposed.”
  • “The Russian Central Bank reported this week that a record $14.7 billion in hard currency was withdrawn from the Russian banking system in October … Even so, a November report by the Central Bank warned that Russia's GDP would face a sharper contraction of 7.1% in the fourth quarter of 2022, after falling 4.1% and 4% compared with last year in the previous two quarters.”
  • “One Moscow businessman with connections to the defense sector said a quiet mobilization of the Russian economy had already been long underway, with many entrepreneurs forced into producing supplies for the Russian army but fearing to speak out against orders at cut-price rates. … Anecdotal evidence reported in the Russian press has pointed to enormous problems supplying Russia's newly drafted conscripts with equipment.”
  • “The outlook appears likely to worsen when the EU embargo on Russian oil sales comes into force Dec. 5, economists said. Combined with a price cap expected to be imposed on all sales of Russian oil outside the EU, the measure could cost the Russian budget at least $120 million in lost revenue per day, Milov said, and already the Russian budget is expected to rack up a deficit by the end of this year.”

“The War on Russia’s Economy Is Working,” Bloomberg Editors, Bloomberg, 11.23.22.

  • “The economic punishment inflicted on Russia hasn’t stopped the pummeling of Ukraine. But sanctions have weakened Russia’s standing as a world power, dissuaded ostensibly impartial nations from aligning with its government and sowed doubts about Putin’s leadership among Russian elites. Convincing them to press for an end to the war will require the U.S. and Europe to tighten the squeeze even more.”
  • “Europe should further work to close sanctions loopholes.”
    • “To cite one example, there’s evidence that the Russian military is importing home appliances to neighboring countries and using their microchips to make up for the loss of access to Western semiconductors.”
    • “Rigorous action will also be needed to enforce EU crude sanctions and a U.S.-led price cap on Russian oil, which would extend a ban on selling insurance and other services to ships that fail to comply.”
  • “Above all, Western governments and their partners need to stick together. Russia’s economy is hollowing out, and the war is not going Moscow’s way. Putin still thinks Ukraine’s supporters will crack first. The West must prove him wrong.”

“The Flawed Discourse Over the War in Ukraine,” Georgetown University’s Paul R. Pillar, NI, 11.22.22.

  • “Much discourse about the war attempts to boil issues down to the seemingly simple question of whether one is for or against steadfast support for Zelensky, his government and the Ukrainians striving to regain control of their homeland... But the various political, diplomatic, financial and military aspects of policy toward the war in Ukraine are not reducible to a single dimension or position.”
  • “There is nothing contradictory about advocating active diplomacy aimed at a peace settlement while continuing robust material aid to Ukraine. Indeed, it is logical to view such aid as primarily intended to strengthen the Ukrainian side’s bargaining position in any peace negotiations.”
  • “Delaying negotiations in the hope of extending military successes not only makes the mistake of assuming that past performance will be extended into the future. Doing so also fails to account for the adversary having just as much of a vote on when, and under what conditions, negotiations should begin.”
  • “Nearly all wars end with some sort of bargain being struck, sometimes tacitly but often and more usefully through explicit negotiation. Even outcomes that get described as ‘victory’ almost always involve such a bargain. ‘Unconditional’ surrenders are not really unconditional; when Japan signed a surrender agreement in 1945, the bargain was that the U.S. occupation of Japan would be benign and Japan would cease armed resistance.”
  • “The only exceptions to this are when one side is entirely exterminated or when one side withdraws completely and unilaterally from the contested area. The first will clearly not happen in Ukraine, and it is unrealistic to expect Putin to do the second.”

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

“Ukraine’s Victories May Become a Problem for the US,” Johns Hopkins University’s Hal Brands, Bloomberg, 11.27.22.

  • “Ukraine has notched another big victory in its war against Russian aggression: the liberation of the Kherson without a grueling urban battle. Yet that triumph was met with mixed messages from U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on a very sensitive subject: whether the Ukrainians should begin peace negotiations with Russia.”
  • “If the Biden administration seems suddenly conflicted about the course of the war, that’s because several key challenges are looming.”
    • “First, is Ukraine headed for further gains or a grinding deadlock?”
    • “Second, how likely is escalation?”
    • “Third, will the pro-Ukraine coalition hold together?”
    • “Finally, does a protracted conflict help or hurt the U.S.?”
  • “Key officials wonder whether the U.S. has already reaped all the advantages the Ukraine war has to offer. As time passes, the cost may get higher—in distraction from other regions, in scarce munitions consumed, in vulnerability to crises that break out elsewhere.”
  • “There are countervailing considerations: A long war that exposes how pitifully inadequate the U.S. defense industrial base has become could force the nation to get serious about rearmament. Still, if the situation in the Taiwan Strait is deteriorating as rapidly as American officials say, then the premium on ending the Ukraine conflict relatively soon may get higher. Of all the debates and dilemmas lurking behind the recent talk about negotiations, perhaps the most pressing is the fear that Washington just doesn’t have all the time in the world.”

“Europe accuses US of profiting from war,” reporters Barbara Moens, Jakob Hanke Vela and Jacopo Barigazzi,, 11.24.22.

  • “Nine months after invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is beginning to fracture the West. Top European officials are furious with Joe Biden’s administration and now accuse the Americans of making a fortune from the war, while EU countries suffer.”
  • “Cheaper energy has quickly become a huge competitive advantage for American companies. Businesses are planning new investments in the U.S. or even relocating their existing businesses away from Europe to American factories.”
  • “Despite the energy disagreements, it wasn't until Washington announced a $369 billion industrial subsidy scheme to support green industries under the Inflation Reduction Act that Brussels went into full-blown panic mode. ‘The Inflation Reduction Act has changed everything,’ one EU diplomat said. ‘Is Washington still our ally or not?’”
  • “The U.S. has by far been the largest provider of military aid to Ukraine, supplying more than $15.2 billion in weapons and equipment since the start of the war. The EU has so far provided about €8 billion of military equipment to Ukraine, according to Borrell. According to one senior official from a European capital, restocking of some sophisticated weapons may take ‘years’ because of problems in the supply chain and the production of chips. This has fueled fears that the U.S. defense industry can profit even more from the war.”
  • “Another EU diplomat argued that ‘the money they are making on weapons’ could help Americans understand that making ‘all this cash on gas’ might be ‘a bit too much.’ The diplomat argued that a discount on gas prices could help us to ‘keep united our public opinions’ and to negotiate with third countries on gas supplies. ‘It’s not good, in terms of optics, to give the impression that your best ally is actually making huge profits out of your troubles,’ the diplomat said.”

“Why are Germans losing enthusiasm for helping Ukraine? It’s not just about energy costs, our research finds. Germans have a deep cultural aversion toward military intervention,” Yehonatan Abramson, Dean Dulay, Anil Menon and Pauline Jones, WP, 11.25.22.

  • “Will the spiking costs of energy, which are particularly high in Germany, erode European support for assisting Ukraine's war effort against Russia? ... [W]e ran a public opinion survey—and found that energy prices are not the key issue. We learned, much as other surveys are finding, that while Germans support Ukraine's battle against the Russian invasion, they believe that Germany has already done enough. Two factors—their historical memory of German aggression in World War II and concern about the costs of hosting refugees—matter more than energy prices in German public opinion about helping Ukraine.”
  • “We surveyed an opt-in sample of 1,000 Germans online between Sept. 14 and Oct. 6, 2022.”
    • “Most Germans (91%) expressed at least some sympathy for the Ukrainians.”
    • A majority (54%) think that their country is doing enough (37%) or too much (17%) to help Ukraine's military efforts and its refugees.”
    • “In general, roughly 30% of Germans oppose each of the four policies, while roughly 70% expressed some degree of support.”
      • “While less than half (40%) strongly support more sanctions, even fewer support either delivering more weapons to Ukraine or admitting more refugees (just 31% strongly support each policy). Strong support for admitting Ukraine to NATO is lower still at only 26%. In other words, German support for increasing either military assistance or humanitarian aid is lukewarm... Former East Germans are even less willing to support Ukraine than those in the West.”
  • “If Germans are more willing to sacrifice their family budgets than to send weapons or take in refugees, energy costs clearly aren't as crucial as observers have suggested. We believe two other factors are key.”
    • “The first is the commitment to military non-intervention that the nation has cultivated since the end of World War II.”
    • “The second key factor is refugee fatigue.”   

“The Lessons of 1914 Matter Today More than Ever,” Political Director of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary Balázs Orbán, NI, 11.27.22.

  • “This past month, Professor John Mearsheimer visited Budapest for the first time to launch the Hungarian translation of his highly-acclaimed book, ‘The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities.’ … Mearsheimer … warned the world as early as 2014 that the increasingly provocative policies and confrontational actions might lead to an open armed conflict in Ukraine. Ever since, he has been advocating for leaders to return to realpolitik instead, suggesting that international politics should be built on realist principles.”
  • “‘The Great Delusion’ sheds light on a common misconception of realism: the public often considers realists to be pro-war hawks in contrast to idealists, who appear to be the only ones calling for peace, supporting a rules-based international order and engaging in war strictly only if all other options fail.”
  • “Following the Cold War, the discourse on international relations was primarily shaped by idealist leaders and experts. … In his book, Mearsheimer explains this seeming contradiction by showing that behind every principle-based foreign policy there is a universal world-changing ideology that cannot stand competition.”
  • “Liberal idealism coming from the West is just as much an imperial ideology as the Russian concept of ‘Moscow, the third Rome’ … Imperial thoughts will inevitably provoke war at some point. Realism, on the other hand, aims to preserve the status quo without the need to spread ideology, and as a consequence, it will result in less conflict.”
  • “Over a hundred years later, the ghosts of 1914 haunt us once again, as Europe is sleepwalking into a conflict it cannot possibly win. Russia started an ideological war with the West, while the West in turn sees itself as the guardian of the liberal world order. Both parties are giving wrong answers to the wrong questions, as they are equally kept hostage to their imperial ideologies and narrow-minded thinking.”
  • “If we want to overcome the current crisis, it is time for all of us to become both practitioners and theorists of realism—with Mearsheimer’s ‘Great Delusion’ offering us guidance in the process.”

“It’s Time to Debunk Putin’s Existential Fallacy,” Columbia University’s Stephen Sestanovich, FP, 11.24.22.

  • “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine has provoked—with one notable exception—every imaginable form of policy pushback from the United States and its allies[:]… he insists that Russia is at war with the entire Western world, that it is an all-out struggle for survival that his country cannot afford to lose. ... If Russia’s enemies succeed, Putin insists, a future of comprehensive oppression by the West lies ahead.”
  • “If U.S. presidents aimed to destroy Russia, would they have reduced the U.S. military presence in Europe by 75% over a 25-year period (including the removal of all tanks a decade ago)? Would Germany have cut its armed forces in half? Would NATO, whose enlargement Russian officials claim to find so threatening, have sought a partnership with Russia to address major issues of European security? Would the alliance have agreed to limit military deployments on the territory of new NATO members bordering Russia? Would the European Union have risked energy dependence on a country it wanted to subject to ‘poverty and extinction’?”

“A New Theory of American Power,” staff writer George Packer, Atlantic, 11.21.22.

  • “Until the early hours of Feb. 24, when Russian tank columns crossed the Ukrainian border and airborne troops targeted Kyiv, the United States was a chastened and declining superpower.”
  • “[A]s … Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, restrainers refused to believe the Biden administration’s warning that Vladimir Putin was about to invade. A war would upend their fixed views of international politics: that states pursue rational interests, not mad dreams of ancient glory; that U.S. leaders manufacture intelligence for their own ends; that imperialism is a uniquely American sin. Therefore, a war wasn’t possible. When it came anyway, restrainers found ways to place the blame on the U.S.”
  • “This restraint is … a doctrinaire refusal, by people living in the safety and comfort of the West, to believe in liberal values that depend on American support. The restrainers can’t accept that … the most probable alternative to U.S. hegemony is not international peace and justice but worse hegemons.”
  • “The war has kindled hope, at times bordering on triumphalism, for a renewal of liberal democracy, not just as a guide to foreign policy but as a mission at home. … Imagining that a Ukrainian victory would have a decisive effect on the internal politics of Western democracies is unwarranted exuberance. Illiberal populism continues to thrive in countries whose governments support Ukraine … The major non-Western democracies … have stayed more or less neutral on the war … In the U.S., … a Republican win in the midterm elections could allow the party’s Trumpist wing to block military aid; and if Trump is reelected in 2024, the U.S. might well switch sides. In that case, American politics would transform Ukraine, not the other way around.”
  • “Russia’s war has demonstrated that a decent world isn’t possible without liberalism, and liberalism can’t thrive without U.S. engagement. Ukraine shows one way for America to use its power on behalf of freedom: Instead of sending troops to fight and die for democratic illusions in inhospitable countries, send arms to help an actual democracy repel a foreign invader. No U.S. troops, no meddling in civil wars, no nation building, no going it alone. Collaborate closely with allies and take measures to avoid catastrophe. Call it the Biden doctrine—it’s been remarkably successful.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“The red line: Biden and Xi’s secret Ukraine talks revealed,” author Owen Matthews, Spectator, 11.26.22.

  • “So whose side is Beijing really on? The reality is that China has consistently backed only one side–its own. But the illusion of Chinese support was one of the many miscalculations that led Vladimir Putin down the road to war.”
    • [I]n a confidential annexe to the ‘friendship without limits’ was a mutual security guarantee that Russia had sought from China for decades. … Beijing and Moscow pledged to come to each other’s aid militarily in the case of a foreign invasion of their territory and if special conditions were satisfied concerning the cause of such an invasion. That … proviso, inserted at Chinese insistence, would effectively exclude territories recently annexed during wartime.”
  • “The scale of Russia’s military operation … took Beijing by surprise. … Putin’s threat of nuclear escalation on Feb. 27 alarmed the world, including the Chinese. A key priority for Beijing was for the Russo-NATO confrontation to ‘avoid any nuclear escalation and to help in reaching a ceasefire’, said the source.”
  • “[T]he PLA had [since then] also been reaching out through military-to-military … channels to senior Russian general officers … Beijing’s aim was to ensure that even if there were a political decision to use nukes, the Russian army would insist on sticking to its long-standing nuclear military doctrine to use them solely if provoked by attacks on Russian soil. Through these unofficial ‘track two’ contacts, Washington and the PLA agreed … that if the U.S. stopped the MiG deal [between Poland and Ukraine], Beijing’s generals would do their best to defuse Putin’s nuclear threat on an operational level.”
  • “With Biden and Xi’s joint condemnation of the threat of nukes at Bali earlier this month, the so-called ‘track two’ understandings of March have become a ‘track one’ public policy. ... NATO and China have effectively aligned on not escalating the Ukraine-Russia conflict, according to the Chinese source. Over a series of meetings with NATO leadership since early September, Wang pledged to use China’s considerable leverage in Moscow to dissuade Putin from using nukes, while in return NATO has affirmed that they would not provide strategic weapons to Ukraine.”
  • “At the Bali summit Xi … publicly called for a ‘return to diplomacy and stressing the urgency in finding a peaceful resolution’. … [M]any senior voices in NATO … have independently suggested that Kyiv should prepare for peace talks. And China’s security guarantees of Russia’s pre-invasion borders made back in February could play an important role in building a face-saving off-ramp for the Kremlin as a counter to NATO’s likely security guarantees for Ukraine.”

“The War in Ukraine in Chinese Public Opinion,” Michael B Cerny, RUSI, 11.25.22.

  • “By early spring, data suggested that—among internet users in China—support for Russia was fairly high. An online survey published by the Carter Center’s U.S.–China Perception Monitor in April 2022, for example, found that 75% of Chinese respondents believed supporting Russia’s invasion was in China’s national interest. A subsequent survey by the Central European Institute of Asian Studies also found that more than 80% of respondents held positive views of Russia. Nonetheless, what appeared like high levels of support on the surface did not necessarily indicate strongly held beliefs.”
  • “[O]nly 16% of respondents to the Carter Center survey indicated a willingness to provide weapons to Russia, with respondents preferring instead to offer moral support by a large margin. Similarly, when asked by China Data Lab whether China should support Russia’s actions, stay neutral, keep silent or support the U.S., around 55% of respondents indicated that China should stay neutral.”
  • “Evidence suggests that support for Russia’s position may have weakened since these surveys were conducted, particularly among Chinese intellectuals and some elites. As early as March, there were rumblings about internal controversy caused by China’s approach to the conflict. ... By August, a handful of leading Chinese scholars … had expressed opposition to Russia sending troops, and indicated that a protracted defeat was the worst of all outcomes for China.”
  • “What might ultimately force Beijing’s hand in terms of ending its tacit support for Russia in Ukraine? ... If Moscow uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Beijing will undoubtedly apply pressure on Moscow to de-escalate, even if it does not abandon its anti-Western position. Not only has Xi now stated twice that nuclear weapons should not be used in the conflict, but peer-reviewed evidence demonstrates there is a strong norm against nuclear use among the Chinese public. … If Moscow takes this dramatic step, Beijing will struggle to convince itself—and the Chinese public—that its alignment with Russia is worth the associated costs.”

“Why the United States Should Not Overreact to China and Russia,” Eurasia Group’s Ali Wyne, FA, 11.23.22.

  • “Beyond the pressing concern that the United States could find itself in concurrent wars with two nuclear-armed powers [Russia and China], U.S. officials have a broader fear: that the global balance of power could be at a troubling inflection point.”
  • “Against this foreboding geopolitical backdrop, it may seem incongruous to venture that Washington has an opportunity to steady its long-term outlook. The key to seizing this chance lies in a counterintuitive conclusion: although Moscow and Beijing are formidable challengers, they are increasingly self-limiting ones. With its aggression against Ukraine, Russia has undercut its economic prospects, depleted its military assets and strengthened the transatlantic project. The Chinese government, meanwhile, is tightening its grip on the private sector, provoking counterbalancing in Asia, and inducing greater diplomatic coordination in the West. If the United States’ initial mistake after the Cold War was to underreact to Russia and China, it must now avoid the opposite error.”
  • “Even as it embraces selective competition... the United States should not adopt great-power competition as a foreign policy framework. ... Washington should instead make a decisive break with the inertia that for some eight decades has tethered its foreign policy to the actions of—and at times the search for—external competitors. It should accord principal priority to renewing its unique competitive advantages, demonstrating anew that it has an enduring capacity to strengthen its socioeconomic foundations at home and mobilize collective action abroad to meet the full array of planetary challenges.”
  • “Moscow and Beijing are formidable challengers. The good news is that their missteps give Washington an opportunity to pursue a foreign policy that is rooted less in answering their every maneuver than in articulating its own aspirations.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“Is Putin a Rational Actor? How and Why the Kremlin Might Use the Bomb,” Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. of the Hudson Institute, FA, 11.22.22.

  • “The notion that rational decision-makers will not risk nuclear war has been a common refrain since the dawn of the nuclear age. ... But human beings may not be such calculating creatures. There is considerable evidence, both from history and recent advances in cognitive science, suggesting that humans do not always act rationally.”
    • “Research reveals that all other factors being equal, people are generally less willing to take risks to acquire what they do not have than preserve something of equal value that is already theirs…But there’s a catch. Rival actors may both believe that they are vying over something that is rightfully theirs. Such is the case with Ukraine.  Putin views it as a wayward province of Russia that must be recovered.”
    • “Leaders can also dangerously overrate their position owing to “optimism bias.” Research in the cognitive sciences finds that political leaders have an inflated confidence in their ability to control events, making them more willing to take on risks.”
  • “Putin may reach a point where he believes he has nothing left to lose. Perhaps the coming months will find the war moving inexorably against him. Europe may muddle through a cold winter without caving in to Putin’s pressure. Russia’s growing economic distress could trigger internal unrest. Spring might bring renewed Ukrainian offensives that gradually chip away at Russia’s control of eastern Ukraine and perhaps even liberate Crimea. Large-scale desertions among Russian conscripts might follow.”
  • “The period of U.S. dominance that followed the Cold War lulled the world into complacency regarding nuclear weapons. The return of great power politics and revanchist great powers such as Russia has stripped these illusions away, and the West would be foolish to rule out the possibility of Putin approving nuclear strikes.”
  • “It is equally important, however, to understand that, even in the wake of a limited Russian nuclear attack, the West has plausible options for continuing to support Ukraine’s self-defense and demonstrating that Russia’s use of nuclear weapons will lead to failure, rather than success.”

“Resuming New START Inspections Must Be a Critical Goal of Upcoming US-Russia Talks,” Rose Gottemoeller of Stanford University, BAS, 11.23.22.

  • “Russia’s war against Ukraine, punctuated by regular nuclear saber rattling, combined to raise concerns in Washington about whether Moscow would remain committed to bilateral nuclear arms control. Fortunately, such signals out of the Kremlin did not become mainstream. Instead, Russian diplomats began to indicate that they would be ready to continue working on nuclear matters. These efforts have quietly born fruit.”
  • “For several months, the leaders of the implementing body of the New START Treaty—the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC)—have been in quiet contact. Issue by issue, they have been working to put in place the procedures and protocols that would allow New START inspections to resume. ... This effort is culminating in November-December 2022 with a BCC meeting in Cairo.”
  • “Although the resumption of on-site inspections will be high on the agenda, other issues will also be under discussion in Cairo. The Russians, for example, have long complained about the “conversion or elimination” procedures affecting US bombers and submarines. Despite having agreed to the procedures during the negotiation of the treaty, they say that they are unable to confirm that the conversions have taken place and the launchers in question are no longer nuclear. Resolving these issues should be straightforward once inspections resume.”
  • “If the upcoming US-Russian New START commission meeting goes well, its technical format might be valuable for other urgent discussions. …the two parties might use the same technical experts to develop a framework for a follow-on treaty.”

“Between Enhanced Commitment and Structural Opposition: Nuclear Deterrence in Light of the War in Ukraine,” Emmanuelle Maitre of the Foundation for Strategic Research, Foundation for Strategic Research, 11.21.22.

  • “The conflict in Ukraine has made P3 leaders even more convinced of the relevance of nuclear deterrence, which now enjoys stronger political support and is being reinforced at the level of NATO. However, several additional and concrete factors must be considered.”
    • “Firstly, the recapitalization of nuclear forces in the exact same format demands a significant budgetary effort. This effort leads to peaks in investments which weigh on defense budgets.”
    • “The limits do not solely lie in budget issues. Each nation’s industrial and technological base has a limited capacity, which prevents any sudden increase in the order book.”
  • “In this context, the margins of maneuver in the short term are limited and it is difficult to swiftly “reinforce the deterrence policy” through building up capabilities without challenging fragile balances. This observation questions the realism of proposals calling for an increase in arsenals, particularly in the United States, even though they are often backed by arguments to the effect that trade-offs are possible in theory, if there is indeed the political will.”
  • “The “nuclear comeback” dramatically demonstrated by Vladimir Putin’s statements and his underlying threats to use Russia’s nuclear arsenal for coercion can be interpreted in many ways. To the P3, the recent events corroborate its efforts to reassert the role of deterrence, which again date back to before the war in Ukraine.”
  • “It may seem that two parallel worlds are taking shape: the world of diplomatic forums, where disarmament is supported vigorously, and the strategic world of power relations, where all the mechanisms of restraint, arms control and even nuclear risk reduction seem to be falling apart. The growing gap between these two worlds is weakening the entire non- proliferation regime in the short term.”

“The Role of Nuclear Weapons in Russia’s Strategic Deterrence,” Lydia Wachs of SWP, SWP, 11.25.22.

  • “With the concept of ‘strategic deterrence,’ Russia has developed a holistic deterrence strategy in which nuclear weapons remain an important element. Yet, to gain more flexibility below the nuclear threshold in order to manage escalation, the strategy also conceptualizes a broad range of non-military and conventional means.”
  • “In the future, the role of nuclear weapons in Russia’s strategic deterrence is likely to change. Two factors in particular could lead to a greater reliance on the nuclear component: Russia’s dwindling arsenal of non-nuclear strategic weapons and NATO’s political and military adaptation.”
  • “The question arises as to whether the vacuum left by Russia’s strategic conventional capabilities in its deterrence strategy could to a certain extent be filled by non-strategic nuclear weapons.”
  • “NATO’s steps to adapt its deterrence and defense posture are likely to further worsen the strategic situation from Moscow’s point of view. ... [T]he Kremlin’s threat perception will most likely increase in light of NATO’s strategic adaptation, potentially triggering Russian force adjustments.”
  • “An elevated role for nuclear weapons in Russia’s deterrence strategy and a strengthened nuclear posture in areas bordering NATO could weaken European security and stability in different ways.”
    • “First, strengthened deployments of nuclear weapons in western Russia could trigger new arms dynamics in Europe. ... a strengthening of Russian nuclear forces in the Baltic region and possibly in Belarus could generate political pressure within NATO to respond to these moves.”
    • “A greater role of nuclear weapons in Russia’s escalation management could have an impact on the stability and dynamic of potential crises between NATO and Russia.”
    • “Third, a potentially growing role of nuclear weapons for Russia’s security will pose an additional obstacle to arms control.”

Artificial intelligence:

“Why Artificial Intelligence Is Now a Primary Concern for Henry Kissinger,” columnist David Ignatius, WP, 11.24.22.

  • “Henry Kissinger ... has become ‘obsessed’ with a very modern concern—how to limit the potential destructive capabilities of artificial intelligence, whose powers could be far more devastating than even the biggest bomb. Kissinger described AI as the new frontier of arms control during a forum at Washington National Cathedral on Nov. 16. If leading powers don't find ways to limit AI's reach, he said, ‘it is simply a mad race for some catastrophe.’”
  • “The former secretary of state cautioned that AI systems could transform warfare just as they have chess or other games of strategy—because they are capable of making moves that no human would consider but that have devastatingly effective consequences. ... ‘We are surrounded by many machines whose real thinking we may not know,’ he continued. ‘How do you build restraints into machines? Even today we have fighter planes that can fight … air battles without any human intervention. But these are just the beginnings of this process. It is the elaboration 50 years down the road that will be mind-boggling.’”
  • “Kissinger urged the leaders of the United States and China, the world's tech giants, to begin an urgent dialogue about how to apply ethical limits and standards for AI. Such a conversation might begin, he said, with President Biden telling Chinese President Xi Jinping: ‘We both have a lot of problems to discuss, but there's one overriding problem—namely that you and I uniquely in history can destroy the world by our decisions on this [AI-driven warfare], and it is impossible to achieve a unilateral advantage in this. So, we therefore should start with principle number one that we will not fight a high-tech war against each other.’”
  • “Kissinger told the cathedral audience that for all the destructiveness of nuclear weapons, ‘they don't have this [AI] capacity of starting themselves on the basis of their perception, their own perception, of danger or of picking targets.’ Asked whether he was optimistic about the ability of mankind to limit the destructive capabilities of AI when it's applied to warfare, Kissinger answered: ‘I retain my optimism in the sense that if we don't solve it, it'll literally destroy us. … We have no choice.’”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

“You Say Price Cap, I Say Speed Bump. Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” columnist Javier Blas, Bloomberg, 11.28.22.

  • “European leaders are wrangling about the level of two energy price caps: one on European wholesale natural gas prices and another on Russian oil exports ... If they can get through all the push-me-pull-yous, it will be nothing short of a miracle.”
  • “The negotiations over the [oil] cap ... involve a broader set of national interests. The talks are part of a Group of Seven plan to impose an allied ceiling on the price of Russian oil exports as a blow to Moscow. The proposed cap is around $65-$70 per barrel of oil. That range is above where Putin’s crude currently sells.”
  • “That’s a price cap that won’t cap anything. And again, that’s the stealthy objective.  Washington and others want to keep Russian oil flowing into the market, so global prices remain below $100 a barrel, even if the tradeoff is that the Kremlin continues to enjoy a strong flow of petrodollars. In Europe, Poland and others want a price cap that defunds the Kremlin, believing it could hasten the end of the war in Ukraine. For them, higher gasoline prices are an acceptable tradeoff.”
  • “So what’s the priority? The idea that a price cap at $65-$70 a barrel will have an impact on Russian President Vladimir Putin is ridiculous. … To defund Putin, the price cap will need to be much lower, and certainly not higher than the $45-a-barrel mooted by European diplomats to their American counterparts. And it will have to be strict.”
  • “I’m skeptical that Putin can be brought to his knees by simply cutting the petrodollar flow. The same policy didn’t work with Iran and Venezuela, and both countries are much weaker financially than Russia is today. The effect of a tough G7 oil price cap will be awful too: It will lead to $100-plus prices in a global economy already burdened by the highest inflation in 40 years. Big importers of Russian oil … will finds ways to continue buying.”
  • “There is only one policy that can cut the flow of petrodollars to Putin. That would be a full oil embargo, similar the one imposed on Iraq in 1990.”

“Is OPEC+ About to Cut Oil Output Again? Don’t Rule It Out,” columnist Julian Lee, Bloomberg, 11.28.22.

  • “Seven days ago, Saudi Arabia was denying a report that OPEC+ members were discussing an output increase ahead of their meeting this weekend. But the latest slump in crude prices means that outcome now looks fanciful. Indeed, another cut in targets is becoming more likely, even with European Union sanctions on Russian exports due to come into effect the next day.”
  • “There is still huge uncertainty over how hard EU sanctions will hit Russia’s crude exports when they come into effect on Dec. 5, or if they will have any impact at all. ... EU members are struggling to agree on a price at which to cap Russian shipments to allow access to European ships and international insurance for the trade. A proposed level of $65 a barrel—above the current selling price of Russia’s flagship Urals grade—is seen as far too generous by some, but as an absolute minimum for others. Without agreement, there will be a blanket ban on providing European ships or services for Russian crude from next week. But ministers are likely to hammer out a fudge the cap is purposefully designed to have a minimal impact on crude flows.”

“The week that could unravel the global oil market,” editors Derek Brower and David Sheppard, FT, 11.28.22.

  • “The potential unraveling of the old order in the global oil market will reach a defining moment over the next week ... [as] Western countries will attempt to impose a cap on the price of oil sold by Russia. ... About 2.4 million barrels a day of Russian oil will need to find a new home outside EU and G7 countries. India, China and other buyers are expected to take up some of this slack. But they have indicated they will not participate in the price cap scheme, wary of threatening relations with Moscow or being seen to bow to the West.”

“Implementation of the Oil Price Cap,” The International Working Group on Russian Sanctions, 11.28.22.

  • “The Group of Seven (G7), European Union (EU) and Australia have done excellent work in designing the price cap mechanism on Russian oil.
  • “The key decision which the coalition now faces is the level at which to set the price cap. Compared to the current global oil price around $85/barrel (bbl), our analysis suggests that:
    • “Capping Russian oil at $75/bbl would allow Russian oil prices to rise from current levels—a $20-25/bbl discount—and support Russia’s 2023 oil and gas export revenues at a robust ~$230 billion. This would be worse than introducing no price cap at all, and it risks establishing a high price floor for Russian oil.
    • “Capping Russian oil at $55/bbl would reduce 2023 Russian oil and gas revenues to around $166 billion, which puts Russia under some financial pressure. This would be only a marginal tightening in the regime compared to the status quo.
    • “Capping Russian oil at $35/bbl would reduce Russian oil and gas export earnings to $100 billion, and immediately put Russia under severe financial pressure. At the same time, the implied Russian oil price would continue to be higher than Russia’s average production costs ($10-15/bbl), preserving Russia’s incentive to supply.
  • “We urge the G7 and EU to set the price mechanism at $35/bbl, $50/bbl below current market prices.

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • No significant developments.


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Dreams of Russia’s Future: The Irrevocable Divide Between Putin and the People,” Meduza’s Andrei Pertsev, Carnegie Moscow Center, 11.23.22.

  • “In launching his invasion of Ukraine... Putin transformed irrevocably from a guarantor of stability into its destroyer. Time was moving once again, and each new day was worse than the day before. Putin had plunged Russians into the depths of a crisis and forced them to think about the future, since the unstable today and even worse tomorrow were so alarming.”
  • “To quell this alarm, the authorities are now having to think seriously about an image for the future of the country. In theory, this shouldn’t be that difficult: the majority would be very happy with a return to their stolen stability, a journey into the recent past. The path to this clear and simple solution, however, is blocked by one man: Putin.”
  • “Russian society craves stability, but that is impossible with the current president, who wants to be an operator for global instability. The president is rebelling, but that rebellion does not have popular support. The bureaucrats in the presidential administration are now trapped in the chasm between the views of the president and the mood of Russian society. Putin remains their main client, and he is not planning on going anywhere. Yet ignoring the demands of the Russian people also has its risks.”
  • “They must try, therefore, to please everyone by developing concepts that are as nebulous as possible: concepts that won’t alienate anyone, but won’t engage anyone either. The pies and kaleidoscopes laying claim to the image of the future are the stillborn offspring of a bygone union between the president and the people, and clear evidence of the decisive break between Putin and his previous majority.”

“How Exactly Could the Putin Regime Collapse?” Leonid Gozman, MT, 11.23.22.

  • “There is, of course, a possibility of nuclear war, but setting aside the scenario of global apocalypse, there are only two somewhat realistic scenarios for the end of the Putin regime: one is horrific and the other has little to do with democracy, but at least gives Russia a chance at a future.”
    • “The first scenario is the rapid collapse of the Russian government.”
    • “A less terrifying scenario is a ‘palace coup.’”

Defense and aerospace:

  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • No significant developments.


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

“Prepare for Russia’s Coming Retrenchment,” Ivan U. Klyszcz of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, PONARS, 11.21.22.

  • “[Some might] believe that Moscow will leave the international stage during this period of retrenchment. Yet, there are two dynamics that imply a continued Russian engagement beyond its borders.”
    • “First, retrenchment implies a redirection of efforts toward core interests. In foreign policy, this implies diminishing or abandoning non-essential commitments in favor of efficient strategic goals abroad. In the case of the United States, retrenchment advocates usually identify China as their country’s foremost foreign policy priority.”
    • “Second, declining patrons can still be attractive. Because of their downgrading capabilities, declining patrons cannot be overbearing to their partners abroad. Then, allegiance to declining patrons can also be a source of legitimacy when the patron has a symbolic standing in international relations. Furthermore, inasmuch as the patron remains capable, it can help its partners to balance against threats.”
  • “Following the logic of retrenchment, Russia will likely recommit to the former Soviet space during its period of retrenchment. ... Beyond its immediate neighborhood, Russia will remain a factor in international relations. The three factors ... (being a non-overbearing patron, legitimacy, and remaining capabilities) will invite countries beyond Eurasia to engage with Moscow.”
  • “For the years to come, Moscow will undertake a reconstruction of its economy and military adapted to survive under sanctions, along the lines of Iran and North Korea. This reconstruction will take years but not decades, and Europe will have to be ready for whatever emerges.”

“Ukraine crisis could transform the future of neutrality,” columnist Constanze Stelzenmüller, FT, 11.22.22.

  • “Bern, Vienna and Dublin are distant from the combat in Ukraine. Nonetheless, they are racing to increase their defense budgets (from less than 1% to more than 1% of GDP by the end of the decade). But will that suffice? All three are deeply integrated into global networks of trade and finance and susceptible to economic coercion. ... Europe’s neutral states might consider whether sovereignty is not better protected by an alliance.”


  • No significant developments.

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • No significant developments.



  1. Here and elsewhere italicized text represents contextual commentary by RM staff.