Russia Analytical Report, Nov. 7-14, 2022
4 Ideas to Explore
- Of potential scenarios for the war in Ukraine, a Ukrainian advance toward Crimea is “perhaps the most dangerous,” in the view of The Economist’s defense editor Shashank Joshi. Such an advance could force Putin to issue an ultimatum: Stop, or face the use of nuclear weapons. Even in the nightmare scenario where Russia detonates a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, the U.S. would need to become more involved in supporting Kyiv in its war effort, according to Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Security, though this “need not mean direct American military action against Russia.”
- Lasting peace between Ukraine and Russia—in the sense of more than the cessation of military violence—is only conceivable in the long term, if at all, according to Sabine Fisher of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. And such a peace would require “profound political change in Russia,” in the view of this premier German think-tank’s lead researcher on the post-Soviet neighborhood.
- U.S. midterm elections or not, when it comes to policy toward Russia and Ukraine, the coming year is likely to look very much like the last eight months, according to FPRI’s Nikolas Gvosdev. However, if the conflict stalemates in the longer term, then the divide may grow between those in the U.S. policymaking community who will want to cajole Ukraine into accepting a compromise settlement versus those who wish to continue aiding Ukraine to achieve a complete Russian defeat, according to the U.S. Naval War College professor.
- The issue of Ukrainian corruption has to be addressed if only to fend off a Russian disinformation campaign that has been churning out stories of weapons trafficking, according to Roger Boyes at the Times of London. It's not impossible that some of the weapons the West has supplied to Ukraine may have indeed been diverted into the international arms bazaar, he writes. After all, the diplomatic editor reminds us, before the war Ukraine had “sat rather low in the global corruption league tables.”
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda
Nuclear security and safety:
- No significant developments.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:
- “North Korea, for decades, wanted a U.S. counterweight to Russia and China, but apparently no more. Rachel Minyoung Lee, a Korea analyst with the Stimson Center, argued last week in 38 North that Pyongyang's recent tilt ‘seems to spell the end of a strategic decision made 30 years ago by Kim Il Sung to normalize relations with Washington as a buffer against Beijing and Moscow.’"
- “This strategic shift was partly a reaction to the ‘no limits’ friendship pact signed in February by Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Their proclamation of a ‘new global order,’ followed shortly by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, was an ‘inflection point’ for Kim, argues Lee.”
- “Kim has been newly solicitous of Moscow and Beijing. He quickly endorsed independence for the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine. He backed China's crackdown on Hong Kong and its menacing moves toward Taiwan. According to [former CIA analyst Robert] Carlin, North Korea's defense ministry said in August that it would ‘closely wage strategic and tactical coordinated operations’ with the Chinese military.”
- “Kim has raced to bolster North Korea's own nuclear deterrent. In April, he announced that he would augment his nuclear weapons capability ‘at the fastest possible speed.’ In September came the law mandating a nuclear counterattack if he is ever threatened. Perhaps most important, Kim has rejected any possibility of giving up his nuclear weapons. ‘We have drawn the line of no retreat regarding our nuclear weapons so there will no longer be any bargaining over them,’ he said in a September speech. ‘There will never be ... denuclearization.’"
- “Kim is indisputably right about one thing. Russia and China are seeking a new world system to replace the U.S.-led ‘rules-based order,’ as Biden calls it. Ukraine is the main front where that battle is being waged, but it isn't the only one.”
Iran and its nuclear program:
- No significant developments.
Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:
- No significant developments.
Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:
- “While it is difficult to determine how the war will end, it is possible to estimate how Russia’s forces may adapt, beyond threat of escalation. One such area concerns Russia’s naval forces in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, where despite successful Ukrainian attacks, Moscow still retains critical advantages.”
- “These advantages could enable Russia to pursue a bastion strategy, wherein the Russian navy operates from relatively safe coastal areas, well-defended from outside attack, and uses these areas to launch long-range attacks into Ukraine on critical infrastructure. If Ukraine is able to push Russian-occupation forces further out of the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and Donetsk regions, Moscow may intensify its use of the Black Sea as a strategic buffer to protect Crimea.”
- “Russia has the means and the equipment to use naval strength to support current operations in Ukraine and to be able to coerce Kyiv even if hostilities end. The West should consider how to hold Russian naval targets at risk, when debating the types of weapons it provides the Ukrainian armed forces.”
- “Depending on how far Ukraine repels Russian forces, the West should reconsider its delivery of naval-relevant weapons to Kyiv. This could start with greater inflows of anti-ship missiles such as the Harpoon, but it can also mean training Ukraine armed forces to use micro-torpedoes from the growing stocks of patrol vessels they are likely to receive in future.”
“Putin’s nuclear threats may hint at an electromagnetic pulse strike,” former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Roger Pardo-Maurer, FT, 11.09.22. Russia’s 2014 Military Doctrine and 2020 Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence contain no references to electromagnetic pulse.1
- “A relatively small nuclear EMP, easily deployed at high altitude by Russia’s hypersonic Zircon cruise missiles, might not destroy any buildings or kill anybody. But it could permanently disable electrical circuits over thousands of square miles of Ukrainian territory.”
- “What is perhaps most concerning is that Russia and NATO have such different approaches to these weapons. Under Russian military doctrine, EMP strikes are a branch of information, cyber and electronic warfare rather than nuclear warfare. This lowers the bar and may render EMPs even more tempting to Putin’s beleaguered generals.”
- “So, what next?”
- “First, we must warn Russia that an EMP strike against Ukraine—even if it is localized—would cross the nuclear threshold and trigger a collective defense response from NATO.”
- “Second, we should help the Ukrainian military prepare.”
- “Finally, we must rethink our objectives. If Putin is indeed contemplating the use of a tactical EMP, then what is at stake is not just Ukraine’s liberty but the very future of warfare. If we yield to the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail, there is a risk that other countries will follow its lead: China and North Korea already have EMP capabilities. The situation in Ukraine offers a keyhole glimpse to a potentially more dangerous and uncertain future. We cannot afford to lose this fight.”
- “Soon we might find out the approximate scale of the losses of the Russian army on the right bank [of the Dnieper], while the whole picture will become clear only later. But the consequences of the Russian defeat—which shouldn’t be considered surprising in light of the failures of the Russian army back in March-April—are much bigger than it seems to many right now.”
- “Ukraine is liberating (taking back) half of Kherson Region and the only regional capital that the Russian army managed to capture since the beginning of the war.”
- “The strategic danger of a Russian bridgehead on the right bank will be eliminated.”
- “The Ukrainians won’t let the Russian army across the Dnieper anymore.”
- “The Ukrainian army can now reduce two groupings (Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih) down to one (Kherson), considerably scaling down the density of troops, especially scarce assault units and armored vehicles.”
- “Russia, meanwhile, will need to have on the 300-km-long front not only ‘posts’ and reserves to stop a landing, but a system of fortifications to be built from scratch… Overall, it will be much more difficult for the Russian army to transfer troops to the Zaporizhzhia front than for Ukraine.”
- “Residents of Kakhovka, Nova Kakhovka, Oleshky, Hola Prystan and other cities and villages along the left bank will have to be resettled, and all economic activity there stopped.”
- “This could set up potentially the most ‘gainful’ Ukrainian operation of the war, i.e., a breakthrough in the Hulyaipole or Vuhledar area, opening the way to Berdyansk.”
- “In the first, Russia snatches victory from the jaws of defeat. Russia’s army stabilizes the front lines over the winter months, while building new battalions with freshly mobilized recruits. Meanwhile, Republicans in America block new arms packages for Ukraine, as supplies from Europe run out. Russia’s defense industry is starved of semiconductors and specialized equipment, but churns out enough basic armor and artillery to equip the new forces.”
- “Far more likely is a second scenario: stalemate.”
- “The third scenario is the most encouraging—and perhaps the most dangerous. Ukraine keeps the initiative and the momentum, inflicting heavy damage on Russian forces as they leave Kherson and then bringing its long-range HIMARS rockets within range of Crimea for the first time. … Ukraine moves its HIMARS rocket launchers into the south, targeting ports, bases and depots in Russian-occupied Crimea. Ukraine threatens to enter the peninsula. Mr. Putin issues an ultimatum: Stop, or face the use of nuclear weapons. Victory is within sight. But so, too, are the risks that it brings.”
- “One Rubicon not so far crossed in Ukraine is to use drones autonomously, allowing them to identify and destroy targets without human command. They are not the biggest cause of deaths; artillery and tanks are. But drone technology is already starting to be married with artificial intelligence, opening up a nightmarish future of armies of ‘killer robots.’ A U.N. body has drawn up guidelines and worked on a potential embargo on such weapons.”
- “China, the U.S. and others seem unlikely ever to accept a ban, fearing their adversaries would press on with such technologies regardless. The best hope may be for conventions that limit how they may be used, just as anti-personnel landmines are officially banned but anti-tank mines are not. Sadly, Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine are only the latest demonstration that conventions in warfare are often honored more in the breach than the observance.”
Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:
- “Dual-use components are one of the most complicated items in the strategic trade field. These items have both legitimate civilian and military applications, ranging from ball bearings to dental drills.”
- “That Russian export ban that the U.K. implemented in 2014? Inquiries led by the House of Commons revealed that more than 200 export licenses continued under then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s government, including components for military helicopters, surface-launched rockets, and surface-to-surface missiles.”
- “Similarly, there’s been little attention on the Dutch contribution to Russian military activity. … In 2021, Dutch companies exported more than €5 billion worth of goods to Russia. The most important good for two-thirds of the companies involved in this trade is semiconductor components, a class of goods that was directly traced to the Ukrainian battlefield.”
- “Germany faces a similar questionable engagement with dual-use goods. Local media reports from earlier this year stated that Germany exported $134 million worth of military equipment between 2014 and 2020 despite the EU export ban. Further investigation tied German components to Russian drones and revealed the German government’s active approval of dual-use export licenses despite EU restrictions.”
- “The U.S. also faces issues with maintaining control of these goods. In 2015, a Texas-based technology company shipped radiation-hardened microelectronics to Russia via Bulgaria. More recently, the Biden administration uncovered a network that provided sensitive military technologies to Russia for use in Ukraine.”
- “Export controls are one of the best tools the world has for stifling proliferation, limiting the destructive capabilities of terrorist organizations, and inhibiting the ability of states to fuel conventional conflict. Effective export controls are complicated, and there are risk trade-offs that must be evaluated when engaging in business abroad. But the invasion has revealed clear gaps—and they need to be filled in.”
- “Military support for Ukraine is essential … to shift the balance of forces and to bring about a ‘window of opportunity’ for real cease-fire negotiations. Only so can it be credibly argued that it is Kyiv’s decision when and on what terms talks can resume. It would be desirable to return to the Istanbul Communiqué, but that path is blocked by the Russian annexations in September. Economic sanctions must also be tightened. For example, since Russia’s partial mobilization Western enterprises still operating there have been required to support state recruitment efforts. That must be ended.”
- “Cease-fire talks are more a medium-term perspective. And a lasting peace between Ukraine and Russia—in the sense of more than the cessation of military violence—is only conceivable in the long term, if at all. It will require … profound political change in Russia. That makes negotiations, if they ever begin, all the more tricky and complex. A cease-fire must be internationally secured and monitored. Plans are already being drawn up for the required international mission and … associated measures. That must be … coordinated among the Western allies and Kyiv. Security guarantees for Ukraine are an elementary part of that process.”
- “It will remain impossible to isolate Russia internationally, as actors like China, India and Turkey will continue to derive benefits from close relations with Moscow. German and European diplomacy should nevertheless seek discussion on every single issue where common interests can be identified. That applies above all to the danger of nuclear escalation, which is likely to worry Beijing and New Delhi, too, and to Russia’s imperialist attempts to acquire Ukrainian territory, which [pose problems for Turkey]… the largest Black Sea littoral power… Talks with Moscow about the danger of nuclear escalation must also continue. But that cannot mean giving in to Russian nuclear blackmail. Instead the West must … deter Russia from a spiral of escalation.”
- “Peace for Ukraine is a long way off. As the talks to date demonstrate, Moscow’s belligerence and its dismissive attitude to talks represent the biggest obstacles to a diplomatic solution. But Germany and its partners—in close coordination with Kyiv—can already prepare for the moment when talks do become possible again.”
- “This [Russian-Ukrainian] war will not go on forever. And it’s in the peace, rather than the fighting, that the tensions in Europe will become clear.”
- “There are three distinct camps when it comes to thinking about how this war should end: the realists, the optimists and the revisionists.”
- “The so-called realists believe that Europe’s goal should be that Russia does not win, Ukraine does not lose and the war fails to broaden.”
- “[T]he optimists … see the end of war as not just Ukrainian victory but the end of Vladimir Putin.”
- “Revisionists see the war in Ukraine not as Mr. Putin’s war but as Russians’ war. For them, the only guarantee for peace and stability in Europe after this war ends would be the irreversible weakening of Russia, including the disintegration of the Russian Federation.”
- “When Russian troops were on the outskirts of Kyiv, the differences between realists, optimists and revisionists were not critical. The only goal was to prevent Ukraine from being overrun and Mr. Putin from winning a victory. But the triumphs of the Ukrainian Army over recent months have brought these differences closer to the center of the European debate. It is the diverging views of how the war should end, rather than Mr. Putin’s threats, that is the real risk for European unity. We will feel this already in the winter when public pressure to start negotiations with Moscow will increase.”
Great Power rivalry/new Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:
- “Trump-inclined Republicans say Ukraine is not an American war. There should be ‘no blank check’ says Kevin McCarthy, tipped to be speaker if Republicans take control of the House. He does so knowing this is an increasingly popular stance in his party. Last March, after the invasion, only 6% of Republicans thought the U.S. was doing ‘too much’ to support Kyiv. Today (according to a Wall Street Journal poll) 48% think American aid is excessive. Here's JD Vance, Republican [senator elect for] … Ohio: ‘I think we're at the point where we've given enough money in Ukraine, I really do.’ His crowd-pleasing logic: If the U.S. did less, Europeans would have to do more.”
- “In fact, if the U.S. wound back its support for Kyiv, the waverers in Europe would also do less. War fatigue in Europe already takes many forms including, increasingly, complaints about the financial strain of housing so many refugees.”
- “To keep Western support alive Zelensky will have to do more. First, demonstrate the effectiveness of the Western weaponry. ‘American taxpayers deserve to know their money is helping Ukraine beat back Russia effectively,’ said Louisiana's Republican senator John Kennedy last May.”
- “The issue of Ukrainian corruption has to be addressed if only to fend off a Russian disinformation campaign which has been churning out stories of weapons trafficking. … It's not impossible, in the chaos of war and the difficulty of tracking light weapons, that some have indeed been diverted into the international arms bazaar. After all, before the war Ukraine sat rather low in the global corruption league tables.”
- “The war may slow down a little over the winter and become, until the spring fighting season resumes in 2023, a battle of competing narratives in which the Kremlin poses as a frustrated seeker of peace. This has to be resisted. It will only steer national conversations in the U.S. and Europe toward a rotten compromise with Putin and a dismantling of the Ukrainian state.”
- “[T]he West is facing a new Berlin blockade moment, and it should channel the same determination to prevent Putin from destroying Ukraine that it mustered with the Berlin airlift. The United States and Europe must act now to ensure that Ukraine survives the winter by adopting a variety of measures, including additional financial assistance, equipment to restore power and heat and air defense systems to protect Ukraine’s infrastructure… Sufficient aid to Ukraine will ensure that the country can emerge from a daunting winter battered but primed for recovery, just as West Berlin did in 1949.”
- “The money the West is sending to Ukraine is just as important as the weapons systems being delivered. Absent the injection of $8.5 billion from Washington, Ukraine would have gone bankrupt overnight. Thanks in part to such aid, the country’s banking system, railways, and hospitals continue to function. … Alas, as Ukraine enters the winter … support in the United States is starting to buckle.”
- “Some Republicans, such as Victoria Spartz, the Ukrainian-born Indiana congresswoman, have raised the specter of corruption in Kyiv. There can be no doubting that the Ukrainian government has a long history of peculation, but in the case of budgetary support during the war, it has worked hard to be a good citizen. … [Absent] actual evidence of fraud, arguments against sending aid that cite Ukrainian corruption are nothing more than convenient excuses to do nothing and let Moscow triumph.”
- “Money is scarcely the only problem confronting Kyiv. Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have led to blackouts across the country. The government is requesting that its citizens voluntarily turn off their electricity and mandating rolling blackouts [to repair power stations]. … The Kremlin clearly hopes that through its bombing campaign it can weaponize refugees. … Ultimately, the best way to protect Ukraine’s energy systems and its civilian population is to send air defense systems.”
- “Putin’s attempts to bully Europe on the energy front are failing… But Putin continues to hope that Western publics will tire of the conflict and push their governments to concede to his demands. For Washington and its allies, however, failure in Ukraine would simply mean confronting him again on another European battlefield. The faster the West aids Ukraine, the more quickly it can stymie Putin’s ambitions.”
- “Today, as Russia’s tattered army appears to retreat from Kherson in the south, an end to the fighting still seems far off. But news that Ukraine and its backers are starting to outline their views of the future makes sense, because the coming months will determine what is possible at the decade’s end. It means thinking about how to rebuild post-war Ukraine, and the security guarantees needed to deter future invaders.”
- “The West needs to see that spending many billions of dollars in Ukraine is not an act of charity, but of self-preservation. In recent decades, Russia has started a war on its borders every few years. Mr. Putin sees today’s conflict as a clash of civilizations between Russia and the West. Half-hearted Western support of Ukraine will not appease him; nor will it lead to the rebuilding of relations with Russia, as some Europeans hope. On the contrary, it will convince him that the West is decadent and vulnerable. If Mr. Putin creates a failed state in Ukraine, NATO members will be the next targets of his aggression. Ukraine’s dream of victory would ensure lasting peace for its 43 million inhabitants. It would also ensure peace for countless more people across Europe.”
- “As Russia’s military troubles mount in Ukraine, it’s also becoming more isolated internationally as organizations affiliated with the United Nations purge Moscow’s representatives from leadership positions.”
- “The General Assembly, the closest thing to a global parliament, has condemned Russia’s assault on Ukraine twice by overwhelming margins.”
- “Doreen Bogdan-Martin, an American, was elected secretary-general of the ITU [U.N. International Telecommunications Union] in September, winning 139-25. A challenge from Rashid Ismailov, a Russian former deputy minister of communications, collapsed after the invasion of Ukraine.”
- “At the ITU’s September-October meeting in Bucharest, Russia failed to win a seat on the group’s 48-member council, its 12-member Radio Regulations Board or any of its three oversight bureaus.”
- “Russia’s other internet initiatives have also stalled. Moscow’s plan to write a new U.N. pact to replace the 2001 Budapest Convention on Cybercrime is on hold.”
- “Last month, Russia lost an election to retain its seat on the governing council of the International Civil Aviation Organization.”
- “The world will be looking to us to ensure the stability of international markets and to put the global economy back on the path to growth. … [W]e must deliver. And we must not let Russia, as the chief architect of the current global economic strife, stand in our way.”
- “With its invasion of Ukraine, Russia launched an assault on the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter. That is why the U.K. is committed to backing Ukraine to the hilt. It is why we have provided more defensive equipment to Ukraine than any other European country has—and why we appreciate the vast resources the U.S. has committed to this fight for freedom.”
- “Our collective economic security has been threatened by this war. So we need to get on with the job that the G-20 was created to do, in stewarding the global economy through the turbulence this act of aggression.”
- “There are five points where we need to see action at the G-20 this week.”
- “First, we must deliver support where it’s needed most, prioritizing the vulnerable at home and around the world.”
- “Second, we must end the weaponization of food production and distribution.”
- “Third, we must strengthen our energy security and reduce our dependence on Russia.”
- “Fourth, we must open up global trade and protect it from those who seek to monopolize or manipulate markets.”
- “Fifth, we must provide honest, reliable investment to help developing countries grow while also protecting them from attempts to make them dependent on their lenders.”
China-Russia: Allied or aligned?
- No significant developments.
- No significant developments.
Nuclear arms control:
- “CIA director Bill Burns has warned Russia against using nuclear weapons in the first known in-person meeting between senior officials of the two countries since President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Burns delivered his warning at a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Naryshkin in Ankara, Turkey, on Monday [Nov. 14], the U.S. said.”
- “U.S. officials have expressed concerns that Putin could use a tactical nuclear weapon or other weapon of mass destruction on the battlefield, particularly as Russian forces continue to face military setbacks.”
- “Losing Kherson—which Russia has tried to frame as a ‘maneuver’ rather than a humiliating withdrawal—is one of the biggest setbacks for Moscow yet… Russian forces retreated from Kherson last week, depriving Putin of the only regional capital seized during the nine-month invasion. The Russian president is also facing the prospect of losing a territory he annexed in a ceremony in the Kremlin in September. When he announced the annexation, Putin said Moscow would use ‘all the means at its disposal’ to protect its new territories—and made veiled threats to use nuclear weapons to do so.”
- “When it comes to nuclear weapons, Russia’s recent doctrinal documents and official statements are quite consistent in describing the conditions under which the country could resort to using these weapons. The problem is, as I have noted when researching Vladimir Putin’s nuclear rhetoric, that he has been increasingly willing to expand these conditions in the context of his war in Ukraine. The Russian leader’s loose talk on nukes even has Russia’s long-term strategic partners such as India and China worried. But will their admonishments suffice to restrain Putin’s nuclear saber rattling? I would not bet on it.”
- “[According to official Russian statements Russia can] ‘hypothetically resort to nuclear weapons exclusively in response to an aggression involving the use of weapons of mass destruction or an aggression with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.’”
- “Yet … Putin has lately not been feeling obligated to constrain himself to the language on conditions for nuclear weapons use outlined in the official Russian documents. … [On Sept. 21 and Oct. 28 he hinted at two conditions for nuclear weapons use that are not explicitly cited] in Russia’s publicly available strategic documents[:] … preventing the loss of territorial integrity and protecting Russian people.”
- “[Putin] has probably purposefully engaged in … a broad interpretation of the doctrinal … conditions for a first nuclear strike… [This] could be meant to deter Ukraine from trying to retake its lands, while also coercing Kyiv (and its Western allies) to concede to negotiations.”
- “Admonishments on loose nuclear talk from Beijing and New Delhi will probably not suffice to stop Putin from rattling his nuclear saber … [but they] may help convince Putin that if there is something that can unite not just the collective West but also China, India and most of the rest of the world in viewing him as a profound threat to international security, it would be a first nuclear strike, especially … in response to the ‘new conditions’ he has come up with.”
- “U.S. policymakers must pursue multiple avenues to lessen the danger. The United States’ own nuclear deterrent must be credible and reliable, and Washington should not give up on arms control over the long run, however unlikely the prospects at the moment. Defense officials must fully explore and address the complications posed by new capabilities, like cyber and antisatellite weapons, for nuclear deterrence. And the administration should continue to make clear that any nuclear use by Russia would cross a Rubicon, resulting in the catastrophic consequences it has publicly promised.”
- “How precisely to impose those consequences if Moscow crosses the nuclear threshold in Ukraine is not an easy question. The same steps that would punish Russia could provoke further escalation. But two things are clear.”
- “The first is that if, in the nightmare scenario where Russia detonates a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, merely imposing costs will not be enough. … [The United Sates would need to become] more involved in supporting Ukraine in its war effort, not less. It need not mean direct American military action against Russia, but it likely means all steps short of it.”
- “The second is that 60 years have passed since the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world ever came to the kind of nuclear Armageddon that Biden has warned about. Only by facing the brink of disaster did leaders internalize how catastrophic any nuclear use would be, how the employment of even one weapon would change the world for the worse, and how unpredictable—and potentially uncontrollable—could be a climb up the escalatory ladder. Today the world remains, thankfully, a long way from that brink. The worry is that we will edge slowly closer to it. Leaders should remember the terror of staring into the nuclear abyss and stay far, far away from it.”
- No significant developments.
Conflict in Syria:
- No significant developments.
- See “Great Power rivalry” section above and “Russia’s domestic policies” section below.
Energy exports from CIS:
- No significant developments.
- “The energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has certainly provided a sharp reminder to European consumers, and governments, that hydrocarbons still provide more than 80% of the continent’s energy needs.”
- “But the sudden turn of events has also made the risks of reliance on hydrocarbon imports glaringly evident. As a result, the prospect of shifting to low-carbon sources of supply has become more attractive.”
- “Wind and solar are, for now at least, both cheaper providers of electricity than imported gas. Using power produced locally also reduces the discomfort of dependence on unreliable trading partners. The energy transition and the cause of energy security have merged into one. Not surprisingly, the growth of investment in wind and solar supplies of electricity is the dominant trend.”
- “In a climate characterized by inflation and austerity, there is little prospect of any serious response to the cries from emerging economies for climate justice. Nor, too, can we expect a rush to provide the new funding for energy transition in the world’s poorer countries that will be demanded at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.”
- “Climate policy remains an important focus for leaders across the continent. Optimists can only hope that, once economic stability is restored, they will realize that delivering a clean Europe in a dirty world achieves nothing.”
U.S.-Russian economic ties:
- No significant developments.
U.S.-Russian relations in general:
- “As the U.S. midterm elections were proceeding on Nov. 9, there were media reports that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was anxiously monitoring the results, for fear that electoral shifts in the United States might spell the end of military support for Ukraine. While such reports might make good copy, Ukraine was in no real danger. Despite the appearance of intractable partisan divisions in Washington, opposition to Russia and support for Ukraine is one of the few issues to enjoy deep and robust bipartisan support.”
- “It is important not to confuse political sniping … or posturing on Ukraine … with substantive policy shifts.”
- “What is striking is the extent to which the Kremlin also miscalculated. The prevailing assumption seems to have been that increased Western economic hardship sustained as a result of siding with Ukraine and sanctioning Russia would create domestic political pressure for a change in course.”
- “[In Washington] authorizations passed in recent bills mandating support to Ukraine, added to longer-term provisions locking in sanctions on Russia, ensure that there will be no substantial change in U.S. policy for the next six to nine months.”
- “[W]hat the midterm elections have not resolved is the question of next steps. … [I]f the conflict stalemates on the battlefield, … the divide may begin to grow between those who will want to cajole Ukraine into accepting a compromise settlement versus those who wish to continue aiding Ukraine to achieve a complete Russian defeat. … [By 2024, economic pressures and] a greater defense pivot toward Asia … may lead to a rebalancing of priorities regarding Ukraine and other challenges (both domestic and international).”
- “The results of the midterm elections, for all their ambiguity, speak of a personal victory for Joe Biden. The president, whom many were already ready to write off as a clear ‘lame duck,’ received two more years to implement his plans and programs; given the current alignment of forces, the Republicans in Congress are unlikely to be able to confidently block initiatives coming from the executive branch. Accordingly, the likelihood that President Biden will still run for a second term in 2024 has significantly increased if his health does not fail.”
- “But Donald Trump, despite all his post-election triumphant rhetoric, is faring worse. Of course, the strengthened Republicans in the new Congress will try to stop the investigations being carried out against the former president. But the recent elections were not only a referendum on Biden, but also a test of Trump's popularity. Now his prospects as the sole and undisputed leader of the Republicans are in question: Many of the ex-president's henchmen have been defeated in the swing states. It is possible that Trump will have a tough fight with the triumphantly re-elected governor of Florida, Republican Ron DeSantis (DeSantis is more than three decades younger than Trump).”
- “But the main outcome of the midterm elections is not the victories of some American politicians and the defeats of others. The vote showed that America remains a divided society, and this split, which has been marked for a long time, continues to deepen. And neither the Republicans nor the Democrats yet have a coherent strategy that allows them to hope to overcome it in the foreseeable future.”
II. Russia’s domestic policies
Domestic politics, economy and energy:
- “As with the Soviet Union under Stalin, one gets the impression that Russia today has no alternative to Putin. This means that there is no alternate path to anything he says or does: it seems that it is useless to oppose him. Russia’s elites must act according to this logic. Like elites under Stalin, they will simply have to wait for the tyrant to meet his end, hoping that he will somehow disappear before he has time to fire or imprison them. This is why Putin’s constituents take such an interest in his health. In Stalin’s era, the health status of the dictator was less known, but those associates and apparatchiks who were close to him in his final years understood that he was unwell… He tested his comrades in arms by suggesting that he should replace himself with a younger leader, and at the same time, he actually introduced relatively young careerists into the governing bodies.”
- “Putin could follow a similar path, and in part he already has, especially at the regional level, where he has given governorships to ardent young loyalists. But although he is approaching the age of Stalin at his death, Putin appears healthier and seems to have more time than Stalin did in the early 1950s. Nonetheless, there is a crucial lesson here for Putin: Hatred for and fear of Stalin during his last years were so strong that, when he suffered his final stroke, in the hours when he possibly could still be saved, his closest associates did not come to his aid; and in his agony, he died practically alone. Putin looks stronger than ever today. But at the same time, it is unclear who might save him if ever he lost that strength. Like Stalin in his later years.”
- “Putin has driven himself into a very tight corner. In his dark messianic bubble, there are only two options: to win or to perish. Yet it is almost certain that the Ukrainians and the West will deny Putin the victory he covets. This leaves him without an acceptable option. Like a sleepwalker, Putin walks only forward, without bothering anymore to look for any exit way.”
- “It is equally plausible that any future leader, who would probably come from Putin’s inner circle or from the lower-level bureaucracy, would look for such an exit.”
- “Russian aggressive imperialists and Russian anti-imperialists may be sharply divided, but they agree on one thing: If Russia retreats and accepts defeat in Ukraine, its future will be no better than life under Western sanctions. There will be no reservoir of sympathy for a future Russian liberal reformer in the West.”
- “Putin wanted to bond Russian elites by blood and make sure that his successors would not be able to extricate themselves from the Ukrainian ‘conquests’ without unacceptable damage to their authority.”
- “Many Russians, in their grim fatalism, may still decide that fighting is their only option. The flight from Putin today may turn into a Ukrainian victory and the demise of his regime. Yet Russian history always has another option in store. Despair and outrage at Russian defeats and the disorganized draft may transform into a long-term determination, grim prospects, and a fatalist stance as seen so many times in Russian history.”
- “For years, Russian entrepreneur Yevgeny Prigozhin supported President Vladimir Putin's foreign military interventions from the shadows with his Wagner paramilitary group. Now, the man known as ‘Putin's chef’ for his Kremlin-linked catering business is leveraging his fighters' prominence on the battlefield to boost his influence over the military and in the Kremlin. Analysts say Wagner's expanded role exposes the haplessness of Russia's war effort.”
- “While Mr. Prigozhin was reliant on the Kremlin for money to create and run Wagner, his current moves are aimed at working ‘to build an independent power base and shape the conduct of Russia's invasion of Ukraine,’ said the Institute for the Study of War. ‘Putin's dependency on Prigozhin's forces around Bakhmut … allows Prigozhin privileges such as voicing his criticisms of the Kremlin or the Russian Armed Forces without significant ramifications,’ the assessment from ISW said.”
- “Mr. Prigozhin has denied any political ambitions, but recent weeks have seen him expand the scope of his operations to the Russian regions bordering Ukraine. The group's training camps will serve to prepare local residents in case the war in Ukraine comes to Russian soil, he said.”
- “Russia's online censorship agency Roskomnadzor has been monitoring online protest activities since 2020. In every Russian region, local branches of Roskomnadzor trace ‘points of tension,’ or events that could cause public discontent. Their primary goal is to identify local troublemakers, whose names they then share with the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Interior Ministry to ensure they are punished.”
- “Part of the Ministry of Digital Development and thus not officially a law enforcement agency at all, Roskomnadzor was created to ensure that telecom companies complied with license requirements. However, it now acts as an element of Russia's security apparatus.”
- “Since the invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has enlisted the assistance of not only government agencies with no traditional role in law enforcement, but also private telecom companies, effectively making them into arms of the security services.”
- “While the Kremlin's determination to root out dissent during wartime may have expedited this process to a degree, in a country that has for years been showing increasingly authoritarian tendencies, this development appears to have been inevitable, with or without the invasion of Ukraine.”
Defense and aerospace:
- See section on “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:
- “After Moscow withdrew from the Ukrainian grain deal, it took Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan just two days to get Russia to return to the agreement and abandon the idea of blocking the export of Ukrainian grain. The speed of this reversal shows just how much Ankara’s influence on Moscow has grown in the last eight months.”
- “At the beginning of this year, Turkey needed its partnership with Russia more than Russia did. Russians made up the bulk of tourists vacationing in Turkish resorts (about 4 million in the first nine months of this year), and Turkish diplomats were begging Moscow to lift sanctions on Turkish agricultural produce… All of that changed with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The trade turnover between Russia and Turkey doubled in the first nine months of this year from the year before to reach $47 billion [placing Turkey in the top three or four of Russia’s trade partners].”
- “Tech goods saw particularly stratospheric growth: Russia now depends on Turkey for equipment maintenance and other manufacturing processes, since tech imports to Russia from the rest of the world—including China—have fallen significantly. Turkey appears to have become a trans-shipment hub for deliveries of tech goods from Europe. … Having declined to join Western sanctions against Russia, Turkey has become the only remaining window to Europe for Russian companies and individuals. … Turkstream is now the only route for transporting Russian gas to Europe that is fully controlled by Moscow… Now Moscow and Ankara have started discussing the creation of a gas hub in Turkey.”
- “Russian demand for various goods and tech imports is growing… As a result, Moscow will increasingly have to pay heed to its few remaining partners, taking into account their interests…, and paying a political price at home, as well as a financial cost. The message from those partners to Putin is loud and clear: now ‘is not a time for war,’ and the conflict with Kyiv has already dragged on for too long.”
- “Moscow now hopes that the new socialist president [Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva]—one of the BRICS founders during his previous presidency from 2003 to 2010—will work alongside Putin to create a multipolar world, and that he will strengthen Brazil’s role as Russia’s principal economic partner in the Western hemisphere.”
- “The prospects of developing bilateral relations do look promising: Russia recently became Brazil’s fifth largest foreign trade partner, up from eleventh just a year ago. Yet Russian hopes for closer cooperation under an anti-U.S. banner are clearly exaggerated. Brazil certainly aspires to the role of a regional leader but doesn’t believe that should necessarily entail confrontation with the West.”
- “One factor that might hinder the progress of Russian-Brazilian relations is public opinion in Brazil. Polls show that before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 28% of Brazilians had a negative view of Russia, but that soared to 59% in May. Only 6% of Brazilians back Russia in this conflict, while 62% side with Ukraine. Any democratic leader will have to take such a substantial disparity into account.”
- See other sections.
Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:
- No significant developments.
1Here and elsewhere italicized text represents contextual commentary by RM staff.