Russia Analytical Report, Oct. 31-Nov. 7, 2022

7 Ideas to Explore

  1. China goes public with its concerns over Russia’s conduct in Ukraine to warn against use of nuclear weapons. The international community should “oppose the use of or the threat to use nuclear weapons, advocate that nuclear weapons cannot be used and that nuclear wars must not be fought and prevent a nuclear crisis in Eurasia,” Chinese leader Xi Jinping said Nov. 4, according to Xinhua. The comment is the first rebuke of its kind attributed to the Chinese leader since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, WSJ reported. During a meeting with Xi on Sept. 15, Putin publicly acknowledged that China had concerns over Ukraine crisis, but it was not until November that Xi confirmed these concerns as well as specified them. In contrast, India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh explicitly told Sergei Shoigu in October that “the nuclear option should not be resorted to by any side” in the Ukraine conflict, as the use of nuclear or radiological weapons “goes against the basic tenets of humanity.”1
  2. The Biden administration is privately encouraging Ukraine’s leaders to signal an openness to negotiate with Russia. However, the request is not aimed at pushing Ukraine to the negotiating table, “people familiar with the discussions” told WP. Rather, they called it a calculated attempt to ensure the government in Kyiv maintains the support of other nations. Due to Washington's “new cold war cancel culture,” when and if a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine becomes possible, U.S. congressmen will be wary of endorsing it, according to CUNY’s Peter Beinart. The uproar over the letter by progressive members of Congress to Biden in support of a negotiated settlement of the Ukraine conflict exemplifies that culture, Beinart writes for NYT.
  3. Russia’s growing dependence on Iran for economic and battlefield support means the West cannot expect help from Moscow on the JCPOA, according to Hanna Notte of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. “The Kremlin prefers protracted uncertainty over the fate of JCPOA to either a successful deal or its formal collapse. But …. should Western states declare the deal dead, Russia will likely try to protect Iran against any consequences,” Notte writes for War on the Rocks. That said, a number of factors will continue to hinder Russian-Iranian cooperation, including the limitations of Iran’s economic and technological capacities, according to Nikita Smagin of the Russian International Affairs Council.
  4. While working to constrain Russia to prevent it from aggression, the U.S. and its allies should keep in mind their shared interest in stabilizing the relationship with Moscow, according to Andrea Kendall-Taylor of the Center for a New American Security and Michael Kofman of the Center for Naval Analyses. Whether Russia is in decline or not, Washington cannot afford to write it off “in an effort to ease its own mind, nor should it imagine that Europe can manage the problem on its own,” Kendall-Taylor and Kofman write for FA.
  5. Putin is more likely to be brought down by the collapse of his regime rather than by a coup, according to UCLA’s Daniel Treisman. “Putin has rigged the system with numerous tripwires to prevent” a coup, such as competition among security agencies and the lack of mutual trust among the leaders of these agencies, Treisman writes in FA. In contrast, Putin’s regime is more vulnerable than ever to another threat: “a paralyzing meltdown as accumulating crises overwhelm the Kremlin’s decision-making capacity,” in Treisman’s view.
  6. Some of Russia’s most outspoken hawks, such as Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin and former president Dmitry Medvedev, are trying to push Putin down “a narrow corridor of escalation” in Ukraine, according to independent Russian analyst Alexandra Prokopenko. There are no signs, however, that the Russian autocrat is listening to them, Prokopenko claims. Turning citations in the media into real influence was not easy during peacetime in the Russian autocracy, never mind in wartime, she writes for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  7. Belarus’ direct involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian war would lead to the complete loss of its sovereignty, warns Maxim Samorukov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “If Moscow succeeds in enmeshing Belarusians in the fighting, the swift decimation of the under-equipped Belarusian army will lead to a major destabilization at home, prompting Russia to swallow up Belarus once and for all,” Samorukov writes for his organization.

 

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:

“Don’t Expect Any More Russian Help on the Iran Nuclear Deal,” Hanna Notte of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, War on the Rocks, 11.03.22.

  • “Russia’s position on Iran’s nuclear program has always lagged behind its confrontation with the West. Before the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow actively supported diplomatic efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. After the invasion, Russia initially disrupted these efforts, but soon reverted to a more neutral stance. Now, with Moscow becoming ever more dependent on Tehran for economic and battlefield support, Russia’s attitude will likely become increasingly unhelpful. This is bad news for U.S. efforts to restore the Iran nuclear deal and bad news for the cause of global nonproliferation more broadly.”
  • “The Kremlin prefers protracted uncertainty over the fate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to either a successful deal or its formal collapse. But should it prove impossible to continue diplomacy after the U.S. midterm elections, and should Western states declare the deal dead, Russia will likely try to protect Iran against any consequences. It will probably shield Tehran at the U.N. Security Council, attempt to complicate Western efforts to ‘snap back’ U.N. sanctions, and provide Iran with more advanced air defense systems and other weapons. Such steps will undoubtedly put Moscow further at odds not only with Western capitals, but also Israel and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. But from Moscow’s perspective, Russia cannot afford to leave Iran out in the cold as it continues its struggle with the West.” 

“Comrades-in-Sanctions: Can Iran Help Russia Weather the Economic Storm?”, Nikita Smagin of Russian International Affairs Council, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 11.04.22. Clues from Russian Views

  • “There are areas in which Iran could fill a niche on the Russian market, such as pharmaceuticals, construction materials and cosmetics. But the potential for development is hardly unlimited... The potential for cooperation in certain areas, like military technology, may look promising.”
  • “Iran will [not] be able to compensate the Russian economy for the losses incurred as a result of Western sanctions. Even if those forecasts for the growth in trade turnover are accurate, that is still less than 1% of Russia’s total foreign trade.”
  • “Implementing large-scale Russian state projects in Iran and making them cost-effective won’t be plain sailing. Tehran has a deficit of hard currency and has been battling a budget deficit for years. This has created problems for Moscow in the past: Iran has still not paid off its debts to Russia for building the Bushehr nuclear plant.”
  • “Any project may be further complicated by the various and growing waves of protests Iran has been seeing for the last eighteen months.”
  • “Another major obstacle to cooperation is that in Iran, Russia is still widely seen for historical reasons as a colonial power seeking to gain control over local resources. Polling shows that public opinion of Russia nosedived in Iran following the invasion of Ukraine.”

“Foreign Policy in the Midterms,” FP staff, Foreign Policy, 11.05.22.

  • “Robbie Gramer: The nuclear deal at this point is dead on arrival. Biden’s top Iran envoy just a couple of days ago said we’re not going to waste our time on the nuclear deal at this point... Iran has sort of put itself into a corner with another part of the Biden administration now on Europe, and it’s drawing the ire of all the Russia hawks. Russia is increasingly relying on Iranian drones and munitions to fund its flagging war efforts in Ukraine. And I think that’s really altering the calculus of the Biden administration of how much leeway they’re willing to give Iran in the negotiations on the nuclear deal.”
  • “Amy Mackinnon: My sense from speaking to Ukrainians is that they do feel that the support here in D.C. is very much bipartisan, and there is a good deal of confidence that the military aid that they have had thus far will continue. But the question of U.S. military aid to Ukraine is very much existential.”
  • “Amy Mackinnon: I think we’ll broadly see a continuation [on China]. One of the interesting things about the transition from the Trump to the Biden administration is, actually, there was a lot of continuity on China policy.”

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • No significant developments.

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“Wrong Lessons for Taiwan From the War in Ukraine,” Franz-Stefan Gady of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, FP, 11.02.22.

  • “Here are six wrong lessons for Taiwan from the war in Ukraine.”
  1. “No, there are no game-changing weapons systems.”
  2. “It is too early to say that the defense will dominate in a future great-power war.”
  3. “Commercial off-the-shelf technology is unlikely to play an outsized role in a great-power war.”
  4. “We should not assume that cyber-operations will only play a small role.”
  5. “Lighter, smaller, more mobile systems are unlikely to dominate the battle space in a future great-power war.”
  6. “No, Ukraine is not winning because it fights like ‘us.’”
  • “What are the implications of these debunked lessons for the United States and Taiwan?”
    • “First, the ability to conduct combined arms maneuvers will remain the litmus test for conventional combat power in the near and medium future.”
    • “Second, offensive capabilities, including counterstrike capabilities (for example, long-range missiles), will need to be maintained even for the defending side.”
    • “Third, the private sector will not offer panaceas for missing military hardware by providing, for example, command-and-control capabilities that can work under degraded conditions.”
    • “Fourth, the impact of cyber power should be not dismissed outright only because its effects appear minimal in Ukraine.”
    • “Fifth, the tank and other heavy weapon systems will be part of any future great-power war in the near and medium future—not least because the laws of physics limit how much military power can be projected with smaller and lighter systems.”
    • “Sixth, the ongoing war in Ukraine does not prove the superiority of NATO training nor NATO command philosophy. Such an assumption is based on preconceived notions of the superiority of Western military thinking over potential future Russian or Chinese adversaries without adequate data to back up these claims. The danger here is intellectual complacency. Rather, Western military planners need to rigidly examine the true lessons of the ongoing fight in Ukraine as objectively and ruthlessly as possible.”

“Ukraine’s Insurgency, Purposefully Limited in Aims and Size, Pokes Holes in Russian Occupation,” University of Ottawa’s Jean-François Ratelle, RM, 11.03.22.

  • “When Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, many experts predicted that Russian forces would encounter a campaign of guerilla warfare, including attacks against Russian troops. … [H]owever, the Ukrainian army, with massive Western support, has managed not only to repel Russian forces on the battlefield but to push them back in the east and, to a lesser extent, in the south. Because of Ukraine’s successes in regular warfare, guerilla resistance in occupied parts of the country has played a somewhat different role than anticipated and has attracted relatively little attention.”
  • “This article attempts to analyze the Ukrainian insurgency thus far. … The research has yielded several takeaways:”
    • “The insurgency has focused mainly on targeting pro-Russian collaborators and disrupting Russian military logistics, rather than engaging in head-on confrontations with Moscow’s forces. This appears to be a tactical choice, meant to support the regular warfare waged by the Ukrainian military.”
    • “Judging by available open-source evidence, the insurgent network in the south seems to be the most robust and key elements of the insurgency—such as weapons caches, for example—were put in place before the war, most likely by Ukraine’s security services and/or military, in anticipation of the Russian invasion.”
    • “While it is likely that insurgents maintain communication with representatives of a central command, cells seem to operate with a large degree of autonomy and not to coordinate or communicate laterally, probably to minimize the risk of exposure.”
    • “Though smaller in absolute figures than the domestic insurgency against Russia in the North Caucasus in the 1990s and 2000s, the Ukrainian insurgency has included a high share of assassination attempts in its activities, which, together with some other features, suggests a relatively strong insurgency, marked by professionalism and discipline.”

“Winter is Coming: Russia Turns to Countervalue Targeting,” RUSI’s Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds, RUSI, 11.01.22.

  • “For four weeks now, Ukraine has experienced a mixture of cruise missile and loitering
  • “After taking ground throughout August and September, the momentum of Ukrainian offensives in Kherson and Kharkiv is slowing, and Russia is now seeking to capitalize on this window of opportunity to exert maximum political pressure on the Ukrainian government by targeting its population. For both sides, the war has now shifted to a primarily unconventional stage that will shape the military options available in the spring.”
    • “For Ukraine, winter conditions will make the logistics for conventional operations to reclaim territory more difficult, while the lack of vegetation and other cover will make advances with limited armor risky.”
    • “For Russia, with demoralized forces and poorly prepared positions, the winter is likely to see a further slump in morale and significant casualties from exposure injuries.”
  • “Conversely, Russia is mobilizing large new unit  in preparation for a renewed spring offensive. For Ukraine, too, there is a need to generate new formations to seize and retain the initiative next year. For Russia, the aim is to divert Ukrainian efforts towards protecting the home front. For Ukraine, the main effort is to ensure Russian forces do not recover their cohesion or morale, and to disrupt the stabilization of Russian control in the occupied territories.”
  • “A ceasefire is tactically advantageous for Russia in stabilizing its control over the occupied territories, and fails to offer the prospect of the Kremlin reducing its aim of subjugating Ukraine or halting its coercive energy diplomacy against Western Europe.” 

“Kherson in Fog of War: Russia Seems Intent on Partial Retreat but at High Cost for Ukraine,” CNA’s Michael Kofman, RM, 11.04.22.

  • “A recent visit to Ukraine with several colleagues from the military analysis community, including areas near the front in Kherson, has left me with the following thoughts and impressions about the current course of the war. The general sense one gets is that Ukraine is winning and morale is high, but, as with any military operation, you see friction up close that you can’t from a distance. A fair bit of the Ukrainian effort comes from the ground up, based on horizontal linkages, volunteers, apps, etc.”
  • “Russia’s military appears at its most vulnerable going into the winter, but Ukraine has seen some modest impact from the Russian mobilization. Troops are being deployed to try to stabilize Russian lines and increase force density relative to terrain.”
  • “The situation in Kherson is clear as mud. Russian forces seemed to have withdrawn from some parts, evacuated and drew down, but also reinforced with mobilized personnel. The fighting there is difficult. Despite constrained supply, Russian forces do not appear to be out of ammo. … Ukrainians I spoke with seemed optimistic they can press Russia out of Kherson (west of the river) by the end of the year. There are outstanding questions about the Khakovka dam, and whether Russia might sabotage it upon withdrawal. This issue is more salient than talk of ‘dirty bombs.’”
  • “Overall, it seems unlikely that the war will die down over the winter, even if some months make offensive operations challenging. Ukraine will likely leverage its advantage in range and precision to attrit the Russian military over this period. Strikes across Ukraine are leading to blackouts and electricity conservation. Ukraine is resolving these blackouts quickly and, if anything, the bombardment campaign bolsters resolve, but over time the challenges from these strikes could mount, straining equipment and air-defense-system ammunition.”
  • “Russian strategy appears to be focused on defense over the winter, hoping that mobilization can rebuild their forces. If the pressure lets up, they will use the time to get more equipment out of storage (including from Belarus) and potentially ammo from sources like North Korea.”

"New Commander, New Goals for Russia in Ukraine,” Vladimir Frolov, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 11.01.22. Clues from Russian Views

  • “The appointment of Gen. Sergei Surovikin as the new commander of Russia’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, together with the elements of martial law announced by the Kremlin, gives some clues as to Russia’s medium-term military and political goals in Ukraine. Surovikin’s strategy and mandate can be summarized as switching to strategic defense on all fronts, with the possibility of diversionary attacks and local tactical offensives to improve Russia’s positions. Russia intends to build a solid and durable line of defense in the territories it has occupied in order to prevent any major breaches by the Ukrainian armed forces or any further shifts in the new borders.”
  • “Russia aims to put a stop to the intensive fighting before winter sets in, effectively freezing the conflict and retaining the territorial gains it has made so far. That is all the Russian command is capable of right now. Certainly there is no question of any new large-scale offensive into Ukrainian territory. Russia’s critical lack of modern military hardware prevents it from being able to launch offensives against its better-equipped enemy.”
  • “Moscow needs a lengthy pause in the fighting in order to rebuild combat-ready ground troops almost from scratch. … The poor level of the training and equipment given to newly mobilized troops means they cannot be used in offensive operations. But to hold and control the territory occupied by Russia behind the lines, even people with fifty-year-old AKM automatic rifles will do.”
  • “The new state-of-emergency laws introduced by the Kremlin in October are also aimed at being able to provide a strategic defense of the ‘captured objectives’ rather than all-out warfare to the bitter end. The economic and human mobilization should make it possible to continue the simmering ‘special military operation’ until 2023, nothing more.”

Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:

“How Russia Sees U.S. Sanctions,” Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov, NI, 11.03.22. Clues from Russian Views

  • “The number of sanctions rounds, as well as absolutely illegitimate unilateral restrictions, is already incalculable. Only the ‘blacklists’ related to Russia include more than 2,500 persons. Vague sectoral and trade restrictions constantly supplement direct bans.”
  • “U.S. authorities dismiss the obvious: sanctions are increasingly hitting the countries that introduce them. The same embargoes on Russian resource exports are accelerating record rates of inflation, leading to price hikes at local gas stations, and aggravating the difficulties with supply chains. According to U.S. businesses, a recession is imminent.”
  • “In turn, incessant bans on cooperation with Russian companies, including secondary sanctions, cause disruptions in the supply of products to world markets. On the losing end are the poorer nations, to which our inexpensive and high-quality products are essential for ensuring economic, food, and sometimes national security.”
  • “[We do not] exclude the importance of working with Western colleagues and economic organizations focused on Washington and its allies, such as the Bretton Woods institutions. However, we proceed from the fact that such a conversation should be based on mutual respect and a willingness to compromise and find a genuine balance of interests. This is the only way the international financial system will be able to rebuild itself, shake off the burden of the servant of the ‘golden billion’ and help pave the way for true sovereign development of all countries without exception. Russia will contribute to such efforts in every possible way.”

Ukraine-related negotiations:

“U.S. privately asks Ukraine to show it’s open to negotiate with Russia,” reporters Missy Ryan, John Hudson and Paul Sonne, WP, 11.05.22.

  • “The Biden administration is privately encouraging Ukraine’s leaders to signal an openness to negotiate with Russia and drop their public refusal to engage in peace talks unless President Vladimir Putin is removed from power, according to people familiar with the discussions.”
  • “The request by American officials is not aimed at pushing Ukraine to the negotiating table … [Rather it is] a calculated attempt to ensure the government in Kyiv maintains the support of other nations facing constituencies wary of fueling a war for many years to come.”
  • “The discussions illustrate how complex the Biden administration’s position on Ukraine has become, as U.S. officials publicly vow to support Kyiv with massive sums of aid ‘for as long as it takes’ while hoping for a resolution to the conflict that over the past eight months has taken a punishing toll on the world economy and triggered fears of nuclear war.”
  • “In the United States, polls show eroding support among Republicans for continuing to finance Ukraine’s military at current levels, suggesting the White House may face resistance following Tuesday’s midterm elections as it seeks to continue a security assistance program.”
    • “According to a poll published Nov. 3 by the Wall Street Journal, 48% of Republicans said the United States was doing ‘too much’ to support Ukraine, up from 6% in March.”
  • “Despite Ukrainian leaders’ refusal to talk to Putin and their vow to fight to retake all of Ukraine, U.S. officials say they believe that Zelensky would probably endorse negotiations and eventually accept concessions, as he suggested he would early in the war. They believe that Kyiv is attempting to lock in as many military gains as it can before winter sets in, when there might be a window for diplomacy.”

“Senior White House Official Involved in Undisclosed Talks With Top Putin Aides,” reporters Vivian Salama and Michael R. Gordon, WSJ, 11.07.22.

  • “U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan has been in contact with Yuri Ushakov, a foreign-policy adviser to Mr. Putin [in recent months]. Mr. Sullivan also has spoken with his direct counterpart in the Russian government, Nikolai Patrushev. … The aim has been to guard against the risk of escalation and keep communications channels open, and not to discuss a settlement of the war in Ukraine, U.S. and allied officials said.”
  • “Mr. Sullivan is known within the administration as pushing for a line of communication with Russia, even as other top policy makers feel that talks in the current diplomatic and military environment wouldn’t be fruitful.”
  • “Officials said Mr. Sullivan has taken a leading role in coordinating the Biden administration’s policy and plans in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—something that is expected of the president’s top national security adviser. However, he has also been involved in diplomatic efforts, including a visit to Kyiv on Friday to speak with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, meetings traditionally handled by the secretaries of state or defense.”
  • “Mr. Sullivan has spoken to Ukraine’s leadership, urging them to publicly signal their willingness to resolve the conflict, a U.S. official said. The U.S. isn’t pushing Ukraine to negotiate … but rather to show allies that it is seeking a resolution to the conflict, which has affected world oil and food prices.”
  • “U.S. and Russian officials are planning to hold meetings of the Bilateral Consultative Commission, which was established by the New START treaty to discuss its implementation, according to U.S. officials and a Russian media report. One aim is to discuss resuming inspections under New START that were suspended when the COVID-19 pandemic began, U.S. officials say. ... [P]lans are being made to hold the meeting in Cairo in late November.”

“West Sees Little Choice but to Keep Backing Ukraine; Putin's escalation has convinced most Western capitals there is no prospect of peace talks soon,” Laurence Norman, WSJ, 11.06.22.

  • “Some U.S. lawmakers, worried about the costs of the war and the possibility of escalation, have pushed for peace talks. Republican legislators have questioned continued funding, and a recent Wall Street Journal poll found that support for Ukraine was waning among Republican voters.”
  • “Officials say to the extent Western governments have shifted rhetoric, it is to persuade domestic audiences that leaders are focused on the goal of a just peace. Diplomats also hope this focus will help keep international diplomatic pressure on Russia at the United Nations and elsewhere. Yet the fundamental goal remains to keep Ukraine strong enough to make further gains on the battlefield and force the Kremlin into eventual talks on its terms.”
  • “The thorniest issue, Olivier Schmitt, a former French official who is now a professor at the Center for War Studies in Denmark said, will be whether Ukraine should boycott peace talks until it wins back all its lost territory, including Crimea—or if there are talks while Russia continues to occupy parts of Ukraine, how hard Kyiv should press to regain all its territory. ‘At some point you will have some countries trying to rein Ukraine in and others saying they are totally within their rights to try and maximize their demands,’ he said.”
  • “Piotr Buras, head of the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Warsaw office, said another division in Western capitals is over whether any durable peace is possible without Mr. Putin's ouster.”

“Could India Help Broker Peace in Ukraine?”, reporters Jeffrey Gettleman and Mujib Mashal, NYT, 11.06.22.

  • “In July, when a critical deal was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to free up millions of pounds of desperately needed Ukrainian grain, India played an important behind-the-scenes role in helping sell the plan to Russia, which had been blockading the grain ships. Two months later, when Russian forces were shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, leaving the world anxious about a nuclear catastrophe, India stepped in again and asked Russia to back off.”
  • “Throughout the Ukraine war, India has quietly assisted during a few pivotal moments like these. This week, India's foreign minister is traveling to Moscow for meetings with Russian officials on economic and political issues. Diplomats and foreign-policy experts are watching closely to see if India can use its unique leverage as one of the world's largest countries that is a friend to both East and West to press Russia to end its war in Ukraine.”
  • “Officials within the Indian government have already been discussing what role India might play in peacemaking efforts, when the time is right. Russia and Ukraine are far from negotiating with each other; Ukraine feels it has momentum on the battlefield and is in no mood to talk, and Russia is hardly relenting either. But the widespread belief is that if the fighting reaches a stalemate, and the energy crisis makes life really miserable in Ukraine and across Europe this winter, the prospect of a negotiated settlement or at least a cease-fire may possibly arise. That could open up a role for an enterprising neutral country or some small group of them to try to broker peace.”

“A ‘Nothingburger’ Letter About Ukraine, the Backlash and Washington’s New Groupthink,” CUNY’s Peter Beinart, NYT, 11.04.22.

  • “On Oct. 24, 30 progressive members of Congress wrote President Biden a letter about Ukraine policy ... Given that Mr. Biden has already said the war must end in a 'negotiated settlement' and that his top advisers are already talking to their Russian counterparts, the missive largely encouraged him to continue what he's already doing. ... And yet its release sparked a ferocious backlash.”
  • “The authors retracted the letter ... because a new Cold War atmosphere now pervades Washington. Politicians who suggest even modest compromises with America's great power foes face censure from both sides of the aisle. During the last Cold War, fears of appearing soft on communism cowed progressive legislators into silence as the United States descended into war in Vietnam. After the attacks of Sept. 11, many Democrats acquiesced to the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq because they feared being called soft on terrorism. When it comes to Russia and China, another climate of conformity is now taking hold. Unless challenged, it could eventually bring disaster as well.”
  • “Cold wars create their own cancel culture. They encourage politicians to swallow their doubts as conflicts escalate. They make compromise and cooperation with America's adversaries appear dishonorable. The backlash against last week's Ukraine letter will now serve as a cautionary tale. When a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine finally becomes possible—a solution that may require the United States to relax some sanctions on Russia—members of Congress will be wary of endorsing it, even if it enjoys Kyiv's tacit support. When hawks push to ditch the 'one China' policy entirely, many congressional progressives will fear objecting, lest they be accused of sympathy for Xi Jinping.”
  • “The greatest current threat to wise American foreign policy isn't polarization. It's groupthink.”

“Demonization, danger and diplomacy,” Ambassador Tom Pickering and the Quincy Institute’s George Beebe, Tribune News Service, 10.28.22.

  • “We should have no illusions about the immense difficulties we face in attempting to end the war in Ukraine. Many delicate balances must be struck in addressing the dangers we face. But our critical role in providing Ukraine with the weaponry, intelligence and military advice it needs for self-defense also carries with it great diplomatic responsibility to the American people and to the world. Only the United States can provide Ukraine with the assurances it needs that diplomacy can safeguard, not threaten, its sovereignty and independence. Only the United States can pair the firmness necessary to show Putin he cannot win on the battlefield with the flexibility to convince him that the right concessions can address Russia’s core security concerns.”
  • “Could a combination of military stick and diplomatic carrot cause Putin to step back from the brink in Ukraine today? We cannot know unless we try. No one can promise success in either diplomacy or war. But operating as if they were two entirely separate spheres of activity in which war brings victory and negotiations mean defeat is a formula for disaster.”

“Ukraine: Tragedy of a Nation Divided,” Jack Matlock’s Blog, 11.05.22.

  • “It should be clear that Ukraine’s announced goal of restoring the borders it inherited in 1991 is not realistic.”
  • “The fact is, Ukraine is a state but not yet a nation. In the 30 years of its independence, it has not yet found a leader who can unite its citizens in a shared concept of Ukrainian identity.”
  • “The only thing that will convince Moscow to withdraw its military support from the separatist regimes in the Donbas will be Kyiv’s willingness to implement the Minsk agreement. As for the Crimea, it is likely to be a de facto part of Russia for the foreseeable future, whether or not the West recognizes that as ‘legal.’”
  • “So far as Ukraine is concerned, it can never be a united, prosperous country unless it has reasonably close and civil relations with Russia. That means, inter alia, giving its Russian-speaking citizens equal rights to their language and culture. That is a fact determined by geography and history. Ukraine’s friends in Europe and North America should help them understand that rather than pursuing what could easily turn out to be a suicidal course.”

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

“Russia’s Dangerous Decline. The Kremlin Won’t Go Down Without a Fight,” Andrea Kendall-Taylor of the Center for a New American Security and Michael Kofman of the Center for Naval Analyses, FA, November/December 2022.

  • “Putin’s disastrous invasion underscored the dangers of dismissing the threat from Russia, but it has also hastened the country’s decline. Today, Russia’s long-term outlook is decidedly dimmer.”
  • “Given these factors, there will be a strong temptation to downgrade Russia as a threat. That would be a mistake, and not just because the war has yet to be won. In Ukraine and elsewhere, the more vulnerable Moscow perceives itself to be, the more it will try to offset those vulnerabilities by relying on unconventional tools—including nuclear weapons. In other words, Russian power and influence may be diminished, but that does not mean Russia will become dramatically less threatening. Instead, some aspects of the threat are likely to worsen. ... [E]ven if Putin loses, the problem that Russia poses will not be solved. In many ways, it will grow in intensity. So, too, should the response to it.”
  • “Unless there is significant turnover among the ruling elite in conjunction with Putin’s exit, Russia’s confrontational posture will endure. … Meanwhile, Washington must also work to constrict and constrain Russia—to prevent it from waging aggression beyond its borders.”
  • “In the long term, however, the United States and Europe share an interest in stabilizing the relationship with Russia.”
  • “The country often goes through cycles of resurgence, stagnation and decline. Even with its capacity and global standing diminished by its war in Ukraine, Russia will continue to be driven by its resentments, a quest for a geopolitical space outside its borders and a desire for status. Washington cannot afford to write Russia off in an effort to ease its own mind, nor should it imagine that Europe can manage the problem on its own. The threat may evolve, but it will persist.”

“Putin Is Starting to Do What Won Him a War 7 Years Ago,” columnist Bret Stephens, NYT, 11.01.22.

  • “In 2015, as Bashar al-Assad was losing his war to remain in power in Syria, he pleaded for, and got, Russian military intervention. President Barack Obama reacted with airy disdain … It turned out differently. The Russian military, led by some of the same officers now commanding Putin's war in Ukraine, achieved an unexpected victory over a brutalized people and a self-deluded American administration.”
  • “The key to Russia's success was the deliberate, indiscriminate and massive slaughter of civilians... This is the approach that Putin, with the assistance of Iranian drones, is now adopting in Ukraine.”
  • “The Biden administration has been considering the sale of four of the U.S. Army's long-endurance UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles since June, but the request has been held up in the bowels of Pentagon bureaucracy for months over excessive fears that some of its technologies could fall into Russian hands. Why not approve the sale, increase the numbers and start training Ukrainians on the systems immediately?”
  • “We can also start charging the Russians for their wanton destruction of critical infrastructure, which the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has rightly called 'acts of pure terror' and 'war crimes.'”
  • “Finally, the administration should warn Iran's leaders that their UAV factories will be targeted and destroyed if they continue to provide kamikaze drones to Russia, in flat violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231.”

“To End the Ukraine War, Shut Up About Negotiations,” columnist Holman W. Jenkins Jr., WSJ, 11.04.22.

  • “An ugly deal still may be coming. It may be more or less ignominious. It may be more or less favorable to Ukraine's interests. To those who fret about a wilting of Western resolve under energy or inflationary pressure, one comfort will be: No settlement now can save Mr. Putin from being deeply underwater on his Ukraine venture. It's been a debacle. Nobody envies his position, admires his judgment or thinks his military is competent.”
  • “Joe Biden wonders what off-ramp Mr. Putin sees for himself, as if the Russian leader could hope to pull a real-world rabbit out of a real-world hat. He needs a TV rabbit and TV hat, ones he can present back home as a resolution, likely involving some cosmetic concession to the Kremlin's varying and inconsistent claims about how Ukraine endangers its vital interests.”
  • “Mr. Putin's situation is not Hitler's; invading armies aren't laying waste to his country, looking to drag him back to Stalin for interrogation and show trial. Ukraine understandably might wish to see Russia transformed, broken up, subjected to a revolution—but a Ukrainian army won't be rolling into Moscow to make it happen.”
  • “Nothing in the present scenario points to nuclear war between superpowers as much as many find it useful to invoke the risk of nuclear war as negotiations begin to shimmer in the distance.”
  • “Kennedy wanted to avoid nuclear war as much as Khrushchev did, but still nuclear war was a more plausible option for one party than it is for either today.”
  • “For now, the U.S. approach seems straightforward. Provide weapons to help Ukraine reclaim territory and defend its airspace. Make it clear to Ukraine's leadership where our risk limits lie while keeping Mr. Putin in the dark about the same.”

"Don’t Panic About Putin. Even Desperate Leaders Tend to Avoid Catastrophe,” Dan Reiter of Emory University, FA, 11.07.22.

  • “National leaders who are losing wars sometimes resort to desperate gambles. Defeat or even lack of victory might threaten their hold on power, and they are sometimes willing to take daring or outside-the-box moves to try to turn things around. This is the great fear about the war in Ukraine: if Russian President Vladimir Putin judges that his back is up against the wall, he may decide to take catastrophic action.”
  • “The good news is that history suggests that Putin is unlikely to fulfill the West’s worst fears. Some leaders in losing wars have taken dramatic actions to stave off defeat. But often they have decided against the most drastic options, for either political or strategic reasons. Putin, like other leaders before him, will take into account whether his actions might actually help him win, and he may be reluctant to contemplate moves that could expose Russia to even greater losses or, worse, undermine his rule at home.”
  • “The United States should not let exaggerated fears of desperate action dissuade it from advancing national interests.”

“Caribbean [Cuban Missile] Crisis 2.0? The nuclear factor in proxy wars,” Alexery Gromyko of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, RIAC, 11.03.22. Clues from Russian Views

  • “The Ukrainian crisis, which has been going on since 2014, has turned into a classic example of a proxy war.”
  • “Usually, proxy wars were fought on the periphery of the core interests of the nuclear powers. But in a number of cases, the territory of a third country was used to gain a strategic advantage over the enemy. The most obvious example is the Caribbean [Cuban Missile] Crisis, when the USSR sought to reduce strategic asymmetries with the United States. This [category] includes the Ukrainian conflict, in which the United States is trying to maintain the main benefits in strategic competition with Russia, achieved as a result of NATO expansion after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  At the same time, there are important differences between the two conflicts: for example, nuclear weapons were deployed in Cuba, while there are currently none in Ukraine. However, the problem is that the Ukrainian crisis tends to drift toward the Caribbean Crisis 2.0.”
  • “The concept of ‘red line’ is an integral part of proxy wars. ... By default, the ‘red line’ … is a taboo against direct military confrontation between nuclear states on the territory of a third country. ... The ‘red line’ is now thinning as a result of the multilateral involvement of Russia’s adversaries in the conflict.”
  • “In the absence of any sign of resumption of the negotiation process, the escalation ladder of the Ukrainian conflict is rapidly increasing the chances that … the armed forces of the nuclear states opposing Russia or other NATO member states may be directly involved in hostilities, covertly or even directly.”
  • “Under such conditions, it is urgent to return to the negotiation process, from which Kyiv withdrew in April 2022. This could be followed by the announcement of an unconditional ceasefire and the launch of a multilateral political process aimed at a peaceful settlement that provides security guarantees for Ukraine, Russia and in terms of European security in general.”

“'The Big One Is Coming' and the U.S. Military Isn’t Ready,” Editorial Board, WSJ, 11.04.22.

  • “‘This Ukraine crisis that we're in right now, this is just the warmup,’ Navy Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said this week at a conference. ‘The big one is coming. And it isn't going to be very long before we're going to get tested in ways that we haven't been tested’ for ‘a long time.’”
  • “How bad is it? Well, the admiral said, ‘As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking. It is sinking slowly, but it is sinking, as fundamentally they are putting capability in the field faster than we are.’”
  • “The military talks ‘about how we are going to mitigate our assumed eventual failure’ to field new ballistic submarines, bombers or long-range weapons, instead of flipping the question to ask: ‘What's it going to take? Is it money? Is it people? Do you need authorities?’ That's ‘how we got to the Moon by 1969.’ Educating the public about U.S. military weaknesses runs the risk of encouraging adversaries to exploit them. But the greater risk today is slouching ahead in blind complacency until China invades Taiwan or takes some other action that damages U.S. interests or allies because Beijing thinks the U.S. can do nothing about it.”

“Why American Power Endures: The U.S.-Led Order Isn’t in Decline,” Princeton University’s G. John Ikenberry, FA, November/December 2022.

  • “The U.S. confrontation with China and Russia in 2022 is an echo of the great-power upheavals of 1919, 1945 and 1989. As at these earlier moments, the United States finds itself working with other democracies in resisting the aggressive moves of illiberal great powers.”
  • “The Russian war in Ukraine is about more than the future of Ukraine; it is also about the basic rules and norms of international relations. Putin’s gambit has placed the United States and democracies in Europe and elsewhere on the defensive. But it has also given the United States an opportunity to rethink and reargue its case for an open, multilateral system of world order.”
  • “If the past is any guide, the United States should not try to simply consolidate the old order but to reimagine it. U.S. leaders should seek to broaden the democratic coalition, reaffirm basic values and interests, and offer a vision of a reformed international order that draws states and peoples together in new forms of cooperation, such as to solve problems of climate change, global public health, and sustainable development.”
  • “Other powers may be rising, but the world cannot afford the end of the American era.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • No significant developments.

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“China Rebukes Russia’s Nuclear Threats in Ukraine for First Time,” correspondent Bojan Pancevski, WSJ, 11.04.22.

  • “China has warned Russia against threatening to use nuclear weapons in the conflict in Ukraine, in a rare departure from its usual tacit support for Moscow’s positions. The warning came during talks on Friday between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Beijing, according to Mr. Scholz and the Chinese state news agency Xinhua. Messrs. Xi and Scholz agreed to oppose the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, according to Mr. Scholz and a report by Xinhua, which normally echoes Beijing’s official positions.”
  • “The international community should ‘oppose the use of or the threat to use nuclear weapons, advocate that nuclear weapons cannot be used and that nuclear wars must not be fought and prevent a nuclear crisis in Eurasia,’ Mr. Xi said according to Xinhua. During a meeting with Xi on Sept. 15, Putin publicly acknowledged that China had concerns over the Ukraine crisis, but it was not until November that Xi confirmed these concerns as well as specified them. In contrast, India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh explicitly told Sergei Shoigu in October that “the nuclear option should not be resorted to by any side” in the Ukraine conflict as the use of nuclear or radiological weapons “goes against the basic tenets of humanity.”
  • “The comment, the first rebuke of its kind attributed to the Chinese leader since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, marks a change in tone for Beijing after the government there said last week that it would deepen its cooperation with Russia at all levels, experts said. ‘Beijing genuinely does not want a nuclear attack or war,’ said Francesca Ghiretti, an analyst with the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin.”
  • “While Mr. Xi’s comments would be noted in Moscow, said Jude Blanchette, the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, they should not be read as meaning China would be willing or able to influence any decision by the Kremlin to escalate the war by using nonconventional weapons.”

“Statement of the Russian Federation on preventing nuclear war,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry, 11.02.22.

  • “In implementing its policy on nuclear deterrence Russia is strictly and consistently guided by the tenet that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Russian doctrinal approaches in this sphere are defined with utmost accuracy, pursue solely defensive goals and do not admit of expansive interpretation. These approaches allow for Russia to 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.”
  • “Russia proceeds from the continued relevance of the existing arrangements and understandings in the field of cutting and limiting nuclear weapons, as well as reducing strategic risks and threat of international incidents and conflicts fraught with escalation to nuclear level. We fully reaffirm our commitment to the Joint statement of the leaders of the five nuclear-weapon states on preventing nuclear war and avoiding arms races of Jan. 3, 2022. We are strongly convinced that in the current complicated and turbulent situation, caused by irresponsible and impudent actions aimed at undermining our national security, the most immediate task is to avoid any military clash of nuclear powers.”
  • “We urge other states of the ‘nuclear five’ to demonstrate in practice their willingness to work on solving this top-priority task and to give up the dangerous attempts to infringe on vital interests of each other while balancing on the brink of a direct armed conflict and encouraging provocations with weapons of mass destruction, which can lead to catastrophic consequences. Russia continues to advocate for a revamped, more robust architecture of international security based on ensuring predictability and global strategic stability, as well as on the principles of equal rights, indivisible security and mutual account of core interests of the parties.”

“Mending the ‘Broken Arrow’: Confidence Building Measures at the AI-Nuclear Nexus,” CFR’s Lauren Kahn, War on the Rocks, 11.04.22.

  • “While humanity survived the closest calls of the Cold War, and even if most experts believe Putin will not use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, there can be no allowance for complacency when it comes to reducing nuclear danger. Worse, new dangers may be lurking. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cyber, quantum computing and other technologies are creating new opportunities for countries to revise their command and control, early warning and even the platforms they would use in case of war.”
  • “Reducing the risk of nuclear accidents or miscalculations involving AI is in the collective interest of all countries. These shared interests could make cooperation more plausible, even during times of intra-state war and geopolitical tension. To lessen the risk of nuclear conflict, the nuclear powers should work together on a new confidence-building measure to ensure positive human control over the use of nuclear weapons. Something as informal as a joint declaration amongst the five major nuclear powers can lower the political stakes in a world of geopolitical competition, even if the document is not legally binding.”
  • “One way to decrease the risk of a nuclear accident or miscalculation in an age of artificial intelligence would be for the nuclear powers to agree to always keep a human in the loop for nuclear command and control, with final human confirmation required for a nuclear launch.”
  • “The Cold War demonstrates that even staunch adversaries can agree to reduce nuclear danger when they have shared interests. In light of the war between Russia and Ukraine, those shared interests appear clearer than ever.”

Counterterrorism:

  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

“Putin knows that undersea cables are the west’s Achilles heel,” former director-general of Joint Force Development and director of operations at the U.K. Defense Ministry Edward Stringer, FT, 11.03.22.

  • “Few are aware just how dependent we are on a limited number of fiber-optic cables that form the internet’s spine and electronically link our continents and islands. Currently 95% of international internet traffic is transmitted by undersea cables; satellites, in comparison, convey very little. There are still only about 200 cables around the world, each the size of a large hosepipe and capable of data transfers at about 200 terabytes per second. These cables—which carry an estimated $10 trillion worth of financial transactions every day—come together at 10 or so international chokepoints, which are particularly vulnerable.”
  • “The problem for NATO and its allies is that the threat is not felt equally. Russia and China, the continental superpowers that are most hostile to the West, are more controlling of their territorial internet and are less reliant on cables linked across oceans, so are not as vulnerable. Even in the satellite age, geography matters. And so Moscow has developed several naval capabilities to work at depths that NATO considered irrelevant or uneconomic.”
  • “One who spotted this vulnerability early was the then backbencher MP Rishi Sunak, who wrote a paper in 2017 on the growing sabotage threat. Now he is prime minister and the risk has become a reality, will he invest in protective maritime and submarine capabilities as he recommended back then?”

Energy exports from CIS:

  • No significant developments.

Climate change:

“An inconvenient truth: Climate change won't be solved in this desert,” Politico’s Ryan Heath, Politico, 11.04.22.         

  • “The global climate confab that beg[an] on Sunday is on a nasty crash course with reality. Organizers of the U.N. climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, known as COP27, are framing it as a forum for discussing actions, not promises—and in particular, as an opportunity for wealthy nations such as the United States to spell out how they plan to deliver on their pledges of financial assistance for poorer countries facing climate disaster.”
  • “But events around the world are spoiling the vibe before the event has started. Those include soaring energy costs and Russia’s war in Ukraine, which together have brought a renewed push to produce fossil fuels, as well as the rise of far-right politicians who oppose taking action on global warming.”
  • “This is the inconvenient truth: Governments are undermining the Paris climate agreement just seven years after they signed it. And nearly all the large companies that announced pledges to bring their net carbon emissions down to zero have failed to produce plans matching their words.”

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:

“They Talk the Talk, But Do Russia’s Hawks Have Any Real Influence?”, Alexandra Prokopenko, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 11.07.22. Clues from Russian Views

  • “The longer Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, the more prominent the party of war becomes at home. Hardly a day goes by without a headline-making statement by the most outspoken ultrapatriotic, anti-Western hawks, such as Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, the businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin and former president Dmitry Medvedev.”
  • “All three men have used their vocal support for the war to raise their public profile, but have they actually gained any more influence as a result? After all, in the Russian power system, a person’s importance is determined not by their media activity, but by one man only: Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
  • “It’s difficult to discern any real growth in the influence of the hardliners. They are trying to push Putin down a narrow corridor of escalation, demanding that he raise the stakes. But there are no signs that Putin is actually listening to them. Neither Kadyrov nor Prigozhin even attend Security Council meetings.”
  • “None of the men have anything like the significant assets required to be seen by the top echelon of Russian elites as one of their own. Kadyrov is in charge of Chechnya and its security forces, who refuse to stay within their remit. Prigozhin’s Wagner organization now has its own aircraft and air defenses, but they are only needed in wartime. Medvedev’s main capital—other than his vituperative channel on Telegram—is that fourteen years ago, he kept the presidential seat warm for Putin, and then returned it to him as agreed four years later.”
  • “Turning popularity in the media into real influence was not easy during peacetime, never mind in wartime. Dmitry Rogozin is a good example of what can happen to hardliners who court confrontation. The extremely hawkish former head of Roscosmos, the state space agency, writes reams on Twitter and is constantly cited by the media. He has not had a job since the summer.”

“What Could Bring Putin Down? Regime Collapse Is More Likely Than a Coup,” UCLA’s Daniel Treisman, FA, 11.02.22.

  • “The obstacles to ... a coup are formidable. Putin has rigged the system with numerous tripwires to prevent one.”
    • “Multiple agencies watch over each other—from the FSB and military intelligence (GRU) to the Federal Guard Service (FSO) and National Guard. The FSB’s military counterintelligence department—the largest within the service—has agents in each army unit, naval station and air force base.”
    • “Those with armed men at their command lack the mutual trust to organize a conspiracy, and any attempt to do so would be hard to hide.”
  • “Although a coup is unlikely at this point, Putin’s regime is more vulnerable than ever to another threat: a paralyzing meltdown as accumulating crises overwhelm the Kremlin’s decision-making capacity.”
    • “An overcentralized system can work tolerably in quiet times. ... But the need for Putin to weigh in personally becomes a serious flaw when problems are complex and fast developing.”
    • “The second weak point is Putin’s need to continually project strength.”
  • “As with stock market crashes, the timing of authoritarian meltdowns is impossible to predict with confidence. Such regimes may look strong for years, only to vanish suddenly in an avalanche of defections.”

 

"Amid Ukraine War, Putin is Changing How Russia is Governed," Farida Rustamova and Maxim Tovkaylo, MT, 11.01.22.

  • "When declaring martial law in Russian-occupied Ukraine last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin also handed special powers to regional authorities across Russia and created an influential new government body that is charged with coordinating supplies to the military. To the average Russian, these changes might look trivial. But, step by step, Putin is laying the foundations for a fundamental restructuring of Russian politics."
  • "As a result of decrees signed by Putin, regional governors can now limit civil liberties—and the federal government in Moscow has the scope to move the economy to a war footing. Different regions have been given different powers."
  • "Let down in Ukraine by his natural allies, the security services, Putin is now looking to senior figures in the civilian bureaucratic apparatus. And the Coordination Council, the government body which Putin set up in mid-October and which held its first meeting last week, is headed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin."
  • "Essentially, Putin has directed the Council to transform the economy so it can sustain the needs of the Armed Forces in Ukraine. Specifically, it will set targets for supplying the army; control prices, suppliers and logistics; and build and equip barracks and other military facilities. Decisions taken by the Council are not only binding for officials, but also for businesses."
  • "This doesn’t mean that Putin is about to abandon his old comrade Shoigu. That’s not his style. After all, replacing a defense minister in wartime, especially one who polls as the country’s second most popular political figure, would be seen by Putin as an admission of mistakes. That is something the president always tries to avoid."

Defense and aerospace:

“The Chechens: Putin’s Loyal Foot Soldiers,” RUSI’s Sam Cranny-Evans, RUSI, 11.06.22.

  • “The Chechen forces used by Russia provide a small core of combat-ready troops that appear to be very willing to deliver violence and oppression against either friend or foe. They have proven themselves to be reliable and at times have assumed a central position in the Russian military, as was the case in Mariupol.”
  • “However, it is important to assess them within the context of the Russian armed forces. The special forces elements, airborne formations, and private military companies all provide similar, if not better and more reliable combat capabilities. The uniqueness of the Kadyrovtsy is in their leader’s allegiance to the Kremlin and Putin.”
  • “His position and wealth are dependent upon Putin’s goodwill, which makes Kadyrov a uniquely compliant leader within Russia who is constantly willing to prove his worth to Putin. This means that his forces can be reliably sent to complete very unsavory tasks, including the assassination of Nemtsov and the collective punishment of Ukrainian citizens. They are, in sum, a force used to complete many tasks and a useful concession that allows the Kremlin some measure of control over Chechnya, without having to send Russian soldiers to the region once more.”

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:

“The impact of Netanyahu’s prime ministership on Russia-Israel relations,” Atlantic Council’s Mark N. Katz, Atlantic Council, 11.02.22.

  • “If Benjamin Netanyahu resumes the prime ministership, as now seems likely, he may not be able to have as good a relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin as he did before. During his long previous stint as prime minister, Netanyahu frequently met Putin in person and talked with him on the phone. Russian-Israeli relations were basically good, despite Moscow’s close ties with Tehran. As a result of the deconfliction agreement between Russian and Israeli forces regarding Syria, Moscow turned a blind eye to Israel targeting Hezbollah and even Iranian positions there. But while Tehran previously had to put up with this, Putin’s dependence on Iran for armed drones for use in Ukraine may put Tehran in a position to demand that Moscow be less tolerant of such Israeli attacks in Syria.”
  • “Netanyahu may argue to American audiences that he cannot afford to do much to help Ukraine for fear of how Moscow might treat the vulnerable Jewish population in Russia. But Netanyahu will not want to antagonize Washington as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have done by collaborating closely with Moscow either. With the war in Ukraine having led to Russian ties with Iran becoming much closer and the Russian-American relationship becoming much worse, Netanyahu may be less able than he was before to have the same good working relationship with Putin or to successfully maneuver between Washington and Moscow.”

Ukraine:

“Putin Says Ukraine Doesn’t Exist. That’s Why He’s Trying to Destroy It,” Olesya Khromeychuk of the Ukrainian Institute of London, NYT, 11.01.22. Clues from Ukrainian Views

  • “According to Vladimir Putin, Ukraine doesn’t exist. Before he started his murderous full-scale invasion, he repeatedly denied the country’s existence in pseudohistorical essays and speeches. He is just the latest in a long line of Kremlin rulers who have tried to deprive Ukrainians of their subjectivity.”
  • “Some commentators insist that Russia’s all-out war has somehow molded Ukrainians into a nation for the first time. This is a tired claim: Three decades ago, Ukrainians were perceived as an unexpected nation suddenly risen from the rubble of the Soviet Union. In this simplistic view, Ukraine is little more than a buffer zone with an identity far too complex to grasp that only tenuously amounts to a nation. Yet for the people who live in Ukraine, that complexity is part of the country’s strength.”
  • “Against those tempted to marvel at the apparent awakening of the Ukrainian nation, there are the words of Lesia Ukrainka, a pen name meaning ‘Ukrainian woman.’ ‘To suffer in chains is a great humiliation,’ she wrote in 1903, when the country had yet to taste self-rule. ‘But to forget those chains without having broken them is the worst kind of shame.’ For much longer than Russia’s war, Ukrainians have fought for—and achieved—freedom and sovereignty.”

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“The Importance of Being Russian: Can Belarus Survive the Kremlin’s War Against Ukraine?”, Maxim Samorukov, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 11.03.22. Clues from Russian Views

  • “The current agenda of Belarus-Russia relations appears to be dominated by a single question: Will the Kremlin manage to drag the Belarusian armed forces into military action against Ukraine? It would seem that nothing less than the survival of Belarus as a sovereign state rests on this question right now.”
  • “Belarus’s veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko, with his unmatched lust for power, may yet find a way to extricate himself and his country from the predicament, dodging Russian pressure as he has done on so many occasions in the past three decades. Otherwise, the prevailing thinking is that if Moscow succeeds in enmeshing Belarusians in the fighting, the swift decimation of the underequipped Belarusian army will lead to a major destabilization at home, prompting Russia to swallow up Belarus once and for all.”
  • “In the new reality, the Kremlin no longer needs to bother to pressure Belarus into deeper integration. Amid the indifference of a disillusioned society, the country’s rent-seeking elites are eager to sacrifice Belarusian sovereignty voluntarily, if for nothing else, then simply to achieve equal status with their Russian counterparts.”

“Russia’s Erosion in Central Asia,” Eric Mcglinchey of George Mason University and Shairbek Dzhuraevof the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, PONARS, 11.04.22.

  • “Central Asian countries’ refusal to endorse Moscow’s war [against Ukraine] is at odds with the region’s economic dependence on Russia. For Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, labor remittances from Russia constitute between one-tenth and one-third of annual GDP.”
  • “Multiple drivers—geography, embeddedness in global financial networks, fierce commitment to sovereignty and generational change—disincline Central Asian states to support Russia’s war in Ukraine.”
  • “More broadly, the invasion of Ukraine marks a critical juncture in Central Asia-Russia relations. While forms of dependencies will persist, Central Asia’s view of Russia will not be the same again. Just as Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine, paradoxically, has strengthened NATO, so too has Russia’s war solidified Central Asian states’ individual and collective resolve to lessen dependence on the northern neighbor.”
  • “Central Asia’s responses to Russia’s invasion have three broad implications.”
    • “First, Russia’s role in Central Asia has been declining, and the war only accelerates this process.”
    • “Second, Russia will attempt to counteract its eroding image by using other levers of influence.”
    • “Finally, Central Asia’s international partners need not stand idle as Russia attempts to reshape the region for its benefit.”

 

Footnotes

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