Russia Analytical Report, Sept. 26-Oct. 3, 2022

5 Ideas to Explore

  1. There are seven reasons why the U.S. and its allies need to take Putin’s nuclear threats seriously, according to Graham Allison of Harvard University. First, Russia has a nuclear arsenal that can erase the U.S. from the map. Second, per Ronald Reagan’s maxim, a nuclear war cannot be won, and therefore must never be fought. Third and fourth, Putin is armed with an arsenal that includes more 1,500 strategic and 1,900 tactical nukes. Fifth, nuclear weapons are the weaker powers' “equalizer” and Russia is one. Sixth is “the nuclear taboo” that has led many to conclude that nuclear weapons are no longer usable weapons of war. Seventh, there is a similarity between Putin's threat to retaliate with nuclear weapons against any attack on Russia's newly annexed territory and America's threat to retaliate with nuclear weapons to a Russian attack on the territory of U.S. NATO allies.
  2. Russian elites have realized Russia can lose the war in Ukraine, and that’s bad news for Putin, according to Tatyana Stanovaya of R.Politik. Prior to the Russian military’s setbacks in September, the country’s elites had been betting Putin would succeed as a guarantor against Russia’s defeat, but “they may now have to choose among various losing scenarios,” Stanovaya writes in a commentary for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). “That makes Putin far more vulnerable, for he may just find that he and the elites settle on different scenarios,” she warns. Putin may also end up losing the support of ordinary Russians over the mobilization, but “horrifying conflict in Europe could continue even when Putin’s resources—both human and psychological—have run out,” CEIP’s Andrei Kolesnikov warns.
  3. Putin made four major errors when calculating whether or not to invade Ukraine, Angela Stent of Georgetown University reminds readers. The first was the overestimation of the Russian military’s strength and effectiveness; the second was underestimating the Ukrainians’ capabilities and resolve; the third was his diagnoses of a divided West that would not stand united against Russia; and the fourth was “his belief that the Europeans were so invested in their economic ties to Russia that they would not be willing to impose sanctions,” according to Professor Stent’s summary of an updated version of her book, “Putin’s World,” in FA.
  4. Russian opposition activists urge Europe to grant entry to thousands of Russians fleeing Putin’s mobilization. Former publisher of Meduza Ilia Krasilshchik warns that unless the EU lifts its restrictions on Russian draft-dodgers, “many [of these] people will pay with their lives.” Meanwhile, the Center for European Policy Analysis’ Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov—who describe the bans as “disastrous”—argue that the restrictions “will do nothing to change the trajectory of the war.” These Russian influentials are not alone in their criticism. The Economist has recently called the argument that “if Russians are unable or unwilling to overthrow Mr. Putin’s regime, they bear some responsibility” flawed, urging the EU to instead “welcome the brave souls who escape.”
  5. Nord Stream blasts: who did it and what’s next? In a Twitter thread, Emma Ashford of the Atlantic Council has identified five potential culprits, including Russia, Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states and China, while also referring to speculation that the U.S. might have been behind the explosions. Regardless of which actor was responsible, “the European-Russian energy relationship has ended” with the Nord Stream blasts, in the view of the U.S. Naval War College’s Emily Holland. In contrast to this dim view, Valery Bessel of Russia’s Gubkin oil and gas academy, is “absolutely sure” that energy cooperation between Russia and Europe will resume, sometime after this winter.

NB: Next week’s Russia Analytical Report will appear on Tuesday, Oct. 11, instead of Monday, Oct. 10, because of a U.S. federal holiday.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

“Russians Are Terrified and Have Nowhere to Turn,” Ilia Krasilshchik of, NYT, 09.27.22. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “While presented as a limited measure affecting only those who previously served in the army, in practice, the government has free rein to conscript as many people as it wants. The initial number of 300,000, for example, already seems an enormous undercount. In the face of a monstrous regime hellbent on war and widespread international isolation, Russians are caught in a disaster. And judging from the response so far, they are terrified.”
  • “For regular citizens who want to escape that hellish fate, there simply aren’t many options.”
  • “The terrible truth is that Russians have become outcasts. Many countries have already imposed residency restrictions on them, and there are fewer and fewer possibilities of obtaining legal status, a work permit or even a bank account. No one is waiting to welcome fleeing Russians. In any case, it’s unclear how long the Russian authorities will allow people to leave the country. Some regional military authorities have already issued orders forbidding men who are subject to mobilization—that is, nearly all men—to leave their towns and cities.”
  • “Thwarted by Ukraine’s resistance, he [Putin] chose to punish Russian citizens for his failure. Capital punishment may be forbidden in Russia. But for Mr. Putin’s decision, many people will pay with their lives.”

“Europe’s Disastrous Ban on Russians: Putin’s Exiles Are Crucial to Winning the War—and to Building a Better Russia,” Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov of of, FA, 09.28.22. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “According to Novaya Gazeta Europe, by the end of the third day [of mobilization], a source in Russia’s … FSB, said that 261,000 men had left, a number that if accurate would be nearly as many as the 300,000 new troops the mobilization was supposed to deliver.  Yet very few Russians have made it to the countries that, in theory, should be most eager and best equipped to accept opponents of Putin: the countries of the European Union. EU states have almost completely shut down entry points from Russia by land and air, and for most Russians, it is nearly impossible to get visas.”
  • “These travel restrictions fly directly in the face of Western interests, both in the war in Ukraine and in support for anti-Putin movements in Russia.” 
  • “The West ignores Russia’s exiles at its peril. If Western powers are serious about containing the Russian military threat, they will need a strategy that goes beyond visa bans and facile assumptions about the ‘whole of Russian society.’”
    • “First, European governments need to understand that there are already large Russian communities abroad, including in their own countries, thanks to the large-scale emigration during preceding decades. As important, the exile community is another battlefield—perhaps one of the main battlefields—where the fight for the hearts and minds of the Russian population is taking place.”
    • “Second, Western governments should have a clear strategy concerning the latest iteration of ‘other Russia’—the intellectual elite who left the country because of Putin’s war. The West cannot ignore the existence of this new wave or just cancel it.”
  • “European visa bans will do nothing to change the trajectory of the war, and may instead, by leaving ordinary Russians in the cold, end up prolonging the bloodshed—and further cutting off Russians from the non-Putin world.”

“Europeans should welcome Russian draft-dodgers,” The Economist, 09.30.22.

  • “Privately, European officials and diplomats argue that if Russians are unable or unwilling to overthrow Mr. Putin’s regime, they bear some responsibility for it. This argument is flawed. Forcing people to stay and accept the draft so that they get sent to the front to kill and die is cruel. It is also likely to be counterproductive.”
  • “If the exodus of draftable Russians continues, Mr. Putin may decide to impose his own travel ban on them. In other words, the man who called the collapse of the Soviet Union the ‘greatest geopolitical catastrophe’ of the 20th century may partly recreate the Iron Curtain. Now, as then, the West should let the tyrant in Moscow take the blame for restricting Russians’ freedom, and welcome the brave souls who escape.”

“Ukraine Needs Expeditionary Economics, Not USAID,” Syracuse University’s Carl Schramm, WSJ, 10.02.22.

  • “The U.S. once had an effective model for rebuilding postwar economies—a field increasingly known as ‘expeditionary economics.’ Inspired by Col. Irwin Hunt, who led U.S. reconstruction efforts in Europe after World War I and believed that officers needed training to ‘guide the destinies’ of the communities under their ‘temporary sovereignty,’ the Army's School of Military Government opened in 1942 to prepare officers to manage the civil affairs of towns, cities and nations that had been, or were about to be, devastated... Most important, the school's graduates advanced the American model of entrepreneurial capitalism, helping to rebuild national economies by strengthening local markets without reference to a central plan.”
  • “A rebuilding program for Ukraine will start with establishing fundamental conditions for economic success. First, there must be peace and the country must have sovereignty. Second, the country's postwar leadership must assure investors that their capital will be productively deployed.  Ukraine needs a Ukrainian entrepreneurial ecosystem, not a centrally administered carbon copy of Palo Alto, Calif. ... Expeditionary economics offers a guide to helping Ukraine emerge better off from a terrible destruction.”

“Identifying Ukraine’s War Dead,” Sarah Ashbridge,  Patrick Randolph-Quinney, Rob Janaway, Professor Shari Forbes and  Olga Ivshina, RUSI, 09.29.22.

  • “The loss experienced in Ukraine will reshape the physical landscape, and the practical response will determine future generation’s engagement with human remains in their day-to-day life. ... The existing mortuary affairs provision should be reviewed within the single services to reflect the truth that single regiments cannot consistently provide this service alongside their core warfighting capabilities.”
  • “Each force must ensure it possesses the ability to respond to the dead without air support for repatriation during fighting, whether due to the enforcement of a no-fly zone, because of any security risks associated with attempted recovery, or as a result of limited capacity for air support due to competing constraints. As such, the single services must expand on training for field burials, incorporating practical experience of grave digging where possible to ensure both practical and psychological preparation for losses at scale.”
  • “Prior to any deployment to another country, armed forces should make themselves familiar with the forensic infrastructure of that nation.”
  • “Governments must ensure that the armed forces have the funding required to enact their duty to the dead not only to ensure operational capacity is not overwhelmed, but because of the moral, legal and political duty to ensure the dignity of the dead and their families in any future war. The war in Ukraine has demonstrated that it is no longer possible for the UK to ignore the potential for mass casualties, and it has a duty to its personnel who choose to risk their lives in defense of the nation to ensure that they can trust that they will be provided with a dignified burial should they pay the ultimate sacrifice.”

“Putin's War Is a Crime Against the Planet,” NYT’s Thomas L. Friedman, NYT, 09.27.22.

  • “There was no good time for Vladimir Putin's unprovoked, idiotic invasion of Ukraine. But this is a uniquely bad time. Because it's diverting worldwide attention and resources needed to mitigate climate change—during what may be the last decade when we still have a chance to manage the climate extremes that are now unavoidable and avoid those that could become unmanageable. ... Putin's war is not just a crime against Ukraine and humanity. It's also a crime against the home we all share: planet Earth.”

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“What’s left of the Russian army by the seventh month of the war,” Vazhnye Istorii, 09.29.22. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “Despite the fact that the current Russian army as a whole has more than 700,000 military personnel, not all of them can be involved in battles, which led to the need to send new soldiers to the front from among the mobilized ... The troops of constant readiness were from 134,000 up to 168,000 people, according to military expert Pavel Luzin. ... According to him, mobilization will not be effective: ‘… it is impossible to fight in a modern war with untrained people.’”
  • “One of the reasons for the lack of soldiers in the Russian group in Ukraine is the high losses in battles. During the seven months of the war in Ukraine, Russia lost from 3% to 8% of its entire army personnel, according to Important Stories. .... ‘Important stories’ established [the names of more than 6,000 Russian soldiers who died in Ukraine], although even this figure does not reflect real losses. According to Conflict Intelligence Team analyst Kirill Mikhailov, the real personnel losses are two to three times higher than those that can be confirmed by open sources.”
  • “According to Important Stories, the Russian army lost from 35% to 67% of all its combat-ready tanks and from 12% to 27% of its armored vehicles ... Most of the tanks and armored vehicles that Russia lost during the seven months of the war fell into the hands of the Ukrainian army ... According to Pavel Luzin, it may take years for Russia to restore the fleet of tanks and armored vehicles to the pre-war level. … [Additionally,] the production of drones in Russia has not yet been established.”
  • “A Russian military industry expert … suggests that Russia has already begun to reproduce missiles, but their quality leaves much to be desired. … A high proportion of losses among the Russian army and among artillery: by the seventh month of the war, according to the minimum estimate, Russia lost 7% of artillery pieces, up to 28% ... According to … Luzin, Soviet stocks of artillery shells are already ending, and by the end of the year the Russian army will have a ‘shell hunger.’”
  • “[Russia has also] lost 4% to 17% of all its aircraft and 3% to 15% of its helicopters.”

“Giving Ukraine Heavy Weapons is Deterrence, Not Escalation,” Belfer’s Ilya Timtchenko, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 09.28.22. Clues from Ukrainian Views.

  • “It is high time to reverse who dictates the red lines, especially as Russia’s military has been significantly weakened by the Ukrainians. The Kremlin, stuck in mid-twentieth-century strategic thinking, and attempting to reverse the outcome of the Cold War, only understands the language of basic military strength. This can be clearly seen as Russia decided to bomb Ukrainian grain at the Odesa Port in less than a day after Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement backed by the United Nations to resume grain exports via the Black Sea. Russia will change its self-perception if it sees a Ukraine, equipped with Western weapons, that is capable of firmly and quickly striking back. In the end, the West will save many more lives and will save on both the military and economic costs in the long run. The alternative is an emboldened, aggressive and barbaric Russia that is increasingly willing to terrorize civilians to achieve its imperialistic goals with an embittered West hesitant to spend more on military and economic support for Ukraine.”

What Can the U.S. Learn From Putin’s War in Ukraine?” Grant Bubb of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, NI, 09.29.22.

  • “The world has gotten a closer look at the Russian military since Putin invaded Ukraine. Despite decades of military reform since Yeltsin’s failed 1994 Chechnya invasion, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has yet to achieve its stated objectives. Rather than quickly defeating Ukraine as some experts predicted, Russia is bogged down in a grinding war of attrition. Putin has reprised Yeltsin’s role as the ambitious leader whose authoritarian decision-making process has led to a failed invasion.”
  • “Like Yeltsin, Putin’s ambition to keep his grip on power and cement his legacy in Russian history is driving failure in Ukraine. ... Putin’s ambition has propelled a failed, authoritarian decision-making process in which he has surrounded himself with a group of kowtowing advisors who have not provided sound military counsel or intelligence.”
  • “Putin’s authoritarian decision-making process enabled reckless military planning, which undermined Russian military strength.”

Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:

“The Collateral Damage of a Long Economic War” Sanctions Have Hurt But Not Felled Russia—and Are Harming the Global South,” Cornell University’s Nicholas Mulder, FA, 09.26.22.

  • “Over the last six months, 38 Western and Asian states have leveled a growing barrage of sanctions against Russia. ... Together with Russian setbacks on the battlefield, sanctions were touted as a powerful response that raised the odds of a Ukrainian victory—and even the chances of regime change in Russia.”
  • “But although Fortress Russia was breached, it has so far neither collapsed nor surrendered. ... Yet … the opposite prediction—that sanctions would have catastrophically adverse consequences for the countries imposing them—also turned out to be inaccurate. ... Europe will suffer but survive the Russian gas embargo.” 
  • “Although Russian President Vladimir Putin managed to avoid a Soviet-style collapse in the face of massive sanctions, the Russian economy has suffered severe damage and is likely to endure more. Russians can expect economic stagnation and growing isolation from the West for the foreseeable future. It is an open question, however, whether this socioeconomic deterioration will move citizens to demand an end to the war, let alone motivate their government to wind down its ongoing aggression against Ukraine.”
  • “Consider the following two data points. First, Russian tanks are running on microchips cannibalized from washing machines. Second, trade statistics show a 241% year-on-year increase in Chinese chip exports to Russia. Both facts provide important insights into the complex and contradictory effects of sanctions: one shows the enormous damage that they are doing to Russia’s import-dependent industrial base while the other reflects a gradual, incomplete and difficult process of adjustment and trade diversion.”
  • “The economic siege of Russia is far from complete, and the future of this campaign will increasingly turn on the actions of non-Western actors: China, but also African states, the emirates, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.”
  • “It is imperative that Western policymakers prepare better for future crises caused by the use of financial, technological and energy weapons. The Prussian field marshal Helmuth von Moltke famously said that no battle plan survives beyond its first contact with the enemy. The last six months have shown that this applies to economic warfare, too: no sanctions strategy extends with certainty beyond the first economic shock that it triggers.”

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • No significant developments.

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

“Putin’s World Is Now Smaller Than Ever,” Brookings’ Angela Stent1, FP, 10.01.22.

  • “In the invasion’s immediate aftermath, it was clear that Putin had made four major miscalculations.”
    • “The first … was the overestimation of the Russian military’s strength and effectiveness.”
    • “The second … was underestimating the Ukrainian people and military.”
    • “Putin’s third miscalculation was that the West was divided and would not make common cause against Russia.”
    • “Putin’s fourth miscalculation was his belief that the Europeans were so invested in their economic ties to Russia—especially their energy dependency—that they would not be willing to impose sanctions.”
  • “Far from being a master strategist, Putin has accomplished the exact opposite of what he set out to achieve with his invasion of Ukraine. The mishandled mobilization, renewed nuclear threats against the West and the apparent sabotage of the two Nord Stream pipelines have only reinforced Western unity. Doubts about Russia’s capabilities are now emerging in parts of the global south, which has so far remained neutral in the conflict. It is difficult to see how Putin will be able to reverse Russia’s fortunes in this senseless war—but so far, he appears to have no intention of ending it.”

“Russia’s Defeat Would Be America’s Problem: Victory in Ukraine could easily mean hubris in Washington,” Harvard’s Stephen M. Walt, FP, 09.27.22.

  • “[A] combination of Russian miscalculations and military incompetence, fierce Ukrainian resistance, formidable Western material and intelligence support and potent sanctions on Moscow may eventually produce a victory for Kyiv and its Western backers.”
  • “There’s a lot to like about this outcome on both moral and strategic grounds, assuming that nuclear weapons are not employed and that Ukraine gets back almost all if not all its lost territory. ... Although success in Ukraine is something we should all wish for, it is likely to strengthen the same political forces in the United States that produced the counterproductive excesses of the unipolar era. ... So, what’s wrong with that?”
    • “[I]t ignores some of the key lessons from the Ukraine war itself. Lesson No. 1 is that threatening what a great power believes to be a vital interest is dangerous, even if one’s own intentions are noble or benign. So, it was with open-ended NATO enlargement.”
    • “Lesson No. 2 is the danger of inflating threats. The war in Ukraine is best understood as a preventive war launched by Russia to stop Ukraine from slipping into the Western orbit.
    • “Lesson No. 3 (which Putin seems to have ignored) is simple: If you invade a foreign country, don’t expect a friendly welcome.”
    • “Lesson No. 4 (also apparently discounted by Putin) is that outright aggression alarms other countries and leads them to take steps to counter it.”
  • “Should Ukraine (and the West) win, they will face the same foreign policy to-do list that existed before Russian troops crossed the Ukrainian border: 1) averting catastrophic climate change and dealing with the severe consequences that are already apparent; 2) balancing and engaging China; 3) keeping Iran from getting the bomb; 4) managing a sputtering global economy; and 5) preparing the world for the next pandemic. Achieving these vital goals will require setting clear priorities and avoiding quixotic crusades.”

Vladimir Putin’s remarks at “Signing of treaties on accession of Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions to Russia,”, 09.30.22. Clues From Russian Views.

  • “Behind the choice of millions of residents in the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics, in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, is our common destiny and thousand-year history. … In 1991 … representatives of the party elite of that time made a decision to terminate the Soviet Union, without asking ordinary citizens what they wanted … This tore apart and dismembered our national community and triggered a national catastrophe.”
  • “For eight long years, people in Donbas were subjected to genocide, shelling and blockades; in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, a criminal policy was pursued to cultivate hatred for Russia, for everything Russian. … I want the Kyiv authorities and their true handlers in the West to hear me now, and I want everyone to remember this: the people living in Lugansk and Donetsk, in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia have become our citizens, forever.”
  • “We call on the Kyiv regime to immediately cease fire and all hostilities; to end the war it unleashed back in 2014 and return to the negotiating table. … We will defend our land with all the forces and resources we have, and we will do everything we can to ensure the safety of our people.”
  • “The West is ready to cross every line to preserve the neo-colonial system which allows it to live off the world, to plunder it thanks to the domination of the dollar and technology, to collect an actual tribute from humanity, to extract its primary source of unearned prosperity, the rent paid to the hegemon. … I want to underscore again that their insatiability and determination to preserve their unfettered dominance are the real causes of the hybrid war that the collective West is waging against Russia.”
  • “All we hear is, the West is insisting on a rules-based order. Where did that come from anyway? Who has ever seen these rules? Who agreed or approved them? … Russia is a great thousand-year-old power, a whole civilization, and it is not going to live by such makeshift, false rules.”
  • “The battlefield to which destiny and history have called us is a battlefield for our people, for the great historical Russia. For the great historical Russia, for future generations … We must protect them against enslavement and monstrous experiments that are designed to cripple their minds and souls.”

“When conspiracy theorists run countries: The paranoid fantasies of Vladimir Putin and others increase dangers for the world,” FT’s Gideon Rachman, FT, 10.03.22.

  • “The most dangerous conspiracy theorist of them all is Vladimir Putin, who is currently threatening the world with nuclear war. His speech last week, announcing the illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine, was stuffed full of conspiratorial thinking. According to Putin, the collective West doesn’t ‘want us to be free; they want us to be a colony . . . They want to steal from us.’ On previous occasions, Putin and his key advisers have made reference to the conspiracy theory of the ‘golden billion.’ This holds that the West has decided that the world only has enough resources to support a billion people—and that therefore it intends to break up Russia and steal its resources. Last week he claimed that Western countries have abandoned religion and embraced ‘satanism.’”
  • “It is increasingly evident that Putin actually believes many of the conspiracy theories he peddles. A deeply conspiratorial view of the world has driven his actions for years. He has repeatedly insisted that ‘color revolutions’ in Ukraine and Georgia were not spontaneous democratic movements, but ‘coups’ manufactured by Western intelligence agencies.”
  • “Some years ago, Angela Merkel, the former German chancellor, suggested that Putin had lost touch with reality and was living ‘in another world.’ That world is one in which hidden enemies and plots abound. It is the world of conspiracy theories. Tragically, Putin’s diseased imagination has unleashed a needless, brutal and increasingly dangerous war.”

“Understanding Russian Coercive Signaling,” Samuel Charap, Andrew Stravers, John J. Drennan, Dara Massicot, Sean M. Zeigler, Gregory Weider Fauerbach, Mark Stalczynski, Melissa Shostak, RAND, September 2022.

  • “The authors found ... that much of the assertive, dangerous or unsafe Russian activity appears to be directed at shaping specific patterns of ongoing U.S. or allied behavior. Moscow appears to be using coercive signals to send targeted messages regarding activities that it finds problematic. Most Russian proactive activities, such as scheduled exercises or strategic bomber training flights, convey general deterrence signals and do not pose immediate safety concerns.”
  • “Much of the assertive, dangerous, or unsafe Russian activity appears directed at shaping patterns of ongoing U.S. or allied behavior.”
    • “Such activity is almost by definition responsive not proactive. Moscow appears to be using coercive signals to send targeted messages regarding activities that it finds problematic. It should be emphasized that this is an empirical research finding; it is neither a normative assessment nor a policy prescription.”
  • “These signals are often linked to particular U.S. and allied activities.”
    • “U.S. or North Atlantic Treaty Organization exercises in states that border Russia produce a statistically significant increase in Russian snap exercises on the country's western frontiers.”
    • “The average number of Russian assertive maritime incidents in the Black or Baltic Seas in a given month is seven times higher when an Aegis-capable U.S. ship is present there. Most proactive activities, such as scheduled exercises or strategic bomber training flights, generally are used for broad deterrence messaging and do not pose immediate safety concerns.”
    • “Russia's deterrent signaling appears to be deliberately predictable. There is therefore a line between the Russian practices of compellence—attempts to force a change in U.S. or allied behavior—and deterrence.”
    • “Compellent signals are usually a response to U.S. or allied behavior that Moscow finds problematic, generally along Russia's periphery; these signals can be quite belligerent.”
    • “Deterrent signals are generally predictable and do not entail brinksmanship.”

“A Stronger But Less Ambitious NATO,” Thibault Muzergues of the International Republican Institute and Kenneth M. Pollack of the American Enterprise Institute, FA, 10.03.22.

  • “Ending NATO’s out-of-area concept may turn out not to be a bad thing, at least in the minds of those who, after Afghanistan and Libya, concluded that the costs of these endeavors far outweighed the benefits. But by shifting NATO’s geographic center of gravity decisively to the north and east, the risk is that the alliance may lose track of the threats gathering to the south.”
  • “[D]espite its likely northward tilt toward Russia, Scandinavia and the Arctic, NATO cannot ignore or forget the challenges in the Mediterranean. At the very least, NATO must ensure that even if the Mediterranean is never a Western lake, it cannot become hostile waters.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • No significant developments.

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

“Putin is not bluffing with his nuclear threats,” Harvard’s Graham Allison, BG, 10.03.22.

  • “What do Biden and his national security team know that makes them take Putin's nuclear threat so seriously? In brief, seven inconvenient facts.”
    • “First, in one dimension, Russia remains as much a superpower as the Evil Empire ever was: It has a nuclear arsenal that can literally erase the United States from the map.”
    • “Second, Ronald Reagan summarized most succinctly the profound consequences that follow from the first point in his oft-repeated one-liner: ‘a nuclear war cannot be won, and therefore must never be fought.’”
    • “Third, while the Cold War nuclear arsenals of the United States and Soviet Union that numbered almost 100,000 have mercifully been sharply reduced, Putin continues to command an arsenal that includes more than 6,000 nuclear warheads, 1,500 of which are deliverable by long-range missiles, bombers or submarines, each weapon capable of devastating any city in the world within hours.”
    • “Fourth, Putin's arsenal also includes 1,900 tactical nuclear weapons designed for use on the battlefield or at shorter range.”
    • “Fifth, in strategy 101, nuclear weapons are the weaker powers' ‘equalizer.’”
    • “Sixth, after seven decades without any use of nuclear weapons in war, ‘a nuclear taboo’ has led many to conclude that nuclear weapons are no longer usable weapons of war.”
    • “Seventh, despite the stark differences between allies and territories that have been seized by force, it is hard to deny an uncomfortable similarity between Putin's threat to retaliate with nuclear weapons against any attack on Russia's newly annexed territory and America's threat to retaliate with nuclear weapons to a Russian attack on the territory of U.S. NATO allies to whom we have given an ‘Article V’ guarantee.”
  • “Putin's latest move has taken us into a much more dangerous world, and the Biden administration is right to take his threats seriously.”

“In Washington, Putin's Nuclear Threats Stir Growing Alarm,” NYT’s David Sanger, Anton Troianovski and Julian Barnes, NYT, 10.02.22.

  • “‘This is not a bluff,’ Mr. Putin said last month, a reminder that making first use of nuclear weapons is an integral part of Russian military strategy. Last weekend, President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, responded that any nuclear weapon use would result in ‘catastrophic consequences’ for Russia, adding that in private communications with Moscow, the United States had ‘spelled out’ how America and the world would react.”
  • “In issuing his warning to Russia last week, Mr. Sullivan declined to describe the playbook of American or NATO responses … But in background conversations, a range of officials suggested that if Russia detonated a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukrainian soil, the options included unplugging Russia from the world economy or some kind of military response—though one that would most likely be delivered by the Ukrainians with Western-provided, conventional weapons.”
  • “'The chance that Putin would strike out of the blue seems very low,' said Graham T. Allison … 'But as Kennedy said back then [during the Cuban Missile Crisis], the plausible scenario is if a leader is forced to choose between a catastrophic humiliation and a roll of the dice that might yield success.' … Mr. Allison suspects Mr. Putin will not face that choice unless Ukraine succeeds in pushing Russian forces out of the areas Mr. Putin annexed on Friday. For that reason, the next few weeks could prove a particularly dangerous time, a range of American and European officials agree. … His initial steps, according to the officials, would probably involve a sabotage campaign in Europe, attacking Ukraine's energy infrastructure or targeting senior officials in Kyiv.”
  • “But by escalating his nuclear threats in combination with the annexation, Mr. Putin appears to have two goals in mind. One is to scare the United States and NATO from direct intervention in Ukraine. … The second is to force the West to back off supporting Ukraine at all, or to perhaps force the Ukrainians to the negotiating table in a disadvantageous position.”
  • “Vasily Kashin, the Higher School of Economics professor, said that his analysis of recent statements by Russian officials led him to conclude that Mr. Putin's annexation on Friday was a signal that further major gains by Ukraine could lead to nuclear use.”

“Putin says nuclear threat is no bluff. We should take him at his word," Joseph Cirincione, WP, 09.26.22.

  • “Russian President Vladimir Putin is losing his war. If the Ukrainians continue to liberate areas of their country from his invading army, would he actually use nuclear weapons as he has threatened? … Given the stakes, if the chances are 10 percent or 40 percent, the response would be the same: Minimize the possibility of nuclear use, and prepare responses in advance.”
  • “We should believe Putin that ‘this is not a bluff.’ The first use of nuclear weapons in a conflict is an integral part of Russian military doctrine, as it is in U.S. war plans. … Russian military writings describe in detail how, if Russia is losing a conflict, it could use nuclear weapons to force its enemy to retreat. ... What would that look like in Ukraine?”
    • “Demonstration shot. One option is for Russia to fire a nuclear weapon over an uninhabited area—say, part of the Black Sea—as a demonstration of its seriousness in hopes that the West will back down. ... Russia would likely reject this option for the same reason U.S. military leaders did in 1945: It is not shocking enough.”
    • “Low-yield weapon. Russia could fire a ‘low-yield’ nuclear weapon on a Ukrainian military target. ... This might be the most likely scenario. Again, it would not require a ‘response in kind’ by the United States, though some would urge that.”
    • “Large-yield weapon. ... This would almost certainly trigger a direct U.S. or NATO response, though not likely nuclear. The United States and NATO have sufficient precise, powerful conventional weapons that they could use to devastate Russian forces in Ukraine and command headquarters … This would likely be accompanied by large-scale cyber operations.”
    • “Nuclear attack on NATO. This is the least likely scenario. ... If the yield of the weapon was similar to the previous scenario, it would inflict a level of destruction on a NATO state not seen since World War II. This could trigger a nuclear response. Some would argue a limited nuclear counterstrike was necessary to preserve nuclear deterrence. More likely is an all-out conventional assault to try to eliminate either Putin himself or the weapons he commands before he strikes again.”
  • “These are horrible scenarios to consider. If you are worried, you are having the appropriate reaction. We should do all we can now to prepare.”

“Is Putin bluffing on using nuclear weapons?” Harvard’s Alexandra Vacroux, The Boston Globe, 09.28.22.

  • “Asking ourselves if the Kremlin is actually bluffing is a waste of time. The Kremlin is warning us that they are ready to violate the nuclear taboo if Russia’s very existence is threatened. … The point is that nothing is off the table for the Russians, and parsing speeches or social media posts is not productive.”
  • “Russian military doctrine states that it reserves the right to deploy nuclear weapons if the very existence of Russia is at stake—that is, defensively. Many observers have worried that annexing (politically if not actually) 20% of Ukraine will allow Russia to argue that NATO-supported Ukrainian offensives in these territories is now akin to an attack on Russia and could therefore trigger a nuclear response.”
  • “Russia is more likely to consider the use of a smaller, short-range, ‘tactical’ nuclear device, a so-called battlefield device. But this is splitting hairs; the use of any nuclear device would still constitute a horrific escalation of the war. … Experience suggests that Russia would not consider attacks on the newly seized Ukrainian territories as existential threats to the state. Ukrainian forces have bombed parts of Crimea, Ukrainian territory formally and illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. The attacks … did not trigger a nuclear response.”
  • “The real question we should be asking ourselves is if the United States is bluffing when it says that there will be catastrophic consequences for a Russian nuclear attack. Public statements from the Biden administration have been vague but the administration has apparently been sending stronger and more specific warnings to Moscow for months. … This then is the real danger: Moscow doesn’t believe that NATO will respond forcefully to a nuclear attack. The Kremlin believes that American and European politicians are feckless, only temporarily united, and too nervous about a cold winter and losing elections to escalate back. That may indeed be true.”
  • “Now unafraid of how the West would react, the Kremlin will be encouraged to engage in other forms of aggression beyond Ukraine, from cyberattacks on Western infrastructure to more aggressive meddling in elections. The most dangerous phase of this war is just beginning.”

“Putin’s nuclear threats cannot be ignored,” FT’s Gideon Rachman, FT, 09.29.22.

  • “Putin is cornered. He is also immoral and reckless. Using a nuclear weapon is clearly not his first choice. But it might be his last roll of the dice—if the alternative was humiliation and defeat.  … The theory that using nuclear weapons can force an enemy to back down is part of Russian military doctrine and is known as ‘escalate to de-escalate.’ The U.S. has warned Putin that using nuclear weapons would have ‘catastrophic’ consequences for Russia. But in Russia—just as in the West—there are many who insist that the other side is bluffing.”
  • “Even those Western policymakers who take Putin’s nuclear threats very seriously remain determined that Russia must not be allowed to use nuclear blackmail to force an end to Western support for Ukraine. That leaves policymakers walking a perilous tightrope. The aim is to provide enough support for Ukraine to allow Kyiv to defeat Russian forces without tempting the Kremlin to go nuclear. The difficulty with that policy is that it struggles to answer the question, how exactly do we see this war ending?”
  • “There is much talk in the West about the need for a Russian defeat. But by this few mean unconditional surrender. Rather, the war will have to end with a negotiated peace, either with Putin’s regime or its successor.”
  • “The U.S. and its Western allies say that Russia must be forced back even further—to at least behind the lines from where it invaded. The Ukrainian government, meanwhile, insists that Russia must be expelled from all occupied Ukrainian land. … It is hard to imagine Putin accepting even the less hardline Western position … With Ukrainian forces advancing, Kyiv is also in no hurry to get to the negotiating table.”
  • “Many in the West are hoping for some variant of the Argentine outcome—a defeat for Putin, followed by the emergence of a more palatable and pliant Russian government. That would be wonderful, no doubt. But hoping for something does not make it more likely. And most of the alternative outcomes range between bleak and catastrophic.”

“The Cuban Missile Crisis at 60: Six Timeless Lessons for Arms Control,” Harvard’s Graham Allison, Arms Control Today, October 2022.

  • “October marks the 60th anniversary of the most dangerous crisis in recorded history. In October 1962, U.S. President John Kennedy faced off with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in an eyeball to eyeball confrontation, each with his nation’s nuclear arsenal in hand. ... Over the decades since, key lessons from the crisis have been adapted and applied by the successors of Kennedy and Khrushchev to inform fateful choices. Of the many lessons from this nearly apocalyptic episode, six offer timeless insights for arms control.”
    • “First, to survive in a world of mutually assured destruction or MAD, a nuclear power must constrain itself and find ways to persuade its nuclear adversary to constrain itself.”
    • “Second, from the brute fact that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won’ because at the conclusion the attacker would also have lost their own society, U.S. President Ronald Reagan drew a large categorical imperative: a nuclear war ‘must therefore never be fought.’ Reagan’s often-repeated one-liner, that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must therefore never be fought,’ almost says it all.”
    • “Lesson three spotlights the necessity for communication, especially private communication, between leaders of nuclear-armed states.”
    • “Kennedy believed that the most important lesson of the missile crisis was the necessity for mutual constraints, which he understood required unilateral constraints.”
    • “The fifth lesson requires that adversaries find ways to constrain their own unilateral activities, including in explicit agreements, as the price for inducing their adversary to accept mutual restraints.”
    • “The sixth lesson recognizes that to avoid future confrontations like the Cuban missile crisis would require finding ways to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states.”
  • “Given the pressures for further proliferation of nuclear weapons resulting from the lessons leaders are now drawing from Russia’s war against Ukraine, as well as the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the toppling of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, sustaining this success will require another burst of strategic imagination and relentless effort in the decades ahead.”

“What Xi must tell Putin now,” Mike Mullen, Sam Nunn and Ernest J. Moniz, WP, 09.29.22.

  • “The course Putin has threatened would be a global disaster, with unique implications for China. That's likely why Beijing has moved from a rhetorical ‘no limits’ friendship to now urging the Kremlin to de-escalate. Much more is needed to influence Putin.”
  • “If Putin uses nuclear weapons against Ukraine, it could lead nonnuclear weapon states in Asia to the dangerous conclusion that acquiring their own nuclear weapons is the only way to guarantee their security against a nuclear-armed China. No one has to remind the Chinese that Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have significant nuclear technology expertise and are quite capable of quickly developing their own nuclear deterrents, in particular if trust in the United States is also weakened.”
  • “The most sensible policy choice for China is to wield its unique position of influence to encourage more ‘rational’ decision-making by Putin. In particular, President Xi must make clear to Putin that nuclear use is a line he must not cross, and nuclear saber-rattling itself threatens the global nuclear order.”
  • “President Biden should also urge Xi to reassess China's great power alignments, including Beijing's relationship with Moscow. Less-threatening, more predictable partners would offer greater stability for Asia than a Russian president intent on an increasingly irrational course while presiding over a weakened and isolated state.”
  • “A nuclear war is certainly not inevitable, but the risk of Russian nuclear escalation is real and would be ignored at our collective peril. There is wisdom in restraint in the face of Putin's nuclear threats. China and the international community, including India, must use all the diplomatic tools they can muster to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict and dissuade Putin from compounding the grievous mistake of starting this war by further escalating it.”

“If Putin Nukes Ukraine, Russia Could Win the War,” Dan Goure of the Lexington Institute, NI, 10.02.22.

  • “Western leaders, most prominently U.S. president Joe Biden, have promised to respond to Russia’s use of nuclear weapons by doubling down on their support for Ukraine, providing it with more and better conventional weapons, expanding economic sanctions on Russia, and trying to enlist the global community to make Russia a pariah state.”
  • “The provision of additional Western military gear to Ukraine, including more HIMARS launchers, long-range missiles, advanced drones, heavy armor, and even F-16 fighters, will ensure that Ukraine can hold off the Russian army. But it will not end the war.”
  • “In fact, the likely Western response would play right into Putin’s hands. His initial nuclear use would be met with a less than proportionate response, demonstrating Western weakness. Moscow would have gotten away with using a nuclear weapon, shown that deterrence was meaningless, and set itself up to use nuclear weapons again in the future. Putin’s fortunes at home would certainly improve. He would claim to be the Russian leader that stood up to the West and got away with employing a nuclear weapon to defend the Motherland.”
  • “A leader who is willing to go past the brink to defend the Motherland will garner profound respect, or better, fear, in Russia. That should be good enough for Putin.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

“Russia’s cyber war that wasn’t,” FT’s George Steer, FT, 09.29.22.

  • “Russian cyber attacks on Ukraine and its allies since then ‘simply have not had the intended impact,’ Lindy Cameron, chief executive at the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre said. Why?”
  • “This lack of Russian success could be considered unexpected. However, the reasons for it can be attributed to three elements: impressive Ukrainian cyber defences, incredible support from industry partners and impressive collaboration between the U.K., U.S., EU, NATO and others.”

Energy exports from CIS:

On who damaged the Nordstream pipelines? A Twitter thread by Stimson Center’s Emma Ashford, 09.28.22.

  • “The short answer is: we don't know, and we won't know for some time, unless the WH chooses to declassify info. But we can at least parse the possibilities.”
  • “1) Russia did it. Four potential explanations for why: 1a) Putin was signaling that he can damage European energy infrastructure at will and might do so in future. Fits with the last few days of escalation, but not with Russia's caution about attacks outside Ukraine so far.”
  • “2) Someone else (not Russia) did it. Several possibilities, all fairly unlikely. 2a) The U.S. did it. Weird tweets and off-the-cuff remarks from Biden aside, it stretches credulity to think that this administration would throw caution to the wind & act against European states.”
  • “2b) The Ukrainians did it. It makes logical sense—Nord Stream has always undermined Ukrainian interests, and they don't want Euro states to back down this winter. But unclear if they have the capabilities, and the risk of backlash if revealed is extreme. 2c) Poland or the Baltic states did it.”
  • “From the point of view of escalation, 1a is by far the most concerning. It would suggest Russian willingness to escalate horizontally. I hope it's not accurate. 2b and 2c are the most concerning from the point of view of alliance management.”
  • “Two other possibilities in the replies: China. This directly undermines China's interests in ending the war quickly and maintaining cheap energy supplies. Accident.”

“Permanent Rupture: The European-Russian Energy Relationship Has Ended with Nord Stream,” Emily Holland of the U.S. Naval War College, War on the Rocks, 10.03.22.

  • “The blasts that tore through the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines last Monday have already blown up whatever was left of five decades of German energy policy.”
  • “In the context of Russia’s continued war in Ukraine, these explosions signal a critical juncture in Euro-Russian relations and global energy flows. Indeed, they mark the definitive end of the gas bridge that has linked the fates of Europe and Russia since the 1960s. The violent demise of Nord Stream forces Brussels and Moscow in opposite directions: Europe will now accelerate its clean energy transition and seek closer energy ties with the United States, while Moscow is now China’s gas station. This is not ideal for either side. In the coming years both European competitiveness and Russia’s role on the global stage will diminish.”

“Shock and Awe: Who Attacked the Nord Stream Pipelines?,” Sergey Vakulenko, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 09.30.22.

  • “There are aspects of this mystery that resemble an Agatha Christie novel, in which nearly everyone involved appears to have a motive or would benefit from the outcome. It’s useful, therefore, even as a thought experiment, to look at what we know (and don’t know) about … the all-important question of who stands to benefit.”
    • “One irony of the attack is that Russia’s Gazprom potentially stands to benefit: it will no longer need to invent excuses not to supply Europe via Nord Stream 1.”
    • “The elimination of Nord Stream’s gas supply capacity from the European energy equation also strengthens the Ukrainian hand. Ukraine’s fear ever since 2014 has been that if forced to choose between Russian gas and support for Ukraine, Europe might choose the former and abandon Ukraine, and as long as non-Ukrainian supply routes existed, Ukraine would not be able to stop Russia from supplying Europe.”
    • “For the Europeans, there is no longer the risk that binding contracts to buy more expensive gas will become loss-making if Russia suddenly floods the market with cheap gas following some sort of de-escalation.”
  • “In today’s increasingly transparent world, the truth might not stay buried for long.”

“How Europe can adapt to living without Russian gas for years,” Pierre Andurand of Andurand Capital Management, FT, 09.27.22.

  • “Russia has historically supplied about 30% of the EU and U.K.’s gas consumption by pipeline. Those exports have already been cut by 75%. If Moscow stops them entirely, will Europeans freeze to death in the winter, as Russian propagandists have been warning?   Almost certainly not. In fact, it looks as though Europeans have a great deal more capacity in managing the situation than the fearmongers thought. Much of European gas demand comes from heating. If Europeans just lower thermostats in their homes by an average of 3C—down to 19C this winter—that could make a big difference.”

“The Oil Market Has a Big Russia Sanctions Problem,” Bloomberg’s Julian Lee, Bloomberg, 09.30.22.

  • “The U.S. administration is running out of time to prevent European sanctions on Russian crude from causing a spike in oil prices. For months now, the Treasury has been fighting hard—in the face of much skepticism and ridicule—to soften European sanctions that bar providing insurance and other services for tankers moving Russian oil anywhere in the world.”
  • “Why make such a seemingly pro-Moscow move? Because the Treasury is terrified that without those key services about 2 million barrels a day of Russian crude will stop flowing, followed three months later by refined products. An oil supply crisis will ensue, prices will pop, sending U.S. gasoline soaring again and triggering another sickening wave of inflation.”

“Europe will come to its senses and understand that it is necessary to negotiate,” Fyodor Lukyanov interviews Russian energy expert Valery Bessel for Russian TV’s International Review program, 10.03.22. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “I would say that it takes time, we need to wait. All of us have encountered such a hysterical state before ... we need to survive a certain crisis in order to get out of it. I think when Europe survives this winter (and it will be very difficult for Europeans to experience it), Europe will come to its senses a little and understand that it is necessary to negotiate.”
  • [When asked “Do you think that energy cooperation between Russia and Europe will resume after some time?”] “I don't just think that—I'm absolutely sure of it.”

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

“What's Old Is New Again: Cold War Lessons for Countering Disinformation,” Belfer Center’s Calder Walton, Texas National Security Review, vol. 5. no. 4. (Fall 2022)

  • “Hostile foreign states are using weaponized information to attack the United States. Russia and China are disseminating disinformation about domestic U.S. race relations and COVID-19 to undermine and discredit the U.S. government. These information warfare attacks, which threaten U.S. national security, may seem new, but they are not.”
  • “As in the Cold War, the grievances that Russian disinformation targets in U.S. society are American made, not foreign.”
  • “The methods that the U.S. government devised during the Cold War to counter Soviet disinformation are still relevant, even in today's information landscape. By applying that history, this paper recommends developing a new U.S. strategy for countering hostile state disinformation: through promoting digital literacy, which requires a whole-of-society, generational effort. Establishing a coherent strategy is important because disinformation will be a major theme of 21st-century international security, as societies and governments become increasingly interconnected.”


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Russia’s Elites Are Starting to Admit the Possibility of Defeat,” Tatyana Stanovaya, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 10.03.22. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “With the chaotic implementation of the mobilization and the sorry state of affairs on the front, the idea that Russia will inevitably prevail has started to be overshadowed by doubt over what price Russia is prepared to pay in order to bring Ukraine to heel. The longer the conflict rages and the more resources the Russian regime throws into the furnace of war, the more divided Russia’s elites may become, and the more serious those divides.”
    • “For a start, there are no signs that the Russian elite sees Ukraine as an existential problem for Russia. For Putin, it is an extremely emotional and personal topic.”
    • “Another divisive issue among the elites is the prospect of nuclear weapons being used.”
    • “There is no official position or inter-elite unanimity on what can be considered a definitive victory.”
    • “Peace talks are another divisive issue…even if Kyiv were willing to sit down at the negotiating table (which seems impossible after the latest annexations), the reality is that Putin flatly refuses to have anything to do with the current Ukrainian leadership.”
    • “The final issue that could tear apart any unity among the Russian elites is the price their country is willing to pay for a victory over Ukraine. A full-scale mobilization fraught with the risk of internal instability and a new wave of repression, an endless spiral of sanctions and growing isolation, and falling income from exports all beg the question of how far Russia is prepared to go. Is there any price at all that the Kremlin won’t pay for Ukraine? It seems that Putin and the Russian elites have very different answers to these questions.”
  • “Until September, the Russian elites had made the pragmatic choice to support Putin as a guarantor against defeat. But matters have progressed so far that they may now have to choose among various losing scenarios. That makes Putin far more vulnerable, for he may just find that he and the elites settle on different scenarios.”

“This is what a post-Putin Russia should look like,” Alexei Navalny, WP, 09.30.22. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “The urge for aggression is coming from a minority in Russian society. … There are several important things happening to Russia that need to be understood:”
    • “First, jealousy of Ukraine and its possible successes is an innate feature of post-Soviet power in Russia … Control over Ukraine is the most important article of faith for all Russians with imperial views, from officials to ordinary people. In their opinion, Russia combined with a subordinate Ukraine amounts to a ‘reborn USSR and empire.’”
    • “Second, the view of war not as a catastrophe but as an amazing means of solving all problems is not just a philosophy of Putin's top brass, but also a practice confirmed by life and evolution.”
    • “Third, therefore, the hopes that Putin's replacement by another member of his elite will fundamentally change this view on war, and especially war over the ‘legacy of the USSR,’ are naive at the very least. The elites simply know from experience that war works—better than anything else.”
  • “The war with Ukraine was started and waged, of course, by Putin, trying to solve his domestic political problems. But the real war party is the entire elite and the system of power itself, which is an endlessly self-reproducing Russian authoritarianism of the imperial kind.”
  • “In the 31 years since the collapse of the USSR, we have witnessed a clear pattern: The countries that chose the parliamentary republic model (the Baltic states) are thriving and have successfully joined Europe. Those that chose the presidential-parliamentary model (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) have faced persistent instability and made little progress. … Strategic victory means bringing Russia back to this key historical juncture and letting the Russian people make the right choice. The future model for Russia is not ‘strong power’ and a ‘firm hand,’ but harmony, agreement and consideration of the interests of the whole society. Russia needs a parliamentary republic. That is the only way to stop the endless cycle of imperial authoritarianism.”

“Putin’s Roulette. Sacrificing His Core Supporters in a Race Against Defeat,” Andrei Kolesnikov, FA, 09.30.22. Clues from Russian Views.

  • “The mobilization is a sign of desperation on the part of Putin. So humiliating is the prospect of a defeat that he is determined to continue the war at any cost, because he hasn’t achieved the vague goals that he set for himself in February.”
  • “Turning on his own people is dangerous for Putin. … Rather than the democrats or liberals in Russia’s large cities, it is ordinary Russians who see the ruthless hunt for military recruits as a violation of their rights. … That sense of injustice will be heightened by the social and economic consequences of unprecedented militarization.”
  • “Even more significant than Putin’s betrayal of the masses, however, may be his betrayal of Russia’s youth. Young people who have the means to do so and have some sort of education are simply fleeing. They see a country that has no future and know that if they stay, they will have no future either. … For those unable to flee or who have family members up for the draft, one of the responses is to protest, even though it is extremely dangerous.”
  • “As it loses more of its youth, Russia’s aging and stagnating population will grow even older and smaller, providing Putin with support at elections but not giving his regime any legitimacy.”
  • “This horrifying conflict in Europe could continue even when Putin’s resources—both human and psychological—have run out.  A better outcome is possible, but by implicating the entire country in his war, Putin has now made it that much harder to obtain: a result in which Russia begins to move from authoritarianism to democracy. If it could somehow be accomplished, however, such a victory would be a joint one: for Ukraine, Europe, the West and the entire world—including Russia. For it would mean a Russia free from Putin and Putinism.”

“What Mobilization Means for Russia,” Michael Kimmage of the Catholic University of America and Maria Lipman of George Washington University, FA, 09.27.22.      

  • “Putin now faces a punishing timeline. He cannot win the war quickly and may be incapable of winning it at all. He may be able to maneuver toward an outcome he and his country can accept, but that might be a multiyear project. For ordinary Russians, that time will be marked by pain, loss, and suffering. The war will smother the pleasures of peace. Wars of choice are especially prone to diminishing public enthusiasm. In this regard, Putin might benefit from studying the history of the Soviet war in Afghanistan.”
  • “Yet Putin will also not back down. He will seek ways to prolong the war, which is by no means impossible for him. Mobilization will allow him to cycle new soldiers into the war and perhaps to mount surprise attacks.”
  • “Precipitously stepping up repression is hard for authoritarian regimes. There exists a mysterious point at which increased repression generates increased unrest, and an unknowable point at which revolution begins.”
  • “Putin has available to him to an immense architecture of repression. ... He has every resource he needs to transform Russia into a brutal police state, far more repressive than it is at the present moment. That will win him no sincere support for the war, and it may give him no new advantage in the war. But it will grant him a means of corralling Russians into the war effort and severely punishing anyone who stands in his way. In prosecuting his war in Ukraine, Putin will be relentless. In prosecuting his war at home, he will be ruthless.”

“Russia’s Great Transformational Failure,” Maria Snegovaya of Georgetown University, PONARS/Tablet Magazine, 09.29.22.

  • “The collapse of the Soviet system led to a period of hope in Russia. Throughout the 2000s, it was popular to describe Russia as a ‘normal country.’ The changes it went through during its transition from Soviet communism to a Westernized, market-based economy and parliamentary system were agreed to be irreversible, setting the stage for the country to eventually join the club of liberal democracies. Thirty years later, however, it seems clear that Russia’s much-heralded modernization effort was a failure.”
  • “Russia is yet again abandoning the path of modernization. Lacking any internal mechanism to change its trajectory, Russia under its current leadership will likely continue to stagnate and become more isolated. New attempts at modernization, if they ever materialize, will have to be made by future generations.”

“For a fascist revival look to Moscow, not Rome,” Timothy Garton Ash, FT,

  • “With the victory of Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy, BBC radio listeners were told that the country’s parliamentary elections last weekend would result in ‘its first far-right leader since Benito Mussolini.’ It is true that, as a young woman, Meloni became a passionate adherent of a neo-fascist party and was once caught on camera describing Mussolini as ‘the best politician of the last 50 years.’ But to present her today as a national leader in a direct line from Mussolini is a journalistic flourish too far.”
  • “There is, however, a serious contender for this label: Vladimir Putin’s Russia. So many of the historical features of fascism can be found there. The state-organized cult of a single leader. The cultivation of a deep sense of historical resentment. Indoctrination of youth and demonization of the enemy. The propaganda of the big lie — in Putin’s case, that Ukrainians are fascists. An ideology of domination by one Volk over others: for Putin, Ukrainians don’t really exist, they are just a variant of Russians.”

Defense and aerospace:

“Why Russia Lacks 'Smart' Weapons,” Chris Miller of the Fletcher School, WSJ, 09.29.22.

  • “Russia uses precision munitions when they are available, but it has also relied heavily on simply saturating Ukrainian positions with unguided artillery fire. … Why should a country with Russia's resources and scientific pride be so reliant on brawn over brains in its weapons systems? ... [D]eep-seated manufacturing problems limit Russia's production of advanced weapons, such that U.S. and Ukrainian officials believe that Russia has already used a substantial share of its precision munitions and will struggle to produce more quickly.”
  • “The ‘copy it’ mentality has pervaded Russia's chip industry—and its defense sector ... A strategy of copying was fundamentally mismatched, however, to an industry that progressed with marked rapidity.”
  • “Even today, Russian weapons systems are full of Western chips. Russia's 9M549 satellite guided rocket, which is fired from a HIMARS-like system called the Tornado-S, relies on smuggled chips produced by U.S. firms like Altera and Cypress Semiconductor, according to new research from Britain's Royal United Services Institute. These rockets are thought to hit within around 10 yards of their target, making them less accurate than Himars rockets but better than unguided artillery fire. Yet Russia doesn't have enough of them, manufacturing perhaps only 100-200 each year, partly because many missiles require chips and other components that must be acquired, often illegally, from abroad.”
  • “The limited production capacity of Russia's defense industry has left its military with dangerously low levels of precision munitions. Ukrainian intelligence believes that Russia has already fired 55% of its entire stockpile of guided missiles. Because missile supplies are limited, Russian forces have been using antiaircraft weapons against ground targets in Ukraine.”
  • “Stealing U.S. technology for Russian weapons may once have seemed clever and efficient, but it has left Russia with a military industrial base whose production capacity is fatally reliant on access to Western innovation.”

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:

  • No significant developments.


  • No significant developments.

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • No significant developments.



  1. This is a summary of an article that is adapted from the newly updated e-book edition of “Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and With the Rest” by Angela Stent.
  2. For a different answer to the question on whether Russia is fascist, see, for example,  “So, Is Russia Fascist Now? Labels and Policy,” GWU’s Marlene Laruelle, The Washington Quarterly, 07.14.22.