Russia Analytical Report, Sept. 6-12, 2022

6 Ideas to Explore

  1. The startling advances made by Ukraine in the northeast present Russian military commanders with an unpalatable choice: attempt a further retreat to consolidate forces or try to hang on to territory using troops who are suddenly exposed, according to Jack Watling of RUSI. The Kremlin needs to regain the initiative, but ''military commanders can only do that if they understand what they are being asked to achieve,” he tells the New York Times. Meanwhile, the reality of the Russian setback is already poking holes in the Kremlin’s message that the Russian army is undefeatable, Ukraine is riddled with corruption and cowardice and Putin is a brilliant geopolitical strategist, according to the paper’s Moscow bureau chief, Anton Troianovski.
  2. Restraint in Washington’s policy toward Moscow worked in the original Cold War and should remain the guiding principle today. This follows from a commentary in Foreign Affairs by RAND’s Samuel Charap and Michael Mazarr, who question the wisdom of a recent call by Johns Hopkins University’s Alexander Vindman for Washington to stop tiptoeing around Russia.
  3. Russo-Chinese relations are “more than just allied in nature,” according to a Valdai Club report by a group of Russian researchers ahead of this week’s Xi-Putin meeting. Cooperation between Moscow and Beijing has reached a historical high as the two powers have come to share a “deep vision” of the main international challenges and a belief in the need for changes in international politics and the world economy, according to the report’s authors.
  4. The economic crisis caused in Russia by the West’s decisions to severely limit economic ties is similar to the crisis of 1992, when the disintegration of the Soviet Union ruptured ties among the newly independent states, according to Vladimir Gimpelson of the Higher School of Economics. These ties will not be restored quickly, even once the war ends. “I think it’s going to be a very long story… Everything will move in the same direction no matter what,” Gimpleson was quoted as saying in an interview with The Bell translated by Russia.Post. In the longer run Russia will cease to be the main supplier of hydrocarbons to Europe and will pay a high price for decoupling from advanced economies by accelerating its own technological backwardness, according to a PONARS memo Vadim Grishin of George Washington University.
  5. The party of peace in Russia has been completely crushed, but the party of war lacks competent administrators to run the country, according to Carnegie’s Alexander Baunov. “A silent conflict is unfolding between the party of war and those who want to ignore the war and return to normality. The party of war has the advantage here, because it is obvious that after the invasion of Ukraine, a return to normality—neither in international relations nor in the economy—will be possible,” Baunov has told Berliner Zeitung.
  6. The Russian public increasingly sees the drawn-out hostilities in Ukraine as something of a second pandemica storm that must simply be weathered, after which things will return to normal, according to Denis Volkov of the Levada Center and Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Based on their study of Russians’ views on the war, “the unanswered question is whether the deterioration of Russia’s socioeconomic conditions will change this picture,” the two researchers warn.

 

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:

  • No significant developments.

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“After Ukrainian Advances, Russia Faces Tough Choices,” Matthew Mpoke Bigg, NYT, 09.11.22.

  • “The startling advances made by Ukraine to recapture territory in the northeast present Russian military commanders with a series of unpalatable choices. Retreat in any war forces commanders to confront questions they would rather not have to consider, such as how to halt enemy momentum, where to establish new defensive lines and how to restore troop morale. This moment is no different, according to Jack Watling, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.”
  • “Watling said that the loss of Izium and a broader slice of territory southeast of the city of Kharkiv appeared to show the effective collapse of one of four Russian regional commands in Ukraine—the one that covers the northeast. The most pressing issue now for military planners is whether to attempt a retreat to consolidate forces in a more secure defensive position, or to try to hang on to territory using troops who are suddenly exposed.”
    • “In a possible indication of the Kremlin's thinking, the Russian Defense Ministry released a map on Sunday [Sept. 11] that appeared to show its troops had pulled back to the other side of the Oskil River, which runs through the Kharkiv region east of Izium.”
  • “Russian forces risk being caught in a series of ‘self-demoralizing cycles,’ and commanders need to show to their own forces that they are ‘not inevitably losing,’ Mr. Watling said. But finding more motivated and capable forces will not be easy in the short term.”
  • “In recent weeks, Russia deployed some of its most effective troops in Ukraine … to reinforce the southern front in the face of a separate Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kherson region.”
  • “One short-term possibility, Mr. Watling said, would be to send Russia's newly formed 3rd Army Corps into the battle in the northeast, and perhaps try to take advantage of Ukrainian forces becoming overstretched as they advance. But that grouping has not been fully trained… Another option would be to move Russian troops stationed on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, near the Zaporizka [or Zaporizhzhia] region, farther east as defensive reinforcements.”
  • “The Kremlin needs to do something to regain the initiative in Ukraine, Mr. Watling said, but ‘military commanders can do only that if they understand what they are being asked to achieve.’”

Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:

  • No significant developments.

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • See Lavrov Q&A in “Great Power rivalry” below.

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

“The Wisdom of U.S. Restraint on Russia. As in the Cold War, Washington Cannot Wish Moscow Away,” RAND’s Samuel Charap and Michael Mazarr, FA, 09.12.22.

  • “In ‘Stop Tiptoeing Around Russia’ (August 8, 2022), Alexander Vindman contends that, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington’s approach to Moscow has been stuck at the appeasement end of the policy spectrum.”
  • “Vindman’s narrative badly misreads the history of U.S. policy toward Russia and its neighbors in the post-Soviet era. Further, despite his claims, a more confrontational relationship with Russia would not have served U.S. interests—and would be particularly problematic today. Indeed, the lessons of every significant Cold War crisis suggest that a more circumspect policy is necessary at such a perilous moment.”
  • “In recent months, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has drawn scathing criticism for its calculated caution with regard to American involvement in the Ukraine conflict. Yet in Cold War confrontations from Cuba to Czechoslovakia to Vietnam, U.S. presidents consistently restrained their short-term ambitions to avoid the calamity of large-scale war—especially if they were confident that the United States would prevail in the long run. U.S. leaders have every reason for such confidence today: Russia’s losses in Ukraine, the Kremlin’s global isolation, and punishing sanctions are devastating Russia’s strategic position relative to the United States and Europe.”
  • “Vindman portrays U.S. support for Ukraine as paltry, limited by misplaced concerns about Russian escalation. To the contrary, history suggests that the Biden administration’s approach to aiding Ukraine is informed by a difficult but ultimately essential balancing of risks and opportunities. Washington has been inching up the volume and sophistication of its security assistance to Ukraine, gradually increasing Kyiv’s military position without provoking a wider war. Although this approach has frustrated Ukrainian leaders and many observers, it reflects the best traditions of Cold War–era crisis diplomacy—pursuing U.S. interests while avoiding a direct clash with a rival, always with an eye on the long term.”

“Russia’s retreat in Ukraine pokes holes in Putin’s projection of force,” Anton Troianovski, NYT, 09.11.22.

  • “On Sunday [Sept. 11], the Russian military continued to retreat from positions in northeastern Ukraine that it had occupied for months. State television news reports referred to the retreat as a carefully planned ‘regrouping operation,’ praising the heroism and professionalism of Russian troops. But the upbeat message did little to dampen the anger among supporters of the war over the retreat and the Kremlin’s handling of it. And it hardly obscured the bind that Mr. Putin now finds himself in, presiding over a six-month war against an increasingly energized enemy and a Russian populace that does not appear to be prepared for the sacrifices that could come with an escalating conflict.”
    •  “‘Strength is the only source of Putin’s legitimacy,’ Abbas Gallyamov, a former speechwriter for Mr. Putin who is now a political consultant living in Israel, said in a phone interview. ‘And in a situation in which it turns out that he has no strength, his legitimacy will start dropping toward zero.’”
  • “As Ukraine pressed its advantage on Sunday, seizing towns and territory, Mr. Putin escalated the brutality of his campaign, a concession to the pro-war voices on Russian television and social media. Missile strikes on infrastructure across eastern and central Ukraine plunged parts of the country into darkness… But it was unclear how far Russia—with its cyber, chemical and nuclear arsenals—might be willing to go to halt Ukraine’s momentum, even as the scale of the battlefield setback became clearer and more evidence emerged of disarray inside Russia’s ruling class.”
  • “The fundamental problem, analysts said, is that Mr. Putin’s penchant for misleading his own people is catching up to him. The reality of the Russian setback is poking holes in the Kremlin’s message that the Russian Army is undefeatable, Ukraine is riddled with corruption and cowardice and Mr. Putin is a brilliant geopolitical strategist. It was just last Wednesday that Mr. Putin declared that Russia had ‘not lost anything’ as a result of the war, an assertion at odds with Western estimates of tens of thousands of Russian casualties.”

“Our narrowing options in Ukraine,” George Beebe of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, The Hill, 09.04.22.

  • “Some six months since the start of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the emergence of three realities in the war is forcing Washington to wrestle with some hard choices.”
    • “The first is that the combination of Ukrainian courage and U.S. technology has proved quite potent in blocking Russia’s attempt to conquer the bulk of Ukraine.” 
    • “The second is that despite this defensive success, Ukraine has been unable to build offensive momentum and force the Russian military to withdraw.”
    • “The third is that American efforts to strong-arm Putin into retreat by crippling the Russian economy and isolating him on the world stage have sputtered.”
  • “These realities have reshaped Putin’s strategy. Recognizing America’s advantages in battlefield technology, Putin has turned the conflict into an endurance contest that plays to Russian strengths. … Putin may be unable to conquer Ukraine altogether, but he can turn it into a bleeding wound for years to come, unable to mend itself and in no condition to join NATO. Unless we change the terms of engagement, time may well be Putin’s ally in Ukraine. What choices do we have to counter his moves?”
    • “Tightening the economic noose around Russia will be ineffective.”
    • “Military escalation in pursuit of a Ukrainian victory would be an enormous gamble.”
    • “Fostering political change inside Russia is at best a long-term endeavor. But if Washington means to encourage opposition to Putin, its current approach is backfiring.”
    • “Washington’s recent announcement that it is establishing a separate military command to oversee the aid mission in Ukraine appears to bear out Putin’s messaging to Russians that their fight is with the United States, which is intent on Russia’s demise.”
  • “As long as we are unwilling to steer toward a compromise settlement—which, as Kyiv itself proposed early in the war, would have to involve some form of armed neutrality for Ukraine—we face a choice between escalating our involvement and engaging in an endurance contest in which Putin likes his chances. Neither approach is likely to end well for Ukraine or for the United States.”

“The Ukraine war has reached a turning point. After Russia’s setbacks a new and dangerous phase of the conflict is beginning,” Gideon Rachman, FT, 09.12.22.

  • “The sight of Russian troops in headlong retreat in Ukraine is stunning—but it should not be surprising. This war has gone badly for Russia from the outset. … If Russia is defeated, the invasion threat hovering over the rest of Europe will recede. The global political atmosphere will also change. Russian defeat will go down badly in Beijing and Mar-a-Lago.”
  • “But some caution is in order. Almost a fifth of Ukraine is still occupied. The Russians will try to regroup and the Ukrainians could over-reach. … Rather than accept defeat, Putin may try to escalate. … Using nuclear weapons in Ukraine would, however, create the obvious danger that Russia itself would be contaminated by the fallout.”
  • “Like Russian leaders in the past, Putin is hoping that winter will come to his rescue… But Putin needs a lot to go right for the gas gambit to work. A very cold winter or a surge in political protests in the West would help. Neither can be relied upon. Germany has already filled its gas reserves to 85% of the level needed to get through winter. Energy price subsidies are being rolled out across Europe.”
  • “So the Russian leader’s position looks perilous. … But if Putin is deposed, perhaps by a palace coup, his replacement is more likely to be a hardline nationalist than a liberal. … A defeated Russia would not disappear off the map. And it would still possess large numbers of nuclear weapons, as well as a replenished stock of grievances.”
  • “So many dangers clearly lie ahead. But sometimes good news has to be recognized for what it is. In what has been a bleak year, the Ukrainian military victories of the past week are certainly that.”

“It’s Time to Prepare for a Ukrainian Victory,” Anne Applebaum, The Altantic, 09.11.22.

  • “Over the past six days, Ukraine’s armed forces have broken through the Russian lines in the northeastern corner of the country, swept eastward, and liberated town after town in what had been occupied territory. First Balakliya, then Kupyansk, then Izium, a city that sits on major supply routes.”
  • “Even though the fighting may still take many turns, the events of the past few days should force Ukraine’s allies to stop and think. A new reality has been created: The Ukrainians could win this war. Are we in the West really prepared for a Ukrainian victory? Do we know what other changes it could bring? … [T]his is what I mean: We must expect that a Ukrainian victory, and certainly a victory in Ukraine’s understanding of the term, also brings about the end of Putin’s regime. To be clear: This is not a prediction; it’s a warning.”
  • “It is inconceivable that he [Putin] can continue to rule if the centerpiece of his claim to legitimacy—his promise to put the Soviet Union back together again—proves not just impossible but laughable. … As Western heads of state, foreign ministers, and generals think about how to end this war, they should not try to preserve Putin’s view of himself or of the world, his backward-looking definition of Russian greatness. They should not be planning to negotiate on his terms at all, because they might be dealing with someone else altogether.”
  • “Now is the time to ask about the stability of Russia itself and to factor that question into our plans. Russian soldiers are running away, ditching their equipment, asking to surrender. How long do we have to wait until the men in Putin’s inner circle do the same?”
  • “The possibility of instability in Russia, a nuclear power, terrifies many. But it may now be unavoidable. And if that’s what is coming, we should anticipate it, plan for it, think about the possibilities as well as the dangers.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov answers questions on the TV program “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin,” 09.11.22 (in Russian). Clues from Russian Views

  • “Where is the world going? I think to a more just world order. It will be multipolar. The West is frantically trying by hook or by crook to maintain and strengthen its dominance.”
  • “As for the negotiations, they [the Ukrainians] have already said everything. They say that negotiations can take place only after the victory of Ukraine. And then, when ‘Russia leaves Ukrainian lands,’ they will be ready to talk, imposing their conditions on us. We do not avoid dialogue.”
  • “Everything the West does is driven by the fear of competition. For example, sanctions are clearly intended to get rid of strong competitors, and not only Russia and China.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“Strategic partnership between Russia and China in the context of the European crisis,” Higher School of Economics’ Timofei Bordachev, Vasily Kashin, Nikita Potashev, Yegor Prokhin, Veronika Smirnova and Alexandra Yankova, Valdai Club, 09.06.22 (in Russian). Clues from Russian Views

  • “Entering into a direct clash with Russia over Ukraine, Western countries have underestimated the scope and depth of the Sino-Russian strategic partnership in the new era. The events of recent months have refuted expectations about the ‘fragility’ of relations between Moscow and Beijing; they have shown the sides’ common strategic vision and a readiness to support each other in solving complex foreign policy tasks.”
  • “The only sphere where the West has been relatively successful has been in curtailing part of Sino-Russian business ties, which is explained by large Chinese companies' high degree of dependence on Western markets and technology partnerships and the fear of being hit hard by so-called secondary sanctions against U.S. crowns.”
  • “The diplomatic activity of Moscow and Beijing, as well as their actions in the broad global arena, have shown that Russian-Chinese relations are more than allied in nature; they are based on a similar deep vision of the main international problems and the necessary changes in international politics and the world economy.”
  • “Over the past six months, there has not been a single example of disagreement between Russia and China on issues that each side really considers essential. Seeing this, most observers say that Russian-Chinese relations have reached a high level of development, perhaps the highest in the history of cooperation between the countries.”
  • “It is worth emphasizing that the main reason for such close interaction between Moscow and Beijing is not the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which only spurred some processes, but the natural state of a long-term strategic partnership. Russia and China are already laying the foundations for a future international order without the hegemony of a narrow group of countries… Relations between China and Russia have grown stronger, having successfully passed the first level of the struggle to create a more just international order, which began with the historic meeting of their leaders on Feb. 4, 2022.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

 “Is Nuclear War Inevitable?,” Harvard Kennedy School’s Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Project Syndicate, 09.05.22.

  • “Nuclear deterrence is not all right or all wrong. Our acceptance of deterrence must be conditional. The just war tradition that we have inherited over the centuries suggests three relevant conditions that must be met: a just and proportionate cause, limits on means, and prudent consideration of all consequences.”
  • “I derive five nuclear maxims from these conditions. In terms of motives, we must understand that self-defense is a just but limited cause. As for means, we must never treat nuclear weapons as normal weapons, and we must minimize harm to innocent people. And regarding consequences, we should reduce the risks of nuclear war in the near term and try to reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons over time. A bomb in the basement involves some risk, but not as much risk as bombs on the front lines.”
  • “The war in Ukraine has reminded us that there is no way to avoid uncertainty and risk. The goal of reducing (not abolishing) the role of nuclear weapons over time remains as important as ever. Richard Garwin, the designer of the first hydrogen bomb, calculated that, ‘If the probability of nuclear war this year is 1%, and if each year we manage to reduce it to only 80% of what it was the previous year, then the cumulative probability of nuclear war for all time will be 5%.’ We can live moral lives with that probability.”

Counterterrorism:

“The Undestroyed Virus,” RIAC’s Andrei Kortunov, Izvestia, 09.11.22 (in Russian).Clues from Russian Views

  • “We must admit that the war on terrorism has not ended in complete victory… Why has the goal set more than two decades ago not been achieved?”
    • “First, the international community has failed to agree on a common understanding of the origins, driving forces and nature of terrorism.”
    • “Second, any successful fight against terrorism requires a high level of trust between the interacting parties, if only because it, by definition, involves the exchange of more than sensitive confidential information.”
    • “Third, international terrorism also does not stand still. It is constantly changing and evolving: It becomes more mobile, more sophisticated, more inventive.”
  • “It is likely that we will all be lucky and there will be no second edition of … September 11, 2001, in the coming years. But a solution to the problem of terrorism comes into view only if humanity moves to a new level of global governance. Either the world's leading players have enough wisdom and energy for it, or the tax on our common civilization levied by international terrorism will steadily increase.”

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

“Vladimir Putin has forced the EU into a long-overdue energy union,” Martin Sandbu, FT, 09.12.22.

  • “It was clear by 2014, when Vladimir Putin first invaded Ukraine, that Europe would have to protect itself from being held hostage to foreign energy suppliers.”
  • “It is essential for countries to agree on more and deeper unified energy policy.”
  • “While the efforts made by many countries to secure new, non-Russian, gas supplies have been impressive, these could prove beggar-thy-neighbor successes if not accompanied by a much more integrated common policy.”
  • “Brussels rightly wants governments to capture windfall profits for the most targeted support possible while letting markets work, and to keep the incentives for greater efficiency. In contrast, the UK’s choice is to cap prices for everyone. Above all, the EU’s policies show an understanding that if each tries to fix their energy crisis on their own, they will not solve it at all.”
  • “Benjamin Franklin’s warning that we will ‘hang together or hang separately’ applies to Europe today. If EU leaders can hang together through a tough winter, they will finally be building the energy union they need. And if the UK knows what is in its best interests, it will join the effort.”

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • No significant developments.

II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“The cart keeps creaking along the long path down,” The Bell’s Denis Kasyanchuk’s interviews Vladimir Gimpelson, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Russia’s Higher School of Economics, The Bell/Russia Post, 09.07.22. Clues from Russian Views

  • “The departure of foreign companies hasn’t immediately affected employment. Many companies left, but for a while they continued to support their workers, paying out some money. Employment has been supported, so it won’t collapse immediately. And then, when people lose their jobs, it doesn’t mean that they immediately become unemployed. They gradually adapt. … Plus, there is such a thing as unemployment benefits.”
  • Asked how employees and their productivity will be affected by firms’ restructuring their operations due to a lack of Western components and blocked access to some software: “Negatively. Russian companies will try to somehow replace what they no longer have. … It’ll be technologically worse, more primitive, lower quality. But this will keep the cart creaking along the long path down.”
  • Asked which sectors of the economy will be most impacted by the current crisis: “The automotive industry has already suffered the most—it’s gone. Passenger airlines have also suffered—several terminals at Sheremetyevo are closed, Domodedovo and Vnukovo are operating but at low capacity. Retail has likely also suffered greatly. … On the other hand, replacements can always be found, and in this respect the Russian economy is rather agile.”
  • “The pandemic was initially seen as a very short crisis … [whereas] the current crisis means the severing of many economic ties. It looks more like the 1992 crisis after the collapse of the USSR, when the ties between firms located in different regions of the country and in different former Soviet republics actually ceased to exist. This is what’s happening now, only it’s not ties within the country but between countries being broken. This crisis will be longer than the pandemic crisis.”
  • “I think it’s going to be a very long story. Links have been severed that can’t be restored quickly. Therefore, it doesn’t depend on whether the hostilities end tomorrow, in three months or six months. I think everything will move in the same direction no matter what. Everything’s already in place.”

“The Russian Economic Conundrum: A New Global Stress Test and Reboot of Globalization,” Vadim Grishin of George Washington and Georgetown universities, PONARS, September 2022. Clues from Russian Views

  • “So far, the economic costs of the war (about $400 million per day) and the slow burden of sanctions have not appeared extremely disastrous for the Russian economy, but the first signs of increasing challenges in the financial system have emerged: The budget deficit has begun to gain momentum, tax collection has fallen, and inflation has remained at double-digit levels. In the country’s ‘real sector’ of the economy, some industries have already felt the chilly effect of multiple sanctions, including: automotive (where production has declined by 85%), air transportation, steel, telecommunications, textile manufacturing, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.”
  • “Overall, the Russian economy is on track for a deep recession, even amid puzzling hints of temporary respite. While half a year of conflict has confirmed that sanctions per se cannot spark a regime change or stop the war, they are undermining Moscow’s ability to wage a protracted, endless war. How long the military confrontation in Ukraine will last and what exit policy will be available will ultimately be determined on the battlefield and likely shaped through back-channel diplomacy. In the longer run Russia will cease to be the main supplier of hydrocarbons to Europe and will pay a high price for decoupling from advanced economies by accelerating its own technological backwardness.”

“My Country, Right or Wrong: Russian Public Opinion on Ukraine,” Levada Center’s Denis Volkov and Carnegie’s Andrei Kolesnikov, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 09.07.22. Clues from Russian Views

  • “Hopes of Russian grassroots opposition to the war were swiftly dashed. Indeed, public opinion polls have consistently shown overwhelming support (70% or higher) for what Moscow calls its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. Contrary to expectations, Putin’s popularity has also seen a boost.”
  • “At the same time, a careful reading of popular Russian attitudes toward the war reveals important nuances that all too often are overlooked. … Rather than consolidating Russian society, the conflict has exacerbated existing divisions on a diverse array of issues, including support for the regime. Put another way, the impression that Putin now has the full support of the Russian public is simply incorrect.”
  • “Currently, about 20% of Russians say they do not agree with Russia’s actions in Ukraine, up from 14% in March… Despite the high level of support for both the ‘special operation’ and the Russian regime overall, it is notable that there are now more dissenters in Russia today than there were in 2014. Eight years ago, no more than 10% spoke out against the annexation of Crimea.” 
  • “As the war in Ukraine enters its seventh month, the conflict is becoming a routine backdrop to everyday life. Fewer Russians are paying attention. Concern over the conflict is waning. As long as the border remains open for the most dissatisfied Russians to leave the country and there is no mass mobilization order compelling the average person to send their sons and daughters to fight next door, the feeling of basic normality is likely to continue. The drawn-out hostilities are starting to be seen as something of a second pandemic: a storm that must simply be weathered, after which everything will return to the way it should be.”
  • “The unanswered question is whether the deterioration of Russia’s socioeconomic conditions will change this picture.” 

“The Hypnotist in the Kremlin. How Putin Has Used Fear and Disinformation to Neutralize the Russian Public,” Carnegie’s Andrei Kolesnikov, FA, 09.09.22. Clues from Russian Views

  • “Six months after the start of his ‘special operation,’ Putin’s project to build a new authoritarian state on partly totalitarian foundations is politically complete. As long as he is in power, it is highly unlikely that Russia will be able to return to the vector of democratic development.”
  • “Given how precarious independent thought in Russia has become, it is utterly essential to keep Russian youth connected to the West; otherwise, Putinism will indeed outlive Putin.”
  • “The hypnotist can keep playing to the crowds, or he can disappear. But the ending of ‘Mario and the Magician,’ in which the hypnotist is simply shot dead, seems little more than a novelist’s fantasy in today’s Russia—just as it was at the time of emerging dictators, when Mann was writing his novella on the shores of the Baltic Sea.”

“Russia’s 2022 Anti-War Exodus: The Attitudes and Expectations of Russian Migrants,” the European University’s Emil Kamalov, Veronika Kostenko and Ivetta Sergeeva and the Aleksanteri Institute’s Margarita Zavadskaya, PONARS, September 2022. Clues from Russian Views

“This analysis draws on an original survey conducted from March 28 to April 4, 2022. The core data come from an online panel survey of a convenience sample of 2,000 migrants from Russia, followed up with semi-structured in-depth interviews and expert interviews.”

  • “Our average respondent is 32 years old, while the mean age within the Russian population is 46 years. Most migrants come from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other big cities [pop. >1 million]… Most respondents have higher education or a postgraduate degree (81%) [vs. 27% in general population].”
  • “Prior to the war … 15% percent said they could indulge in every pleasure (against 1% in Russia), 27% could purchase a car (against 4.4% in Russia), and 46% could purchase expensive home appliances (against 26% in Russia)… 70% of respondents believe that upon their return to Russia they would suffer a drastic decline in quality of life and 30% risk losing their work or right to study. In addition, half of the respondents expect prosecutions for posting and sharing information about the war in Ukraine on social networks, 20% fear conscription, 19% think they would lose access to necessary medication, and 9% anticipate criminal charges. … 20% do not know what could happen if they return.”
  • “Most migrants share a grim vision of the nearest future: 72% believe their life will worsen in the coming year, and 70% do not believe the political situation will improve. At the same time, 72% expressed concerns regarding possible discrimination against Russian nationals in the host country, while the same number never encountered actual discrimination.”
  • “Taken together, four main conclusions can be drawn.”
    • “First, new migrants differ drastically from the Russian population norm in terms of political attitudes, skills, trust, and economic well-being.”
    • “Second, a degree of politicization and engagement is dramatically higher vis-a-vis the rest of the population as well as earlier migration waves; it is unlikely that they will integrate easily into existing Russian communities abroad due to their political stances.”
    • “Third, new migrants are lost and disoriented, expect discrimination on the basis of citizenship, and share a grim vision of the future, having most of their plans destroyed, positions lost and experiencing depression, instability, and lack of hope.”
    • “Fourth, new migrants have already demonstrated their capacity for self-organization; perhaps, they might be the source of alternative imaginations of Russia. This is where contested visions meet, as some members of the opposition proclaim agendas that exclude the majority of ‘bad Russians,’ and others, like Feminist Anti-War Resistance, the most visible anti-war network grassroots movement in Russia, insist on an inclusive vision.”

“Visa restrictions for Russians are a highly irrational and populist discussion,” Interview with Carnegie’s Alexander Baunov, Berliner Zeitung, 08.29.22. Clues from Russian Views

  • “By now, after six months of war, both sides have come to the conclusion that it is neither possible to negotiate with such an opponent, nor to coexist side by side in security; such an opponent should better be destroyed.”
  • “Strange as it may sound, the Party of War [in Russia] basically wants the same thing as the radical critics of ‘normal life in the Western image’ in Russia—the end of the era of Russian consumerism; the elimination of Russian consumer society, which supposedly degrades Russians and indeed is not worthy of the ‘God bearing’ Russian people. For the latter, it shows its best qualities exclusively in times of extreme trials. Finally, the end of free global travel for Russians applies especially to travel to the West. In this way, Russia should resemble the Stalin era in its external and internal shape, which is popular with a part of Russian society: strict, uniform, monotonous service; orientation of society towards a single purpose; orientation towards the noble ideal; deviations should be punished. At the very least, however, the Brezhnev era should serve as a model, which is also popular, but preferably without its chronic shortage of goods.”
  • “The Party of Peace has now been completely crushed. … Currently, a silent conflict is unfolding between the party of war and those who want to ignore the war and return to normality. The party of war has the advantage here, because it is obvious that after the invasion of Ukraine, a return to normality—neither in international relations nor in the economy—will be possible. However, the outcome of the confrontation between these groups cannot be foreseen, mainly because the Party of War does not have the necessary number of competent people.”
  • “The suspension of tourist visas [by the EU for Russians is] … a highly irrational, even to some extent populist, debate, launched at a time when prudence should have set in and reactions to Russia's actions should be increasingly precise and rational.”

“A Tale of Two Ivans: Ivan Safronov, journalist, and Ivan Neparatov, murderer,” Kirill Kharatyan, MT/Vpost, 09.09.22. Clues from Russian Views

  • “The Russian Medal of Honor will be awarded to the relatives of Ivan Neparatov, a soldier under contract with the Wagner private military company. He was supposed to serve a 25-year prison term [for multiple murders], but he was taken from prison to fight in Ukraine, where he literally laid down his head: It was blown off by a shell.”
  • “Another Ivan, the journalist Ivan Safronov, was arrested before the war and received a 22-year sentence for literally no-one-knows-what… As far as I can understand it, he is in prison for reporting on the activities of the military and arms dealers exactly the way a journalist should.”  
  • “We might conclude that the people in charge of Russia now—and for a while now—are the military, not the Chekists. The tragic fate of Ivan Neparatov, a powerless robber and cannon fodder, confirms it. Ivan Safronov's cruel ‘verdict’ is a signal from the military to anyone considering encroaching on their dominant role.”

“‘The Russia Conundrum’ by Mikhail Khodorkovsky—a manifesto for a post-Putin nation,” Neil Buckley, FT, 09.09.22.

  • “[Mikhail Khodorovsky] is all too aware—as he writes in his book ‘The Russia Conundrum’—that at any moment his door handle might be smeared with the lethal nerve agent novichok.”
  • “It is a dramatic story, one that might make an enthralling autobiography. This is not, quite, the book that he has written. Instead, with co-author Martin Sixsmith, Khodorkovsky weaves together a pared-back account of his life with an astute dissection of the Putin system. It is part polemic, part self-justification, and part manifesto for a different, post-Putin Russia. It is an intriguing mix, if a sometimes unsatisfying one.”
  • “[T]hough Khodorkovsky writes confidently on how to secure democracy and freedom in a post-Putin Russia, he falls short of a cover-line promise to ‘provide an answer to the West on how it must challenge the Kremlin.’ Beyond advocating that Western sanctions should be more carefully targeted not at Russia’s people but at ‘those who profit from the corruption and lawlessness’ of the regime, he says little—probably because of when the book was completed—on how Putin might be defeated in Ukraine.”
  • “His account of how he amassed his fortunes is also distinctly selective. … Meanwhile, his brief depiction of life in the camps of Russia’s modern-day gulag, largely confined to a single chapter, left this reader wanting more.”
  • “Perhaps one day Khodorkovsky will tell the full, warts-and-all tale—worthy of a Russian novel—of how he built a business empire, lost it all, then found a form of redemption in the camps of Siberia and in exile. That may need to wait until the moment the fallen oligarch fervently hopes for—when Putin is no longer in power.”

Defense and aerospace:

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

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • No significant developments.

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • No significant developments.

Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“A Dangerous Neighbor: Russia’s Image After Ukraine,” edited by Eleonora Tafuro Ambrosetti, ISPI, September 2022.

“How did the invasion of Ukraine change the perception of Russia’s image among its neighbors? At the moment, it’s still difficult to predict the result of fighting on the ground and, hence, the impact on Russia’s image as a mighty military power and security provider. Yet, the invasion has further deteriorated Moscow’s image as a trustworthy partner. As a result, several countries are severing ties with Russia out of fear or in solidarity with Ukraine. This dossier delves into the evolving relationship between Russia and several post-Soviet states such as Kazakhstan Belarus, and Georgia in light of the invasion to assess changing perceptions, interests and ties.”

“A Ukrainian Victory Would Liberate Eastern Europe, the Atlantic Council’s Brian Whitmore, FP, 09.10.22.

  • “This year marks the centenary of the founding of the Soviet Union. And as 2022 commenced, it looked like Putin was poised to begin its restoration, first with what has been dubbed a soft annexation of Belarus, then with the subjugation of Ukraine by force. Now, it appears that 2022 may end up marking the final stage of the Soviet breakup.”
  • “Victory is a long way off, and it’s certainly not guaranteed. But the United States and its European allies should not succumb to a failure of imagination about what a Ukrainian victory would mean. A free Belarus combined with a truly independent, sovereign and whole Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova would be a game-changer.”

“Georgia’s Crossroad after Crossroad: Paths of Risk and Resilience,” Kornely Kakachia and Bidzina Lebanidze of the Georgian Institute of Politics, PONARS, September 2022.

  • “Georgia is entering the most turbulent period of its democratic development, and at this pivotal movement, the country seems to be losing its strategic compass and the foundation of its foreign policy.”
  • “The ruling GD party came to power a decade ago, vowing to reduce tension in Tbilisi- Moscow relations. While it has partially accomplished that goal, in recent months it has also increasingly used rhetoric to distance itself from its closest ally, the United States, sounding occasional isolationist notes while appearing less and less committed to Western-backed democratization efforts. If this policy continues, Georgia may eventually be isolated from its Western partners and allies and could even move closer to Russia.”
  • “Western actors need to provide Georgia with a more clear-cut strategic vision. In particular, the EU and the United States need to transition from reactive players to proactive and pre-emptive actors who can take bolder strategic steps to ensure the region's democratization.”

 

Photo on homepage and social media from Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs, shared under a CC 4.0 license.