Russia in Review, Dec. 8-15, 2023

3 Things to Know

  1. U.S. and Ukrainian military leaders are searching for a new strategy that they can begin executing early next year to revive Kyiv’s fortunes and America’s flagging support for the country’s war against Russia, officials in Washington and Kyiv told NYT. Without both a new strategy and additional funding, American officials say Ukraine could lose the war, according to NYT. When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Washington this week to plead for more funds and arms, he reportedly had to face questions from House speaker Mike Johnson and other GOP Congressmen about whether there was a strategy for Ukraine to win. While Senate Democrats were prepared to delay holiday break to press for a bill that would include funds for military assistance for Ukraine, Johnson and other GOP Congressmen made it clear the issue would have to wait until January. 
  2. Vladimir Putin delivered one clear message at his call-in show on Dec. 14: that “he’s not backing down or planning to compromise in his war on Ukraine ahead of presidential elections in March,” according to Bloomberg. Putin said at the event: “There will be peace when we achieve our goals. ... [T]hey have not changed. I would like to remind you how we formulated them: denazification, demilitarization and a neutral status for Ukraine.” Putin also hinted that he had designs on two other Ukrainian regions on the Black Sea, FT reported. During the show, Putin repeatedly displayed resolve to continue the military campaign even as casualties mount, reaching 315,000 according to U.S. intelligence. Putin claimed during the show that there were 617,000 Russian personnel in the “combat zone.” Meanwhile, deputy chairman of the Verkhovna Rada’s defense committee Maryana Bezuglaya reportedly put the number of Ukrainian personnel directly involved in hostilities at 300,000. If Putin’s and Bezuglaya’s estimates accurately reflect the number of Russian and Ukrainian servicemen fighting each other, then the Russian side lacks the minimum ratio of 3-to-1 that the attacking side typically requires.* 
  3. In the past month, Russian forces’ net gains of Ukrainian territory totaled 21 square miles, according to the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card, but the modesty of the gain did not stop NYT from asserting that “Russia has firmly seized the initiative across eastern Ukraine.” Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi said this week that Russian forces have been conducting offensive operations across the entire front line, where Ukraine’s Deep State OSINT project descried the situation as “dismal.

NB: Next week’s Russia in Review will appear on Thursday, Dec. 21, instead of Friday, Dec. 22, due to Harvard's winter recess.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • If reelected, Donald Trump is considering a plan to let North Korea keep its nuclear weapons and offer its regime financial incentives to stop making new bombs, according to three people briefed on his thinking. (Politico, 12.13.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • On Dec. 7 the U.K. Defense Ministry said the Russian army has begun what is most likely a “more concerted campaign” of airstrikes aimed at destroying Ukraine's energy infrastructure. The ministry noted that on Dec. 7, the Russian Air Force’s heavy bomber fleet launched massive attacks on Kyiv and central Ukraine, firing no less than 16 air-launched missiles.  (Meduza, 12.10.23)
  • On Dec. 11 Ukrainian air defenses repelled a missile attack on Kyiv and its surroundings, in which at least four people were wounded, the military and officials said. Eight cruise missiles were downed over Kyiv. (RFE/RL, 12.11.23)
  • On Dec. 11 a man was killed and three other people were wounded by Russian shelling of Ukraine's southern city of Kherson, the regional prosecutor's office reported on Telegram. (RFE/RL, 12.11.23)
  • On Dec. 13 at least 53 people, including nine children, were wounded in the latest Russian missile attack on Kyiv. Ukraine's air defense earlier said it had shot down all 10 ballistic missiles launched by Russia at Kyiv, and authorities said debris fell in four districts of the capital. (RFE/RL, 12.13.23)
  • Russian soldiers in the Zaporozhzhia direction may have used Ukrainian prisoners of war as human shields during a battle, the Ukrainian edition of Radio Liberty reports, citing a video shot by one of the Ukrainian Armed Forces units using a drone. (Meduza, 12.14.23)
  • Between Jan. 1, 2023, and the beginning of December, 45 journalists were killed around the globe in connection with their work, according to an annual report from Reporters Without Borders (RSF). About half (23) of these journalists were killed in war zones. Of those, two were killed in Ukraine. (Meduza, 12.14.23)
  • As of Nov. 21, more than 6.3 million people have fled Ukraine since February 2022, according to data from the UNHCR, the U.N.'s refugee agency. Europe alone has taken in 5.9 million Ukrainian refugees. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
  • About a third of Ukraine's budget comes from U.S. financial assistance, said Oleksandra Ustinova, a parliamentarian and head of the Holos party faction, and if that money doesn't come through, Kyiv might not be able to pay basic salaries for doctors, first-responders and others. (WP, 12.09.23)
  • On Dec. 11the IMF said it would disburse another $900 million under its Ukraine program. The fund has granted $4.5 billion under the $15.6 billion program so far this year. (FT, 12.12.23)
  • As of Dec. 15 the EU summit was yet to decide on a promise to give Ukraine a 50 billion euro ($54 billion) financial aid package which is opposed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has said EU member states would work to find a way to provide for financial support for Ukraine by January following Hungary’s veto of fresh money for Kyiv. (FT, 12.15.23, RFE/RL, 12.14.23, MT/AFP, 12.15.23)
    • EU diplomats were earlier discussing technical proposals to raise emergency funding for Ukraine outside of the bloc’s shared budget in spite of Hungary’s opposition. (FT, 12.12.23)
  • Speaking in parliament on Dec. 12 ahead of a vote of confidence in his cabinet, Poland’s Donald Tusk said he’d had enough of European officials voicing their exhaustion with the war in Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 12.12.23)
  • A border crossing between Poland and Ukraine was reopened on Dec. 11 after Polish truckers lifted their blockade and allowed the resumption of heavy traffic between the two countries, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said. (RFE/RL, 12.11.23)
  • Slovak truckers have ended a blockade of the sole road freight border crossing with Ukraine, a Slovak hauliers' association and Ukraine's state border service said on Dec. 15. (Reuters, 12.15.23)

Military and security aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 24 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 3 square miles, according to the Dec. 13 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 12.13.23)
    • In recent weeks, Russia has firmly seized the initiative across eastern Ukraine, where the Kremlin has dispatched tens of thousands of new soldiers to replace fallen fighters—hoping to use sheer numbers to overwhelm exhausted and outgunned Ukrainian forces. Now, Ukrainian commanders are being forced to make hard choices about where to concentrate their limited resources. (NYT, 12.12.23)
    • Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi has said that the enemy continued conducting offensive operations across the entire front line. (Ukrinform, 12.10.23)
    • The Russian army has concentrated more than 40,000 military personnel in the direction of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, a Ukrainian defense official said. (Istories, 12.09.23)
      • More than 13,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded and over 220 combat vehicles destroyed along the Avdiivka-Novopavlivka axis in eastern Ukraine since October, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said. (Politico, 12.12.23)
      • “The Kremlin may have tasked the Russian military with capturing Avdiivka, and possibly Kupyansk, before the March 2024 elections,” ISW said. (Bloomberg, 12.09.23)
    • Ukrainian troops have switched to defense in the Bakhmut area after Russia intensified attacks in the Donbas, Ukraine’s Deep State OSINT project reported. The situation along the entire line of contact is simply dismal, Deep State said. (Istories, 12.13.23)
    • "Almost all along the line of contact, our armed forces, shall we say modestly, are improving their position, almost all are in an active stage of action and there is an improvement in the position of our troops throughout," Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed during his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser. “I think that everything will be over soon,” Putin said in reference to Ukrainian forces’ control over a bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Dnieper river in the area of the Krynky village. (RM, 12.14.23)
      • U.S. intelligence indicates Moscow believes a winter deadlock in its war in Ukraine will ultimately advantage Russia by draining Western support, Biden administration officials said ahead of Zelensky’s visit to Washington. (Bloomberg, 12.12.23)
  • On Dec. 8 Ukraine’s military downed 14 out of 19 cruise missiles fired by Russia from strategic bombers flying within its own territory. That would make it the largest such attack since Sept. 21, when Ukraine said it shot down most of the 43 cruise missiles fired from Russia. (Bloomberg, 12.08.23)
  • On Dec. 11 the FSB said its officers had arrested 18 people it alleges are pro-Ukrainian agents suspected of planning assassinations of Russian-installed officials in Ukraine's Russian-annexed Crimea. (RFE/RL, 12.12.23)
  • On Dec. 12 Kremlin-installed officials claimed Russian forces in southern Ukraine have "advanced significantly" around the village of Novopokrovka in the Zaporizhzhia region, (MT/AFP, 12.12.23)
  • On Dec. 14 Ukrainian air defenses destroyed two drones in the Kherson region, five in the Mykolaiyv region and 32 in the Odesa region. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
  • On Dec. 14 the Russian Defense Ministry said air defenses shot down nine Ukrainian drones over the Kaluga and Moscow regions. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
  • On Dec. 14 Russian troops launched attack drones over Ukraine. The Ukrainian military said earlier it shot down 41 of 42 Shahed-136/131 attack drones, most of them in the Odesa region. (RFE/RL, 12.15.23)
  • On Dec. 14 Ukraine said Russia attacked with the rarely used Kinzhal missile. MiG-31 warplanes flying deep inside Russian territory fired the missiles. One missile hit an unspecified area near the city of Starokostiantyniv in the Khmelnytskyi region (Bloomberg, 12.15.23)
  • On Dec. 15 the U.K. Ministry of Defense said heavy fighting continues for control of the town of Marinka and its surrounding areas in southeastern Ukraine. Russia has likely further reduced the small pockets of Ukrainian controlled territory remaining within the town boundary, according to the U.K. agency. (U.K. Ministry of Defense’s X (Twitter) account, 12.15.23)
  • The war in Ukraine has devastated Russia's preinvasion military machine, with nearly 90% of its prewar army lost to death or injury, and thousands of battle tanks destroyed, according to a newly declassified U.S. intelligence assessment shared with Congress. The intelligence assessment, says that 315,000 Russian personnel have been killed or injured, or 87% of Moscow's prewar force of 360,000. Russia has also lost nearly two-thirds of its tank force, or 2,200 out of its 3,500 preinvasion stock, the source said. (WSJ, 12.12.23)
    • The Russian push in eastern Ukraine this fall and winter was designed to sap Western support for Ukraine, according to a newly declassified American intelligence assessment. The assessment says the Russian losses have reduced the complexity of Russia’s recent military operations in Ukraine. (NYT, 12.12.23)
    • In early December 2023, the newly-formed 104th Guards Airborne Division (104 GAD) of the VDV (Russia’s airborne forces) highly likely suffered exceptionally heavy losses and failed to achieve its objectives during its combat debut in Kherson Oblast, according to the U.K. government’s estimates. (U.K. Ministry of Defense’s X (Twitter) account, 12.14.23)
  • Putin claimed during his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser that Russian forces have destroyed 747 tanks operated by the Ukrainian armed forces and almost 2,300 armored vehicles of various types. (RM, 12.14.23)
  • During his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser Putin insisted southeastern Ukraine was historically Russian. Putin also hinted Russia had designs on two other Ukrainian regions on the Black Sea, which he said “had nothing to do with” Ukraine. “Odesa is a Russian city. We know that. Everyone knows that. But no, they thought up all sorts of historical nonsense,” he said(FT, 12.14.23, WP, 12.14.23)
  • During his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser Putin claimed that the Russian force grouping in Ukraine is far larger than even Russian officials have characterized, likely in an attempt to both address persistent Russian concerns about a new mobilization wave and to demoralize the West and Ukraine. Putin stated that there are 617,000 Russian personnel in the “combat zone” when discussing the length of the frontline, notably different from the 420,000 Russian military personnel that Ukrainian intelligence officials estimated were in Ukraine in September 2023. (ISW, 12.14.23)
  • Approximately 300,000 fighters in the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) are directly involved in hostilities, while the total number of the Ukrainian army is about 1 million people, according to deputy chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence Maryana Bezuglaya. “What are the other 700,000 doing?” she wrote on Facebook. (TASS, 12.14.23)
  • Former battalion commander, Yevhen Dykyi, has estimated that Ukraine will need to enlist 20,000 soldiers a month through next year to sustain its army, both replacing the dead and wounded, and allowing rotations. (NYT, 12.13.23)
    • With Ukraine’s military facing mounting deaths and a stalemate on the battlefield, army recruiters have become increasingly aggressive in their efforts to replenish the ranks, in some cases pulling men off the streets and whisking them to recruiting centers using intimidation and even physical force. Ukrainian men are reporting incidents of wrongful draft notices, unprofessional medical commissions and coercive mobilization tactics. (NYT, 12.15.23)
  • Ukraine has just one drone, compared with between five and seven Russian first-person-view, or FPV, drones, in key battleground sectors of eastern and southern Ukraine, said Yuriy Fedorenko, the commander of Ukraine's Achilles drone company, which is within the country's 92nd Assault Brigade. (Newsweek, 12.13.23)
  • Earlier this year, NATO general secretary Jens Stoltenberg, estimated that Ukraine fired 4,000 to 7,000 artillery shells a day, while Russia fired 20,000. (NYT, 12.13.23)
  • American and Ukrainian military leaders are searching for a new strategy that they can begin executing early next year to revive Kyiv’s fortunes and flagging support for the country’s war against Russia, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials. U.S. and Ukrainian military officers say they hope to work out the details of a new strategy next month in a series of war games. Without both a new strategy and additional funding, American officials say Ukraine could lose the war. Some in the U.S. military want Ukraine to pursue a “hold and build” strategy—to focus on holding the territory it has and building its ability to produce weapons over 2024. (NYT, 12.11.23)
    • The Pentagon has decided to dispatch Lt. Gen. Antonio A. Aguto Jr., who commands the support of Ukraine from a base in Germany, to spend lengthy periods of time in Kyiv to work more directly with the country’s military leadership to improve the advice the United States is offering. (NYT, 12.11.23) 

Military aid to Ukraine:

  • Upon arrival for a Dec. 11-12 visit to the U.S., Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Charles Q. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also spoke at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C on Dec. 11 before meeting Congressional leaders and then U.S. President Joe Biden on Dec. 12. (Meduza, 12.12.23)
  • On Dec. 11 Zelensky warned the U.S. that any wavering in its support for Kyiv would bolster dictatorships around the world, as American funding for Ukraine’s defense against Russia is set to lapse by the end of the month. “When the free world hesitates, that’s when dictatorships celebrate,” Zelensky told the National Defense University in Washington. (FT, 12.12.23)
    • Introducing the Ukrainian president, Austin said Washington remained determined to help Kyiv fight to “deter Russia from any further aggression — including against our NATO allies,” saying the U.S. would “not flinch in our defense of freedom.” “America’s commitments must be honored, America’s security must be defended. And America’s word must be kept,” he added. (FT, 12.12.23)
  • Early on Dec. 12 Zelensky said he had met with leaders of U.S. defense companies and advanced the proposal to establish a European defense hub in his country that would speed up and increase the production of military equipment and ammunition. (RFE/RL, 12.12.23)
  • On Dec. 12 Zelensky huddled with senators and House leaders as he sought specific weapons systems including Patriot missiles, and tried to assure senators that U.S. funds wouldn't be used to enrich contractors or government officials. (WSJ, 12.12.23, WP, 12.12.23, WSJ, 12.13.23)
    • After the meeting Zelensky said in a post on the social-media platform X that he had “a friendly and candid conversation” with senators and informed them about “Ukraine’s current military and economic situation” as well as “the significance of sustaining vital U.S. support.” (Bloomberg, 12.13.23, WSJ, 12.12.23, WP, 12.12.23)
      • Some centrist House Republicans have been seeking clarity on Zelensky's strategy for winning in Ukraine and on whether a victory would include the recovery of both Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, and Donbas. Republicans say that the White House hasn't provided such details. At the meeting Zelensky implied that his strategy includes "winning" in both Crimea and Donbas, said Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.). (WSJ, 12.12.23)
      • Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told reporters that Zelensky had invoked the term "guerrilla warfare.” Zelensky also told senators Ukraine is considering conscripting men over 40 years old to bolster its front-line troop levels, a sign his government is struggling to replace killed and wounded soldiers, Wicker said. (WP, 12.12.23, Bloomberg, 12.12.23)
      • House Speaker Mike Johnson said he told Zelensky during the meeting that Republicans “stand with him and against Putin’s brutal invasion” but won’t send more aid until Democrats accept “a transformative change” in U.S. immigration and border policies. Johnson also voiced concerns about Ukraine's ability to defeat Putin. "We need a clear articulation of the strategy to allow Ukraine to win," Johnson said. "And thus far their responses have been insufficient. When asked whether Congress would approve aid for Ukraine, Johnson responded, "If they give us the border." (Bloomberg, 12.12.23, NBC, 12.12.23)
    • On Dec. 12 Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, told reporters it would be “practically impossible” for any deal to pass Congress before the Christmas holiday, even though he said the meeting with Zelensky was “inspiring.” (FT, 12.13.23)
    • "Ask [Senate Majority Leader Charles E.] Schumer why he waited until the end of the year to tee this up, knowing about but trying to ignore the border issues," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said. "So, it will be a January exercise, I assume." (WP, 12.14.23)
    • Republican senators emerged from the meeting steadfast in their demands that Democrats accept tougher border restrictions as the price for more U.S. aid to Ukraine. "I do not think the house is on fire in terms of waiting until January,” Senate Armed Services ranking member Sen. Roger Wicker said of Ukraine’s need for ammunition and other weaponry. (Bloomberg, 12.12.23, WSJ, 12.12.23)
    • JD Vance, the Ohio Republican senator, said he was “offended” by Zelensky’s visit to Washington this week, and it was “not the role of the United States here to hand out money to every beggar who comes into our country.” “He’s here to badger and browbeat Speaker [Mike] Johnson and Senate Republicans into forgoing our negotiations on border security in order to write him another blank check . . . this is not Churchill coming in the midst of World War Two,” Vance added. (FT, 12.12.23)
    • Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer left the meeting with Zelensky calling the session “productive” and “very powerful.” (Bloomberg, 12.12.23)
    • Following Zelensky’s visit, Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill are seriously considering Republican demands for deeply restrictive immigration policies in exchange for billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine, a move that activists say would devastate America's obligations to welcome desperate migrants fleeing war and oppression. (NYT, 12.14.23)
  • Biden, who met with Zelensky on Dec. 12 at the White House after the Ukrainian leader’s meetings with Congressmen, said he had signed a $200 million drawdown, the latest package of military aid for Ukraine. At a joint press conference following the meeting, Biden warned that failing to approve additional funding for Ukraine would embolden Putin. “Putin will keep going and would-be aggressors everywhere will be emboldened to try to take what they can by force.” “Putin is banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine. We must, we must, we must prove him wrong,” Biden said. “We’ll continue to supply Ukraine with critical weapons and equipment as long as we can . . . but without supplemental funding, we’re rapidly coming to an end of our ability to help Ukraine respond to the urgent operational demands that it has,” Biden said. (Bloomberg, 12.12.23, Bloomberg, 12.12.23, FT, 12.13.23)
    • Biden’s NSA Jake Sullivan has warned of the consequences of a lapse in U.S. funding for Ukraine, calling it a “remarkable strategic own-goal by us.” (FT, 12.13.23)
    • According to Pentagon estimates, the U.S. can still send Ukraine military hardware valued at $4.6 billion under what’s called Presidential Drawdown Authority. Yet it only has $1 billion to buy new equipment to replace the old. Sending Ukraine military equipment without a guarantee that it’ll be replaced soon is a risky strategy. (Bloomberg, 12.12.23)
  • On Dec. 14 Senate Democrats announced that they would put off their upcoming holiday break and stay in Washington next week to press for passage of a bill pairing military assistance for Ukraine with a crackdown on migration at the U.S. border with Mexico, as lawmakers on both sides of the talks reported progress toward a compromise. Even if the Senate is able to reach agreement within days on one of the most intractable issues Congress has faced and push the Ukraine bill forward, the measure would still face an uphill battle. Speaker Mike Johnson, who is not involved in the border talks, threw cold water on the idea of quick action. ''The House will not wait around to receive and debate a rushed product,'' he said in a statement on Dec. 14. (NYT, 12.15.23)
  • On Dec. 14 the U.S. House of Representatives voted 310-118 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would increase America's total national security budget by roughly 3% to $886 billion. The measure, which the Senate approved 87 to 13 on Dec. 13, now heads to Biden, who is expected to sign it. The proposal would send $300 million to help fortify Ukraine's military. It would also direct a special inspector general to investigate how the more than $100 billion that Congress has approved so far has been spent, a provision meant to extinguish Republican concerns about misspending. (WSJ, 12.14.23,  CBS, 12.14.23)
  • Ukraine's defense minister has said his country expects to take delivery of advanced F-16 fighter jets "soon.” In comments on Dec. 8, Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov stressed that preparations to receive the advanced U.S.-made fighters were well under way and that "we will receive them soon." The U.S. and European allies are currently training Ukrainian F-16 pilots, and the first cadre could be ready for combat as early as this winter. (WSJ, 12.12.23, RFE/RL, 12.09.23)
  • Britain is sending two mine-hunting ships, amphibious armored vehicles and coastal raiding boats to Ukraine, (RFE/RL, 12.12.23)
  • U.K. defense minister Grant Shapps has made a thinly veiled criticism of Western nations whose support for Ukraine in its war against Russia appears to be faltering. “We simply can’t have an outcome where a dictator, an autocratic dictator, walks into a neighboring democratic country and the West gets bored of it,” he told the BBC, without specifying any nation. (FT, 12.11.23)
  • Olena Tregub, a member of the Anti-Corruption Council of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, which monitors defense procurements, said that she has been told by "people involved in defense procurement" that "for the front line, the moment is critical now." She said the situation on the front line "is maybe worse than" Ukraine's partners estimate, "because the signals definitely are not good," as she has heard "a lot of small stories here and there when our military were lacking things." (WP, 12.10.23)
  • On Dec. 13 Zelensky, during a surprise stop in Norway for talks with Nordic leaders on further military and economic support for Kyiv, has warned that Ukraine can't successfully repel Russia's invasion without the West's help. Norway announced a 3-billion-crown ($273 million) disbursement for Kyiv, which is part of a larger, 75-billion-crown aid package over five years. (RFE/RL, 12.13.23)
  • The Ukrainian armed forces on Dec. 14 received a second Patriot air-defense system from Germany. (RFE/RL, 12.15.23)
  • The commander in chief of the Swedish armed forces, Gen. Micael Byden, has visited the front in eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.10.23)
  • On Dec. 14, Zelensky made an unannounced visit to a U.S. Army base in Germany. Zelensky arrived at the U.S. Army base in Wiesbaden, where the U.S. Defense Department last year established a new organization to coordinate long-term security force assistance. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
  • The latest FT-Michigan Ross monthly poll found that 48% believed the U.S. was spending “too much” in military and financial aid to bolster Kyiv’s war effort against Russia, compared with 27% who said Washington was spending the “right amount” and 11% who said the U.S. was not spending enough. Opposition was particularly pronounced among Republicans, with 65% saying the U.S. was spending too much in Ukraine, compared with roughly half — 52% — of independents and just a third — 32% — of Democrats. (FT, 12.11.23)
    • The number of the most active supporters of the war in Russia has almost halved in eight months, according to polls conducted by Russia’s Khroniki pollster, Istories reported. In February 2023, 22% of Khroniki’s respondents simultaneously expressed support for the war, opposed the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine and peace negotiations, and also called the army a government spending priority. In October the share of such individuals was 12%. The share of Russians who would support Putin’s decision to withdraw troops without “achieving the goals” of the war has increased to 40%, exceeding for the first time the share of respondents who would want the war to continue (33%). (RM, 12.13.23)
  • The share of Americans who say the United States is providing too much assistance to Ukraine in its fight against Russia increased from 28% in June 2023 to 31% in December 2023, according to Pew. The same period saw the share of Americans who believe the U.S. is providing the right amount of support to Ukraine decrease from 31% to 29%. The share of Americans who think the U.S. is not providing enough support increased from 16% in June 2023 to 18% in December 2023. Some 48% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say the United States is giving "too much" support to Ukraine, compared to 16% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, according to Pew. (RM, 12.09.23)
  • About six in 10 Republican primary voters oppose providing additional arms and military supplies to Ukraine in its war with Russia, while about three-quarters of Democratic primary voters support this. (WP, 12.14.23, NYT, 12.13.23)
  • Many Ukrainian leaders do not realize how precarious continued U.S. funding for the war is, American officials said. These Ukrainian generals and senior civilian officials have unrealistic expectations about what the United States will supply, they said. They are asking for millions of rounds of artillery, for example, from Western stockpiles that do not exist. American officials say Ukraine will have to fight on a tighter budget. (NYT, 12.11.23)

Punitive measures related to Russia’s war against Ukraine and their impact globally:

  • Russia’s economy is over 5% smaller than had been predicted prior to the escalation over Ukraine, Rachel Lyngaas, Chief Sanctions Economist, U.S. Department of Treasury wrote. The decline in Russia’s 2022 growth was driven by a 14% contraction in exports and 11% decline in imports over 2021, he wrote. (, 12.14.23)
  • As Russia mobilized its war effort, emigration has reached historic highs; around 668,000 people left Russia in 2022—a 71 % increase over the prior five-year average, according to Rachel Lyngaas, Chief Sanctions Economist, U.S. Department of Treasury. (, 12.14.23)
  • The U.S. House voted Dec. 11 to approve legislation that would bar the importation of enriched Russian uranium, sending the measure to the Senate where it has support but limited time for passage this year. The Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act, which was approved by voice vote, would bar Russian uranium imports 90 days after enactment while allowing a temporary waiver until January 2028. (Bloomberg, 12.12.23)
    • Tenex, a Russian state-owned uranium company, is warning American customers that the Kremlin may preemptively bar exports of its nuclear fuel to the U.S. if lawmakers in Washington pass legislation prohibiting imports starting in 2028, according to people familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg, 12.14.23)
  • The U.S. Treasury and State Departments sanctioned more than 250 companies and individuals in China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, alleging that their continuing support for Russia has been crucial to sustaining its invasion of Ukraine. Treasury said it’s sanctioning a network of four entities and nine individuals operating across China, Hong Kong and Pakistan to keep Russia supplied with Chinese-made weapons and technologies, including selling millions of dollars in semiconductor manufacturing equipment to Russian customers along with drones and related components. (Bloomberg, 12.12.23)
  • Brussels was to propose on Dec. 12 to ringfence profits generated from Russia’s frozen assets in the EU, aiming to eventually skim off up to €15 billion for Ukraine’s benefit. The European Commission plan had been delayed since the summer after several EU member states and the European Central Bank raised legal and financial concerns. The EU, Group of Seven nations and Australia have frozen about €260 billion ($280 billion) in Russian Central Bank assets in the form of securities and cash, with more than two thirds of that immobilized in the EU. (Bloomberg, 12.12.23, FT, 12.12.23)
  • The European Union on Dec. 11 said it has imposed sanctions on six individuals and five entities it says are involved in Iran's “development and production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) used in Russia's illegal war of aggression.” (RFE/RL, 12.12.23)
  • A giant Russian cargo plane is facing another cold Canadian winter stuck in Toronto. A court battle could determine its fate. Russian airline Volga-Dnepr has sued the Canadian government, asking a federal court to declare that Canada's sanctions against it are invalid. The court could determine what happens to the airline's massive Antonov An-124 cargo plane, one of only 26 in the world, which has been stuck in Toronto since Canada closed its airspace to Russian planes in February 2022. (WSJ, 12.09.23)
  • Olympic officials have shortened the list of Russian athletes allowed to compete as neutrals at the 2024 Paris Games. Last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said eight athletes from Russia and three from Belarus had qualified as neutral athletes. But by Dec. 14, the IOC revised that number to six neutral athletes with a Russian passport and five with a Belarusian passport. (MT/AFP, 12.14.23)
  • Finland will close its eastern border with Russia, its interior minister said Dec. 14, hours after reopening it following a spike in migrant crossings that Helsinki has labeled a Russian hybrid attack. Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, will close the border on Dec. 15 at 8:00 p.m. until Jan. 14, Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said at a press conference. On Dec. 12, Finland opted to partially ease the closure that had been in force since the end of November, but it canceled the plan to ease restrictions when migrants resumed entering the country immediately after restrictions were lifted. (MT/AFP, 12.14.23)
  • After refusing to extradite to Kyiv a Russian ultranationalist and former commander of the Rusich sabotage group that fights alongside Russia's armed forces in Ukraine, a court in Finland extended his detention on Dec. 11. Finland's border guard service said Voislav Torden (aka Yan Petrovsky) may be tried in Finland for alleged crimes committed in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.12.23)
  • The world’s largest crypto exchange Binance said Dec. 11 that it will no longer support person-to-person trading with the Russian ruble starting in January, as the company continues to gradually withdraw from Russia. (MT/AFP, 12.11.23)
  • Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Maybachs — roughly 1,000 such ultimate luxury cars have been imported to Russia from Europe since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to a new investigation by journalists at Verstka Media. The secret trade — valued at roughly $100 million — is possible thanks to a few dozen dealerships in Belarus with close ties to President Alexander Lukashenko. (Meduza, 12.12.23)
  • Mikhail Nadel, a Russian banker once accused of looting Kyrgyzstan’s biggest bank, has stepped down from the board of a U.K. financial technology firm that was recently censured by regulators for processing fraudulent payments. (Bloomberg, 12.13.23)
  • Rosaviatsiya said that the first 11 months of 2023 showed a 1.3% decrease in passenger and cargo aircraft incidents from the same period of the previous year. On Dec. 11, The Moscow Times reported that there were at least 15 cases of airplanes breaking down in Russia over a two-week period. Newsweek wrote that from Sept. 1 to Dec. 8, there were 60 aviation incidents in Russia related to technical failures. Novaya Gazeta Europe calculated that from January to August 2023, there were more than 120 aviation incidents involving passenger aircraft in Russia, which is 2.2 times higher than the average for the last five years. (Meduza, 12.13.23)
  • Russia's Interior Ministry added the chief of Ukraine's military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, to its wanted list on an unspecified charge on Dec. 14. In April, a court in Moscow issued an arrest warrant for Budanov, accusing him of "organizing a terrorist group, illegal arms transportation and terrorism." (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
  • Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions have severely curtailed launches at Baikonur amid an exodus of customers — from both national space agencies to commercial firms like Eutelsat OneWeb — that have historically relied on Russian rockets to get their technology into orbit. (Bloomberg, 12.13.23)
  • Yandex NV co-founder Arkady Volozh shouldn’t have been sanctioned after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, as he was never close to the Russian president and has blasted Russia’s aggression toward its neighbor, a European Union court was told by his lawyer. (Bloomberg, 12.13.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • When asked during a joint press conference with Biden in Washington on Dec. 12 if Ukraine is “ready to give up [its] territories,” Zelensky said: “How Ukraine is able to give up its territories, that’s insane, to be honest,” according to a Dec. 13 transcription by the White House. Biden, however, did not explicitly comment on the issue of giving up territories. Rather, he said: “We want to see Ukraine win the war. And, as I’ve said before, winning means Ukraine is a sovereign, independent nation and—that can afford to defend itself today and deter further aggression. That’s our objective.” (RM, 12.14.23)
    • Deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev interpreted Biden’s answer as evidence that the U.S. definition of a victory in the war doesn’t include the return of territories Russia has captured. In the view of ISW analysts, Medvedev misrepresented Biden’s statements to suggest that the United States would be content if Ukraine simply existed as a country but does not care what Ukraine’s borders look like. (RM, 12.14.23)
  • Putin delivered one clear message at his marathon news conference on Dec. 14  — he’s not backing down or planning to compromise in his war on Ukraine ahead of presidential elections in March. Putin said during his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser: “There will be peace when we achieve our goals. ... Now let’s return to these goals – they have not changed. I would like to remind you how we formulated them: denazification, demilitarization and a neutral status for Ukraine.” (Bloomberg, 12.14.23, RM, 12.14.23) Putin’s reaffirmation of (1) the initial goals of the war, as well as (2) his view that more of Ukraine’s territories in the southwest are Russian lands both confirm that Putin now thinks there’s more to be gained militarily.
    • "As for de-militarization, if they [the Ukrainians] don't want to come to an agreement -- well, then we are forced to take other measures, including military ones. ... Either we get an agreement, agree on certain parameters [on the size and strength of Ukraine's military] ... or we resolve this by force. This is what we will strive for,” Putin said during his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
    • According to Putin, Ukraine needs “denazification” because Stepan Bandera is a national hero of Ukraine, and because Zelensky “stands applauding an SS officer.” (Meduza, 12.14.23)
      • Asked about Putin’s comments, John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, cited demands from Republicans in Washington for a crackdown at the U.S. southern border as part of any deal to provide more money for Ukraine. “I sure hope that those House Republicans, who have for months held hostage critical assistance to Ukraine, heard Putin’s message loud and clear,” Kirby said Dec. 14 at the White House. “Instead, they’re heading home for the holidays while Ukrainians are heading right back into the fight.”  (Bloomberg, 12.14.23)
  • Scoring some strategic and symbolic victories, while strengthening their defenses and building up their own abilities to produce more weaponry, could be enough to strengthen Ukraine’s hand when calls for peace talks to end the war inevitably restart. (NYT, 12.11.23)
  • With Ukraine’s counteroffensive stalled and Russian forces attacking in multiple sectors, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has indicated that Moscow’s primary conditions for a peaceful resolution of the conflict have not changed. These conditions continue to include a stop to Western military aid, Kyiv’s acceptance of the annexation of Ukrainian territories captured by Russian forces, Ukraine’s neutrality, observance of rights of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population and some sort of a “de-Nazification.” “We will not allow the existence on our borders of an aggressive Nazi state from whose territory there is a danger for Russia and its neighbors," the ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in written answers to AFP’s questions. ( AFP, 12.06.23)
  • Zelensky sought support for his plan to end Russia’s war during meetings with three Latin America nations in a renewed attempt to win over the so-called Global South. The Ukrainian president invited Paraguay and Ecuador to participate in the fourth meeting of national security advisers in January to implement his peace formula, a 10-point plan centering on the full withdrawal of Kremlin troops now into the 22nd month of their invasion of Ukraine. In meetings with Uruguay’s Luis Lacalle Pou, Paraguay’s Santiago Pena and Ecuador’s Daniel Noboa, Zelensky said he wants as many Latin American countries as possible to join the initiative. (Bloomberg, 12.10.23)
  • Argentina agreed to host a summit with Latin American leaders early next year as Zelensky seeks to win support from the so-called Global South in the war with Russia, Ukraine said.  Zelensky discussed the summit with Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, on Dec. 10 in Buenos Aires, Ihor Zhovkva, the Ukrainian leader’s deputy chief of staff for foreign affairs, said in a phone interview. Milei’s press office declined to comment. (Bloomberg, 12.11.23)
  • Europe’s biggest money manager is counting on Donald Trump’s return and Ukrainian bonds. “We are very positive on Argentina and Ukraine,” said Yerlan Syzdykov, Aumndi’s global head of emerging markets. “These are our top picks where we believe that there’s still significant value despite the setbacks on the battlefield for Ukraine.” Amundi is already putting some of its $2 trillion under management into Ukraine’s international bonds, betting that pressure from the U.S. will push the government in Kyiv into talks with its invader Russia, Syzdykov said.(Bloomberg, 12.13.23) The fund has outperformed 75% of peers in emerging-market bonds this year, returning 7.7% in dollar terms so they know a thing or two about such bets.

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

  • The British military—the leading U.S. military ally and Europe’s biggest defense spender—has only around 150 deployable tanks and perhaps a dozen serviceable long-range artillery pieces. So bare was the cupboard that last year the British military considered sourcing multiple rocket launchers from museums to upgrade and donate to Ukraine. France, the next biggest spender, has fewer than 90 heavy artillery pieces, equivalent to what Russia loses roughly every month on the Ukraine battlefield. Denmark has no heavy artillery, submarines or air-defense systems. Germany's army has enough ammunition for two days of battle. The Netherlands disbanded its last tank unit in 2011, folding the remaining few into the German army. (WSJ, 12.11.23)
  • Finland will on Dec. 18 sign a defense cooperation agreement with the United States, the Finnish government said on Dec. 14, to grant the U.S. military broad access across the Nordic country to the vicinity of its long border with Russia. The agreement lists 15 facilities and areas in Finland to which the U.S. military will have unimpeded access and where it can also store military equipment and ammunition. (Reuters, 12.14.23)
  • Russia will take retaliatory measures if Kyiv uses NATO air bases for flights of Western fighter jets that will be transferred to Ukraine. This was stated by the head of the Russian delegation at the negotiations in Vienna on military security and arms control, Konstantin Gavrilov. (, 12.13.23)
  • Romania will summon Russia's envoy over a "new violation" of its airspace after a drone crashed onto its territory, authorities said Dec. 14. According to Romania's Defense Ministry, a crater was found in an uninhabited area close to the town of Grindu in Tulcea county, which faces the port of Reni in southern Ukraine, located just across the Danube River. The crater was formed as the "result of an uncontrolled crash of a drone used in an attack on Ukrainian port infrastructure," a statement read. (MT/AFP, 12.14.23) 
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told voters at a town hall in Iowa that Israel should take priority over Ukraine when it comes to the U.S. supporting nations at war. (Bloomberg, 12.13.23)
  • RAND researchers examined a selection of findings from 2022 American Life Pane. Public perceptions of veterans are overwhelmingly positive: Approximately 30–80 % of survey respondents endorsed positive stereotypes, and only 3–20 % endorsed negative stereotypes of veterans. However, a majority of Americans (54.4 %) would discourage a young person close to them from enlisting in the military. (RAND, December 2023)
  • As a share of U.S. GDP, American spending on foreign assistance is the lowest since the late 1990s and early 2000s—the brief peaceful period before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.   (Bloomberg, 12.11.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • South Korea scrambled fighter jets after two warplanes from China and four from Russia briefly entered an air identification zone maintained by Seoul. The Russian and Chinese aircraft were in South Korea’s Air Defense Identification Zone from between 11:53 a.m. and 12:10 p.m. on Dec. 14, Yonhap News agency reported, citing the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The six planes departed the area and did not enter into South Korean airspace, the JCS said, according to Yonhap. (Bloomberg, 12.14.23)
  • Putin told the annual VTB “Russia Calling!” investment conference: "Thank God, our relations with China have been extremely effective. We set the task of reaching a $200 billion trade next [year] or in the coming years. I think nobody has doubts that we will hit $200 billion as early as this year." (BNE, 12.09.23)
  • On Dec. 13, the General Director of the Rosatom State Corporation, Alexey Likhachev, held negotiations with the head of the Atomic Energy Agency of the People's Republic of China, Zhang Kejian, at the construction site of the Xudapu nuclear power plant, located in Liaoning province. (Rosatom 12.14.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • Putin on Dec. 11 promised to reinforce Russia's "military-naval might" as he attended the inauguration of two nuclear submarines in the country's Far North. The Russian leader took part in a flag-hoisting ceremony in Severodvinsk on the White Sea where the Yasen-class Krasnoyarsk and Borei-class Emperor Alexander III were built over the past six years to join Russia’s Pacific Fleet. He also appeared to emphasize his focus on bolstering Russia’s nuclear forces amid the tensions with the U.S. and other NATO allies over Ukraine. He said the Borei-class SSBNs “will reliably safeguard Russia's security for many years to come, fulfilling missions related to strategic deterrence.” (MT/AFP, 12.12.23, AP, 12.11.23,, 12.11.23)
  • Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said: “Never since the Cuban Missile Crisis has the threat of a direct clash between Russia and NATO with a transition to World War III been so real.” (Ukrainska Pravda/Yahoo news, 12.08.23)


  • The Biden administration's efforts to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows the U.S. to track the electronic communications of terrorists, spies and hackers overseas is facing an uphill battle amid increasing opposition from some members of both political parties and a looming end-of-year deadline. (WSJ, 12.09.23)

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • Ukraine's largest mobile phone operator, Kyivstar, is down after being targeted by a massive hacker attack on Dec. 12 that brought down its cellular and Internet signal, causing serious disturbances in communications across the country and leaving millions without service in the war-torn country. The cyberattack reportedly left more than 24 million subscribers without service. Card payments were disturbed throughout Ukraine, as Kyivstar's system is critical for card payments in most commercial outlets. (RFE/RL, 12.12.23)
    • Kyivstar says it has restored Internet connectivity to 93% of its home subscribers after managing to bring back mobile phone services late on Dec. 13. (RFE/RL, 12.15.23)
  • The Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) cyber divisions reported hacking Russia’s Federal Taxation Service (FNS) servers. The GUR said that the hackers were able to break into one of the central FNS servers, allegedly allowing special service workers to gain access to more than 2,000 regional servers. (Meduza, 12.12.23)
  • U.S. officials say that Russian hackers are targeting servers hosting vulnerable software made by the Czech tech company JetBrains. U.S. law enforcement and cybersecurity agencies in a statement on Dec. 13 accused Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) cyber-actors of trying to hijack the servers in a bid to access source code, something that could potentially allow them to tamper with its compilation or deployment. (RFE/RL/Reuters, 12.13.23)
  • The U.K. is at high risk of a “catastrophic” ransomware attack that could bring critical national infrastructure to a standstill and cost the country tens of billions of pounds, said the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. (Bloomberg, 12.12.23)
  • In a statement Dec. 14, Pope Francis called for a binding global treaty on artificial intelligence, lauding its potential benefits while warning of its raw potential for destruction. (WP, 12.14.23)
  • “Should we be afraid of artificial intelligence? Preventing the evolution of artificial intelligence, including superintelligence that has feelings, can recognize scents and has cognitive functions and self-development capability – preventing this is impossible. You cannot prevent development. It means we should take the lead. At any rate, we must do everything to become leaders in this industry. Nobody knows the outcome. This is the reality, at least today,” Putin said during his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser. (RM, 12.14.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • OPEC+ now controls barely half of global oil production as demand growth slows “drastically” and U.S. output reaches new highs, IEA said on Dec. 14. Despite the output cuts, oil prices are lingering below $75 a barrel, compared with nearly $100 in September, with the IEA noting that “global oil demand growth will slow drastically” in the current quarter. The IEA now expects oil demand growth to tumble from a year-on-year rate of 2.8 million b/d in the third quarter of 2023 to 1.9 million b/d in this quarter. (FT, 12.14.23)
  • Shell has struck a deal to sell its stake in a German refinery co-owned with Russia’s Rosneft as it continues to cut ties with Moscow and reshape its refining portfolio. The FTSE 100 oil and gas giant is selling its 37.5% stake in the PCK refinery in Schwedt, north-east Germany to the London-based oil supply conglomerate Prax Group. (FT, 12.15.23)
  • The Astro Sculptor oil tanker was already showing its age in February 2020 when inspectors reported problems with corroded decks and propulsion machinery on the then 17-year-old Greek-run ship. But nearly four years later the vessel is still ploughing the oceans — part of the “shadow fleet” of secretively run tankers assembled by the Kremlin and its partners to move Russian oil after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. (FT, 12.10.23)
  • The European Union reached a tentative deal on a gas regulation enabling countries to effectively ban Russian shipments of liquefied natural gas without new energy sanctions. The European Parliament and the EU Council, representing member states, endorsed on Dec.8 part of a package that sets common rules for natural gas, renewable gases and hydrogen, preparing the bloc to move away from fossil fuels. The measure would allow member governments to temporarily prevent Russian and Belarusian exporters from booking the infrastructure capacity needed for the shipments of LNG and natural gas. (Bloomberg, 12.08.23)
  • Azerbaijan’s gas exports to Europe will rise to 12 billion cubic meters (bcm) this year from 8 bcm in 2021, showing Azerbaijan is “confidently moving toward the goal” of doubling supplies by 2027, Aliyev said at the opening of a 170 kilometer (106-mile) pipeline connecting the Serbian city of Nis to the outskirts of Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. (Bloomberg, 12.10.23)
  • Trafigura Group stored some natural gas in Ukraine’s underground sites to re-export back to Europe when prices rise. Ukraine offered foreign companies at least 10 billion cubic meters of its underground storage facilities — roughly a third of the country’s capacity left from the Soviet era — and more than 3.2 billion cubic meters of the fuel were stored in seven months through October, according to Ukraine’s grid. That’s 4.5 times more than in the same period in 2022. (Bloomberg, 12.08.23)
  • Russia’s state-owned Gazprombank has won South African approval to refurbish a mothballed refinery in the country that would pave the way to restarting production. (FT, 12.11.23)
  • Bulgaria has said it will lift a tax on Russian gas transiting its territory after Hungary threatened to block its bid to join the EU’s border-free Schengen area unless it abolished the charges. (FT, 12.12.23)


  • Nearly 200 countries convened by the United Nations approved a milestone plan to ramp up renewable energy and transition away from coal, oil and gas. For the first time since nations began meeting three decades ago to confront climate change, diplomats from nearly 200 countries approved a global pact that explicitly calls for “transitioning away from fossil fuels” like oil, gas and coal that are dangerously heating the planet. (NYT, 12.13.23)
    • For weeks, diplomats struggled to agree even on a location for next year’s summit, because Russia kept vetoing Eastern European nations that had criticized the invasion of Ukraine. (NYT, 12.13.23)
  • Russia’s “task is to combine efforts and common approaches in the Eurasian space and in the BRICS space” when it comes to the climate agenda, First Deputy Economy Minister Ilya Torosov said in an interview Dec. 12 at the COP28 conference. (Bloomberg, 12.14.23)
  • Russia welcomed a U.S.-led initiative to triple global nuclear power capacity in a rare instance of agreement as nations seek to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. At COP28 U.N. climate conference The U.S. and 21 other countries, including France, the U.K. and Ukraine, signed a declaration at the weekend to work toward tripling global nuclear power capacity by the middle of the century to help limit an increase in the global temperature to 1.5C. (Bloomberg, 12.05.23)
  • Russia on Dec. 13 warned against a "chaotic" exit from fossil fuels, while welcoming the "compromise" deal reached at the COP28 summit in Dubai on transitioning away from them. "We have at every opportunity stressed the consequences of a chaotic exit without the backing of science," Ruslan Edelgeriyev, Putin's special envoy for climate issues, was quoted by TASS news agency as saying. (MT/AFP, 12.13.23)
  • “Without nuclear energy, it is impossible to achieve climate goals,” Russian Deputy Economic Minister Vladimir Ilyichev said at COP28. (MT, 12.12.23)
  • Russia has said it is studying whether its gold reserves, frozen by the West in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, could be used to help developing countries overcome the impact of climate change. In a statement made at the COP28 summit in Dubai, where officials from around the world are gathered, Russia's climate envoy Ruslan Edelgeriyev suggested the frozen funds could be used to help emerging nations accelerate their fight against climate change. (RFE/RL, 12.09.23)
  • Extreme cold has caused electricity outages in several of Russia's several Siberian regions. A number of cities saw temperatures fall to minus 40 degrees Celsius, while in the region of Yakutia, temperatures went as low as minus 60 degrees. (RFE/RL, 12.11.23)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Putin said during his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser: “In fact, we are ready to build relations with the United States as well. We believe that America is an important country on the world stage. ... As soon as they change on a deeper level, and begin to respect other people, other countries, start searching for compromises instead of addressing their problems using sanctions and military force, which would create the underlying conditions for restoring full-fledged relations. So far, there are no such conditions. But we are ready for this.” (, 12.14.23)
  • The Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Dec. 15 weighed in on the upcoming U.S. elections, and said Putin would prefer a president who is “more constructive” toward Russia and understands the “importance of the dialogue.” (NBC, 12.15.23)
  • Russian law enforcement agencies have opened another case against journalist and dual U.S.-Russian citizen Alsu Kurmasheva, who was arrested in Kazan, Russia in October on charges of failing to voluntarily register as a “foreign agent,” reports the Telegram channel Baza. Authorities are now investigating Kurmasheva for her 2022 book “No to War” which features the stories of 40 Russians opposed to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. They are pursuing charges under the law against “fakes” about the Russian army. If convicted, Kurmasheva could face up to 15 years in prison. (Meduza, 12.12.23)
  • A Moscow court on Dec. 14 upheld a ruling to hold in detention until Jan. 30 U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich, arrested in Russia earlier this year on espionage charges, turning down an appeal lodged late last month. (MT/AFP, 12.14.23)
  • Putin said during his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser that Russia was in talks with the U.S. about releasing Gershkovich and fellow American Paul Whelan from prison. In his first comments on the issue since Gershkovich was arrested in March on espionage charges, Putin said Russia and the U.S. were in discussion about a potential swap. “I hope that we will find a solution, and that the American side will make a decision that will be accepted by the Russian side as well. They should be based on humanitarian considerations,” he added. (FT, 12.14.23)
    • This month, the United States said that Russia rejected a proposal to free Gershkovich and Whelan. “We have made a number of proposals, including a substantial one in recent weeks,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. "That proposal was rejected by Russia." (MT, 12.14.23)
    • The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said on Dec. 15 that Ambassador Lynne Tracy had visited Gershkovich. "He remains upbeat and thanks his family, friends and everyone who has been following his plight for over 250 days for their support," the embassy said. (RFE/RL, 12.15.23)
  • A former top FBI counterintelligence official was ordered on Dec. 14 to spend over four years in prison for violating sanctions against Russia by going to work for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska seeking dirt on a wealthy rival after he finished his government career. Charles McGonigal, 55, was sentenced to four years and two months in prison. (RFE/RL, 12.15.23)
  • Russia has arrested a dual U.S.-Russian citizen on charges of "rehabilitating Nazism" for two critical posts he made on social media. Yury Malyev was arrested on Dec. 8 in St. Petersburg and ordered to pretrial detention for two months, the Smolnensky district court said in a post on its Telegram channel. (RFE/RL, 12.09.23)
  • Material from a binder with highly classified information connected to the investigation into Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election disappeared in the final days of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, two people familiar with the matter said. (NYT, 12.15.23)
  • Heightened online misinformation and disinformation campaigns by Russia, China and Iran could mislead voters in next year's presidential election and spark real-world violence, U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future warned in a report released on Dec. 14. (BG, 12.15.23)
  • A Russian national was charged after allegedly sneaking onto a plane in Denmark bound for Los Angeles International Airport -- and not telling the FBI why he was headed for the United States. Sergey Vladimirovich Ochigava allegedly flew to LAX from Copenhagen, Denmark, on Nov. 4 despite not being on the flight manifest, according to a criminal complaint. (ABC, 12.12.23)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • During his Dec. 14 call-in show/press conference, Putin said:
    • Russia’s “margin of safety … rests on several components. The first and most important element is the high level of unity in Russian society. The second element is the stability of our financial and economic system. As it turned out, and this came as a big surprise to our so-called partners. And the third element is, of course, the growing capability of our security component, that is, the army and security agencies.” (, 12.14.23)
    • “In 2021, life expectancy in Russia was 70.06, in 2022 it was 72.73, and in 2023 it is expected to be 74 years.” (, 12.14.23)
    • "Inflation has increased and is expected to reach 7.5 percent” in 2023. (, 12.14.23)
    • Russia’s manufacturing output has grown by 7.5 percent year-on-year. (, 12.14.23)
    • Russia’s unemployment rate is at a historical low of 2.9 percent while real wages will grow by around eight percent after inflation in 2023. (, 12.14.23)
    • Asked what he would say to "Vladimir Putin from 2000" if he could go back in time and speak to his younger self, Putin responded: “I would say: you are on the right track, comrades.” (, 12.14.23)
  • In a sign of how the war was affecting Russian society and economy, some questions during Putin’s call-in show/press conference on Dec. 14 revealed citizens’ concerns about high inflation, frontline soldiers’ frustrations and complaints about crumbling social services. Messages flashed on a giant screen behind Putin, including “Why does a box of eggs cost 550 rubles in Dagestan?” and “Why is your ‘reality’ at odds with our lived reality?” (FT, 12.14.23)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin told VTB’s annual “Russia Calling!” investment conference:
    •  Russia’s GDP has grown by 5% year on year in October and by 3.2% in January-October. The economy is already bigger than it was before the war started.(BNE, 12.09.23)
    • Reported that real wages were up by 7% in 2023 and real income higher by 4.4% after almost a decade of stagnation and decline. (BNE, 12.09.23)
  • There have been 10 years without any improvement in the standard of living for Russians, according to German economist Janis Kluge. Real disposable incomes are still below 2013 levels. High inflation since the summer of 2023 has led to a renewed decline in Q3, he wrote via his X account. (RM, 12.12.23)
  • Russia's Central Bank on Dec. 15 raised its key interest rate to 16%, announcing a fifth hike since summer in a bid to fight accelerating inflation. (MT/AFP, 12.15.23)
  •  Annual inflation reached 7.48% last month, up from 6.69% in October, according to Federal Statistics Service data published late on Dec. 8. In monthly terms, inflation came in at 1.1% after reaching 0.83% the previous month. Russia is set to end the fourth straight year with inflation well above the Bank of Russia’s 4% target. (Bloomberg, 12.08.23)
  • Representatives of the ruling United Russia party and the All-Russia Popular Front (ONF) met in Moscow on Dec. 9 as an "initiative group" to discuss their support for President Vladimir Putin's bid for a fifth presidential term. Party secretary Andrei Turchak said United Russia would provide all necessary resources for Putin's campaign. (RFE/RL, 12.09.23)
  • A voters’ committee will gather at Moscow’s Zaryadye concert hall on Dec. 16 to nominate Vladimir Putin as a presidential candidate, reports TASS, citing Vladimir Mashkov, the head of the Theater Workers’ Union. According to Mashkov, the committee considered holding the meeting at the VDNKh exhibition center in Moscow (where it was held in 2017), but the venue is fully booked with the “Russia” exhibition until March. (Meduza, 12.09.23)
  • At a meeting with school and university students on Dec. 11, Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said that while the country does not need a new Constitution, the authorities will make some changes to the current one. According to the former president, the Russian Constitution is a “conservative document” and any amendments to it should be made “as carefully as possible.” At the same time, he added, “there will definitely be some targeted changes.” (Meduza, 12.12.23)
  • Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been moved from the prison where he was being held in central Russia to an unknown location, his lawyer said on Dec. 15, citing a court document. Navalny's allies say he “went missing” on Dec. 5 and they have been unable to establish contact with him ever since. (MT/AFP, 12.15.23)
  • Russia’s Second Cassation Court has upheld the sentence of opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who was given eight and a half years in prison for spreading “fakes” about the Russian army, reports Sota. (Meduza, 12.13.23)
  • A court in Russia's Komi region on Dec. 12 fined sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky 600,000 rubles ($6,660) on a charge of making online calls to justify terrorism and ordered his release from custody. (RFE/RL, 12.12.23)
  • Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov), once a leader of Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, pleaded not guilty to the charge of public calls for extremist activities as his trial opened in Moscow on Dec. 14. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
  • The Moscow City Court on Dec. 14 cancelled a lower court's decision to fine veteran human rights defender Oleg Orlov 150,000 rubles ($1,660) for the "repeated discrediting of Russia's armed forces" involved in the invasion of Ukraine. The court sent Orlov's case back to prosecutors, who already appealed the previous ruling, saying the sentence was too mild. They have requested three years in prison for Orlov. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
  • A Moscow court on Dec. 13 refused to imprison activist Lev Skoryakin, who in October went missing in Kyrgyzstan after applying for asylum there and was later located in a Moscow detention center. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
  • A source close to Russia’s Justice Ministry told Verstka that the criteria required for labeling individuals and organizations as “foreign agents” changed in 2022. Initially, the designation depended on two factors. Now simply “falling under foreign influence” or irking certain government officials is enough to merit inclusion on the list. (Meduza, 12.15.23)
  • Prominent Soviet-era dissident journalist Maria Rozanova has died in France at the age of 93, Russian writer Dmitry Bykov said on Dec. 13. (RFE/RL, 12.13.23)
  • Lawmakers in western Russia’s Kursk region passed a law on Dec. 8 banning the act of “coercing women” into undergoing an abortion amid increasing concerns about a looming nationwide ban. Kursk is now among several other Russian regions, as well as annexed Crimea, where private clinics stopped providing abortion services in what authorities call a “voluntary” move. (MT/AFP, 12.09.23)
  • The Legislative Assembly of Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod region has introduced a bill to the Russian State Duma that proposes banning abortions in private clinics at the federal level. (Meduza, 12.13.23)
  • An airport in southern Russia's Krasnodar region on Dec. 15 received its first flight since closing down early last year as Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine, the Russian civil aviation authority Rosaviatsia said. (MT/AFP, 12.15.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Putin said during his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser that Russian authorities’ goal had been to recruit a little more than 400,000 soldiers by the end of the year and that goal had been surpassed, with 486,000 already recruited. “So, what do we need mobilization for? There is absolutely no need for it today,” Putin said. (RM, 12.14.23)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • A court in the Russian city of Bryansk, some 885 kilometers southwest of Moscow, ordered the arrest of Dmitry Afanaskin on Dec. 10 on a charge of negligently keeping a firearm after his 14-year-old daughter shot a classmate and herself dead at school last week with his shotgun. (RFE/RL, 12.11.23)
  • A court in Siberia on Dec. 11 sentenced imprisoned businessman Anatoly Bykov to 12 years in prison for his involvement in ordering the assassination of a crime boss in 1998. Bykov is already serving a 17-year prison term for being involved in the murders of three people in 1994 and 2005. (RFE/RL, 12.11.23)
  • On Dec. 12, the lower house of the Russian parliament adopted a law allowing, among other things, conscription of rank-and-file into the Federal Security Service. (Meduza, 12.12.23)
  • Russian parliament's lower chamber, the State Duma, on Dec. 12 approved in its final reading a bill allowing the National Guard to have its own volunteer groups that can take part in Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The bill also would allow the recruiting of young soldiers to the Federal Security Service and criminalize the distribution of "fake" information about National Guard troops involved in the war in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.12.23)
  • The former chief doctor of Moscow’s notorious Matrosskaya Tishina prison was sentenced to seven years in jail for selling fraudulent medical releases that allowed inmates to continue treatment in civil hospitals, media reported on Dec. 12. Alexander Kravchenko was accused of allowing the medical release of four prisoners “to reduce the number of prisoners,” according to the news radio station Business FM. (MT/AFP, 12.12.23)
  • Two naturalized Russians have been stripped of their citizenship, Russia's Interior Ministry said on Dec. 13, marking the first such case since new legislation legalizing denaturalization went into force. A Moscow court convicted the two recently naturalized men on drug-smuggling charges, the Interior Ministry said in a statement, noting that “their valid Russian passports have been seized.” (MT/AFP, 12.13.23)
  • Former senior police officer Viktor Danishevsky in St. Petersburg has been arrested on suspicion of unlawfully granting more than 100,000 labor migrants legal status, state media reported on Dec. 13, citing anonymous law enforcement officials. (MT/AFP, 12.13.23)
  • A military court in Moscow on Dec. 14 sentenced five Tajik nationals—Manuchehr Buriev, Rajabali Buriev, Abdumalik Samiev, Samandar Toshmurodov, and Abduqodir Toirov—and a Russian citizen from the North Caucasus region of Dagestan, Gadzhimurad Gasanaliyev, to prison terms between 16 years and 22 years on charges of organizing a terrorist group and plotting a terrorist attack against the Federal Security Service headquarters in the Russian capital. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
  • The Russian Field research group conducted a survey on the attitude of Russians towards pardoning prisoners for participating in the war. From the survey results it follows that 55% of respondents “rather do not support” pardoning prisoners who have committed serious crimes if they take part in the “SVO.” 32% of respondents “rather support” pardoning those convicted of such crimes. (Meduza, 12.15.23)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Putin said during his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser: 
    • When asked about his relationship with Emmanuel Macron, that the French president broke off contact “at some point” without mentioning that it was over his invasion of Ukraine. If France and other European countries want to resume contact, then “we’re ready,” he said. (Bloomberg, 12.14.23)
  • “Almost everyone [in Europe] behaves this way, except for a few people. Robert Fico became a new leader [in Slovakia] after the election, and Viktor Orban in Hungary. I have said many times that they are not pro-Russia politicians, they are pro-national—they are defending their countries’ interests. But there are too few politicians like this.” (, 12.14.23)
  • “The Secretary-General of the United Nations called today’s Gaza the biggest children’s cemetery in the world. This opinion speaks volumes. It is an objective opinion, what else can I say? … First, it is necessary to keep people in Gaza. Second, it is necessary to bring humanitarian aid on a massive scale to these people. ” He also insisted Russia’s war was nothing compared with the “catastrophe” of Israel’s bombing campaign on Gaza. (FT, 12.14.23, RM, 12.14.23,, 12.14.23)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 10 and voiced displeasure with "anti-Israel positions" taken by Moscow's envoys at the UN, an Israeli statement said. Speaking to Putin, Netanyahu also voiced "robust disapproval" of Russia's "dangerous" cooperation with Iran, the Israeli statement said. The Kremlin said Russia was ready to give all possible assistance to alleviate the suffering of civilians and de-escalate the conflict. (RFE/RL, 12.10.23)
  • The United States vetoed a resolution in the United Nations Security Council on Dec. 8 that would have demanded a permanent cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, even as the U.N.'s senior leaders warned that without a halt in the fighting it would be nearly impossible to get aid to millions of Palestinians trapped in the war zone. Thirteen of the Council's 15 members voted in favor of the cease-fire measure. Britain abstained, and the United States, which has veto power, cast the only no vote. (NYT, 12.09.23)
  • The Russian foreign minister on Dec. 13 called on UN chief Antonio Guterres to organize an international conference to find a lasting solution to the war between Israel and the Palestinians. "The only way for this problem to be solved forever, and to be solved in a just way, is to hold an international conference with all five permanent members of the UN Security Council," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian senators. (MT/AFP, 12.13.23)
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry has criticized Germany's ambassador in Moscow, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, for his remembrance of war victims and plea for peace during a church Christmas concert. (RFE/RL, 12.10.23)
  • German authorities have charged 27 people with crimes including terrorism, treason and attempted murder for their alleged involvement in last year’s plot to overthrow the government, revealing new details of their links to Russia. Led by Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, scion of an aristocratic dynasty that ruled the east German province of Thuringia for 800 years, the 27 are accused of amassing considerable financial resources and stores of weapons to carry out a coup against the democratically elected government in Berlin. (FT, 12.13.23)
  • Two German men will face trial in Berlin on Dec. 13 for allegedly stealing intelligence secrets and passing them on to Russia's security services. The pair, named by prosecutors as Carsten L. and Arthur E., are accused of working together with a Russian businessman to "procure sensitive information" from the portfolio of Germany's BND foreign intelligence. (MT/AFP, 12.13.23)
  • Soon after payment-processing giant Wirecard reported in June 2020 that nearly $2 billion had gone missing from its balance sheet, its chief operating officer Jan Marsalek boarded a private jet out of Austria. After a landing in Belarus, he was whisked by car to Moscow, where he got a Russian passport under an assumed name. Western intelligence and security officials now say they have reached the unsettling conclusion that Marsalek had likely been a Russian agent for nearly a decade. (WSJ, 12.15.23)


  • The European Union decided on Dec. 14 to open membership talks with Ukraine, sidestepping opposition from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to grant Ukraine its long-standing wish to start the process of membership even while it is at war with invading Russian forces. Orban, who had vowed to block the opening of membership talks for Ukraine, said Hungary abstained from the decision. He backed down one day after the European Commission unlocked 10 billion euros ($10.4 billion) in frozen funds for Hungary. The EU leaders also granted EU candidate status to Georgia. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23, MT/AFP, 12.15.23)
    • If Ukraine joined the E.U. today [on Dec. 15], it would be the largest new member in terms of population since the 1980s. According to an analysis from the German Institute of International and Security Affairs, Ukraine would get about 9 percent of votes in EU decision-making, roughly the same as Poland's voting weight today. E.U. farmers currently receive subsidies of more than $200 per hectare farmed. Given its vast arable land, Ukraine would be eligible for billions in payments. (WP, 12.15.23)
    • It will take several years, at least, for Ukraine to adopt the reforms needed to fulfil the EU’s exacting criteria to let in a new member. (The Economist, 12.15.23)
    • Ukraine does not deserve to start EU accession talks or receive financial support from the bloc’s shared budget, Hungary’s prime minister said at the start of a crunch EU leaders’ summit in Brussels om Dec. 14. (FT, 12.14.23)
    • President Volodymyr Zelensky on Dec. 14 told leaders attending a crucial European Union summit in Brussels that a negative vote would "betray" Ukrainians' European dreams and embolden Russia in its aggression against Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
  • The Ukrainian authorities are losing the trust of voters. This is evidenced by a survey conducted in October 2023 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS). Most noticeably, from May 2022 to October 2023, Ukrainians’ trust in the country’s government fell (the share of those who trust it decreased from 74 to 39%) and in the Verkhovna Rada (from 58 to 21%).The trust of Ukrainians in the country's President Vladimir Zelensky has also decreased, as follows from the survey—from 91 to 76%. In October 2023, 94% of Ukrainians expressed trust in the Ukrainian army (in May 2022 there were 98%), 87% in volunteers (this figure has not changed since May 2022). (Meduza, 12.12.23)
  • In December, Ukrainska Pravda reported the results of a closed survey of the sociological group Rating. According to these data, 47.4% of voters would vote for Vladimir Zelensky in the presidential elections, and 30.7% for Zaluzhny. (Meduza, 12.12.23)
  • The results of a recent opinion poll published by research agency Info Sapiens and commissioned by Transparency International Ukraine point to the main concerns of Ukrainians today being the armed aggression of the Russian Federation (96%), corruption (88%) and destroyed infrastructure and buildings (82%). Public concern about corruption has increased by 11 percentage points compared to a previous wave of surveying back in March, whilst the two other main concerns have slightly decreased. (Kyiv Post, 12.13.23)
  • Ukraine's National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) opened 24-hour access to the Unified State Register of Declarations of persons authorized to perform the functions of the state or local self-government. The Register reportedly allows Ukrainians to submit and review property declarations of public servants. (Kyiv Independent/Yahoo News, 12.10.23)
  • Ukraine's State Bureau of Investigations (DBR) said on Dec. 14 that its officers searched a villa and office in Spain belonging to Evhen Borisov, the former chief of the Odesa regional military recruitment center, who was arrested in July on corruption charges. investigators say Borisov bought the villa and the office in the resort city of Marbella for 4.5 million euros ($4,862,500) in December 2022 amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.14.23)
  • Ukraine’s Gross domestic product rose 9.3% in July-September on the previous year, compared with 19.5% in the second quarter, according to data published by the State Statistics Office on Dec. 11. Seasonally adjusted GDP grew by 0.7% from the second quarter. (Bloomberg, 12.12.23)
  • Ukraine’s central bank lowered the cost of borrowing for a fourth meeting even as uncertainty over foreign financial aid for the war-torn nation clouds the outlook for next year. Policymakers cut the key rate to 15% from 16%, the bank said in a statement on Dec. 14. Almost all economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected the move, with one forecasting a reduction to 14%. (Bloomberg, 12.14.23)
  • Ukrainian parliament on Dec. 8 approved three bills necessary to start European Union accession talks. President Volodymyr Zelensky signed all three, describing them as key to Ukraine's application to join the 27-member bloc." (RFE/RL, 12.09.23)
  • Russia’s Central Election Commission has given the green light on holding next year's presidential election in partially occupied Ukrainian regions, Interfax reported on Dec. 11. (MT/AFP, 12.11.23)
  • Ukraine has warned that a failure by EU leaders to agree on the support package at a summit this week would imperil its macro-financial stability. (FT, 12.11.23)

  • The press bureau of the Foreign Intelligence Service released a statement from its director Sergei Naryshkin in which he claimed intelligence service has “reliable information” about discussions in the West about the replacement of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky by one of the military or civilian officials. (The Bell, 12.11.23)
  • Putin said during his Dec. 14 call-in show/presser:
    • “Today Ukraine produces very little; they are trying to maintain some production, but it is almost non-existent. Everything they get is a freebie, and I apologize for such talk. But these freebies may end one day; in fact, they are already coming to an end little by little.” (, 12.14.23)
    • Annually, Russia is spending more than a trillion rubles on maintaining the territories it has captured in Ukraine since Feb. 2022. (RM, 12.14.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • The COP28 climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 11 approved a proposal to hold the next iteration of the annual event in the South Caucasus nation of Azerbaijan. (RFE/RL, 12.12.23)
  • Azerbaijan's ruling New Azerbaijan Party officially proposed on Dec. 12 the oil-rich South Caucasus country's incumbent leader, Ilham Aliyev, as its candidate in the snap presidential election to be held on Feb. 7. (RFE/RL, 12.12.23)
  • Azerbaijan and Armenia exchanged prisoners of war on Dec. 13, with Baku releasing 32 Armenian soldiers captured in 2020-2023, while Yerevan released two Azerbaijani soldiers captured in April 2023 as part of an earlier announced agreement on several goodwill steps. (RFE/RL, 12.13.23)
  • President Salome Zurabishvili has warned that a decision at a European Union summit this week not to grant her country EU candidate status would have "very bad" consequences. She said it would play into Russia's hands, enabling it to exploit frustration in Georgia to spread anti-EU sentiment. (RFE/RL, 12.13.23)
  • The security chiefs of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan say the two Central Asian nations have preliminarily agreed on more than 90 percent of the border between the two former Soviet republics during negotiations held in Kyrgyzstan's southern region of Batken. (RFE/RL, 12.13.23)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • "If Russia prevails on the battlefield, you can be sure that Iran and North Korea will get benefits from this. ... China’s also learning an awful lot of lessons from this war, about how the United States and Europe and other countries are likely to react in other contexts. If we step back and allow Ukraine to lose, well, are we going to do the same in the case of Taiwan? … A military failure for Ukraine is going to shift the entire balance in the Indo-Pacific,” said Fiona Hill, former Senior Director for Europe and Russia, U.S. National Security Council, now of Brookings, in an interview. (Politico, 12.12.23)         
  • “Trump has made it crystal clear through all his actions and rhetoric that he admires leaders who have forms of authoritarian power, from Putin to Orban to Xi, and that he wants to exercise that kind of power at home,” said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of “Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present,” referring to Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Viktor Orban of Hungary and Xi Jinping of China. (NYT, 12.09.23)
  • “The Russian invasion of Ukraine was illegal and has rightly been condemned. Yet 85 per cent of the world’s population live in countries that have not imposed sanctions on Russia. Does this indicate Russian isolation? Or the opposite?” wrote Kishore Mahbubani, fellow at the National University of Singapore. (FT, 12.12.23)
  • "The confidence level now should be going through the roof. Putin feels he has good reason to uncork a very rare Champagne vintage," said Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center. "His military machine is gathering steam." (WSJ, 12.15.23)


The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 2:00pm East Coast time on the day it was distributed.

*Here and elsewhere, the italicized text indicates comments by RM staff and associates. These comments do not constitute RM editorial policy.

Photo shared by the Ukrainian presidential press service via a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.