Russia November 2021-

Written by  //  January 18, 2022  //  Europe & EU, Russia  //  1 Comment

Factbox: What are the Minsk agreements on the Ukraine conflict?
(Reuters) – The United States has warned Russia not to invade Ukraine and urged both countries to return to a set of agreements designed to end a separatist war by Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine. read more
Here is a look at the agreements, which were signed in Minsk in 2014 and 2015.

Russia moves more troops westward amid Ukraine tensions
(AP) — Russia is sending troops from the country’s far east to Belarus for major war games, officials said Tuesday, in a deployment further beefing up Russian military assets near Ukraine amid Western fears of an invasion.
Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said the drills are intended to practice a joint response to external threats by the alliance of Russia and Belarus, which have close political, economic and military ties. Fomin didn’t say how many troops and weapons were being redeployed for the exercises, or give the number of troops that will be involved in the war games.
Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia could launch an attack from various directions, including from the territory of its ally Belarus.

14 January
‘Be afraid’: Ukraine hit by cyberattack, Russia moves more troops
By Pavel Polityuk and Tom Balmforth
(Reuters) – Ukraine was hit by a massive cyberattack warning its citizens to “be afraid and expect the worst”, and Russia, which has massed more than 100,000 troops on its neighbour’s frontier, released TV pictures on Friday of more forces deploying in a drill.
The developments unfolded hours after talks wrapped up with no breakthrough between Russia and Western states, which fear Moscow could launch a new attack on a country it invaded in 2014.

13 January
Russia raises negotiation stakes with possibility of military deployment to Cuba, Venezuela
(PBS) [Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei] Ryabkov said a refusal by the U.S. and its allies to consider the key Russian demand for guarantees against the alliance’s expansion to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations makes it hard to discuss such issues as arms control and confidence-building steps that Washington says it’s ready to negotiate.
“The U.S. wants to conduct a dialogue on some elements of the security situation … to ease the tensions and then continue the process of geopolitical and military development of the new territories, coming closer to Moscow,” he said. “We have nowhere to retreat.”
Ryabkov’s comments mark the first time during the current tensions over Ukraine when a senior official mentioned the possibility of Russian military deployments to the Western hemisphere.

11 January
Around the halls: Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the European security order
Pavel K. Baev, Jessica Brandt, Vanda Felbab-Brown, Samantha Gross, Daniel S. Hamilton, Marvin Kalb, Patricia M. Kim, Kemal Kirişci, Michael E. O’Hanlon, Steven Pifer, Melanie W. Sisson, Constanze Stelzenmüller, and Angela Stent
(Brookings) Late last year, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia massed troops on its border with Ukraine and issued draft agreements with the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) spelling out demands for changes to the European security order including no further expansion of NATO. With the United States and its European allies and partners embarking on a series of pivotal negotiations with Moscow beginning January 9 in Geneva, mass protests erupted in Kazakhstan in the first week of 2022 and the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) intervened militarily at the request of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. What are Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions? How should the U.S. and its allies respond to Russia’s moves? What are the implications of the Kazakhstan uprising? Below, Brookings experts reflect on recent developments in the former Soviet Union and offer policy recommendations.
Kazakhstan’s Tokayev announces swift end to Russian-led intervention, reorganizes security forces
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced Tuesday that troops from Russia and other members of a regional security organization would leave the country within 10 days after the unrest that roiled the energy-rich nation for the past week was quelled.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization answered Tokayev’s appeal for help by sending in 2,500 peacekeeping troops Thursday after protesters rioted in cities across the country, setting government buildings alight and looting the Almaty airport. It was the organization’s first intervention since its formation in 2002.

7 January
Kazakhstan and the Price of Russia’s Empire
Nina L. Khrushcheva
From the czars to Lenin and Stalin, Russia’s leaders have almost universally believed that the cost of empire, in both blood and treasure, was justified. With Russian-led troops heading into Kazakhstan, it seems clear that Vladimir Putin agrees.
(Project Syndicate) For Russia, the costs of Putin’s ambitions are mounting. Consider the country’s military expenditure, which increased from 3.8% of GDP in 2013 – the year before Russia invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, and supported secessionist forces in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions – to 5.4% in 2016. While military expenditure as a share of GDP declined in 2017 and 2018, it is now climbing once again. With Russian troops stationed in the occupied Georgian region of Abkhazia, the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus, this is not a surprise. More difficult to quantify are the strategic costs of empire, which Putin is loath to recognize. The Kremlin’s imperial agenda, especially the annexation of Crimea, has called into question the post-Cold War settlement in Eurasia, from the Baltic to the Bering Sea. The world’s other powers – particularly the United States and China – are strongly invested in upholding the status quo that Putin is seeking to upset.
… The domestic costs – and polling by the Levada Center in Moscow suggests that few Russians are willing to trade their living standards for enhanced global status – ought to be sufficient to convince Putin to abandon his imperial ambitions. If not, the possibility of reigniting a rivalry with China surely should. But it is far from guaranteed that Putin will give reason its due. He is already ignoring the lessons of Russia’s own history.

6 January
Kazakhstan’s Unprecedented Crisis
In trying to calm violent protests, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has involved an unpredictable and untrusted partner.
Paul Stronski
(Carnegie) Tokayev has called on the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russian-dominated regional security bloc, for help in quelling the violence, with Russian peacekeepers reportedly arriving Thursday morning.
The country is now in an unprecedented crisis, and the situation is rapidly evolving.
Tokayev’s decision to call on the CSTO and Russia for help is a risky move. CSTO involvement has internationalized what essentially started as a domestic protest movement by adding an unpredictable and often untrusted partner (Russia) to the mix. The arrival of Russian troops in the country has already raised concerns in some circles about future of Kazakhstan’s sovereignty. Furthermore, Kazakhstani nationalist sentiments have also been on the rise recently, as visibly seen in the Kazakh flags protesters continue to wave.
Fresh violence in Kazakhstan after Russia sends troops to put down uprising
Police say they have killed dozens of rioters in Almaty
18 members of security forces killed – state TV
Around 2,500 peacekeepers deploying in Kazakhstan
(Reuters) – Fresh violence erupted in Kazakhstan’s main city on Thursday after Russia rushed in paratroopers to put down a countrywide uprising in one of Moscow’s closest former Soviet allies.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, said he called in the Russian forces overnight, alongside others from a Moscow-led military alliance of ex-Soviet states. He blamed the unrest on foreign-trained terrorists who he said had seized buildings and weapons.
Moscow said it would consult with Kazakhstan and allies on steps to support the Kazakh “counter-terrorist operation” and repeated Tokayev’s assertion that the uprising was foreign-inspired. Neither Kazakhstan nor Russia provided evidence to support that.

2021

29 December
Russia’s Aggression Against Ukraine Is Backfiring
Putin’s military moves are rallying Ukrainians and unifying NATO.
By Kori Schake
…a recent report concludes that despite its massive deployment and threatening rhetoric, Russia is not planning to invade Ukraine. The report, produced by the Critical Threats Project of the American Enterprise Institute, where I serve as the director of foreign- and defense-policy studies, together with the Institute for the Study of War, finds that the political and economic costs of an actual invasion are too high for Russia to sustain. “Putin may be attempting a strategic misdirection that impales the West in a diplomatic process and military planning cycle that will keep it unprepared,” the report argues. Rather than directly invade Ukraine again, Russia instead seeks to further destabilize the country in advance of its elections, station troops in Belarus, divide NATO, and precipitate Western concessions to de-escalate the crisis.
Even without an invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s military moves pose serious threats to America’s allies, including the Baltic states. Russia demands, as the price of even considering drawing down its military buildup, that NATO accept a different security framework for Europe, abandon any future NATO accessions, and forswear military cooperation with any non-NATO state.
See TB Comment of 28 December below

22 December
Stopping the Countdown to Russian Invasion
Russia’s unacceptable demands to the United States and NATO make a new invasion into Ukraine more likely. It is time the allies agreed on urgent action to deter war.
Ambassador Kurt Volker
(Center for European Policy Analysis CEPA) On December 17, Russia publicly released its list of demands – the implicit price for Putin not to attack Ukraine and bring the war to Europe. These include several elements which Russia knew in advance would be firmly rejected by the US and NATO – not just demands about the future, like a prohibition on more Central and East European (CEE) countries joining NATO, a commitment not to engage in military training and exercising with former Soviet states, and a commitment not to bring NATO forces into Central or East European territories or waters which Russia seeks to dominate, but much, much more. The clear message is that NATO should withdraw its forces from the Baltic states, revoke its membership pledge to Ukraine and Georgia, and maybe even remove US nuclear weaponry from the continent.
August and Christmas – when the West goes on vacation – always seem to be times when major changes on the international scene break out. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the Romanian revolution that overthrew Ceaușescu, the Jasmine revolution in Tunisia, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan all took place in December. The Iranian revolution that overthrew Shah Reza Pahlevi began in early January.
The risks of an expanded war in Ukraine this Christmas are very real; preventing it will require urgent action by the West, despite the Christmas holidays.
Putin says Russia has ‘nowhere to retreat’ over Ukraine
(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia had no room to retreat in a standoff with the United States over Ukraine and would be forced into a tough response unless the West dropped its “aggressive line”.
Putin addressed his remarks to military officials as Russia pressed for an urgent U.S. and NATO reply to proposals it made last week for a binding set of security guarantees from the West

17 December
Russia makes unrealistic proposals as Ukraine buildup continues
Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:
(GZERO) What does Russia really want with this diplomatic and military offensive?
Answer is we don’t know. They have put on the table proposals that are extremely maximalistic. They will simply not fly. Is there anything in that that can be worked on? Remains to be seen. Can they back down to more realistic positions? Uncertain, but remains to be seen. In the meantime, the military build-up against Ukraine continues, so fairly dramatic months ahead, I fear.

12 December
G7 leaders warn Russia all sanctions on table over Ukraine border buildup
Foreign ministers of the G7 group of rich democracies have warned Russia of “massive consequences” if it invades Ukraine and urged it to de-escalate its military buildup on its border.
(The Guardian) The UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said all forms of economic sanctions against Russia were on the table if it made an incursion into Ukraine, and hinted she may be prepared to look again at the UK’s laws against money laundering, seen by some as a way for Russian elites to stash their cash.
She said an invasion would come with a “severe cost” for Russia. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told Russian media on Sunday it was being demonised for moving its troops within its own borders and said Vladimir Putin had told Joe Biden in a video call last week that Russian troops did not pose a threat to anyone.
Economic sanctions could include restricting access to global finance markets and setting new conditions on funding Russian government debt.

9 December
Will Putin Get What He Wants on Ukraine?
Alexander Baunov
(Carnegie Moscow Center) For now, Biden is the leader who prevented a war, but that’s not to say that the summit will be followed by a rapid de-escalation: not until Moscow sees new steps being taken by Washington on Ukraine. First and foremost, that means progress on implementing the Minsk agreements.
At this week’s virtual summit on Ukraine with U.S. President Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aim was to transfer responsibility for implementing the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the Ukraine conflict from the Europeans and Ukrainians to the United States. To encourage Biden to accept this responsibility, Russia has been staging military drills close to Ukraine’s borders, with enough troops massing there to launch an offensive. As Putin seeks a final formula for the configuration of the post-Soviet space, the signal is clear: if the Minsk agreements aren’t being implemented, the alternative is military force.

4 December
Fiona Hill: The Kremlin’s Strange Victory
How Putin Exploits American Dysfunction and Fuels American Decline
(Foreign Affairs November/December) Putin sits at the apex of a personalized and semi-privatized kleptocratic system that straddles the Russian state and its institutions and population. He has embedded loyalists in every important Russian institution, enterprise, and industry. If Putin wants to retain the presidency until 2036—by which time he will be 84 years old and will have become the longest-serving modern Russian ruler—he will have to maintain this level of control or even increase it, since any slippage might be perceived as weakness. To do so, Putin has to deter or defeat any opponents, foreign or domestic, who have the capacity to undermine his regime. His hope is that leaders in the United States will get so bogged down with problems at home that they will cease criticizing his personalization of power and will eschew any efforts to transform Russia similar to those the U.S. government carried out in the 1990s.

3 December
Large scale Russian offensive possible in January, Ukraine says
By Natalia Zinets
(Reuters) – Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders and may be gearing up for a large-scale military offensive at the end of January, Ukraine’s defence minister told parliament on Friday, citing intelligence reports.
Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine would not do anything to provoke the situation but was ready to fight back if Russia launched an attack. He said Ukraine was pressing ahead with the construction of two naval bases on its south coast.

Heather Cox Richardson December 2, 2021
The news that Congress is willing to protect our finances reinforces the most effective weapon we have in the ongoing struggle to force Russia back from its threat to invade Ukraine. …
Ukraine, which became independent from the old U.S.S.R. in 1991—December 2 is the anniversary of Poland and Canada becoming the first to recognize its independence, actually—is not part of NATO. …
Now, Russia is amassing troops at the Ukraine border. While no one knows the end game, at the very least the Russian military presence is a threat aimed at keeping Ukraine from joining NATO. It is also likely aimed at elevating Putin’s visibility by getting a personal meeting with Biden.

24 November
The Coming Deluge: Russia’s Looming Lost Decade of Unpaid Bills and Economic Stagnation
Andrei Kolesnikov, Denis Volkov
The respondents agreed unanimously that the authorities will not try to change Russia’s development vector within the country’s existing political and economic models. Unless something drastically changes, stagnation in the broadest sense of the word—from economic depression to social apathy—is the only possible medium- and long-term scenario for Russia.
(Carnegie Moscow) With all the problems facing the Russian economy, many are wondering how the government will respond. As Moscow finally wakes up to the reality of climate change, the prevailing attitude among members of the ruling class appears to be that there is enough oil and gas to keep the state coffers full, buy voters’ loyalty, and control civil society and the media for as long as the country’s current leaders are in power (until 2036, when President Vladimir Putin may at last have to step down). What comes after that does not concern them: “After us, the deluge.”
To project Russia’s likely development trajectory over the next ten to fifteen years, the authors asked twenty-three economists and business leaders to identify the biggest challenges for Russia, when they will materialize, what the consequences may be, and whether they can be overcome under the current political system.
Many of the challenges and potential crises these experts discussed are intertwined, including Russia’s human capital crisis, the numerous structural economic challenges it faces on energy and technology policy, and the apparent absence of a sense of urgency among the ruling elites.
Most of the key challenges facing the Russian political system are related to the lack of economic growth. One of the factors inhibiting that growth is the state’s excessive interference in the economy and indeed all other aspects of life, creating an overcentralized and ineffective administrative state.

23 November
Russia’s Move
By George Friedman
(Geopolitical Futures) … Whatever the Americans thought they were doing, the Russians saw this as violating Russia’s right to national security, using the pretense of encouraging democracy to threaten Russia. From the American point of view, Ukraine had the right to national self-determination. From the Russian point of view, it did not have the right to pose an existential threat to Russia. From a geopolitical point of view, the American intent didn’t matter. Intentions change, and a pro-American Ukraine was merely a new chapter in a long story of Russian insecurity. Russia had survived previous invasions by putting distance between an invader and Moscow. All of the previous centuries’ invasions failed because invaders had to traverse so much territory that a summer invasion would end in the Russian winter. With Ukraine an American “puppet,” that distance is dramatically reduced, the buffer zone dissolved. What had guarded Russia for centuries no longer guarded it.
… Russia is surrounded by vulnerabilities. So it has developed a soft approach to deal with them. It does not send in tanks; it uses political and economic problems to increase its influence. Thus is the case in Belarus, where the instability under President Alexander Lukashenko allows Russia to increase its power and destabilize the border with Poland. In Central Asia, it uses economic relations and the tension between Central Asian states to increase its influence. In the South Caucasus, it has inserted peacekeepers to maintain a truce between Azerbaijan and Armenia, giving it various avenues for leverage. It maintains good relations with China of course, but both remain wary of the other.
The North European Plain, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Chinese border are all vital. But the central issue for Russia is Ukraine. Ukraine is where the United States has, from the Russian point of view, sunk its claws. Russia can manage Belarus, but it cannot exert soft power in Ukraine because of the potential for American intervention. There are rumors of a Russian invasion in the coming weeks, but real invasions are not announced. On the other hand, invasions you do not want to launch (because you could lose) should be announced. It becomes a psychological weapon to try to force a settlement in which Russia holds a strong veto on internal processes.

20 November
Russia will act if Nato countries cross Ukraine ‘red lines’, Putin says
Deployment of weapons or troops in Ukraine by Nato would trigger strong response, Russian president says
(The Guardian) Nato countries have warned Putin against further aggression against Ukraine as foreign ministers gathered in Latvia to discuss the military alliance’s contingencies for a potential Russian invasion.
Tensions have soared following a buildup of nearly 100,000 Russian troops, as well as tanks, artillery, and even short-range ballistic missiles, within striking distance of Ukraine’s borders.
While a similar crisis played out over a Russian troop buildup in April, officials from the US and Ukraine have warned that the threat of a Russian offensive this winter remains very real because of a failing ceasefire agreement and a worsening political climate.

19-23 November
U.S., Russian Military Chiefs Speak On The Phone Amid Heightened Tensions Over Ukraine
(RadioFreeEurope) The United States’ and Russia’s top military officers spoke over the phone on November 23, amid heightened Western concerns over Russian military moves near the Ukrainian border.
Will Putin miscalculate?
Editor’s Note: Europe currently faces several crises exploited or instigated by Russia. Speculation runs rampant regarding what Vladimir Putin hopes to achieve. Steven Pifer argues that he should take care not to overplay his hand. This article was originally published with the Center for International Security and Cooperation.
(Brookings) One crisis came to a head over the past two months as the cost of natural gas in Europe skyrocketed. While down from peaks in October, the price now hovers at about
four times what it was at the beginning of the year. Russia did not cause this crisis — its roots lie in factors such as abnormally high energy demand and reduced gas production in Europe — but Moscow certainly has exploited the situation.
Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko manufactured the second crisis, playing out along the border with Poland. Belarus has attempted to force migrants and economic refugees from the Middle East into Poland. This despicable weaponization of migrants is likely Lukashenko’s brainchild. Moscow has nevertheless aligned itself with Minsk. When Poland reinforced its border police with regular army soldiers, the Russian air force flew nuclear-capable bombers over Belarus in response.
On Putin’s Strategic Chessboard, a Series of Destabilizing Moves
In the stretch of Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, where Moscow and the West have competed for influence for decades, the threat of a new military conflict is growing.
(NYT) An ominous buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine. A migration crisis in Belarus that Western leaders call a “hybrid war” by a Kremlin client state. Escalating fears over natural gas that have Europe dreading a cold winter.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has, increasingly, put his cards on the table: He is willing to take ever-greater risks to force the West to listen to Russian demands. And America and its allies are sensing an unusually volatile moment, one in which Mr. Putin is playing a role in multiple destabilizing crises at once.

16 November
Russia holds on to its influence in post-Soviet Central Asia – Lack of strategy accelerates its decline
(FIIA) Central Asia remains a region where Russia has great influence. The country views the region as its sphere of interest and attempts to keep the five post-Soviet countries, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, in its geopolitical orbit. Although Russia is a powerful player in Central Asia, its influence is decreasing.
In the latest FIIA Briefing Paper, Research Fellow Kristiina Silvan from the Institute’s EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood and Russia Research Programme analyses the relationship between Russia and Central Asia 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to the author, Russian influence in the region is greatest in the security sphere. In the future, however, Moscow’s lack of a forward-looking strategy, its current great-power posturing, and the further rise of China threaten the country’s dominance in the region.

15 November
US Global Ransomware Summit: More Needs to be Done
ON 8 NOVEMBER, the US Justice Department announced the arrest of several members of the Russian-speaking REvil ransomware group, in a large-scale operation involving US allies in Europe and around the globe. The REvil group, who have since been charged, have been deploying ransomware attacks against American targets including the software provider Kaseya in July 2021. Furthermore, the State Department added REvil to a bounty programme that offers up to US$10 million for information on the REvil leaders.
These efforts followed the two-day virtual international summit on ransomware hosted by the Biden administration on 13-14 October. This summit included 30 countries and was a decisive step towards building a coalition against ransomware attacks. It was acknowledged by all countries that ransomware posed a global and national security threat. Russia ─ as well as China, Iran, and North Korea ─ was not invited
‘Irresponsible act’: U.S. raps Russia after missile strike on its own satellite
(Politico) The United States on Monday confirmed that a Russian anti-satellite missile test was responsible for causing a debris field in space that forced astronauts aboard the International Space Station to temporarily seek shelter.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that Russia had “recklessly conducted a destructive satellite test of a direct ascent anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites.”

One Comment on "Russia November 2021-"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson December 28, 2021 at 12:47 am · Reply

    From a European observer:
    “Following Putin’s current shenanigans one gets a feeling that he sees us in the West as total idiots, when offering and actually demanding solutions to which he knows we cannot consent. But that is not the case. He is making an offer he knows we will not accept, after which he is the martyr and gets a casus belli in Ukraine. The war will be blamed on the West.
    Putin must be in dire straits at home with the economy or other as he is behaving like this. An external threat will unify the Russians to defend Mother Russia who is again being attacked by foreigners. The oligarchs with holdings in the West are getting nervous and could start their own schemes… TB

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