Putin’s War Russia-Ukraine November 2021- March 2022

Written by  //  March 30, 2022  //  Russia, Ukraine  //  2 Comments

Mussorgsky / “Baba Yaga” & “The Great Gate of Kiev”
– National Philharmonic of Russia, Petr Gladysh

Moscow Times

Factbox: What are the Minsk agreements on the Ukraine conflict?

What If Russia Makes a Deal?
How to End a War That No One Is Likely to Win
By Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage
(Foreign Affairs) For Kyiv, legally binding security guarantees—involving the United States, Russia, European countries, and potentially Turkey, as well—are crucial. Such guarantees would be the equivalent of extending NATO’s Article 5 to Ukraine: committing to go to war if Ukraine’s sovereignty or the terms of any potential agreement between Ukraine and Russia were violated. Such a pledge would certainly be a dramatic and precedent-defying step for the United States and its allies, which have tried to avoid being dragged into the war. Putin may not agree to it—or he may not agree to it in good faith. But binding guarantees—in contrast to the unenforced Budapest memorandum of 1994, which Russia first violated in 2014 by seizing Crimea—would furnish all sides with a solution to the essential problem of Ukraine’s security. Real bilateral or multilateral security guarantees would be better than NATO’s policy of having an open door in general but a closed door for Ukraine. Putin could sell this solution—the foreclosure of any chance that Ukraine would ever join NATO—as a win. At the same time, a U.S.-backed security guarantee to Ukraine could deter Russia from attacking Ukraine again. (23 March)

30 March
U.S. says Putin being misled, as Ukraine refugee tally hits 4 million
A day after negotiations showed some progress, Russian officials gave conflicting statements and fighting continued
(WaPo) Putin’s advisers may be afraid to deliver bad news to a leader who has been willing to take increasingly extreme measures against people who dissent within the Russian system, U.S. intelligence officials said. One worrisome consequence, Pentagon officials said, was that negotiations underway between Russia and Ukraine to end the nearly five-week-old invasion could be undermined by misinformed expectations and directives from the Russian side.
Russia bombards areas where it pledged to scale back
(AP) — Russian forces bombarded areas around Kyiv and another city just hours after pledging to scale back operations in those zones to promote trust between the two sides, Ukrainian authorities said Wednesday.
The shelling — and intensified Russian attacks on other parts of the country — tempered optimism about any progress in the talks aimed at ending the punishing war.
The Russian military’s announcement Tuesday that it would de-escalate near the capital and the northern city of Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations” was met with deep suspicion from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the West.
Soon after, Ukrainian officials reported that Russian shelling hit homes, stores, libraries and other civilian sites in and around Chernihiv and on the outskirts of Kyiv. Russian troops also stepped up their attacks on the Donbas region in the east and around the city of Izyum, which lies on a key route to the Donbas, after redeploying units from other areas, the Ukrainian side said.

25 March
Putin’s war in Ukraine nearing possibly more dangerous phase
(AP) — President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is approaching a new, potentially more dangerous phase after a month of fighting has left Russian forces stalled by an outnumbered foe. He is left with stark choices — how and where to replenish his spent ground forces, whether to attack the flow of Western arms to Ukrainian defenders, and at what cost he might escalate or widen the war.
Russian shortcomings in Ukraine might be the biggest shock of the war so far. After two decades of modernization and professionalization, Putin’s forces have proved to be ill-prepared, poorly coordinated and surprisingly stoppable. The extent of Russian troop losses is not known in detail, although NATO estimates that between 7,000 and 15,000 have died in the first four weeks — potentially as many as Russia lost in a decade of war in Afghanistan.
Ukrainian units have begun counterattacking in some areas, according to John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. But the Ukrainians face an uphill battle even as the United States and its allies accelerate and widen a flow of critical weapons and supplies, including anti-aircraft missiles and armed drones. Biden has vowed to seek longer-range air defense systems for Ukraine as well as anti-ship missiles. Last week he approved a new $800 million package of arms for Ukraine.

21 March
Vladimir Putin’s criminal war has killed the myth of Russian-Ukrainian unity
The war in Ukraine is a watershed event for the entire world that will shape the geopolitical landscape for many years to come. It is also a defining moment in modern Ukraine’s nation-building journey and the final nail in the coffin of the Russian-Ukrainian relationship.
By Alexander Khrebet
(Atlantic Council) In his notorious 7,000-word July 2021 essay “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” Putin laid out his imperialistic vision of Ukraine’s place within a wider Russian world and argued that any sense of a separate Ukrainian identity was artificially manufactured. … In a series of lengthy addresses on the eve of Russia’s February 24 invasion, Putin went even further. He condemned modern Ukraine as an “Anti-Russia” and made clear that he saw Ukraine’s rapidly consolidating national identity as an existential threat to Russia itself. Putin’s February speeches left little room for doubt that he viewed the coming conflict as a holy war to save and reunite Russia.
… It is also striking that many of Russia’s most brazen war crimes have targeted the same Russian-speaking Ukrainians that Vladimir Putin has long claimed to be protecting. Majority Russian-speaking cities such as Kharkiv have been subjected to massive bombing campaigns that have reduced entire districts to ruins.
Some of the most brutal treatment has been reserved for predominantly Russian-speaking Mariupol. Throughout Ukraine’s three decades of independence, this Azov Sea port city close to the Russian border had a consistently strong record of voting for pro-Kremlin parties in Ukrainian elections. Nevertheless, it has been almost entirely destroyed by weeks of relentless Russian shelling and airstrikes. Putin’s invaders have targeted the city’s residential districts, maternity hospital, and a drama theater serving as a makeshift shelter for hundreds of women and children. The civilian death toll is not yet known, but thousands are believed to have died.

Russia-Ukraine: What’s a “no-fly zone” and why is it a terrible idea?
Ian Bremmer: A no-fly zone is an area over which aircraft are banned from flying. The point of imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be to prevent Russian airstrikes and airdrops and to enable Ukrainians and their allies to safely move supplies and people across the country. Here’s the catch: a no-fly zone isn’t just declared. It has to be enforced. In practice, this would require deploying NATO fighter jets to patrol Ukrainian airspace and shoot down any trespassing Russian planes. That’s right, shoot down Russian planes.

Ukraine’s Zelensky says siege of Mariupol ‘a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come’
Russian forces pushed deeper into Ukraine’s besieged and battered port city of Mariupol on Saturday, where heavy fighting shut down a major steel plant and local authorities pleaded for more Western help.
The fall of Mariupol, the scene of some of the war’s worst suffering, would mark a major battlefield advance for the Russians, who are largely bogged down outside major cities more than three weeks into the biggest land invasion in Europe since the Second World War.
Russian forces have already cut off Mariupol from the Sea of Azov, and its fall would link Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, to eastern territories controlled by Moscow-backed separatists in the east. It would mark a rare advance in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance that has dashed Russia’s hopes for a quick victory and galvanized the West.

12 March
A serious failure’: scale of Russia’s military blunders becomes clear
First phase of offensive held back by intelligence weaknesses and poor planning and logistics
(FT) Analysts and western military officials agree on the primary cause of the flaws in Russia’s military offensive: a failure of intelligence that skewed military planning.
Flowing from this were failures linked to rash decision-making, logistical unpreparedness, poor maintenance of equipment and the use of young, inexperienced troops that together have culminated in a collapse of front-line Russian morale.
General Sir Richard Barrons, former head of the UK’s Joint Forces Command, said: “There is something here that is systemically wrong . . . somewhere in the Russian intelligence architecture, facts on the ground are being converted into an analysis, but that analysis is actually a narrative to support the preconceptions of the senior [Kremlin] leadership.”

10 March
The No-Fly Zone Delusion
In Ukraine, Good Intentions Can’t Redeem a Bad Idea
By Richard K. Betts
(Foreign Affairs) … One idea that a number of prominent observers and commentators have seized on is the establishment of a no-fly zone—that is, using force (or the threat of force) to keep Russian aircraft out of some segment of the airspace above Ukraine, in order to prevent Russian air strikes on Ukrainian military forces and civilians in the area. Creating such a zone would involve a combination of day-to-day intelligence collection, observations from the ground, rotating aerial patrols with large numbers of planes and pilots—and, crucially, the threat to physically prevent adversary aircraft from entering the designated airspace.
… But doing so would risk stumbling into a far worse tragedy. This applies even to a limited no-fly zone of the kind floated earlier this week by more than two dozen experts and former officials—an idea that may sound reasonable but is in fact profoundly reckless. …even if one accepts the premise that restricting Russia’s access to Ukrainian airspace would make a significant difference, proposals for a no-fly zone for Ukraine still suffer from one of two crucial mistakes: either they assume a best-case result in which the Russians simply cooperate with the demand, or they accept a significant risk of provoking a war directly between NATO and Russia.

8 March
‘They were sent as cannon fodder’: Siberian governor confronted by relatives of Russian unit
(The Guardian) As the fighting in Ukraine nears its third week, more and more relatives of killed and captured Russian soldiers have expressed their opposition to the war, saying their loved ones were not told in advance about the country’s plans to invade Ukraine. Videos of captured Russian soldiers issued by the Ukrainians also appear to show that Russian troops were not informed of the invasion until the very end.
Western military experts have raised questions about Russian troops’ morale and preparedness in Ukraine, which could explain why Moscow’s blitzkrieg plan to overwhelm Ukraine and take Kyiv has so far failed.
Russia has revealed very little information about the state of its soldiers fighting in Ukraine. Last week, Russia’s defence ministry said that 498 Russian soldiers had died in Ukraine. Ukraine’s military claimed on Sunday that more than 11,000 Russian troops had been killed since the invasion of Ukraine began.

4 March
Russia poised to deploy up to 1,000 more mercenaries to Ukraine as official warns Moscow could ‘bombard cities into submission’
EXPLAINER: Is stuck convoy in Ukraine a setback for Russia?
(AP) Eight days into the war, the expanse of Russian supply trucks, troops and weapons has been plagued with fuel and food shortages and logistical challenges, including weather and mud. Ukrainian troops have managed to attack and incapacitate some vehicles at the front, creating a traffic jam, but the Russians have largely shielded the convoy from attack by air, according to Western officials and analysts.
… Reports immediately centered on fuel and food shortages. And, a senior U.S. defense official said Ukrainian troops have been targeting the convoy with ground fire, including shoulder-fired Javelin anti-tank missiles provided by Western countries. The most significant impact of those attacks is that they struck vehicles at the front of the convoy, essentially creating a roadblock.
… The most frequent question has been why doesn’t the Ukraine military decimate it, as it sits on the highways.
Such a long string of military vehicles in relatively open terrain would normally be vulnerable to air attack. But any Ukrainian attacks on the convoy may be limited because officials believe it contains air defense systems and may be shielded by screening forces to ward off ground attackers.
While the Ukrainian military has hit vehicles in the front and in other sporadic locations, it is likely too risky to put manned aircraft in the area to take it out with larger weapons, which also could be met with defensive strikes. And Ukraine’s military has been focused on defending the major cities that are under siege and in danger of being overtaken.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke for 90 minutes with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who told him that military operations in Ukraine are “going according to plan,” an official in the French president’s office said.
But, Russia’s inability to keep its troops supplied has raised eyebrows in the Pentagon, where officials note that it has been years since Moscow’s military has been involved in this type of ground war. And they say it’s hard to tell if this was a failure to properly plan or a collapse in the Russian military’s execution of the plan.
Key Asian nations join global backlash against Russia, with an eye toward China
(WaPo) Some key countries in East Asia are joining with the West to take what is for them the exceptional step of imposing significant financial sanctions, officials and analysts say, brought together by outrage at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and concern over China’s growing aggression in the region.
“We want to demonstrate what happens when a country invades another country,” said one Japanese official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
Not only did Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, freeze Moscow’s access to tens of billions of dollars worth of its currency reserves held in the central bank in Tokyo. It also joined with other Group of Seven nations and Australia to cut some Russian banks off from a global interbank messaging system known as SWIFT and freeze the assets of Russian officials and elites. It is also targeting individuals and organizations from Belarus.

2 March
Statement of ICC Prosecutor, Karim A.A. Khan QC, on the Situation in Ukraine: Receipt of Referrals from 39 States Parties and the Opening of an Investigation

UN Assembly votes to demand that Russia stop war in Ukraine
(AP) — The U.N. General Assembly voted at an emergency special session Wednesday to demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine and withdrawal of all Russian troops, with very strong support from the world organization’s 193 member nations that sparked sustained applause.
The vote on the resolution, entitled “Aggression against Ukraine,” was 141-5 with 35 abstentions.
Russia got support for its appeal to vote against the resolution only from Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea, a powerful indication of the international isolation that Russian President Vladimir Putin faces for invading his country’s smaller neighbor. Emphasizing that isolation was a major goal of the resolution’s supporters.
The abstentions included China and India, as expected, but also some surprises from usual Russian allies Cuba and Nicaragua. And the United Arab Emirates, which abstained on last Friday’s similar Security Council resolution, voted “yes.”

28 February
The woes of the Russian war machine are big and real. Are they also temporary?
Vladimir Putin may learn from his copious mistakes
(The Economist) Images from Ukraine show mangled clumps of Russian armour. A video from the alleged aftermath of an ambush on one convoy near Sumy, a north-eastern city, on Sunday, shows the loss of at least a dozen armoured vehicles, including two tanks, and a self-propelled howitzer. The question is whether these troubles are temporary or indicate a deeper rot that Ukraine can exploit.
Russia’s biggest problem appears to be logistics. A Western official says that Russia has particular problems with engineering units. Ukraine has blown up many bridges, and Russia has been unable to get bridging units through congested roads. Russian tanks and other vehicles lie abandoned on the roadside, either broken-down or out of fuel, suggesting supply lines are overstretched, and support units are unable to keep up. Marooned units are prime targets for ambushes. Ukrainian forces have no shortage of arms with which to strike them—in recent days, Denmark, Luxembourg and Finland became the latest European countries to say they would supply thousands of anti-tank missiles.

As war rages, Russia and Ukraine agree to talks
Fourth day of Russian attack marked by fierce fighting and new EU sanctions.
(Politico Eu) Ukrainian and Russian peace negotiators agreed to meet near the Belarusian border on Sunday, after Russian military forces reportedly suffered steep casualties but still made battlefield advances — trying to break through in Kyiv, the capital, and seize wider swaths of Donbass in the east.
But even as tentative talks were announced, there was no immediate ceasefire declaration in the first large-scale war in Europe in decades.
The peril only grew as Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his nuclear forces to move to a higher state of alert, while complaining acidly about Western economic sanctions and NATO military aid for Ukraine, even though Putin is the one who started the war.
EU tightens Russian sanctions and buys weapons for Ukraine
(Reuters) – The European Union will tighten sanctions on Russia, target Russian ally Belarus with measures and fund weapons for Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia’s invasion, top EU officials said on Sunday.
U.S., allies target ‘fortress Russia’ with new sanctions, including SWIFT ban
(Reuters) – The United States and its allies on Saturday moved to block certain Russian banks’ access to the SWIFT international payment system in further punishment of Moscow as it continues its military assault against Ukraine.
The measures, which will include restrictions on the Russian central bank’s international reserves, will be implemented in the coming days, the nations said in a joint statement that also vowed further action to come.
“We will hold Russia to account and collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure for Putin,” the leaders of the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Canada and the United States wrote.
“Even beyond the measures we are announcing today, we are prepared to take further measures to hold Russia to account for its attack on Ukraine.”

What is SWIFT, and why does it matter in the Russia-Ukraine war?
As the United States, Canada and European allies prepared to step up pressure on Russian financial institutions this weekend, they vowed to cut some banks off from the SWIFT messaging system, a network that connects banks around the world and is considered the backbone of international finance.

25 February
How are Russia’s friends and allies reacting to Ukraine invasion?
(DW) Most of Russia’s allies and countries that usually try to remain neutral are struggling what to make of the attack on Ukraine. But some of Moscow’s traditional friends are still fully backing Putin.

23-24 February

Russia invades Ukraine in Europe’s ‘darkest hours’ since WWII

Putin authorises military operation in east
Explosions heard in Kyiv and across Ukraine
Kyiv declares martial law, urges ‘all possible’ sanctions
Biden praying for victims of ‘unprovoked’ attack
(Reuters) – Ukrainian forces battled Russian invaders around nearly all of the country’s perimeter on Thursday after Moscow mounted a mass assault by land, sea and air in the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two.
Missiles rained down on Ukrainian targets. Kyiv reported columns of troops pouring across the borders with Russia and Belarus stretching from the north and east, and landing on the coasts from the Black Sea in the southwest and Azov Sea in the southeast.

The Crushing Loss of Hope in Ukraine
Putin has declared that history is destiny, and that Ukraine will never get away from Russia.
By Masha Gessen
Tonight, Ukraine is bracing for an invasion by Russia, which is thought to be imminent. The Atlantic has an interview with David Petraeus, the former four-star general and ex-director of the CIA, about the immense challenge Russia would face occupying Ukraine; and an article calling on the U.S. to support a Ukrainian insurgency.
Ian Bremmer: Russia-Ukraine crisis: What you need to know
The conflict escalated dramatically when Putin recognized Donbas separatists and ordered troops into Ukraine, triggering sanctions from the U.S. and its allies.
The heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic formally asked Russia for military assistance to “help beat back the aggression of the Ukrainian armed forces.”
The United States warned Ukraine of a full-scale Russian invasion in the next 48 hours. According to the Pentagon, Russian troops around Ukraine are now “at a state of readiness where they could attack at any time,” and additional forces are mobilizing into the occupied Donbas region.
Australia, Japan, and Canada joined the US, the UK, and the EU in sanctioning Russia. Brussels imposed new sanctions on Putin’s inner circle, while Washington sanctioned the company building Nord Stream 2 and threatened to ban exports of American technology to Russia in the event of further escalation.
Ukrainian government and bank websites were hit by a new mass cyberattack.
Ukraine called up reservists to active duty, declared a 30-day nationwide state of emergency, and urged its citizens to leave Russia “immediately.”.
Russia began evacuating its diplomats from Ukraine.

21-22 February
West unveils sanctions with more ready if Russia carries out full-scale Ukraine invasion
By Tom Balmforth, Polina Nikolskaya and Steve Holland
U.S.’ Blinken cancels meeting with Russia’s Lavrov
U.S and UK target banks, EU blacklists more politicians
Germany freezes gas pipeline project with Russia
West fears full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia
(Reuters) – Western nations on Tuesday punished Russia with new sanctions for ordering troops into separatist regions of eastern Ukraine and threatened to go further if Moscow launched an all-out invasion of its neighbour.
The United States, the European Union and Britain announced plans to target banks and elites while Germany halted a major gas pipeline project from Russia, which they say has amassed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders. Moscow has denied planning an invasion.
U.S. hits Russian banks, elites with sanctions over Ukraine crisis (article with video)
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday revealed new sanctions on Russian elites and two banks as the West tries to stop an all-out invasion of Ukraine by punishing Moscow for ordering troops to two separatist regions it has recognised.
U.S and UK target banks, EU blacklists more politicians
Germany freezes gas pipeline project with Russia
West fears full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia
(Reuters) One of the worst security crises in Europe in decades is unfolding as Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine to “keep the peace.” Washington has dismissed as “nonsense” that justification to deploy troops to the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk after Moscow recognised them as independent.
Putin, in a fiery speech to Russians, says he will recognize the separatists in Ukraine.
(NYT) President Vladimir V. Putin said he would recognize the independence of two Russian-backed territories in eastern Ukraine and warned the government of Ukraine that further bloodshed “will be fully and wholly” on its conscience, delivering an emotional and aggrieved address.

20 February
U.S. says Russia has a list of Ukrainians to kill or detain after an invasion.
(NYT) The United States government has sent a letter to the United Nations human rights chief in Geneva saying it has “credible information” that Russian forces have compiled a list of Ukrainian citizens to be killed or sent to detention camps in the aftermath of a Russian invasion and occupation of the country.

15-19 February
Almost 2,000 ceasefire violations logged in eastern Ukraine -diplomatic source
Almost 2,000 ceasefire violations were registered in eastern Ukraine by monitors for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Saturday, a diplomatic source told Reuters on Sunday.
Putin’s Baseless Claims of Genocide Hint at More Than War
The invocations serve to justify not just Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, but also its wider quest for a new imperial identity rooted in Russian ethnicity.
(NYT) The Kremlin has long asserted that Ukraine’s government persecutes ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking citizens. The charge, backed by lurid and false tales of anti-Russian violence, served as justification in 2014 for Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its invasion of eastern Ukraine.
The recent resurgence of such language, now voiced directly by Mr. Putin, indicates what analysts and Western governments say may again be a prelude to invasion.
Ukrainian rebels to evacuate civilians to Russia amid crisis
(AP) — Separatists in eastern Ukraine announced Friday they are evacuating civilians to Russia, as spiking tensions in the region aggravated Western fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and a new war in Europe.
It was the latest in a cascade of developments this week that have brought East-West relations to their lowest point in decades. U.S. and European officials, focused on an estimated 150,000 Russian troops posted around Ukraine’s borders, fear the long-simmering separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine could provide the spark for a broader attack.
Russia announced massive nuclear drills Friday to flex its military muscle, while the West sought ways to keep the peace. U.S. leaders issued their most dire warnings yet that Moscow could order an invasion of Ukraine any day.
U.S. sounds new alarms on Ukraine and details Russian invasion plan
The remarks from top U.S. officials come as the United States has seen no de-escalation of troops at the Ukranian border.
(Politico) A new Russian invasion of Ukraine appears imminent, possibly within “several days,” with signs pointing toward Moscow using a false pretext to send in troops amid alleged shelling in a contested region, President Joe Biden and some of his top aides said Thursday.
In a surprise appearance at the United Nations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid out the potential, “theatrical” steps American officials expect the Kremlin to take.
Reports earlier this week from Russia indicated Putin may be pulling some troops back, but U.S. officials said Wednesday and Thursday that they believe Moscow has increased its troop presence to some 150,000 along the Ukrainian border with 7,000 new troops arriving in recent days.
… First, Blinken said, Russia would come up with a pretext, possibly a “violent event” or an “outrageous accusation.”
“Second, in response to this manufactured provocation, the highest levels of the Russian government may theatrically convene emergency meetings to address the so-called crisis the government will introduce proclamations declaring that Russia must respond to defend citizens or ethnic Russians in Ukraine,” he said.
Once the attack starts, he added, “Russian missiles and bombs drop across Ukraine. Communications will be jammed. Cyberattacks will shut down key Ukrainian institutions. After that, Russian tanks and soldiers advance on key targets that have been mapped out in detailed plans. We believe these targets include Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.”
Biden: Ukraine invasion still ‘distinctly possible’ despite Russian claims
Putin had claimed a ‘partial’ military withdrawal from border areas but US president says 150,000 troops remain

A ‘swift’ and ‘unified’ sanctions slam on Russia? Not exactly.
America and its European allies all plan to punish a Russian invasion of Ukraine. But the actions and timing are unlikely to be in perfect sync, and key details remain unresolved.
Behind the scenes, however, U.S. and European officials are still hammering out the details of how hard to hit Moscow with sanctions, and when.
The ongoing talks — both transatlantic and among European states — suggest that repeated statements by Biden and his top aides that Russia will face “swift,” “severe” and “unified” consequences from Washington and its allies are overly optimistic, and that the reality will be more messy. The discussions come as Russian leader Vladimir Putin is — for the moment — sending some signals that he might back away from another invasion of Ukraine.

14 February
Tone of Ukraine Crisis Shifts as Russia Signals Openness to Talk More
Diplomacy is “far from exhausted,” Russia’s foreign minister said, while President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said the prospect of his country joining NATO might be just a “dream.”
(NYT) The tone of the crisis over Ukraine shifted Monday as Russia’s top diplomat endorsed more talks to resolve its standoff with the West, and Ukrainian officials hinted at offering concessions to avert war — even as Russian warships massed off Ukraine’s Black Sea coast and Russian ground troops appeared poised to strike.
In stage-managed, televised meetings, the Kremlin sent its strongest signals yet that it would seek further negotiations with the West rather than launch immediate military action. State television showed Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov telling President Vladimir V. Putin there was still a diplomatic path ahead. Minutes later, it showed Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu telling Mr. Putin that what he characterized as “large-scale drills” around Ukraine were coming to an end.
At a news conference, Mr. Zelensky emphasized that NATO membership was “for our security,” with the goal of joining the alliance written into the country’s constitution. But he acknowledged the difficult place the country found itself in, nearly completely encircled by Russian forces and with partners like the United States insisting they would not send troops into Ukraine to repel a Russian invasion.
In Mr. Lavrov’s televised meeting with Mr. Putin, he highlighted the West’s diplomatic frenzy as a sign that the Kremlin’s strategy of pairing negotiations with military pressure was working.

13 February
Chechens and Georgians in Ukraine preparing to continue fight against Putin on a new front
Mark MacKinnon, The Globe and Mail’s Senior International Correspondent.
If the Russian army launches a new invasion of Ukraine, it’ll face not only a strengthened Ukrainian military, but also fighters from around the former Soviet Union who bear intense grudges against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime.

3 February
US says new intel shows Russia plotting false flag attack
(AP) — The U.S. accused the Kremlin on Thursday of an elaborate plot to fabricate an attack by Ukrainian forces that Russia could use as a pretext to take military action against its neighbor.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the scheme included production of a graphic propaganda video that would show staged explosions and use corpses and actors depicting grieving mourners.
The U.S. has not provided detailed information backing up the claims.
The plan for a fake attack on Russian territory or Russian-speaking people was described in declassified intelligence shared with Ukrainian officials and European allies in recent days. It was the latest example of the Biden administration divulging intelligence findings as a tactic to attempt to stop Russian disinformation efforts and foil what it says is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to lay the groundwork for military action. If Russia does invade, administration officials say they want to make clear Russia had always sought to create a pretext.
In recent weeks, the White House has said that U.S. intelligence shows Russia has launched a malign social media disinformation campaign against Ukraine and has dispatched operatives trained in explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces. Britain has divulged intelligence findings that it says show Russia plotting to install a pro-Russian puppet government in Ukraine.
Ukraine-Russia crisis: What to know about rising fear of war

1 February
The exit from the Ukraine crisis that’s hiding in plain sight
A 2015 agreement between Russia and Ukraine can provide the best chance at a lasting peace.
By Katrina vanden Heuvel
(WaPo) The crisis over Ukraine grows simultaneously more dangerous and more absurd. Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, demanding that NATO not admit Ukraine and stop its expansion east. Russian officials want those demands answered immediately, but President Vladimir Putin also says he won’t make war.
The Biden administration warns of “imminent war,” yet Ukraine’s president tells the administration to calm down, that the false alarms are damaging the country’s economy. Even though President Biden, his two predecessors, Germany and France have made clear that Ukraine is not a national interest worth fighting for, the Biden administration refuses to tell the Russians that it won’t do what it has no intention of doing, even at the risk of armed conflict.
… Is there any way out of this exceedingly dangerous crisis? Perhaps the only hope is the Minsk II agreement, forged in February 2015 between Russia and Ukraine, brokered by Germany and France, and endorsed by the European Union and the United Nations.
The agreement essentially called for a recognition of reality in law. It guaranteed an independent Ukraine in control of its own borders, with Russian “volunteers” removed, the separatists disarmed and Ukrainian military standing down in the Donbas. It promised full autonomy for the Russian-speaking region of the Donbas within a decentralized Ukrainian federation, written into a revised constitution.

29 January
As Russian Troops Mass in Belarus, a Ukraine Border Is Largely Undefended
From the border, it’s a fast 140 miles down a newly paved highway to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, but only a few troops stand guard.
On the other side of this border in northern Ukraine, not visible through the thick pine and birch forests that crowd the E-95 highway but noticeable to passing truckers, a force is gathering in Belarus more potent than anything seen in the country since the fall of the Soviet Union, officials and military analysts say.
With much of Ukraine’s military might concentrated in the country’s east — where a war with Russian-backed separatists has raged for eight years — military analysts and Ukraine’s own generals say it will be difficult for the country to muster the forces necessary to defend its northern border.

28 January
How Russia Has Turned Ukraine Into a Cyber-Battlefield
The Kremlin’s Hackers Are Already Targeting Kyiv
By Dmitri Alperovitch
(Foreign Affairs) Any Russian attempt to take over Ukraine is unlikely to be confined to traditional military domains, however. It will probably also play out in cyberspace, where Moscow has been waging a relentless campaign against Ukraine for nearly a decade already. Since 2014, hackers affiliated with the Russian government have interfered in Ukraine’s elections, targeted Ukrainian government agencies and private-sector companies with destructive malware, and carried out cyberattacks against electric utilities that caused widespread power outages. In recent weeks, the Ukrainian government has been hit by a series of cyberattacks—possibly conducted with the support of the Kremlin—that defaced government websites and wiped out data on some government computers. Hackers took over the websites of numerous departments and agencies, including that of the Foreign Ministry, leaving a threat to leak private data and an ominous

26-27 January
Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will not open if Russia invades Ukraine, says US
US and German officials signal hardening of position on controversial gas link
Nord Stream 2 is designed to double the amount of gas flowing from Russia straight to Germany, bypassing the traditional transit route through Ukraine via a pipeline along the bed of the Baltic Sea.
It has faced resistance within the EU, from the US as well as Ukraine on the grounds it increases Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and denies Ukraine transit fees, at a time of Moscow’s broader standoff with the west.
The $11bn (£8.3bn) pipeline was first announced in 2015. Angela Merkel, who stepped down as German chancellor in 2021, was an enthusiastic backer as it promised to supply cheap fuel to 26m German homes. But she admitted in 2018 it could not be viewed as an “just economic project” but was also a political one that threatened the integrity of Ukraine by bypassing it as a transit country.
Longstanding fears that it could give Vladimir Putin more leverage over Germany and other European countries have been amplified significantly by the Ukraine standoff.
Russia’s Military, Once Creaky, Is Modern and Lethal
A significantly upgraded military has emerged as a key tool of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, as he flexes his might around the globe and, most ominously, on the Ukraine border.
(NYT) The modernized military has emerged as a key tool of Mr. Putin’s foreign policy: capturing Crimea, intervening in Syria, keeping the peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and, just this month, propping up a Russia-friendly leader in Kazakhstan. Now it is in the middle of its most ambitious — and most ominous — operation yet: using threats and potentially, many fear, force, to bring Ukraine back into Moscow’s sphere of influence.

Will Russia make a military move against Ukraine? Follow these clues.
By Atlantic Council military fellows
For weeks, the eyes of the world have been on a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, as Western officials struggle to decipher Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intent: beef up his attack on Ukrainian sovereignty, or bluff his way to key concessions?
Amid a flurry of diplomatic talks, fiery rhetoric, and movements of heavy materiel, we wanted to separate the signal from the noise. So we reached out to our military fellows at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, who are active-duty officers with the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, for a sense of what they’re tracking most closely—and what indicators we should all be monitoring to divine Putin’s intentions.

25-26 January
US offers no concessions in response to Russia on Ukraine
(AP) — The Biden administration and NATO told Russia on Wednesday there will be no U.S. or NATO concessions on Moscow’s main demands to resolve the crisis over Ukraine.
In separate written responses delivered to the Russians, the U.S. and NATO held firm to the alliance’s open-door policy for membership, rejected a demand to permanently ban Ukraine from joining, and said allied deployments of troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe are nonnegotiable.
U.S., NATO send written responses to Russia on its demands over Ukraine crisis
The responses, which NATO sent to the Russian embassy in Brussels and U.S. Ambassador to Russia John J. Sullivan hand-delivered to Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, set “out a serious diplomatic path forward, should Russia choose it,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters. Both he and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said their responses — which Moscow had demanded be put in writing — were coordinated with Ukraine and each other and strongly affirmed NATO’s commitment to an open-door policy for nations that want to join.
Latest Ukraine updates: US formally responds to Russia’s demands
Russia-Ukraine tensions news from January 26: Biden administration rejects Russian demand to halt NATO’s expansion
As West Warns of Russian Attack, Ukraine Sends Different Message
(NYT) The ‘‘stay calm” posture has left analysts guessing about its leadership’s motivation, but some say that after eight years of war, the country simply calculates the risks differently.
Russia’s military buildup on the Ukrainian border is easy to see. Satellite images show ever-growing patches of snow-covered tanks expanding along the frontier, and a stream of Russian TikTok posts records the steady westerly crawl of trains carrying missile launchers, armor and troops.
And yet despite the buildup — and even with the United States warning that an attack could come imminently, and NATO forces on alert — Ukraine’s leadership is playing down the Russian threat.

21 January
‘Minor incursion’ by Russia could complicate West’s response
By ROBERT BURNS, ELLEN KNICKMEYER and ANGELA CHARLTON
(AP) — Short of an all-out invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin could take less dramatic action in Ukraine that would vastly complicate a U.S. and allied response. He might carry out what President Joe Biden called a “minor incursion” — perhaps a cyberattack — leaving the U.S. and Europe divided on the type and severity of economic sanctions to impose on Moscow and ways to increase support for Kyiv.
Biden drew widespread criticism for saying Wednesday that retaliating for Russian aggression in Ukraine would depend on the details. “It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do,” he said.
Biden and top administration officials worked Thursday to clean up his comments. Biden stressed that if “any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion” and it would be met with a “severe and coordinated economic response.”

20 January
Biden predicts Russia will invade Ukraine, warns Putin
(AP) — President Joe Biden said Wednesday he thinks Russia will invade Ukraine and warned President Vladimir Putin that his country would pay a “dear price” in lives lost and a possible cutoff from the global banking system if it does.
Biden, speaking at a news conference to mark his one-year anniversary in office, also said a “minor incursion” by Russia would elicit a lesser response. He later sought to clarify that he was referring to a non-military action, such as a cyberattack, that would be met with a similar reciprocal response, and that if Russian forces cross the Ukrainian border, killing Ukrainian fighters, “that changes everything.”
But the comments also hinted at the challenge of keeping the United States and its NATO allies united in their response to Russia. In explaining the minor incursion remark, he said “it’s very important that we keep everyone in NATO on the same page.”

18 January
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.

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.

Source: Andriy Futey
Ukrainian Congress Committee of America Ukrainian World Congress – Свiтовий Конґрес Українців

2 Comments on "Putin’s War Russia-Ukraine November 2021- March 2022"

  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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