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Putin Invades Ukraine: Regional Fallout?

Russian Military Reform - Wed, 09/03/2022 - 14:38

Yesterday, together with Pavel Baev I participated in a Marshall Center panel on the regional fallout of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. My colleague Graeme Herd put together the following summary of the discussion…

This is a summary of the discussion at the latest workshop of the current series of online Russia Seminar Series (RSS) webinars held on March 8, 2022 by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies (GCMC) in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The summary reflects the overall tenor of the discussion, and no specific element necessarily should be presumed to be the view of either of the participants.

Context

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had a devastating impact on humanitarian conditions within Ukraine itself. Critical national infrastructure in Ukraine is under attack. Ukraine’s transport system, hospitals and communication networks are being degraded. The UNHCR reports that over 2 million Ukrainians, mainly women and children, have become refugees in neighboring countries, particularly Poland. At the same time, Russian military advances in Ukraine appear to have stalled in most operational theatres. Explanations for this unexpected outcome include logistical difficulties, poor planning, long and vulnerable supply lines, and an inability to execute combined arms warfare effectively. In places where Russia has taken territory, a hostile civil population protests in the rear, even in Russian-speaking regions such as Kherson. Can captured territory be held?

However, the picture is fluid and Russia is not yet fully committed. While Russia will seek to bombard the pivots and hubs used to supply military materiel through Poland and Romania, its usable precision guided weapon stockpile for this “special military operation” is fast depleting, though reserves are available for operations against NATO. Ukraine is able to create reserve battalions around Lviv and receive air defense and anti-tank capabilities. Poland has offered to hand over its entire inventory of 23 MiG-29 fighter aircraft to the US at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for potential transfer to Ukraine pending a NATO decision. These combat aircraft can be flown by Ukrainian pilots. Romania, Slovakia and Hungary also have MiG-29s in their inventories and some or all of these could also be provided to Ukraine. Russia does not have the troop to task ratio to occupy an unwilling Ukraine. And Ukrainian resistance is growing, with the calculation in Kyiv that any deal made today will not be as good as the one made a week from now.

This deadlock is dangerous as Putin needs a “special military operation” victory to support his “everything going according to plan” narrative. Thus, if “victory is not possible and defeat is not an option” – if the choice is between bloody debilitating occupation or withdrawal – then Putin may seek to escalate by opening new fronts to present the Russian public with distracting mini-breakthroughs and victories in the wider region. Short-term risks in the Black Sea region appears highest. Longer-term risks include disruptions to energy and food exports from Russia and Ukraine, and conflicts around Exclusive Economic Zones in the Black Sea, for example, as borders are redrawn but not recognized. This summary identifies short and longer term spillover risks in both regions.

Black Sea Region

Had the “special military operation” actually gone to plan, Kyiv would have fallen within 2-4 days, and in a “best case” scenario from a Russian perspective, resistance would implode and Ukraine suffer sullen occupation. At this point the risks of spillover to Moldova and Georgia would have been much higher. The ideological narrative constructed by Putin around “Slavic unity” and regathering “ancient Russian lands” may have included Transnistria, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. If not, then this would have suggested EU membership was off the cards for both states and imposed neutrality (“demilitarization”) would have been attempted by Russia.

However, without first capturing Odesa (still possible through a combined air assault and amphibious landing operation) and finding troops to occupy Ukraine in the context of a hostile and debilitating insurgency, military operations into Moldova do not appear viable. Transnistrian forces themselves have no offensive capability and rail links to Odesa region from Tiraspol are cut. Thus, while in Moldova pro-Russian parties and opposition groups in the breakaway Dniester region and the pro-Russian Gagauzia oppose EU accession, Russia aggression in Ukraine propels the majority of the society to support this westward economic and normative reorientation, as is the case in Georgia.

However, the seizure of Georgian territory is possible. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has been remarkably passive and inactive and still has the reserves and capacity to act. The seizure of Poti region in Georgia is a possibility, supported by Chechen forces formally subordinated to Russia’s Rosgvardia (National Guard) but actually under the control of Ramzan Kadyrov. If Putin’s power weakens, Kadyrov may also plan to act more autonomously into the Pankisi Gorge, even if in the name of Putinism and justified with reference to Russian national goals. In such circumstances, Azerbaijan might look to complete “unfinished business” towards Nagorno-Karabakh.

In Georgia itself, the Russian invasion of Ukraine further polarizes society. There is pressure on Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili and ‘Georgia Dream’ party who have adopted a “neutral” policy towards Russia. Neutrality translates into a policy of not supporting international sanctions and keeping Georgia’s air space open to Russian aircraft. Since 24 February opposition rallies in Tbilisi have protested daily against the Russian invasion outside the Georgian Parliament, demanding: 1. A visa regime with Russia; 2. Banning Russian media/propaganda outlets in Georgia; and 3. Closing Georgia’s airspace to Russia.

The role of Turkey is pivotal. Turkey attempts to avoid alienating Russia by keeping its air space open to Russian commercial flights and not applying sanctions. As a result, Turkey, like Georgia, is not included on the Russian list of hostile states. However, Turkey does send effective military aid (drones) to Ukraine. Turkey, citing Article 19 of the Montreux Convention, has closed the entrance to the Black Sea to the navies of the parties to the conflict. With its “sea bridge” unable to function, Russia is forced to resupply Syria using a more expensive and more limited air bridge. This in turn weakens Russia’s presence in Syria relative to Turkey’s. At the same time, the US and NATO face a difficult choice regarding the sending of combat ships into the Black Sea in support of Bulgaria and Romania. Turkey attempts to dissuade allies from requesting access, but the need to protect two exposed allies is growing.

Baltic Sea Region

The risk of spillovers into the Baltic-Nordic region are less than the Black Sea region, at least in the short-term and while the “active phase” of Russian aggression in Ukraine is ongoing. Risks associated with Kaliningrad proves to be the exception to this general rule. If the closure of air space is joined by cutting rail links to Kaliningrad, then this could generate a Russian kinetic response. In addition, reports of resignations and refusal of Belarusian officers and soldiers to follow orders and deploy to Ukraine suggest that Lukashenka’s regime may be less stable than supposed. Does Russia have the spare capacity to bolster Belarus, when Rosgvardia is needed at home as a praetorian safeguard to quell protest potential in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities in Russia?

The Estonian Center Party has severed ties to the United Russia Party. On 5 March, 103 members of its extended board, with no abstentions, voted to rescind the cooperation protocol signed in 2004. In Latvia, though, the polarization of society is a danger, with pro-Russian supporters using provocative rhetoric to radicalise their potential voters ahead of parliamentary elections. Two potential conflict dates loom – the commemoration of Latvian Legionnaires on 16 March and the Soviet Victory Day on 9 May. Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis has stated that Vilnius has no red lines regarding possible sanctions against Russia – including oil and gas.

Non-aligned Finland and Sweden seek even closer defense cooperation with each other and with NATO. Indeed, the potential for NATO membership has increased and this will lead to heightened tension in medium to long-term. Defense spending is set to increase in all Baltic States. Lithuania adds an extra $0.5bn and its parliament agrees to increase defense spending to 2.5% of GDP. Spending will likely be on deterrent gaps in capabilities necessary to counter Russia’s way of war, such as air defense and drones.

Points of escalation might be driven by the possible use of thermobaric bombs in Kyiv, and/or the slaughter of Ukrainian refugee convoys struggling to reach the Polish border from Lviv. Such horrific violence would stress-test to destruction the ability of NATO member states to achieve all three of its objectives: 1) apply sanctions to Russia and provide humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine; 2) uphold
national interests, democratic values and principles; and 3) avoid miscalculation, spillover and escalation. As RHSS#3 summary noted: “In the context of mass civilian casualties, how does the West calibrate and balance moral principles that reflect its values with pragmatic approaches in line with interests? At what point does “responsibility to protect” trump other considerations?” Almost certainly risk calculus in NATO would change, with a much greater emphasis on alleviating immediate suffering and the “responsibility to protect”.

Conclusions

• The invasion has also shaken the Putin regime in Russia. The Putinist system, born in the violence of the Second Chechen campaign, has grown organically over the last 23 years. It weathered the ‘Moscow Maidan’ protests of 2011-12 and was boosted by the Crimea annexation of 2014. Putin and the players in the system understood the rules of the game, how these rules could be enforced and the necessity of a balance between the normative state, parastatal entities and oligarchs. In 2022, the pressure of sanctions disrupts and destabilizes oligarchs, the business models of parastatal entities and the normative state moves to a war footing, its lead representatives complicit in the war and war crimes.

• In this context, escalation does not have just to be horizontal – a spillover into the wider region – but it can be vertical. The possibility of an accidental radioactive discharge due to Russian attack on nuclear power plant is high. If nuclear signaling is needed, Russia could withdrawal from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and then promptly stage a nuclear test to intimidate and deter. A low likelihood event involves a Russian “false flag” operation around CBRNE might be considered. A “dirty bomb” fits Russian media narratives that a US-controlled “neo-Nazi” regime would practice genocidal “nuclear terrorism”. The function of this narrative could be to provide a retroactive justification for invasion – prevention of nuclear terrorism – and to place the blame for any nuclear radiation leakage on Kyiv. Such leakages would massively impact on refugee flows westwards. For Putin such flows would be understood in terms of an asymmetric responses by Russia to western pressure.

• Might Putin be tempted to declare martial law or a state of emergency in Russia? Putin may calculate that full mobilization is a necessary means to offset 1) battlefield losses through conscription; 2) economic isolation and rent redistributions to shore up elite support; and 3) evidence the idea that this is an existential fight for Russia, that Ukraine is merely the territory upon which Russia battles the real enemy – NATO. Such reasoning concludes that once battle is joined all measures are justified by Russia if this leads to the defeat of NATO.

• If such reasoning prevails, martial law and mobilization in Russia could prove to be the second and last strategic blunder by Putin. Russian military reforms introduced by Defense Minister Serdyukov 2009-2012 means mass mobilization is not possible – the Russian military does not have the capacity or infrastructure to train such large numbers. Moreover, such a move might precipitate a societal revolt, one in which the Russian security services would struggle to maintain order. Alternatively, it could encourage a military coup, with a charismatic and politically acceptable Defense Minister Shoigu at its head. Given “everything is forever until it is no more”, the entourage and inner-circle around Putin may well calculate that the president himself is the problem and his removal the solution.

• Fear of failure in Ukraine and fear of revolt and removal in Russia likely increases Putin’s isolation and paranoia. He may then adopt a differentiated understanding of risk. At home he is risk averse. Martial law or declaring a state of emergency is avoided. Putin likely compensates by accepting greater risk abroad. This suggests a Black Sea Fleet “special military operation” against Poti could come into focus, or Russia looks to conducts a dirty bomb “false flag” operation in Ukraine. In Putin’s mind, both options would create disruptive situations to generate options and new opportunities for leverage and exploitation.

Defense One Radio: Vlad the Invader

Russian Military Reform - Mon, 28/02/2022 - 15:33

I was on the Defense One Radio Podcast on Friday, together with some other guests, talking about the larger context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. You can listen or read the transcript here. Here’s a sample:

Watson: I’m wondering, what is your read on this next generation of power brokers in Russia, and their interest in Putin’s kind of, you know, revanchist tendencies here?

Gorenburg: It’s, you know, it’s really hard to tell what, how things, you know, what any of these next generation people really think. And, you know, one movie that I think is well worth watching, not just for the history, but also for just when you start thinking about how a bunch of psychopaths interact with the Supreme Leader’s, is the “Death of Stalin.” And you see that kind of cow-towing, right? But also, what the actual history of that time tells us is that the survivors, the people who stuck around in positions of power became very good at hiding their true beliefs while Stalin was around. And so, we don’t really know what a lot of these people think, because the ones that had clear positions that were contrary to what Putin wants have been sidelined.

Watson: What are the long-game considerations that maybe the U.S. officials in the policy community may not have been thinking about as much as perhaps they ought to? 

Gorenburg: Well, I think we’re heading into clearly a time of NATO-Russia confrontation. A lot will depend on how this goes. If this goes well and easily for Putin, then I think the appetite may increase. If it becomes complicated and painful, then there’ll be a time of reckoning, recalculation, or even just a time of trying to assimilate what’s been gained. But if it does go well, then I worry a bit about Moldova, honestly.

Russian Media Analysis, Issue 10, February 25, 2022

Russian Military Reform - Fri, 25/02/2022 - 21:45

Here are the abstracts from the latest issue of our Russian Media Analysis newsletter. You can also download the full text PDF version.

This newsletter covers developments up to February 21, 2022. Russian media discussions of Russia’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics on February 21, 2022, as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, will be covered in the following issue.

1. HIGHLIGHTS OF PUTIN SPEECH

The key points of Vladimir Putin’s speech on February 21 include the following: Ukraine is preparing for a conflict with Western military support. Ukraine will seek to create nuclear weapons, or potentially get Western assistance to do so. Ukraine joining NATO is just a matter of time. Ukraine in NATO is a “direct threat to Russian security.” The US and NATO have sought not only to arm and train but also to integrate Ukraine’s military. These actions present a threat to Russia. NATO military bases are already present in Ukraine. Previous rounds of NATO expansion have not led to an improvement in relations with Russia, as the West has promised. Russia has unsuccessfully sought to cooperate with the West in various formats. Instead, the West has “cheated” and NATO infrastructure is now on Russia’s doorstep. US missile defense and strike capabilities are expanding and will pose a threat to Russia from Ukrainian territory. The West has “ignored” Russian proposals to resolve the current situation and this will have consequences.

2. PERCEPTION OF US GOALS IN THE CRISIS

Several articles discuss Russian perceptions of what the United States is looking to achieve in the current confrontation between the West and Russia. They focus on US domestic problems and fears of a loss of world domination as reasons that Washington is provoking a confrontation with Russia. They also suggest that the current confrontation is just the culmination of a long-term US plan to weaken Russia. They also argue that the US feels that Russia has little to offer in the way of potential concessions to end the crisis.

3. RUSSIAN GOALS IN THE CONFRONTATION

Several articles discuss Russian goals in the confrontation with the West and what Russia has achieved. Unlike Western analysts, who tend to focus on efforts to stop NATO enlargement or reorient Ukraine, Russian analysts address possibilities such as averting a new European missile crisis or forcing Ukraine to carry out the Minsk agreements. Russian achievements during the confrontation including bringing the US and its European allies to the negotiating table on major security issues, while negative consequences include reinforcing Western unity and creating a more negative perception of Russia in the West.

4. THE CONSEQUENCES OF WAR AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

Two authors discuss the potentially dangerous consequences for Russia of a war in Ukraine, while several offer possible solutions to the crisis. Writing from opposing perspectives, a conservative commentator and a liberal former FSB general agree that Russia is not prepared for war in Ukraine and for confrontation with the West. Possible solutions to the crisis focus primarily on the possibility of a neutral Ukraine, though some propose a broader array of confidence-building measures to reduce the extent of confrontation in Europe as a whole.

5. IMPLICATIONS OF US AND EUROPEAN SANCTIONS

Numerous articles in the Russian press discuss and even dismiss the potential implications of US efforts to impose sanctions on Russia. In Gazeta.ru, Anatoliy Akulov analyzes the challenges of US consensus-building among European actors to sanction Nordstream 2. In Topwar.ru, Aleksandr Staver critiques US targeted sanctions against Russia, arguing that they in essence view the children of Russian investors in the UK as hostages. In Izvestiya, Mariya Vasil’eva focuses on the sanctions’ potential impact on the Russian embassies abroad, arms exports, and electronics, among others. In Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kur’er (VPK), Vladimir Eranosyan writes about the challenges that the US faces in making good on its threat to disconnect Russia from SWIFT as well as about the INSTEX system created in the wake of Iran’s disconnect from SWIFT. Finally, in another article in VPK, Vitaliy Orlov writes about how Russia could transition away from the use of the US dollar for exports of Russian armaments abroad.

6. WESTERN FORCE DEPLOYMENTS GARNER RUSSIAN ATTENTION

As the crisis between Ukraine and Russia heats up, Russian authors have been quick to point out new military deployments by Western powers in the region. American deployments to Poland and Slovakia have been of interest, as well as UK support elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Overall, the articles view these deployments as ominous, but also par for the course given the bellicose trajectory of interstate relations in recent months.

7. UKRAINE ARMS FOR WAR

Many articles in the Russian press are reviewing current political and military tensions surrounding Ukraine. Taking a variety of tacks, articles largely focus on the state of the Ukrainian military and its support by Western powers. They encompass details about military equipment and technology transfers, discuss the broader abilities of the Ukrainian armed forces, and launch critical broadsides against Ukraine’s perceived bellicose position relative to Russia and the separatist republics.

8. BELARUS AIDS IN RUSSIA’S MILITARY BUILDUP

Cooperation between Russia and Belarus are a point of interest for several observers, especially as tensions continue to ratchet up with neighboring Ukraine. Belarus and Russia are jointly undertaking combined-arms military exercises in the form of “Union Resolve – 2022,” which some view as a further step away from any putative neutrality by Belarus. Others noted that Belarus has taken a hard line vis-à-vis Ukraine in terms of public declarations of support for Russia’s side, which is a shift from previous years. Finally, a military doctrine for the Russo-Belarusian Union State has been recently approved, which has further underlined the considerable alignment between the two countries.

9. TURKEY AS A MEDIATOR FOR THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE CONFLICT

An Izvestiya article interviews Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, who discusses Ankara’s offer to mediate the Russia-Ukraine crisis. While Turkey claims that it is “the only country” that can meet both Russia and Ukraine halfway to find resolution, the ambassador has doubts of Turkey’s impartiality, noting its “well-known military-technical ties with Ukraine.” Moreover, the ambassador suggests that Ankara may not adequately understand the extent of Russia’s grievances. He states, “If our Turkish partners can influence the Ukrainians and encourage them to fulfill the previously-made [Minsk] agreements and obligations, this can be welcomed.”

10. SIVKOV CAUTIONS US ABOUT NUCLEAR WAR

In VPK, Russian commentator Konstantin Sivkov extrapolates from what he alleges to have been a statement made by Gen. David Goldfein about “three steps to destroy Russia.” He concludes that a nuclear conflict between the US and Russia would be fatal for both Russia and the United States—and lead to the dominance of other states in the international system. This, he notes, should force “global and US elites to think—should they free up a “place in the sun” for others?”

11. PERSPECTIVES ON INFORMATION WARFARE

In a February 11 article in Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie (NVO), Yuriy Yur’ev writes about the concept of information warfare as a “component part of hybrid warfare” and traces the evolution of US information warfare concepts, arguing that Russia has lost the initiative to its opponents in this area. In Krasnaya Zvezda, Oleg Martynov discusses the creation in Poland of a cyber defense force. This article traces the evolution of US and NATO concepts in the cyber domain and posits that NATO has long “viewed the cyber sphere as a domain for military action.”

12. NEXUS OF CRIMINALS AND TERRORISTS IN HYBRID WARS AND COLOR REVOLUTIONS

In VPK, Konstantin Strigunov focuses on the nexus of criminal and terrorist groups as a potential globalization trend that weakens state governments. He argues that criminal, terrorist, and other groups are also utilized in “non-classical wars” such as hybrid wars and color revolutions.

13. US EXERCISES AND WEAPONS SYSTEMS

VPK and Kommersant discuss US and allied exercises and weapons systems. In Kommersant, Marianna Belen’kaya discusses Western reactions to the Russo-Belarusian Allied Resolve 2022 exercises and Russian commentators’ perspectives on military activities in the region. In VPK, authors discuss US presence in the Mediterranean for the Neptune Strike-2022 exercises, the testing of the joint air-to-ground missile, and US ballistic and cruise missile programs.

14. CHINESE-RUSSIAN STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP

Several articles reported on the meetings between presidents Putin and Xi on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics: the leaders declared that there were no limits to their strategic partnership; they vowed to counter instances of foreign interference in internal affairs; and Beijing announced that it joins Putin in opposing further NATO expansion. While some articles gloat at these new developments, others are more cautious—noting drawbacks and inequities in the alliance in the context of the Ukraine conflict. Another article argues that the US is trying to use Ukraine to drive a wedge between China and Russia.

15. KURIL ISLANDS DEVELOPMENTS; RUSSIAN-JAPANESE RELATIONS

Several articles report on an alleged US Virginia-class submarine incident that occurred near the Kuril Islands on February 12, which the Russian Ministry of Defense characterized as “a gross violation of international law.” According to reports, the submarine entered Russian territorial waters during a planned Russian military exercise, ignored warning messages instructing the vessel to surface, and was chased away by a Russian frigate. Other articles discuss the Japanese-Russian territorial dispute surrounding the South Kuril Islands, and how potential anti-Russian sanctions from Tokyo might affect the bilateral relationship.

16. IRAN NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS

Two articles discuss the US decision to reintroduce sanction waivers to Iran in hopes of reviving the nuclear negotiations. In an interview, the Russian Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna notes that this step “should have been taken long ago” but welcomes the decision. A different article questions whether this is enough to save the Iran deal, noting Tehran’s lack of enthusiasm in response to the waivers, and the lack of trust that a diplomatic resolution would be upheld by future US administrations.

Putin has changed the world yet again and will continue changing it

Pravda.ru / Russia - Tue, 22/02/2022 - 18:24
Russia has recognised the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk within the boundaries stipulated in their constitutions. The Armed Forces of Ukraine will not show any resistance to Russia — they do not have the guts for it, an the liberation of hte Donbass will create a domino effect. Putin is ready to liberate Ukraine The decrees on the international recognition of the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which Vladimir Putin signed, did not specify the boundaries, within which this was done, as this issue lies within the competence of the republics. It would be logical to assume that the borders are determined by the result of the referendum held on April 7, 2014 and include the entire territory of the former Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. This is what the Constitutions of the DPR and LPR say as well.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Russian Media Analysis, Issue 9, February 11, 2022

Russian Military Reform - Fri, 11/02/2022 - 17:43

Here are the abstracts from the latest issue of our Russian Media Analysis newsletter. You can also download the full text PDF version.

1. The Ukraine Crisis: Views of US-Russia Negotiations

Negotiations between the United States and Russia over the Ukraine-Russia crisis are widely discussed across Russian media, from a variety of angles. Most commentators are in agreement that the United States and its allies are engaging in bad-faith negotiations, given their continued military-technical support for Ukraine, although some note concern with Russian posture. The negotiations themselves are seen as a first step, and meetings with Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov, as well as the formal diplomatic response from the United States to Russia over their treaty proposals, are treated in a variety of ways.

2. The Ukraine Crisis: Perceptions of US Strategy

In discussing the current confrontation between the United States and Russia, a number of publications consider causal factors affecting US strategy. The focus is on the impact of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and its effect on US assessments of geopolitical risks and US aggressiveness. The articles also discuss the US predilection for narcissism and double standards. Some analysts do note the clear rejection of a military response by US leadership as leaving open the possibility of a compromise solution.

3. The Ukraine Crisis: Discussion of Russia’s Strategy

Russian media published a number of articles discussing Russian goals and strategy in the Ukraine crisis. Several articles focus on Russia’s need for security guarantees as a key driver of the current crisis. Other articles suggest that Russia’s real concern is not NATO enlargement per se but specifically the placement of NATO military hardware near Russia’s borders. Others suggest that in provoking a crisis now, Russia is reacting to a perception of weakness on the part of the United States in order to push the US into making concessions on Russian security demands.

4. The Ukraine Crisis: Signals of Potential Elite Unease

Two articles highlight the possibility of concerns within the Russian military about how an invasion of Ukraine would play out. The two authors, both well connected with segments of the Russian military and defense industry, suggest that a Russian military intervention in Ukraine could go badly and does not correspond to Russian national interests.

5. The Ukraine Crisis: Reaction to Potential US Sanctions

In Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kur’er (VPK), Vladimir Vasil’yev of the Institute of USA and Canada Studies (ISKRAN) argues that the Russia sanctions bill proposed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Menendez is “Cold War 2.0 legislation.” Vasil’yev notes that one way to interpret the bill is that it intends sanctions to “speed up and ease the Ukraine’s accession” to NATO. In a Topwar.ru article focused on how sanctions on exports of high technologies to Russia can be incredibly damaging to the Russian economy, Andrey Mitrofanov posits that US sanctions seek to turn Russia into North Korea 2.0.

6. The Ukraine Crisis: Reactions to Western Military Activities and “Information Warfare”

Numerous articles in the Russian press focus on the US deployments to Europe and the shifts in force postures and military activities in the region. Kommersant describes the state of “information warfare” and “hysteria” around Ukraine. Nezavisimaya Gazeta describes the military exercises and troop movements in the region, noting that NATO “assumes Russian aggression against Ukraine, [while] the Russian-Belarusian side [is concerned about] the possibility of NATO provocations that could push Kiev to resolve the problem of Donbass and Luhansk by force. Anton Lavrov, Roman Kretsul, and Andrey Fedorov discuss changes in the US force posture in Europe and quote a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs official as saying that some can be regarded as a “menacing maneuver.”

7. The Ukraine Crisis: Military Aid to Ukraine

More than 10 articles report on training and military aid to Ukraine, including new shipments from the US and UK, as well as transfers of US weapons from the Baltics, UAVs from Turkey, and artillery shells from the Czech Republic. While one article suggests that the acquisition of these new capabilities proves Ukraine’s intent to invade the Donbas, most are skeptical that these weapons provide Ukraine with any new meaningful capability.

8. The Ukraine Crisis: Ukrainian Military Developments

Several articles report on Ukrainian military developments “which confirm the fact that it is preparing for aggression against the [Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics].” Two articles report on movements of the 58th Separate Motorized Infantry and 53rd and 54th Separate Motorized Brigades, transport of portable demining units, military exercises near Crimea, and Zelensky’s decree to increase the size of armed forces by 100,000. A Topwar.ru article argues that Ukraine has been preparing to take back the Donbas by force since 2014. A fourth article reports on the low morale of Ukrainian troops.

9. Reactions to NATO Development Plans

Several articles address how NATO is planning to develop in the near to medium term and the threat that the organization’s plans pose to Russia. The topics include the expansion of NATO’s zone of operations to new territories, such as the Middle East, and new domains, such as space. NATO enlargement and its aggressive militarism, in the context of an overwhelming conventional force superiority over Russia, are highlighted as the main threats to Russia. The possibility of an unwanted NATO-Russia war being caused by Ukraine is also mentioned.

10. Scandinavia and NATO Enlargement

Yevgeny Fedorov, writing in Topwar.ru, discusses the possibility of Sweden and Finland joining NATO. He argues that even though the two countries recently reiterated that they are not currently interested in joining the alliance, they retain the right to join at any point in the future while remaining so closely integrated with the alliance that membership would be merely a formal change in status.

11. Concerns About Turkish Expansionism

An article in VPK discusses how Turkey is increasingly being used by the US and UK as a proxy to contain Russia on its southern flank and to pursue expansionist ambitions in Central Asia. The article argues that despite some tensions with its NATO allies, Turkey remains firmly committed to the alliance’s strategy to weaken Russia by forcing it to defend all of its borders and to impact its economy by creating alternative energy sources for Europe.

12. Potential Russian Military Development in the Caribbean

Two articles discuss potential Russian military developments in Caribbean states-namely, Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. A Topwar.ru article argues that because NATO is “increasingly, unceremoniously settling in close to Russia’s borders from the Barents to the Black Sea,” including US missile deployment, Russia is forced to respond in kind. A Novye Izvestiya article argues that while US influence on Venezuela and Cuba may prevent them from being viable hosts of Russian military bases, Nicaragua may be a more suitable option. Both articles acknowledge the challenges associated with challenging US hegemony in the region.

13. US Support for Japan’s Military Goals

Russian commentators continue to be concerned about a further deepening of the US-Japanese security relationship, arguing that Japan’s military-strategic plans to reemerge as an important player in East Asia have led it to follow the US lead on geopolitical issues elsewhere. Writing in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Valery Kistanov explores the question of why Japan wishes to become a military power, and what it is willing to sacrifice in order to achieve this. Although suspicious of Japan’s claims to be concerned about national security, he nevertheless writes that it is necessary to take this as-is and focus on the fact that a considerable military buildup is in its early stages.

14. Chinese-Russian Relations as a ‘Biathlon’

The Olympic Games in Beijing may bring about renewed and strengthened diplomatic ties, according to Yuri Tavrovsky, the head of the Expert Council of the Russian-Chinese Committee for Friendship, Peace, and Development. Writing in Moskovskii Komsomolets, Tavrovsky argues that upcoming meetings between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in the context of the games are a perfect venue for continuing down a line of close cooperation between the two at a personal level.

15. The CSTO in Central Asia Versus NATO

The deployment of CSTO forces into Kazakhstan during political troubles earlier in January has led to some Russian analysts to reappraise the organization. One article in Gazeta.ru by Viktor Sokirko and Dmitry Mayorov attempted to assess the CSTO’s military capabilities at the alliance level. They argue that in fact the CSTO, while inferior to NATO in general, is more than capable of maintaining order in Central Asia and ensuring a form of moderate collective defense. This is more than sufficient, given that the CSTO has very different goals from NATO in the first place, according to the authors.

16. Russian-Iranian Cooperation and Reactions to JCPOA Negotiations

Topwar.ru provides an update on the JCPOA negotiations and expressed criticism of the US position in the talks, highlighting Russian opposition to artificial deadlines. An article in Ekspert about the recent visit by Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi to Moscow highlights areas of Russo-Iranian cooperation, and says that the visit was aimed at securing Russian support in the face of US pressure for additional concessions from Iran as part of JCPOA negotiations.

Russian Media Analysis, Issue 8, January 28, 2022

Russian Military Reform - Mon, 31/01/2022 - 17:28

Here are the abstracts from the latest issue of our Russian Media Analysis newsletter. You can also download the full text PDF version.

1. Russian perceptions of the NATO threat

Several articles describe Russian perceptions of NATO and the threat that it poses to Russian security. They focus on the role of the alliance as a weapon of US domination in Europe, the threat posed to Russia by NATO’s previous expansion to the east, and the possibility that it could expand further to include Sweden, Finland, or Georgia. These Western actions can be countered either by NATO and the United States providing binding security guarantees to Russia or by Russia extending its security border to the Soviet Union’s previous western border in Belarus and Ukraine.

2. Karaganov argues that NATO is a metastasizing “cancer” that needs to be “limited territorially”

On January 19, the Russian newspaper Argumenty i Fakty interviewed Sergey Karaganov, dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, on the state of Russia’s relations with the US and NATO. In the interview, Karaganov also discusses Russia’s intentions in Ukraine, contrasts Russia with the Soviet Union, and discusses potential steps that Russia could take in response to the ongoing crisis.

3. US-Russia diplomatic engagements

During this reporting period, recent diplomatic efforts are frequently mentioned. These include US-Russia talks in Geneva, NATO-Russia talks in Brussels, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) talks in Vienna, and a phone conversation between Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Blinken. Several articles discuss Russia’s motivation behind the talks, which followed unrealistic demands for security guarantees and largely ended in stalemate. They also discuss what lies ahead.

4. Plans for US sanctions against Russia

Several articles highlight potential US plans to further strengthen sanctions against Russia. Draft US plans to impose personal sanctions against top Russian officials are dismissed as unlikely. However, the possibility of serious measures to limit interactions with Russian financial institutions and to prohibit the transfer of a wide range of technology to Russia (and the use of that technology by Russia) is taken more seriously. Russia could respond with highly disruptive countermeasures and may see the most severe measures as, in effect, a declaration of war.

5. The West prepares for conflict

Russian media published extensive discussions of statements being made by Western officials in response to Russia’s deployment of forces near Ukraine. These articles focus on the deployment of additional NATO forces to Eastern Europe, reports about the evacuation of Western and Russian embassy personnel from Kyiv, and US efforts to find alternative sources of natural gas for EU member states that would be engaged in a conflict with Russia.

6. NATO, Russia-Belarus military exercises

One article discusses NATO’s upcoming Cold Response exercise, which will take place in late March and early April and will include 35,000 military personnel from 28 states. The article notes that “such large-scale exercises as Cold Response-2022 have not been held in Norway since the 1980s.” Earlier in the year, on February 10–20, Russia and Belarus will hold joint military exercises, titled “Allied Resolve.” Two articles discuss the size, scope, and motivation of the maneuvers. A fourth article reports that the head of Poland’s National Security Bureau requested that NATO hold military exercises in the region in response to the joint Russian-Belarusian exercises.

7. Nuclear risk reduction and potential Western reactions to Belarusian nukes

Several articles cover nuclear issues. Krasnaya Zvezda focuses on Russia’s views on the importance of the P5 Joint Statement of the Leaders of the Five Nuclear-Weapon States on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races, and the importance to Russia of the “inadmissibility of any war between nuclear states, whether nuclear or with the use of conventional weapons.” Aleksey Poplavskiy in Gazeta.ru offers Russian expert commentary on potential Western reactions to the unlikely placement of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus. (The December 6–16, 2021, issue of Russian Media Analysisaddressed this latter issue.)

8. Options for new Russian missile bases as competition grows

As geopolitical competition increases, Russian authors are suggesting possibilities for new staging points that can counter perceived NATO encroachment. Two articles in Topwar.ru point out the potential for sites in Cuba and Serbia, respectively, as states that may be particularly open to hosting new forward-deployed arms. While Cuba is seen with a glow of Soviet-era nostalgia, the Balkan case represents a more novel vision in any future arms race.

9. Western information warfare against Russia

In Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kur’er (VPK), Sergey Korotkov argues that the US (and the West) are leaders in disinformation and have used this in the past to create a justification for wars in Iraq and Yugoslavia. The article posits that “the US views the internet as the main instrument of conducting hybrid warfare to achieve global domination in the global information space” and “aggressive propaganda in the form of disinformation campaigns is conducted at the state level and is a component of the ‘systematic deterrence of Russia.’” Separately, an article in Topwar.ru offers perspectives on a January 6 Atlantic Council event that featured retired general Wesley Clark, who argued that Putin is a war criminal and that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine.

10. Military aid to Ukraine

Many articles have focused on the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, looking specifically at new plans for military aid being developed by NATO countries to assist Ukraine in light of a potential Russian military action. Several articles focus on aid from the UK, which is stated to be moving faster and with greater qualitative effectiveness than other aid plans at present. Other authors review US military aid being debated in Congress as well. In general, the articles frame UK and US military aid as a means of ratcheting up the local threat against Russia, further destabilizing the regional security environment, and further cementing Ukraine’s de facto position as a quasi-member of NATO and the broader Western security architecture.

11. Tumult and fragmentation in Ukrainian domestic politics

The domestic travails of Ukraine were recently noted by two Russian authors, each arguing that the internal politics of the country were riven by scandal, faction, and dissent. Both articles are provocative: one, in Topwar.ru, asks why Ukrainian statehood had ever even been considered; the other, in VPK, drives home the point that Western efforts to aid Ukraine are not always clearly appreciated by Kyiv.

12. How future wars will be fought

Two articles by noted military specialists address the question of how wars will be fought in the future. Aleksandr Khramchikhin suggests that UAVs are likely to become the most important weapon in future wars, because they would be virtually impossible to eliminate and could be used to eliminate enemy air defense infrastructure. Viktor Murakhovsky is, on the whole, more skeptical about the dominance of technology in future warfare. The ineffectiveness of high-tech warfare in Afghanistan and Yemen suggests that future warfare may not be as technology dependent as visionaries on both sides believe.

13. Concerns about Turkish geopolitical designs

Multiple articles in Topwar.ru look at the geopolitical place of Turkey as well as ethnic ties across the Turkic peoples of Eurasia. Focusing on the potential for military cooperation along a pan-Turkic basis, as well as the prospects for major military expansion by Turkey in the Black Sea and Mediterranean, the articles add to a growing sense of paranoia about the prospect of alternative regional power blocs based on ethnic relations.

14. US accused of stirring up extremist groups in the North Caucasus

According to an article by Evgeny Fedorov in Topwar.ru, the United States is seeking to undermine internal Russian stability by way of encouraging extremist movements in the North Caucasus. Fedorov argues that American support in organizing and propagating Islamic extremist movements over the internet has grown in recent years, with the goal of provoking protest and confrontation between the authorities and local radicals. Fedorov highlights a new memorial set up by a local extremist organization, 1ADAT, as a new means of American meddling in internal affairs.

15. Alarm about new Kazakhstan biosafety-level-4 lab

Several articles in the Russian media and on online sites discuss the planned construction of a BSL-4 laboratory in Kazakhstan. Articles in Topwar.ru and Izvestiya argue that reference labs and biosafety facilities in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan are an enormous cause for concern for Russia because they are nontransparent and potentially unaccountable facilities conducting dangerous work close to the Russian border. While both of these articles include disinformation, they also exemplify the perspectives of Russian military analysts about CTR-supported installations in Eurasia.

Russia to arm herself to the teeth with most advanced arms systems in 2022

Pravda.ru / Russia - Mon, 31/01/2022 - 13:35
In 2022, Russia's ground, airborne forces and coastal troops will receive over 1,000 pieces of equipment. According to Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu, the military would receive launchers with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), strategic missile carriers, new air defense systems and a nuclear submarine cruiser. The Aerospace Forces will receive as many as 257 new military aircraft. Some models of military equipment and weapons will be delivered to the troops for the first time in 2022, while some others will come closer to the stage when they can be put into service.
Categories: Russia & CIS

New CNA Russian Media Analysis newsletter

Russian Military Reform - Thu, 20/01/2022 - 19:00

CNA’s Russia Studies Program is pleased to announce a new biweekly newsletter that analyzes Russian perspectives on Western military activities. The newsletter examines how US and NATO actions are perceived and described by Russian officials and experts. I’ll be posting the abstracts from each issue here. Full text of all issues will always be available on the newsletter webpage and through the CNA Russia Studies Program website.

Here are the abstracts and a direct link to the full text of the most recent issue.

1. The crisis in US-Russia relations

Russian media devoted extensive coverage to the crisis in relations between Russia and the West. Discussion of the Russian set of proposals for a new security agreement for Europe, and the subsequent videoconference between presidents Putin and Biden, was a major aspect of the coverage. Russia’s publication of a draft agreement is seen as a show of strength by President Putin, though most authors believe that the United States will reject the proposal. The December 30 conversation is portrayed primarily as a way for the two principals to clearly define their positions prior to the start of bilateral talks in mid January.

2. Perceptions of US and NATO strategy

Several long articles published in late December 2021 describe Russian perceptions of the strategy being pursued by the United States and NATO to contain and weaken Russia. Several articles highlight Russian perceptions that the United States is focused on organizing regime change in Russia and its allies, including through hybrid warfare. Other articles discuss the US shift to Asia as part of a continuing effort to preserve US hegemony in the world.

3. In year-end speeches, Putin and Shoigu articulate concerns about US and NATO threats

In a December 21 speech and in his December 23 annual press conference, Putin expressed frustration at what he describes as the persistent disregard by the US and NATO of Russian concerns about NATO expansion, alleging that the US supported “terrorist organizations” in the North Caucasus against Russia, and argued that the US and NATO are aiming to weaken and collapse Russia. In a December 21 speech, Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu summed up annual results of modernization and activities in the Russian armed forces, according to Krasnaya Zvezda. Shoigu also extensively discussed Western activities and the political-military and threat environment around Russia.

4. The situation in Ukraine

Coverage on Ukraine remains a key area of focus in Russian media. Several articles address the January 2 Biden-Zelensky call in which President Biden pledged to “respond decisively” should Russia invade, and to keep Ukraine fully involved in the ensuing effort to resolve the crisis. Meanwhile, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concerns about military developments in Ukraine. Several articles also address Defense Minister Shoigu’s recent allegations of nefarious US military actions in the region, including the transfer of chemical weapons and provocations from private military contractors.

5. European reaction to Russia’s position

Several articles highlight European reactions to the growing confrontation with Russia. The dominant perspective is that the EU and its member states want to make sure they are included in high-level discussions and that the US and Russia do not make any decisions without their input. Other articles highlight NATO efforts to heighten military readiness in response to Russia’s arms build-up near Ukraine and note that Russia is acting to counter NATO threats on its border.

6. Russian reactions to Finland’s military role

Several articles address developments in Finland’s force structure. One article calls for a realistic assessment of Finland’s military aspirations, referencing Helsinki’s recent purchase of 64 F-35a fifth- generation fighter-bombers from the US. The author characterizes this deal as an “unfriendly step towards Russia.” Several other articles discuss recent statements from senior Finnish officials that reiterate Finland’s right to apply for NATO membership should it choose to. One expert characterizes these statements as “typical rhetoric” that “should not be taken seriously” while another suggests that Russia should strengthen its Baltic Fleet forces if Finland enters the alliance.

7. Russian views of Australian dependence on the US and growing Chinese power

Many Russian writers focused on issues in the Asia-Pacific theater, especially in light of the AUKUS deal, the changing US-Chinese naval balance, and new developments in the Russian-Chinese relationship. Although the articles were disparate in their subject matter and approaches, most took a pessimistic and doubtful view regarding the United States and its efforts in the region, noting the increasing dependence of Australia on American military and economic support, as well as confirming that the rise of China is a key point of interest for Russian observers.

8. Japanese military developments

At least three articles addressed Japanese military developments during this reporting period. One article notes that Japan’s draft budget has increased next year’s military spending by 6.5 percent, to a total of US $51.5 billion. Another article reports that Japan is also interested in hosting a US military base on the Ryukyu Islands to prepare for a possible escalation of the Taiwan conflict. One author notes that while Japan sees China and North Korea as its primary threats, it is increasingly worried about defense cooperation between China and Russia.

9. Fallout from Afghanistan continues

The fallout from the US withdrawal from Afghanistan remains a source of interest for Russian foreign policy commentators. Vladimir Vinokurov asks “what the US defeat in Afghanistan” means nearly half a year on. In a wide-ranging argument, he concludes that the withdrawal represents a significant blow to the hegemon status of the United States and is likely to usher in fully the multipolar world that has been long suggested by commentators. Similarly, Aleksandr Khramchikhin underlines the alliance-disrupting impact of the Afghanistan withdrawal.

10. Democracy summit ridiculed as desperate attempt to bolster an “operetta democracy”

The recent Summit for Democracies was a subject of interest and ridicule by Russian political analysts. An essay by Grigori Nikonorov and Igor Rodionov expresses this framing of the Summit in full form. The authors describe the United States as an “operetta democracy,” due to a “series of failures in domestic and foreign policy.” The authors frame the event as a means for the United States to “consolidate the shaky position of the United States as the leader of the Western world,” but find it not up to the task given the diffuse troubles of the current world order, the rise of China and Russia to international prominence, and the legitimacy crisis besetting Western democracies in particular.

11. US and NATO weapons and threats to Russia

Numerous Russian articles provide overviews of current and emerging Western weapons technologies, including US and NATO missile defense infrastructure, unmanned aircraft that could potentially accompany the B-21 Raider bomber, and missiles and hypersonic systems.

12. Reaction to restrictions on export of US space technologies

Evgeniy Fedorov discusses a bill introduced in December 2021 by Senator Marco Rubio called the Space Protection of American Command and Enterprise (SPACE) Act. He notes that the bill seeks to reduce risks of industrial espionage to the US space industrial base and restrict the export of space technologies to Russia and China.

Memorial* and Higher School of Economics grow monsters within their walls

Pravda.ru / Russia - Thu, 25/11/2021 - 18:41
Memorial* organization, which works with Russia's past, should be shut down along with the Higher School of Economics (HSE), which works with Russia's future just as dangerously. Why Higher School of Economics should be closed after Memorial* The Moscow City Court postponed preliminary hearings about the suit to abolish two foreign agents — Memorial Human Rights Center* and International Memorial* organization. They are accused of ignoring business rules for the work of foreign agents in the Russian Federation. The center is also accused of acquitting terrorists and extremists. Suffice it to say that those organisations call individuals representing extremist groups "political prisoners." Memorial* publishes requests for their support, thus providing informational and legal support to the participants of street protest, encouraging them to disturb law and order further on.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Summary of Russia China naval power discussion

Russian Military Reform - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 15:09

Yesterday, I participated in a Marshall Center panel on Russian and Chinese naval power. My colleague Graeme Herd put together the following summary of the discussion…

GPCSS#2, November 16, 2021: ‘Russia and China and the Maritime Dimension: Red Lines and Risk Calculus?’ Context of Sino-Russian Maritime Cooperation

This is a summary of the discussion at the latest workshop of the current series of online Great Power Competition Seminar Series (GPCSS) webinars held on November 16, 2021 by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies (GCMC) in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The summary reflects the overall tenor of the discussion, and no specific element necessarily should be presumed to be the view of either of the participants.

Context of Sino-Russian maritime Cooperation

Since 2012 Russia and China have undertaken increasingly frequent and more complex exercises (e.g. combined air defense, anti-submarine, amphibious operations, passing through key straits) within an expanded geographical range (2015 Mediterranean, 2017 Baltic Sea, 2021 Sea of Japan) designed to counter and limit US maritime dominance.  This is part of an overall expansion in military cooperation between the two.  China has the world’s largest navy (battle force of 355 ships and submarines) but Russia enjoys an operational and technological lead in several areas, such as submarines, mine warfare and use of long range bombers at sea.

Russian Maritime Approaches

Russia adopts the concept of an integrated military strategy.  Rather than a separate naval strategy we should talk of operational art in the naval domain and naval policy which supports the military strategy. ‘State Policy on Naval Activity’ highlights the duties of the Russian navy to prevent the U.S. (the Russian navy’s benchmark) and allies from achieving naval superiority in the world ocean, limiting Russian access and territorial claims and mitigating missile threats from the sea to Russian land targets 

Core missions:

  1. Defend nuclear-powered, ballistic missile-carrying submarine (SSBN) patrol areas and maritime approaches to ensure strategic deterrence (calibrated second strike nuclear retaliation and escalation management) and prevent strikes against critical targets in the homeland.
  2. Conduct conventional and nuclear strikes to degrade critically important military and economic adversary targets.
  3. Naval diplomacy – defend Russian interests, maintain presence intimidate and negotiate from strength, project status of great power. Soviet legacy large ships better suited for this role than they are warfighting.

Russian Naval Perspective – four zones: Russia is able to conduct ops in all four zones and distribute ships according to rank depending on fleet’s mission and threat environment

  1. Coastal – defended by coastal vessels, small landing craft and patrol boats with the objective of sea control(i.e. can use sea for own purposes).  Borei and Yasen class nuclear subs of Pacific and Northern Fleets can deploy and enter patrol areas in the Far Sea and World Ocean.
  2. Near Sea (up to 1000 km from the Russian coast)deployments includecorvettes, guided missile boats and minesweepers, for example, in the Black Sea, Baltic, Barents.  Here Russia seeks sea control. 
  3. Far Sea (up to 2000 km from the Russian coast)deployments includenuclear powered and diesel electric submarines, carriers, cruisers, destroyers, large/medium landing ships, large/light frigates, and heavy corvettes.  From Iceland to Norway and the North Sea, the Aegean and East Mediterranean, the Russian navy seeks sea denial(i.e. spoil the use of the sea for NATO) and reduce the military and economic and command and control potential of the adversary.  As an example, a joint Russian-Chinese three-day naval exercise ‘Naval Cooperation’ (held since 2012) formed a flotilla with five Chinese ships in the Sea of Japan, October 14-17, 2021.
  4. World Oceans (all sea beyond 2000 km from Russia’s coasts) is protected by nuclear powered submarines, carriers, cruisers, destroyers, large landing ships and larger frigates.  In this zone the objective is to demonstrate Russia’s great power status by ‘showing the flag’ and power projection. Physical presence can have strategic effect. Demonstration of credibility a fundamental part of deterrence. As examples, ships from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet take part in Aman 2021, Arabian Monsoon 2021 drills, counter-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden. Pakistan’s Zulfiquar participated in the Main Naval Parade in St Petersburg July 2021.  Pakistani vessels were also present in joint China-Iran-Russia naval exercises.  

Naval Policy and Prioritization:

  1. Atlantic and Arctic – strengthen military potential and presence, ensure survivability of nuclear deterrence and inter-theatre mobility.
  2. Pacific – balance of power and good relations with China.  Fleet upgrade as regional arms race.
  3. Indian Ocean – maintain periodic naval presence.

Sensitivity and Risk

  • Operational advantages in Barents and Baltic Sea, can prevail in small military clash, close to borders, with well-prepared Russian forces that are quickly mobilized, involve hybrid threats and coup-like attacks with limited objectives.Black Sea and Arctic more unstable than Baltic and Barents.
  • Marketing: Ability to launch land attack cruise missiles from ships (e.g. Caspian flotilla to Syria) illustrates the navy’s contribution to an integrated military strategy and helps sell the function of the navy to a land-warfare centric General Staff and ensures funding.
  • Limited expeditionary range (Syria) capability but not World Ocean passed Suez and South America. Russia disadvantaged in a prolonged non-nuclear conflict with NATO.

Chinese Maritime Approaches:

  • Unprecedented emphasis is placed on the PLA Navy (PLAN) in the Xi era, as its integrity is linked to the future of the state: “Historical experience tells us that countries that embrace the sea thrive, while states that spurn the sea decline.” (Xi Jinping, July 30, 2013); “We must strive to build the People’s Navy into a world-class navy.” (Xi Jinping, April 12, 2018). 
  • China seeks a leadership role on the global stage and to that end naval power is critical. Xi Jinping seeks to “build the PLA into a world-class military…a powerful military on par with that of a world power…in order to provide strategic support for China as it moves towards the center of the world’s stage.” (National Defense University Strategic Research Department). 
  • Aspirations of global leadership are reflected in a shift in China’s ‘rights-stability’ calculus – protecting what it understands to be its maritime rights as set against the maintenance of stable relations with neighbors: “China must weigh the two big picture issues of stability maintenance and rights protection.” (Xi Jinping, July 2013). In the past stability was privileged, now both are in “dynamic equilibrium”.  As Zhang Haiwen, State Oceanic Administration, noted: “In the past, China’s big aim was a stable periphery. Everything else yielded to stability. In my view, for 10–20 years stability maintenance held the dominant position. But in recent years, China has balanced this out, meaning that stability maintenance and rights protection are now in a dynamic equilibrium.”
  • China adopts a grey zone approach to protecting ‘maritime rights’, using the PLAN as a back-stop and deploying its Coast Guard and militias on the front line, able to undertake non-lethal measures such as bumping, water cannons, cutting cables, seizing equipment.  The Coast Guard reported to the People’s Armed Police which in turn was subordinated under the Central Military Commission (CMC), highlighting a militarization of China’s law enforcement agencies under Xi.
  • PLAN is aware of its own weaknesses and limitations.  President Xi has stated: “Internationally we are basically undefended and without any effective options. If we encounter some great risk, we can evacuate our nationals, but our ability to secure our citizens and legal persons is very limited. You talk about weaknesses—this is a very big weakness. We must…gradually increase overseas security support capabilities, protect the  security of our citizens and legal persons located overseas, and protect our financial, oil,  mining, shipping, and other overseas commercial interests.” (Xi Jinping, December 2015).  In an article titled “Eliminate the Harms Caused by a Long Period of Peace, Make Solid Efforts to Prepare for War” a Chinese academic analyst noted: “Not fighting a battle in many years has caused some officers and soldiers to suffer from different degrees of ‘peace disease.’”
  • The role of PLAN is to protect China’s “overseas Interests” and these include: 1. Energy and resources; 2. Strategic sea lines of Communication; 3. Institutions, personnel, and assets abroad. To that end we see anti-piracy operations and evacuation of citizens from war zones, but what else might we expect?  As a general trend, these overseas interests are expanding in terms of importance, number and geo-strategic range: “Today, our country’s interests are continuously expanding and requirements for the Navy are continuously expanding. Our capabilities must therefore continuously improve…China is export-oriented, so our military strategy cannot just focus on protecting our homeland.”  And: “Wherever our merchant ships sail, Chinese warships should be present. Wherever our overseas interests extend, the People’s Navy should be there too.” (People’s Daily, 2018). 
  • China’s maritime interests expand.  According to an article titled “Scientific Compass for Achieving the Chinese Nation’s Dream of Becoming a Maritime Power”: “China’s global maritime interests are continuously expanding. China not only possesses sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdictional rights over 3.0 million km2 of maritime space. It also has broad maritime rights/interests in the polar regions, deep sea, and other ocean areas.”  China’s naval strategy is also updated: “Today, the Navy is accelerating its transformation towards ‘near seas defense, far seas protection, oceanic presence, and polar expansion.’”(People’s Navy, July 13,2018)
  • Looking to the future, the PLAN plans to do more: “When our major overseas interests are threatened, the Navy must be able to quickly cross the ocean barrier. Operating from the sea, it must be able to conduct military operations against key enemy targets in the littorals or on land. It must be able to deter, contain, and smash enemy operations, ensuring the security of China’s important overseas interests.” (“On the Navy’s Strategic Positioning in the New Era”, National Defense, May 2018). 
  • One indicator of Chinese intent will be the role of marine amphibious expeditionary forces: “Safeguarding the security of China’s overseas development interests urgently requires that China build the PLAN Marines into a force that can conduct amphibious operations overseas…and possesses rapid-response and independent operational capabilities to deal with crises. When necessary, it must be able to maintain long-term deployments in waters crucially related to China’s overseas interests and it must ensure that it can respond rapidly and take decisive action once there is a problem.” (People’s Navy, January 2017).

Sino-Russian Maritime Cooperation: Current and potential future?

  • Current: Arctic understandings.  PLAN patrols the Aleutian Islands (2021) and Sea of Japan which is en route to the Arctic.  It actively seeks to develop knowledge of the Arctic and caries out acoustic experiments using hydrophones for sound propagation which would enable potential future military operations in the Arctic.  While China is revisionist in the Indo-Pacific it is status quo in the European theatre – Russia is the opposite.  Thus Putin calls for “peaceful negotiation” with regards to Taiwan, China does not recognize the annexation of Crimea and its presence in the Arctic mitigates Russian militarization.
  • Future: Indicators in the maritime domain of a potential future shift from functional axis to deeper partnership could include, for example: 1) Chinese warships pay port visits and dock in Sevastopol during a period of heightened Black Sea tension; 2) Russia and China conduct a maritime exercise off the coast of Taiwan. 

GCMC, November 17, 2021.

Acknowledgements: This summary gratefully acknowledges insights shared by Mike Kofman of CNA at an RSI seminar held on 10 November 2021 (“Russian Naval Strategy”), not least his superb understanding of the role of Russian naval operational art and policy in support of Russia’s military strategy and the functions of and force structures dedicated to the four maritime zones: Coastal, Near Sea, Far Sea and World Ocean. 

Disclaimer: This summary reflects the views of the authors (Dmitry Gorenburg, Graeme P. Herd and Ryan D. Martinson)

Will the Russians vote for Putin in 2024?

Pravda.ru / Russia - Thu, 14/10/2021 - 18:33
Vladimir Putin said he did not decide yet whether he would run for yet another presidential term. Will the Russians vote for him again if he runs? Answering a question from CNBC journalist Hadley Gamble, the President of the Russian Federation said: "Yes, the [Russian] Constitution allows me to do this, to run for the next term, but no decisions have been made on this matter yet."
Categories: Russia & CIS

Why did Moscow welcome its enemy Nuland?

Pravda.ru / Russia - Wed, 13/10/2021 - 20:31
Moscow should not have welcomed Victoria Nuland as a negotiator. This is a bad sign, but there are also good ones. Nuland is Russia's enemy Victoria Nuland, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, spent three days in Moscow (October 11-13). Mrs. Nuland was a key figure in the 2014 Ukrainian coup. She distributed posts in the new illegitimate government of Ukraine and defined its anti-Russian decisions that caused enormous damage to Russia. It is unlikely that Nuland's position has changed. Why did Moscow welcome her as a negotiator? The US could have chosen someone else, after all. However, Russia put herself in the "whatever you please" position. It is gratifying that the results of Nuland's visit refute this conclusion.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Victoria Nuland, from Russia, blacklisted, with no bread, no progress

Pravda.ru / Russia - Tue, 12/10/2021 - 16:05
On Tuesday, October 12, US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland had a number of meetings with senior Russian diplomats and officials. No progress. First results of Nuland's visit to Moscow The first on the list was a visit to Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Ryabkov. Following the two-hour meeting, Ryabkov said that the talks ended with no progress whatsoever. Victoria Nuland is one of US officials who appears on the Russian sanctions list. At the same time, Maria Zakharova, an official spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, earlier announced that the initiative for the visit came from the American side.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Russian elections: Boycott or accept

Pravda.ru / Russia - Mon, 20/09/2021 - 16:00
The elections in Russia have gone without any serious incidents or sensations. However, the current election campaign differs from all previous ones. One of these differences is about the attitude of a number of international organizations, which decided to find the results of the parliamentary elections in Russia illegitimate, in advance, even before the results would be announced. First and foremost, it goes about the European Parliament. On September 16, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that recommended EU member states how to treat Russia correctly. The resolution particularly says:
Categories: Russia & CIS

Putin fails to formulate Russia's national idea

Pravda.ru / Russia - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 19:37
Vladimir Putin voiced the national idea — strong family with children. Yet, this is not an idea, but a goal. One has to coin the idea, or Putin's Russia will collapse under the pressure of ideological forces otherwise. Why Putin can't come up with a national idea During the United Russia congress, President Putin said that he often hears about the need to build a national idea. "You know, dear friends, I try to avoid those grandiloquent words, but I think that it is the strong, prosperous family with two, three, four children growing up that should be the image of the future of Russia. One does not need to coin anything here," said Vladimir Putin.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Putin intimidates the world with the power of the Russian Navy

Pravda.ru / Russia - Mon, 26/07/2021 - 21:05
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his speech dedicated to the Day of the Russian Navy, recalled the threats that Russia is currently facing from a number of countries. Putin speaks bellicose rhetoric Experts noted that Putin resorted to the rhetoric of threats for the first time as he vowed "to destroy anyone, anywhere." Putin spoke not only about the historical significance of the date, but he also mentioned those who positioned themselves as Russia's opponents.
Categories: Russia & CIS

RUSI Global Security Briefing on Black Sea

Russian Military Reform - Fri, 16/07/2021 - 17:22

I recently participated in the RUSI Global Security Briefing podcast hosted by Neil Melvin, Director of RUSI International Security Studies. Together with Neil and Maryna Vorotnyuk, we discussed how security relations have shifted around the Black Sea following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the subsequent build-up of regional military forces, including the significance of the recent confrontation between the UK warship HMS Defender and Russia’s armed forces in waters off Crimea.

Here’s the full show description:

Episode 7: Regional Security in the Black Sea

In this episode, the panel discuss the fast-evolving security environment in the Black Sea region, including the significance of the recent confrontation between the UK warship HMS Defender and Russia’s armed forces in waters off Crimea.

Dr Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Research Scientist at CNA in the US, and Dr Maryna Vorotnyuk, RUSI Research Fellow, discuss how security relations have shifted around the Black Sea following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the subsequent build-up of regional military forces with host Dr Neil Melvin, Director RUSI International Security Studies.

Putin's article: Ukraine can exist only in partnership with Russia

Pravda.ru / Russia - Tue, 13/07/2021 - 13:01
Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an article On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians which was published on the Kremlin website with a version in the Ukrainian language. During his recent Q&A conference, Putin stated that he considered Russian and Ukrainian peoples to be one single nation and promised to publish a lengthy article on the problem in the near future. The president warned that as a result of the policy of assimilation, which is now being carried out in Ukraine, the Russian people may decrease "by hundreds of thousands, or even by millions." "It goes about the coercive change of identity. The most disgusting thing is that Russians in Ukraine are forced not only to renounce their roots, from generations of ancestors, but they are also forced to believe that Russia is their enemy," Putin said.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Why did the Taliban delegation come to Moscow for talks?

Pravda.ru / Russia - Fri, 09/07/2021 - 19:30
On Thursday, July 8, a delegation of the Taliban* movement paid a visit to Moscow to assure the Kremlin that the Taliban* does not threaten either Russia or its allies in Central Asia. Needless to mention that those statements cannot be trusted. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Putin's aide for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov met with a Taliban delegation on Thursday, July 8, to express concerns over escalation of the crisis in northern Afghanistan. Kabulov urged Taliban representatives not to allow militants to move beyond the borders of Afghanistan. "We received assurances from the Taliban that they will not violate the borders of the Central Asian countries, as well as their security guarantees for foreign diplomatic and consular missions in Afghanistan," Kabulov said.
Categories: Russia & CIS

The HMS Defender Incident: What happened and What Are the Political Ramifications?

Russian Military Reform - Thu, 01/07/2021 - 17:13

I wrote a piece on the HMS Defender incident for Russia Matters. Here’s a preview. You can read the whole article here.

On June 23, the HMS Defender—a British Type 45 destroyer—was involved in a confrontation with the Russian military while sailing near the Crimean Peninsula. The ship was in the Black Sea to participate in NATO’s Sea Breeze exercise. Prior to the start of the exercise, it had completed a port visit to the Ukrainian port of Odesa and was on its way to make a similar port visit to Batumi, Georgia. As it passed through territorial waters claimed by Russia, the ship was closely shadowed by Russian forces. Furthermore, the Russian military claimed that it fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the vicinity of the ship, forcing it to move into international waters. What actually happened during the incident? Why did the British and Russian governments take the actions they took? What is the likely impact of the incident on the confrontation between Russia and NATO? And how does it affect the likelihood of future escalation?

Timeline

The HMS Defender was part of a NATO naval task force participating in Operation Sea Guardian, NATO’s counter-terrorism mission in the Mediterranean. It entered the Black Sea on June 14 after a port visit to Istanbul. Its first stop was Odesa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port. While they were moored in Odesa, the HMS Defender and a Dutch navy ship had their automatic identification system (AIS) signals spoofed by Russian electronic warfare systems to indicate that they were traveling toward Crimean waters, approaching to within two nautical miles of the entrance to Russia’s Sevastopol naval base. In actuality, video evidence showed that the ships did not leave Odesa harbor for several more days. After the visit to Odesa, the HMS Defender was scheduled to make a port visit to Batumi, Georgia before joining the multi-national NATO-led Sea Breeze exercise that began in the Black Sea on June 28.

The most direct route from Odesa to Batumi involves a passage through Crimean territorial waters off Cape Fiolent, and this was the route that the HMS Defender took on June 23 as it transited from Odesa to Batumi. The ship entered Crimean waters at either 11:50am (according to British sources) or 11:52am (according to Russian sources). It was shadowed by two Russian Coast Guard ships. Approximately 20 Russian aircraft, including a Su-24 bomber, a Su-30 fighter, and a Be-12 amphibious aircraft flew near the British ship. At noon, the Coast Guard warned that a live fire gunnery exercise would start imminently. At some point, the Russian military warned the HMS Defender by radio that it would fire if the British ship did not change course. One of the Russian ships fired shots in the general vicinity of the British ship at 12:08pm. According to Russian sources, the Su-24 dropped four unguided OFAB-250 fragmentation bombs at 12:19pm. However, no video evidence of this action has been released and the British Navy has repeatedly rejected the claim that any bombs were dropped in the vicinity of its ship. The HMS Defender then departed Crimean waters at either 12:24pm (according to Russian sources) or 12:26pm (according to British sources) and made its way to Georgia without further incident. In his call-in show on June 30, Vladimir Putin claimed that a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was in the vicinity and operating in concert with the HMS Defender, suggesting that the two countries were therefore working together during the confrontation.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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