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.