Here are the abstracts from the latest issue of our Russian Media Analysis newsletter. You can also download the full text PDF version.
1. Invasion of Ukraine: Putin’s speech
In a February 24 speech, carried in full by Krasnaya Zvezda, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin gave remarks that sought to provide background and justification to Russian actions in Ukraine. As his past speeches, this one offered an extensive overview of his grievances against the United States and the West and what he perceives as disregard for Russian interests in the post-Cold War order.
2. Invasion of Ukraine: Justifications
Five articles provide various justifications for Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. Several identify defending the people of the Donbas region as the primary factor for the invasion, echoing President Putin’s justification of protecting people “who have been subjected to abuse [and] genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years.” Others argue that the main reason for the invasion is to protect Russia from the military threat posed by Ukraine’s increasing ties to NATO. Articles also claim that there are Western information operations concerning the motives of Moscow’s military actions.
3. Invasion of Ukraine: Russian Domestic Perceptions
The views of the Russian population on the conflict are still undergoing initial polling, and divergences are expected across polling companies. One company, Russian Field, conducted a poll that Novye Izvestiya reported as being particularly supportive of the conflict. The poll was on the larger side, with 2,000 respondents across Russia.
4. Invasion of Ukraine: Discussions of Western Strategy
A large number of articles discuss Russian perceptions of Western strategy towards Russia and towards the conflict in Ukraine. Articles published before the invasion focus on the role of the United States in fomenting the conflict, and highlight US weaknesses that made Vladimir Putin decide that now was a good time to push to renegotiate the post-Cold War global order. Articles published in the early days of the invasion argue that the West is in the process of realizing that it underestimated Russian power and resolve and is looking to salvage its position.
5. Invasion of Ukraine: Nuclear Issues
Several articles discuss nuclear issues. An article in Topwar.ru argues that the US is potentially considering the infliction of a first disarming strike against Russia. An article in Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie (NVO) discusses the possibility of Belarusian and Ukrainian nuclear weapons. In Gazeta.ru, Irina Al’shaeva writes about the “special combat duty regime” requested by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin for the Russian strategic forces. A Novye Izvestiya article points out that open source researchers have been tracking the movements of the US Boeing E-4B AWACS aircraft on the flight from Lincoln, Nebraska, after the Russian initiation of the Russian war in Ukraine.
6. Invasion of Ukraine: The Threat from NATO
Russian media also focused on the direct threat that NATO poses to Russia and to regional stability in Europe. The articles focused on the destabilizing effect of NATO force deployments near Russia’s border, NATO’s history of using military campaigns to achieve its geopolitical goals, and the risk of a broader conflict between Russia and NATO.
7. Invasion of Ukraine: NATO Enlargement
The potential further enlargement of NATO is both a cause and consequence of the conflict with Ukraine in the eyes of several Russian writers. Framed as a genuine threat to Russia, articles discuss the possibility of Scandinavian states joining the alliance as well as states in the Balkans such as Kosovo. Other writers reiterate the Russian line that NATO was never supposed to expand in the first place.
8. Invasion of Ukraine: Responses to NATO Military Aid
Russian media reflect a variation in attitudes on NATO military aid in Ukraine. Numerous commentators doubt the utility of Western assistance and dismiss it as disinformation; they say that the West is only providing older arms and materials, and criticize the selfish nature of overall Western involvement in the conflict. Other journalists express legitimate concern about the impact that such significant aid could cause in Ukraine. There is an unprecedented coordination of support, and it seems there is some surprise among journalists about the swift nature of such collaboration.
9. Invasion of Ukraine: Ukrainian EU and NATO Membership
Ukrainian membership in EU and NATO is still a point of interest in the media, especially amidst an active invasion in Ukraine. Several articles posit that an acceptance of Ukraine, if it occurs at all, is in the very distant future, especially considering the presence of Russian troops. Others highlight Ukraine’s application as a forced response to Russian assistance in Donetsk and Luhansk and caution that Georgia and Moldova may be likely for EU candidate status as well. Overall, there is a shared opinion that Ukrainian membership in EU and NATO is not out of the question but has been made significantly more complex with current Russian activity in Ukraine.
10. Invasion of Ukraine: Responses to Western Sanctions
Numerous articles in the Russian press discuss the recent sanctions imposed on Russia and largely dismiss the significance of their long-term impact on Russian society, stating that they are more damaging to the West. Media commentators even welcome the challenge, stating that such independence will fix issues of Russia’s import dependence and brain drain. Additionally, the Russian media analyze the challenges that the imposed sanctions will cause for specific Russian industry, such as shipbuilding and aviation capabilities and technology and computer chip development.
11. Invasion of Ukraine: Russia’s Future in the New Order
Several articles focus on how Russia and its role in the world will change in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine. These articles suggest that sanctions will cause some pain but the sacrifice will be worthwhile to achieve the goal of ending the threat posed by an anti-Russian Ukraine and restoring Russia’s greatness and sovereignty. The possibility of increasing internal repression to ensure national unity is also discussed in a positive light.
12. Invasion of Ukraine: Role of Neighboring States
States in the immediate vicinity of Ukraine are seen as potentially vital interlocutors in both the positive and negative sense for several Russian commentators. Poland and the wider east-central European NATO member-states are viewed as having taken a turn towards a decisive rearmament and preparation for future conflict. Meanwhile, Belarus holds its position as a key Russian ally, underlining its important role for Moscow as a constituent part of the Russian-Belarusian “Union State” and very likely a further consolidation of de facto Russian control over more elements of Belarus’ statehood and independence.
13. Invasion of Ukraine: Turkey’s Position
Russian commentators remain concerned about Turkey’s role in the Russo-Ukrainian War and the geopolitical fallout from the conflict. Perspectives vary, from those who note Turkey’s unwillingness to go along with the full spectrum of sanctions proposed by European and North American states, to others who reiterate the concern about the longer-term designs of Turkey’s leadership in the broader Black Sea, Eastern Mediterranean, and even Central Asian states. Observers are particularly wary of Turkey’s naval presence, which for some is described as a genuine threat to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, alongside Turkey’s ability to block passage through the straits. The growing role of Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 combat drones also add impetus to commentator concerns.
14. Invasion of Ukraine: The Biolabs Conspiracy
Several articles once again raise the conspiracy theory about the role of US DTRA reference labs in the former Soviet Union states, but this time in Ukraine, referencing recent coverage in the UK newspaper Expose. In an article in Sovetskaya Rossia, Valentin Kasatonov argues that “US military biolabs in Ukraine” are the reasons for Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. In Topwar.ru, Yevgeniy Fedorov provides more conspiracy theories that the labs are a part of growing NATO infrastructure in Ukraine.
15. China’s Geopolitical Position
Russian commentators have noted the parallels between Russia’s ongoing intervention into Ukraine—and the West’s reaction—and China’s presumed geopolitical designs for Taiwan. Some argue that while such parallels exist, they do not necessarily mean that China intends to support Russia’s goals in Ukraine. Indeed, they argue that it is possible that this could be a major test of the strength of the Russian-Chinese relationship at the highest levels. Others are more sanguine about the relationship and argue that this provides a potential test-case for a future Chinese effort to retake Taiwan.
16. Russia-Nicaragua Relations
Although most commentary in Russia remains focused on events in Eurasia and Eastern Europe, some look to other parts of the world as a means of shoring up the global picture of Russia’s alliances and international relationships. An article in NVO looks to the political regime in Nicaragua. It argues that there is a friendly face in this Central American country, and that Russia can use it as “something [with which] to respond to US pressure in Europe” by further improving relations with this “soft underbelly of the United States.”
17. Information and Hybrid Warfare
Several articles discuss how Russians understand the US/NATO approaches to information warfare and hybrid warfare. An article by Aleksandr Bartosh focuses on what he explains is a hybrid warfare in US and NATO strategies. An article in Krasnaya Zvezda focuses on the Western concept of “cognitive warfare.” In an article in Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kur’er (VPK), Sergey Korotkov argues that the “heat of information (hybrid) war [against Russia] has reached a critical point.” In another VPK article, Leontiy Shevtsov analyzes what he calls “US and NATO information warfare operations.”
18. Shortcomings of the US Military
One article responds to US Navy chief of staff Michael Gilday’s recent comments that the Navy needs a fleet of more than 500 ships to meet its commitments in the forthcoming National Defense Strategy, noting that US shipbuilding capacity will be a major obstacle to reaching that goal. A second article examines the evolution of US aircraft carriers, and argues that the capabilities of current air wing configurations to counter an enemy are “significantly lower than they were” in the 1970s and 1980s. A third article examines US missile and air defense capabilities, arguing that capabilities were inefficiently developed due to US overconfidence in its pilots and aircraft.
19. US and European Military Capabilities
Three articles discuss developments of specific US and European capabilities and systems. One article discusses the US Navy’s public launch of its Snakehead underwater drone, “which apparently is being created in analogue to the Russian Poseidon submarine platform.” A second article discusses the US Space Force’s Deep space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) project, which “will allow the delivery of accurate strikes against enemy satellites, and will also complete the formation of a unified system for coordinating the actions of the US armed forces around the planet.” A third article discusses the “Eurodrone” project between Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.