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: NATO STRATEGY
Russian analysts are still focusing on the issue of NATO membership for Ukraine. Many point out that the ongoing war, while leading to a de facto defense arrangement between the “collective West” and Ukraine, has also hindered it from formally joining the alliance. Many authors believe that this is a benefit to Russia, although it has come at the cost of NATO unity and an amplification of arms supplies to Ukraine.
2. INVASION OF UKRAINE: EU STRATEGY
Connected to, although distinct from, the issue of Ukraine’s NATO ambitions, is the desire by its political leadership to join the EU. While Russian commentators are broadly pessimistic about how much defense cooperation there now is between Ukraine and the West, they are more optimistic that Ukraine’s EU bid will remain stalled for the foreseeable future. Although both sides have made many symbolic gestures to signal an agreement for membership down the road, concrete steps are harder to find, and the internal political machinations of the EU will further slow down integration.
3. INVASION OF UKRAINE: RESPONSES TO WESTERN SANCTIONS
More than a dozen articles offer responses to international sanctions against Russia, featuring reactions ranging from optimism to pessimism, and including skepticism and determination to wreak economic havoc on the West. Some serve to reassure the Russian public that even though foreign industries are leaving, they will still be able to access certain goods. Others discuss the prospect of more serious sanctions, such as EU bans on Russian oil and gas imports, or a U.S. sea-route trade embargo against Russia. The authors argue that such measures would introduce a number of cascading effects that would harm countries “hostile to Russia.”
4. INVASION OF UKRAINE: RESPONSES TO NATO MILITARY AID
The details and implications of NATO and U.S. military aid and efforts to arm Ukraine are the subject of several articles. It is evident that there is concern for the unified support that Ukraine is getting from the West, but there remains a confidence in the narrative surrounding Russian capabilities against the perceived lackluster quality of provisions going to Ukraine.
5. INVASION OF UKRAINE: U.S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Several articles address U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s decision to cancel a Minuteman III missile test following President Putin’s announcement that Russia put its nuclear forces on a “special combat regime duty.” While some experts characterize the test cancellation as an effort to avoid nuclear escalation, one article suspects that it helped avoid drawing attention to the stagnant U.S. nuclear modernization process. An additional article takes issue with the optics and messaging that the U.S. is responsibly conducting nuclear policy, when it has conducted “mock nuclear strikes” in recent exercises and increased the frequency of nuclear-capable aircraft flights near Russia’s border.
6. INVASION OF UKRAINE: PERCEPTIONS OF A NO-FLY ZONE
As Ukraine’s request for a West-enforced no-fly zone remains unmet, Russian commentators caution against the implementation of anything remotely close to it and highlight the escalatory nature of such potential actions by NATO and the U.S..
7. INVASION OF UKRAINE: UKRAINE AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS CONSPIRACY
A recent issue of the Ministry of Defense newspaper posits the conspiracy theory that “Ukraine’s scientific establishment has sufficient competencies to create a nuclear explosive device.” The content of this article appears to be drawn from a TASS report that cites the Russian intelligence agency SVR as a source of claims that Ukraine had an advanced missile and nuclear weapon program.
8. INVASION OF UKRAINE: THE BIOLABS CONSPIRACY
Coverage of the conspiracy theories about U.S. DTRA reference laboratories in Ukraine continues to proliferate across Russian media sources. It now includes official newspapers as well as MOD and MFA officials. Coverage has also begun to note statements made by Chinese government officials on this issue.
9. CHINESE-RUSSIAN RELATIONS
A number of articles in the Russian press assess the state of the Russian-Chinese relationship as well as China’s diplomatic and economic relations with the United States and the broader West. Many commentators are quick to point out that China is resistant to following along with the West’s sanctions regime against Russia, although also acknowledging that there remains much to be desired in terms of China’s closeness to Russia itself.
10. SCANDINAVIAN COUNTRIES AND NATO
The ambitions of Scandinavian countries to join NATO continue to be a worry for Russian commentators. Yet given the scale of hostilities in Ukraine, experts are quick to note that parallels with Ukraine-and any potential Russian reaction to new Scandinavian member-states-are improper. Although Russia assesses the membership of Sweden and Finland to NATO in a very negative light, it is clear that this issue is not an existential one compared to Russian perceptions of Ukraine’s or Georgia’s entrance into the alliance.
11. IRAN AND THE JCPOA
Russian commentators have maintained a close watch over U.S. actions and engagement with other OPEC+ and oil suppliers ever since the U.S. sanctioned Russian oil. Analysts have focused on the U.S.-Iran relationship and the relevance of Iranian oil to the JCPOA negotiations. They remain critical of U.S. moral flexibility and assert that the “special military operation” in Ukraine has had a profound impact on long-term global security, as is evidenced by the changing oil environment around the globe.
12. FOREIGN ACQUISITION OF U.S. ARMS
Several articles focus on and are critical of the proliferation of U.S. weaponry abroad. They include the legal sale of arms to Egypt and the resulting arms capabilities of the Taliban after the U.S. exit from Afghanistan.
13. U.S. STRATEGY IN THE ASIA PACIFIC
Amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian media maintain a close watch on U.S. policy developments in other areas of the world, especially the Indo-Pacific region.
14. INFORMATION WARFARE
Two articles address alleged acts of “information warfare” against Russia, tending to take on a defensive tone about Moscow’s leadership and the progress of the “special military operation.” The first article responds to recent quotes from U.S. Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby, who noted Russia’s history of use and potential future use of chemical and biological weapons. The second article details alleged activities from the 72nd Center for Information and Psychological Operations (CIPO) of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which the article claims was trained by the UK.
15. U.S. AND EUROPEAN MILITARY CAPABILITIES
Several articles report on developments of U.S. and NATO capabilities and weapons systems. One article reports on funding cuts to the U.S. Air Force’s first hypersonic missile, the AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW). A second article reports on a reorganization of the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment that puts combat groups on the first and second island chains of the Pacific at a moment’s notice. A third article reports on Germany’s decision to purchase 35 American F-35A fighter jets to replace the Tornado fighter-bombers it uses to carry American B61 nuclear weapons.