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.