Russia Analytical Report, March 18-25, 2024

File Photo of Red Square, Kremlin, Environs, adapted from image at

(Russia Matters –

3 Ideas to Explore

  1. The March 22 terrorist attack on a concert hall outside Moscow, in which more than 130 people were killed and for which ISIS claimed responsibility, is a “reminder of the fatal results of mutual distrust in the US-Russian relations,” Anatol Lieven writes in reference to the fact that the U.S. did warn Russia on March 7 of a possible attack on concerts. “It appears that U.S. intelligence warned the Russian government of an impending attack — and President Putin dismissed this as a U.S. ‘provocation,’” according to this Russia expert at the Quincy Institute. In his take on the attack, CFR’s terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman refers to the March 7 warning too, but argues that it appeared to have been “bereft of the ‘actionable intelligence’ that might have enabled Russian authorities to implement effective security measures.”[1] Hoffman also notes that “it is impossible for governments, even with suitable advance warning, to defend every target, everywhere across a city much less a country from every possible type of attack.” Preventable or not, the attack will be used by the Kremlin as a “pretext to tighten the domestic screws further” as well as to blame Ukraine[2] even though it was ISIS’s Khorasan vilayat that claimed responsibility and Western governments view this claim as plausible, according to the Economist. ISIS’ operations in Russia date back to at least in 2015 when Dargin warlord Rustam Asildarov pledged allegiance to this terrorist organization which then established its Caucasus vilayat in 2015, taking responsibility for an attack on civilians in Dagestan that year. The Caucasus vilayat has been mostly manned by natives of the North Caucasus. In contrast, the Khorasan vilayat was partially manned by jihadists from Central Asia, having accepted many fighters from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of the Russian embassy in Kabul in 2022.  Preliminary research conducted by one of members of the RM team indicates that the March 22 raid has occurred after a lull of more than five years in attacks by non-state actors that primarily targeted Russian civilians. Will last week’s attack, which is the fourth deadliest of such attacks during Putin’s rule, signal the return of recurrent large-scale terrorism to Russia? Hopefully, not.
  2. The concept of strategic stability should be rethought and renamed to incorporate the concept of active “nuclear deterrence” so that  “fear returns to the minds and hearts of the leaders on the opposite side,” according to Dmitri Trenin, one of the leaders of Russia’s pro-government community of experts on the country’s military and foreign policies. In his commentary for Russia in Global Affairs, Trenin claims that P5’s recent statement on the inadmissibility of a nuclear war is a “relic of the past” and asserts that Russia’s nuclear doctrine needs to be adjusted with these changes and then gamed out in exercises. Trenin adds that “the ladder of escalation does not end here.” Rather, “military-technical steps may be followed by military actions…. for example, attacks on air bases and supply centers on the territory of NATO countries,” he writes. With this article, Trenin makes another contribution to the efforts by the official Russian expert community to intimidate the U.S. and its allies with the rattling of Russia’s nuclear saber.
  3. Now that Putin has won a fifth term, expect him to “ramp up military action in Ukraine,” according to Angela Stent of Brookings. In her preview of Putin’s fifth term for USIP, Stent reminds us that “Putin believes that Russia is in an existential conflict with NATO and has hinted that the war could extend to other countries.” “Moldova would be the next country to watch, because of its vulnerability,” she predicts. “Russia’s war in Ukraine, and by extension its war against the West, will increasingly become the raison d’être of Putin’s rule” in his fifth term, according to Nigel Gould-Davis of IISS.

I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security and safety:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

“A sadistic missile attack has rattled Odessa’s defiant citizens,” Anna Husarska, NYT, 03.19.24.

  • March 15 was a normal, drizzly Friday. At 10 a.m. …a “double tap” attack of Russian Iskander-M missiles fired from Crimea hit the southern neighborhood of Dacha Kovalevskovo.
    • The death toll was 21, with 75 wounded. Among the victims was a paramedic, two firefighters and a few police.
  • President Vladimir Putin launched the attack on the first day of Russia’s farcically misnamed presidential “election.”
    • The attack was the third major assault on Odessa in two weeks.
  • Odessa is everything Putin hates: It is modern, cosmopolitan, sophisticated, multiethnic. He claims it is “a Russian town,” yet he sends missiles to destroy it.
    • Although the inhabitants are inured to the war, they are also defiant — almost provocatively so.
    • But defiance and art can only go so far. There is a new edginess in people as the attacks come more and more regularly.
    • Putin’s impunity — with Western partners vacillating and Ukraine running out of men able to fight — hangs heavy over the city.

“Belgorod Oblast: the Humanitarian Catastrophe the TV Media Won’t Сover,” Republic/Russia.Post, 03.25.24.

  • According to official data, in just one week in mid-March, 16 people were killed and 98 were injured due to shelling in the Belgorod Oblast. As a result, local officials decided to evacuate thousands of children to other regions. In addition, entry into a number of cities and villages is restricted, and military checkpoints have been erected.
  • Just like a year ago, when the first evacuation measures were announced against the backdrop of the attacks and shelling, people are surprised that martial law has not yet been declared in the region, and the scale of the tragic events is kept silent, while the local population “lives in hell” and is forced to consider themselves “disposable.”
  • In the third year of the war in Ukraine, the Belgorod Oblast has gone from a border region to front-line territory.

“‘Wear It or We Will Beat You to Death’;” J. Lester Feder, NYT, 03.15.24.

  • There are significant differences between the targeting of L.G.B.T.Q. people and the genocide of a religious or ethnic group. But many campaigns against queer people we see now around the world — in countries at war and at peace — seem to have what Maria Sjödin, executive director of Outright International, has described as a “genocidal ideology aimed at eradicating L.G.B.T.Q. people from public existence.” Russia and other governments are not only imprisoning, torturing and killing queer individuals, or encouraging their citizens to do so on their own, but also attacking queer cultural and political institutions, silencing speech about queer history and rights and going after L.G.B.T.Q. people’s allies.
  • The stories we remember from the past are the foundation upon which peace is built. And that matters far beyond Ukraine at a time when anti-democratic forces are trying to erase queer people in many parts of the world. If the world forgets how homophobia was turned into a weapon in this war, what hope is there that queer people will be included in a democratic peace?

Military and security aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

“Technology Alone Won’t Break the Stalemate in Ukraine,” Gavin Wilde, FP, 03.19.24.

  • if Ukraine’s ultimate goal is to eject the occupying forces from its territory, there is reason to be cautious of a techno-solutionist approach, particularly one isolated from the broader organizational context of the Ukrainian military.
  • An escalating arms race between Ukrainian drones and Russian electronic warfare may capture the imagination—and capital—of futurists, but it must not become conceptually untethered from the demands of combined arms in land wars past. While tactical systems such as drones can deny mobility at the front lines, they are far less likely to enable it. They are certainly no substitute for recruiting, training, and equipping a capable fighting force over the longer term. Doing so will demand hard decisions from Kyiv and its Western backers—particularly European capitals—none of whom should harbor, nor cultivate, any illusions about a technological panacea.
  • No amount of technological wizardry can substitute for the arms, equipment, and training that the United States and a handful of allies  can exclusively provide—nor for the personnel that Kyiv must recruit and mobilize. And if Kyiv fails to do so, the result may turn out to be less the “future of war” and more the marketing of stalemate.

For more opinions on the security aspects of the conflict and their impacts see

Military aid to Ukraine

“Ukraine’s European allies are either broke, small or irresolute,” The Economist, 03.21.24.

  • On paper, Europeans should be in a position to deliver more than enough support to Ukraine. The 30 European countries that belong to NATO have, taken together, the world’s second-biggest military budget (exceeded only by America’s), vastly outspending Russia. Their economy is bigger than America’s. And across the continent the desire for Ukraine to prevail is strong. The realization that Vladimir Putin would be unlikely to be satisfied with invading just one neighbor is chilling.
  • The problem is that the attributes needed in a good ally are unevenly spread. Most of Ukraine’s most vocal backers are also the bloc’s smallest countries, whether Baltic or Nordic.
  • If some countries are short on size and others on either money or ambition, why not join forces? EU schemes abound, some better than others. A boost to the “European Peace Facility” agreed on March 18th was meant to deliver military kit worth €5 billion ($5.4 billion) to Ukraine—but turns out to be in part recycled past commitments. A better idea, floated by Estonia and now backed by Mr. Macron, might be for the EU to jointly borrow €100 billion that would go towards bolstering the bloc’s defense. This would be a repeat of the pandemic-busting Next Generation EU fund worth €750 billion.
  • Such a scheme could turn the EU into, in effect, a single large, solvent and potentially ambitious ally for Ukraine. For now, it is being resisted by richer countries, mainly in the north of Europe, which end up repaying most of the money borrowed by the EU (and which agreed to the pandemic fund only as a one-off). Sceptics worry that a large defense fund would be hostage to a familiar type of sclerosis that befalls joint EU projects, often involving Hungarian vetoes. They may be right. But Ukraine might well prefer one big yet imperfect ally to lots of smaller ones that all fall short in their own different ways.

“Donald Trump’s betrayal of Ukraine,” Martin Wolf, FT, 03.19.24.

  • Donald Trump, still no more than a candidate for the U.S. presidency, may soon hand his friend, Vladimir Putin, victory over Ukraine. This would be incredible if one were not used to such outrages. Did anybody imagine, before Trump’s emergence, that a man who tried to overthrow the result of a presidential election would be the Republican candidate in the next one?
  • Last August, the Biden administration asked Congress to provide funds for Ukraine, disaster relief and strengthening control of the southern border. This was designed to achieve bipartisan support. Trump opposed it, because he wanted to ensure Joe Biden’s failure. Obedient to their master, Senate Republicans failed to pass the bill. But the Senate did in the end pass one that would give assistance to Ukraine, Taiwan, Israel and the civilians of Gaza. That then got stuck in the House of Representatives. This is because Trump’s poodle, Speaker Mike Johnson, refuses to put it to a vote, knowing that it would pass and fearing, it seems, that Trump would punish him by trying to prevent his re-election to the House in November. Like most strongmen, Trump prizes loyalty above everything.
  • Trump and his acolytes seem set on handing Putin an unearned and undeserved victory. We know from Russian crimes in occupied regions the horrors they would inflict if they won. But there is more at stake even than that. If the U.S. now abandons Ukraine, it will shake its alliances to their foundations.
  • What might happen if Ukraine were indeed abandoned? Evidently, it will raise questions about U.S. reliability everywhere.
  • This war has done far more than inflict great damage on Russia’s military. It has also revitalized NATO itself.
  • What lies ahead is likely to be a long war of attrition, before the Russians realize they will not be allowed to erase Ukraine. The role of western allies is only to supply money and weapons. This should not be beyond their capacity or will. After all, Ukraine will continue to supply the manpower. To abandon them now in their hour of great need would demonstrate catastrophic western weakness at a moment of potential success: Russia would rejoice; the western alliance would crumble; and many would conclude that the U.S. is in irreversible decline. For the U.S. and the world, this truly is a decisive moment.

“If Ukraine falls, it will be the GOP’s Afghanistan,” Marc A. Thiessen, WP, 03.22.24.

  • House Republicans hammered President Biden this week for his catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, and rightly so — it was one of the worst foreign policy calamities in American history. But if Republicans cut off U.S. military aid to Ukraine, they will precipitate an equally disastrous foreign policy debacle — and they will own it in the same way that Biden owns the exit from Afghanistan.
  • While Ukraine would not likely fall this year, the conditions would be set for a Russian victory in 2025 — just as (Republicans hope) Donald Trump takes office. So, Ukraine’s catastrophic collapse could well happen on the GOP’s watch, not Biden’s. Imagine the outrage as stunned Americans watch Russian forces marching into Kyiv, slaughtering and pillaging as they did in Bucha at the start of the war. Whom do Republicans think Americans would hold responsible for the atrocities playing out on their screens?
  • Without U.S. aid, Putin’s forces will begin marching toward Kyiv and Ukraine will become the next Afghanistan. So, for Republicans, a time for choosing has arrived: Unless you want to be blamed for the fall of Kyiv the way Biden is blamed for the fall of Kabul, send military aid to Ukraine.

Punitive measures related to Russia’s war against Ukraine and their impact globally:

  • No significant developments.

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • No significant developments.

Great Power rivalry/new Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:

“A More European NATO. Defense Spending Alone Cannot Fix the Alliance’s Overdependence on the United States,” Max Bergmann, FA, 03.21.24.

  • The EU and the United Kingdom together have a military force that is roughly two million strong. But it is a Potemkin force: its readiness and capabilities vary by country but are generally low, and separate national militaries cannot coalesce into a unified fighting force without the direction and material support of the United States. If Europe is to truly take responsibility for its own security, it needs to integrate its defense efforts.
  • This is a task for NATO and the EU to share. NATO would continue to act as Europe’s combatant command, in charge of military planning and warfighting, as well as providing a political-military forum for Europe to coordinate with the United States, Canada, and Turkey. NATO planners should draw up a blueprint showing how European forces can acquire the capabilities they will need to reduce their dependence on the United States. The EU, meanwhile, should act as NATO’s investment and procurement arm, using its ability to mobilize resources on behalf of Europe.
  • Integration does not mean replacing national defense forces with a single European army. France and Poland, for instance, will keep their own armies, but those armies should be able to operate together seamlessly, drawing on EU-funded forces and equipment. Yet Europe may not have the time to integrate gradually. An abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces from NATO might compel Europe to take dramatic action, but it could also leave the continent exposed militarily if it happens before Europe has built the capacity to guarantee its security. The shock could throw the continent into disarray. It would force Europe to face the most difficult aspects of integration immediately. On the issue of a nuclear deterrent, for example, some European states might rush to build their own stockpiles or make bilateral deals with Russia, creating deep splits within the EU and enabling wider nuclear proliferation.
  • The best option is for NATO leaders to push for a greater European role when the alliance convenes in Washington this summer. The United States should use its influence to advocate for European integration, and it should throw its support behind the kinds of EU defense efforts that Washington has historically opposed. A stronger, less dependent Europe would meet the United States as a genuine partner, giving Washington new reason to commit to the relationship. NATO, after all, will be more valuable as an alliance between two military powers than it is as a team led by just one.

“Trump’s Threat to Europe. His First Term Tested the Transatlantic Relationship—but His Second Would Break It,” Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage, FA, 03.22.24.

  • Trump cannot destroy the EU, but he can dramatically undermine NATO. He need not withdraw from the alliance, which would be procedurally messy. He could fill top positions with loyalists who hold Atlanticism in contempt, eroding the trust of the United States’ European allies.
  • In 2025, Trump could try to undo the very methods that the Biden administration has employed to reassure Europe after Russia invaded Ukraine—such as stationing additional troops in Europe and helping to backfill for European countries that were giving their military equipment to Ukraine.
  • Overall, a Ukraine at war does not have anything tangible to offer either to Trump’s businesses or to his political position. Trump does not believe that Ukraine is helping the United States by defending itself, shoring up European security, or boosting U.S. arms manufacturing. He makes no arguments about the intrinsic value of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and European security. To him, these principles are just fodder for negotiation.
  • More likely than a direct Russian assault on NATO would be a Trump-brokered deal that gives Putin control over large parts of Ukraine and, via a withdrawal of U.S. troops stationed in Europe, a nontrivial say in European security.
  • Were he able to sell the destruction of the United States’ historic ties with Europe as a win, he would do so, leaving Ukrainians and Europeans in the lurch, suddenly vulnerable to Russia’s unchecked ambitions. Europe would find itself trapped between the Scylla of an aggressive Russia and the Charybdis of an ambivalent United States, unsure whether it prefers to ignore or exploit Europe. It is no fantasy that, instead of perpetual peace—and instead, even of an iron curtain—chaos could again descend on a continent all too familiar with war.

“How to beat the backlash that threatens the liberal revolution,” Fareed Zakaria, WP, 03.22.24.

  • After three decades of unquestioned American hegemony, the rise of China and the return of Russia have brought us back to an age of great power competition. These nations, as well as some regional powers such as Iran, all seek to disrupt and erode the Western-dominated international system that has ordered the world in recent decades.
    • But this is not simply a response to the United States’ hard power; it is also a reaction to the broad spread of Western liberal ideas. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are allied in one crucial respect: They believe that Western values are alien to their societies and undermine their rule.
  • Since 1945, the annexation of territory by force, once a common occurrence, has become vanishingly rare — which is why Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stands out as a stark anomaly.
  • Many realists have argued that Russia’s revisionist aggression was provoked by the steady growth in the number of NATO members after the Cold War.
  • Putin’s foray into Ukraine can be similarly understood as a war of imperial restoration.
  • The return of great power competition is part of an even larger story tensions over hard power are to be expected when new countries gain power and influence. But the rise of China and the return of Russia must also be understood as acts of cultural balancing — responses not merely to the United States’ geopolitical dominance over the past three decades but also to the spread of liberalism across the globe.

“Both Biden and Trump are foreign-policy flops,” John Bolton, The Economist, 03.12.24.

  • Mr. Trump is serious, but supporters and opponents alike discount the extraordinary risk of America leaving NATO. They call his bluster “negotiating tactics” to spur defense-spending increases, or just “Trump being Trump”. This is a grave error. His complaints about NATO or allies like Japan or South Korea shirking their responsibilities are intended not to strengthen America’s alliances but to be grounds for abandoning them. Some believe his most recent comments suggest he is becoming less inclined to withdraw from NATO. Don’t bet on it.
  • Mr. Trump’s views on NATO assisting Ukraine after Russia’s invasion are similarly dangerous. Nonsensically, Mr. Trump has said he could solve the conflict in 24 hours. Even worse, just weeks ago Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister and a friend of Mr. Trump, said that Mr. Trump “will not give a penny into the Ukraine-Russia war and therefore the war will end…[I]f the Americans do not give money the Europeans are unable to finance this war on their own.” Granted, with Mr. Trump nothing is ever final until it is, and sometimes not even then, but the pattern is unmistakable.
  • Mr. Biden is comparably flawed. In today’s Middle East conflict, he sees only a war between Israel and Hamas. …Instead of focusing on the real culprits—Iran and the terrorists—Mr. Biden now criticizes Israel.
  • Both candidates’ views of China offer further evidence of their foreign-policy flaws.
  • Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump certainly both believe they will benefit politically from their respective approaches. Unfortunately, their understanding of America’s proper place in the world, and of the threats facing it and other Western democracies, is badly flawed, as are their responses. Many American voters despise both candidates, and with good reason. To the delight of America’s enemies, whichever of them wins, a long, grim four years lie ahead.

“Don’t defund the fight against Russia and China’s disinformation,” Editorial Board, WP, 03.19.24.

  • Russia spends about $1.5 billion a year and China $7 billion or more annually to influence overseas audiences.
    • The United States should resist… information warfare. Unfortunately, House Republicans are threatening to eliminate a key U.S. agency that does so.
  • The Global Engagement Center (GEC) counter[s] disinformation from Russia, China, Iran and terrorist organizations.
    • [In Feb. 2024], the GEC exposed an attempt by Russia’s security services to undercut U.S. influence in Africa through a new disinformation agency called African Initiative. Russia’s untruths were picked up and widely disseminated by China, too.
    • [In the fall of 2023], the GEC also unmasked a Russian effort in Latin America. The organization exposed how past Russian officials were launching a disinformation campaign to convince “Latin American audiences that Russia’s war against Ukraine is just” and to get across “Russia’s broader false narrative that it is a champion against neocolonialization.”
  • Conservatives in Congress and elsewhere have complained that the center is part of an effort to muffle conservative speech and ideas in the United States.
    • The center does not look at what goes on inside the United States — all its programs are for fighting disinformation abroad.
  • By eliminating the program altogether, [the House Republicans] would deny the United States a vital tool in a contest for hearts and minds around the world — while rewarding the purveyors of lies.

“From Russia, Elaborate Tales of Fake Journalists,” Steven Lee Myers, NYT, 03.21.24.

  • Russia has unleashed a torrent of disinformation to try to discredit Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and undermine the country’s support in the West.
    • Groups with ties to the Kremlin continue to float new narratives when old ones fail to stick or grow stale.
    • Even when debunked, fabrications like these have proved exceedingly difficult to extinguish entirely.
  • A young man calling himself Mohamed al-Alawi appeared in a YouTube video in August [2023]. He described himself as an investigative journalist in Egypt with a big scoop: The mother-in-law of Ukraine’s president had purchased a villa [in] a resort town on the Red Sea. The story, it turned out, was not true.
    • Four months later, two new videos appeared on YouTube. They said Mohamed al-Alawi had been beaten to death. The suspected killers…Ukraine’s secret service agents. These claims were no more factual than the first.
  • The video first appeared on [August] 20 on a newly created YouTube account that had no previous activity and almost no followers.
    • An article about the video’s claim appeared two days later as a paid advertisement.
    • The article had the byline of Arthur Nkono, who…does not appear to have written any other articles. The article quoted a political scientist, Abdrulrahman Alabassy, who likewise appears not to exist.
    • Within days, reports about the villa appeared on X in French and Romanian and in English on three different Reddit forums.
    • Eight days after the video appeared, Russia[n] state television networks like Channel One, Rossiya 24 and RT…reported it as a major revelation uncovered by a renowned Egyptian investigative journalist.
  • [The story] also appeared on the website of the Middle East Monitor, or MEMO, operated by a well-known nonprofit organization in London.
    • [This process is a] form of “narrative laundering” — moving false claims from unknown or not credible sources to ones that…seem more legitimate.
  • The ramifications of these campaigns are difficult to measure precisely. There are signs, though, that they resonate even when proved false.

For more commentary on the implications of new Cold War see

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“How China, Russia and Iran are forging closer ties,” The Economist, 03.18.24.

  • For much of history, Russia, Iran and China were less chummy. Imperialists at heart, they often meddled in one another’s neighborhoods and jostled for control of Asia’s trade routes. Lately, however, America’s actions have changed the dynamic. In 2020, two years after exiting a deal that limited Iran’s nuclear program, Uncle Sam reimposed an embargo; more penalties were announced in January this year, to punish Iran for supporting Hamas and Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Russia fell under Western sanctions in 2022, after invading Ukraine, and they were recently tightened. Meanwhile, China faces restrictions of its own, which could become much more stringent if Donald Trump is elected president in November. United by a common foe, the trio now vow to advance a common foreign policy: support for a multipolar world no longer dominated by America. All see stronger economic ties as the basis for their new alliance.
  • At this stage the anti-Western entente is worrying but not truly scary. How will it develop over the years and decades to come? The likeliest scenario is that it remains a vehicle that serves China’s interests, rather than becoming a true partnership. China will use it for as long as it can reap opportunistic gains, and stop short of giving it proper wings. China will decline to put weight behind alternative trade routes or payment systems, not wanting to put at risk its business in the West.
  • Yet that might change if America, perhaps during a second Trump presidency, attempts to force China out of Western markets. With nothing more to lose, China would then put far greater resources into forming an alternative bloc, and would inevitably attempt to build on existing relationships and broaden its alliances. Junior partners may not be pleased: their manufacturing industries would suffer as China redirected its exports. America would also suffer: its consumers would pay more for their imports, and in time its leaders would see the first serious challenge to their dominance of the global trading system.

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear and space-based arms:

“Rethinking Strategic Stability,” Dmitri Trenin, Russia in Global Affairs, 03.21.24. Clues from Russian Views.

  • Strategic stability is usually understood as the absence of incentives for either side to launch a massive nuclear strike first. … This concept [strategic stability] emerged in conditions when the USSR achieved a military-strategic parity with the United States while the Cold War between them entered a “mature” phase….. The first quarter of the 21st century, however, is ending in conditions very different from the relative international political stability of the 1970s.
    • The US-centric world order established after the end of the Cold War is facing serious challenges, its foundations are noticeably shaken.
    • The two largest nuclear powers – Russia and the USA – are in a state of direct, albeit indirect, armed conflict. This conflict is officially viewed in Russia as an existential threat. … Moreover, in the course of the Ukraine conflict, the U.S. military-political leadership not only formulated, but also publicly announced the goal of inflicting a strategic military defeat on Russia, despite its  [Russia’s] status of a nuclear power.
      • In this context, the P5 statement made on January 3, 2022 that “a nuclear war should not be started” and that “there can be no winners in it” looks like a relic of the past. …. the concept of strategic stability in its original version, which provided for creation and maintenance of military-technical conditions to prevent a sudden massive nuclear strike – only partially retains its significance in the current conditions.
  • A nuclear war leading to the destruction of civilization may occur in a situation where formally “strategic stability” will be maintained – until the last (in all respects) minute.
  • The real problem of restoring strategic stability, which has been significantly disrupted by the ongoing and flaring conflict, can be solved through strengthening nuclear deterrence.
    • First, it is worth rethinking the concept of deterrence and, in the course of this rethinking, changing its name. For example, instead of essentially passive “deterrence,” one can talk about active “nuclear deterrence” of a probable or potential enemy. The enemy should not be in a state of comfort, thinking that the war, which he is waging with the help of an instrumentalized country, will not affect him in any way. In other words, we need to ensure that fear returns to the minds and hearts of the leaders on the opposite side.
    • Next, we must admit that the limit of purely verbal interventions at this stage of the Ukraine conflict has been exhausted. Channels of communication…. must remain open 24 hours a day, but concrete actions must be taken for the purposes of messaging: doctrinal changes; military exercises to practice these changes; underwater and air patrols along the coasts of a potential enemy; warnings about the preparation of nuclear tests and the tests themselves; the introduction of no-fly zones over part of the Black Sea, and so on.
    • The ladder of escalation does not end here. Military-technical steps may be followed by military actions…. for example, attacks on air bases and supply centers on the territory of NATO countries, and so on.
  •  It’s time for us to start revising the conceptual apparatus that we use in matters of security strategy. We are talking about international security, strategic stability, deterrence, arms control, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and so on. These concepts arose in the process of development of Western – primarily American – political thought….. They are…adapted to solve U.S. foreign policy problems. We tried to adapt them to our needs, but with varying degrees of success. It’s time to move on and develop our own concepts that reflect Russia’s position in the world and its needs.


“Risk reduction can help prevent nuclear crises. Here’s how,” Shawn Rostke, BAS. 03.22.24.

  • There are three areas in which countries can reduce nuclear risks in the absence of more traditional arms control cooperation.
    • First, risk reduction efforts must be focused on reducing the possibility of accidental, inadvertent, or unauthorized use of nuclear assets. To that end, the U.S. “failsafe review” can serve as a model for how nuclear weapons states can take effective unilateral steps to strengthen safeguards and secure stockpiles.
    • Second, risk reduction measures must address the military tensions exerting pressures on nuclear policy. Chiefly, there is a pressing need to maintain and expand deconfliction mechanisms between China and the United States.
    • Third, the establishment of a 21st-century regime of strategic restraint should be a priority. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, or P5, must begin using their unique forum to deepen discussion among themselves on matters of nuclear policies and nuclear risks.
  • No precedent exists for a trilateral nuclear arms control agreement. Short of a change in the security environment, and in the political inclinations of Russia, China, and the United States, a legally ratified treaty appears unlikely. This presents a choice between either accepting a world defined by pervasive distrust and a reliance on military strength to resolve disputes or choosing to narrow the pathways to nuclear use by taking tangible, practical steps toward improving transparency and reducing misunderstanding and miscalculation. Risk reduction measures make the world a safer place regardless of the choice.

“Ukraine and the mind games of nuclear deterrence, Rose Gottemoeller, FT, 03.22.24.

  • The current burst of nuclear talk [by Putin] seems linked to two objectives. First is Putin’s need to worry the Republicans in Congress who are holding up American support for Ukraine: the more he makes them nervous, the better. Second is Putin’s answer to those who say Russia came close to using nuclear weapons in October 2022, when it was the Russian armed forces who, with their backs to the Dnipro River, were poised for defeat. Not so, he says: I had no intention of using nuclear weapons. Hmm. That is not what U.S. intelligence told the White House.
  • All of this chatter is calculated to shape decisions in Washington and other NATO capitals. It is a form of influence-making called “intrawar deterrence”.
  • Escalation and de-escalation in this war are thus far from an orderly ladder — it’s not a matter of straight up and straight down. Instead intrawar deterrence takes place in a multi-faceted environment with many actors. It is a swirl of action involving forces at combat, leaders in Kyiv and Moscow, and the countries of NATO interacting with Russia. The forces that deter are a mysterious mind game. Although not infallible, they have worked so far — especially in preventing nuclear escalation. We need to keep it that way.

“America’s Strategic Posture Is Slouching; We’ve let our nuclear force atrophy while Moscow and Beijing have expanded theirs and gone on offense,” Jon Kyl, WSJ, 03.20.24.

  • The Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States took on its congressionally mandated task of assessing how well the U.S. is positioned to deal with military threats over the coming decades. …Together we submitted a unanimous report to Congress in October 2023 with 131 findings and 81 recommendations for how the U.S. can enhance its ability to deter war with China and Russia. Congress would do well to consider our conclusions during the next several weeks as it prepares to write the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act and following appropriations bills.
  • The U.S. is facing a historically unique global threat environment. Washington is on the cusp of having two nuclear peer adversaries—in Beijing and Moscow—each with ambitions to disrupt the international status quo, by force if necessary. We didn’t expect this and thus are unprepared to respond to it. Two developments drove the commission’s assessment of our nation’s strategic posture.
    • First, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. allowed its nuclear force to atrophy. At the time we considered Russia to be a competitor, not an adversary, and China a less serious challenge.
    • Second is the rapid modernization of Russia’s nuclear forces and China’s military breakout. Beijing intends to create a nuclear triad—land-, sea- and air-based nuclear delivery systems—that it hopes will match that of Russia and the U.S. by 2035.
  • Washington has struggled to modernize its nuclear forces in response to the Russian threat. Worse, the commission found, we have barely begun to develop plans to deal with the new Chinese threat. That is unacceptable, as Russia continues to maul Ukraine and China contemplates an invasion of Taiwan. The U.S. must urgently modernize our strategic deterrent to deal with both threats.
  • Washington needs conventional and nuclear forces strong enough that no adversary would ever be tempted to attack. As the commission concluded: “The challenges are unmistakable; the problems are urgent; the steps are needed now.”

“Buzzword or real threat? How concerns over nuclear capabilities in outer space can trigger the extension of space security discussions,” Laetitia Cesari, FRS, 03.20.24.

  • On 14 February 2024, Mike Turner, Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the U.S. House of Representatives, decided to make public the possibility of a new “serious threat to national security”. Following this announcement, unnamed sources spoke of possible counterspace capabilities, not yet operational, that could penetrate low Earth orbit and neutralize objects that are placed there. Turner therefore “called on the President of the United States, Joe Biden, to declassify information related to these threats so that Congress, the Administration and allies can openly discuss the actions necessary to respond to this threat”
  •  With regard to the risk of unintended escalation, the concerns raised by the possibility of a nuclear counterspace capability designed to be placed in space may serve as a “trigger” for the introduction of effective legal measures. They may invigorate a debate and lead the international community to agree on the best way to prevent an arms race in space. As researcher Jessica West points out , these debates could be a starting point for thinking about these issues in the context of norms of responsible behavior. With the growing awareness of the dangers posed by counterspace capabilities, both nuclear and non-nuclear, it seems that the effectiveness of the international legal instruments currently in force is questioned
  • As the case of February 2024 illustrates, addressing the development of counterspace capabilities is challenging, and nobody knows exactly what type of assets are orbiting the Earth. While the Outer Space Treaty already bans nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction in outer space, it lacks a verification mechanism to ensure compliance. The absence of such a system raises questions about how to effectively enforce this prohibition. Discussions on implementing verification measures are ongoing, but they face significant challenges, including the technological and diplomatic complexities involved. There are concerns about the effectiveness of multilateral processes and how legal prohibitions and the establishment of norms, rules, and principles for responsible behavior in outer space can prevent such a situation, given the limitations of existing agreements.


“Moscow Attack Shows Troubling, Lethal Reach of ISIS,” Bruce Hoffman, CFR, 03.23.24.

  • Is it plausible that ISIS has the capability to mount such an attack? Absolutely. ISIS has staged over half-a-dozen attacks in Russia since 2016. The movement has long deemed Russia as much of an enemy of the Muslim people as the United States. In taking responsibility for the March 22 attack, ISIS credibly claimed “let crusader Russia and its allies know that the mujahideen do not forget to take revenge.”
  • Russia had recently reported foiling an attack in Moscow by the ISIS Afghan affiliate. Does that group have ability to plan and mount attacks outside of Afghanistan? Yes. In testimony before Congress a year ago, U.S. Army General Michael Kurilla, head of U.S. Central Command, warned that ISIS-Khorasan, the branch believed to have been responsible for the Moscow concert attack, could execute “external operations against U.S. or Western interests abroad in under six months with little or no warning.” In January 2023 the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Christine Abizaid, told congress that ISIS-K was the “threat actor I am most concerned about. We see concerning indications of ISIS-Khorasan in Afghanistan and its ambition that might go beyond that immediate territory.”
  • Why didn’t Russia heed the recent terrorism warning from U.S. officials? The United States earlier this month had warned Russia that “extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow.” No more specific information as to the target, the timing, or the type of attack was provided—at least according to published reports. Accordingly, the warning was bereft of the “actionable intelligence” that might have enabled Russian authorities to implement effective security measures. Nonetheless, this again underscores the advantage of shock and surprise that terrorists possess against their state opponents. Terrorists can conceivably attack anywhere, at any time of their choosing, using whatever tactics and weapons they possess. It is impossible for governments, even with suitable advance warning, to defend every target, everywhere across a city much less a country from every possible type of attack.

“Moscow attack proves Russia — and U.S. — have lost sight of priorities,” Anatol Lieven, Responsible Statecraft, 03.25.24.

  • The Islamic State terrorist attack in Moscow is the starkest possible reminder that despite the war in Ukraine, Russia and the West also still have some of the same enemies. What the terrorists — ISIS-K an Afghanistan offshoot of IS took responsibility — did in Moscow, they have done in Paris and Manchester — and will do (and did do, on 9/11) in New York and Washington, if they get the chance.
  • This horror is also a reminder of the fatal results of mutual distrust. It appears that U.S. intelligence warned the Russian government of an impending attack — and President Putin dismissed this as a U.S. “provocation.” In the event that Russian intelligence were to warn the U.S. of a coming terrorist attack, it is only too easy to imagine Washington reacting in the same way.
  • Moreover, the attack should make us think about the degree to which governments and security elites around the world are liable to lose sight of the real interests and safety of their fellow citizens — which it is their first duty to defend. In their obsessive focus on the supposed threat from each other, both the Russian and the U.S. establishments have forgotten this duty.
  • Today, although IS has publicly claimed responsibility for the attack in Moscow, President Putin is seeking to blame it on Ukraine. Unless he can provide real evidence for it, the Russian elites should reject this charge. Otherwise, once again, they will be failing to defend their fellow citizens against the real threats facing them.
  • It is absolutely unconscionable that after the U.S. warning, and the example of the dreadful terrorist attack on a Moscow theater in 2002, the Crocus hall was left unguarded. This was criminal negligence on the part of the Russian authorities, and we must hope that senior officials will resign in shame or be severely punished.

“How Will Putin Respond to the Terrorist Attack in Moscow?” By Joshua Yaffa, New Yorker, 03.24.24.

  • It’s hard to imagine the Kremlin doing more to empower the F.S.B. in its hunt for enemies, real or imagined, or to further erode Russia’s democratic institutions. Similarly, can Russia realistically escalate its attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure, given that, on March 22, hours before the terror attack, dozens of Russian missile and drone strikes hit energy facilities across the country? Putin could instead try to have Russians forget about the horrors at Crocus City Hall, or at least move on without much fanfare, lest they arrive at difficult questions for him and the state. Or he may attempt, as he did in the first hours after the attack, to replace the prospect of real evil with a more suitable enemy. Wartime creates its own logic of expediency; the same is true for late-stage autocracies obsessed with their survival. Putin, then, may well indeed find a response to the massacre, even if it has little to do with those who carried it out.

“Terror Attack in Crocus City: Hall Traces of Ukraine?” Tatyana Stanovaya’s R.Politik Weekly Digest No. 12 (26) 2024, 18 March – 24 March 2024, 03.24.24. Clues from Russian Views

  • The Afghan branch of IS, Wilayah Khorasan (IS-K), are now the main suspects [but]:
    • The Russian authorities are maintaining an ambiguous stance over whether Ukraine was involved in official statements. The FSB cited that the terrorists had connections with Ukraine. Putin also stated that they had received assistance, although this does not imply that he believes that Kyiv is directly responsible.
    • An explicit anti-Western narrative has also emerged. Reuters reported that the United States is in possession of intelligence corroborating IS’s responsibility for the Moscow shooting.
  • Many in the anti-Putin camp, though, suspect the Kremlin, viewing the attack as a pretext for introducing total mobilization and tightening control.
  • The terror attack is a significant challenge for Putin, highlighting a vulnerability he has always been concerned about. Independent media outlets highlighted that the attack could have been prevented, at least in part, if the building and its security systems had been adequately prepared. Fire alarms were non-operational, metal detectors were out of service, security personnel were unarmed and exits were obstructed.
  • Another consequence is the rise in anti-migrant sentiment.

“Vladimir Putin begins Operation Blame Ukraine. The Kremlin senses an opportunity in the tragedy of Crocus City Hall,” The Economist, 03.24.24.

  • Part of Mr. Putin’s reluctance to go all-in on blaming Ukraine [for the terrorist attack in the Crocus City Hall] might reflect a worry that the American government is sitting on intelligence that could undermine such a claim. Part might be embarrassment at his security agencies’ failure to act on American warnings on March 7th of an imminent attack. Indeed, just three days before the assault Mr. Putin had brushed off that intelligence as “blackmail.” Such a hubristic blunder would have consequences in a country where power can be held to account. Russia is not such a country.
  • The attack nevertheless represents a blow to the reputation of Mr. Putin and the security services on which he depends… an Islamist terrorist group capitalized on Russia’s wartime distractions, ethnic tensions and economic difficulties. Russia offers obvious opportunities for infiltration for poor migrants from the mostly Muslim former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Unofficial figures suggest that Russia has up to 8m migrants from Tajikistan alone.
  • The Kremlin will no doubt use the Moscow attack as a pretext to tighten the domestic screws further. … there [also] is propaganda value in blaming Ukraine, and economic risks attached to threatening migrant workers. So the Kremlin is unlikely to deal with its security vulnerabilities systematically.

Vladimir Putin’s “Address to citizens of Russia,” official web site of the Russian president, 03.23.24. Clues from Russian Views.

  • I am addressing you today in connection with a horrific and savage act of terrorism, which claimed the lives of dozens of peaceful, innocent people – our compatriots, including children, teenagers, and women. Doctors are fighting to save the lives of the victims in critical condition.
  • All perpetrators, organizers and masterminds of this crime will face fair and inevitable punishment, whoever they may be and whoever directed them. I emphasize once more: we will identify and bring to justice each and every individual who stands behind these terrorists, those who orchestrated this atrocity, this assault against Russia and our people.
  • We understand what the terrorist threat means. In this regard, we rely on cooperation with all states that sincerely share our pain and are ready to really join forces in the fight against a common enemy, international terrorism and all its manifestations.
  • Terrorists, murderers, those inhumane individuals who have no nationality and cannot have one, face one and the same gloomy prospect – retribution and oblivion. They have no future. Our common duty now, shared by our comrades–in-arms at the front and all citizens of our country, is to stand united as one. I am confident that we will, for nothing and no one can shake our unity and will, our determination and courage, the strength of the united people of Russia. No force will be able to sow the poisonous seeds of discord, panic or disunity in our multi-ethnic society.
  • Russia has weathered the most arduous, sometimes unbearable trials more than once, yet it has emerged even stronger. And so it shall be now, as well.

Vladimir Putin’s “Meeting on measures taken after the terrorist attack in Crocus City Hall,” official website of the Russian president, 03.25.24. Clues from Russian Views.[3]

  • We know that the crime was committed by radical Islamists, whose ideology the Islamic world itself has been fighting for centuries. But we also see that the United States, through various channels, is trying to convince its satellites and other countries of the world that, according to their intelligence data, there is supposedly no Kiev trace in the Moscow terrorist attack, that the bloody terrorist attack was carried out by followers of Islam, members of the ISIS organization banned in Russia.
  • We know by whose hands this atrocity was committed against Russia and its people. We are interested in who has ordered it[4]. …. For example: are radical and even terrorist Islamic organizations really interested in striking Russia, which today stands for a fair solution to the escalating Middle East conflict?[5] And how do radical Islamists, who position themselves, by the way, as devout Muslims, professing so-called pure Islam, commit serious atrocities and crimes during the month of Ramadan, which is holy for all Muslims?
  • One thing is absolutely clear: the terrible crime committed on March 22 in the capital of Russia is an act of intimidation…….And the question immediately arises: who benefits from this? This atrocity may be only a link in a whole series of attempts by those who have been fighting our country since 2014.

For more analysis of the counter-terrorism issue see and/or listen

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • No significant developments.

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

“Jailed in Putin’s Russia for Speaking the Truth,” NYT Editorial Board, 03.22.24.

  • The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented that at least 320 members of the press were behind bars around the globe as 2024 began. In Vladimir Putin’s police state, at least 22 journalists are jailed, most for committing that most elemental of journalistic duties, speaking the truth. Two of them are American reporters.
    • One of them, Evan Gershkovich of The Wall Street Journal, will soon mark a year in the infamous Lefortovo prison, awaiting trial on charges of espionage.
    • The other, Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was arrested while visiting her mother and has been in detention since October.
  • The charges against both are a travesty. Their incarceration is a violation of their rights and an assault on foreign journalists that is even more egregious than what transpired under Soviet rule. The Biden administration should continue to do all in its power to secure their freedom.
  • Mr. Putin, having yet again consolidated his power as Russia’s leader, is unlikely to be moved by the American government’s pressure or censure about his treatment of journalists. Yet it remains incumbent on the United States government and on institutions of the free press to explore every avenue to win the release of Ms. Kurmasheva and Mr. Gershkovich and to continue to insist, using whatever diplomatic tools are available to them, that Mr. Putin cease intimidating journalists.
  • Journalists in Russia who are working to break through the obstacles and traps he has set are performing a critical service in shedding light on his authoritarian and expansionist project. He fears them for a reason, and for that same reason they deserve the unflagging support of all those who cherish freedom.

“A Genuine Case of Collusion, When an American Presidential Candidate Made a Deal With Stalin,” Benn Steil, FA, 03.19.24.

  • It is a virtual given that Russia will try to manipulate the United States’ 2024 general election.
    • The 2024 election will not be the first one Moscow has meddled in. Whether or not the [former President Donald] Trump campaign’s coordination effort met [the collusion] threshold, an earlier U.S. presidential candidate’s effort most certainly did.
  • In 1948, Henry Wallace, the former agriculture secretary, commerce secretary and vice president under President Franklin Roosevelt…challenged President Harry Truman in the general election.
    • He set out to tar Truman as a warmonger…and convince the American public that the nascent Cold War… might be ended instantly by a Wallace victory. That meant working secretly with Soviet officials.
  • There was to be no Cold War simply because…Wallace needed American voters to believe it had been created by…Truman and that its cessation required only Wallace’s election.
  • Wallace wrote an “open letter” to [Soviet leader Joseph] Stalin proposing steps the two sides should take to end the Cold War. Some of those steps had been indicated to him by Stalin himself.
    • One week later, Stalin issued his public endorsement.
  • Wallace’s collusion with Stalin in 1948, however, suggests a red flag for 2024.
    • Trump has already said that he would end the war in Ukraine in a day. Collusion between Trump and [President Vladimir] Putin in the form of…a bogus peace pledge would therefore make perfect political sense.

II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Putin’s Next Term: More Repression in Russia, Aggression in Ukraine,” Angela Stent, USIP, 03.19.24.

  • For the Kremlin, high voter turnout of over 70%, the absence of any opposition figures on the ballot and over 87% of the population voting for Putin will solidify his role as one of Russia’s greatest leaders in the past millennium, equal to the two tsars he admires most—Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, both of whom expanded the Russian empire’s borders.
  • Now that Putin has won a fifth term, what will he do in the next six years?
    • The message to the Russian people is that there is no alternative to Putin. The election has solidified Putin’s role as a wartime leader and the main focus of his next term will be winning the war in Ukraine.
    • There are rumors of a possible government reshuffle. Putin has never hinted at a potential successor, and he can remain in office until 2036 since he changed the constitution in 2020. So, he is unlikely to groom someone to succeed him. His prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, a technocrat, has presided over an economy that has withstood Western sanctions and had a growth rate higher than that of most European countries last year, largely because the Russian economy is on a wartime footing. Nevertheless, Mishustin is not associated with the war in Ukraine and Putin may appoint a more hawkish leader of the government. There may be other personnel changes too.
    • The Kremlin has already outlawed all opposition groups and closed down critical media. Putin may introduce even more repressive laws now that he has been re-anointed.
    • As Russia’s war with Ukraine continues, with very high casualty rates, more troops in the field are needed. Will there be another general mobilization? The last time Putin tried to mobilize, hundreds of thousands of Russia men fled the country. The Kremlin may not want to repeat that situation and may focus instead on recruiting contract
    • Putin has made it abundantly clear that Russia must succeed in its “special military operation” in Ukraine. This means “denazification” (i.e., regime change) and Ukraine accepting the loss of the four territories Russia has claimed to annex, none of which it fully controls. Putin has said Russia is ready for negotiations—but only if Ukraine agrees to surrender. He is awaiting the results of the 2024 U.S. presidential election and hoping that the next U.S president will end U.S. assistance to Ukraine. He is also watching Europe argue about how much and what kind of military assistance to provide Ukraine and is waiting for the transatlantic consensus for supporting Ukraine to crumble.
    •  Russia will probably ramp up its military action in Ukraine, continuing its relentless assault on cities and civilian populations, as well as on Ukrainian infrastructure.
    • Relations with the West are unlikely to improve. Putin believes that Russia is in an existential conflict with NATO and has hinted that the war could extend to other countries. Moldova would be the next country to watch, because of its vulnerability. The occupants of Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova whose inhabitants are Russian or pro-Russian, recently asked Russia to provide them with “assistance,” raising concerns that Moldova might be next on Putin’s list of countries to invade. It is unclear, however, whether Russia would have the resources to launch another military operation while it is fighting in Ukraine.
    • Russia-China relations will continue to strengthen during Putin’s fifth term, despite the asymmetries in the relationship.
  • So, Putin’s fifth term will see increased domestic repression, continued aggression in Ukraine, continued close ties with China and Russia consolidating its position in much of the non-Western world.

“The meaning of Russia’s presidential election,” Nigel Gould-Davis, IISS, 03.20.24.

  • Vladimir Putin’s overwhelming victory in Russia’s 2024 presidential election was a foregone conclusion. But the conduct and context of the vote offer three insights into the country’s condition and point to the regime’s likely evolution.
    • The first indicator is how far the Kremlin went to ensure Putin’s victory.
    • Secondly, the Kremlin ran this as a war-time election from the start, when Putin announced his intention to run at a meeting with serving soldiers.
    • The third implication of the election is the weakness of public opposition
  •  Russia’s war in Ukraine, and by extension its war against the West, will increasingly become the raison d’être of Putin’s rule. Those who think a negotiated end to the war is feasible, and that Ukraine’s unwillingness to compromise is the main obstacle, would do well to ponder this.

“Putin’s Hidden Weakness. New Evidence Shows Many Russians Support Him—but Not the War,” Timothy Frye, Henry Hale, Ora John Reuter, and Bryn Rosenfeld, FA, 03.25.24.

  • In Russia’s presidential election in mid-March, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially won his fifth term with 87% of the vote and the highest reported turnout in the country’s post-Soviet history. …..these numbers are far from a reliable indicator of popular support for the war. … In fact, despite the Kremlin’s massive effort to drum up support, nearly one in four Putin backers opposes continuing the war, and roughly the same number say they are unsure whether they support the war (19%) or decline to answer the question (four percent). This means that only slightly more than half of Putin supporters—54%—think Russia should continue the war that Putin has championed since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
    • Among all Russian voters, support for Putin’s war is even softer. In October 2023, just 43% of Russians said they backed continuing what the Kremlin refers to as its “special military operation.” When asked to identify their position on the war, a third of those surveyed chose the response, “No, I do not support the continuation of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine,” and nearly a quarter declined to state an opinion.
  • These findings are both good and bad news for Ukraine and its allies. Waning support for the war among Russian citizens will not, in itself, compel Putin to end his assault on the country. Given the Kremlin’s extensive suppression of civil society and public dissent, he can continue to wage war without strong popular backing for it. The lack of popular enthusiasm, however, could complicate this effort. In the absence of firm public support, Putin will need to rely more heavily on repression to forestall opposition.
  • Putin’s policies have not always followed public opinion, but he has generally avoided taking steps—such as steep increases in the pension age—that are broadly unpopular, and military mobilization certainly falls within this category. Moreover, despite the Kremlin’s best efforts, even staunch Putin supporters are largely ambivalent about the war. That the Kremlin devotes so much energy to snuffing out even trivial forms of antiwar activity suggests that it is acutely aware of the danger that such discontent poses—a danger that even an overwhelming electoral victory cannot hide.

“Russians Are Growing Tired of War; The people may cheer Putin, but they are increasingly resentful of the sacrifices he asks them to make,” Amy Knight, WSJ, 03.21.24.

  • In a new report, the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service says Russians are suffering from “war fatigue.” The prevalent sentiment “is weariness, coupled with a desire to minimize the war’s direct impact on themselves personally and those close to them.” It is hardly surprising that Russians are tiring of the war. Inflation, which reached 7.4% in January, has meant steep rises for ordinary foodstuffs. Salaries have increased for those in defense-related industries, and soldiers are well paid. But many Russians are feeling the crunch. A survey by the Russian Central Bank last month revealed that 28% of respondents were struggling to buy food and clothing.
  • With the election over, Mr. Putin reportedly plans to introduce some unpopular measures he has been putting off. A second mobilization of troops, which could trigger social unrest, appears likely. The Russian army has suffered heavy losses and soldiers recruited a year and a half ago haven’t been rotated. If the Russian government decides to stop supporting the ruble, the Russian consumer will experience a further decline in purchasing power.
  • Members of the Russian elite may also be suffering from war fatigue. As numerous sources have reported, Mr. Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, made without consulting key members of his leadership, caused considerable consternation among Kremlin officials. They jumped on the bandwagon and voiced enthusiastic support for the military campaign, but Russia’s lack of success on the battlefield and Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny last June seemed to confirm their doubts. Tatiana Stanovaya of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote in August that “most senior officials, businessmen, and politicians had hoped to simply wait out the war, but now they find themselves hostage to Putin’s ambitions.”
  • “While the Putin regime has managed to maintain an ‘imposed consensus’ around the war in Russian public space, in reality, the ‘support for the war’ of the median electorate is internally contradictory, unstable, and unconsolidated,” observed political analyst Kirill Rogov. “Events can lead to unexpected shifts. “One such event would be what Mr. Putin fears most: a U.S. delivery of enough military aid for Ukraine to reverse Russia’s recent battlefield gains and mount a successful counteroffensive.

“Putin’s Extraordinary Ratings,” Denis Volkov, Russia.Post, 03.22.24. Clues from Russian Views.

  • The results of the presidential elections held on March 15-17 were largely predetermined by the events of February 2022. The outbreak of hostilities, which the majority of Russians (following the lead of the Russian elites) perceived as a confrontation between Russia and the West, doubled Vladimir Putin’s electoral prospects. The number of Russians who want him to be re-elected for a new presidential term increased from 42% at the end of 2021 to 78% at the end of 2023. Over the same period, the number of Russians who chose “Putin” when asked who they wanted to be president in an open poll with no additional prompts increased from 32% to 58%.
  • In Russia, the consolidation of public opinion surrounding the president can be seen not only in his growing ratings, but also in the content and tone of the conversations held in our focus groups. In 2019-2021, participants who sympathized with Putin were not always able to find a clear motive for their support, often answering the question with a question: “Who, if not Putin?” But with the onset of the military operation, these responses changed. “In the eyes of the loyal majority, Putin has become Russia’s main, irreplaceable defender against the existential threat posed by the United States and its NATO allies.”
  • Aside from Putin, the only other candidates were little-known politicians who were unable to convey what they stand for or who they are addressing during the two months of campaigns. By the end of February, almost two-thirds of respondents were unable to answer the question of whose interests are represented by Leonid Slutsky, Nikolai Kharitonov or Vladislav Davankov. And in the case of Boris Nadezhdin, who was not registered to participate in the elections, three-quarters of respondents found it difficult to respond.
  • The candidate who collected the votes of most of the opposition voters was Vyacheslav Davankov. This is evidenced by the high percentage of votes cast for him in opposition districts — the intellectual districts of Moscow, St. Petersburg or Novosibirsk, as well as in foreign cities with a large concentration of new wave emigrants, such as Astana, Yerevan or Barcelona. The same result is found in opinion polls. …..Among those who planned to vote for Davankov, support for the actions of the Russian armed forces polled at about 28%, while three-quarters favored a ceasefire and transition to peace negotiations. However, there is no guarantee that Vladislav Davankov will be able to retain the sympathy of the opposition electorate in the future, especially following the statements he made immediately after the elections, in which he came out as an ardent supporter of Putin and the Russian armed forces.

“Russia’s 2024 Election Has Established New Voting Standards,” Andrey Pertsev, CEIP, 03.21.24.Clues from Russian Views.

  • Russia’s presidential election this month officially broke all the records. President Vladimir Putin received an unprecedented 87.3% of the vote amid turnout of 77.4%. His sparring partners got a meager 3–4% of the vote: two or three times less than the ratings of the parties that nominated them. Voting has conclusively transformed into an elaborate performance for a single spectator, and previously concealed methods for “correcting” the results of voting, such as mobilizing both public sector and corporate employees, are now proudly on show and have de facto been legalized.
  • The presidential administration’s political bloc headed by Sergei Kiriyenko had been quite open about the fact that it was aiming to set a record, having promised Putin more than 80% of the vote with a turnout of no less than 70%. Kiriyenko began heading the political bloc of the presidential administration back in 2016, and by the 2018 presidential election he was already using the system of key performance indicators commonly used by private businesses.
  • The KPIs are usually surpassed, and this time was no exception. In the 2018 election, when the KPI for Putin’s share of the vote was 70%, the president’s official result was 76.7% (although turnout fell short of the target by 2.5%). Kiriyenko’s tactic is clear: he draws inspiration not only from corporate management practices, but also from the legacy of the Soviet Union, when if workers fulfilled the plan, they were simply not punished. If they surpassed it, however, they were rewarded. Accordingly, the political bloc always sets the KPI slightly below what it believes to be feasible, and then outdoes itself.
  • This time around, the RBC news agency reported that the Kremlin’s formula for creating the appearance of electoral legitimacy would be 75% of the vote for Putin amid a turnout of 70%. But those figures were presented to regional authorities with a slightly different wording: “75% or more.” This meant they were interpreted as stating that 80% was the bar they needed to reach in order to avoid punishment.
  • If Kiriyenko’s predecessors Vladislav Surkov and Vyacheslav Volodin still had to consider the image projected by any tactics, those concerns are long gone. Today’s coerced voters are a world away from the unfortunates who a decade ago were secretly driven to special polling stations, as far as possible from the watchful eye of election observers. This time around, they were part of the pageantry of the election
  • Of course, these new standards do not represent any kind of guarantee against a crisis for the Kremlin. There have been multiple occasions in history when autocratic leaders have won supposedly record percentages in elections only to be toppled in a few short years. Kiriyenko likely knows this perfectly well, but what’s currently more important to him is bringing in impressive numbers for his boss and receiving personal bonuses and perks for his team for doing so. Right now, his standards work just fine, above all for the leadership of the administration’s political bloc itself.

“How the Putin Phenomenon Happened by Accident,” Konstantin Sonin, MT, 03.20.24.

  • Putin does not possess any qualities that would distinguish him from other Russian politicians, other than the office he holds. He is an uninspiring speaker, his expressions are formulaic, if not outright primitive. He is slow to absorb new information and struggles to remember names and numbers. He struggles to grasp the mood of his audience, and has a mediocre, thuggish sense of humor at best.
  • Not surprisingly, he never made an impression on anyone until he gained power. Once he did, his apparent charm was the product of the respect commanded by his office, not his personality…. Putin is not the only uninspiring person to have led Russia — look at Nicholas II….By contrast, Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader murdered on Putin’s orders, made an impression wherever he went whether among seasoned diplomats at an embassy reception or inmates in a prison colony. If Putin were to enter a room unannounced, no one would notice him.
  • The origin of the “Putin phenomenon” lies in the fact that the Russian state was built and solidified around this average individual. The result could never be effective, and turned out to be tragic.   A decade and a half of stagnation, during which the country fell further behind the world each year, culminated in a war that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives, a wave of repression that led to hundreds of thousands of refugees, the destruction of science and education, and the creation of a new economic model that sets the stage for a crisis after the war ends. But whether this story will convince the country that it needs a different model to live and thrive is yet unclear.

“Russia’s Ideological Construction in the Context of the War in Ukraine Russie,” Marlène Laruelle, Eurasie. Reports, No. 46, Ifri, March 2024.

  • With the full-scale war, the more hawkish section of the Russian establishment has been triumphing over the more reformist one. The authorities have moved toward a much more rigid ideological structure, to the point that one can now talk about an official ideology, even if it has not yet reached the level of a state ideology—which would necessitate changing the Russian Constitution. This ideology sees resistance against foreign hostility as the driving force of Russia’s history and having a powerful and unchallenged state as the only way for the country to survive and thrive.
  • Yet to date, the Kremlin has not recreated a Soviet-style ideological monolith: even in the context of war, it appears hesitant to engage in excessive “true teaching”, preferring a functional, technocratic understanding of ideology. It allows for some improvisation, personal interpretations, indifference, and multiple answers to any given question, as long as one stays within a set of non-negotiable values stressing Russia’s greatness and the threat coming from the West. The current ideological construction is thus both more flexible and more organic than the Soviet doctrine and is capable of adapting to quickly evolving realities.
  • A major challenge for the regime is to find the right balance between mobilization and demobilization, balancing ideological routinization that would situate the war as the “new normal” with the risk of losing attraction and meaningfulness.
  • What does the future hold? Thus far, the state’s ideological construction provides narratives and worldviews that make sense of the present reality for a majority of Russian citizens. It has succeeded at silencing the minority that disagrees, deploying vertical repressive measures and taking advantage of horizontal pressures that cause people to self-censor to avoid cognitive dissonance with their social environment and their loved ones. The authorities’ ability to find the right balance between, on one side, mobilizing provincial and rural Russia to go to war through ideological and material motivations and, on the other side, shielding the rest of society—and especially the middle classes—from the impact of the same war will be critical to the long-term success or failure of state ideology.

For more commentary on Russian politics see

Defense and aerospace:

  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

No significant developments.

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

“Israel, Seeking Russia’s Help on Iran, Is Loath to Support Kyiv,” Steven Erlanger, Adam Sella, NYT, 03.19.24.

  • Israel, though heavily dependent on support from the United States, Germany and other Western nations, has been noticeably out of step with them when it comes to relations with Russia during its war of conquest in Ukraine. Long before Hamas attacked Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, the country refused Ukrainian requests to send arms or to apply widespread sanctions on Russia, including stopping flights to the country. Despite the eagerness of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, himself Jewish, to visit the country and show solidarity after the attack, he has never made the trip.
  • The reasons reflect Israel’s unique security needs and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s delicate relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a primary supporter of Israel’s enemies in the region whom Israel cannot afford to offend. As Israel’s war with Hamas enters its sixth month, Mr. Netanyahu needs Mr. Putin’s good will to help constrain Iran in particular and to continue to strike Iranian targets in Syria while trying to avoid harming the forces Russia maintains there. So Mr. Netanyahu has consistently given the Russian leader wide latitude, even at the risk of alienating Israel’s main allies in Europe and the United States.
  • Arkady Mil-Man, a former Israeli ambassador to Russia now at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that Mr. Netanyahu appeared to ignore that ”Israel is perceived as an enemy by the Russians.” The relationship between Israel and Russia would only worsen, he said, because ”the Russians chose a clearly anti-Israeli side.”
  • But Israel can hardly afford a break in relations. A significant number of Israeli citizens emigrated from the former Soviet Union and made their lives in Israel. But Israel still has a stake in looking out for the Jewish population that remains in Russia. In late October, a mob stormed a Russian airport to search for Jews on an incoming flight from Israel.
  • ‘We want to maintain the door open,” said Sarah Fainberg, the director of Tel Aviv University’s research program on Russia and China’s role in the Middle East. It was important that the Jewish Agency, a nonprofit that helps Jews immigrate to Israel, remained operational in Russia, she said: ”We want to be able to rescue this population in times of emergency.” While antisemitism isn’t new in Russia, Ms. Fainberg said, Mr. Putin’s new antagonism toward Israel has raised concerns. ”Formerly, we thought there was an antisemitic Russia but a pro-Jewish president,” she said. ”Now things have changed.”

“Putin Wants War in the Balkans; Russia is exploiting ethnic tensions as Serbia threatens violence against Kosovo and secessionists threaten a Bosnian collapse,” Mark Montgomery, Ivana Stradner, WSJ, 03.18.24.

  • As all eyes are on Ukraine, another conflict is brewing in Europe. Three decades after the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia, recent clashes between Serbia and Kosovo have reignited lingering ethnic conflicts. While Serbia is driving events on the ground, Moscow is fanning the flames.
  • The right regional crisis would give the Kremlin an opportunity to gain local influence through arms dealing and mediation, while diverting attention from Ukraine and giving Russia leverage over Western leaders. The Western Balkans are a perfect candidate. Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina aren’t NATO members. Just as Moscow seeks to dominate what it calls the “Russian world,” Serbia has long called to unite the “Serbian world.” In 1998, that concept spurred Serbia to invade Kosovo—a conflict that ended only with NATO’s March 1999 military intervention to end Serbian human-rights abuses against the ethnic Albanian population.
  • And this isn’t the only powder keg in the region. Bosnia and Herzegovina is also teetering on the verge of collapse. Late last year, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, another Russian ally, threatened that his semiautonomous region, Republika Srpska, would secede from the country. In the coming months, this could reignite the ethnic violence that killed more than 100,000 people during the 1992-95 Bosnian War.
  • In a Feb. 5 report, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence said it expects an increased risk of interethnic violence in 2024 in the Western Balkans. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned late last year that Russia has plans to destabilize the Balkans, a worry British Foreign Minister David Cameron echoed in January.
  • Western powers must prevent further instability in the Balkans. NATO should refocus military and diplomatic resources there and reinforce military commitments in Kosovo. A coalition of willing NATO members should publicly commit now to provide military assistance if Serbia or Russia take aggressive steps in the Balkans.
  • Meanwhile, the U.S. should continue to impose sanctions on officials who undermine security in the Western Balkans, and the European Union should join. Washington and its allies should also continue to use declassified intelligence to support their diplomacy. And NATO should deploy counter-hybrid warfare teams to combat Russian and Serbian propaganda campaigns with improved cybersecurity.

For more commentary on Russia’s foreign policy see


“The Tyranny of Expectations. Winning the Battle but Losing the War, From Ukraine to Israel,” Dominic Tierney, FA, 03.25.24.

  • In early 2022, much of the world applauded the heroic Ukrainian troops who held back Russian forces outside the gates of Kharkiv and Kyiv. “… Two years later, Ukrainian soldiers are again resisting massive Russian military assaults, this time in Donetsk, Luhansk, and elsewhere. But now there are far fewer cheers. Instead of celebrating Ukrainian valor, many observers are chiding the country for not turning the tide and going on the offensive.
  • The global shift in perceptions is an example of the tyranny of expectations—or how assumptions about who will win a war can skew judgments about who prevails. Outside observers, both experts and laypeople alike, do not evaluate military results by simply tallying up the battlefield gains and losses. Instead, they compare these results to their expectations. As a result, states can lose territory and still be deemed winners if they overperform. States can take land and be labeled losers if they underdeliver. The resulting conclusions about the winners and losers, however skewed, can even rebound and shape the battlefield. Ukraine, for example, lost territory during the initial weeks of Russia’s invasion. But Kyiv’s unexpectedly resolute defense earned it widespread Western assistance, which helped it liberate numerous cities in the following months.
  • The tyranny of expectations is also at work in another major war: the Israeli campaign in Gaza. When this conflict began, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a grandiose promise that his country would “crush and destroy” Hamas. Declaring that he would eradicate the group completely was a mistake. Hamas is amorphous, dispersed, and heavily armed, which means it is almost impossible for Israel to abolish. Netanyahu’s pledge makes it extremely difficult for Israel to be seen as the clear-cut winner of the war. When expectations and reality clash, crisis often follows. Israeli disillusionment with Netanyahu’s war could cause a seismic shock in Israeli politics.

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

“Ukraine’s War Is Killing Another Country. How Moldova’s fate has become tightly tied up with its neighbor’s,” Paul Hockenos, FP, 03.21.24.

  • Moldova is a multiethnic country that wears its patchwork diversity on its sleeve. Particularly in urban centers, the majority Romanians live very much together with Ukrainians, Russians, and the Turkic Gagauz. But the war in Ukraine has completely upended the tenuous status quo that existed before February 2022. The war’s outcome, whether in Ukraine’s or Russia’s favor, has existential consequences for the tiny country nursing aspirations of joining the European Union.
  • Above all, Moldovans fear being squashed in a power struggle in which they have no say. Many observers see a slow, gentle reintegration of Transnistria into a federally structured Moldova as a first step in the right direction—Sandu’s chosen path. The Sandu government is seizing the moment as a unique opportunity to reconnect with Transnistria—and from there, to bring the entire country, as one, into the EU. The carrots of cross-border employment prospects, full Schengen Area travel rights, European structural and investment funds, minority rights guarantees, and higher wages could be enticing to everyone—save, of course, Transnistria’s criminals.
  • In terms of a proven mentor, there’s none better than Romania, which has surged to become Eastern Europe’s second-largest economy after Poland. The question is whether Sandu can pull this off without shattering the fragile country in the process. But then, the war raging next door might just take care of that for her.

“The Caucasus region between West and East,” Sergei Markedonov, RIAC, 03.22.24.[6] Clues from Russian Views.

  • Currently, a resetting of regional security is under way in the Transcaucasia. Formats and models of relationships that seemed unshakable just yesterday are being transformed and reevaluated. Along with the players who have traditionally been active in the region, new actors are emerging with their own ambitions and ideas about the ideal Caucasus.
  • If you try to describe the Caucasian regional security system with some single formula or metaphor, then the image of a busy and poorly regulated intersection comes to mind. On the one hand, there is competition between regulators, and it concerns not only great powers, but also middle and small powers. On the other hand, the moving states themselves strive to follow one or another set of rules, not in accordance with either past agreements or the approaches of regulators. And sometimes without even taking into account the interests of passengers.
  • For many years, the “3+3” format has been discussed in the context of security in the Caucasus, but it exists in at least two versions: Iranian and Turkish. And if the first option is focused on strict regional determinism (three countries in the region plus three Eurasian giant neighbors), then the second, formally offering the same thing, is more flexible and takes into account the multi-level cooperation of the Turkish Republic with the West. For Russia, an exclusive regional version, especially taking into account the trends of 2014–2023, seems more profitable. But no matter how Ankara, Moscow and Tehran strive to protect themselves from external influence, it is unlikely to be contained. And this is not just about NATO, because the Caucasus region is experiencing the impact of not only “Westernization”, but also “Easternization”.
  • Both China and India are looking at the Caucasus with interest, and they have not yet deployed their resources here, at least in the Central Asian format. But today their participation in Caucasian affairs is becoming more and more noticeable. China is one of Georgia’s three largest trading partners. Despite Tbilisi’s strategic interaction with NATO, the U.S. and the EU, this country was the first to sign a free trade agreement with China. The implementation of the ambitious Chinese project “One Belt, One Road” strongly dictates the involvement of the countries of the Caucasus, at the same time, the countries of the region themselves see in Beijing a player distancing both from Moscow, and especially from Washington, that is, they hope to see a third line in Chinese policy, allowing us to escape the dilemmas of Cold War 2.0.
  • Indian involvement in Caucasian affairs is also gaining momentum. The proximity of Azerbaijan to Pakistan is a constant irritant for India, and, as a result, the Indian side has an interest in cooperation with Armenia – hence the large-scale cooperation between the countries in the field of arms. Delhi also has a significant interest in the North-South corridor, and here there is a connection with the Russian Federation and Iran, which causes certain phobias in the West. At the same time, Azerbaijan remains India’s largest trading partner. The Indian side exports goods worth $79.4 million to the Caspian republic, and imports from it worth $595 million, which significantly exceeds the figures for Georgia and Armenia.

Shifting the general theoretical principles of such a phenomenon as globalization onto Caucasian soil, it becomes obvious: the problems of Baku and Yerevan, Tbilisi and Sukhumi today concern not only the center of the once common Soviet project – Moscow, but also Paris, and Beijing, and Washington, and Delhi, and Islamabad and Tel Aviv. All this will require greater flexibility and greater creativity in terms of developing certain rules of the game in the region. Unless, of course, the final goal is to ensure peace and stability, and not to create a Eurasian “powder keg.”

  • “From an Azerbaijan prison, a dissident writes home: ‘Save my life,’” Editorial Board, WP, 03.19.24.
  • In advance of hosting a major climate conference in November, Ilham Aliyev, the leader of Azerbaijan, is showing the world his strongman methods.
    • In September [2023], Azeri forces recaptured the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In February, [Aliyev] won a snap election with 92% of the vote. That was in large part because he continues to silence independent journalists and punish critics with inhumane prison conditions.
  • The Azeri authorities are continuing the cruel persecution of Gubad Ibadoghlu, a 52-year-old economist.
    • He has written… [that] his health problems are growing more serious, including diabetes and hypertension [and] the authorities have denied his requests for treatment by an independent doctor.
  • The apparent trigger for his arrest was his role in starting a foundation in Britain aimed at preparing a new generation of Azerbaijani professionals.

[1] If Russia warned the U.S. warning, then it won’t be the first time RF and U.S. have not heeded each other’s terror warnings – recall the case of Boston marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

[2] Of Russia’s land borders, the closest to Moscow is with Belarus (450 km by car on westbound M1 highway), but the border with Ukraine is not much further (about 520 km by car on south westbound M3 highway that leads to Ukraine). The four Tajiks – who are suspected of having carried out the attack – were caught on that  M3 highway near the village of Khatsyun in Russia’s  Bryansk region (some 377  km away west of Moscow on M3, and 183 km away from the border with Ukraine and 248 km away from the border with Belarus).

[3] Translated with the help of machine translation..

[4]  Chairman of Russia’s Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin told Putin at this meeting that the apprehended suspects have told investigators who have ordered the attack, but he did not disclose any information o them. Bastrykin also said it has been established that 42 of the 137victims died of gun shots and knife wounds while 45 died of burns and inhalation of smoke/ combustion products. That leaves the cause of death to be determined in 50 victims. The causes of deaths also raise questions about fire safety standards and enforcement of these standards, which is something that Bastrykin said his committee is investigating.

[5]That the Russian forces have repeatedly targeted ISIS personnel in Syria and have decimated its branch in Russia could be one answer to Putin’s question about what may have motivated Islamists to strike Russia.

[6] Translated with the help of machine translation.

The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 11:00 am Eastern time on the day this digest was distributed. Unless otherwise indicated, all summaries above are direct quotations. 

Here and elsewhere, the italicized text indicates comments by RM staff and associates. These comments do not constitute a RM editorial policy.

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