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Russia-Ukraine war at a glance: what we know on day 622
Bomb in birthday present kills Ukrainian major who advised commander-in-chief; Russian attack damages Odesa museum; Ukraine grain exports fall
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A close military adviser to the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s army has been killed after a grenade amongst birthday presents exploded. “Under tragic circumstances, my assistant and close friend, Major Gennadiy Chastiakov, was killed … on his birthday ,” Gen Valery Zaluzhny wrote online. Chastiakov leaves a wife and four children, he said.
Zaluzhny said Chastiakov had been “fully devoting his life to the armed forces of Ukraine and the fight against Russian aggression” . The death was initially reported as a suspected assassination attempt, but details later emerged suggesting there was a mix-up and the grenade was amongst birthday presents and mistakenly set off. Chastiakov’s son, 13, was also reported to have been seriously injured.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has said the deaths of at least 19 soldiers in a Russian missile strike on a military ceremony was a “tragedy that could’ve been avoided”. Other reports suggest the death toll could be much higher, while defence chiefs are under pressure over the staging of the event in a frontline village vulnerable to attack.
Zelenskiy has said it is irresponsible to talk of holding an election in Ukraine in wartime and called for unity to avoid pointless political discussions. “We need to recognise that this is a time for defence, a time for battle, upon which the fate of the state and its people depend … I believe that elections are not appropriate at this time.” Elections are banned under martial law in force in Ukraine , but Zelenskiy had been considering whether to invoke special provisions to stage them. He has said he would like to run for a second term if a vote took place.
In the US, some senate Republicans have released a sweeping set of US border security proposals as a condition for sending more aid to Ukraine , laying out a draft plan that includes resuming construction on parts of the Mexico border wall .
Vladimir Putin has decided to run in the March presidential election, a move that would keep him in power until least 2030, as he is said to feel he must steer Russia through its most perilous period in decades, sources told Reuters.
Radio Free Europe has said that it believes Russia may have taken one of its journalists “hostage” for a potential prisoner swap with the US and is appealing to Moscow not to treat her cruelly, the broadcaster’s acting president said.
Several dozen owners of transport companies blocked three major Polish border crossings with Ukraine in protest at what they say is unfair competition from its businesses.
Ukraine’s grain exports have fallen by almost a third compared with last year, agriculture ministry data shows, to 9.8m tonnes so far in the July 2023-June 2024 season. The ministry said that by this point last year, Ukraine had exported 14.3m tonnes.
Odesa’s national art museum said seven exhibitions, most featuring the work of contemporary Ukrainian artists, were damaged by a Russian strike that left a large crater outside the museum, which is celebrating its 124th anniversary. Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Emine Dzheppar, said Kyiv was “deeply outraged” by the attack and urged the UN’s Paris-based heritage agency, Unesco, to condemn it.
- Russia-Ukraine war at a glance
- Volodymyr Zelenskiy
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Russia-Ukraine War: Insights and Analysis
Read what Harvard Kennedy School faculty members and other experts are saying about the Russia-Ukraine war. From geopolitics to sanctions to the role of misinformation and cyberattacks, HKS scholars analyze the Russian invasion of Ukraine and what it means for the world.
Lessons from a year of war in ukraine.
One year on from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Harvard Kennedy School faculty members reflect on how the conflict has changed the way we think about vital global issues and what lessons it has taught us.
Belfer Center scholars reflect on first year of Ukraine war
Why a new cold war with russia isn’t the worst outcome, are we entering another cold war probably not—but it could be even worse, russia-ukraine war report card, one year in, how russian history—and human psychology—can explain the crisis in ukraine, how i am using psychology to persuade russians of the truth about ukraine.
The Perpetually Irrational Ukraine Debate
‘be unstoppable, be true to yourself, but be just’, “something i must do”: andrey liscovich phd 2015 left silicon valley to defend his hometown in ukraine, expand to view more expert insights.
O’Sullivan and Frankel: How the sanctions on Putin’s Russia are reshaping the world economic order Meghan O'Sullivan & Jeffrey Frankel
Spotlight on Ukraine Harvard Kennedy School faculty
“I heard hope”: Harvard reacts to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s HKS Forum address Harvard Kennedy School students
Better coordination and more granular design can make sanctions on Russia much more effective, research finds Harvard Kennedy School’s Growth Lab
Reform, refugees, and the war next door: President Maia Sandu of Moldova Maia Sandu MC/MPA 2010
Earnest defenders in the darkest hour Harvard Kennedy School students
Russia is using rape as a weapon of war against Ukraine Dara Kay Cohen
These Russia sanctions are different Jeffrey Frankel
Helping Ukraine Win Against Russia Is a Vital NATO Interest Paula Dobriansky
What would be signs protests in Russia are making a difference? Erica Chenoweth
Why China Won’t Mediate an End to the Ukraine War Joseph Nye
What to know about the threat of nuclear war Matthew Bunn
It’s going to get worse before it gets better in Ukraine Ash Carter
How Russians see Russia Natasha Yefimova-Trilling
Ukraine war prompts surprising unity in Europe on need for bolstered defense Stephen Walt
Tony Saich on Sino-Russian relations and how Beijing views the invasion of Ukraine Anthony Saich
Impacts of Russia’s war in Ukraine Belfer Center experts
The case for a punitive tax on Russian oil Ricardo Hausmann
How democracy drives the resistance in Ukraine Pippa Norris
Harvard professor warns of misinformation in Russia-Ukraine conflict Joan Donovan
Cyberattacks against Ukraine have intensified in recent days Lauren Zabierek
‘A lot at stake’ with oil markets for Russia and the West Meghan O'Sullivan
Why peace in Ukraine isn’t likely soon Graham Allison
Autocracy and patriarchy are surging worldwide—but women are pushing back Erica Chenoweth & Zoe Marks
Ukraine crisis: Will China have Putin’s back? Graham Allison
Russian invasion of Ukraine would have global impact, specialists say Paul Kolbe & Paula Dobriansky
The West is sleepwalking into war in Ukraine Stephen Walt
What happens next in Ukraine? Kevin Ryan
Watch carefully how China responds to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, says national security analyst Juliette Kayyem
Wide range of possible targets for Russian cyber strikes, from infrastructure to smartphones Lauren Zabierek
The economic consequences of the Ukraine war Jason Furman
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unfolds, many analysts question what happens next Mariana Budjeryn
Why Ukraine gave up its nukes Mariana Budjeryn
Ukraine attack: Putin target may be democracy, near and far Pippa Norris
How to think about the risk of nuclear war, according to 3 experts Matthew Bunn
Summers says ‘more dangerous world’ requires an FDR-like pivot Lawrence Summers
Can intelligence tell how far Putin will go? Calder Walton
Russia’s attack is illegal and a wake-up call to the West Paula Dobriansky
Russian disinformation, propaganda ramp up as conflict in Ukraine grows Jane Lytvynenko
A hurting stalemate? The risks of nuclear weapon use in the Ukraine crisis Francesca Giovannini
Ukraine stands up to Russian cyberattacks; Putin could launch revenge attacks against US, expert warns Paul Kolbe
It gets worse before it gets better in Ukraine Ash Carter, Paul Kolbe, Kevin Ryan
Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter discusses Russia's invasion of Ukraine at IOP Forum Ash Carter, Eric Rosenbach
What mobilises the Ukrainian resistance? Pippa Norris
Sanctions will devastate the Russian economy—will they destabilise the west’s? Megan Greene
Will China's support for Russia hold as condemnation over Ukraine grows? Tony Saich
Ukraine war drives Europe toward unity on bolstering defense Steve Walt
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The Russia-Ukraine war and its ramifications for Russia
Subscribe to this week in foreign policy, steven pifer steven pifer nonresident senior fellow - foreign policy , center on the united states and europe , strobe talbott center for security, strategy, and technology , arms control and non-proliferation initiative @steven_pifer.
December 8, 2022
- 24 min read
This piece is part of a series of policy analyses entitled “ The Talbott Papers on Implications of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine ,” named in honor of American statesman and former Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott. Brookings is grateful to Trustee Phil Knight for his generous support of the Brookings Foreign Policy program.
Nine months into Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine, the outcome of the war remains unclear. The Russian military appears incapable of taking Kyiv or occupying a major portion of the country. Ukrainian forces have enjoyed three months of success on the battlefield and could well continue to make progress in regaining territory. The war also could settle into a more drawn-out conflict, with neither side capable of making a decisive breakthrough in the near term.
Projecting the ultimate outcome of the war is challenging. However, some major ramifications for Russia and its relations with Ukraine, Europe, and the United States have come into focus. While the war has been a tragedy for Ukraine and Ukrainians, it has also proven a disaster for Russia — militarily, economically, and geopolitically. The war has badly damaged Russia’s military and tarnished its reputation, disrupted the economy, and profoundly altered the geopolitical picture facing Moscow in Europe. It will make any near-term restoration of a degree of normalcy in U.S.-Russian relations difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.
Russia’s war against Ukraine
This latest phase in hostilities between Russia and Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, when Russian President Vladimir Putin directed his forces to launch a major, multi-prong invasion of Ukraine. The broad scope of the assault, which Putin termed a “special military operation,” suggested that Moscow’s objectives were to quickly seize Kyiv, presumably deposing the government, and occupy as much as the eastern half to two-thirds of the country.
The Russian army gained ground in southern Ukraine, but it failed to take Kyiv. By late March, Russian forces were in retreat in the north. Moscow proclaimed its new objective as occupying all of Donbas, consisting of the oblasts (regions) of Luhansk and Donetsk, some 35% of which had already been occupied by Russian and Russian proxy forces in 2014 and 2015. After three months of grinding battle, Russian forces captured almost all of Luhansk, but they made little progress in Donetsk, and the battlelines appeared to stabilize in August.
In September, the Ukrainian army launched two counteroffensives. One in the northeast expelled Russian forces from Kharkiv oblast and pressed assaults into Luhansk oblast. In the south, the second counteroffensive succeeded in November in driving Russian forces out of Kherson city and the neighboring region, the only area that Russian forces occupied east of the Dnipro River, which roughly bisects Ukraine.
Despite three months of battlefield setbacks, Moscow has shown no indication of readiness to negotiate seriously to end the war. Indeed, on September 30, Putin announced that Russia was annexing Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts, even though Russian forces did not fully control that territory and consistently lost ground there in the following weeks. The Russian military made up for battlefield losses by increasing missile attacks on Ukrainian cities, aimed in particular at disrupting electric power and central heating.
As of late November, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his government insisted on conditions that included Russian withdrawal from all Ukrainian territory (including Crimea and all of Donbas), compensation, and punishment for war crimes. While these are understandable demands given what Ukraine has gone through, achieving them would prove difficult. Still, Kyiv appeared confident that it could liberate more territory even as winter approached.
After nine months of fighting, the Russian military has shown itself incapable of seizing and holding a large part of Ukraine. While the war’s outcome is uncertain, however the conflict ends, a sovereign and independent Ukrainian state will remain on the map of Europe. Moreover, it will be larger than the rump state that the Kremlin envisaged when it launched the February invasion.
Whether the Ukrainian military can drive the Russians completely out or at least back to the lines as of February 23 is also unclear. Some military experts believe this is possible, including the full liberation of Donbas and Crimea. Others offer less optimistic projections. The U.S. intelligence community has forecast that the fighting could drag on and become a war of attrition.
Forging a hostile neighbor
Today, most Ukrainians regard Russia as an enemy.
Of all the pieces of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union that Moscow lost when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, no part meant more to Russians than Ukraine. The two countries’ histories, cultures, languages, and religions were closely intertwined. When the author served at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv at the end of the 1990s, most Ukrainians held either a positive or ambivalent view regarding Russia. That has changed. Today, most Ukrainians regard Russia as an enemy.
Putin’s war has been calamitous for Ukraine. The precise number of military and civilians casualties is unknown but substantial. The Office of the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights estimated that, as of the end of October, some 6,500 Ukrainian civilians had been killed and another 10,000 injured. Those numbers almost certainly understate the reality. U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley on November 10 put the number of civilian dead at 40,000 and indicated that some 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed or wounded (Milley gave a similar number for Russian casualties, a topic addressed later in this paper).
In addition, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees placed the number of Ukrainians who have sought refuge outside of Ukraine at more than 7.8 million as of November 8. As of mid-November, the Russian attacks had caused an estimated 6.5 million more to become internally displaced persons within Ukraine.
Besides the human losses, the war has caused immense material damage. Estimates of the costs of rebuilding Ukraine run from $349 billion to $750 billion, and those appraisals date back to the summer. Finding those funds will not be easy, particularly as the war has resulted in a significant contraction of the Ukrainian economy; the World Bank expects the country’s gross domestic product to shrink by 35% this year.
All this has understandably affected Ukrainian attitudes. It has deepened the sense of Ukrainian national identity. An August poll showed 85% self-identifying as Ukrainian citizens as opposed to people of some region or ethnic minority; only 64% did so six months earlier — before Russia’s invasion. The invasion has also imbued Ukrainians with a strongly negative view of Russia: The poll showed 92% holding a “bad” attitude regarding Russia as opposed to only 2% with a “good” attitude.
Ukrainians have made clear their resolve to resist. A September Gallup poll reported 70% of Ukrainians determined to fight until victory over Russia. A mid-October Kyiv International Institute of Sociology poll had 86% supporting the war and opposing negotiations with Russia, despite Russian missile attacks against Ukrainian cities.
It will take years, if not decades, to overcome the enmity toward Russia and Russians engendered by the war. One Ukrainian journalist predicted last summer that, after the war’s end, Ukraine would witness a nationwide effort to “cancel” Russian culture, e.g., towns and cities across the country would rename their Pushkin Squares. It has already begun; Odesa intends to dismantle its statue of Catherine the Great, the Russian empress who founded the city in 1794.
Ironically for an invasion launched in part due to Kremlin concern that Ukraine was moving away from Russia and toward the West, the war has opened a previously closed path for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union (EU). For years, EU officials concluded agreements with Kyiv, including the 2014 EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. However, EU officials avoided language that would give Ukraine a membership perspective. In June, four months after Russia’s invasion, the European Council recognized Ukraine’s European perspective and gave it the status of candidate country. Kyiv will need years to meet the EU’s standards, but it now has a membership perspective that it lacked for the first 30 years of its post-Soviet independence.
As for NATO, 10 alliance members have expressed support for a membership path for Ukraine, nine in central Europe plus Canada . Other allies have generally remained silent or noncommittal, reflecting the fact that many, while prepared to provide Ukraine financial and military assistance, are not prepared to go to war with Russia to defend Ukraine. Even though Kyiv cannot expect membership or a membership action plan any time soon, it will have continued NATO support in its fight against Russia and, once the war is over, help in building a modern and robust military to deter a Russian attack in the future.
The Kremlin has sought since the end of the Soviet Union to keep Ukraine bound in a Russian sphere of influence. From that perspective, the last nine years of Russian policy have been an abysmal failure. Nothing has done more than that policy to push Ukraine away from Russia and toward the West, or to promote Ukrainian hostility toward Russia and Russians.
A disaster for Russia’s military and economy
While a tragedy for Ukraine, Putin’s decision to go to war has also proven a disaster for Russia.
While a tragedy for Ukraine, Putin’s decision to go to war has also proven a disaster for Russia. The Russian military has suffered significant personnel and military losses. Economic sanctions imposed by the EU, United States, United Kingdom, and other Western countries have pushed the Russian economy into recession and threaten longer-term impacts, including on the country’s critical energy sector.
In November, Milley put the number of dead and wounded Russian soldiers at 100,000, and that could fall on the low side. A Pentagon official said in early August Russian casualties numbered 70,000-80,000. That was more than three months ago, and those months have shown no kindness to the Russian army. Reports suggest that newly-mobilized and ill-trained Russian units have been decimated in combat.
The Russian military has lost significant amounts of equipment. The Oryx website reports 8,000 pieces of equipment destroyed, damaged, abandoned, or captured, including some 1,500 tanks, 700 armored fighting vehicles, and 1,700 infantry fighting vehicles. Oryx advises that its numbers significantly understate the true nature of Russian losses, as it counts only equipment for which it has unique photo or videographic evidence of its fate. Others report much heavier losses. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin commented that the Russian military had lost “staggering” numbers of tanks and other armored vehicles, adding that Western trade restrictions on microchips would inhibit production of replacements.
As a result of these losses, Russia has had to draw on reserves, including T-64 tanks first produced nearly 50 years ago. It reportedly has turned to tanks from Belarus to replenish its losses. To augment its own munitions, Russia has had to purchase attack drones from Iran and artillery shells from North Korea . As the Russian military has drawn down stocks of surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missiles, it has used S-300 anti-aircraft missiles against ground targets. The Russian defense budget will need years to replace what the military has lost or otherwise expended in Ukraine.
Poor leadership, poor tactics, poor logistics, and underwhelming performance against a smaller and less well-armed foe have left Russia’s military reputation in a shambles. That will have an impact. Over the past decade, Russian weapons exporters saw their share of global arms exports drop by 26%. Countries looking to buy weapons likely will begin to turn elsewhere, given that Russia’s military failed to dominate early in the war, when its largely modernized forces faced a Ukrainian military armed mainly with aging Soviet-era equipment (that began to change only in the summer, when stocks of heavy weapons began arriving from the West).
Fiona Hill, Clifford G. Gaddy
April 3, 2015
July 11, 2017
February 26, 2019
As Russia went to war, its economy was largely stagnant ; while it recorded a post-COVID-19 boost in 2021, average real income fell by 10% between 2013 and 2020. It will get worse. The West has applied a host of economic sanctions on the country. While the Russian Central Bank’s actions have mitigated the worst impacts, the Russian economy nevertheless contracted by 5% year-on-year compared to September 2021. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development expects Russia’s economy to contract by 3.9% in 2022 and 5.6% in 2023, and a confidential study supposedly done for the Kremlin projected an “inertial” case in which the economy bottomed out only in 2023 at 8.3% below 2021. One economist notes that the West’s cut-off of chips and microelectronics has devastated automobile, aircraft, and weapons production, with the output of cars falling by 90% between March and September; he expects a long run of stagnation.
In addition to coping with the loss of high-tech and other key imports, the Russian economy faces brain drain, particularly in the IT sector, that began in February as well as the departure of more than 1,000 Western companies. It also has a broader labor force challenge. The military has mobilized 300,000 men, and the September mobilization order prompted a new flood of Russians leaving the country, with more than 200,000 going to Kazakhstan. Some estimates suggest several hundred thousand others have fled to other countries. Taken together, that means something like three-quarters of a million men unavailable to work in the economy.
Russia thus far has staved off harsher economic difficulties in part because of its oil and gas exports and high energy prices. High prices have partially offset the decline in volume of oil and gas exports. That may soon change, at least for oil. The EU banned the purchase of Russian crude oil beginning on December 5, and the West is prohibiting shipping Russian oil on Western-flagged tankers or insuring tankers that move Russian oil if the oil is sold above a certain price, now set at $60 per barrel. The price cap — if it works as planned — could cut sharply into the revenues that Russian oil exports generate. The cap will require that Russian exporters discount the price of oil that they sell; the higher the discount, the less revenue that will flow to Russia.
Weaning Europe off of Russian gas poses a more difficult challenge, but EU countries have made progress by switching to imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Moreover, European companies have found ways to cut energy use; for example, 75% of German firms that use gas report that they have reduced gas consumption without having to cut production. EU countries face a much better energy picture this winter than anticipated several months ago. If Europe successfully ends its import of Russian piped natural gas, that will pose a major problem for Gazprom, Russia’s large gas exporter. Gazprom’s gas exports move largely by pipeline, and Gazprom’s gas pipeline structure is oriented primarily toward moving gas from the western Siberian and Yamal gas fields to Europe. New pipelines would be needed to switch the flow of that gas to Asia. If Europe can kick the Russian gas habit, Gazprom will see a significant decline in its export volumes, unless it can build new pipelines to Asian markets and/or greatly expand its LNG export capacity, all of which will be expensive.
A further problem facing Russia’s energy sector is that, as existing oil and gas fields are depleted, Russian energy companies must develop new fields to sustain production levels. Many of the potential new fields are in the Arctic region or off-shore and will require billions — likely, tens of billions — of dollars of investment. Russian energy companies, however, will not be able to count on Western energy companies for technical expertise, technology, or capital. That will hinder future production of oil and gas, as current fields become exhausted.
Another potential economic cost looms. The West has frozen more than $300 billion in Russian Central Bank reserves. As damages in Ukraine mount, pressure will grow to seize some or all of these assets for a Ukraine reconstruction fund. Western governments thus far show little enthusiasm for the idea. That said, it is difficult to see how they could turn to their taxpayers for money to assist Ukraine’s rebuilding while leaving the Russian Central Bank funds intact and/or releasing those funds back to Russia.
Western sanctions did not produce the quick crash in the ruble or the broader Russian economy that some expected. However, their impact could mean a stagnant economy in the longer term, and they threaten to cause particular problems in the energy sector and other sectors that depend on high-tech inputs imported from the West. Moscow does not appear to have handy answers to these problems.
Changed geopolitics in Europe
In 2021, Moscow saw a West that was divided and preoccupied with domestic politics. The United States was recovering from four years of the Trump presidency, post-Brexit politics in Britain remained tumultuous, Germany faced September elections to choose the first chancellor in 16 years not named Angela Merkel, and France had a presidential election in early 2022. That likely affected Putin’s decision to launch his February invasion. In the event, NATO and the EU responded quickly and in a unified manner, and the invasion has prompted a dramatic reordering of the geopolitical scene in Europe. European countries have come to see Russia in a threatening light, reminiscent of how they viewed the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. NATO’s June 2022 summit statement was all about deterrence and defense with regard to Russia, with none of earlier summits’ language on areas of cooperation.
Few things epitomize the change more than the Zeitenwende (turning-point) in German policy. In the days following the Russian invasion, Berlin agreed to sanctions on Russian banks that few expected the Germans to approve, reversed a long-standing ban on exporting weapons to conflict zones in order to provide arms to Ukraine, established a 100-billion-euro ($110 billion) fund for its own rearmament, and announced the purchase of American dual-capable F-35 fighters to sustain the German Air Force’s nuclear delivery role. Just days before the assault, the German government said it would stop certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Berlin’s follow-up has been bumpy and, at times, seemingly half-hearted, which has frustrated many of its partners. Still, in a few short weeks in late February and early March, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government erased five decades of German engagement with Moscow.
Other NATO members have also accelerated their defense spending. According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, European allies and Canada have boosted defense spending by a total of $350 billion compared to levels in 2014, when the alliance — following Russia’s seizure of Crimea — set the goal for each member of 2% of gross domestic product devoted to defense by 2024. Stoltenberg added that nine members had met the 2% goal while 10 others intended to do so by 2024. Poland plans to raise its defense spending to 3% next year, and other allies have suggested the 3% target as well.
Moscow did not like the small multinational battlegroups that NATO deployed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland beginning in 2017. Each numbered some 1,000-1,500 troops (battalion-sized) and were described as “tripwire” forces. Since February, NATO has deployed additional battlegroups in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia and decided on a more robust forward presence, including brigade-sized units, while improving capabilities for reinforcement. The U.S. military presence in Europe and European waters has grown from 80,000 service personnel to 100,000 and includes deployment of two F-35 squadrons to Britain, more destroyers to be homeported in Spain, and a permanent headquarters unit in Poland.
In addition to larger troop deployments, the Baltic Sea has seen a geopolitical earthquake. Finland and Sweden, which long pursued policies of neutrality, applied to join NATO in May and completed accession protocols in July. They have significant military capabilities. Their accession to the alliance, expected in early 2023, will make the Baltic Sea effectively a NATO lake, leaving Russia with just limited access from the end of the Gulf of Finland and its Kaliningrad exclave.
In early 2014, NATO deployed virtually no ground combat forces in countries that had joined the alliance after 1997. That began changing after Russia’s seizure of Crimea. The recent invasion has further energized NATO and resulted in its enlargement by two additional members. As Russia has drawn down forces opposite NATO countries (and Finland) in order to deploy them to Ukraine, the NATO military presence on Russia’s western flank has increased.
The Kremlin has waged a two-front war this year, fighting on the battlefield against Ukraine while seeking to undermine Western financial and military support for Kyiv. The Russians are losing on both fronts.
The Kremlin has waged a two-front war this year, fighting on the battlefield against Ukraine while seeking to undermine Western financial and military support for Kyiv. The Russians are losing on both fronts. The Russian military has been losing ground to the Ukrainian army and has carried out a campaign of missile strikes against power, heat, and water utilities in the country, which threatens a humanitarian crisis . Much will depend on how bad the winter is, but Ukrainians have shown remarkable resilience in restoring utilities, and the Russian attacks could further harden their resolve. Moreover, the brutality of the Russian missile campaign has already led Ukraine’s Western supporters to provide Kyiv more sophisticated air defenses, and pressures could grow to provide other weapons as well.
As for the second front, despite high energy prices, having to house the majority of the nearly eight million Ukrainians who have left their country, and concerns over how long the fighting might last, European support for Ukraine has not slackened. Russian hints of nuclear escalation caused concern but did not weaken European support for Ukraine, and Moscow has markedly deescalated the nuclear rhetoric in recent weeks. Given Russia’s relationship with China, the Kremlin certainly noticed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent criticism of nuclear threats.
It appears Moscow’s influence elsewhere is slipping, including among post-Soviet states. Kazakhstan has boosted its defense spending by more than 50%. In June, on a stage with Putin in St. Petersburg, its president pointedly declined to follow Russia’s lead in recognizing the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” as independent states. Neither Kazakhstan nor any other member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) — or any other post-Soviet state, for that matter — has recognized Russia’s claimed annexations of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson. In a remarkable scene at an October Russia-Central Asia summit, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon openly challenged Putin for his lack of respect for Central Asian countries. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoiled a late November CSTO summit; he refused to sign a leaders’ declaration and noticeably moved away from Putin during the summit photo op.
More broadly, in October, the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution calling for rejection — and demanding reversal — of Moscow’s illegal annexation of the Ukrainian oblasts by a vote of 143-5 (35 abstaining). A recent article documented how Russia has found its candidates rejected and its participation suspended in a string of U.N. organizations, including the International Telecommunications Union, Human Rights Council, Economic and Social Council, and International Civil Aviation Organization. Putin chose not to attend the November G-20 summit in Bali, likely reflecting his expectation that other leaders would have snubbed him and refused to meet bilaterally, as well as the criticism he would have encountered in multilateral sessions. The summit produced a leaders’ declaration that, while noting “other views,” leveled a harsh critique at Moscow for its war on Ukraine.
A deep freeze with Washington
While U.S.-Russian relations had fallen to a post-Cold War low point in 2020, the June 2021 summit that U.S. President Joe Biden held with Putin gave a modest positive impulse to the relationship. U.S. and Russian officials that fall broadened bilateral diplomatic contacts and gave a positive assessment to the strategic stability dialogue, terming the exchanges “intensive and substantive.” Moreover, Washington saw a possible drop-off in malicious cyber activity originating from Russia. However, the Russian invasion prompted a deep freeze in the relationship, and Washington made clear that business as usual was off the table.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and CIA Director Bill Burns nevertheless have kept channels open to their Russian counterparts. These lines of communication seek to avoid miscalculation — particularly miscalculation that could lead to a direct U.S.-Russia or NATO-Russia clash — and reduce risk. But other channels remain largely unused. Burns’s November 14 meeting with Sergey Naryshkin, head of the Russian external intelligence service, was the most senior face-to-face meeting between U.S. and Russian officials in nine months. Biden and Putin have not spoken directly with one another since February, and that relationship seems irretrievably broken.
In a positive glimmer, Biden told the U.N. General Assembly “No matter what else is happening in the world, the United States is ready to pursue critical arms control measures.” Speaking in June, the Kremlin spokesperson said “we are interested [in such talks]… Such talks are necessary.” U.S. officials have privately indicated that, while they have prerequisites for resuming the strategic dialogue, progress on ending the Russia-Ukraine war is not one of them. This leaves room for some hope that, despite their current adversarial relationship, Washington and Moscow may still share an interest in containing their competition in nuclear arms.
Beyond that, however, it is difficult to see much prospect for movement toward a degree of normalcy in the broader U.S.-Russia relationship. With Moscow turning to Iran and North Korea for weapons, Washington cannot count on Russian help in trying to bring Tehran back into the nuclear deal (the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) or to increase pressure on North Korea to end its missile launches and not to conduct another nuclear test. Likewise, coordination on Syria is less likely. It may well be that any meaningful improvement in the overall bilateral relationship requires Putin’s departure from the Kremlin. A second requirement could be that Putin’s successor adopt policy changes to demonstrate that Russia is altering course and prepared to live in peace with its neighbors.
What happens will depend on how the Russian elite and public view his performance; while some signs of disaffection over the war have emerged, it is too early to forecast their meaning for Putin’s political longevity.
This does not mean to advocate a policy of regime change in Russia. That is beyond U.S. capabilities, especially given the opacity of today’s Kremlin. U.S. policy should remain one of seeking a change in policy, not regime. That said, the prospects for improving U.S.-Russian relations appear slim while Putin remains in charge. What happens will depend on how the Russian elite and public view his performance; while some signs of disaffection over the war have emerged , it is too early to forecast their meaning for Putin’s political longevity.
Still, while it remains difficult to predict the outcome of the war or the impact it may have on Putin’s time in the Kremlin, there is little doubt that the fighting with Ukraine and its ramifications will leave Russia diminished in significant ways. It must contend with a badly-damaged military that will take years to reconstitute; years of likely economic stagnation cut off from key high-tech imports; a potentially worsening situation with regard to energy exports and future production; an alarmed, alienated, and rearming Europe; and a growing political isolation that will leave Moscow even more dependent on its relationship with China. Putin still seems to cling to his desire of “regaining” part of Ukraine, which he considers “historic Russian land.” But the costs of that for Russia mount by the day.
Daniel S. Hamilton
Pavel K. Baev
November 15, 2022
Fiona Hill, Angela Stent, Agneska Bloch
September 19, 2022
Center on the United States and Europe Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology
November 8, 2023
Peter A. Petri
November 3, 2023
EXPLAINER: Why Did Russia Invade Ukraine?
Experts say the cause of the military conflict can be tied to a complicated history, Russia’s tensions with NATO and the ambitions of Vladimir Putin.
Why Russia Invaded Ukraine
A man sits outside his destroyed building after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv, on Feb. 24, 2022. (ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Predictions of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine came true in the early morning hours of Feb. 24, 2022.
Russia had amassed up to 190,000 troops – according to reports from the U.S. – on Ukraine’s borders over the course of many months. The buildup of forces around Russia's neighbor and former Soviet Union state started in late 2021 and escalated in early 2022.
Prior to the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the Russian-backed breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, both located in the disputed Donbas area, as “independent” people’s republics and ordered so-called “peacekeeping” troops into those areas.
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What started as a concerning situation with hopes for dialogue and diplomacy then evolved into what the Ukrainian foreign minister described as the “most blatant act of aggression in Europe since” World War II.
While the invasion took some leaders by surprise, experts do have insight on the origins of the conflict. They say the roots of the tension can be tied to some combination of the complicated history between the two countries, Russia’s ongoing tensions with NATO and the ambitions of one man: Putin.
What is the history between Ukraine and Russia?
Russia and Ukraine have what either side might describe as a common or complicated legacy that dates back a thousand years. In the last century, Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of Europe, was one of the most populous and powerful republics in the former Soviet Union as well as an agricultural engine until it declared independence in 1991, according to the Council on Foreign Relations . But Russia has kept a close eye on its neighbor to the West, while Ukrainians have found their independence to be tumultuous at times, with periods of protests and government corruption.
Ukraine’s ambitions to align itself more with Western countries – including its publicly stated interest in joining NATO, which itself was founded at least in part to deter Soviet expansion – has been met with aggression from Russia, the council notes. Tensions came to a head in 2014 after Ukrainians ousted a Russia-aligned president. Russia – under the dubious claim of protecting ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers from Ukrainian persecution – annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine in a move widely condemned by the international community.
At about the same time, Russia fomented dissension in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, backing a separatist movement in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk that resulted in armed conflict. The regions declared independence as both sides dug in for a protracted standoff. The conflict between the two countries has persisted since, with at least 14,000 people dying, according to the council.
When did the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine begin?
Russia started growing its military presence around Ukraine – including in Belarus, a close Russia ally to the north of Ukraine – in late 2021 under various pretenses while remaining vague on its intentions. By December of that year, tens of thousands of Russian troops were hovering on the border, virtually surrounding the country and stoking tensions that led to a call between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden.
Photos: War in Ukraine
Fears escalated in early 2022 as the number of Russian forces surrounding Ukraine increased. Biden and Putin talked again , U.N. Security Council sessions were called to address the crisis, and numerous leaders from NATO, the U.S. and other countries called on Russia to de-escalate or face retaliation in some form. The most recent estimates – prior to the invasion – put the number of Russian troops on the border at close to 200,000.
What does Russia want when it comes to Ukraine?
A principal demand of Russia is to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO , a military alliance between 28 European countries and two North American countries dedicated to preserving peace and security in the North Atlantic area. Ukraine is one of just a few countries in Eastern Europe that aren’t members of the alliance. The Kremlin in general views NATO expansion as a “fundamental concern,” according to a translated readout of a Jan. 28, 2022, call between Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron.
It’s noteworthy, however, that NATO likely has “no intention right now” to admit Ukraine to the organization, says William Pomeranz, the acting director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center, a non-partisan policy forum for global issues.
“I think NATO, and the invitation for Ukraine to join NATO at some point in the future, is simply just a pretext to potentially invade Ukraine,” he says, referring to Russia. “Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it doesn't have any of the NATO guarantees, and so there is no hint that Ukraine will become a member of NATO soon.”
Putin, specifically, does not want Ukraine to join NATO “not because he has some principled disagreement related to the rule of law or something, it's because he has a might makes right model,” adds Bradley Bowman, the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.
“He believes, ‘Hey, Ukraine, I'm more powerful than you. And because I'm more powerful than you, Ukraine, I can tell you what to do and with whom to associate,’” Bowman says.
Beyond the concern around NATO and other demands related to weapons and transparency, Russia’s nature of expansion is also at play when it comes to Ukraine. Some Russians, Putin included, feel Russia has a claim to the former Soviet state.
“The imperialistic policy of the Russian Federation requires from us and all the allies complex activities and complex deterrence and defense,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said during a Feb. 18, 2022, news conference .
What does Vladimir Putin want out of Ukraine?
The demands of the Russian government are inseparable from those of its authoritarian leader. While analysts are quick to say that they cannot read Putin’s mind – Biden himself admitted as much during remarks on Feb. 18, 2022 – they note his broad ambitions, particularly those tied to his nostalgia for the territorial integrity of the Soviet Union, that have been made clear by his actions.
“We know that Putin views the collapse of the Soviet Union as a disaster,” Bowman says. “We know he resents the success of NATO. We know that he genuinely reviles the expansion of NATO eastward. We know that he has an eye on history, he's getting older, he is mindful of how he's going to look in history books and he sees himself as kind of a neo-czar who would like to reconstitute as much of the Soviet Union as possible.”
Ukraine, in particular, is a “critical element” of this ambition, Bowman adds. Putin has a history of invading and occupying countries that approach NATO membership. Russian armies invaded the former Soviet state of Georgia in 2008 as that country was pursuing membership in the alliance. They briefly pressured the capital Tbilisi before withdrawing to separatist regions they still occupy today. The 2014 Crimea annexation is another example, Bowman notes, and Putin said on Feb. 22 that he wants the world to recognize that territory as rightfully Russian. He rationalized in a 2021 essay that a common history and culture – which Ukrainians dispute – entitled Russia to exert its influence there.
“I think Ukraine has always been a sore spot for Vladimir Putin,” Pomeranz says. “He does not recognize its independence and its right to be a country, as he noted in his long article on Ukraine, where he said that, basically, Ukraine and Russia are one people in one country. There is this long-felt resentment about Ukrainian independence and the fact that the Soviet Union just let Ukraine go away, as it were. So I think he wants to end that independence.”
The Russian president, however, might not have predicted the type of strong response from the international community he saw to the buildup on the Ukraine border. Bowman says because of this, Putin “is the most persuasive billboard possible for the value of NATO membership.”
“What we’ve seen from President Putin is basically to precipitate everything he says he wants to prevent,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a Feb. 16, 2022, appearance on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.” “He says he wants NATO further away from Russia. NATO has only gotten more united, more solidified as a result of the threat of Russian aggression, and of course, for defensive reasons, is moving more forces closer to Russia.”
Why did Russia invade Ukraine when it did?
It all could have come down to Russia’s resources at that moment, Pomeranz says. It might have been the “most opportune time” from Putin’s perspective, he adds, because the country had $600 billion in foreign currency reserves and had already put significant resources into reconstructing Russia’s army.
“I think Vladimir Putin thinks this is the best time for him to right what he perceives as a great wrong and reverse Ukrainian independence and sovereignty,” says Pomeranz of the Wilson Center.
Putin likely also viewed the West – including the U.S., specifically – as weak, Pomeranz adds, which could have impacted how much help he thought Ukraine would actually get. Bowman echoes this sentiment and points to how the U.S. handled pulling troops out of Afghanistan in August.
“I don't know how he could have read that as anything other than American weakness,” says Bowman, who served as an adviser to Republican senators for years. “I think he wondered whether, frankly, the Biden administration would be as weak as the Obama administration was in dealing with aggression toward Ukraine.”
Biden administration officials would beg to differ on the U.S. response. Blinken, during a Feb. 23 appearance on “CBS Evening News” prior to reports of the invasion, said further Russian aggression in Ukraine would lead to “a price that Vladimir Putin and Russia will pay for a long, long time.”
“We’re not standing by and watching,” Blinken said. “To the contrary, we’ve spent months building with allies and partners these very significant consequences for Russia.”
Other reasons for action at the time could have been at play for Putin. A combination of factors – from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s lack of political experience – led to somewhat of a “perfect storm” for the Russian leader to act when he did, says Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, a presidential doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I think it's his magnum opus,” she says. “I think this is his crowning achievement of whatever Putinism is.”
How have the U.S. and other countries responded to Russia’s invasion?
The response has been swift – especially at the outset. The North Atlantic Council, the political decision-making arm of NATO, held an emergency meeting on Feb. 24, 2022, at which it activated its defense plans, which include the NATO Response Force. Biden had said before Russia’s attack that he would be sending more U.S. troops to Eastern Europe to defend NATO allies such as Poland but has repeatedly stated he will not be sending U.S. troops into Ukraine.
Some countries had already responded to Putin’s actions related to the Donbas, which the U.S. called the “beginning of an invasion.”
Biden on Feb. 22, 2022, announced a series of sanctions against Russian financial institutions and the country’s elites. That followed an executive order he issued prohibiting new investment, trade and financing by U.S. persons to, from or in Donetsk and Luhansk. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his own country’s sanctions that day, targeted against Russian banks and billionaires, the BBC reported .
The U.S. president also ordered sanctions against the Russian-built Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline company and its corporate officers on Feb. 23, prior to the invasion. The controversial project, which runs from Russia through Europe, is not yet online but is pivotal to both Moscow and Western Europe, which is becoming increasingly dependent on Russian supply to fulfill its growing energy needs. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had already said before Biden’s sanctions announcement that his country would halt certification of the pipeline due to Russia’s actions. More recently, there were explosions at the pipeline under mysterious circumstances in late 2022.
Biden promised in a statement late on Feb. 23 that he would announce “further consequences the United States and our Allies and partners will impose on Russia for this needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security.”
That promise was kept. Since the war began, the U.S. has imposed more than 2,700 different sanctions on Russia – the highest number by a specific country, according to a tally kept by the Atlantic Council . Punishments have focused on, for example, Russian oil and gas imports and Russian banks. Many countries, such as Canada, the U.K. and others in Europe, have followed suit. The European Union has also imposed its own sanctions, targeting Russian individuals – including Putin himself – and energy. Countries have also sent about $150 billion in aid to Ukraine collectively, as of the end of January 2023.
One year in, the sanctions have inflicted some financial pain on Russia but haven’t caused economic collapse or forced Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, according to the CFR . But the costs will likely keep coming. On the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion, the U.S. State Department announced sweeping new sanctions, including punishments on additional Russian banks and “designating over 60 individuals and entities complicit in the administration of Russia’s government-wide operations and policies of aggression toward Ukraine.”
What has happened in the year since Russia invaded Ukraine?
It’s hard to know where to begin, but one thing is clear: The war shows few signs of ending anytime soon.
Ukraine’s armed forces claim to have killed more than 146,000 Russian troops as of Feb. 24, 2023, according to The Kyiv Independent – a figure that could not be independently verified and is much larger than some other estimates. Total casualties, including the wounded, on Russia’s side are thought to be closer to 200,000, according to The New York Times , citing Western officials. NBC News, also attributing its figures to Western and Ukrainian officials, notes that about 13,000 Ukrainian service members have been killed. But the losses don’t end there: The United Nations estimates that about 8,000 civilians – including more than 400 children – have died in Ukraine since the war began. Leaders and organizations around the world, such as the U.N. , have accused Russia of war crimes and other human rights atrocities. The U.N. General Assembly gathered on Feb. 23, 2023, and called for an end to the war and demanded Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine.
But it’s generally agreed upon by onlookers that Ukraine has put up a much stronger fight in defending itself than many predicted. Russia has failed to gain much ground within the borders of its western neighbor, and some of the cities taken over by Russian troops near the start of the war have since been reclaimed by Ukraine .
That hasn’t stopped Putin from marching on – mobilizing hundreds of thousands of new troops in late 2022 , recently appearing to launch a new offensive in Ukraine and even issuing vague nuclear threats that experts believe he is unlikely to actually carry out .
Ukraine still hasn’t quit after a year of attacks. In a recent surprise visit to Kyiv over the Presidents Day holiday, Biden highlighted just that, walking along the capital city’s streets with Zelenskyy as air raid sirens blared.
“One year later, Kyiv stands,” Biden said. “And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands.”
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Tags: Ukraine , Russia , United States , NATO
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Ukraine War Risks Stalemate, Armed Forces Chief Says
In sobering assessment, valeriy zaluzhniy says ukraine is unlikely to achieve major breakthrough without upgrade to military capabilities.
Nov. 2, 2023 9:01 am ET
In an interview and essay for the Economist, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhniy, Ukraine’s top military commander, said the war was entering a new phase of “static and attritional fighting, as in the First World War.”
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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 4, 2023
Kateryna Stepanenko, Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, Christina Harward, and Frederick W. Kagan
November 4, 2023, 7:15pm ET
Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.
Click here to see ISW’s 3D control of terrain topographic map of Ukraine. Use of a computer (not a mobile device) is strongly recommended for using this data-heavy tool.
Click here to access ISW’s archive of interactive time-lapse maps of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These maps complement the static control-of-terrain map that ISW produces daily by showing a dynamic frontline. ISW will update this time-lapse map archive monthly.
Note: The data cut-off for this product was 2:30pm ET on November 4. ISW will cover subsequent reports in the November 5 Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized that the war in Ukraine is not a “stalemate” in a comment to the media about Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi’s essay on the positional nature of warfare in Ukraine.  Zelensky stated during a joint press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on November 4 that the current situation on the frontlines is “not a stalemate” even if “time has passed” and “people are tired.” Zelensky emphasized that Ukraine prioritizes the safety of its servicemen and needs US F-16 fighter aircraft and air defenses to gain an advantage over Russian forces. Zelensky recalled that many observers were quick to call the battlefield situation in 2022 “a stalemate,” but that Ukrainian forces with several “tricks, tactics, [and] military operations” were able to liberate Kharkiv Oblast and west (right) bank Kherson Oblast. Zelensky added that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop at Russia’s currently occupied lines and noted that Ukraine “has no right to even think about giving up.” Zelensky’s statements largely mirror the main arguments in Zaluzhnyi’s essay entitled, “Modern Positional Warfare and How to Win It.”
Zaluzhny’s long essay, “Modern Positional Warfare and How to Win It,” outlines Zaluzhnyi’s consideration of the changes Ukraine must make to overcome the current “positional” stage of the war more clearly than the shorter op-ed and the Economist article it accompanied. Zaluzhnyi wrote that the war “is gradually moving to a positional form” and noted that Ukraine needs to gain air superiority; breach mine barriers in depth; increase the effectiveness of counter-battery; create and train the necessary reserves; and build up electronic warfare (EW) capabilities to overcome positional warfare. Positional warfare refers to military operations that do not result in rapid or dramatic changes to the frontline despite both sides‘ continuing efforts to improve their positions. Zaluzhnyi notably did not say that the war was stalemated in his essay or suggest that Ukraine could not succeed. His essay focused, rather, on explaining that the current positional character of the war was a result of technological-tactical parity on the battlefield and the widespread use of mine barriers by Russian and Ukrainian troops. Zaluzhnyi considered the opportunities presented to Ukraine by Russia’s challenges, including the significant losses suffered by Russian aviation; Ukrainian use of Western missile and artillery weapons; and Russia’s failure to take advantage of its human mobilization resources due to political, organizational, and motivational issues. Zaluzhnyi argued that to avoid World War I-style “trench war” and move to maneuver warfare, Ukraine must develop new approaches including technological and other changes, some of which depend on Western support and others require adaptations within the Ukrainian military, state, and society. Zaluzhnyi concluded that positional warfare benefits Russia as it prolongs the war and could allow Russia to achieve superiority in certain areas. Zaluzhnyi argued that Ukraine or Russia could return to rapid maneuver warfare under the right circumstances, which for Ukraine must include Western-provided military resources. Zaluzhnyi’s essay was all about how to restore maneuver to a positional war, not an argument that the war has reached a stalemate.
Zelensky also denied Western reports that US and European officials are pressuring Ukrainian officials to discuss the possibility of peace negotiations. NBC , citing current and former US officials, reported on November 3 that US and European officials have been “quietly” discussing the prospects of peace negotiations with Ukrainian officials. NBC ’s sources stated that these discussions took place during a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in the past month and were the result of Ukrainian acknowledgment of Western concerns that the war has reached a “stalemate.” Zelensky stated during the press conference on November 4 that, as the leader of Ukraine, he can attest that no one in Europe or the United States is pressuring him to discuss peace negotiations. Von der Leyen also expressed her support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.
NBC added that US officials have no indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to negotiate with Ukraine or doubts that Russia can continue its war until Western aid for Ukraine falters.  ISW has also not observed any indications that Russia is prepared to enter peace negotiations with Ukraine in good faith. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov expressed the Kremlin’s disagreement with the characterization of the war in Ukraine as a “stalemate” on November 2, stating that the war in Ukraine “has not reached a dead end” and that the Russian military continues to conduct offensive operations. Russia’s offensive operations around Avdiivka indicate that the Kremin continues to believe that it is possible to achieve its objectives with military force and is unlikely to enter peace negotiations with Ukraine, except to buy time to reconstitute for future offensive operations. Pressure on Ukraine to negotiate an end to the war will likely remain meaningless if not harmful as long as Putin believes that he can achieve his objectives on the battlefield.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) allegedly used claims that the Syrian government agreed to supply weapons to Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah to subsume remnants of the Wagner Group in Syria and seize their air defense systems. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed on November 4 that Israel communicated information via diplomatic channels to Russia a few weeks ago about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged agreement to supply Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah with weapons. The milblogger claimed that remnants of the Wagner Group were operating in Syria under an agreement with the Syrian government and that the Russian MoD used this alleged information to pressure the Syrian government to allow the Russian MoD to force Wagner fighters in Syria to transfer their weapons to and sign contracts with the Russian MoD. The milblogger claimed that the Russian MoD seized a Pantsir-S1 air defense system from Wagner personnel near Palmyra, Syria. CNN previously reported that Assad agreed to provide the Russian air defense systems to Hezbollah and tasked Wagner with their delivery. The milblogger did not specify whether the allegations about Assad’s agreement with Hezbollah were true and instead claimed that the truth of that matter is not as important as the fact that the Russian MoD used it as a pretext to make demands of Wagner. The Russian MoD has consistently pursued efforts to subsume Wagner operations abroad recently and is likely concerned about air defense systems in Wagner’s possession because Wagner forces used air defense systems to shoot down multiple Russian aircraft during the June 24 rebellion.
Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on November 3 and 4. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian air defenses downed two Shahed-131/136 drones targeting Sumy Oblast on the night of November 3 to 4 and three Iskander-K cruise missiles targeting Dnipropetrovsk and Poltava oblasts on the evening of November 4. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces struck a Ukrainian weapons and ammunition arsenal in Pryluky, Chernihiv Oblast. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces also targeted Ukrainian rear areas, including the Kanatove airfield, Kirovohrad Oblast; Myrhorod, Poltava Oblast; Kharkiv City, Kharkiv Oblast; Dnipro City, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast; Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast; Odesa Oblast; and Lviv Oblast.
Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 4. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) and Bakhmut directions. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced along the forest line north of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and are gaining a foothold in the area.
English-language Russian outlet the Moscow Times reported that the Russian government dismissed TASS General Director Sergei Mikhailov on July 5 due to TASS’ s failure to align with Kremlin narratives while reporting on the Wagner Group rebellion. The Moscow Times cited anonymous Russian government officials, including from the presidential administration and the State Duma, as stating that the Kremlin dismissed Mikhailov because TASS’s coverage of the Wagner rebellion did not paint Russian authorities in a favorable light and did not include enough pro-Kremlin coverage. Russian government officials stated that Mikhailov was fired because “ TASS covered [the Wagner rebellion] in too much detail and promptly” and that “they [ TASS employees] had forgotten that their main task is not to report the news [but] to create an ideologically correct narrative for the Kremlin.” A source admitted that the news outlet’s “neutrality” is useless with the war in Ukraine ongoing and the upcoming Russian presidential elections, which Putin “must win on record.” A TASS source stated that Mikhailov adhered to the “basic rules of journalism” and claimed that Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti , in contrast, is similar to a tabloid. ISW previously assessed that Mikhailov had rebranded TASS into a modern publication since his appointment in 2012 and that his dismissal may indicate that the Kremlin was unhappy with the media coverage of the Wagner rebellion and highlighted the continued importance of loyalty to Putin over professional achievement. Putin previously awarded Mikhailov the Order of Friendship in 2021 for his professional successes and “many years of conscientious work.”
The Russian government is testing an electronic voting system ahead of the 2024 presidential elections, likely to further support efforts to manipulate the results in favor of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian opposition outlet Meduza reported on November 4 that the Russian government services portal Gosuslugi sent letters inviting Russian citizens, including Meduza employees, to test the remote electronic system on November 15-17. The letters also stated that all adult Russian citizens are eligible to participate in the test. The Russian government officially announced the tests on October 31, and Meduza reported that a government source stated that the Russian government intends to have as many Russian federal subjects utilize electronic voting as possible in the presidential election. These public election preparations are notable as Putin has not announced his official campaign and Russian state media has not yet begun posturing Putin as the only viable candidate.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized that the war in Ukraine is not a “stalemate” in a comment to the media about Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi’s essay on the positional nature of warfare in Ukraine.
- Zaluzhny’s long essay, “Modern Positional Warfare and How to Win It,” outlines Zaluzhnyi’s consideration of the changes Ukraine must make to overcome the current “positional” stage of the war more clearly than the shorter op-ed and Economist article it accompanied.
- Zelensky also denied Western reports that US and European officials are pressuring Ukrainian officials to discuss the possibility of peace negotiations.
- NBC added that US officials have no indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to negotiate with Ukraine or doubts that Russia can continue its war until Western aid for Ukraine falters.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) allegedly used claims that the Syrian government agreed to supply weapons to Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah to subsume remnants of the Wagner Group in Syria and seize their air defense systems.
- Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on November 3 and 4.
- Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 4.
- English-language Russian outlet the Moscow Times reported that the Russian government dismissed TASS General Director Sergei Mikhailov on July 5 due to TASS’ s failure to align with Kremlin narratives while reporting on the Wagner Group rebellion.
- The Russian government is testing an electronic voting system ahead of the 2024 presidential elections, likely to further support efforts to manipulate the results in favor of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, north and south of Bakhmut, around Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, near Vuhledar, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in eastern and western Zaporizhia Oblast, and advanced in various sectors of the front.
- The BBC and Russian opposition media outlet Mediazona confirmed that at least 35,780 Russian servicemen have died in the war in Ukraine since February 24, 2022, as of November 3, 2023, including 923 deaths in the past two weeks.
- Russian authorities continue efforts to settle Russian citizens in occupied Ukraine.
We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and the Ukrainian population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.
- Russian Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine (comprised of two subordinate main efforts)
- Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and encircle northern Donetsk Oblast
- Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
- Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis
- Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
- Activities in Russian-occupied areas
Russian Information Operations and Narratives
Russian Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine
Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Luhansk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and northern Donetsk Oblast)
Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on November 4 but did not make any claimed or confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked near Synkivka (9km northeast of Kupyansk) and Ivanivka (21km southeast of Kupyansk) in Kharkiv Oblast, Stelmakhivka (15km northwest of Svatove) and Bilohorivka (10km south of Kreminna) in Luhansk Oblast, and Verkhnokamianske (18km south of Kreminna) in Donetsk Oblast. Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi stated that elements of the Russian 6th Combined Arms Army (Western Military District [WMD]) and 1st Guards Tank Army (WMD) continued offensive operations near the Kupyansk forest area, Pershotravneve (24km east of Kupyansk), and Orlyanka (22km east of Kupyansk) and intensified efforts to capture Synkivka and create favorable conditions to capture Kupyansk. Syrskyi stated that Russian forces have suffered significant losses along the Kupyansk Vuzlovyi-Yahidne line (up to 22km southeast of Kupyansk) and are currently regrouping in the area. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces transferred additional manpower to the Kupyansk-Kreminna direction.
Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted unsuccessful attacks along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on November 4. The Russian MoD claimed that elements of the Russian Western Grouping of Forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Synkivka and north of Tymkivka (18km east of Kupyansk) and that elements of the Russian Central Grouping of Forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Novoselivske (16km northwest of Svatove) and Hryhorivka (11km south of Kreminna).
Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Ukrainian forces reportedly advanced on Bakhmut’s southern flank on November 4. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced along the forest line north of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and are gaining a foothold in the area.
Russian forces continued to attack north and south of Bakhmut on November 4 but did not make any claimed or confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to regain lost positions near Klishchiivka and Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut) and launched failed assaults near Bohdanivka (5km northwest of Bakhmut) and Khromove (directly west of Bakhmut). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces launched a ground attack near the Berkhivka reservoir (just north of Bakhmut) but did not advance. Russian milbloggers indicated that elements of the Russian 200th Motorized Rifle Brigade (14th Army Corps, Northern Fleet) are operating on Bakhmut’s northern flank and claimed that elements of the Russian “Viking” Spetsnaz detachment are fighting in the Bakhmut direction.
Russian forces continued offensive operations around Avdiivka on November 4 and made confirmed advances. Geolocated footage published on November 3 and November 4 shows that Russian forces marginally advanced towards the railway southeast of Stepove (8km northwest of Avdiivka) and advanced west of Krasnohorivka (9km north of Avdiivka). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced and consolidated new positions along the railway tracks near Stepove, and one milblogger claimed that Russian forces controlled the railway section near Stepove. A Russian milblogger also claimed that Russian forces are strengthening their positions behind the railway tracks north of Avdiivka. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Russian forces launched assaults from the direction of Spartak (4km south of Avdiivka) and attacked near Stepove and Novokalynove (7km north of Avdiivka). Another Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Russian forces are attacking in the direction of Sieverne (6km west of Avdiivka) and that heavy fighting is ongoing near the “Tsarska Okhota” restaurant immediately south of Avdiivka. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched unsuccessful attacks near Stepove, Tonenke (7km northwest of Avdiivka), Avdiivka, Sieverne, and Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka).
Ukrainian forces are reportedly counterattacking against Russian advances in the Avdiivka direction as of November 4. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces counterattacked against Russian advances near the railway north of Avdiivka.
Russian sources continued to claim that Russian forces were digging tunnels to destroy Ukrainian positions and launch surprise attacks in the Avdiivka direction. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces dug a tunnel to a Ukrainian position and mined it, destroying the Ukrainian position. Russian milbloggers claimed that elements of the Russian “Dikiya Divisiya” irregular armed formation, which is partially staffed with former Wagner Group personnel, dug a 160-meter-long tunnel and used it to detonate explosives under an unspecified Ukrainian position near Avdiivka.
Russian forces reportedly lost around 200 armored vehicles while conducting offensive operations in the Avdiivka direction over the past three weeks. The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) assessed that Russian forces have likely lost around 200 armored vehicles around Avdiivka, likely due to the effectiveness of Ukrainian modern hand-held anti-armor weapons, mines, UAV-dropped munitions, and precision artillery systems. The UK MoD assessed that Russian forces have likely switched their tactics to conducting dismounted infantry-based assaults due to vehicle losses in the area. The Ukrainian General Staff published video footage on November 4 showing Ukrainian forces striking a column of Russian armored vehicles moving in a line along a road in the Avdiivka direction.
Russian forces continued offensive operations west and southwest of Donetsk City and near Vuhledar on November 4 but did not make any claimed or confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near Marinka (just west of Donetsk City) and Novomykhailivka (10km south of Marinka). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked Ukrainian positions from the Mykilske direction (4km southeast of Vuhledar).
Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)
Ukrainian forces did not conduct any confirmed or claimed ground attacks in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area on November 4.
Russian forces conducted offensive operations in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area but did not make any confirmed gains on November 4. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks near Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced near Pryyutne (14km southwest of Velyka Novosilka) and along the Rivnopil-Staromayorske (10km southwest to 9km south of Velyka Novosilka) line. Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets stated on November 4 that Russian forces conducted a series of unsuccessful counterattacks along the Novodonetske-Zolota Nyva (12km southeast of Velyka Novosilka) line and from the Pryyutne-Zavitne Bazhannya (14km southwest to 13km south) line towards Rivnopil in the past several days.
Russian and Ukrainian forces reportedly skirmished in eastern Zaporizhia Oblast on November 4, and Russian forces recently made confirmed territorial gains. Geolocated footage published on November 3 shows that Russian forces marginally advanced south of Chervone (6km southeast of Hulyaipole). The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian ground attack near Marfopil (5km southeast of Hulyaipole).
Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 4 but did not make confirmed gains. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces continued small-group assaults near Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) and Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv) on November 3 and 4. A Russian milblogger claimed on November 3 that some positions in forest areas west of Robotyne have changed control several times in the past week.
Russian forces continued limited offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 4 and did not make any confirmed or claimed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian ground attack near Robotyne. Mashovets stated that two battalions of the Russian 2nd Motorized Rifle Brigade and 291st Motorized Rifle Regiment (both of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division, 58th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) conducted a tactical rotation near Robotyne to restore combat power after heavy combat losses.
Russian forces continue to fail to push Ukrainian forces from their positions in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces achieved minor success in pushing Ukrainian forces from positions in Krynky but that Ukrainian forces remain in the center of the settlement. The milbloggers also claimed that Ukrainian forces maintain positions near the Antonivsky road and railway bridges. Other Russian milbloggers amplified footage of a Russian infantry squad moving along a road in a condensed formation in Krynky before small arms fire killed and wounded all the personnel, which one milblogger attributed to friendly fire rather than Ukrainian fire. The milbloggers reiterated standard complaints of poor Russian communications between units, lack of counterbattery fire, and poor training of military personnel.
Ukrainian forces continue targeting Russian military assets in rear areas in southern Ukraine. Russian occupation authorities and other Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces targeted the Kerch Strait Bridge in occupied Crimea on November 4 but that Russian air defenses intercepted the missiles. Russian sources claimed that missile fragments hit a dry dock in the Zalyv shipyard in Kerch, and geolocated footage shows a fire at the shipyard. A Russian insider source claimed that the Zalyv shipyard contained Project 22800 Karakurt missile ships, which can carry Kalibr cruise missiles, though ISW cannot verify this claim. Zaporizhia Oblast occupation official Vladimir Rogov claimed that Russian forces also shot down three Ukrainian Storm Shadow missiles above Berdyansk on November 4.
Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)
The BBC and Russian opposition media outlet Mediazona confirmed that at least 35,780 Russian servicemen have died in the war in Ukraine since February 24, 2022 as of November 3, 2023, including 923 deaths in the past two weeks. The BBC and Mediazona confirmed the deaths through open-source materials, including a Russian death in the Ukrainian strike on Russian dry docks in Sevastopol on September 13, 2023, and the deaths of two Russian majors in the Ukrainian ATACMS strikes on Russian airfields in occupied Berdyansk and Luhansk City on October 17, 2023. The BBC and Mediazona stated that Russian deaths in Bakhmut still exceed those in the latest Russian offensive operations near Avdiivka.
The Russian government will now register prisoners on a “special military registration.” The Russian government invalidated a subsection of the law on military registration that exempted those serving a prison sentence from military registration and created a “special military registration” for prisoners. Russian military registration and enlistment offices located at correctional facilities and pre-trial detention centers will now input, edit, and remove prisoners' information on the “special military registration” without the prisoner’s personal presence at the office. The Russian prisoners subject to special registration will not undergo medical examinations or psychological screenings.
Russian Technological Adaptations (Russian objective: Introduce technological innovations to optimize systems for use in Ukraine)
Russia is reportedly struggling to improve its strategic nuclear force due to Western sanctions and the lack of domestically produced components. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) stated on November 4 that Russia conducted unsuccessful tests of the RS-24 “Yars” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on October 25 and November 1. The GUR stated that Russia also conducted an unsuccessful test of the RSM-56 “Bulava” submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on October 25. The GUR stated that Russia accepted the RS-28 “Sarmat” superheavy ICBM into service in September 2023 after only one full test and years of postponements. The GUR stated that Russia has postponed the delivery of new Tu-160M2 strategic bombers due to Russia’s inability to resume production of the new version of the NK-32 engine.
Activities in Russian-occupied areas (Russian objective: Consolidate administrative control of annexed areas; forcibly integrate Ukrainian citizens into Russian sociocultural, economic, military, and governance systems)
Russian authorities continue efforts to settle Russian citizens in occupied Ukraine. Ukrainian Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov stated on November 3 that Russian forces are searching the settlements in occupied Ukraine for vacant housing that could be allocated to Russian servicemen and citizens and that Russian authorities are evicting local residents under false claims of delinquent debt. Fedorov stated that Russian occupation authorities are expropriating the most housing in occupied Melitopol, Berdyansk, Tokmak, and Molochansk, Zaporizhia Oblast. Former Ukrainian Luhansk Oblast Administration Head Serhiy Haidai stated that Russian forces from Tatarstan are also expropriating property from Ukrainian citizens in Severodonetsk and two other cities in occupied Luhansk Oblast.
Russian sources used the celebration of Unity Day in Russia on November 4 to promote Kremlin narratives about interethnic and interreligious harmony in Russia and the Russian military as well as the false unity of occupied Ukraine with Russia. A Russian milblogger claimed that various ethnic minorities serving in the Russian military together, the presence of people from various regions of Russia in occupied Ukraine, and the patronage systems between Russian regions and occupied Ukrainian areas are all characteristic of the meaning of Unity Day. A Russian source claimed that Russian authorities canceled a religious procession in honor of Unity Day in Samara Oblast so as to not disrespect other religions and diasporas. Russian sources also highlighted the opening of the ”Rossiya” International Exhibition and Forum opened in Moscow on November 4, which included exhibits on occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhia oblasts. Antisemitic riots in Dagestan on October 29 and recent controversies surrounding Chechen and regular Russian forces highlighted interethnic and interreligious tensions in Russia.
Russian government officials continue to use escalatory nuclear rhetoric to scare the international community and impede Western military aid provisions to Ukraine. Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev claimed on November 4 that Russia has more nuclear missiles than its “competitors” for the first time in history. Patrushev claimed that Russia’s security will be guaranteed for “decades” due to its “unique strategic weapons,” such as hypersonic missiles. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko stated on November 4 that Russia will take “all necessary military-technical precautions” in response to the US transfer of F-35 nuclear-weapons capable fighter jets to the United Kingdom and NATO’s activities generally. ISW has consistently assessed that the Kremlin often references Russian nuclear capabilities in an attempt to dissuade the West from providing Ukraine with materiel.
Significant activity in Belarus (Russian efforts to increase its military presence in Belarus and further integrate Belarus into Russian-favorable frameworks and Wagner Group activity in Belarus)
Nothing significant to report.
Note: ISW does not receive any classified material from any source, uses only publicly available information, and draws extensively on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western reporting and social media as well as commercially available satellite imagery and other geospatial data as the basis for these reports. References to all sources used are provided in the endnotes of each update.
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As war frustrations rise, stalemate tests Zelensky and top general Zaluzhny
KYIV — After months of heavy losses in a largely stalled counteroffensive against Russia, tension among Ukraine’s senior leaders has spilled awkwardly into the open in recent days — prompting President Volodymyr Zelensky to call for a halt to political infighting.
“Everyone should be concentrating their efforts right now on defending the country,” Zelensky said Monday in his nightly address . “Put themselves together and do not rest; do not drown in infighting or other issues.” He warned that shattered unity could have drastic consequences: “The situation is now the same as it was before — if there is no victory, there will be no country.”
Zelensky’s plea to stop any infighting came after he engaged in his own rare public dispute with the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, over whether the war has reached a World War I-style “stalemate” — as Zaluzhny asserted in a recent interview with the Economist.
Zelensky then rebuffed those remarks at a news conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “Everyone is tired and there are different opinions,” Zelensky said when discussing Zaluzhny’s “stalemate” remark. He also told NBC News that he does “not think that this is a stalemate.” But one of the president’s aides went so far as to say on Ukrainian TV that a comment like Zaluzhny’s to the media “eases the work” of Russia.
Zaluzhny, a career military officer, enjoys huge national popularity, and he is widely viewed as a potential threat to Zelensky should he ever jump into politics. So far, the general has given no indication that he plans such a move.
But after 20 months of all-out war, public fissures are starting to appear in Ukraine’s previously unshakable national unity. The issue of a stalemate is especially sensitive because Ukrainian officials fear a perceived deadlock could mean they will be pressured into negotiations with Russia that would force them to cede territory. An overwhelming majority of Ukrainians oppose territorial concessions.
The friction among leaders is on full display as Ukraine prepares for the possibility of another brutal winter with virtually no hope of any significant progress on the southern front. Even Zaluzhny has said : “There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.”
These open disagreements “serve as a distraction from winning the war and definitely play into [the] enemy’s hands,” said Alyona Getmanchuk, founder and director of the New Europe Center, a think tank in Kyiv. “[E]verything starts from … unity inside Ukraine,” Getmanchuk said.
The lack of good news is dampening civilian morale, as are growing fears Russia will soon renew its attacks on energy infrastructure that could make life miserable during the coldest months of the year.
Grenade in birthday gift kills aide to Ukraine’s top commander
The pressure is coming not only from the battlefield. International attention has largely diverted to the war in Israel and Gaza. And in Washington, there are disagreements among lawmakers over additional aid for Ukraine.
On Monday, Zelensky publicly dismissed the possibility of holding a presidential election in spring, as would normally occur on Ukraine’s political calendar. Some foreign officials had urged Zelensky to press on with elections, as a show of the country’s commitment to democracy.
Zelensky, however, declared that discussions of elections were “utterly irresponsible” during wartime. The country is under martial law, which prohibits holding elections. In addition to thousands of soldiers fighting on the front, millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by the war, which makes holding a fair election almost impossible.
Until now, Ukraine had shown solid national unity with political rivalries set aside as the country fought back against the Russian invasion. In recent days in Kyiv, however, some observers have expressed frustration over the sense that infighting has played a role in key decisions with potentially serious effects on the outcome of the war.
Last week, for example, Zelensky’s office removed Gen. Viktor Khorenko, who headed the country’s special forces.
Khorenko, who served under Zaluzhny, told Ukrainian media outlet Ukrainska Pravda that he did not know the reason for his dismissal and that he “learned about it from the media.” Zaluzhny, he said, also appeared blindsided by the announcement and “could not explain this to me.”
Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, whose predecessor Oleksii Reznikov was ousted by Zelensky in September amid a corruption inquiry, said in a statement posted on Facebook that he could not publicly describe the reasons for Khorenko’s dismissal because such revelations could aid Russia.
In a top comment on Facebook that was liked hundreds of times, former vice prime minister Pavlo Rozenko criticized Umerov’s handling of the issue. “You made a very big mistake when you made this submission behind Zaluzhny’s back,” Rozenko wrote. “And it is precisely such mistakes that weaken Ukraine in this war! … It is very unfortunate that political intrigues prevail in this situation!”
Many others chimed in to criticize the move. One speculated that Khorenko was dismissed because “it was not possible to dislodge Zaluzhny.”
The political fractures have further darkened a national mood that was already somber over a series of brutal missile strikes by Russia and other military setbacks.
Russian missile strikes brigade in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine says
Over the weekend, at least 19 soldiers from Ukraine’s 128th Mountain Assault Brigade were killed when Russia fired a missile at a location near the front where they were gathered for a medal ceremony. The incident drew widespread outrage in Ukraine and is under investigation. The brigade commander was suspended, and Zelensky demanded an investigation into what he described as “a tragedy that could have been avoided.”
Then, on Monday, a top aide to Zaluzhny was killed when a grenade he received as part of a birthday gift exploded at his home in what police said appeared to be an accident, according to a preliminary investigation.
Some analysts rejected the idea that there was any real division between Zelensky and Zaluzhny regarding the future of the war.
“[B]oth Zaluzhny and Zelensky are trying to send the same message to the Western governments — wake up to what is at stake in Ukraine,” said Hanna Hopko, a foreign-policy analyst and former lawmaker. “I hope that instead of looking for some unimportant and populist reasons for limiting support for Ukraine, Western governments, politicians, and media will actually listen to what [they] are saying.”
Zelensky’s government, however, is finding it increasingly difficult to convince even close allies of just how much more weaponry, money and other resources they need to push Russian forces back.
In peace and war, these Ukrainian brothers bonded. Then death came.
Last weekend, before Zelensky’s announcement about the elections, von der Leyen, the European Commission president, visited Kyiv and praised Ukraine’s efforts in preparing for formal negotiations to join the bloc, saying the country had made “excellent progress.”
But some European partners have also started to rethink their national commitments.
Last month, the new Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico, announced that Slovakia would no longer provide any weapons to Ukraine.
And recent comments by Italy’s far-right prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, suggest she, too, may be wary of long-term support. Meloni until now had backed Ukraine and condemned Moscow, bucking internal pressure, including from factions within her far-right coalition that are seen as more sympathetic to Putin.
But last week, Russian comedians Vovan and Lexus — known for prank-calling prominent figures — released a 13-minute audio in which they duped Meloni into a candid assessment of the Ukraine war. “I see that there is a lot of fatigue. I have to say the truth, from all the sides,” Meloni said on the call, which took place in September. She apparently thought she was speaking to African diplomats.
“We are near the moment in which everybody understands that we need a way out,” Meloni said. “The problem is to find a way out which can be acceptable for both, without destroying the international law.”
Ukraine’s counteroffensive, she continued, “is not going” as Kyiv had hoped and seemed unlikely to change the “destiny of the conflict.” She warned the war could “last many years if we don’t try to find some solutions.”
Meloni’s office expressed “regret” for the embarrassing mishap, and her chief diplomatic adviser resigned. But she also appeared to be echoing a certain national sentiment.
In his Monday night address, Zelensky insisted that Ukraine could defeat the Russian invaders provided the country stays unified. “Our victory is achievable. We will get there if we all stay focused on this aim,” the president said. “Not on political or personal benefits. Not on the infighting that serves no use.”
Anthony Faiola in Rome and Kamila Hrabchuk, Anastacia Galouchka, Serhiy Morgunov and David L. Stern in Kyiv contributed to this report.
What to know about Ukraine’s counteroffensive
The latest: The Ukrainian military has launched a long-anticipated counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces , opening a crucial phase in the war aimed at restoring Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and preserving Western support in its fight against Moscow.
The fight: Ukrainian troops have intensified their attacks on the front line in the southeast region, according to multiple individuals in the country’s armed forces, in a significant push toward Russian-occupied territory.
The front line: The Washington Post has mapped out the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces .
How you can help: Here are ways those in the United States can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.
Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war . Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video .
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- Inside the Russian effort to build 6,000 attack drones with Iran’s help August 17, 2023 Inside the Russian effort to build 6,000 attack drones with Iran’s help August 17, 2023
- 9 big questions about Russia’s war in Ukraine, answered
Addressing some of the most pressing questions of the whole war, from how it started to how it might end.
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The Russian war in Ukraine has proven itself to be one of the most consequential political events of our time — and one of the most confusing.
From the outset, Russia’s decision to invade was hard to understand; it seemed at odds with what most experts saw as Russia’s strategic interests. As the war has progressed, the widely predicted Russian victory has failed to emerge as Ukrainian fighters have repeatedly fended off attacks from a vastly superior force. Around the world, from Washington to Berlin to Beijing, global powers have reacted in striking and even historically unprecedented fashion.
What follows is an attempt to make sense of all of this: to tackle the biggest questions everyone is asking about the war. It is a comprehensive guide to understanding what is happening in Ukraine and why it matters.
1) Why did Russia invade Ukraine?
In a televised speech announcing Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24 , Russian President Vladimir Putin said the invasion was designed to stop a “genocide” perpetrated by “the Kyiv regime” — and ultimately to achieve “the demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine.”
Though the claims of genocide and Nazi rule in Kyiv were transparently false , the rhetoric revealed Putin’s maximalist war aims: regime change (“de-Nazification”) and the elimination of Ukraine’s status as a sovereign state outside of Russian control (“demilitarization”). Why he would want to do this is a more complex story, one that emerges out of the very long arc of Russian-Ukrainian relations.
Ukraine and Russia have significant, deep, and longstanding cultural and historical ties; both date their political origins back to the ninth-century Slavic kingdom of Kievan Rus. But these ties do not make them historically identical, as Putin has repeatedly claimed in his public rhetoric. Since the rise of the modern Ukrainian national movement in the mid- to late-19th century , Russian rule in Ukraine — in both the czarist and Soviet periods — increasingly came to resemble that of an imperial power governing an unwilling colony .
Russian imperial rule ended in 1991 when 92 percent of Ukrainians voted in a national referendum to secede from the decaying Soviet Union. Almost immediately afterward , political scientists and regional experts began warning that the Russian-Ukrainian border would be a flashpoint, predicting that internal divides between the more pro-European population of western Ukraine and relatively more pro-Russian east , contested territory like the Crimean Peninsula , and Russian desire to reestablish control over its wayward vassal could all lead to conflict between the new neighbors.
It took about 20 years for these predictions to be proven right. In late 2013, Ukrainians took to the streets to protest the authoritarian and pro-Russian tilt of incumbent President Viktor Yanukovych, forcing his resignation on February 22, 2014. Five days later, the Russian military swiftly seized control of Crimea and declared it Russian territory, a brazenly illegal move that a majority of Crimeans nonetheless seemed to welcome . Pro-Russia protests in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine gave way to a violent rebellion — one stoked and armed by the Kremlin , and backed by disguised Russian troops .
The Ukrainian uprising against Yanukovych — called the “Euromaidan” movement because they were pro-EU protests that most prominently took place in Kyiv’s Maidan square — represented to Russia a threat not just to its influence over Ukraine but to the very survival of Putin’s regime. In Putin’s mind, Euromaidan was a Western-sponsored plot to overthrow a Kremlin ally, part of a broader plan to undermine Russia itself that included NATO’s post-Cold War expansions to the east.
“We understand what is happening; we understand that [the protests] were aimed against Ukraine and Russia and against Eurasian integration,” he said in a March 2014 speech on the annexation of Crimea. “With Ukraine, our Western partners have crossed the line.”
Beneath this rhetoric, according to experts on Russia, lies a deeper unstated fear: that his regime might fall prey to a similar protest movement . Ukraine could not succeed, in his view, because it might create a pro-Western model for Russians to emulate — one that the United States might eventually try to covertly export to Moscow. This was a central part of his thinking in 2014 , and it remains so today.
“He sees CIA agents behind every anti-Russian political movement,” says Seva Gunitsky, a political scientist who studies Russia at the University of Toronto. “He thinks the West wants to subvert his regime the way they did in Ukraine.”
Beginning in March 2021, Russian forces began deploying to the Ukrainian border in larger and larger numbers. Putin’s nationalist rhetoric became more aggressive: In July 2021, the Russian president published a 5,000-word essay arguing that Ukrainian nationalism was a fiction, that the country was historically always part of Russia, and that a pro-Western Ukraine posed an existential threat to the Russian nation.
“The formation of an ethnically pure Ukrainian state, aggressive towards Russia, is comparable in its consequences to the use of weapons of mass destruction against us,” as he put it in his 2021 essay .
Why Putin decided that merely seizing part of Ukraine was no longer enough remains a matter of significant debate among experts. One theory, advanced by Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar , is that pandemic-induced isolation drove him to an extreme ideological place.
But while the immediate cause of Putin’s shift on Ukraine is not clear, the nature of that shift is. His longtime belief in the urgency of restoring Russia’s greatness curdled into a neo-imperial desire to bring Ukraine back under direct Russian control. And in Russia, where Putin rules basically unchecked, that meant a full-scale war.
2) Who is winning the war?
On paper , Russia’s military vastly outstrips Ukraine’s. Russia spends over 10 times as much on defense annually as Ukraine; the Russian military has a little under three times as much artillery as Ukraine and roughly 10 times as many fixed-wing aircraft. As a result, the general pre-invasion view was that Russia would easily win a conventional war. In early February, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley told members of Congress that Kyiv, the capital, could fall within 72 hours of a Russian invasion .
But that’s not how things have played out . A month into the invasion, Ukrainians still hold Kyiv. Russia has made some gains, especially in the east and south, but the consensus view among military experts is that Ukraine’s defenses have held stoutly — to the point where Ukrainians have been able to launch counteroffensives .
The initial Russian plan reportedly operated under the assumption that a swift march on Kyiv would meet only token resistance. Putin “actually really thought this would be a ‘special military operation’: They would be done in a few days, and it wouldn’t be a real war,” says Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military at the CNA think tank.
This plan fell apart within the first 48 hours of the war when early operations like an airborne assault on the Hostomel airport ended in disaster , forcing Russian generals to develop a new strategy on the fly. What they came up with — massive artillery bombardments and attempts to encircle and besiege Ukraine’s major cities — was more effective (and more brutal). The Russians made some inroads into Ukrainian territory, especially in the south, where they have laid siege to Mariupol and taken Kherson and Melitopol.
But these Russian advances are a bit misleading. Ukraine, Kofman explains, made the tactical decision to trade “space for time” : to withdraw strategically rather than fight for every inch of Ukrainian land, confronting the Russians on the territory and at the time of their choosing.
As the fighting continued, the nature of the Ukrainian choice became clearer. Instead of getting into pitched large-scale battles with Russians on open terrain, where Russia’s numerical advantages would prove decisive, the Ukrainians instead decided to engage in a series of smaller-scale clashes .
Ukrainian forces have bogged down Russian units in towns and smaller cities ; street-to-street combat favors defenders who can use their superior knowledge of the city’s geography to hide and conduct ambushes. They have attacked isolated and exposed Russian units traveling on open roads. They have repeatedly raided poorly protected supply lines.
This approach has proven remarkably effective. By mid-March, Western intelligence agencies and open source analysts concluded that the Ukrainians had successfully managed to stall the Russian invasion. The Russian military all but openly recognized this reality in a late March briefing, in which top generals implausibly claimed they never intended to take Kyiv and were always focused on making territorial gains in the east.
“The initial Russian campaign to invade and conquer Ukraine is culminating without achieving its objectives — it is being defeated, in other words,” military scholar Frederick Kagan wrote in a March 22 brief for the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank.
Currently, Ukrainian forces are on the offensive. They have pushed the Russians farther from Kyiv , with some reports suggesting they have retaken the suburb of Irpin and forced Russia to withdraw some of its forces from the area in a tacit admission of defeat. In the south, Ukrainian forces are contesting Russian control over Kherson .
And throughout the fighting, Russian casualties have been horrifically high.
It’s hard to get accurate information in a war zone, but one of the more authoritative estimates of Russian war dead — from the US Defense Department — concludes that over 7,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the first three weeks of fighting, a figure about three times as large as the total US service members dead in all 20 years of fighting in Afghanistan. A separate NATO estimate puts that at the low end, estimating between 7,000 and 15,000 Russians killed in action and as many as 40,000 total losses (including injuries, captures, and desertions). Seven Russian generals have been reported killed in the fighting, and materiel losses — ranging from armor to aircraft — have been enormous. (Russia puts its death toll at more than 1,300 soldiers, which is almost certainly a significant undercount.)
This all does not mean that a Russian victory is impossible. Any number of things, ranging from Russian reinforcements to the fall of besieged Mariupol, could give the war effort new life.
It does, however, mean that what Russia is doing right now hasn’t worked.
“If the point is just to wreak havoc, then they’re doing fine. But if the point is to wreak havoc and thus advance further — be able to hold more territory — they’re not doing fine,” says Olga Oliker, the program director for Europe and Central Asia at the International Crisis Group.
3) Why is Russia’s military performing so poorly?
Russia’s invasion has gone awry for two basic reasons: Its military wasn’t ready to fight a war like this, and the Ukrainians have put up a much stronger defense than anyone expected.
Russia’s problems begin with Putin’s unrealistic invasion plan. But even after the Russian high command adjusted its strategy, other flaws in the army remained.
“We’re seeing a country militarily implode,” says Robert Farley, a professor who studies air power at the University of Kentucky.
One of the biggest and most noticeable issues has been rickety logistics. Some of the most famous images of the war have been of Russian armored vehicles parked on Ukrainian roads, seemingly out of gas and unable to advance. The Russian forces have proven to be underequipped and badly supplied, encountering problems ranging from poor communications to inadequate tires .
Part of the reason is a lack of sufficient preparation. Per Kofman, the Russian military simply “wasn’t organized for this kind of war” — meaning, the conquest of Europe’s second-largest country by area. Another part of it is corruption in the Russian procurement system. Graft in Russia is less a bug in its political system than a feature; one way the Kremlin maintains the loyalty of its elite is by allowing them to profit off of government activity . Military procurement is no exception to this pattern of widespread corruption, and it has led to troops having substandard access to vital supplies .
The same lack of preparation has plagued Russia’s air force . Despite outnumbering the Ukrainian air force by roughly 10 times, the Russians have failed to establish air superiority: Ukraine’s planes are still flying and its air defenses mostly remain in place .
Perhaps most importantly, close observers of the war believe Russians are suffering from poor morale. Because Putin’s plan to invade Ukraine was kept secret from the vast majority of Russians, the government had a limited ability to lay a propaganda groundwork that would get their soldiers motivated to fight. The current Russian force has little sense of what they’re fighting for or why — and are waging war against a country with which they have religious, ethnic, historical, and potentially even familial ties. In a military that has long had systemic morale problems, that’s a recipe for battlefield disaster.
“Russian morale was incredibly low BEFORE the war broke out. Brutal hazing in the military, second-class (or worse) status by its conscript soldiers, ethnic divisions, corruption, you name it: the Russian Army was not prepared to fight this war,” Jason Lyall, a Dartmouth political scientist who studies morale, explains via email. “High rates of abandoned or captured equipment, reports of sabotaged equipment, and large numbers of soldiers deserting (or simply camping out in the forest) are all products of low morale.”
The contrast with the Ukrainians couldn’t be starker. They are defending their homes and their families from an unprovoked invasion, led by a charismatic leader who has made a personal stand in Kyiv. Ukrainian high morale is a key reason, in addition to advanced Western armaments, that the defenders have dramatically outperformed expectations.
“Having spent a chunk of my professional career [working] with the Ukrainians, nobody, myself included and themselves included, had all that high an estimation of their military capacity,” Oliker says.
Again, none of this will necessarily remain the case throughout the war. Morale can shift with battlefield developments. And even if Russian morale remains low, it’s still possible for them to win — though they’re more likely to do so in a brutally ugly fashion.
4) What has the war meant for ordinary Ukrainians?
As the fighting has dragged on, Russia has gravitated toward tactics that, by design, hurt civilians. Most notably, Russia has attempted to lay siege to Ukraine’s cities, cutting off supply and escape routes while bombarding them with artillery. The purpose of the strategy is to wear down the Ukrainian defenders’ willingness to fight, including by inflicting mass pain on the civilian populations.
The result has been nightmarish: an astonishing outflow of Ukrainian refugees and tremendous suffering for many of those who were unwilling or unable to leave.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees , more than 3.8 million Ukrainians fled the country between February 24 and March 27. That’s about 8.8 percent of Ukraine’s total population — in proportional terms, the rough equivalent of the entire population of Texas being forced to flee the United States.
Another point of comparison: In 2015, four years into the Syrian civil war and the height of the global refugee crisis, there were a little more than 4 million Syrian refugees living in nearby countries . The Ukraine war has produced a similarly sized exodus in just a month, leading to truly massive refugee flows to its European neighbors. Poland, the primary destination of Ukrainian refugees, is currently housing over 2.3 million Ukrainians, a figure larger than the entire population of Warsaw, its capital and largest city.
For those civilians who have been unable to flee, the situation is dire. There are no reliable estimates of death totals; a March 27 UN estimate puts the figure at 1,119 but cautions that “the actual figures are considerably higher [because] the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration.”
The UN assessment does not blame one side or the other for these deaths, but does note that “most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and airstrikes.” It is the Russians, primarily, who are using these sorts of weapons in populated areas; Human Rights Watch has announced that there are “early signs of war crimes” being committed by Russian soldiers in these kinds of attacks, and President Joe Biden has personally labeled Putin a “war criminal.”
Nowhere is this devastation more visible than the southern city of Mariupol, the largest Ukrainian population center to which Russia has laid siege. Aerial footage of the city published by the Guardian in late March reveals entire blocks demolished by Russian bombardment:
In mid-March, three Associated Press journalists — the last international reporters in the city before they too were evacuated — managed to file a dispatch describing life on the ground. They reported a death total of 2,500 but cautioned that “many bodies can’t be counted because of the endless shelling .” The situation is impossibly dire:
Airstrikes and shells have hit the maternity hospital, the fire department, homes, a church, a field outside a school. For the estimated hundreds of thousands who remain, there is quite simply nowhere to go. The surrounding roads are mined and the port blocked. Food is running out, and the Russians have stopped humanitarian attempts to bring it in. Electricity is mostly gone and water is sparse, with residents melting snow to drink. Some parents have even left their newborns at the hospital, perhaps hoping to give them a chance at life in the one place with decent electricity and water.
The battlefield failures of the Russian military have raised questions about its competence in difficult block-to-block fighting; Farley, the Kentucky professor, says, “This Russian army does not look like it can conduct serious [urban warfare].” As a result, taking Ukrainian cities means besieging them — starving them out, destroying their will to fight, and only moving into the city proper after its population is unwilling to resist or outright incapable of putting up a fight.
5) What do Russians think about the war?
Vladimir Putin’s government has ramped up its already repressive policies during the Ukraine conflict, shuttering independent media outlets and blocking access to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram . It’s now extremely difficult to get a sense of what either ordinary Russians or the country’s elite think about the war, as criticizing it could lead to a lengthy stint in prison.
But despite this opacity, expert Russia watchers have developed a broad idea of what’s going on there. The war has stirred up some opposition and anti-Putin sentiment, but it has been confined to a minority who are unlikely to change Putin’s mind, let alone topple him.
The bulk of the Russian public was no more prepared for war than the bulk of the Russian military — in fact, probably less so. After Putin announced the launch of his “special military operation” in Ukraine on national television, there was a surprising amount of criticism from high-profile Russians — figures ranging from billionaires to athletes to social media influencers. One Russian journalist, Marina Ovsyannikova, bravely ran into the background of a government broadcast while holding an antiwar sign.
“It is unprecedented to see oligarchs, other elected officials, and other powerful people in society publicly speaking out against the war,” says Alexis Lerner, a scholar of dissent in Russia at the US Naval Academy.
There have also been antiwar rallies in dozens of Russian cities. How many have participated in these rallies is hard to say, but the human rights group OVD-Info estimates that over 15,000 Russians have been arrested at the events since the war began.
Could these eruptions of antiwar sentiment at the elite and mass public level suggest a coming coup or revolution against the Putin regime? Experts caution that these events remain quite unlikely.
Putin has done an effective job engaging in what political scientists call “coup-proofing.” He has put in barriers — from seeding the military with counterintelligence officers to splitting up the state security services into different groups led by trusted allies — that make it quite difficult for anyone in his government to successfully move against him.
“Putin has prepared for this eventuality for a long time and has taken a lot of concerted actions to make sure he’s not vulnerable,” says Adam Casey, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan who studies the history of coups in Russia and the former communist bloc.
Similarly, turning the antiwar protests into a full-blown influential movement is a very tall order.
“It is hard to organize sustained collective protest in Russia,” notes Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard who studies protest movements . “Putin’s government has criminalized many forms of protests, and has shut down or restricted the activities of groups, movements, and media outlets perceived to be in opposition or associated with the West.”
Underpinning it all is tight government control of the information environment. Most Russians get their news from government-run media , which has been serving up a steady diet of pro-war content. Many of them appear to genuinely believe what they hear: One independent opinion poll found that 58 percent of Russians supported the war to at least some degree.
Prior to the war, Putin also appeared to be a genuinely popular figure in Russia. The elite depend on him for their position and fortune; many citizens see him as the man who saved Russia from the chaos of the immediate post-Communist period. A disastrous war might end up changing that, but the odds that even a sustained drop in his support translates into a coup or revolution remain low indeed.
6) What is the US role in the conflict?
The war remains, for the moment, a conflict between Ukraine and Russia. But the United States is the most important third party, using a number of powerful tools — short of direct military intervention — to aid the Ukrainian cause.
Any serious assessment of US involvement needs to start in the post-Cold War 1990s , when the US and its NATO allies made the decision to open alliance membership to former communist states.
Many of these countries, wary of once again being put under the Russian boot, clamored to join the alliance, which commits all involved countries to defend any member-state in the event of an attack. In 2008, NATO officially announced that Georgia and Ukraine — two former Soviet republics right on Russia’s doorstep — “ will become members of NATO ” at an unspecified future date. This infuriated the Russians, who saw NATO expansion as a direct threat to their own security.
There is no doubt that NATO expansion helped create some of the background conditions under which the current conflict became thinkable, generally pushing Putin’s foreign policy in a more anti-Western direction. Some experts see it as one of the key causes of his decision to attack Ukraine — but others strongly disagree, noting that NATO membership for Ukraine was already basically off the table before the war and that Russia’s declared war aims went far beyond simply blocking Ukraine’s NATO bid .
“NATO expansion was deeply unpopular in Russia. [But] Putin did not invade because of NATO expansion,” says Yoshiko Herrera, a Russia expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Regardless of where one falls on that debate, US policy during the conflict has been exceptionally clear: support the Ukrainians with massive amounts of military assistance while putting pressure on Putin to back down by organizing an unprecedented array of international economic sanctions.
On the military side, weapons systems manufactured and provided by the US and Europe have played a vital role in blunting Russia’s advance. The Javelin anti-tank missile system, for example, is a lightweight American-made launcher that allows one or two infantry soldiers to take out a tank . Javelins have given the outgunned Ukrainians a fighting chance against Russian armor, becoming a popular symbol in the process .
Sanctions have proven similarly devastating in the economic realm .
The international punishments have been extremely broad, ranging from removing key Russian banks from the SWIFT global transaction system to a US ban on Russian oil imports to restrictions on doing business with particular members of the Russian elite . Freezing the assets of Russia’s central bank has proven to be a particularly damaging tool, wrecking Russia’s ability to deal with the collapse in the value of the ruble, its currency. As a result, the Russian economy is projected to contract by 15 percent this year ; mass unemployment looms .
There is more America can do, particularly when it comes to fulfilling Ukrainian requests for new fighter jets. In March, Washington rejected a Polish plan to transfer MiG-29 aircraft to Ukraine via a US Air Force base in Germany, arguing that it could be too provocative.
But the MiG-29 incident is more the exception than it is the rule. On the whole, the United States has been strikingly willing to take aggressive steps to punish Moscow and aid Kyiv’s war effort.
7) How is the rest of the world responding to Russia’s actions?
On the surface, the world appears to be fairly united behind the Ukrainian cause. The UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the Russian invasion by a whopping 141-5 margin (with 35 abstentions). But the UN vote conceals a great deal of disagreement, especially among the world’s largest and most influential countries — divergences that don’t always fall neatly along democracy-versus-autocracy lines.
The most aggressive anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian positions can, perhaps unsurprisingly, be found in Europe and the broader West. EU and NATO members, with the partial exceptions of Hungary and Turkey , have strongly supported the Ukrainian war effort and implemented punishing sanctions on Russia (a major trading partner). It’s the strongest show of European unity since the Cold War, one that many observers see as a sign that Putin’s invasion has already backfired.
Germany, which has important trade ties with Russia and a post-World War II tradition of pacifism, is perhaps the most striking case. Nearly overnight, the Russian invasion convinced center-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz to support rearmament , introducing a proposal to more than triple Germany’s defense budget that’s widely backed by the German public.
“It’s really revolutionary,” Sophia Besch, a Berlin-based senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, told my colleague Jen Kirby . “Scholz, in his speech, did away with and overturned so many of what we thought were certainties of German defense policy.”
Though Scholz has refused to outright ban Russian oil and gas imports, he has blocked the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and committed to a long-term strategy of weaning Germany off of Russian energy. All signs point to Russia waking a sleeping giant — of creating a powerful military and economic enemy in the heart of the European continent.
China, by contrast, has been the most pro-Russia of the major global powers.
The two countries, bound by shared animus toward a US-dominated world order, have grown increasingly close in recent years. Chinese propaganda has largely toed the Russian line on the Ukraine war. US intelligence, which has been remarkably accurate during the crisis, believes that Russia has requested military and financial assistance from Beijing — which hasn’t been provided yet but may well be forthcoming.
That said, it’s possible to overstate the degree to which China has taken the Russian side. Beijing has a strong stated commitment to state sovereignty — the bedrock of its position on Taiwan is that the island is actually Chinese territory — which makes a full-throated backing of the invasion ideologically awkward . There’s a notable amount of debate among Chinese policy experts and in the public , with some analysts publicly advocating that Beijing adopt a more neutral line on the conflict.
Most other countries around the world fall somewhere on the spectrum between the West and China. Outside of Europe, only a handful of mostly pro-American states — like South Korea, Japan, and Australia — have joined the sanctions regime. The majority of countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America do not support the invasion, but won’t do very much to punish Russia for it either.
India is perhaps the most interesting country in this category. A rising Asian democracy that has violently clashed with China in the very recent past , it has good reasons to present itself as an American partner in the defense of freedom. Yet India also depends heavily on Russian-made weapons for its own defense and hopes to use its relationship with Russia to limit the Moscow-Beijing partnership. It’s also worth noting that India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has strong autocratic inclinations .
The result of all of this is a balancing act reminiscent of India’s Cold War approach of “non-alignment” : refusing to side with either the Russian or American positions while attempting to maintain decent relations with both . India’s perceptions of its strategic interests, more than ideological views about democracy, appear to be shaping its response to the war — as seems to be the case with quite a few countries around the world.
8) Could this turn into World War III?
The basic, scary answer to this question is yes: The invasion of Ukraine has put us at the greatest risk of a NATO-Russia war in decades.
The somewhat more comforting and nuanced answer is that the absolute risk remains relatively low so long as there is no direct NATO involvement in the conflict, which the Biden administration has repeatedly ruled out . Though Biden said “this man [Putin] cannot remain in power” in a late March speech, both White House officials and the president himself stressed afterward that the US policy was not regime change in Moscow.
“Things are stable in a nuclear sense right now,” says Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on nuclear weapons at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “The minute NATO gets involved, the scope of the war widens.”
In theory, US and NATO military assistance to Ukraine could open the door to escalation: Russia could attack a military depot in Poland containing weapons bound for Ukraine, for instance. But in practice, it’s unlikely: The Russians don’t appear to want a wider war with NATO that risks nuclear escalation, and so have avoided cross-border strikes even when it might destroy supply shipments bound for Ukraine.
In early March, the US Department of Defense opened a direct line of communication with its Russian peers in order to avoid any kind of accidental conflict. It’s not clear how well this is working — some reporting suggests the Russians aren’t answering American calls — but there is a long history of effective dialogue between rivals who are fighting each other through proxy forces.
“States often cooperate to keep limits on their wars even as they fight one another clandestinely,” Lyall, the Dartmouth professor, tells me. “While there’s always a risk of unintended escalation, historical examples like Vietnam, Afghanistan (1980s), Afghanistan again (post-2001), and Syria show that wars can be fought ‘within bounds.’”
If the United States and NATO heed the call of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to impose a so-called “no-fly zone” over Ukrainian skies, the situation changes dramatically. No-fly zones are commitments to patrol and, if necessary, shoot down military aircraft that fly in the declared area, generally for the purpose of protecting civilians. In Ukraine, that would mean the US and its NATO allies sending in jets to patrol Ukraine’s skies — and being willing to shoot down any Russian planes that enter protected airspace. From there, the risks of a nuclear conflict become terrifyingly high.
Russia recognizes its inferiority to NATO in conventional terms; its military doctrine has long envisioned the use of nuclear weapons in a war with the Western alliance . In his speech declaring war on Ukraine, Putin all but openly vowed that any international intervention in the conflict would trigger nuclear retaliation.
“To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside: If you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history,” the Russian president said. “I hope you hear me.”
The Biden administration is taking these threats seriously. Much as the Kremlin hasn’t struck NATO supply missions to Ukraine, the White House has flatly rejected a no-fly zone or any other kind of direct military intervention.
“We will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine,” Biden said on March 11 . “Direct conflict between NATO and Russia is World War III, something we must strive to prevent.”
This does not mean the risk of a wider war is zero . Accidents happen, and countries can be dragged into war against their leaders’ best judgment. Political positions and risk calculi can also change: If Russia starts losing badly and uses smaller nukes on Ukrainian forces (called “tactical” nuclear weapons), Biden would likely feel the need to respond in some fairly aggressive way. Much depends on Washington and Moscow continuing to show a certain level of restraint.
9) How could the war end?
Wars do not typically end with the total defeat of one side or the other. More commonly, there’s some kind of negotiated settlement — either a ceasefire or more permanent peace treaty — where the two sides agree to stop fighting under a set of mutually agreeable terms.
It is possible that the Ukraine conflict turns out to be an exception: that Russian morale collapses completely, leading to utter battlefield defeat, or that Russia inflicts so much pain that Kyiv collapses. But most analysts believe that neither of these is especially likely given the way the war has played out to date.
“No matter how much military firepower they pour into it, [the Russians] are not going to be able to achieve regime change or some of their maximalist aims,” Kofman, of the CNA think tank, declares.
A negotiated settlement is the most likely way the conflict ends. Peace negotiations between the two sides are ongoing, and some reporting suggests they’re bearing fruit. On March 28, the Financial Times reported significant progress on a draft agreement covering issues ranging from Ukrainian NATO membership to the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine. The next day, Russia pledged to decrease its use of force in Ukraine’s north as a sign of its commitment to the talks.
American officials, though, have been publicly skeptical of Russia’s seriousness in the talks. Even if Moscow is committed to reaching a settlement, the devil is always in the details with these sorts of things — and there are lots of barriers standing in the way of a successful resolution.
Take NATO. The Russians want a simple pledge that Ukraine will remain “neutral” — staying out of foreign security blocs. The current draft agreement, per the Financial Times, does preclude Ukrainian NATO membership, but it permits Ukraine to join the EU. It also commits at least 11 countries, including the United States and China, to coming to Ukraine’s aid if it is attacked again. This would put Ukraine on a far stronger security footing than it had before the war — a victory for Kyiv and defeat for Moscow, one that Putin may ultimately conclude is unacceptable.
Another thorny issue — perhaps the thorniest — is the status of Crimea and the two breakaway Russian-supported republics in eastern Ukraine. The Russians want Ukrainian recognition of its annexation of Crimea and the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions; Ukraine claims all three as part of its territory. Some compromise is imaginable here — an internationally monitored referendum in each territory, perhaps — but what that would look like is not obvious.
The resolution of these issues will likely depend quite a bit on the war’s progress. The more each side believes it has a decent chance to improve its battlefield position and gain leverage in negotiations, the less reason either will have to make concessions to the other in the name of ending the fighting.
And even if they do somehow come to an agreement, it may not end up holding .
On the Ukrainian side, ultra-nationalist militias could work to undermine any agreement with Russia that they believe gives away too much, as they threatened during pre-war negotiations aimed at preventing the Russian invasion .
On the Russian side, an agreement is only as good as Putin’s word. Even if it contains rigorous provisions designed to raise the costs of future aggression, like international peacekeepers, that may not hold him back from breaking the agreement.
This invasion did, after all, start with him launching an invasion that seemed bound to hurt Russia in the long run. Putin dragged the world into this mess; when and how it gets out of it depends just as heavily on his decisions.
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Ukraine army chief says war with Russia moving to 'stalemate' phase
Gen. valery zaluzhnyi says ukraine needs new military capabilities — including air power.
Ukraine's war with Russia is moving to a new stage of static and attritional fighting, the Ukrainian commander-in-chief says, and that could benefit Moscow and allow it to rebuild its military power.
In an article for The Economist , Gen. Valery Zaluzhnyi said his army needed key new military capabilities and technology, most importantly air power, to break out of the new phase of the war, now in its 21st month.
Using stark language, he described risks of prolonged, attritional fighting: "This will benefit Russia, allowing it to rebuild its military power, eventually threatening Ukraine's armed forces and the state itself."
His article comes almost five months into a major Ukrainian counteroffensive that has not made a serious breakthrough against heavily mined Russian defensive lines. Fighting is expected to slow as the weather worsens.
Russian troops have now gone on the offensive in parts of in the east and Kyiv fears Moscow plans to unleash a campaign of airstrikes to cripple the power grid, plunging millions into darkness in the depths of winter.
"Just like in the First World War we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate," Zaluzhnyi was quoted as saying in an interview published alongside his article.
The article singled out Russia's air power advantage as a factor that had made advancing harder and called for Kyiv to conduct massive drone strikes to overload Russia's air defences.
"Basic weapons, such as missiles and shells, remain essential. But Ukraine's armed forces need key military capabilities and technologies to break out of this kind of war. The most important one is air power," he wrote.
He said Ukraine needed to get better at destroying Russian artillery and also to devise better mine-breaching technology, saying Western supplies have proven insufficient faced with Russian minefields that stretched back 20 kilometres in some areas.
He called it a priority for Ukraine to build up its reserve forces despite noting it had limited capacity to train them inside the country and highlighting gaps in legislation that allowed people to evade service.
"We are trying to fix these problems. We are introducing a unified register of draftees, and we must expand the category of citizens who can be called up for training or mobilization," he wrote.
Mounting toll of landmines, explosives
The war is enacting a mounting toll on Ukrainian civilians.
On Wednesday, Ukraine's military said more than 260 civilians have been killed in Ukraine after stepping on landmines or other explosives during the war.
Kyiv estimates that 174,000 square kilometres of the country — about a third of its territory — is potentially strewn with mines or dangerous war detritus.
At least 571 people have received injuries during more than 560 incidents involving mines or explosive objects left behind by the fighting, the General Staff said on Telegram.
Almost a quarter of the incidents occurred in fields, it added.
Some farmers take risks trying to work in areas thought to be contaminated with mines. On Wednesday, a tractor hit an unidentified explosive in southern Mykolaiv region, leaving two men wounded, the Interior Ministry said.
Ukraine is in critical need of sappers — soldiers trained to remove landmines and other explosives. It now has about 3,000 specialists operating, but it needs 7,000 more to fully clear all the mines, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal was quoted as saying by Ukraine's public broadcaster, Suspilne.
Drone attack on refinery
A Russian drone attack set ablaze the Kremenchuk oil refinery in central Ukraine and knocked out power supply in three villages, while battlefield reports said Ukrainian forces had repelled Russian attacks in frontline sectors in the east and northeast.
The fire at the Kremenchuk refinery, which Moscow has targeted many times during the war and Kyiv says is not operational, was quickly put out, said Filip Pronin, head of Poltava region's military administration. The extent of the damage wasn't clear.
Ukraine's air force said defences shot down 18 of 20 drones and a missile fired by Russia overnight before they reached their targets in an attack aimed at military and critical infrastructure.
"The focus of the attack was Poltava region; it was attacked in several waves," air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said on national television.
Attacks near Avdiivka
The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said troops had repelled eight Russian attacks near Kupiansk in the northeast; five near the shattered eastern town of Bakhmut, held by Russian forces; and five further south near Avdiivka, a focal point of Russian assaults since mid-October.
A video posted by the Ukrainian military showed its forces destroying a Russian flamethrower system near Avdiivka, an attack it said could be observed for dozens of kilometres.
Military analyst Oleksandr Kovalenko, in an article posted online, said some 40,000 Russian troops were now massed outside Avdiivka, widely viewed as a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
"Despite its losses, the Russian command still intends to capture Avdiivka, which is now a political, rather than a tactical, aim," Kovalenko wrote.
Natalia Khomeniuk, a military spokesperson in the south, said Russian forces had dropped 20 aerial bombs in Kherson region from positions they now hold on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River after abandoning the region's main town last year. Russian forces shell the river's western bank almost daily.
In Poltava region, three villages lost electricity after power lines and an unnamed infrastructure facility were damaged, the Ukrainian Energy Ministry said on Telegram.
Railway power lines were damaged by falling debris in central Kirovohrad region, but the damage was quickly repaired, Gov. Andriy Raikovych said.
The Ukrainian military said Russia carried out another missile attack on Poltava region and southern Odesa region later on Wednesday morning, with two missiles downed in the latter.
- Buildings damaged, destroyed and 8 people hurt in Kherson amid heavy shelling: official
- Ukraine bracing for another winter of Russian attacks targeting energy grid, Zelenskyy says
Reuters could not independently verify the reports. Russia made no immediate comment on the Ukrainian reports.
The Russian Defence Ministry's accounts said its forces had hit Ukrainian troops and equipment in villages south of Bakhmut.
- More than 300 people killed by cluster munitions in Ukraine last year
- Learning how to remove deadly mines a new area of study for Ukrainian teacher
- Share full article
I’m a Ukrainian, and I Refuse to Compete for Your Attention
By Sasha Dovzhyk
Dr. Dovzhyk, the editor of the London Ukrainian Review, splits her time between Kyiv and London.
The day Hamas attacked Israel, I unexpectedly reunited with my best friend in Kyiv.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February last year, our paths had barely crossed. As a lecturer, researcher and volunteer, I went back and forth between Ukraine and Britain. My friend, meanwhile, traveled across Ukraine as a local producer for foreign journalists covering the war. It was important work. But on Oct. 7 , a media trip my friend had been organizing to eastern Ukraine was canceled. The crew instead left for the Middle East.
“They leave Ukraine because the front is moving slowly,” my friend told me when we met at her place in Kyiv. “The journalists will be back in no time once we liberate any significant patch of land.”
Liberate another significant patch of occupied territories and discover another mass grave, I thought. That would, for a few days, refresh the world’s memory of what Ukraine is up against. The delivery of a dozen more tanks might follow, perhaps, along with some renewed talk of commitment. But with enough weapons to keep fighting but not to win, Ukraine is at a stalemate, as Gen. Valery Zaluzhny recently confirmed . Those of us not in the trenches must continue selling Ukrainian resistance to the world, telling our stories in the hope of support.
For 20 months, I have been churning out essays on why the world should stay focused on Ukraine. I have written them in a bomb shelter in Lviv, in a train packed with refugees in Poland, in a bathroom during an air raid in Kyiv and on the back seat of a car returning from near-frontline towns. Now, from the comfort of a London library, I try once again to persuade readers that they should not look away from my homeland’s struggle for survival, even as another part of the world is erupting in unspeakable violence.
But the words won’t come. I refuse to compete for attention.
To captivate capricious and yet lifesaving international interest, Ukrainians film TikTok videos in the trenches and award-winning documentaries on the sites of Russian war crimes. One moment they show breathtaking bravery; the next they show their wounds. Be it NATO summits or TED talks, Ukrainians are using all available platforms to retell the tale of the underdog, in myriad voices, to keep the world invested in our existential fight.
And yet this high-stakes storytelling infantilizes Ukrainians: It turns us into children vying for the adults’ attention. Our allies play the role of easily distracted, perpetually fatigued spectators who cannot face the unadorned truth of the invasion. The truth, however, is there in full view at the center of the picture, like the anamorphic skull in Hans Holbein’s majestic 1533 painting “ The Ambassadors .”
Taking advantage of my temporary stay in London, I recently went to the National Gallery to stare at that portrait of two learned men in their best furs and velvets. Between them, inexplicably rising up from the floor, is a strange shape that somewhat resembles a mollusk. When looked at from the right angle, the distorted gray figure reveals itself to be a skull. It hints at the futility of furs and velvets, of verbal acrobatics and dances at the edge of the abyss. Holbein disrupts the vision of earthly riches and pursuits with the final truth of death.
After 20 months of writing our friends’ obituaries and watching our hometowns turn to rubble under enemy fire, Ukrainians have become overfamiliar with the concept of violent and sudden death. We share playlists for our own funerals and complain about having to wear fancy pajamas in case we are murdered in our sleep during another nightly visit of Iranian drones or Russian rockets.
But the threat of annihilation has not made us more willing to concede. According to a recent poll, 80 percent of Ukrainians still oppose any territorial concessions to Russia, even if this means that the war will last longer. As torture chambers and mass graves in the liberated territories of Kyiv , Kharkiv and Kherson regions lay bare, Russian occupation does not present Ukrainians with a choice between life and freedom. Russia takes both, and then it takes some more.
Despite all our storytelling, what we seem to have failed to communicate to our allies is that the annihilation promised to us by Russia is not reserved for Ukrainians alone. By mining Ukrainian fields and bombing agricultural infrastructure, Russia promises starvation to parts of Asia and Africa that rely on Ukraine’s food exports. By weaponizing energy, Russia feeds right-wing reaction in Europe, as populist politicians exploit social discontent. By occupying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, pulling out of a nuclear test ban treaty and rattling its nuclear saber, Russia normalizes nuclear blackmail.
It simply won’t stop at Ukraine. Every few days, propagandists on Russian state television fantasize about invading Poland , the Baltic States or Finland . The failure to convincingly punish Russia for its initial invasion of Ukraine almost a decade ago led to the escalation in 2022 and inspired others’ disregard for international law, including those now active in the Middle East. The alternative to punishment is an increasingly post-democratic and fragmented world where those who fight to preserve freedom are left to their own devices.
Ukrainians fight in full knowledge that no compromise with evil will contain it. This is the truth that our allies need to contemplate, absorb and act upon — without having to be endlessly reminded of it.
Sasha Dovzhyk ( @sasha_weirdsley ) is a special projects curator at the Ukrainian Institute London. Her work in Ukraine is supported by the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .
Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram .
Russia turns to buybacks to resupply forces deployed in Ukraine: WSJ
The Wall Street Journal reports that Russia is engaging in export requisitions and buybacks to boost its depleting arsenal, as it continues its invasion of Ukraine.
Russia is trying to get back parts of defence systems it had exported in an attempt to restock for its invasion of Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal has reported .
In an article published on Wednesday, the US-based newspaper reported – citing three people with knowledge of the encounter – that Russian officials visited Cairo in April and asked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to return more than 100 engines from Russian helicopters.
Will uae hurt russia with export controls to please the us amid israel war, israel’s nuclear option remark raises ‘huge number of questions’: russia, russia pulls out of decades-old european arms treaty, says it is ‘history’.
The sources claimed Sisi gave the green light and the deliveries will likely begin in December.
An Egyptian government spokesman declined to comment to the WSJ.
Al Jazeera was not able to independently verify the claims.
Cairo has maintained some arms trade ties with Russia, to which the US has acquiesced.
According to the newspaper, Moscow has also contacted Pakistani, Belarusian and Brazilian officials to try to recover engines and transport helicopters its forces lost to Ukrainian defences early on in the war.
“Russia spent decades building its arms trade,” one source said, according to the WSJ. “Now they’re going back in secret to their customers trying to buy back what they sold them.”
As well as buying back weapons, Russia is understood to be stepping up domestic production.
Russian officials have rejected repeated Western claims its supplies are shrinking and steered clear of announcing specifics regarding its arsenal and domestic production.
The war in Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, and has claimed tens of thousands of lives – mostly soldiers on both sides, devastated the country, and sent diplomatic ties between the West and Moscow to historic lows.
WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich is currently detained in Russia, accused of spying. He and his paper deny the allegations.
In its report on Wednesday, the WSJ also alleged that Russia has received more munitions from partners, including North Korea – a claim made earlier this month by South Korea and denied by Pyongyang.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Russia officially pulled out of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), an international security pact that restricts the use of conventional weapons, saying NATO’s expansion has made such cooperation impossible.
As for Ukraine’s weapons supplies, military analysts have said Kyiv’s counteroffensive has so far failed because the West is failing to send arms in an efficient manner.
“Strategic objectives have not been achieved this year, and it’s hardly possible” in the remaining months, Lieutenant General Ihor Romanenko, former deputy chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, told Al Jazeera.
He blamed Western allies for months-long delays of weaponry and a reluctance to supply more sophisticated arms.
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