This page features the weekly news and analysis digests compiled by Russia Matters. Explore them by clicking "Read More" below the current week's highlights and subscribe using the subscribe links throughout the site, like the one below, to receive our digests via email. Past digests are available in the News Archive, which is accessible via the link on this page.
This Week’s Highlights
- While announcing his first sanctions against Russia two days after his conversation with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Joe Biden noted on April 15 that he “could have gone further, but chose not to do so” and asserted that “now is the time to de-escalate.” In spite of these conciliatory remarks and the fact that Russian markets seemed to have shrugged off the U.S. sanctions, Putin’s diplomats announced a raft of punitive measures against the U.S. on April 16, while also suggesting that U.S. Ambassador in Moscow John Sullivan pack his bags and leave, if only temporarily.
- Russia sees the United States as its “adversary,” a top Russian Foreign Ministry official said April 13. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov’s words mark a departure from Russia’s usual description of the U.S. as a “partner.”
- A senior Biden administration official said the U.S. was not taking any countermeasures in view of a U.S. intelligence assessment that concluded with only “low to moderate confidence” that Russian intelligence officers paid the Taliban to attack U.S. and allied personnel in Afghanistan in 2019.
- The United States has canceled this week's planned deployment of two warships to the Black Sea, Turkish officials and media said April 14. Earlier, the Russian Navy had launched drills in the Black Sea ahead of the two U.S. warships’ planned arrival.
- The 2021 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community said: “We assess that Russia does not want a direct conflict with U.S. forces.” The assessment also said that “Moscow is well positioned to increase its role in the Caucasus, intervene in Belarus if it deems necessary and continue destabilization efforts against Ukraine.”
- Pentagon officials say the current intelligence does not indicate that Russia’s land force is prepared for offensive operations against Ukraine in the next few days, because there is no evidence of the logistics, spare parts, fuel and medical capability that would need to be pre-positioned.
This Week’s Highlights
- The Czech government’s announcement that Russia was behind an explosion in an arms depot in 2014 and consequent expulsion of 18 diplomats speaks volumes about the Kremlin’s wider thinking, writes RUSI’s Mark Galeotti. Since then, a Russian leadership convinced it is fighting an underground yet existential struggle for its country’s place in the world and true sovereignty, has adopted a wartime mentality, willing to take risks, accept tactical defeats and bear the burdens of sanctions and censure alike in the name of the struggle, Galeotti argues.
- Unless Washington increases its strategic pressure on Beijing and Moscow to such an extreme that both states feel compelled to consolidate a formal alliance, China and Russia will continue to pursue a hedging strategy but avoid entering an outright alliance, writes Prof. Wang Dong of Peking University.
- Financial Times’ Gideon Rachman argues that a U.S. pullout from Afghanistan could be seen as a Vietnam-like failure, emboldening Russia and China to test the Biden administration’s resolve in Ukraine and Taiwan, respectively. “There are voices in the U.S. calling for America to now make an explicit security guarantee to Taiwan, and for NATO to accelerate the process that would allow Ukraine to join its alliance. … The argument against these policy changes is that China and Russia may interpret them as a threatening shift in the status quo—and feel compelled to respond,” he writes.
- The Belfer Center’s transatlantic, Russia and energy-focused experts share their thoughts on the implications of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for Europe's security and energy supply, transatlantic relations and policy toward Russia, as well as what actions the U.S. and European countries should take at this point.
- Carnegie Moscow Center director Dmitri Trenin and Russia Matters director Simon Saradzhyan explain why, in their views, Russia will not launch an offensive against Ukraine, while The National Interest’s Mark Episkopos explores how the fighting would evolve if war did erupt between the two former Soviet republics.
- U.S. President Joe Biden and Congress should link specific nuclear modernization goals to specific future arms control objectives, placing adversaries on notice regarding what the United States expects of them in future negotiations and highlighting the real security consequences of ignoring American offers, argues Prof. John D. Maurer. For example, funding the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent missile could be tied explicitly to further reducing the size of Russia’s own intercontinental missile forces, Maurer suggests.
- Whether the U.S. and Russia can go beyond intelligence sharing toward broader counterterrorist cooperation will depend to a great degree on a host of domestic political factors that neither government fully controls, writes George Beebe, director of studies at the Center for the National Interest. Most significantly, each country has come to believe that the other is using information technology to exacerbate its rival’s social divides and weaken or even overthrow the other’s government. Such perceptions will be powerful obstacles to significant bilateral cooperation of any kind for as long as they remain dominant, according to Beebe.