Russia Analytical Report, July 6-12, 2021

This Week’s Highlights

Using nuclear weapons in response to biological or cyberattacks would be illegal under international law in virtually all circumstances, write Stanford Professors Scott D. Sagan and Allen S. Weiner. Threatening an illegal nuclear response weakens deterrence because the threat lacks inherent credibility, they argue. In an era of escalating cyber-dangers, it would be prudent [for the U.S. government] to pay closer attention to both the laws of armed conflict and the logic of credible deterrence, they write, concluding that the threat of nuclear retaliation in response to a cyber- or biological attack should be ruled out. 

Even if formal [cyber] arms control treaties are unworkable, it may still be possible [for the United States and Russia] to set limits on certain types of civilian targets, and to negotiate rough rules of the road, writes Harvard Professor Joseph S. Nye, Jr. for Project Syndicate. The United States and Russia might [also] negotiate limits to their behavior regarding the extent (not the existence) of their cyber spying, [but]… drawing red lines can be tricky, he writes. 

The Kremlin is reluctant to unilaterally extend full diplomatic recognition to the Taliban, writes Mark Episkopos, national security reporter for the National Interest, but the political and military calculus behind Russia’s current stance may change if the militant Islamist group emerges as the undisputed winner from its ongoing power struggle with Afghan government forces. 

Russia is open for dialogue with Ukraine and is ready to discuss the most difficult issues, writes Russian President Vladimir Putin, but in the context of such a dialogue, it is important for us to understand that the partner is defending its national interests rather than serving those of others, and that these talks should not be used as a weapon against Russia. Putin also claims in his articles that he respects the desire of the Ukrainians to see their state as free, safe and prosperous.

In the last year, the main challenge for the Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO] was the Karabakh war last fall between Armenia and Azerbaijan, writes Kirill Krivosheev, a journalist with Kommersant newspaper. The organization essentially ignored the conflict, he asserts, adding that in his view it’s obvious that a situation in which the CSTO could take real collective defensive action is virtually impossible. Modern warfare consists of border clashes, sabotage, and difficult-to-trace cyberattacks, while the CSTO charter is based on World War II–style full-scale military invasions, according to Krivosheev, who adds that the Armenian public unsurprisingly viewed its allies’ attitude as nothing short of a betrayal.  


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

Nuclear security:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

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

“NATO Is An Alliance Divided,” Andrew A. Michta, The Wall Street Journal, 07.06.21. The author, dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, writes:

  • “‘The money is there to rebuild the allied militaries,’ a European colleague observes. ‘The problem is the politics of it.’ Translation: Genuine rearmament across the alliance would signal that Europe is ready to take military action alongside the U.S. and could put European access to Russian oil or Chinese markets at risk. If European NATO allies began to show real exercised military capabilities, it would signal to Moscow and Beijing that NATO is willing to ensure deterrence in Europe holds, freeing the bulk of American military power for the Indo-Pacific. This clearly isn't going to happen soon.”
  • Vladimir Putin's seizure of Crimea in 2014 and the war in eastern Ukraine demarcate a polarization of NATO members.”
    • “On one side, Poland, Romania and the Baltic states see Russia as a clear and present danger, determined to expand its portion of the post-Cold War settlement.”
    • “On the other side is a very cautious Western Europe, wary of endangering economic growth over the well-being of their formerly Soviet-dominated neighbors. Berlin seems intent on managing rather than opposing Russia through a mix of political and economic engagement.”
  • “The Biden administration's decision to drop sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline signaled that Washington is looking to Germany to lead post-Brexit Europe. The U.S. isn't going to try to force Germany to take a tougher stance against Moscow. This decision also puts Russia back in the European power-balancing game by increasing Europe's dependence on Russian energy.”
  • “European NATO allies and America are unlikely to reach a consensus on the severity of the threat China poses in the near future. Nor is it probable that Russia's continued pressure on NATO's eastern flank will galvanize Europe to rebuild its armed forces. Unless NATO members agree on geostrategic objectives and rearm their militaries, the alliance will remain hollow, and it will eventually devolve into yet another talking shop.”

“An Urgent NATO Priority: Preparing to Protect Civilians,” Victoria Holt and Marla Keenan, War on the Rocks, 07.12.21. The authors, both fellows at the Stimson Center, writes:

  • “The year is 2030 and Russia’s military and intelligence services have spent months waging a disinformation campaign directed at the citizens of a NATO ally. The campaign has created strife among its target population and has increased civil unrest… A well-equipped and highly trained proxy force, backed by the Russian government, initiates attacks against the NATO ally’s security forces and intense fighting breaks out. The ally’s military is losing ground and violence spills into urban areas near the frontlines. Civilians—citizens of the NATO ally—confront the horrible decision of whether to flee or stay behind. … Harming civilians and civilian infrastructure is integral to the adversary’s strategy.”
  • “Should NATO prepare for this scenario? Absolutely.”
  • “NATO should take urgent actions now to ensure that it emphasizes protection of civilians as a core capability for future alliance missions—not only ‘out-of-area’ ones, but also any conducted on NATO territory—and it should embrace protection of civilians as a cross-cutting requirement in NATO’s new strategic concept.”
  • “NATO allies and partners should champion, and resource, better implementation of the policy on protecting civilians, both during the drafting of NATO’s new strategic concept and in other future planning.”
    • “First, NATO leaders—military and political—should recognize that protecting civilians is relevant for their populations and smart policy for the alliance. The 2021 summit emphasized working toward common purposes and uniting all members in their political commitment to the alliance.”
    • “Second, NATO should build its knowledge, skills, and abilities to protect civilians and treat such protection as an operational goal.”
    • “Third, protection of civilians should be included in NATO’s next strategic concept as a core political and military capability. The new strategic concept is due to be completed by 2022.”

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

“Why Russia and China are Cooperating More Than Ever,” Andranik Migranyan, The National Interest. 07.09.21. The author, director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in New York, a professor at the Institute of International Relations in Moscow, a former member of the Public Chamber and a former member of the Russian Presidential Council, writes:

  • “In general, the red lines have come down to the following.”
    • “On the Russian side: inadmissibility of Ukraine’s membership in NATO; non-deployment of short- and medium-range missiles in Europe, especially in the former Soviet republics; the West's rejection of attempts to overthrow Lukashenko's regime in Belarus; inadmissibility on the part of the U.S. and Europe of attempts to organize a ‘color revolution’ in Russia; and refraining from financial and political support of the Russian antisystem opposition.”
    • “On the U.S. side: Russia's non-interference in the U.S. elections; Russia's non-use of cyberattacks on important U.S. infrastructure facilities; Ukraine's territorial integrity; and protection of human rights in Russia and Belarus.”
  • “Although the ‘China issue’ was not discussed separately at this meeting [Putin-Biden summit in Geneva], the topic of China and the relations in the Russia-China-U.S. triangle was present sotto voce in Geneva.”
  • “Both the Russian establishment and Putin personally understand that a growing China, this giant on Russia's borders, is not only a challenge but also a real opportunity.”  
  • “Forming an alliance of democracies against authoritarian states, with China and Russia in mind, Washington and Brussels should be aware that they might well leave Russia no other option than to cooperate more closely with China. If, as many analysts suggest, a cold war between China and the United States has already begun, it might last much longer than the original one between Washington and Moscow. In the looming global confrontation that may last for many decades (given the close parity of military and economic power of the United States and China), it will be surprising indeed if suddenly the leadership of China decides to turn such a valuable and important partner and ally as Russia into an enemy.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

“China's Nuclear Silos and the Arms-Control Fantasy,” Matthew Kroenig, The Wall Street Journal, 07.08.21. The author, a professor of government at Georgetown and the deputy director of the Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center, writes:

  • “New satellite images published recently reveal that China is building more than 100 new nuclear missile silos in its western desert. Many American arms-control proponents, including the researchers who made the discovery and the Washington Post editorial board, immediately blamed China's actions on U.S. nuclear modernization plans and recommended that Washington make an arms-control deal with China to address this nuclear threat. This is both the wrong diagnosis and the wrong solution. China is engaging in a massive nuclear-arms buildup as part of its broader strategy to challenge the U.S.-led rules-based international system, and the U.S. will need to respond by updating its nuclear program to defend itself and the free world.”
  • “Arms-control talks with China, attempted unsuccessfully during both the Obama and Trump administrations, are unlikely to work any better for Biden. China's nuclear buildup is intended to undermine U.S. defenses in the Indo-Pacific, break America's regional alliances, and project China as a superpower.”
  • “To counter this challenge, the U.S. will need to strengthen its nuclear arsenal. It should continue with the bipartisan plans to modernize U.S. nuclear weapons. In addition, the Pentagon should study whether it can meet its deterrence requirements with existing stockpile numbers, or whether an increase beyond New Start limits is necessary.”
  • “By strengthening its arsenal, the U.S. can fend off China's challenge and provide the free world with continued peace and stability.”


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

“The U.S. says it can answer cyberattacks with nuclear weapons. That's lunacy,” Scott D. Sagan, Allen S. Weiner, The Washington Post, 07.09.21. The authors, professors of political science and law, respectively, at Stanford University, write:

  • “Imagine… a cyberattack, one that not only disabled pipelines but turned off the power at hundreds of U.S. hospitals, wreaked havoc on air-traffic-control systems and shut down the electrical grid in major cities in the dead of winter. The grisly cost might be counted not just in lost dollars but in the deaths of many thousands of people.”
  • “Under current U.S. nuclear doctrine, developed during the Trump administration, the president would be given the military option to launch nuclear weapons at Russia, China or North Korea if that country was determined to be behind such an attack. That's because in 2018, the Trump administration expanded the role of nuclear weapons by declaring for the first time that the United States would consider nuclear retaliation in the case of ‘significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,’ including ‘attacks on the U.S., allied, or partner civilian population or infrastructure.’ The same principle could also be used to justify a nuclear response to a devastating biological weapons strike.”
  • “But our analysis suggests that using nuclear weapons in response to biological or cyberattacks would be illegal under international law in virtually all circumstances. Threatening an illegal nuclear response weakens deterrence because the threat lacks inherent credibility.”
  • “The unambiguous embrace of the application of international law to nuclear weapons means that if a future president ordered a Hiroshima-like attack, striking a city to kill as many enemy civilians as possible, it would be an illegal order that senior generals would be required to disobey”
  • “Brett Scowcroft explained why he and President George H.W. Bush did not issue an explicit threat to retaliate with nuclear weapons if Saddam Hussein ordered the use of chemical weapons against U.S. troops in the 1991 Persian Gulf War: ‘It is bad practice,’ he wrote, ‘to threaten something you have no intention of carrying out.’ The U.S. government should follow that principle today. In an era of escalating cyber-dangers, it would be prudent to pay closer attention to both the laws of armed conflict and the logic of credible deterrence.”

“What Did Biden Achieve in Geneva?” Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Project Syndicate, 07.07.21. The author, a professor at Harvard University, writes:

  • “Even if formal [cyber] arms control treaties are unworkable, it may still be possible to set limits on certain types of civilian targets, and to negotiate rough rules of the road. For example, despite deep ideological differences, in 1972 the United States and the Soviet Union negotiated an Incidents at Sea Agreement to limit naval behavior that might lead to dangerous escalation.”
  • “[T]he United States and Russia might negotiate limits to their behavior regarding the extent (not the existence) of their cyber spying. Or they might agree to set limits on their intervention in each other’s domestic political processes. Even if there is no agreement on precise definitions, they could exchange unilateral statements about areas of self-restraint and establish a regular consultative process to contain conflict. … This seems to have been the approach explored by Biden in Geneva. According to press accounts, Biden handed Putin a list of 16 areas of critical infrastructure–including energy, health, information technology, financial services, chemicals, and communications–that he said ‘should be off limits to attack, period.’”
  • “[In his comments on] the ransomware attack on Colonial to the Russian government… Biden was implying a deterrent threat if Russia continued to violate the voluntary norms prohibiting attacks on civilian infrastructure and use of its territory for harmful purposes. Putin is smart, and he certainly heard the message, but whether Russian behavior will improve depends on Biden’s credibility.”
  • “Drawing red lines can be tricky. Some critics worry that by specifying what needed to be protected, Biden might have implied that other areas were fair game. Moreover, red lines must be enforced to be effective. … The US will need to state unilaterally the norms that it pledges to stand by. When Russia crosses such a line, America will have to be prepared with targeted retaliation.”
  • “Criminal groups often act as state proxies in varying degrees, and the US will have to make clear that acting as a haven for cyber criminals will lead to retaliation. And because the rules of the road will never be perfect, they must be accompanied by a regular consultative process that establishes a framework for warning and negotiation. Whether Biden succeeded in launching such a process in Geneva, or whether Russian and American cyber relations will remain their bad normal, may well become clearer in the coming months.”

“Putin Tests Biden's Cyber Vow,” The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal, 07.07.21. The newspaper’s editorial board writes:

  • “Barack Obama's misadventures in Syria showed that a President shouldn't draw red lines he isn't willing to enforce. President Biden hasn't been afraid to talk tough and set expectations with Vladimir Putin, but will Biden enforce his own red lines?”
  • “Media reports suggest that the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service, was behind a recent cyberattack on a Republican National Committee contractor. The same outfit hit the Democratic National Committee six years ago and was behind the more recent SolarWinds attack on U.S. government agencies and corporations. The RNC attack took place last week, around the same time as a Russian-linked gang struck hundreds of American businesses with ransomware.”
  • “Putin has spent his time in power invading neighbors, meddling in Western elections, cheating on arms-control agreements—and allowing cyberattacks against the U.S. This despite the best efforts to improve relations from Presidents George W. Bush, Obama and Donald Trump. Biden's team argued that last month's summit wouldn't solve a problem like Putin but could limit the damage. The new cyberattacks suggest this was wrong.”
  • “Biden has said he gave Putin a list of 16 critical infrastructure areas that should be ‘off-limits’ from cyberattacks. He warned after the meeting that ‘if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber.’ The President suggested over the weekend that the U.S. would respond if it found the Kremlin at fault over the recent attacks.”
  • “Putin is not omniscient and his grip on Russia isn't as firm as it sometimes seems. But he was—or should have been—aware of an attack on a major political target in the U.S. If Russian hackers are independent of the government, Moscow should be willing to cooperate with Washington and bring them to justice. Note that these cyber-criminals in Russia never seem to attack targets in Russia. If the U.S. doesn't respond, it will be open season on America's digital infrastructure. Proportionate retaliation runs the risk of escalation. But after publicly drawing a red line, Biden has no choice lest he show Putin and other thugs around the world that the U.S. President's words are empty.”

Energy exports from CIS:

“OPEC rift is a foretaste of things to come,” David Sheppard, Financial Times, 10.10.21. The author, energy editor for the news outlet, writes:

  • “Disagreements between OPEC members have been a feature of the oil cartel since it started just over 60 years ago. But what has happened in the past week stands out not just because it came against a backdrop of rising prices or because it pitted traditional allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE against each other. It stands out because it is a preview of what is to come.”
  • “The heart of the issue is … the growing belief that peak in demand for crude is not so far away [within the next decade or so].”
  • “Faced with uncertainty over whether the oil you depend upon will be as valuable in the future, many are concluding that plans to pump as fast as possible may be the best of a bad set of options.”
  • “A plateau in demand in the 2030s would still give OPEC+ a huge market to manage. Even if oil demand falls sharply then OPEC members, many of whom have some of the lowest production costs in the world, are likely to outcompete rivals for a larger percentage of what’s left. But increased inter-group competition is almost inevitable. And those OPEC+ members that can boost production capacity will inevitably want their output targets adjusted higher, just like the UAE.”

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

“The Economic Factors in U.S.-Russian Relations,” Vadim Grishin, PONARS Eurasia, July 2021. The author, an adjunct assistant professor at George Washington University and Georgetown University, writes:

  • “During the last 30 years, there have been non-synchronized political and economic cycles in U.S.-Russian relations. Relatively small official trade has been sustainable and resilient to deteriorating geopolitics and sanction policies, and its fluctuations have been mostly dependent on oil prices. The prospect of tougher Western sanctions and Russian authorities’ strengthening of anti-Western legislation and practices have continued to generate a dual structure of economic interaction: limited official trade and investments, and much more meaningful indirect turnover—trade through third countries and investments through offshore companies.”
  • “An archaic model of U.S.-Russian official trade makes almost inevitable its gradual decline in the next five to seven years. New economic ties could only emerge after Moscow begins deep structural reforms and modernization of its economic, legal, and political systems. Russia’s potential integration into China’s technological platform would substantially constrain future U.S.-Russian engagement. The dual structure of U.S.-Russian economic relations could be significantly reduced in the long run, in case of Russia’s complete integration into ‘Pax Sinica’ or, alternatively, under conditions of the country’s significant economic liberalization.” 

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • No significant developments.


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“How not to do it.Covid-19 deaths in Russia are soaring,” The Economist, 07.10.21. The article, which does not include an author’s name, as is standard in The Economist’s reporting, reads:

  • “The number of new daily cases [in Russia] is currently around 25,000, somewhat fewer than in Britain, and rising. But whereas in Britain this surge has translated into an average of 18 daily deaths over the past week, in Russia it has resulted in an average of 670 deaths a day.”
  • “The contrast is all the more striking because Russia was the first country in the world to approve a working vaccine, one based on the same science as the British-Swedish AstraZeneca one and apparently just as effective. But whereas in Britain 78% of the population has received at least one jab, in Russia the proportion is only 20%. The difference is not the availability or the efficacy of the jab, but people’s trust in the government and its vaccines.”
  • “All of this could have been avoided. A year ago the government decided to lift a partial lockdown (Putin called it ‘a holiday’), hoping to save itself money and to prop up the president’s faltering popularity after a prolonged slump in incomes. Putin’s ratings did go back up—but so did the risk of infection.”
  • “As the second wave hit Europe in late autumn last year, the Kremlin chose not to spend money on supporting people and businesses through a new lockdown. It left people to their own devices, playing down the risks … By February 2021 Russia had one of the world’s highest excess mortality rates…”
  • “Many Russians who expect their government to lie to them… they have good reason: it turns out that some people who were told they were getting Sputnik V were in fact given EpiVacCorona, another Russian vaccine praised by Putin, but about which there are serious concerns. Hardly any countries have approved it. … [A]lthough more people are now signing up for jabs, there is a side-effect: a thriving black market for fake vaccination certificates, qr codes and medical exemptions. None of this bodes well for hospitals across the country, as the numbers continue to mount.”

“The Magic Mirror of Russian Public Opinion,” Ilya Klishin, The Moscow Times, 07.12.21. The author, former digital director of the New York-based Russian-language RTVI channel, writes:

  • “The borders of reality are blurred because our understandings of societal norms are themselves constructed and subject to change. Today’s Russia lacks many of the tools characteristic of many western countries to return citizens to a shared reality.”
  • “For a start, Russia has no real elections. The parliamentary elections set to take place in two months do not qualify, not with many candidates simply not permitted to register and others struck down by criminal investigations. Nor is it a given that the votes permitted will be accurately counted. If there were elections, we could learn how many people would support a homophobic party and how many a pro-LGBT one. So it is in Poland and Hungary, for example. But Russia doesn’t have that.”
  • “Nor does Russia have truly independent journalism serving the whole of society. Yes, there are still some news outlets hanging on by a thread, waiting nervously for their turn to be pronounced ‘foreign agents’. But that is not enough to hold up a mirror to society or establish a common understanding of life in that society.”
  • “Finally, Russia lacks normal social sciences. There are certainly good social scientists, but no social sciences. This stems from the fact that in a half-authoritarian society built in large part on hypocrisy and fake information, people are loath to express their true beliefs to interviewers. Or indeed to anyone at all, not least themselves.”
  • “Our situation is unique and potentially very dangerous. Everyone in Russia, from ordinary citizens to political bigwigs, has his own magical Mirror of Erised. Looking into it, each uses his own intuition to draw conclusions about the opinions of others. We all live with the results.”

Defense and aerospace:

  • No significant developments.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • No significant developments.


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • No significant developments.


“On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” Vladimir Putin,, 07.12.21. NB: The below summary is an unofficial preliminary translation of the original Russian, posted on the Kremlin’s website. The author, President of Russia, writes:

  • “Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are the heirs of Ancient Rus, which was the largest state in Europe.”
  • “Modern Ukraine is entirely the brainchild of the Soviet era. We know and remember that to a large extent it was created at the expense of historical Russia. Suffice it to compare the lands which were reunited with the Russian state in the 17th century with the territories, with those with which the Ukrainian SSR left the Soviet Union.”
  • “Do you want to create your own state? You are welcome! But on what terms? Let me remind you of the assessment given by one of the brightest political figures of the new Russia, the first mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. As a highly professional lawyer, he believed that any decision must be legitimate, and therefore he expressed the following opinion in 1992: the founding republics of the Union, after they themselves annulled the 1922 Treaty, should return to the boundaries in which they joined the Union. All of the other territorial acquisitions are a subject for discussion, negotiations, because the basis for them has been annulled. In other words, leave with what you came with. It is difficult to argue with such logic.”
  • “Step by step, Ukraine was dragged into a dangerous geopolitical game, the goal of which is to turn Ukraine into a barrier between Europe and Russia, into a bridgehead against Russia. Inevitably, the time has come when the concept ‘Ukraine is not Russia’ is no longer suitable for them. Now the ‘anti-Russia’ concept has been invoked, which is something that we will never accept.”
  • “Russia is open for dialogue with Ukraine and is ready to discuss the most difficult issues. But it is important for us to understand that the partner is defending its national interests rather than serving others,’ that it is not an instrument in someone's hands to fight us. We respect the Ukrainian language and traditions as well as the desire of the Ukrainians to see their state as free, safe and prosperous.”

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“The U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan Creates Uncertainty for Russia,” Mark Episkopos, The National Interest. 07.11.21. The author, a national security reporter for the news outlet, writes:

  • “As America grapples with the implications of the withdrawal [from Afghanistan], similar discussions are taking place in Moscow—albeit with somewhat different framing. Russian political observers and Moscow elites did not miss their chance to underscore what they see as America’s failure in Afghanistan, with political commentator and prominent orientalist Yevgeny Satanovsky calling the withdrawal a ‘shameful flight.’ Referring to the 1975 Saigon Embassy evacuations, Satanovsky added, ‘it’s not even that they fled in panic, as in South Vietnam, but they scrammed quietly, leaving everything to the whims of fate.’”
  • “The vague sense of historical satisfaction over American failures in Afghanistan is quickly being overshadowed by more pressing geopolitical worries, keenly felt in the Kremlin and by Russian politicians.”
  • “The Taliban is designated by Russia as a terrorist group, but that has not stopped the Kremlin from engaging with the group in recent years. The fruits of those earlier labors were on full display this week when a Taliban delegation visited Moscow to discuss Afghanistan’s future. Russian Senator Vladimir Dzhabarov expressed hope for the normalization of Russian-Taliban relations: ‘we will interact with any legitimate government of Afghanistan. If the Taliban becomes the legitimate government—of course we will improve our relations, but only on the condition they are not hostile to our country.’”
  • “The Kremlin is reluctant to unilaterally extend full diplomatic recognition to the Taliban, but, as implied by Dzhabarov, the political and military calculus behind Russia’s current stance may change if the militant Islamist group emerges as the undisputed winner from its ongoing power struggle with Afghan government forces.”

“To Avert Disaster in Afghanistan, Look to Central Asia,” Frederick Starr and Michael Doran, The Wall Street Journal, 07.11.21. The authors, the chairman of the Central Asia Caucasus Institute of the American Foreign Policy Council, and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, respectively, write:

  • “Central Asian countries are reclaiming the ancient links among them that Russian colonialism sought to destroy. Thanks to America's presence in Afghanistan, they could also reach out once more to Kabul as their sixth ancient partner. This quest is at once Central Asia's key economic project, a bulwark of its cultural rebirth, and its move to secure self-determination in a neighborhood dominated by China, Russia and Iran.”
  • “China is best poised to shape the region's destiny, but Vladimir Putin's Russia has not abandoned its old dreams. In a new era of great-power competition, preventing any country from dominating the heart of Eurasia should be a goal of American grand strategy.”
  • “China, Russia and Iran are exploiting the withdrawal from Afghanistan to convince Central Asian leaders that America and the West are a spent force. The arrival in Tashkent of high-powered European and American diplomatic and economic teams, led by Blinken, is the best way to refute this malicious claim.”
  • “Three changes to American policy are also in order.”
    • “First, the Biden administration must do more to recognize that Central Asia is not a mere geographic expression but a geostrategic unit whose orientation will have a profound impact on the global balance of power.”
    • “Second, the C5+1 should be expanded to include Afghanistan. The territory and peoples of Afghanistan have been part of Central Asia for three millennia.”
    • “Third, the U.S. should throw its weight behind reopening transport and trade to Pakistan, India and all Southeast Asia.”
  • The Tashkent conference [which will be hosted by the government of Uzbekistan on the subject of ‘regional connectivity’ on July 16] offers the United States—as well as Europe, India and Japan—the best available option for a postmilitary strategy for Afghanistan and the region, one based on trade, commerce and diplomacy. … If the U.S. fails to play a leading role in sponsoring Central Asia's new regionalism, China, Russia and Iran will be all too glad to do so.”

“Does the Collective Security Treaty Organization Have a Future?”” Kirill Krivosheev, Carnegie Moscow Center, 07.08.21. The author, a journalist with Kommersant newspaper, writes:

  • “In the last year… the main challenge for the Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO] was the Karabakh war last fall between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The organization essentially ignored the conflict, much to the bitter disappointment of the Armenian public, which did not accept the CSTO’s legal argument that the fighting was taking place in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is officially recognized as Azerbaijan’s territory.”
    • “That argument was particularly unconvincing for Armenians when Azerbaijani missiles were landing on the territory of Armenia itself. Theoretically, this could have triggered Article 4 of the Collective Security Treaty upon which the organization was established. … Citing this article, some Armenian politicians called on Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to appeal to the CSTO, but he did not do so.”
    • “It’s obvious that a situation in which the CSTO could take real collective defensive action is virtually impossible. Modern warfare consists of border clashes, sabotage, and difficult-to-trace cyber attacks, while the CSTO charter is based on World War II–style full-scale military invasions. The Armenian public unsurprisingly viewed its allies’ attitude as nothing short of a betrayal.”
  • “The second challenge for the CSTO in the past year was the armed border conflict in April between two of its members: Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In an extraordinary twist, both the Kyrgyz defense minister and Security Council secretary happened to be in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe when the fighting broke out—to take part in a CSTO Defense Ministers Council meeting, of all things.”
  • “The third and final crisis was miraculously averted when the contested Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko failed to appeal to the CSTO, despite having called opposition protesters a threat to the country’s ‘stability’—a word featured in the CSTO’s charter.”
  • “All the CSTO really manages to achieve is military exercises and roundtable discussions of the ‘military and political situation.’”
  • “Nevertheless, the CSTO still has the chance to prove itself—if it can demonstrate effective and coordinated work after the impending withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.”

“Will Tough New Sanctions Change the Course of Events in Belarus?” Artyom Shraibman, Carnegie Moscow Center, 07.09.21. The author, a non-resident scholar at Carnegie Moscow Center, writes:

  • “The European Union has announced sectoral economic sanctions against Belarus for the first time in the ongoing international campaign to put pressure on Alexander Lukashenko, who has refused to step down following a contested presidential election last summer. Until now, sanctions had been limited to fairly toothless packages of targeted measures against Belarusian officials and companies close to the regime.”
  • “The new sanctions will restrict the trade of petrol and tobacco products, as well as potash (of which Belarus is one of the world’s biggest producers), and will also affect large state-owned banks.”
  • “It’s naive to think that the sanctions will swiftly achieve the European Union’s and United States’ requirements: the freeing of all political prisoners (there are more than 500), an end to repression, and a national dialogue with a view to new elections. Indeed, in the short term, the sanctions might have the opposite effect, prompting a fresh crackdown and more arrests.”
  • “Belarusian economists estimate the potential loss from sanctions at 3 to 7 percent of GDP. That figure may not prove fatal, but it’s hardly conducive to the constitutional reform that Lukashenko wants to enact in 2022, when their impact will be greatest. No one can say how soon and how exactly the economic decline will influence Lukashenko’s battered regime. He still has several life buoys.”
    • “Firstly, political and economic emigration from Belarus is on the rise, which has the effect of opening a pressure valve.”
    • “Secondly, Lukashenko is still backed by Russia, which can help not only by issuing its neighbor with new loans, but also by enabling it to get around specific sanctions.”
  • “The greater the atmosphere of conflict between Russia and the West, the more incentives the Kremlin has to spite its enemies by supporting even its most obstreperous satellites until the bitter end. If Moscow and the West manage to de-escalate their confrontation, Lukashenko’s main currency—his demonstrative anti-Western stance—will be devalued in the eyes of the Kremlin.”