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Blog Post

Russian Wargame Practicing Tactical Nukes Use Is Warning to West

| May 22, 2024

The Russian defense ministry has just launched a multi-phase exercise near Ukraine meant to prepare its forces for using non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs). In addition to the obvious purpose of preparing Russian troops to use tactical nuclear weapons in battle, the multi-stage exercise is also meant to signal to the West that it should refrain from escalating assistance to Ukraine, as well as to warn the U.S. and its allies that Russia may liberalize its conditions for using nuclear weapons. Finally, the exercise may be evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to retain Valery Gerasimov as head of the General Staff, at least for now.

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Blog Post

Polls Show Record Low Number of Russians Willing to Permanently Move Abroad

| Apr. 12, 2024

The share of Russians who would like to leave Russia for permanent residence in another country has reached a record low, according to the results of a national poll conducted by Russia’s Levada Center on March 21-27, 2024.  Of the countries Russians were eager to relocate to, the U.S. topped the list (11%), followed by Germany (8%) and Italy and Turkey (6% each). China ranked 10-11 along with Canada.That seven out of the top 11 countries Russians would like to relocate to are members of the collective West, with 46% interested in moving to these countries, also shows the limits of the Kremlin’s efforts to instill anti-Western sentiments in the Russian public.

A Russian Rosguardia (National Guard) secures an area as a massive blaze is seen over the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 22, 2024. AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov

AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov

Analysis & Opinions

Crocus Attack Ends Lull of Six Years, Raises Question About Law-Enforcers’ Focus

| Mar. 28, 2024

Does the March 22 terrorist attack at the Crocus City Hall concert venue outside Moscow signal a return of recurrent large-scale terrorism to Russia? Hopefully not and there are multiple ways to lower the probability of such recurrence.

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Blog Post

Putin’s Latest Nuclear Messaging: Softer Tone or Threat of Use?

| Mar. 15, 2024

On March 13, President Vladimir Putin granted an interview, in which he again delved into the conditions under which he says he would initiate the use of nuclear weapons. His remarks were so ambiguous that it caused mainstream Western media organizations—which tend to agree on what to emphasize in news out of the Kremlin—to put divergent headlines on the news stories that they ran about this particular interview. “Putin, in Pre-Election Messaging, Is Less Strident on Nuclear War. The Russian leader struck a softer tone about nuclear weapons in an interview with state television,” was the NYT’s headline. In contrast, the FT’s headline was “Russia ‘prepared’ for nuclear war, warns Vladimir Putin. President resumes bullish rhetoric over use of atomic arsenal if west threatens Moscow’s sovereignty,” while CBS News ran with “Putin again threatens to use nuclear weapons, claims Russia's arsenal ‘much more’ advanced than America's” and WSJ led with “Putin Rattles Nuclear Saber Ahead of Presidential Elections; Raising specter of nuclear confrontation.” So, which is it? Has Putin just struck a softer tone about nuclear weapons or has he rattled his nuclear saber yet again? The answer is both.

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Blog Post

Population Numbers Allow Ukrainian Military to Call Up 500,000, But Can It Afford to Keep Them?

| Jan. 11, 2024

Since December, my colleagues at Russia Matters and I have been monitoring1 how Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and its commander-in-chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi have sparred over who should assume prime responsibility for the plan to conscript up to 500,000 Ukrainians. As we watched the two employ what Sun Tzu would have described as “indirect methods” to avoid becoming the person publicly associated with the unpopular plan, we could not help wondering whether the Ukrainian authorities actually have the capacity to add (and keep) half a million to the fighting force, if the government and parliament eventually agree on a bill that would authorize such an addition.2 Here’s what I have found out in my effort to answer that question.

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Blog Post

Average Age of Ukrainian Soldiers Is Past 40 and That Could Be a Problem

| Nov. 03, 2023

Time journalist Simon Shuster has just published an article titled “Volodymyr Zelensky’s Struggle to Keep Ukraine in the Fight,” which contains three revelations that do not bode well for that struggle. First, the article reveals that Zelensky—who remains staunchly opposed to either truce or peace—is so convinced of Ukraine’s victory that one of his closest aides describes him as “delud[ing] himself.” Second, the article reveals that after his September trip to the U.S., Zelensky has been feeling betrayed by his Western allies, who he feels have left him without the means to win the war, only the means to survive it. Last but not least, even if the West did come through with all the weapons they have pledged, “we don’t have the men to use them,” one of Zelensky’s close aides told Time’s Shuster, revealing that the average age of a Ukrainian soldier has already reached 43.1 That third revelation is, perhaps, the most consequential of the revelations that Shuster—who has been relentlessly covering post-Soviet conflicts for decades—makes in his Nov. 1 article

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Analysis & Opinions

Thomas Graham on Why and How America Should Start Getting Russia Right

| Oct. 19, 2023

Multiple books have been published since Vladimir Putin’s re-invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that explore the sources of Russia’s aggressive conduct. In fact, some of these books were rushed to hit the shelves of digital and brick-and-mortar stores less than half a year after Russian tanks started rolling toward Kyiv on Feb. 22, 2022. Thankfully, Thomas Graham, who has been among the most thoughtful of the Western world’s Russia experts for decades, took his time, “Getting Russia Right.”

Exodus of ethnic Armenians from their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh

Public Domain/Voice of America

Analysis & Opinions - The Boston Globe

Biden Needs to Act on Nagorno-Karabakh

| Sep. 28, 2023

The plight of Armenians (in Nagorny Karabakh) is not of America's doing. A string of poor leaders in Yerevan, Armenia, are at least partially to blame. Russia's failure to live up to its formal and informal commitments to come to the rescue of Armenia and Artsakh played a significant role, too. But even though the current tragedy is not America's fault, Biden should act to defend America's values and interests by, at the very least, compelling Aliyev's government to immediately offer legally binding, verifiable guarantees of security and safety for Karabakh Armenians as well as of their right to preserve their identity and culture.