Thursday, January 27, 2022

Putin’s Likely Course of Action in Ukraine: Updated Course of Action Assessment


By Frederick W. Kagan, Mason Clark, George Barros, and Kateryna Stepanenko

Executive Summary:

Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the crisis he created by mobilizing a large military force around Ukraine to achieve two major objectives: first, advancing and possibly completing his efforts to regain effective control of Ukraine itself, and second, fragmenting and neutralizing the NATO alliance. Russian military preparations can support a massive invasion of Ukraine from the north, east, and south that could give Putin physical control of Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities, allowing him to dictate terms that would accomplish the first objective. Such an invasion, however, might undermine his efforts to achieve the second objective because it could rally the NATO alliance around the need to respond to such a dramatic act of aggression. An invasion would also entail significant risks and definite high costs. A Russian military action centered around limited military operations in southern and southeastern Ukraine coupled with a brief but widespread and intense air and missile campaign could better position Putin to achieve both aims as well as reduce the likely costs and risks to Russia.

We therefore currently forecast that:

  • Russia will not conduct a full mechanized invasion to conquer all of Ukraine this winter (unchanged).
  • Russian mechanized forces will overtly deploy into occupied Donbas on a large scale by mid-February (increased likelihood).
  • Russia may launch an air and missile campaign throughout unoccupied Ukraine in conjunction with an overt deployment into occupied Donbas (newly identified course of action).
  • Russia may conduct limited ground incursions north and west from occupied Donbas and/or north from Crimea.

Our previous forecast that Russia would deploy mechanized forces to Belarus in early 2022 (which we first made in December 2020 and last updated in December 2021) has transpired.[1]

We have identified a new course of action since our previous examination of Russian options that Putin is preparing and may pursue in conjunction with an overt move into occupied Donbas: an air and missile campaign, possibly extensive, throughout unoccupied Ukraine. We have observed indicators that he is preparing this option. We assess that such an air campaign in unoccupied Ukraine is significantly more likely than an invasion intended to seize large areas of unoccupied Ukraine, including Kyiv and other major cities. Putin could initiate the air and missile campaign and/or limited ground incursions in southeastern and southern Ukraine before Russian forces have completed deployments to and preparations along the northern Ukrainian frontier and in Belarus. We are not yet ready as of January 27, 2022, to forecast that Putin will actually order the air and missile campaign in conjunction with the move into Donbas, but policymakers must be aware of the conditions the Kremlin is setting for that contingency—separate from preparations for a major ground offensive.

A Russian air and missile campaign that targets both occupied and unoccupied Ukraine could pose an even greater short-term challenge to the US and NATO than an invasion to occupy most of Ukraine in the same way that a live hostage situation creates more tension and complexity while in progress than a completed murder. Once Russian mechanized forces have seized Ukraine’s capital and major cities, Putin’s effective leverage on the West drops substantially, as he will have exercised the near-complete extent of his ability to damage Ukraine and left little for the West to try to deter by action or prevent by appeasement.

A partial attack that retains the visible capability to go further, however, increases the pressure on the West to meet some of Putin’s demands to dissuade him from further violence. Holding back from the conquest of Kyiv and major Ukrainian cities allows Putin to continue to demand concessions from the West that transcend Ukrainian issues, such as blanket commitments not to expand NATO further. Russia’s military conquest of Ukraine would seem to make such commitments irrelevant and reduce pressure on the West to make them.

An air and missile campaign that leaves the Ukrainian state nominally independent with a beleaguered and fearful government and people, however, allows Putin to protract the crisis. He can continue his efforts to maximize the tension and friction among Ukraine, the United States, and America’s European allies (especially the Germans, given their extreme vulnerability to Russia’s energy pressure) by using the threats of continuing air attacks, the economic devastation of Ukraine and Europe, or, finally, the invasion and occupation of Ukraine.

An air and missile campaign against unoccupied Ukraine would pose less cost and risk to Russia compared with an invasion and occupation of territory, although an air and missile campaign would incur more cost and risk than simply moving forces overtly into occupied Donbas without attacking beyond the current line of contact. The United States and NATO should prioritize developing a coherent response to this course of action in addition to their other efforts to deter and set conditions to respond to Russian threats.

The objectives of such a Russian air and missile campaign could include:

  • Expanding wedges in the Western alliance;
  • Increasing pressure on the West to make larger concessions regarding NATO expansion in general and the disposition of NATO forces in eastern Europe;
  • Forcing Ukraine to make further concessions to Russian demands regarding occupied Donbas;
  • Coercing Ukraine into accepting a new version of the Minsk Accords or an entirely different agreement making even more concessions that undermine Ukrainian sovereignty;
  • Forcing Ukraine to amend its constitution to rule out NATO membership;
  • Disrupting the Ukrainian government;
  • Creating a governance and stability crisis in Ukraine by forcing concessions that infuriate Ukrainian patriots;
  • Crippling the Ukrainian economy; and
  • Severely degrading the Ukrainian military to set conditions for further demands or Russian military activities if Putin is not able to secure his objectives through this more limited campaign.

An air and missile campaign would be far more likely to achieve these objectives than simply moving Russian forces overtly into occupied Donbas. It would also be more likely to achieve these aims at a cost acceptable to Putin than a mechanized drive along the northern Azov Sea coast would alone.

If the Kremlin can protract the crisis on its terms, it can raise the costs to the United States and NATO. The United States and NATO must prioritize preventing Putin from protracting the crisis by rapidly increasing the risks to his forces and the cost to the Russian economy as soon as he initiates the conflict either by moving forces overtly into occupied Donbas or by attacking unoccupied Ukraine.

The United States and NATO could best deter or disrupt such an attack by deploying and using ground- and sea-based air- and missile- defense systems and stealth fighters to shoot down Russian manned aircraft attacking targets in unoccupied Ukraine. The purpose of such Western military operations would be to impose high-enough costs on Russia to persuade Putin to avoid or terminate the operation.

Overt Russian deployments into Donbas with or without a Russian air campaign in unoccupied Ukraine should trigger the full array of US and European punitive sanctions on Russia. The United States and its allies should also define a threshold at which continued covert Russian deployments into occupied Donbas would trigger a response. But the Russian course of action considered in this essay, including the air and missile campaign, puts tremendous pressure on the US relationship with its reluctant partners, especially Germany, if it does not involve significant Russian forces invading unoccupied Ukraine. The United States and its more-committed allies must prepare now for this challenging contingency.

European responses to US attempts to rally the alliance to deter Putin thus far suggest that a more limited Russian attack is more likely to weaken and fragment NATO than the military conquest of most of Ukraine. A full Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine including Kyiv and/or other major urban centers collapses the West’s decision-space and is the likeliest Russian course of action to trigger a strong, coherent set of Western reactions. Russian military aggression short of a full-scale invasion, even including an extensive air campaign, however, gives Putin the initiative and creates uncertainty about how Putin will ultimately resolve the crisis. Putin has used this approach to great effect in Syria and elsewhere. It opens room for much debate and disagreement about responses among the United States, its European allies, and Ukraine. Continuing Russian economic pressure on Europe, especially Germany, amidst such a crisis may seriously erode alliance cohesion.

The United States and its other NATO partners must nevertheless accept the risk of serious strain and even damage to the US-German and NATO-German relationship to respond decisively to this more-limited form of Russian aggression. Allowing Putin to coerce major concessions from Ukraine or the West through limited aggression poses a greater danger to the NATO alliance’s cohesion, credibility, and even survival than does antagonizing Germany and other recalcitrant NATO members by imposing tough economic penalties on Russia that hurt those allies economically. Repairing strains with Germany and other allies, especially those caused by bad decisions the German government has already made, is a more manageable problem in the long run.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Turkey in Review: December 28, 2021 – January 18, 2022

Kazakhstan Crisis Exposes Limits of Turkey’s Reach in Central Asia

By Ezgi Yazici

December 28, 2021 – January 18, 2022

Rapid developments in Kazakhstan in January 2022 outpaced the Turkey-led Organization of Turkic States’ ability to respond with more than offers of support to the Kazakh government. Ankara’s initial response to the Kazakh crisis was limited to calling for stability and peace.[1] Turkey accelerated its outreach to Kazakhstan, however, after the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) agreed to deploy troops into the Central Asian country. The CSTO deployment, the first time the organization invoked its collective security provision, likely motivated Ankara to take more vigorous steps to ensure Turkey retains a role in Kazakhstan.[2] Kazakhstan remains under a state of emergency imposed in response to widespread unrest that began with localized fuel protests.

On January 6, more than two days after protests spread across Kazakhstan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to offer “any assistance if needed”—a symbolic offer as CSTO troops had already arrived in Kazakhstan.[3] Kazakhstan is a member of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS, previously the Turkic Council). Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spent January 6 on calls with other OTS member states, including Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and OTS observer state Turkmenistan, discussing the situation in Kazakhstan.[4] The OTS issued a statement on January 6 and held an extraordinary session on January 11.[5] Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are the only OTS members who are also part of the CSTO.

Turkey and other OTS member states likely approached the developments in Kazakhstan with caution before January 6 to avoid alienating a major regional partner in the event the protests succeeded in pushing out President Tokayev. However, the Russian-led CSTO’s support and increasing violence on the ground solidified Tokayev’s position enough for Turkey to spearhead an OTS response in support of the president.

Turkey’s outreach to Central Asia has origins in shared Turkic language and culture, but Ankara seeks to build a deeper cooperation network. Ankara’s political outreach to Central Asia dates to the 1990s, where its shared linguistic and ethnic heritage with the Turkic population served as a common denominator to encourage cultural, political, and economic networks between Turkey and the region. At the time, a Turkey-led network offered the relatively young Central Asian states an opportunity to diversify their diplomacy and trade beyond Russia. Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev was the first to propose the creation of the OTS and has traditionally been the most influential pro-Turkey and Turkic-affiliated voice in Kazakhstan. Countries like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan draw large Turkish investments and aid to this day. They also export valuable goods like oil to Turkey and serve as lucrative markets for Turkish businesses.[6] The Turkish government seeks to upgrade these ties to an institutionalized and cohesive political network through which Turkey can expand its influence in Central Asia.

The unrest in Kazakhstan poses an important opportunity and test for Turkey’s efforts to make the Organization of Turkic States an effective intergovernmental organization. The political turmoil in an OTS member state and the CSTO’s rapid response presents a chance for the OTS to serve as a legitimate political mechanism that successfully supports its stated goal of attaining “regional peace, stability, and prosperity.” Alternatively, an anemic, late, or ineffective response from the OTS would paint the organization as toothless, especially juxtaposed against the CSTO’s quick military response. The CSTO deployment displayed Russia’s reach and efficacy as a political and military actor in Central Asia, which some Central Asian states may seek to counterbalance or dilute. Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan—the two CSTO members within the OTS—may seek to diversify their partnerships beyond Russia. Kyrgyzstan's initial hesitancy to send servicemen for the CSTO mission and the short time Kazakhstan was willing to host CSTO troops suggests that neither government desires an extended Russian-led military intervention, even if the intervention was critical for Kazakh President Tokayev to remain in power.[7] OTS members outside the CSTO—Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and observer-state Turkmenistan—may also seek new political and economic ties with regional partners to build alternatives to Russian power structures in Central Asia.

Russia’s swift military and political play in Kazakhstan demonstrates the limits of Turkey’s power. Turkey’s goals in Central Asia are misaligned with its capabilities in that region. Turkey has occasionally been able to balance or compete with Russia, but only under the right circumstances. For example, in Syria, Azerbaijan, and Libya, Turkey was able to leverage its competitive advantages to shape external conflicts in competition or cooperation with Russia. Turkey lacks such advantages in Central Asia. The Kremlin’s swift action in Kazakhstan was a stark reminder to Turkey of Russia’s greater capacity and willingness to take significant political and military actions for its partners. Russia was able to pass a CSTO decision and deploy troops to successfully protect Tokayev’s position within hours. In contrast, Turkey’s offer for “support” was late and mostly symbolic to a country with Russian troops already on the ground.[8] Moreover, the waning influence of former Kazakh President Nazarbayev over Kazakh politics may further disrupt Turkish-Kazakh ties. The Turkish government also likely does not possess the decades-old institutional knowledge, personnel expertise, or political networks for Central Asia that it has for Europe, the United States, or the Middle East.

Turkey’s outreach into Central Asia will likely aim to maneuver within Russia’s superior and entrenched sphere of influence. The OTS’ ability to eventually coordinate and issue a joint response about Kazakhstan sets a new precedent in solidifying the network’s focus on state diplomacy beyond language and culture commonalities. Moreover, it offers a precedent for Turkey’s intent to be a stakeholder in the region's politics, despite its limitations. In the near term, Turkey will likely prioritize economic and energy outreach to the region as it strengthens the foundations of its political and security networks. Turkey can lay the groundwork for a greater footprint in the region by prioritizing strengthened diplomatic channels, joint personnel training programs, counter-terrorism cooperation, and defense sales to OTS member states.

  1. China hosted Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu on January 12 in a week that featured several Middle Eastern visits to Beijing. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, China, on January 12 to discuss bilateral relations and economic cooperation opportunities between Turkey and China.[9] The Chinese Foreign Ministry readout said that Cavusoglu and Yi discussed Belt and Road Initiative routes to Europe, cooperation in energy, technology, big data. Yi also called for Turkey to support China’s security interests and non-interference in its domestic affairs and restated China’s commitment to its 2019 currency swap agreement with Turkey.[10] Turkey likely seeks to further economic cooperation with China to stabilize its struggling economy and may be willing to offer political concessions in return.  The foreign ministers of several Middle East countries visited China the same week as Cavusoglu. China hosted Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on January 14 and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman, as well as the Gulf Cooperation Council secretary-general, between January 10-14.[11]
  2. Likely Iranian proxy militants attacked a Turkish military base in Ninewa Province, Iraq, on January 2, 15, and 16. The attacks mark a significant uptick compared to 2021, when five similar attacks occurred over the entire year. Unidentified militants fired up to 13 122mm rockets from a truck in Abu Jarboua near Bashiqa, Ninewa Province, Iraq, at the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) base on January 26.[12] The militants fired two or three rockets at the same base on January 15 and three or four on January 16.[13] On January 15, Iranian proxy-affiliated Telegram channels reported that the TSK shelled an unspecified location near where it claimed the attack originated.[14] The increasing frequency of attacks could be retaliation for perceived Turkish interference in Iraqi Sunni coalition building and Iraq’s government formation process to the detriment of Iranian interests. Turkey’s increasing activities in the Caucasus and attempt to improve ties with Israel could also be triggers for the recent uptick in attacks. Iran’s proxies are likely expanding their narrative of “resisting the occupation” to include the TSK as well as the US military presence in Iraq. The Turkish Defense Ministry has not commented on likely Iranian proxy attacks against TSK forces in Iraq since the first attack in April 2021, which killed one TSK soldier. 
  3. Turkish and Armenian envoys held their first meeting in Moscow on January 14 amid Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes. Turkey and Armenia’s appointed envoys for the Turkish-Armenian normalization process met for the first time in Moscow, Russia, on January 14.[15] Turkish envoy Serdar Kilic and Armenian envoy Ruben Rubinyan exchanged “preliminary views” and agreed to continue the negotiations.[16] The parties did not settle on the location or date of the second meeting, indicating outstanding disagreements. The normalization process aims to establish diplomatic ties and open the long-shut Turkish-Armenian border. Armenia seeks economic relief by gaining access to trade and energy routes that excluded the country as its borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey have remained closed since its independence. Turkey seeks greater economic and diplomatic access into the Caucasus where it can position itself as a crucial trade lifeline for landlocked Armenia. Separately, the Russian mediation role indicates that the Kremlin seeks to insert itself into the normalization process to ensure regional stability efforts continue under Kremlin-preferred terms and to elbow out any formal US and European mediation role. However, ongoing clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces will likely set the pace of and possibly jeopardize the Turkish-Armenian talks.[17]
  4. Unidentified militants conducted three IED attacks in Turkish-controlled Syria on January 13, marking the first IED attacks since November. Unidentified militants detonated three improvised explosive devices (IED) in Azaz, al-Bab, and Afrin in Aleppo Governorate, Syria on January 13. Militants detonated a car bomb in Azaz, killing a military police officer.[18] Another militant detonated what was likely a suicide vest (SVEST) near a vehicle in a marketplace in al-Bab a few hours later.[19] Local sources reported another IED attack near a Turkish-backed military base in Afrin that occurred simultaneously with the al-Bab attack.[20] Syria Civil Defense (commonly called the White Helmets) stated that the al-Bab and Afrin attacks killed two people and injured three. The Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Governor of Hatay Province in southern Turkey issued statements condemning the attacks. [21] Separately, unknown militants detonated an IED at Faylaq al-Sham headquarters in Jinderes village, southwest of Afrin, in Aleppo, Syria on January 15.[22] The IED attack killed two Turkish-backed Syrian National Army fighters from the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army. No group claimed the attacks, but, the local pro-Turkish and the Syrian opposition sources attribute them to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). On January 8, likely YPG militants killed three Turkish Armed Forces soldiers with an IED in Akcakale, Turkey, near Tal Abyad, Raqqa Governorate, Syria.[23] On January 11, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced that Turkey was conducting retaliatory strikes against the YPG; those strikes may have motivated the YPG to target Turkish-controlled northern Syria.[24]
  5. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the Israeli President may visit Turkey for the first time since 2007. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on January 18 that Israeli President Isaac Herzog may visit Turkey “soon.”[25] Herzog would be the first Israeli president to visit Turkey since Simon Perez’s visit in 2007. Erdogan held phone calls with President Herzog and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on November 18 after Turkey released an Israeli couple who had been arrested on espionage charges; both the release and the calls indicate Turkey’s willingness to improve ties with Israel.[26] Erdogan also called President Herzog to offer condolences for Herzog’s mother’s passing on January 13.[27] Ankara’s outreach to Israel comes at a time of wider normalization efforts by Ankara toward Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Armenia, and others. Ankara likely seeks to improve its standing in the energy-rich eastern Mediterranean and mend ties with key regional players after its isolation in 2020.
  6. Al Shabaab targeted the Turkish military base in Mogadishu, Somalia on January 18, killing Turkish-trained Somali soldiers. An al Shabaab militant detonated a suicide vest targeting off-duty Somali soldiers near a Turkish military training camp in Wadajir District, Mogadishu, Somalia. The explosion killed at least four people and injured ten others. Al Shabaab, al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia, regularly targets Turkish and Turkish-linked targets in Somalia. The group conducted a similar attack targeting the Turkish base in Somalia in July 2021. The Turkish Armed Forces base in Mogadishu is part of TSK’s capacity-building missions to train partner forces abroad. The TSK has trained Somali security forces in its Mogadishu base since 2017, as part of a close Turkish partnership with the Somali Federal Government (SFG) that also includes humanitarian missions, economic ties, and educational exchanges. Turkish-trained forces are active in counter-al Shabaab operations. Al Shabaab seeks to remove the Turkish presence from Somalia and has focused on Turkey in its propaganda, including accusing Turkey of exploiting Muslims by participating in NATO.[28]
  7. December satellite imagery confirms Turkish armed drone sales to the Ethiopian Government. December 9, 2021 satellite imagery released in January 2022 confirms the presence of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 armed drones at the Harar Meda military airport in Bishoftu, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.[29] Diplomatic sources previously claimed Turkey negotiated the sales of its armed drones to Ethiopia on October 14.[30] The Turkish government did not confirm the sale despite a stark rise reported in Turkish defense and aviation exports to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Government uses armed drones for airstrikes in its Tigray region, including against civilians.[31] The possible use of Turkish drones may draw domestic and international criticism of Ankara’s opaque process for defense exports and arms sales. The sale could also challenge Turkey’s attempts to normalize ties with Egypt, as Ankara seeks to mend ties with its Eastern Mediterranean neighbors.[32] Egyptian security sources told Reuters that Egypt asked the US and European nations to “help it freeze any deal [between Turkey and Ethiopia]” and that Turkey would need to discuss the drone sales in ongoing normalization talks between Cairo and Ankara.[33]


 Contributors: Ezgi Yazici and Fatih Cungurlu




[2] The CSTO declined Kyrgzystan’s request for its domestic unrest in 2010. Armenia also requested CSTO consultations during Azerbaijan’s offensive into Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. Although, Armenia did not formally invoke.

https://www.vedomosti dot ru/politics/articles/2010/06/15/mirotvorcy-odkb-ne-budut-napravleny-v-kirgiziyu

https://www.interfax dot ru/world/768966


[4] Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held one-on-one phone calls with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev about the developments in Kazakhstan on January 6. Erdogan did not talk with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov despite Turkmenistan observer state status in the Organization. Cavusoglu also had a call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and the Caucasus.



[7] Kyrgyzstan’s presidential spokesperson said that “Kyrgyz servicemen will not be involved in any actions with the participants in the actions in the Republic of Kazakhstan” on January 6.xxxvii Kyrgyzstan refrained from participating in the initial January 6 CSTO vote to send peacekeepers to Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Parliament only voted to do so on January 7

https://ria dot ru/20220106/kirgiziya-1766723008.html; 

https://eurasianet dot org/kyrgyzstan-sends-troops-to-kazakhstan-but-not-everybody-is-happy 

Kazakh Presidential Press Secretary Berik Uali said that CSTO peacekeeping forces will remain in Kazakhstan for no more than a week on January 9.

[8] China made a similar security assistance offer





[13] “In the Second Attack of its Kind a Missile Attacks Targets the Zlikan Base,” Shafaq, January 15, 2022. shafaq dot com/ar/%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%80%D9%86/%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%AB%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D9%87%D8%AC%D9%88%D9%85-%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%86%D9%88%D8%B9%D9%87-%D9%82%D8%B5%D9%81-%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AE%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%AF%D9%81-%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%B2%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%83%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%AF; “At least 3 missiles targeted the Turkish Zlikan base in Bashiqa, Mosul Governorate,” Sabereen News Telegram, January 15, 2022. t dot me/sabreenS1/39133 

 “A Missile Attack Targets the Turkish Zlikan Base in Northeast Mosul for the Second Time in 24 Hours,” Al-Hadath, January 16, 2022.; “A Second Burst of 4 Missiles Target the Turkish Base Responding to the Artillery of the Turkish Occupation,” Sabereen News Telegram, January 16, 2022. t dot me/sabreenS1/39135

[14] “A Second Burst of 4 Missiles Target the Turkish Base Responding to the Artillery of the Turkish Occupation,” Sabereen News Telegram, January 16, 2022. t dot me/sabreenS1/39135 



[17] Most recently, Azerbaijan claimed Armenian forces attacked Azerbaijani positions near Kalbajar on January 8. Armenia claimed Azerbaijani forces attacked Armenian positions in Armenia on January 11.











[28] RUMINT on Somalia’s purchase of Bayraktar TB2 drones




[32] Ethiopia is at odds with Egypt and Sudan due to the former’s hydropower dam construction on the Nile. Egypt and Sudan are concerned that the dam’s construction will affect their downstream access to the river’s waters.



Friday, January 14, 2022

Russia in Review: December 1, 2021 – January 11, 2022

ISW’s Russia team is closely monitoring the ongoing situation around Ukraine, including Russian force deployments, rhetorical changes, and Western responses. Click here to view ISW’s publication “Indicators and Thresholds for Russian Military Operations in Ukraine and/or Belarus,” updated daily.

ISW’s Russia Team will additionally publish an assessment of the CSTO’s intervention in Kazakhstan the week of January 17.

  1. The Kremlin signed defense and information security agreements with Vietnam and Indonesia on December 1 and 14, respectively. Both agreements advance the Kremlin’s ongoing effort to expand Russian influence in Southeast Asia and diversify its partners in the region beyond China.[1] Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and his Vietnamese counterpart signed a military-technical cooperation agreement and a cooperation memorandum on military history in Moscow on December 1.[2] The Kremlin likely seeks to deepen its existing defense cooperation with Vietnam—a leading Kremlin partner in South East Asia with which the Kremlin has prioritized cooperation since at least 2019.[3] Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and the head of Indonesia's National Cybersecurity and Cryptography Agency signed an agreement on December 14 to create a joint system to combat information technology threats.[4] The Kremlin has prioritized obtaining similar bilateral international information and communications technologies (ICT) cooperation agreements since 2014. These agreements expand Russian cyber capabilities and global influence in information technologies.[5]
  2. Russian naval forces participated in two multinational naval exercises in Indonesian territorial waters and the Gulf of Alexandria in early December 2021. The Russian Pacific Fleet anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Panteleev participated in “ARNEX-2021” exercises with Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Singaporean, Bruneian, and Myanmarese ships in Indonesian territorial waters from December 1 to 3.[6] ARNEX-2021 was the first naval exercise held by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and focused on joint maneuvers, communications drills, interdiction, and search and rescue tasks.[7] The Kremlin likely seeks to leverage the predominantly economically focused ASEAN bloc as an additional partner with which to expand its naval power projection capabilities and legitimacy by framing Russian actions as part of regional operations. Russian Black Sea Fleet frigate Admiral Grigorovich and patrol ship Dmitry Rogachev additionally conducted the joint “Bridge of Friendship-2021" naval exercises with four Egyptian Navy vessels in the Gulf of Alexandria from December 3 to 10.[8] Russian and Egyptian crews operated under joint leadership while practicing artillery fire at surface, air, and floating mine targets; assisting a ship in distress; escorting friendly ships; repelling surface craft attacks; and inspecting suspicious ships.[9] The Kremlin likely seeks to increase its participation in international naval exercises to increase Russian influence with partners globally.[10]
  3. Russia leveraged Belarus’ intensified economic isolation following a new round of European Union Sanctions on December 2 to increase Russian influence over Belarus through the Kremlin-dominated Union State. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s maneuvering space to resist Kremlin pressure decreased after the European Union issued a fifth package of sanctions against Belarus in response to its state-sponsored migrant trafficking campaign on December 2.[11] Belarus and Russia approved decrees on implementing the Union State Treaty for 2021-2023 and a package of Union State programs on December 2.[12] Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on December 2 that “Western actions” against Belarus (a reference to a claimed Western hybrid war against Belarus) encouraged deeper Russian-Belarusian integration.[13] Belarus issued retaliatory import bans against the EU on December 3 and new import-substitution projects to combat Western sanctions on December 8—measures that deepened Belarus’ dependency on Russian markets by increasing its economic isolation from the West.[14] Belarus’ prime minister announced Minsk’s intent to develop industrial cooperation with Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in response to Western sanctions pressure on December 7.[15] The Kremlin will likely leverage Belarus’ increasing international isolation to intensify the speed of Belarus’ market, monetary, and fiscal policy integration with Russia in the Union State and the EAEU, though these processes will still likely take several years to complete. 
  4. The Kremlin leveraged energy and military cooperation with Republika Srpska—the Serbian political entity within Bosnia—and Serbia to further cement Russian influence in the Balkans on December 2 and 3. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republika Srpska leader Milorad Dodik discussed plans for a joint extension of Russia’s TurkStream gas pipeline to Republika Srpska’s de facto capital of Banja Luka on December 2.[16] TurkStream’s expansion would increase Republika Srpska’s energy independence from Bosnia’s gas system and thereby increase Republika Srpska’s ability to push for succession from the Bosnia and Herzegovina tripartite state.[17] Serbian Interior Minister Alexander Vulin additionally met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu in Moscow and announced on December 2 that Serbia will purchase unspecified air defense systems and open a Russian Ministry of Defense office in Belgrade, Serbia, “in the near future.”[18] Vulin said that Serbia would not join Western security alliances during a meeting with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev in Moscow on December 3.[19] The Kremlin likely seeks to leverage military influence in Serbia to maintain a strategic foothold in the Balkans and prevent Serbia from joining the European Union.[20]
  5. Russian President Vladimir Putin expanded Russian military and economic cooperation with India during a visit by a senior Kremlin delegation to New Delhi, India, on December 6.[21] Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh authorized a ten-year Russo-Indian military-technical cooperation agreement that stipulates interbranch military cooperation and weapons supply cooperation on December 6.[22] Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi additionally signed 15 agreements, including on using space technology for peaceful purposes, joint production of Russian-designed small arms, oil supplies from Russia to India, plans to open an Indian consulate in Vladivostok, and joint bank cooperation against computer attacks.[23] Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with India’s foreign minister and restated that Russian S-400 air defense system sales to India will continue despite US attempts since 2018 to undermine India’s purchase of additional S-400 systems.[24] The Indian military deployed its first battery of S-400 systems in western Punjab, bordering Pakistan, on December 21, 2021.[25] The Kremlin seeks to deepen ties with India to expand Russia’s arms clientele, bilateral military partners, and partnerships in South Asia.[26]
  6. The Kremlin continued to send humanitarian aid to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in parallel with increased efforts to modernize and improve the combat capabilities of the 201st Military Base in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in December 2021. Russia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on January 2, 2022, that the 201st Russian Military Base in Tajikistan received over 50 pieces of modernized equipment, including upgraded T-72B3M tanks and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, throughout 2021.[27] Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov stated on December 8 that Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will continue improving military infrastructure in Tajikistan.[28] The Russian MoD delivered an additional 36 tons of humanitarian aid to Kabul at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request on December 18.[29] Putin likely negotiated the humanitarian aid delivery with the Taliban to extract approximately 200 Russian, Kyrgyz, and Afghan evacuees on December 19.[30] Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on December 31 that Russia will gradually move toward petitioning the United Nations Security Council to remove the Taliban from its sanction list “in solidarity with the rest of the world community” if the Taliban forms an inclusive government and counters terrorist and drug threats emanating from Afghanistan.[31] The Kremlin likely seeks to develop a coalition of states to collectively advocate for the international recognition of the Taliban over the next year but will continue to reinforce its military capabilities in Tajikistan to counter potential jihadist threats emanating from Afghanistan.[32]
  7. German Social Democrat Party (SDP) member Olaf Scholz’s succession of Angela Merkel as German Chancellor on December 8 is unlikely to shift Germany’s foreign policy toward Russia despite internal disagreement on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline (NS2) within Scholz’s government.[33] The SDP leads a tripartite governing coalition with Germany’s Green Party and Free Democrats party. SDP supports certifying NS2, but the Greens oppose the pipeline. SDP’s general secretary has criticized what he frames as linking NS2 to political issues with Russia and repeatedly stated support for immediately completing NS2 throughout early January 2022.[34] Angela Merkel's former ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU)—now an opposition party—similarly supports completing NS2.[35] Scholz’s government has continued Merkel-era foreign policies on Russia despite these internal disagreements.[36] The Scholz government reiterated support for the July 2021 joint US-German statement that characterized NS2 as a geopolitical project that uses energy as a weapon.[37] German Foreign Minister and Green Party member Annalena Baerbock has mellowed her anti-NS2 rhetoric since joining the Scholz government in December.[38] Scholz’s government is continuing Merkel’s policy of not supporting further arms shipments to Ukraine.[39] Scholz’s government, despite internal pressure from both the SDP and Greens, has demonstrated solidary with US-led efforts to foster unity among European Union and NATO members ahead of security negotiations with Russia in mid-January 2022.[40] The Kremlin nonetheless likely seeks to both cultivate ties with the new Scholz government and exacerbate disagreements between the tripartite collation government to fragment European solidarity against Russia’s economic and political objectives.[41]
  8. The Kremlin increased efforts to economically link Russia and its Ukrainian proxy republics in Donbas during a major forum on December 14.[42] The Kremlin organized a forum on deepening economic integration between Donbas and Russia on December 14. Representatives of the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples Republics (DNR and LNR in Donbas), South Ossetia (one of Russia’s proxy republics in Georgia), and the Russian government participated in this forum. DNR leader Denis Pushilin stated that the DNR is preparing “necessary conditions for a significant trade volume increase with Russia” on December 14.[43]  Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that equated DNR and LNR goods to Russian goods—a measure designed to promote trade growth—in November 2021.[44] The Kremlin could leverage increased economic integration between Russia and its proxies as an additional claimed casus belli to justify military intervention to defend “Russian interests” in Donbas.[45] Increased economic integration might also increase the proxy republics’ economic viability and decrease the currently expensive administrative costs the Kremlin pays to manage and subsidize them.
  9. The Belarusian Government published a new draft constitution on December 27 that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will likely attempt to leverage to maintain his own control over Belarusian domestic affairs while ceding more military integration concessions to Russia.[46] The amendments stipulate presidential term limits of only two five-year terms after a “newly elected president” assumes office, enabling Lukashenko to run for two more terms after his current term expires in 2025. The amendments grant the president immunity from criminal prosecution, even after retirement. The amendments weaken Belarus’ parliament and elevate the role of the All-Belarusian People's Assembly (BPA)—a congress of Lukashenko loyalists that meets every five years and currently has no governing power under Belarusian law. The new constitution grants the BPA and its presidium significant powers.[47] Lukashenko likely seeks to develop the BPA into a dual power structure that he can use to control Belarus’ government if he leaves the presidency. The amendments also advance the Kremlin’s campaign to deepen Russian control over Belarus by removing the constitution’s clause about Belarus being a “neutral” state and a nuclear-weapons-free zone. Lukashenko offered to host Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus on November 30, indicating a possible Russian effort to deploy tactical or strategic nuclear weapons to Belarus as the Kremlin did during the Soviet era.[48] Belarus will likely adopt this new constitution in a controlled referendum in February 2022.
  10. Russia's Supreme Court shut down Russia’s oldest human rights group, “International Memorial,” on December 28, alleging that the West might have in the future sponsored the organization to amplify narratives about Soviet crimes against humanity and promote extremism.[49] Russia’s Supreme Court accused Memorial of distorting historic memory about the Great Patriotic War (World War II), vilifying the Soviet Union, and failing to disclose information about foreign funding on November 11.[50] International Memorial was a human rights group established in 1989 that documented and raised awareness about the Soviet government’s crimes against its own citizens. The Kremlin’s closure of International Memorial supports a longstanding Kremlin campaign to amplify Russian President Vladimir Putin’s preferred historiography of World War II and the Soviet Union and suppress liberal Western thought in Russia.

Contributors: Mason Clark, George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko, Grace Mappes, and Julia Belov



[2] https://function dot

[3]; https://russian.rt dot com/russia/news/694913-rossiya-vetnam-ucheniya; https://en.vietnamplus dot vn/vietnam-joins-zapad-2021-military-drill-in-russia-as-observer/207985.vnp; https://www.themoscowtimes dot com/2020/01/29/vietnam-orders-350m-combat-training-jets-from-russia-vedomosti-a69074

[4] http://www.scrf dot


[6] https://function dot

[7] https://tass dot com/defense/1370545

[8] Russia and Egypt annually conduct “Bridge of Friendship” exercises since 2015. The 2020 exercise iteration took place in the Black Sea. https://function dot; https://function dot

[9] https://function dot

[10] Russia previously held joint counterterror exercises “Peaceful Mission-2021" with members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization at the Donguz Training Ground in Orenburg Oblast, Russia in September 2021. Russia also conducted joint airborne exercises “Defender of Friendship” with Egyptian forces in Egypt in October 2021.–-october-5-2021;

[11] https://www.consilium.europa dot eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/12/02/belarus-eu-adopts-5th-package-of-sanctions-over-continued-human-rights-abuses-and-the-instrumentalisation-of-migrants/

[12] Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin first approved the Union State programs at their meeting on November 4. https://eng.belta dot by/politics/view/supreme-state-council-decisions-hailed-as-breakthrough-for-belarus-russia-union-state-145805-2021/ 

[13] Lukashenko’s statement about “Western actions” references both a falsely claimed NATO hybrid war that Lukashenko claims the West has waged against Belarus since fall 2020 and a falsely claimed NATO buildup near Russian and Belarusian borders since fall 2021. dot by/en/events/vstrecha-s-gubernatorom-astrahanskoy-oblasti-rossii-igorem-babushkinym-1638448206; dot by/ru/events/vstrecha-s-predsedatelem-gosudarstvennoy-dumy-rossii-vyacheslavom-volodinym

[14] https://www.euractiv dot com/section/europe-s-east/news/belarus-to-ban-western-food-imports-from-january/; https://www.thefirstnews dot com/article/belarus-bans-food-imports-from-poland-from-january-26688; dot ua/news/economic/784529.html; https://reform dot by/284927-smi-belarus-perestala-postavljat-neft-v-germaniju-v-dekabre 

[15] https://iz dot ru/1260811/2021-12-07/v-belorussii-zaiavili-o-namerenii-razvivat-promkooperatciiu-s-rf-i-eaes

[16] Russian state gas company Gazprom began transporting gas to Bosnia and Herzegovina via TurkStream gas pipeline in the Black Sea on January 1, 2021. Dodik negotiated with Putin the same low price for Russian gas. Dodik also met with Russian state gas company Gazprom to discuss further energy cooperation in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on December 3. https://tass dot ru/ekonomika/13098447; https://neftegaz dot ru/news/partnership/713586-gazprom-i-bosniya-i-gertsegovina-obsuzhdayut-postavki-gaza/;; https://www.vesti dot ru/article/2647711.

[17] Republika Srpska leadership has been blocking gas and electricity nationalization bills likely to ensure Republika’s energy autonomy from Bosnia and Herzegovina in an event of a full succession. Dodik previously announced that Republika Srpska’s army, tax administration, and judicial system would full separate from Bosnia-Herzegovina's Central government by November 2021. The Kremlin would benefit from the Republika Srpska’s full succession as it would dismantle Western-brokered 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian War and destabilize Western influence over Bosnia-Herzegovina's tripartite state.–-november-9-2021;, https://neftegaz dot ru/news/partnership/713586-gazprom-i-bosniya-i-gertsegovina-obsuzhdayut-postavki-gaza/.

[18] dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12396812@egNews

[19] https://regnum dot ru/news/polit/3440738.html


[21] http://kremlin dot ru/supplement/5746; http://kremlin dot ru/events/president/news/67287; https://function dot;; http://kremlin dot ru/supplement/5746; https://archive dot

[22] https://function dot;; http://kremlin dot ru/supplement/5746

[23] Other agreements outlined spheres of cultural and economic cooperation. http://kremlin dot ru/supplement/5746; http://kremlin dot ru/events/president/news/67287.

[24] Russia and India signed a S-400 deal in 2018. India deployed first Russian S-400 to Pakistan-bordering region of Punjab on December 21, 2021. https://archive dot; russia-starts-supplying-india-with-missildespite-us-sanctions-thr; https://tass dot ru/armiya-i-opk/13254003.

[25] https://tass dot com/defense/1378439


[27]; https://tass dot ru/armiya-i-opk/13119423;

[28] https://function dot

[29] https://function dot

[30] https://function dot

[31] https://www dot


[33] Scholz previously served as Germany’s finance minister and vice-chancellor under the Merkel government since 2018.

[34] https://www.reuters dot com/business/energy/german-spd-official-calls-end-nord-stream-2-dispute-2022-01-10/;


[36] German Green Party Bundestag spokesman on foreign affairs Omid Nuripur stated that stopping Nord Stream 2’s certification is likely impossible if the pipeline company forms a German subsidiary in compliance with German law on December 30. https://detv dot us/2021/12/30/habeck-wants-to-support-ukraine-nouripour-nord-stream-2-can-hardly-be-prevented/; https://newsrnd dot com/news/2021-12-30-omid-nouripour--green-leader-candidate-sees-little-scope-to-prevent-nord-stream-2.Sy-TwK1jjY.html; https://tass dot ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/13331987;


[38] Baerbock called on Berlin to resist Russian “blackmail” on NS2 in October 2021 but by January 5 she reiterated Scholz government’s position that Nord Stream 2’s certification is suspended because of its noncompliance with German regulations. https://www.politico dot eu/article/baerbock-against-operating-permit-for-nord-stream-2/;


[40] Germany’s federal government seemingly is taking Russian threats seriously. Scholz warned that Russia would face “a high price” for further aggression against Ukraine on December 15. German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck stated he opposes linking NS2 to political issues but admitted that Germany may block Nord Stream 2 certification due to Russian threats against Ukraine on December 29. https://www.dw dot com/ru/vice-kancler-frg-habek-ne-iskljuchaet-ostanovku-severnogo-potoka-2/a-60292160;

[41] Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Baerbock will met in Moscow on January 18. https://breakingthenews dot net/Article/Lavrov-Baerbock-to-meet-in-Moscow-on-January-18/57076099

[42] https://mid-dnr dot su/ru/pages/news/v-donecke-predstaviteli-4-gosudarstv-obsudili-perspektivy-dalnejshego-sotrudnichestva


[44] http://publication dot pravo dot; https://dnrsovet dot su/vladimir-bidyovka-prinyal-uchastie-v-rabochej-vstreche-po-obsuzhdeniyu-perspektiv-ekonomicheskoj-integratsii-rossii-i-donbassa/


[46] dot by/bucket/assets/uploads/documents/konstituciya-na-27-dekabrya.pdf; https://pravo dot by/pravovaya-informatsiya/normativnye-dokumenty/konstitutsiya-respubliki-belarus/

[47] The BPA can adopt strategic documents, overturn decisions of other authorities, impeach the president, and appoint the Central Election Commission and Supreme and Constitutional Court judges, among other powers. https://www.dw dot com/ru/mina-zamedlennogo-dejstvija-chto-znachit-proekt-konstitucii-dlja-lukashenko/a-60273475;

[48] Kremlin officials said they would consider Lukashenko’s previous proposal to host Russian nuclear missiles in Belarus if NATO places nuclear weapons in Poland on December 21. https://rg dot ru/2021/12/21/mid-rf-prokommentiroval-vozmozhnost-razmeshcheniia-iadernogo-oruzhiia-vbelarusi.html;

[49]; https://tvrain dot ru/news/verhovnyj_sud_postanovil_likvidirovat_mezhdunarodnyj_memorial-544904/?from=rss

[50] https://tvrain dot ru/news/verhovnyj_sud_postanovil_likvidirovat_mezhdunarodnyj_memorial-544904/?from=rss; https://vsrf dot ru/lk/practice/cases?&registerDateExact=off&considerationDateExact=off&numberExact=true&keywords=%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%BC%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B0%D0%BB