5 November 2022

Is the National Defense Strategy Calling for Acquisition Reform?

Cynthia Cook

The 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS) connects the vision laid out in the National Security Strategy (NSS) to action for the Department of Defense (DOD). NDS guidance impacts plans for force structure and modernization, including investments in additional systems and the processes for acquiring additional capabilities. Many of the planning constructs laid out in the 2022 NDS are not new challenges since the 2018 NDS. China remains the pacing threat. Russia continues to be a concern, with its unprovoked attack on Ukraine highlighting the importance of working with NATO allies and partners. North Korea and Iran persist as problematic actors, and violent extremist organizations remain a concern.

A close read of the 2022 NDS from an acquisition perspective suggests that there are deep concerns about the existing acquisition system and how it has been postured to meet the threat. There is less recognition of the specific challenges being faced on defense industrial base or on how DOD can work with industry to provide a surge capacity in case of national need.

How Many Ukrainian Soldiers Have Died in the War?


In a previous article, I estimated the number of Russian soldiers killed up to September 9th as 19,546. This figure includes the regular Russian armed forces, the Wagner mercenaries and the two separatist militias. It equates to an average rate of 99 men killed per day over the first 197 days of the war.

Assuming the death rate has remained roughly constant since September 9th, today’s total would be 24,496 – or just under 25,000.

How many Ukrainian soldiers have been killed? This is much harder to estimate. One of the key sources for estimating Russian military deaths is a database compiled by Mediazona and the BBC News Russian Service, which is based on obituaries and social media posts. No such database exists for Ukrainian military deaths.

India’s Russian arms imbroglio

Sarosh Bana

The abysmal failure of Russia’s weaponry in President Vladimir Putin’s brutal and ill-conceived war on Ukraine should compel a reconsideration of India’s traditional overdependence on Russian armaments.

A dossier compiled by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence reveals that Russia’s weapons, many of which have been retrieved from the battlefield, have been ineffective, obsolete and unreliable, and don’t meet the requirements of modern warfare. Its armoured vehicles and helicopters have wilted under fire, and its missiles have missed around two-thirds of their targets.

The situation was made more dire after the US-led West imposed economic sanctions on most Russian arms vendors following Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea in southern Ukraine in 2014. These punitive measures were ‘massively expanded’ upon Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, when the Western powers added a significant number of individuals and entities to the sanctions list and adopted unprecedented measures with the aim of significantly weakening Russia’s economic base and depriving it of critical technologies and markets. These sanctions are expected to remain in place for years, if not decades.

Military Leaders Praise Musk as Treasury Officials Eye Twitter Deal


Elon Musk is not the only defense-industry exec who showed up for the Space Force’s first change-of-command ceremony. But the SpaceX founder and controversial new owner of Twitter was the only one who got a by-name call out from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“What he symbolizes, in reality, is the combination of the civil and military cooperation and teamwork that makes the United States the most powerful country in space. So, Elon, thank you for making yourself present here today,” Gen. Mark Milley said during the Wednesday ceremony at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, D.C.

Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, the first chief of space operations and the service’s first member, also thanked Musk before rattling off the names of seven other senior executives in attendance. Raymond is retiring after 38 years of service in the Air Force and Space Force, after passing the Space Force flag to Gen. Chance Salzman.

The war in Ukraine: implications for Asia


The war in Ukraine is now the largest conventional (inter-state) conflict since the Korean War across a range of measures: battlefield deaths, personnel committed, ordnance used. It is also the first proxy war between nuclear-armed powers since the Russian intervention into Syria. It is therefore not unreasonable to ask what the effects of the Ukraine conflict are beyond that country and Europe. The Korean War played a significant role in hardening the Cold War stand-off, not only through prompting the creation of US alliances in Asia, but in deepening commitments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact in Europe.

In each country in Asia, analysts and policymakers are watching the Ukraine war closely, and consciously and unconsciously deriving lessons from it: what do events in Ukraine imply for other countries in terms of what is possible, what is risky, and what competitors may be emboldened to try? Perceptions of the conflict are coalescing around four fundamental questions: why did the war break out?; how is the war being fought?; what does the war mean for global order?; and when and under what conditions will it come to an end? In the debates that attend each of these questions we can start to see some of the broader implications of the Ukraine war for Asia.

How random events have shaped the course of human history

Tim Brinkhof

Sometime around 193 B.C., the celebrated Roman general Scipio Africanus led a delegation from the Eternal City to modern-day Syria to tell its king, Antiochus III, to stay out of Greece. For the first time in history, this culturally and economically significant region had fallen under control of the Italians after a succession of wars with Macedonia, and they were in no mood to give it up.

Present at the Syrian court upon the delegation’s arrival was none other than Hannibal, the exiled warlord who, years earlier, had defended the wealthy city-state of Carthage against Roman encroachment and, in the process, nearly levelled the Republic before being bested by Scipio. The last time these two men came face to face with each other, they had been at war.

This time, they were both guests seated at Antiochus’ table — an unbelievably rare coincidence that led to an equally unbelievable conversation. Making friendly conversation over dinner, Scipio asked Hannibal who he thought was the greatest general of all time. Hannibal ranked Alexander the Great first, followed by a general named Phyrrus, and, finally and much to the chagrin of Scipio, himself.

Brazil elections lead to a new concern: The country’s politics are getting more like America’s

Tom Nagorski and Mariana Labbate

It was as important and closely watched as any election in recent years in South America, and even when the results came in, there were tensions and fears of unrest. That’s in part because former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s margin of victory — 50.9 percent to 49.1 — was so very thin, and partly because his opponent, the incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro, had raged about the possibility of a rigged vote and warned of the consequences were he to lose.

Hear more from this conversation between Tom Nagorski and Guilherme Casarões:

The results are a rebuke — though hardly a resounding one — to Bolsonaro’s blend of bluster, disinformation and far-right policies. They also cap a remarkable comeback for the man known as “Lula” — who finished his second term as president more than a decade ago and then served two years in jail on corruption charges.

The Ukraine War Will End With Negotiations Now Is Not the Time for Talks, but America Must Lay the Groundwork

Emma Ashford

By late August 2022, the West’s focus on Russia’s war in Ukraine was diminishing. The two sides were bogged down in an extended stalemate, freeing Western leaders from making difficult choices or thinking too hard about the future of the conflict. Events since early September—dramatic Ukrainian gains, followed by Russian mobilization, annexations, missile attacks on civilian areas, and nuclear threats—have shattered that illusion, pushing the war into a new and more dangerous phase.

Since the start of the war, the Biden administration has effectively maintained a balanced realpolitik approach: arming and funding Ukraine yet continuing to make clear that the United States will not engage directly in the conflict. But the administration has avoided talking about one crucial area of war strategy altogether: how it might end. Experts and policymakers who have suggested that the United States should also support diplomatic efforts aimed at a negotiated settlement have been treated as naïve or borderline treasonous. Driving the administration’s skittishness about endgames, then, are questions of morality: many argue that it is immoral to push Ukraine toward a settlement.

Olaf Scholz Has a China Problem

Thorsten Benner

Last December, in a speech
outlining the agenda of his government, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz demanded that “we need to base our China policy on the China we find in reality,” promising to pursue “German and European interests” with “great self-confidence.” Yet, Scholz shows very little of this realism and self-confidence as he prepares for this Friday’s inaugural visit to Beijing to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Last week, Scholz gave in to Chinese pressure and pushed through a deal allowing China Ocean Shipping Company (known as Cosco) to buy a stake in a terminal at Germany’s main port of Hamburg—against the objections of six ministers. This put Scholz at odds with an emerging consensus across party lines that Germany urgently needs to reduce its dependency on China. It also signaled weakness vis-à-vis Xi, who just self-confidently presided over his coronation as leader for life. It’s high time for Scholz to change course and get serious about Xi’s China. He needs to use his visit in Beijing to confront the Chinese leader on German and European interests, including Xi’s support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war and his threats against Taiwan.

Ukraine Situation Report: Attacks Behind Russian Lines Crippling War Effort


Ukrainian partisans are wreaking havoc on Russian forces and those who have collaborated with them, the Institute for the Study of War says in its latest assessment of Vladimir Putin's 251-day-old full-on war.

“Effective Ukrainian partisan attacks are forcing the Kremlin to divert resources away from frontline operations to help secure rear areas, degrading Russia’s ability to defend against ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensives, let alone conduct their own offensive operations,” according to ISW. “Poor Russian operational security has enabled Ukrainian partisan attacks.”

In a cascading series of misfortunes, Russia’s “increasing manpower shortages are likely degrading” Moscow’s ability to “effectively secure Russian rear areas against partisan attacks and simultaneously defend against Ukrainian counteroffensives. The Kremlin still has not effectively countered Ukraine’s organized partisan movement and is unlikely to have the capabilities to do so.”

Why Biden is sending US weapons experts into Ukraine


The Pentagon announced this week that it is sending weapons experts into Ukraine to inspect American-supplied arms being used against Russia.

The group will be among the first U.S. military members in the country, apart from those providing security at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

President Biden has pledged that U.S. troops will not be sent into the fight, but this week’s announcement comes amid rising concern — particularly among Republicans — about how effectively Ukraine is utilizing U.S. military support.

A senior Defense Department official told reporters on Monday that it had not seen “credible evidence of the diversion of U.S.-provided weapons.”

“Nonetheless, we are keenly aware of the possible risk of illicit diversion and are proactively taking all available steps to prevent this from happening.”

Ukrainian Commandoes Raid Airfield Deep Inside Russia, Destroy Frontline Helicopters

Stefan Korshak

Ukrainian commandoes blew up three helicopter gunships at a Russian military airfield close to the Latvian border, in one of the most spectacular behind-the-lines raids launched by either side since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, multiple sources confirmed on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

The Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine said in a Monday, Oct. 31 statement that the Oct. 30 attack took place at the Russian army’s Veretye air base in north-western Pskov Region. The facility is more than 500 km., as the missile flies, from Ukraine to the south, and some 110 km from NATO member Latvia to the east.

Two Ka-52 attack helicopters were destroyed completely and a third was badly damaged by det charges placed by Ukrainian operatives infiltrating in and out of the site without being detected, the GUR statement added. Russian security teams subsequently found a fourth helicopter rigged with explosives that had not gone off, some news reports said.

China and Russia prepare to turn Cold War II into a hot war


In 2011, James Clapper, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that both Russia and China posed “the greatest mortal threat” to the United States because of their nuclear capabilities.

Though he also said neither then evinced an intent to use those capabilities against the United States, several Democratic senators expressed alarm at Clapper’s threat characterization and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said he should resign.

Obama’s policies were closely aligned with the committee members’ more relaxed view of the two countries’ relations with the United States. The Trump and Biden foreign policy teams, on the other hand, have shared the increasingly dire assessment of both China and Russia.

Last week, the Biden administration’s Defense Department released its National Defense Strategy (NDS), delayed by the war in Ukraine, along with the companion Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and Missile Defense Review (MDR). Like the earlier National Security Strategy (NSS), the documents place China at the top of the list of security threats facing the United States, with Russia as a close second.

The Real China Hands What Washington Can Learn From Its Asian Allies

Michael J. Green

For four years, as an increasingly belligerent China breathed down their necks, the United States’ allies in Asia quietly endured a torrent of abuse from President Donald Trump. Under President Joe Biden, they again have a winning hand in Washington. By the time he took office, Biden, a leading optimist about cooperation with China when he was vice president, had transformed into a hardened skeptic. He has promoted key alliance builders to the top Asia posts at the National Security Council, the State Department, and the Pentagon and ensured that his first in-person summit was with Yoshihide Suga, then Japan’s prime minister. His administration has elevated the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), the group linking the United States with Australia, India, and Japan, to a regular summit and agreed to help Australia build nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact with that country and the United Kingdom. The White House’s Indo-Pacific strategy, issued in February 2022, mentioned allies or alliances more than 30 times in a 19-page document. China merited only two references.

Despite this welcome attention, the United States still fundamentally gets the relationship with its Asian allies backward. These countries are not reluctant partners that need to be shaken out of their complacency; they live with the threat of China every day, are eager to blunt it, and in fact originated many of the Biden administration’s initiatives to counter the country’s influence. Nor are they reckless novices that fail to understand the dangers of competition with China; they often have a far more subtle understanding of coexistence than the one that prevails in Washington. As it refines its China strategy, the United States should increasingly take its cues from Australia, Japan, and South Korea.

Iran may be preparing to arm Russia with short-range ballistic missiles

Josh Lederman and Courtney Kube

Iran may soon arm Russia with surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles, three U.S. and Western government officials said, in what would be significant escalation of Iranian support for President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

In recent weeks, the United States and at least one allied nation have observed indications that Iran is preparing to transfer the weapons, the officials said, although it’s unclear how close Iran is to sending them. As of now, the U.S. has no indications any missiles have been sent, a senior U.S. defense official said.

If delivered, they would be the first advanced, precision-guided missiles that Iran has provided Russia since the war started. Short-range ballistic missiles have a range of hundreds of miles, and could help Moscow replenish its dwindling stockpile, which have been depleted by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Nuclear Question America Never Answers

Tom Nichols

What is the purpose of the American nuclear arsenal? Every American president since the end of the Cold War has tried to answer this question in a formal report called the Nuclear Posture Review. And every American president has fudged their answer—now including President Joe Biden, who released his NPR last week even as Russia wages war in Europe and the Russian president makes barely veiled nuclear threats against Ukraine, NATO, and the United States itself.

The first NPR, in 1994, was the result of an initiative by President Bill Clinton’s secretary of defense Les Aspin to ask what we should do after the Cold War with a nuclear arsenal that was designed to defeat a Soviet adversary that no longer existed. The process, unfortunately, turned into a kind of bureaucratic free-for-all, in which the Pentagon—better organized, more powerful, and more committed to the status quo than other agencies—outflanked Aspin and his staff (including a talented young assistant secretary of defense named Ashton Carter, later to become secretary himself). Unsurprisingly, the document effectively said that our nuclear establishment, including the triad of bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines, was just fine. Its authors conceded that a new force could be smaller and cheaper, a kind of Mini-Me of the old one.

Decoupling From China Is a Fools Errand

Geoffrey Aronson

Thirteenth-century Venice, like the high-tech economy of the twenty-first-century United States, faced a challenge that threatened the famed republic’s economic prosperity. The natural advantages enjoyed by Venice’s internationally renowned glass makers, like the leading computer chip makers today, were under threat from foreign competition, the theft of intellectual property, and the departure of skilled artisans lured by the promise of higher pay elsewhere in Europe.

Venice adopted an elegant if brutal solution to this dilemma. On November 8, 1291, the Venetian Great Council ordered the city’s entire glass-making industry—all of its factories and artisans—to relocate to the small island of Murano nearby.

To prevent the export of the city’s technological and manufacturing advantages, glassmakers faced steep fines or imprisonment if they left the environs without permission. Determined to prevent the loss of its monopoly over intellectual property and to maintain its stranglehold on industrial innovation, city fathers ruled that any master caught leaving the city could be sentenced to death.

Global Geopolitics Portend Bipolar Worldwide Situation: Implications For India – Analysis

Dr. Subhash Kapila 

Global geopolitical configurations in 2022 from Europe to Indo Pacific present the spectacle of deeply polarised world order with the United States-led Western democracies checkmating the challenge posed by the Russia-China Axis of Communist dictatorships. Unfolding portents suggest emergence of return to the Cold War ‘Bipolar World’ throwing critical implications for Indian policy establishment.

Contextually, what needs to be pointed out as a prelude to the analysis following is that 2022 and beyond is unlike the earlier bipolar world where United States and USSR confronted mainly in Europe. In the evolving Bipolar World order the second pole will increasingly be led by China with an enfeebled Russia in tow?

The above factor throws up an entirely new set of geopolitical dynamics reducing the policy bandwidths of countries like India which earlier professed Non-alignment as a policy precept in the earlier bipolar era and now lays emphasis on strategically autonomous policy decision-making in consonance with its perceived national interests and further under the delusion that a Multipolar World will emerge.

Could Semiconductors Tip the India-Taiwan Scale?

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

India-Taiwan relations have traditionally been low-key because of Indian apprehension about possible reactions from China. But the relationship between India and Taiwan is going through some important, if still slow-paced, changes on account of a number of developments. It appears now that India is set to expand its economic ties with Taiwan significantly.

This week, Chen Chern-Chyi, Taiwan’s deputy minister of economic affairs, will be traveling on an official visit to India. He will lead a delegation of businessmen and investors including IT companies, with the goal of accelerating the pace of cooperation between India and Taiwan. The minister, who will be in India for the annual India-Taiwan deputy economic minister-level meeting, will lead discussions with his Indian counterparts on a number of issues including a free trade agreement (FTA) and cooperation on semiconductor and supply chain issues. Relatedly, Taiwan’s Representative and head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India, Baushuan Ger, recently said that “India and Taiwan should firm up the FTA at the earliest as it will remove all barriers to trade and investment and help create a resilient supply chain.” According to Indian media reports, Chen will also be speaking at the India-Taiwan Industrial Collaboration Summit organized by the Indian industry body, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI).

Belt and Road Buddhism in Sri Lanka?

Tabita Rosendal

Under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a curious entanglement of economic investments and Buddhist diplomacy has been carried out in countries like Sri Lanka. This may at first appear an odd pairing, but it illuminates several interrelated trends in China’s foreign policy pursuits and its rise on the world stage. In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has worked hard to mitigate criticism of its policies and its increasing global presence by portraying itself as a benevolent power intent on improving the lives of its neighbors. To this end, the CCP’s strategic goals are increasingly advanced via “soft power” initiatives to persuade others of China’s harmonious intentions. But what does Xi Jinping’s flagship foreign policy initiative, the BRI, really have to do with Buddhism in Sri Lanka?

Since the end of Sri Lanka’s 1983-2009 civil war, China’s economic presence has been a mainstay in the country. After the BRI’s inception in 2013, Chinese foreign direct investment and state-backed policy loans increased tremendously, particularly represented by the port projects in Hambantota and Colombo, both of which are associated with the maritime sphere of the BRI, known as the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Yet China is not the only major power with interests in Sri Lanka or the wider South and Southeast Asian regions.

Relearning the ASEAN Way: On the Importance of Perspective in Multilateralism

Elizabeth Buchanan and Christopher Kourloufas

The enduring tendency to “center the United States” in foreign affairs analysis—both in the United States and, increasingly, in Australia—is limiting real understanding of Southeast Asian strategic perspectives at the staff officer level. The bulk of Defence strategy work is done by those who are not country or even region experts, and at the staff-officer level, there is very little awareness or understanding of non-U.S. perspectives. This misunderstanding might yet drive miscalculation in the region, particularly when considering the trajectory of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

ASEAN plays an important role in facilitating a peaceful, stable, and resilient neighbourhood favourable to Australian national interests. Australia-ASEAN ties date back to 1974, but an uptick in domestic commentary and analysis highlights an evident gap in Australian understanding of ASEAN.[1] Our collective understanding of ASEAN has been shaped by Australian and U.S-centric views, assumptions and ideals rather than political realities on the ground.

This has become particularly evident through our Defence research unit work across the Sea Power Centre and the Air and Space Power Centre.[2] Our centres host valuable insight into ASEAN military-strategic thinking via the ASEAN Visiting Fellowship initiative. Launched in 2014, the program serves to deepen people-people relations between Australia and ASEAN partners with a specific focus on strengthening military educational ties.

U.S. races to track American arms in heat of Ukraine war

Missy Ryan

U.S. monitors have conducted in-person inspections for only about 10 percent of the 22,000 U.S.-provided weapons sent to Ukraine that require special oversight.

U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details that have not been made public previously, said they are racing to deploy new means for tracking weapons seen as having a heightened risk of diversion, including Stinger surface-to-air missiles and Javelin antitank missiles, amid what they describe as Ukraine’s “super hot conflict.”

They hope to achieve a “reasonable” level of compliance with U.S. oversight rules for those high-risk items, but also acknowledge that they are unlikely to achieve 100 percent of normal checks and inventories as the country’s escalating war with Russia strains systems for ensuring weapons are not stolen or misused.

Russian Retreat in Ukraine Exposes Collaborators—and the Finger-Pointing Begins

Yaroslav Trofimov

SHEVCHENKOVE, Ukraine—When Russian armored columns drove into this rural community of 20,000 people on the first day of the invasion, Mayor Valeriy Prykhodko tried to count the tanks, artillery pieces and fighting vehicles that rolled past his windows.

After the first few hundred, he gave up. “It was too big for counting,” Mr. Prykhodko said. “The horror.”

Located some 35 miles from the Russian border, Shevchenkove fell without a fight the afternoon of Feb. 24. In the six months of Russian rule that followed, many locals came to believe that Moscow, with its awe-inspiring military might, would stay here forever.

Unwilling to work under Russian authority, Mr. Prykhodko tried for a time to resist orders, then fled to Ukrainian-controlled territories. But the municipality’s second-in-command, Executive Secretary Nadiya Sheluh, stayed on the job even once the Russians raised their red-blue-white flag over the building.

Can China Invade And Conquer Taiwan? Study Ukraine

Robert Kelly

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s rising belligerence under President Xi Jinping has raised concern about a possible Chinese move against Taiwan. China just completed a major congress of its Communist Party. Xi engineered a third term for himself as president, breaking the vague, post-Deng Xiaoping norm that Chinese presidents should only serve two terms. He now looks to be president for life, and the party congress escalated China’s rhetoric on Taiwan.

Xi likely needs some kind of legitimating move for his now permanent presidency. Post-Mao Zedong, Chinese elites have generally preferred ‘collective leadership’ to dictatorship. There will be unhappiness in the party over Xi’s move. Worse, the economy is slow because of Xi’s stubborn insistence on his ‘zero-covid’ policy. Without the mandate of an election, Xi and the party’s legitimacy rests on performance – the party’s well-known claim that its rule is more efficient and technocratic than sloppy, disorganized parliamentary democracy.

Defeating Drones: The Most Promising Weapons Are All Non-Kinetic

Loren Thompson

The current pattern of conflict in Ukraine suggests that the age of drone warfare has arrived. The U.S. Army, which leads joint efforts to counter the threat posed by unmanned air systems, anticipated this development years ago and has identified means for tracking and engaging hostile drones.

However, it is important to recognize that the drone challenge is in its infancy, at a level of sophistication comparable to where armored warfare stood a century ago. We should not assume that Ukraine’s claimed success in downing Russia’s drones with what the Wall Street Journal calls a “hodgepodge” of air defenses will work ten years from now.

The problem is that any country investing in drone systems has numerous options for making them more lethal and survivable—more options than defenders currently do.

Ukraine’s Unprecedented Mass Drone Boat Attack Was A Wakeup Call


The multi-unmanned surface vessel assault on the home of the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Crimea marked a new point in unmanned warfare. We have gotten quite of few of these kinds of seminal moments in recent years — the arrival of weaponized off-the-shelf and homemade drones in Mosul, the long-range mass drone attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure, and the assassination attempt via drone on Venezuela's Maduro, to name a few. But the attack on Sevastopol also marked a historic point in the history of naval warfare, although to what degree will surely be debated. While not revolutionary, the operation was certainly evolutionary, and that makes it quite important. Here's why.

The level of success of the attack, which you can read all about in our initial reporting here, is still to be determined, but it really doesn't change the optics of it and especially the precedent that it set.

That's not to say that we haven't seen 'suicide' drone boat attacks before. The basic concept is anything but new and in some cases dates back a century, with influences running even farther back into the annals of military history.

Russia’s Dangerous Decline The Kremlin Won’t Go Down Without a Fight

Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Michael Kofman

At a White House ceremony on August 9, days after the U.S. Senate agreed in a near-unanimous vote to ratify the expansion of NATO to include Finland and Sweden, U.S. President Joe Biden highlighted how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had backfired on Russian President Vladimir Putin. “He’s getting exactly what he did not want,” Biden announced. “He wanted the Finlandization of NATO, but he’s getting the NATOization of Finland, along with Sweden.” Indeed, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a massive strategic blunder, leaving Russia militarily, economically, and geopolitically weaker.

Ukraine’s offensive in Kharkiv in September underscored the magnitude of Putin’s error. As Russian forces grew exhausted, losing momentum on the battlefield, Ukraine seized the initiative, dealing the Russian military a decisive blow. Ukraine’s battlefield successes revealed the extent of the rot in Putin’s army—the sagging morale, the declining manpower, the deteriorating quality of the troops. Instead of giving up, however, Putin responded to these problems by ordering a partial military mobilization, introducing tougher punishments for soldiers who desert or surrender, and moving forward with the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions. Putin reacted to Russia’s falling fortunes in Ukraine just as he did to its shrinking role on the world stage: dealt a losing hand, he doubled down on his risky bet. To Putin’s evident surprise, the war in Ukraine has accelerated long-standing trends pushing his country toward decline. Europe is moving to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, diminishing both the country’s leverage over the continent and the government revenues that depend heavily on energy exports. Unprecedented international sanctions and export controls are limiting Russia’s access to capital and technology, which will cause Moscow to fall even further behind in innovation. A year ago, we argued in these pages that reports of Russia’s decline were overstated and that Russia was poised to remain a persistent power—a country facing structural challenges but maintaining the intent and capabilities to threaten the United States and its allies. Putin’s disastrous invasion underscored the dangers of dismissing the threat from Russia, but it has also hastened the country’s decline. Today, Russia’s long-term outlook is decidedly dimmer.