PONARS Eurasia On the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

From PONARS Eurasia:

As events rapidly unfold in Ukraine, PONARS Eurasia has created this page for the media and public to source accurate and up-to-date analysis from regional experts.

With Russia’s full-scale assault on Ukraine in its second week, Yuri Zhukov has created a near-real-time tracking system for violent events in Russia’s ongoing invasion. A new PONARS Eurasia Commentary by Lauren McCarthy exposes the Kremlin’s playbook for prosecuting anti-war protesters and another by Olga Gulina details how the invasion has prompted changes to EU migration legislation. And in a new PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo, Emily Ferris finds cracks in the unity of Russia’s security services on the eve of the February attack. Much more original PONARS Eurasia commentary can be found here, with our experts responding concisely to three new questions posed each day.

What to expect. Brian Taylor questions whether Putin has suddenly “lost it” and instead posits his aggressive positioning has been a long time coming. For Pavel Baev, Putin has backed himself into a corner and may resort to increasingly aggressive maneuvers. Arkady Moshes echoes the belief that anger is driving Putin, seeing implications for Finland. Samuel Charap argues any action from the West must be careful to avoid a hot war between Russia and NATO, and Peter Rutland warns that U.S. involvement could partly legitimize Putin’s claim that the U.S. and Russia are fighting for control of Ukraine.

Western responses. Western sanctions, which Maria Snegovaya calls unprecedented, have destroyed 30 years of Russian integration into the world economy, says Konstantin Sonin. And while Russia has taken steps to protect itself against rising food prices, writes Susanne Wengle, these efforts could yet fail. The squeeze is also on RT America, which Kathryn Stoner calls a major Kremlin mouthpiece and Robert Orttung describes as a way of fighting “against the West and democratic values on the cheap.” In its information war, the Kremlin is making use of Russian Cossacks, writes Richard Arnold, and religion, write Marlene Laruelle and Ivan Grek.

Why now? Orttung locates the war’s roots in Russia’s economic decline, an account corroborated by Konstantin Sonin’s grim layout of Russia’s economic prospects. Volodymyr Ishchenko sees Russia creeping toward this invasion since Ukraine’s Euromaidan movement began. For Jessica Pisano, Putin chose to invade during the Biden administration because the previous administration did his work for him. Examining Putin’s relationship with his top advisors, Nikolai Petrov argues Russia’s “quasi-system of checks and balances” has disintegrated, leaving the president simultaneously freer and more limited.

Repercussions in Russia. Samuel Greene writes Putin is “effectively fighting two wars,” one in Ukraine and one at home, and Henry Hale sees cause for Putin to worry about his regime’s stability as war losses mount. Protesters, though take on serious risks, observes Maria Popova. For Kirill Rogov, the shuttering of liberal media in Russia signals Kremlin preparation for a violent storming of Ukrainian cities.

Other countries’ reactions. Central Asian states have kept neutral for both domestic and foreign policy reasons, explains Laruelle. Ukraine is in the middle of China’s envisioned corridor into Europe, says Elizabeth Wishnick, and now those relations and plans with Ukraine will change. China, she adds, is in a lose-lose situation in Ukraine.


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