Russian Media Analysis Report
Issue 3, November 7, 2021 PDF Version
Western support for Ukraine
Over the past two weeks, Western support for Ukraine has been the most frequent topic for discussion in Russian articles focused on Western military activities. Topics include a review of the impact of Lloyd Austin’s visit to the region, reaction to Western statements on increased tension in the Donbas, and concern about direct NATO military support for Ukraine. The articles generally minimize the significance of Russian troop movements in the region and suggest that while Western armaments have not improved Ukrainian military capabilities, Ukraine joining NATO would pose an existential threat for Russia.
NATO military activities in the Black Sea
During this reporting period, Russian media extensively covered US and NATO military activities in the Black Sea region, with five articles related to this topic found in the search material. Much of the coverage centers on the arrival of USS Mount Whitney and USS Porter in the region. Most of the articles also share a common theme—namely, that this deployment is tied to the Western support for Ukraine described in the previous section. The arrival of the ships is described as part of a larger effort by the United States to increase pressure on Russia near its borders, which includes the increase in tensions in the Donbas.
Russia’s relationship with NATO
Several recent articles focus on the Russian-NATO relationship in light of the withdrawal of the Russian diplomatic mission to Brussels. Commentators largely reiterate the point that the relationship itself has grown colder since 2014, and that the latest round of expulsions over alleged espionage activities was described as a final straw. Although writers mostly repeat points about NATO’s perceived aggressive actions against Russia and the relative uselessness of the mission as a diplomatic institution, notes of caution by regime critics about the potential for conflict escalation are also sounded.
Russian analysts discuss the US Nuclear Posture Review and deterrence
Some of the Russian coverage focuses on deterrence issues, including the ongoing US Nuclear Posture Review process and the challenge of deterrence in hybrid warfare. An October 29 article in Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie by Aleksandr Bartosh and Anatoliy Letyago discusses the challenge of deterrence in a “global hybrid war” and criticizes the US efforts to increase operational unpredictability as potentially having the ability to contribute to accidental or inadvertent escalation of a war.
On the prospect of a European army
Two longer articles discuss the prospect of a European army separate from NATO—an idea that has been floated numerous times but lacks sufficient support. Specifically, the articles reference recent comments from EU high representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell, who stated, “It’s clear that the need for more European defence has never been as much as evident as today after the events in Afghanistan.” The articles cite a number of additional reasons why the EU would seek an independent defense force, including the rise of China and an alleged shift of US focus to the AUKUS alliance.
Germany’s defense minister’s quote on nuclear deterrence against Russia makes waves
Several articles between October 25 and October 29 cover Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu’s response to a statement by Germany’s defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer regarding the need to deter Russia, including with the use of nuclear weapons. The articles quote Shoigu lamenting Kramp-Karrenbauer’s loss of historical memory of World War 2 and noting that “security in Europe can only be common, without infringing on Russian interests.” Authors also speculate about Kramp-Karrenbauer’s political ambitions and discuss the role of nuclear weapons in German domestic politics.
Tensions in the Asia-Pacific region
A number of articles touch on ongoing events in East and Southeast Asia, especially with regard to the new AUKUS agreement as well as weapons testing and deployments on the part of the United States. Most authors underline the role of the United States as undermining regional stability—whether through AUKUS or declarations of support for Taiwan or new defense arrangements with Japan—and emphasize its activities as particularly designed to ratchet up tensions and increase the potential for conflict.
Turkey seeks F-16 procurement
Two articles address Turkey’s ongoing bid to purchase F-16s from the United States. In 2019, Washington refused to sell F-35 jets to Turkey after Ankara purchased Russian S-400 missile defense systems, citing military-technical security concerns based on the integration of the two systems. Turkey hopes to redirect the $1.4 billion it paid for the F-35s towards fourth-generation F-16s, which may not pose the same risk. The first article discusses the prospect of such a deal, given certain obstacles, including “deep concern” among members in the House of Representatives. The second article discusses the Turkish foreign minister’s remarks that Ankara could buy Russian Su-35 and Su-57 fighters if the deal does not work.
Developments in weapons that could target Russia
A variety of articles discuss developments of US weapons systems that could be used to target Russia. One article addresses developments with the F-35A “Lightning II” program, a fifth-generation fighter-bomber which will be deployed in NATO countries within a year. Three other articles discuss the US strategic bomber B-1 “Lancer” as well as the AGM-158C long-range antiship missiles (LRASM) they carry.
Commentary on US weapons programs
Several Russian articles respond to recent developments in US weapons programs. These include the recent delivery of the first battery of the long-range hypersonic weapon (LRHW) missile system to the US Army, a DARPA project involving “Gremlin” drone swarms, upcoming hypersonic modifications to the three Zumwalt stealth destroyers, and the ongoing US W93 nuclear warhead program.