Russian Media Analysis Report
Issue 5, December 5, 2021 PDF Version
1. The Ukraine crisis
The continuing crisis between Russia and NATO over Ukraine has remained the dominant topic of Russian media coverage during the reporting period, with 17 articles on the topic published in the Russian press. The articles can be grouped into two broad areas. The first highlights Western military assistance to Ukraine and the extent to which this assistance is threatening to Russia. The second focuses on Western claims that Russia is preparing an invasion of Ukraine, with most articles suggesting that these claims are overblown.
2. US-Russia and NATO-Russia relations
Several articles address developments in relations with the US and NATO, including the December 1 NATO Foreign Ministerial in Riga, where the draft Strategic Concept document, which sets the goals for the alliance until 2030, was discussed. Articles also address the December 7 video conference between presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin which, while dominated by the topic of Ukraine, also touched on the Iran deal, bilateral relations, and cybercrime. Examining NATO-Russia relations writ large, two longer op-eds express frustration at Washington's lack of meaningful engagement with Moscow.
3. Ret. Gen. Kartapolov discusses Russia's relations with US and NATO
In an interview with Fyodor Lukyanov for Russia in Global Affairs and the TV show International Review, Andrey Kartapolov—the former deputy minister of defense and now chair of the Defense Committee of the Russian Duma—discusses the current security situation and Russia's relations with the West. The discussion focuses on the Ukraine situation and thoughts about the nature of the NATO threat to Russia.
4. NATO nuclear weapons and US-Russian arms control
Numerous articles discuss NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg's November 19 statement about the possibility of NATO placement of nuclear weapons “east of Germany” if the new German government decides to withdraw them. Separately, Aleksandr Yakovenko argues that prospects for US-Russian arms control are slim.
5. Threats to Russia from US missile defense and space policies
Several articles in trade publications discuss US policies on missile defense and in space as a potential threat to Russia. A set of articles by Vadim Koziulin profile US global missile defense efforts, arguing that the architecture as it is evolving is acquiring offensive capabilities and thus presents growing a threat to Russia. Vladimir Kozin discusses US space policy, US space policy documents, and the X-37B space plane as feeding Moscow's perception that “Washington is taking practical steps for a stable growth of its military strike potential in space.”
6. Reaction to US/NATO military exercises
A number of articles draw attention to recent US and NATO military exercises. One article analyzes US STRATCOM's Global Thunder exercises, held November 2-10, characterizing strategic bomber maneuvers near the Russian border as “far from peaceful” and suggesting that the Pentagon plan future exercises more responsibly. Other articles discuss NATO exercises Winter Shield (Latvia), Cyber Coalition (Estonia), Steadfast Noon (Southern Europe), and Castle Forge (Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece). Additional articles address capability and personnel enhancements at NATO and US bases in Europe, including modernization of tactical nuclear weapons and the reactivation of the 56th Artillery Command.
7. The growing importance of information warfare
The information space is the subject of two long articles in Russian newspapers, both of which argue that the issue of cybersecurity and digital vulnerabilities is only going to grow in importance in the coming years, especially as it concerns great power politics. The first article focuses on the growing importance of cybercrime to undermining the security of major powers, while the second sketches out the ongoing information war waged by the West against Russia.
8. Scandinavian geopolitics and integration with NATO
Political and foreign policy developments in Scandinavia have been noted by Russian commentators in recent weeks. Several articles note recent statements by Norwegian officials expressing disinterest in raising the military stakes with Russia. Also appearing is analysis comparing the differing viewpoints of the Scandinavian countries with regard to assessing Russia's threat level. All in all, Russian writers argue that while all the Scandinavian states are ultimately in the US-centric camp, their geopolitical views are more nuanced than those of other alliance members and regions in Europe.
9. Black Sea threats and provocations
Interest in the greater Black Sea has continued to focus on new NATO and American deployments to the region. Some articles mostly report increased tensions, including a recent reconnaissance flight that induced the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova to comment. One article also provides a more detailed summary of escalation and threats to Russian security, showcasing a highly aggressive view of American activities in the region.
10. Arms deals and mixed signals in the Indo-Pacific
Russian commentators review the changing state of play in the Indo-Pacific region from multiple angles, with the common through-line of increased US-Chinese tensions and their ripple effects in the diplomatic realm as well as in the shifting correlation of forces. Several focus on the AUKUS security bloc and how it shifts the balance of power in the region, while others report on diplomatic relations between China and the United States.