Russian Media Analysis Report
Issue 6, December 16, 2021 PDF Version
1. The Ukraine crisis
The continuing crisis between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) over Ukraine has remained the dominant topic of Russian media coverage for the fourth reporting period in a row, with at least 14 articles on the topic published in the Russian press. The articles can be grouped into three broad areas. The first highlights Western military activity in the region and assistance to Ukraine, and the extent to which these efforts are threatening to Russia; the second focuses on Western statements about how the West would respond to a Russian invasion of Ukraine; and the third addresses the Biden-Putin virtual summit and its potential implications for resolving the crisis.
2. Russia-NATO security negotiations
Several articles address recent developments in NATO-Russia relations, in particular Russia's calls to discuss its security concerns. One article addresses Putin's December 1 statement that Russia would seek assurances that NATO will not expand eastward, taking a pessimistic stance about whether the West would sign on to any binding document. A second article discusses Biden's announcement that Russia and “at least four of our major NATO allies” would plan a meeting to discuss Moscow's security concerns, following his video meeting with Putin. Finally, a third article highlights a range of Russian opinions on the December 17 security demands published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
3. Lukashenka open to Russian nukes in Belarus
In several articles, Russian commentators discuss Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenka's statement that he would be interested in the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory if US nuclear weapons currently stationed in Germany were moved to Poland. Lukashenka made the statement in a wide-ranging interview to RIA Novosti published in late November in which he also discussed his delay in the initial withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Belarus in the 1990s. Kirill Ryabov writes of the possible positives and negatives of a Russian deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus. Dmitry Litovkin offers background on the speculation about a potential re- deployment of nuclear weapons closer to Russia and discusses potential global reactions.
4. Gerasimov discusses threats to Russia
An article in Krasnaya Zvezda profiles the December 9 wide-ranging briefing by the Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov to foreign military attachés, covering security issues in Europe and in and around Ukraine, extremism in Afghanistan, Russian forces in Syria, efforts in Nagorno- Karabakh, Russia's engagement with partners in the Asia-Pacific, and specific capabilities and readiness of the Russian armed forces. This overview offers quotes from Gerasimov's briefing focused on the security situation in Europe, arms control, and the Ukraine crisis.
5. Geopolitics and America's global decline
Two articles argue that America is facing relative decline. The first contends that the American-led world order has clearly come to an end, which will yield a new world order in which China also plays a significant role. Whether the new world order is tri-polar or polycentric, it is one which “Russia needs to continue to actively participate in the competition for.” A second article by Konstantin Sivkov discusses what he terms “the intellectual degradation of the American elite,” which is reflected in the scientific-technical and, in particular, the military-technical sphere.
6. Advanced weaponry and new military technology
Several articles look at new weaponry under differing levels of development and deployment by the US military. Overviews of artillery, anti-hypersonic missile projects, naval destroyers, air-to-air missiles, and laser weapons systems underline both the continued appreciation for US advanced military technology but also highlight shortcomings, especially concerning reliable missile defense capabilities and disappointing ship performance.
7. Arctic armaments and new geopolitical changes
Developments in the Arctic continue to be a source for analytical articles in the Russian press. In Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kur'er (VPK), two articles review the Chinese icebreaker program and new Russian cold-weather military technology, respectively. An article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta frames recent actions by the UK as a means to establish an “Arctic NATO.” Finally, Krasnaya Zvezda offers a brief overview of the state of the Russian military in the Arctic and how it has changed in recent years, based on a speech by the commander of Russia's Northern Fleet.
8. Tensions between Poland and other European powers
A lengthy article in VPK highlights the increase in tensions between Poland and major European powers, including France, Germany, and Russia, in the aftermath of the migrant crisis on the Poland- Belarus border. The article notes that for Poland, the only acceptable strategic choice is to seek to integrate into Western military and economic structures under US suzerainty. However, some members of the Polish elite are starting to realize that a close alliance with the US will decrease, rather than increase, Polish security.
9. President Putin's visit to India
Putin's recent trip to India is the subject of discussion in Russian newspapers in December. The results of the meeting between President Putin and Prime Minister Modi are framed as a success for Russian diplomacy, and the Russian press highlights that while India would not be “abandoning” its relationship with the US in the foreseeable future, relations with Russia remain a priority and have not deteriorated.