It’s been a wild set of events in Russia over the past week – with mutinous Russian forces marching towards Moscow, President Putin addressing the nation about their treason, and then the rebels announcing they would turn back “according to the plan” – as though nothing had happened.
As these whiplashing events evolve, here are 10 key developments that former CIA Officers like me will be watching for in the near and long term…
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Formin said Tuesday his country will “reduce military activity” in the Ukraine cities of Kyiv and Chernihiv in pursuit of an agreement to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The announcement follows what Russians are calling a productive day of diplomatic talks in Istanbul, Turkey, with the invasion now roughly four-weeks old.
Russian state media quoted Formin saying: “Due to the fact that negotiations on the preparation of an agreement on the neutrality and non-nuclear status of Ukraine, as well as on the provision of security guarantees to Ukraine, are moving into practice, taking into account the principles discussed during today’s meeting, by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing on the signing of the above agreement, a decision was made to radically, at times, reduce military activity in the Kiev and Chernihiv direction.”
As President Joe Biden prepares to go to Europe, we must recognize that, unless things change, there are likely to be two outcomes to the Russian war on Ukraine – and both are bad for America and the rule of law.
First, the terror campaign of destroying cities and killing women and children is having a devastating effect. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, out of compassion for his people, is talking more and more about a negotiated settlement. A negotiated settlement will clearly give Vladimir Putin most of what he wants. It will be a Russian victory – an expensive Russian victory, but a Russian victory.
A negotiated settlement with Russia winning will be a disaster for the rule of law. It will be a signal to dictators everywhere that with a weak American President and timid democracies, despots can attack their neighbors with virtual impunity.
At a time of tectonic shifts in foreign policy alliances, with Russia and China forming a new pact and aggressively asserting themselves on the international stage, Washington’s national security community is splintered across the ideological spectrum on how best to counter the dual threats.
Yet, even before Russia invaded Ukraine, a group of national security practitioners, military veterans, and scholars began trying to move beyond their policy differences to help repair the damage inflicted by the last U.S. foreign policy failure – the chaotic U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan nearly seven months ago.
When the Vandenberg Coalition, a group of primarily Republican experts representing diverse foreign policy views and approaches, began their Afghanistan assessment, its members couldn’t have known that international alarm over Russia’s bloody land grab would soon eclipse the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan. Some national security experts believe that the two U.S. foreign policy nightmares are inextricably linked – that America’s ignominious retreat in Afghanistan emboldened Vladimir Putin to move on Ukraine.
With U.S. and world food prices set to soar due to inflation and supply shortages stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a key GOP lawmaker is asking the Pentagon to study the potential for conflict if the global food supply shrinks by 5%.
U.S. farmers will pay $300-$400 more per acre to grow crops this year due to inflation and costs associated with the war in Europe, Georgia Republican Rep. Austin Scott warned Monday on the Just the News TV show.
Shipping is another issue, as trade is throttled by war-related disruptions and tough economic sanctions against Russia.
The United States is at war with Russia. Without a vote in Congress, a specific announcement by the president, or even meaningful awareness on the part of the bulk of the populace, the United States has stumbled into conflict with another nuclear power.
True enough, American “boots on the ground” are not yet (openly) engaged in combat in Ukraine. But the devastating sanctions put in place unilaterally by Joe Biden on Russian property constitute an act of war nonetheless. On Tuesday morning, Biden announced he was unilaterally banning the importation of Russian fuel and oil products into the United States. This decision is a direct attack on the Russian economy. It is designed to dictate a certain political outcome to the Russian government.
Such a dramatic act, therefore, constitutes participation in armed conflict against the Russian regime. It is an act of war.
In a lead-up to international security meetings set for January, the American and Russian presidents have set the stage for negotiations aimed at de-escalating tensions over Ukraine.
Their bottom lines are clear: the U.S is gravely concerned about Moscow’s amassing of troops on the Ukraine border while Russia doesn’t want to see NATO expand further into its sphere of influence.
The forthcoming engagements will be held in Geneva. They were scheduled amid heightened tension and rhetoric surrounding Russia, Ukraine, and NATO, with the international community particularly focused on the large numbers of Russian troops that are massed on the border with Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that he was behind the recent cyberattacks across the United States, calling the allegations against him “farcical.”
“We have been accused of all kinds of things,” Putin told NBC News Monday. “Election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth. And not once, not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof. Just unfounded accusations.”
Russian intelligence and Russian-speaking groups have launched wide-ranging cyberattacks in recent months, affecting American consumer goods ranging from gasoline to meat. President Joe Biden imposed sweeping sanctions against Russia in April after U.S. intelligence determined that Putin personally ordered a massive SolarWinds hack on federal agencies and for his interference in the 2020 presidential election.