Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:

"For it is fixed principle with me, that whatever is done should be done well." 
- George Washington

"It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'try to be a little kinder.'"
- Aldous Huxley

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."
- Edmund Burke


2. Ukraine: CDS Daily brief (21.09.22) CDS comments on key events 

3. Putin's War in Ukraine Seems Destined to Collapse

4. CIA's first podcast disses Russia as a 'declining' power, warns China is a 'central geopolitical challenge'

5. A ‘senility theory’ of US foreign policy over Taiwan

6. Russia will lose the war against Ukraine. Here's why - opinion

7. ‘A Lot of Panic’: Russian Men, Fearing Ukraine Draft, Seek Refuge Abroad

8. The West Mimics Mao, Takes a Green Leap Forward

9. Vladimir Putin’s Nuclear Threats Work, but Using the Weapons Probably Wouldn’t

10. Washington Punishes Iranian Cyber Actors While Preparing to Enrich Regime

11. In an About-Face, Russia Announces Mobilization and ‘Referendums’ in Occupied Ukrainian Territories

12. Hezbollah Emerging as Winner from Israel-Lebanon Maritime Talks

13. U.S.-China Tensions Fuel Outflow of Chinese Scientists From U.S. Universities

14. Over 1,000 Russian Protesters Arrested After Putin Mobilizes More Troops

15. Alleged Russian War Crimes in Ukraine Are Focus of U.S., Allies at U.N.

16. Ukraine President Zelensky presents plan to end war with Russia

17. On Efficacy: A Beginner’s Guide to Strategic Theory



Key Takeaways

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announced “partial mobilization” will not materially affect the course of the war in the coming months.
  • Putin did not explicitly threaten to use nuclear weapons if Ukraine continues counter-offensive operations to liberate occupied areas after Russian annexation.
  • Ukrainian forces likely continued offensive operations around Lyman.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted strikes north and east of Kherson City as part of an operational-level interdiction campaign against Russian logistics, military, and transportation assets in Kherson Oblast.
  • Ukrainian and Russian sources identified three areas of kinetic activity on September 21: northwest of Kherson City, near the Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River, and south of the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border around Vysokopillya.
  • Russian federal subjects (regions) are continuing crypto-mobilization efforts regardless of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of partial mobilization.
  • Russian-appointed occupation administrators are likely increasing law enforcement and filtration measures in occupied areas of Ukraine in preparation for Russia’s sham annexation referenda.


Sep 21, 2022 - Press ISW

Karolina Hird, Kateryna Stepanenko, Grace Mappes, Mason Clark, Kat Lawlor, and Frederick W. Kagan

September 21, 9:30 pm ET

Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of “partial mobilization” on September 21 reflected many problems Russia faces in its faltering invasion of Ukraine that Moscow is unlikely to be able to resolve in the coming months.[1] Putin’s order to mobilize part of Russia’s “trained” reserve, that is, individuals who have completed their mandatory conscript service, will not generate significant usable Russian combat power for months. It may suffice to sustain the current levels of Russian military manpower in 2023 by offsetting Russian casualties, although even that is not yet clear. It will occur in deliberate phases, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in an interview on September 21, likely precluding any sudden influx of Russian forces that could dramatically shift the tide of the war.[2] Russia’s partial mobilization will thus not deprive Ukraine of the opportunity to liberate more of its occupied territory into and through the winter.

Putin and Shoigu emphatically said that only reservists who have completed their initial military service will be mobilized, making clear that Russia will not be expanding conscription. Shoigu also declared that students will not be affected and told them to go about their studies without concern.[3] These comments were clearly intended to allay fears among the Russian population that “partial mobilization” was code for general conscription.

It is not clear how much of the Russian reserve has already been deployed to fight in Ukraine. Western intelligence officials reportedly said in November 2021 that Russia had called up “tens of thousands of reservists” as part of its pre-war mobilization.[4] Ukrainian military officials reported in June 2022 that Russian forces had committed 80,000 members of the mobilized reserve to fight in Ukraine.[5] The Russian military likely called up the most combat-ready reserves in that pre-war mobilization effort, which suggests that the current partial mobilization will begin by drawing on less combat-ready personnel from the outset.

Russian reserves are poorly trained to begin with and receive no refresher training once their conscription period is completed. Russian mandatory military service is only one year, which gives conscripts little time to learn how to be soldiers, to begin with. The absence of refresher training after that initial period accelerates the degradation of learned soldier skills over time. Shoigu referred to the intent of calling up reservists with “combat experience,” but very few Russian reservists other than those now serving in Ukraine have any combat experience.[6]

Reports conflict regarding how much training reservists called up in the partial mobilization will receive. Shoigu described a deliberate training process that would familiarize or re-familiarize mobilized reservists with crew, team, detachment, and then platoon-level operations before deploying them to fight. That process should take weeks, if not months, to bring reservists from civilian life to war readiness. Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security head Viktor Bondarev reportedly said that mobilized reservists would train for over a month before being deployed.[7] A military commissariat in Kursk Oblast, on the other hand, reportedly announced that reservists under 30 would deploy immediately with no additional training.[8]

Putin emphatically did not say that the Russian nuclear umbrella would cover annexed areas of Ukraine nor did he tie mobilization to the annexation. He addressed partial mobilization, annexation referenda in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, and the possibility of nuclear war in his speech—but as separate topics rather than a coherent whole. The fact that he mentioned all three topics in a single speech was clearly meant to suggest a linkage, but he went out of his way to avoid making any such linkage explicit.

Putin framed his comments about the possibility of Russian nuclear weapons use in the context of supposed Western threats to use nuclear weapons against Russia. He claimed that Western officials were talking about “the possibility and permissibility of using weapons of mass destruction—nuclear weapons—against Russia.” He continued, “I wish to remind those who allow themselves such statements about Russia that our country also has various means of attack...” His comment on this topic concludes by noting that Russia would use all means at its disposal in response to a threat to “the territorial integrity of our country, for the defense of Russia and our people.” That comment could be interpreted as applying in advance to the soon-to-be annexed areas of occupied Ukraine, but its placement in the speech and context do not by any means make such an interpretation obvious. Nor is Putin’s language in making this comment different from formal Kremlin policy or from previous statements by Russian officials. Putin’s speech should not be read as an explicit threat that Russia would use nuclear weapons against Ukraine if Ukraine continues counter-offensives against occupied territories after annexation.

Putin did not connect annexation with the partial mobilization either, defending the need for partial mobilization by referring to the length of the lines along which Russian forces are now fighting and Western assistance to Ukraine. He noted that the front lines now stretch for more than a thousand kilometers to explain why more Russian forces are needed. He and Shoigu also heavily emphasized the false narrative that Russia is fighting not Ukraine but NATO and the West. This narrative is not new. It is not even markedly different from the initial false justifications Putin offered before ordering the invasion in February.[9] The formal Kremlin position has long been that NATO was pushing Ukraine to war with Russia, that NATO was preparing to give Ukraine nuclear weapons, and that NATO forces were taking up or preparing to take up positions in Ukraine. Putin’s and Shoigu’s repetitions of that line do not reflect an escalation in their rhetoric.

Russia’s partial mobilization will not transform the war this year and may or may not have a significant impact on Russia’s ability to continue operations at their current level next year. Ukraine and the West should neither dismiss it nor exaggerate it.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announced “partial mobilization” will not materially affect the course of the war in the coming months.
  • Putin did not explicitly threaten to use nuclear weapons if Ukraine continues counter-offensive operations to liberate occupied areas after Russian annexation.
  • Ukrainian forces likely continued offensive operations around Lyman.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted strikes north and east of Kherson City as part of an operational-level interdiction campaign against Russian logistics, military, and transportation assets in Kherson Oblast.
  • Ukrainian and Russian sources identified three areas of kinetic activity on September 21: northwest of Kherson City, near the Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River, and south of the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border around Vysokopillya.
  • Russian federal subjects (regions) are continuing crypto-mobilization efforts regardless of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of partial mobilization.
  • Russian-appointed occupation administrators are likely increasing law enforcement and filtration measures in occupied areas of Ukraine in preparation for Russia’s sham annexation referenda.

We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

  • Ukrainian Counteroffensives—Southern and Eastern Ukraine
  • Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and two supporting efforts);
  • Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
  • Russian Supporting Effort—Southern Axis
  • Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
  • Activities in Russian-occupied Areas

Ukrainian Counteroffensives (Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories)

Eastern Ukraine: (Vovchansk-Kupyansk-Izyum-Lyman Line)

Ukrainian forces likely continued counteroffensive operations toward Lyman on September 21. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces attempted to break through Russian defenses around Yampil (just southeast of Lyman) and in Lyman itself.[10] Russian milbloggers also claimed that Russian and Ukrainian troops are actively fighting in Drobysheve (just northwest of Lyman). While ISW cannot independently verify these claims, they are consistent with previous visual evidence of Ukrainian counteroffensive operations along the Lyman-Yampil-Bilohorivka line. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Ukrainian troops repelled an attempted Russian attack near Kupyansk, eastern Kharkiv Oblast, along the Oskil River.[11] This report indicates that Russian troops are likely engaged in limited attempts to threaten newly recaptured Ukrainian positions along the right bank of the Oskil River.

Southern Ukraine: (Kherson Oblast)

Ukrainian military officials maintained operational silence regarding Ukrainian ground attacks in Kherson Oblast on September 21 and reiterated that Ukrainian forces are conducting an operational-level interdiction campaign in Kherson Oblast. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command and the Ukrainian General Staff both noted that Ukrainian strikes targeted Russian equipment, logistics, transportation, and command and control assets in southern Ukraine throughout the day.[12]

Social media footage provided visual evidence of the continuing Ukrainian interdiction campaign against Russian positions north and east of Kherson City on September 20 and 21. Geolocated footage showed the aftermath of Ukrainian strikes on Kherson City that reportedly hit a factory, a semiconductor plant, a Russian base, and a ferry crossing near the Antonivsky Bridge.[13] Ukraine’s Southern Operation Command noted that Ukrainian troops hit Russian equipment and manpower concentrations and a command post of the 7th Guards Air Assault Division just north of Kherson City in Chornobaivka.[14] Social media footage from September 20 also showed that Ukrainian forces struck Russian positions in Nova Kakhovka, about 60km east of Kherson City, corroborating Ukrainian claims of Ukrainian strikes on Russian positions in Nova Kakhovka.[15] Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command additionally stated that Ukrainian troops hit Russian command posts in Beryslav Raion (65km east of Kherson City).[16]

Ukrainian and Russian sources identified three areas of kinetic activity on September 21: northwest of Kherson City, near the Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River, and south of the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border around Vysokopillya. The Russian Defense Ministry and Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces are continuing to strike Ukrainian military equipment in Pravdyne (around 30km northwest of Kherson City).[17] The Ukrainian General Staff also noted that Russian forces shelled Pravdyne.[18] Geolocated footage showed Ukrainian forces striking Russian military equipment in Davydiv Brid.[19] Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command noted that Ukrainian forces destroyed Russian drones when they were conducting aerial reconnaissance over Kostyrka (southeast of Vysokopillya) and Novodmytrivka on the eastern bank of the Inhulets River along the T2207 highway.[20] An uptick in Russian aerial reconnaissance in these areas may indicate that Russian forces have shifted forces away from this sector of the front.

Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine

Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces continued ground attacks on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut and against Avdiivka and continued routine fire along the frontline in Donetsk Oblast on September 21.[21] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks against Vesele, just northeast of Soledar; Zaitseve and Kurdyumivka, south of Bakhmut; and Bakhmutske, northeast of Bakhmut.[22] Geolocated footage confirmed Ukrainian forces maintain positions on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut, reportedly on the grounds of the Champagne Wine Factory.[23] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces shelled but did not inflict any damage against the Slovyansk Thermal Power Plant, likely as part of Russia’s continuing campaign to degrade Ukrainian critical infrastructure.[24] Russian forces conducted airstrikes against infrastructure facilities in Bakhmut, indicating that Ukrainian forces still hold fortified positions in the city.[25]

Russian forces conducted routine shelling in western Donetsk Oblast and eastern Zaporizhia Oblast, and additional Russian forces deployed to the Zaporizhia Oblast frontline. Ukraine’s General Staff reported continued shelling along the frontline in the area.[26] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted a failed ground attack near Pavlivka, just north of Vuhledar.[27] A Russian source claimed that Russian forces are conducting artillery strikes on an unspecified road towards Vodyane, likely either the T0524 or T0509 highway or the Slavne-Vodyane road.[28] The Russian source also claimed that Ukrainian forces are deploying large quantities of equipment in the Vuhledar direction, though ISW cannot independently confirm this report.[29] A Ukrainian source stated that elements of the Russian 42nd Motorized Rifle Division are deployed on the Zaporizhia Oblast frontline and that several armored personnel carriers of the 35th and 74th Motorized Rifle Brigades traveled through Rozivka, Zaporizhia Oblast, likely to positions along the front line.[30]

Supporting Effort—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)

Russian forces did not conduct any ground assaults in western Zaporizhia Oblast and continued routine fire against Ukrainian frontline positions and rear areas in Mykolaiv Oblast on September 21.[31] Official Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces struck unspecified infrastructure facilities in Zaporizhzhia City, Zaporizhia Oblast; Synelnykove Raion, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast; and Shevchenkove and Ochakiv, Mykolaiv Oblast.[32] The Ukrainian General Staff reported on September 21 that Ukrainian strikes inflicted severe casualties on Russian forces in Zaporizhia Oblast on September 19, including killing 50 personnel and destroying 15 units of military equipment and an ammunition depot in the Melitopol and Polohy administrative districts as well as in the area of Kamianka.[33]

Russian and Ukrainian sources traded accusations of striking the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) on September 21, damaging one of the power units. Ukrainian state nuclear agency Energoatom stated that Russian shelling damaged the communication equipment and a transformer for reactor number 6.[34] Energoatom reported that the damaged transformer cut power to the reactor, forcing two emergency diesel generators to kick in to provide power to the reactor’s cooling pumps. ZNPP employees reportedly enabled an alternate power supply and shut down the emergency generators within an hour of the attack. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that a Ukrainian large-caliber projectile damaged a water pipe of reactor number 5’s safety system and shelling damaged a power line to reactor number 6.[35] An image circulated by social media users on September 21 shows a burst water pipe at the ZNPP near the reactor buildings.[36] Russian forces continued routine fire against Ukrainian positions on the opposite side of the Kakhovka Reservoir from Enerhodar.[37]

Russian and Ukrainian sources reported explosions in the Black Sea near Sevastopol, Crimea on September 21.[38] The Russian-appointed occupation governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev stated that Russian authorities discovered an unmanned water surface vehicle on Soldatskyi Beach and detonated the vehicle, causing the explosion.[39]

Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)

Russian federal subjects (regions) are continuing crypto-mobilization efforts regardless of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of partial mobilization on September 21. Novosibirsk Oblast Governor Andrey Travnikov announced that the oblast will form one or two more volunteer battalions if necessary for the Russian special military operation in Ukraine.[40] The Ukrainian General Staff added that the ”self-mobilization” campaign is ongoing simultaneously with partial mobilization, noting that Cossacks are recruiting candidates to serve in Rosgvardia.[41] The Ukrainian General Staff added that the Kuban Cossack Army is forming additional volunteer units and training them at the Cossack bases in Krasnodar Krai. The Ukrainian General Staff also noted that Russian forces are misleading men into entering military service by offering them “construction” jobs in Ukraine. Russian federal subjects will likely continue advertising volunteer service and promising large bonus payments to incentivize more men to volunteer for contract service rather than waiting to be mobilized.

Russian forces are also continuing to replenish personnel with prisoner recruits and forcibly mobilized men from proxy areas. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are still detaining men of conscription age in occupied Luhansk and Donetsk Oblast.[42] The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) stated that Russian forces established a training camp in occupied Torez (about 62km due east of Donetsk City) for Russian prisoners.[43] The GUR added that Russian forces also began to recruit prisoners serving time in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) into the DNR 100th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade and “Somali” Battalion as well as the Russian 9th Separate Motorized Rifle Regiment. The GUR noted that recruiters select prisoners based on their physical characteristics and previous military experience, regardless of the severity of their crimes. The DNR leadership also reportedly revoked previously issued exemptions from mobilization and is continuing to mobilize industrial workers for combat service.

Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied areas; set conditions for potential annexation into the Russian Federation or some other future political arrangement of Moscow’s choosing)

Russian-appointed occupation administrators are likely increasing law enforcement and filtration measures in occupied areas of Ukraine to maintain control of Ukrainian populations and preempt partisan attacks ahead of Russia’s sham annexation referenda, currently scheduled for September 23-27.[44] The Ukrainian head of Kherson Oblast, Yaroslav Yanushevich, stated on September 21 that Russian forces are escalating filtration measures and inspections of private property throughout occupied Kherson Oblast.[45] Russian-backed authorities have also increased restrictions on movement out of occupied territories, likely to prevent large portions of the population in occupied territory from fleeing to Ukrainian-held territory ahead of Russia’s illegal annexation of occupied Ukrainian territory and Russian “partial mobilization.” Ukrainian Mariupol Mayoral Advisor Petro Andryushchenko claimed that the Russian-backed commandant’s office in Mariupol will stop issuing passes to civilians who wish to leave occupied parts of Donetsk Oblast on October 1.[46] Andryushchenko also noted that Russian forces at the checkpoint in Vasylivka, Zaporizhia Oblast, are introducing special passes and increased restrictions for those who want to leave occupied Zaporizhia Oblast.[47]

Note: ISW does not receive any classified material from any source, uses only publicly available information, and draws extensively on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western reporting and social media as well as commercially available satellite imagery and other geospatial data as the basis for these reports. References to all sources used are provided in the endnotes of each update.

[1] http://en dot

[2] https://ria dot ru/20220921/shoygu-1818321328.html

[3] Shoigu interview https://ria dot ru/20220921/shoygu-1818321328.html

[9] http://kremlin dot ru/events/president/news/67825; http://kremlin dot ru/events/president/news/67843; http://kremlin dot ru/events/president/news/

[34] dot ua/content/okupanty-znovu-obstrilialy-zaes-postrazhdav-enerhoblok-6.html

[40] https://newsib dot net/novosti/novosibirskij-gubernator-zayavil-o-gotovnosti-sozdat-novye-dobrovolcheskie-batalony-dlya-svo.html

2. Ukraine: CDS Daily brief (21.09.22) CDS comments on key events 

CDS Daily brief (21.09.22) CDS comments on key events


Humanitarian aspect:

As of the morning of September 21, 2022, more than 1,155 Ukrainian children are victims of full-scale armed aggression by the Russian Federation, Prosecutor General's Office reports. The official number of children who have died and been wounded in the course of the Russian aggression is 391, and more than 764 children, respectively. However, the data is not conclusive since data collection continues in the areas of active hostilities, temporarily occupied areas, and liberated territories.


Head of the President's Office, Andriy Yermak, confirmed that 215 Ukrainian heroes were returned from Russian captivity in the POW exchange. Among them are 124 officers and 108 soldiers of "Azov."


According to preliminary reports, the exchange took place in Chernihiv Oblast, bringing home to Ukraine defenders of Azovstal. The list includes the head of the patrol police of Mariupol, Mykhailo Vershynin, Kateryna "Ptashka" Polishchuk, Denys "Radis" Prokopenko, Dmytro "Volyna" Volontyrets, Svyatoslav "Kalyna" Palamar, Dmytro "Orest" Kozytskyi (the press officer of the "Azov" regiment, whose photos have gone viral all over the world). Also, among released are 10 foreigners who fought for Ukraine and were threatened with death penalty [by Russian/proxy forces]. They are already in the city of Riyadh.


President Zeleskyy said that five commanders who defended Mariupol will remain in Turkey until the end of the war under the personal protectorate of Turkish President Recep Erdogan.


According to preliminary reports, Ukrainian defenders were exchanged for some Russian POWs captured during the Kharkiv retreat and Russian pilots. According to media reports, Ukraine exchanged Viktor Medvedchuk for defenders of Azovstal.


During the past day, the Russian military shelled Zaporizhzhya Oblast (Zaporizhzhya and Polohy districts). As a result, 23 objects of civil infrastructure were damaged. 3 injured civilians in Zaporizhzhya were reported.


"Energoatom" reported that the Russians again shelled the Zaporizhzhya NPP at night. As a result, the communication equipment of power unit No. 6 was damaged, and its unit transformer and auxiliary transformers were turned off. The diesel generators of the power unit are switched off and transferred to the alternation mode.


In Sumy Oblast, Russian forces fired 13 artillery shells at the Esman community of Russia last night.No civilian victims were reported.


The Russians continue to shell along the entire front line in Donetsk Oblast, from the border with the Zaporizhzhya Oblast to the border with Luhansk Oblast. The Volnovaha, Pokrovsk (12

wounded), and Bakhmut districts of the Oblast were under fire. A football field was destroyed in Bakhmut. In Toretsk, the administration building was damaged due to the enemy artillery fire.


During September 20-21, the enemy shelled Mykolaiv (1 wounded) and Bashtan districts of the Mykolayiv Oblast. A critical infrastructure facility was damaged in Shevchenkove and a power line in Yavkino.


Around 2:00 a.m., the enemy struck the Kholodnohirsky district of Kharkiv - 1 wounded. Two residential high-rise buildings were damaged. According to the city mayor Igor Terekhov, people were blocked at one building due to the strike; Emergency Service rescued 10 people. Additionally, an industrial building was partially destroyed.


During the past day, the enemy shelled villages of Kharkiv Oblast, close to the borders with the Russian Federation and the contact line. In Hrushivka, two killed and ten injured civilians, including 4 children, were reported.


In Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, the Russians shelled the residential quarters of Nikopol(1 injured) and Kryvyi Rih districts at night. In Nikopol, more than 20 high-rise apartment buildings and private houses, cars, gas and power lines, a local bakery, a kindergarten, a library, and several shops were damaged.


In the afternoon of September 21, Russians shelled Nikopol (1 dead, 2 wounded) and Synelnykiv districts again; they hit an infrastructure facility and an agricultural enterprise, head of Dnipropetrovsk military administration, Valentyn Reznichenko, said.


In the liberated Cossacha Lopan in the Kharkiv Oblast, two more Russian torturers [chambers] were found. They were arranged in the basements of the station and the store.


Bodies of 320 civilians and 18 military of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were exhumed in Izyum. According to the Ukrainian media, the prosecutor of the Kharkiv region Oleksandr Filchakov and the head of the district administration, Stepan Maselsky, most of the bodies with mine-explosive injuries. Also, very many with numerous bone fractures. Some have been tortured.


The SBU detained a group of Kyiv residents who were handing over the positions of the thermal power plant to the enemy to disrupt the heating season.

Operational situation

It is the 210th day of the strategic air-ground offensive operation of the Russian Armed Forces against Ukraine (in the official terminology of the Russian Federation – "operation to protect Donbas"). The enemy continues to concentrate its efforts on establishing full control over the territory of Donetsk Oblast, organizing defense and maintaining control over the captured territories, and disrupting intensive actions of the Ukrainian troops in certain directions.

The enemy fired at the positions of the Ukrainian Defense Forces along the contact line. Russian military takes measures to regroup troops in different directions, deploys reserves, and conducts aerial reconnaissance.


Over the past day, the Russian military launched 8 missile strikes and 35 air strikes, and carried out more than 120 rounds of MLRS fire at targets on the territory of Ukraine, in violation of the norms of international humanitarian law and laws and customs of war. The infrastructure of over 50 Ukrainian towns and villages was damaged, including Oskil, Slovyansk, Siversk, Oleksandrivka, Soledar, Bakhmut, Velyka Novosilka, Vremivka, Vuhledar, Stepne, Zaporizhzhya, Nikopol, and Ochakiv. By striking at the city of Mykolaivka, the enemy tried to hit the Slovyansk TPP. Russian shelling was also recorded in the areas of Zalizniy Mist, Mykhailove, and Huta-Studenetska in Chernihiv Oblast and Sosnivka, Holyshivske, Yunakivka, and Turya in Sumy Oblast. The threat of Russian air and missile strikes throughout the territory of Ukraine persists.


Forced mobilization of local residents continues in the temporarily occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts to replenish the personnel losses of the units of the Russian forces. The Russian occupation forces detained men of conscription age and sent them to assembly points to be dispatched as replenishment to the units that had suffered losses in battles with the Ukrainian Defense Forces.


During the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian Air Force carried out more than 20 strikes on the Russian positions, hitting 19 areas of Russian manpower and military equipment concentration and two anti-aircraft missile systems positions. In addition, Ukrainian air defense units destroyed one Su- 25 and four enemy UAVs.


Over the past day, Ukrainian missile forces and artillery have hit 40 enemy targets, including 20 areas of Russian personnel, weapons, and military equipment concentration, 13 artillery firing positions, and 7 ammunition depots.

The morale and psychological state of the personnel of the invasion forces remain low. Kharkiv direction

Zolochiv-Balakleya section: approximate length of combat line - 147 km, number of BTGs of the

RF Armed Forces - 10-12, the average width of the combat area of one BTG - 13.3 km;

Deployed enemy BTGs: 26th, 153rd, and 197th tank regiments, 245th motorized rifle regiment of the 47th tank division, 6th and 239th tank regiments, 228th motorized rifle regiment of the 90th tank division, 1st motorized rifle regiment, 1st tank regiment of the 2nd motorized rifle division, 25th and 138th separate motorized rifle brigades of the 6th Combined Arms Army, 27th separate motorized rifle brigade of the 1st Tank Army, 275th and 280th motorized rifle regiments, 11th tank regiment of the 18th motorized rifle division of the 11 Army Corps, 7th motorized rifle regiment of the 11th Army Corps, 80th separate motorized rifle brigade of the 14th Army Corps, 2nd and 45th separate SOF brigades of the Airborne Forces, 1st Army Corps of so-called DPR, PMCs.

The Russian forces shelled the positions of the Ukrainian troops with tanks, mortars, barrel and rocket artillery in the areas of Veterynarne, Hoptivka, Hlyboke, Derhachi, Hrushivka, Kupyansk, and Kamianka.


Kramatorsk direction

Balakleya - Siversk section: approximate length of the combat line - 184 km, the number of BTGs of the RF Armed Forces - 17-20, the average width of the combat area of one BTG - 9.6 km;

 252nd and 752nd motorized rifle regiments of the 3rd motorized rifle division, 1st, 13th, and 12th tank regiments, 423rd motorized rifle regiment of the 4th tank division, 201st military base, 15th, 21st, 30th separate motorized rifle brigades of the 2nd Combined Arms Army, 35th, 55th and 74th separate motorized rifle brigades of the 41st Combined Arms Army, 3rd and 14th separate SOF brigades, 2nd and 4th separate motorized rifle brigades of the 2nd Army Corps, 7th separate motorized rifle brigade of the 1st Army Corps, PMCs.


The enemy shelled Ukrainian Defense Forces with tanks, mortars, barrel and jet artillery in the Donetsk, Studenok, Yarova, Tetyanivka, Bohorodychne, Pryshyb, Shchurove, Stary Karavan, Raihorodok, Mykolaivka, Rozdolivka, Oleksandrivka, and Hryhorivka districts.


The destruction of the enemy commandant's office in Svatove, Luhansk Oblast, where the enemy organized a headquarters and ammunition depot, was confirmed.


Donetsk direction

Siversk - Maryinka section: approximate length of the combat line - 235 km, the number of BTGs of the RF Armed Forces - 13-15, the average width of the combat area of one BTG - 17 km;

 Deployed BTGs: 68th and 163rd tank regiments, 102nd and 103rd motorized rifle regiments of the 150 motorized rifle division, 80th tank regiment of the 90th tank division, 35th, 55th, and 74th separate motorized rifle brigades of the 41st Combined Arms Army, 31st separate airborne assault brigade, 61st separate marines brigade of the Joint Strategic Command "Northern Fleet," 336th separate marines brigade, 24th separate SOF brigade, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 15th, and 100th separate motorized rifle brigades, 9th and 11th separate motorized rifle regiment of the 1st Army Corps of the so-called DPR, 6th motorized rifle regiment of the 2nd Army Corps of the so-called LPR, PMCs.


The enemy fired at the positions of the Ukrainian Defense Forces near Siversk, Verkhnyokamianske, Vyimka, Vesele, Bilohorivka, Yakovlivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Odradivka, Mykolaivka Druga, Zaitseve, Sukha Balka, Yuryivka, New York, Berdychi, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Krasnohorivka, Maryinka, Paraskoviivka, Novomykhailivka, and Pervomaiske.


During the day, Ukrainian troops repelled enemy attacks in the areas of Vesele, Kurdyumivka, Mykolaivka Druga, Bakhmutske, Zaitseve, Mayorsk, Pervomaiske, Maryinka, and Novomykhailivka.


Zaporizhzhya direction

 Maryinka – Vasylivka section: approximate length of the line of combat - 200 km, the number of BTGs of the RF Armed Forces - 17, the average width of the combat area of one BTG - 11.7 km;

 Deployed BTGs: 36th separate motorized rifle brigade of the 29th Combined Arms Army, 38th and 64th separate motorized rifle brigades, 69th separate cover brigade of the 35th Combined Arms Army, 5th separate tank brigade, 37 separate motorized rifle brigade of the 36th Combined Arms Army, 135th, 429th, 503rd and 693rd motorized rifle regiments of the 19th motorized rifle division of the 58th Combined Arms Army, 70th, 71st and 291st motorized rifle regiments of the 42nd motorized rifle division of the 58th Combined Arms Army, 136th separate motorized rifle brigade of the 58 Combined Arms Army, 46th and 49th machine gun artillery regiments of the 18th machine gun artillery division of the 68th Army Corps, 39th separate motorized rifle brigade of the 68th Army Corps, 83th separate airborne assault brigade, 40th and 155th separate marines brigades, 22nd separate SOF brigade, 1st Army Corps of the so-called DPR, and 2nd Army Corps of the so-called LPR, PMCs.


The enemy did not take active actions. However, the Russian forces shelled with artillery Novopil, Vremivka, Velyka Novosilka, Novoukrayinka, Prechystivka, Vuhledar, Pavlivka, Volodymyrivka, Zaliznychne, Gulyaipole, and Chervone.


Due to the successful actions of the Ukrainian Defense Forces, the enemy continues to suffer losses in manpower and equipment. In particular, as a result of Ukrainian strikes on enemy personnel and military equipment concentration areas on September 19, were hit:

      the concentration of enemy personnel in the Polohy district (more than 20 people;

      an ammunition warehouse, five units of military equipment, and more than 20 military personnel in the Melitopol district;

      10 units of military equipment and more than 10 servicemen in the area of Kamianka

Kherson direction

Vasylivka–Nova Zburyivka and Stanislav section: approximate length of the battle line - 252 km, the number of BTGs of the RF Armed Forces - 27, the average width of the combat area of one BTG - 9.3 km;

Deployed BTGs: 114th, 143rd, and 394th motorized rifle regiments, 218th tank regiment of the 127th motorized rifle division of the 5th Combined Arms Army, 57th and 60th separate motorized rifle brigades of the 5th Combined Arms Army, 135th, 503rd and 693rd motorized rifle regiments of the 19th motorized rifle division, 70th, 71st and 291st motorized rifle regiments of the 42nd motorized rifle division, 51st and 137th parachute airborne regiments of the 106th parachute airborne division, 7th military base of the 49th Combined Arms Army, 16th and 346th separate SOF brigades.


There is no change in the operational situation.


Kherson-Berislav bridgehead

 Velyka Lepetikha – Oleksandrivka section: approximate length of the battle line – 250 km, the number of BTGs of the RF Armed Forces – 22, the average width of the combat area of one BTG –

11.8 km;

Deployed BTGs: 108th Air assault regiment, 171st separate airborne assault brigade of the 7th Air assault division, 4th military base of the 58th Combined Arms Army, 429th motorized rifle regiment of the 19th motorized rifle division, 33rd and 255th motorized rifle regiments of the 20th motorized rifle division, 34th, and 205th separate motorized rifle brigades of the 49th Combined Arms Army, 224th, 237th and 239th Air assault regiments of the 76th Air assault division, 217th and 331 Air assault regiments of the 98th Air assault division, 126th separate coastal defense brigade, 127th separate ranger brigade, 11th separate airborne assault brigade, 10th separate SOF brigade, PMC.


Enemy shelled more than 25 towns and villages along the entire line of contact, particularly Vysokopillya, Myrolyubivka, Karierne, Novohryhorivka, Bilohirka, Blahodativka, Andriivka, Zorya, Shevchenkove, Ternovi Pody, Pravdyne, and Myrne.


Azov-Black Sea Maritime Operational Area:

The forces of the Russian Black Sea Fleet continue to project force on the coast and the continental part of Ukraine and control the northwestern part of the Black Sea. The ultimate goal is to deprive Ukraine of access to the sea and connect unrecognized Transnistria with the Russian Federation by land through the coast of the Black and Azov seas.


After the storm in the Black Sea ended, the number of enemy ships at sea significantly increased. Currently, there are 11 warships at sea providing reconnaissance and blocking navigation in the Azov-Black Sea waters. Among them are three cruise missile carriers. Up to 24 Kalibr missiles can be ready for a salvo.


Russian missile and artillery attacks on Odesa, Mykolaiv, and Ochakiv have resumed. On the night of September 20, the port of Ochakiv was attacked by two Iranian-made kamikaze drones for the first time. The mine hazard on the Black Sea coast of southern Ukraine remains relevant.


Russian aviation continues to fly from the Crimean airfields of Belbek and Hvardiyske over the northwestern part of the Black Sea. Over the past day, 12 Su-27, Su-30, and Su-24 aircraft from Belbek and Saki airfields were involved. In addition, a large concentration of helicopters is observed at Crimean airfields, namely more than 70 in Dzhankoy and 7 in Kirovske.


Amphibious ships are in the ports of Novorossiysk and Sevastopol for replenishment and scheduled maintenance. There are no indications of preparation for an amphibious assault on the southern coast of Ukraine.


All 4 submarines of project 636.3 are at their main base in Novorossiysk.


Russian operational losses from 24.02 to 21.09

Personnel - almost 55,110 people (+300);

Tanks – 2,227 (+11);

Armored combat vehicles – 4,748 (+24);

Artillery systems – 1,340 (+17);

Multiple rocket launchers (MLRS) - 318 (0); Anti-aircraft warfare systems - 168 (0); Vehicles and fuel tanks – 3,610 (+27); Aircraft - 253 (+1);

Helicopters – 217 (0);

UAV operational and tactical level - 932 (+7); Intercepted cruise missiles - 239 (0);

Boats / ships - 15 (0).


Ukraine, general news

Despite the war, 47% of businesses, member companies of the European Business Association, expect growth in 2023, according to the results of the EBA survey. 28% of business executives expect to maintain business performance at the current level in 2023, and 25% expect their business to deteriorate (last year, there were only 2%). Most companies expect a positive financial result next year. 58% of respondents expect income growth in hryvnia, and 43% - in real terms. At the same time, 31% expect an increase in income in hryvnias up to 10%. 31% of executives predict a fall in hryvnia income, 36% in real terms.


International diplomatic aspect

Vladimir Putin's order of a partial mobilization of reservists means three things. Firstly, he has no interest in stopping the war, contrary to Turkish President Erdogan's impression during the recent talks with Putin. He is set to play the zugzwang to the final move.


Secondly, Putin has indirectly admitted his failure to achieve any satisfactory results on the battlefield. There's no logic in calling some 300,000 reservists against the Russian Defence Ministry's claims of losing only about 6,000 out of 190,000 invasion forces deployed in February. In fact, the Kremlin has already failed to cope with the losses by carrying out covert mobilization of forced-to-sign contract conscripts, coerced draftees from the occupied territories, volunteers of far-right nationalists, Russian and foreign mercenaries, and convicted criminals. So-called partial mobilization is aimed at prolonging the agony on the battlefield while pleasing the hardliners.


Even if mobilization succeeds in terms of the numbers, it will have every chance to fail in quality. The Russian Armed Forces cannot provide good military training because experienced officers are either already killed in action or engaged in the fighting. Without proper training, the new troops wouldn't change much on the battlefield against more trained, equipped, and motivated Ukrainian forces. The underperformance of new forces would have a devastating effect on the morale of exhausted remaining troops leading to their further collapse. It turned out that only a tiny spearhead invasion force was well-equipped and armed, but it has gone. The remaining troops are poorly dressed, equipped, and armed. So, Moscow will find it extremely difficult to provide newly generated forces with the necessary stuff.

Finally, Vladimir Putin made a giant step toward the collapse of his regime. A large part of intoxicated with propaganda society might not fill the streets with protests, but neither would they head to the military recruitment points. At the same time, those threatened with drafting into the military are trying to flee the country or publicly protest. Some 1,335 people have been arrested in anti-mobilization protests in 38 cities across Russia in a single day, according to OVD- Info, a Russian NGO.


Pleasing those who advocate escalation and the "final solution to the Ukrainian question," Putin violated his social contract with the rest. Unless ethnic minorities and Russians from the depressed regions bore the bloody price for Putin's geopolitical adventurism, it was acceptable for better-off, predominantly Caucasian inhabitants of the big cities. Once happy with "Russia's" Crimea, they no longer delighted with the prospects of fighting "Putin's" war. Now it's personal. Some of the most qualified labor force (IT specialists, engineers, etc.) might be pulled out of the shaky economy to operate the remaining sophisticated weaponry. Given the brain drain, suffocated by the sanction's economy, significantly backfired energy weaponization, and denied access to technology, the Russian economy will accelerate its downfall trajectory fall.


For two decades, Putin has eliminated any mechanisms of channeling dissatisfaction (free and fair elections). He put himself at the heart of the isolated system, playing a paramount role in balancing the interest of various groups. Now, Putin is losing his ability to sustain the system and satisfy antagonistic forces. It wouldn't be a surprise if Vladimir Putin lost his power in the coming weeks or months. He has been trying to avoid a repetition of "the greatest geopolitical tragedy" (the collapse of the Soviet Union, in his words). Still, he might find himself in the position of a ruler of a defeated Russian Empire before the Bolshevik revolution. However, this time there is no either a powerful ideology to consume huge, declassified masses or professional revolutionaries to lead them. The system is about to blow itself up from within, and it will degrade Moscow's ability to hold all the Russian Federation's territories, not to mention the occupied territories.


Centre for Defence Strategies (CDS) is a Ukrainian security think tank. We operate since 2020 and are involved in security studies, defence policy research and advocacy. Currently all our activity is focused on stopping the ongoing war.


We publish this brief daily. If you would like to subscribe, please send us an email to

Please note, that we subscribe only verified persons and can decline or cancel the subscription at our own discretion


We are independent, non-government, non-partisan and non-profit organisation. More at

Our Twitter (in English) -


Our Facebook (in Ukrainian) -

Our brief is for information only and we verify our information to the best possible

3. Putin's War in Ukraine Seems Destined to Collapse


Perhaps the biggest rebuke came from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish and Russian leaders have had a “complicated relationship” (as many Facebook users will recognize). They’ve had close cooperation on some issues and very contentious issues on others.
Erdogan said to PBS after the summit meeting that he urged Putin to end the war and return all occupied areas to Ukraine.

“The lands which were invaded will be returned to Ukraine.” He added that those lands should include Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Crimea was incorporated into Russia after a sham referendum, much like the ones he’s preparing to conduct now.
Putin’s war in Ukraine is failing, and his bluster in his comments hides the fact that he’s being increasingly backed into a corner with no place to go.

Putin's War in Ukraine Seems Destined to Collapse · by Steve Balestrieri · September 22, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a desperate move on Wednesday, calling up 300,000 reservists and enacting draconian laws for members of the military. And by all accounts, it did not have the desired effect and may actually be backfiring on him.

With the war in Ukraine going badly for Russia’s military, Putin tried to evoke nationalism among the Russian people, similar to what Stalin did in World War II, now painting a picture of his “special military operation” as one of an existential threat against Russia’s motherland. Long gone are the calls for de-Nazifying and demilitarizing Ukraine. His ploy has seemed to fail.

Ordinary Russians weren’t buying his message that Russia was being attacked by the West. Russian men of military age began voting with their feet to his call to defend the motherland. One-way tickets for flights out of Russia were quickly sold out, sending the cost of a ticket skyrocketing out of control, with tickets to Dubai rising to $5,000 and later to over $9,100.

Worse still, protests against the war and the reserve call-ups erupted in 38 Russian cities, resulting in nearly 1,500 detentions. One monitoring group, OVD-Info, said that many of those detained were served with a notice to appear for conscription.

Low Morale Among Military Reaches Critical Point

Putin conducted the first callup of reserves since World War II, and Russian lawmakers enacted new laws determining that “voluntary surrender” would become a crime for Russian military personnel, punishable by 10 years in prison.

As part of the new laws, additions were made concerning mutiny, “using violence against a superior,” and stealing while in uniform. It paints a picture of a military that is in a crisis situation both in the field and within the ranks, as morale plummets.

Valery Gerasimov, the Russian Chief of the General Staff, had supposedly modernized the Russian Army to become what would be equal to that of the West. But the plan to invade Ukraine was rife with overconfidence and flat-out blunders. The training and professionalism of the revamped Russian military NCO corps were vastly overrated. The top-down leadership of the Russians, in place since the earliest days of the Soviet Union, was an albatross for junior leaders and tactical units.

Troops weren’t properly trained, equipped, or led. Most of the Russian troops who invaded Ukraine were told that the Ukrainian people would welcome them with open arms. They invaded with an army of 200,000 troops, which is no small number. But the Ukrainians have been preparing for an invasion for some time. They had the advantage of knowing the terrain, the people, and the likely areas to defend. In the opening hours of the war, the Russian attack on the Hostomel Airfield was a disaster. Several aircraft carrying Russian paratroopers were shot out of the sky before they could allow the airborne forces to deploy. The air assault attack with helicopters fared badly as well.

Russia’s “modernization” did not address the needs of a military that is practically incapable of supporting an invasion logistically. But as Russia’s doctrine spells out, attacks against civilian infrastructure have been ongoing since the beginning of hostilities. In a ludicrous lie, Moscow has constantly stated that the Russian military does not attack civilian targets, and yet this strategy is clearly written in its doctrine.

Putin’s Allies Are Growing Impatient

Much was made of Putin playing the waiting game for the West to lose its will to continue with support for Ukraine. But at this point, the West’s support has been resolute with continued shipments of weapons, supplies, and intelligence pouring into the embattled nation.

But now, it isn’t the West who is suffering from “Ukraine Fatigue” but Putin’s allies. China and India are growing impatient because the economic sanctions levied against Russia are also affecting them.

At a recent summit meeting in Uzbekistan, Putin was rebuked by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who told him that “today’s era is not an era of war.” Putin admitted that Chinese leader Xi Jinping had “questions and concerns” as the sanctions were hurting the faltering Chinese economy.

Perhaps the biggest rebuke came from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish and Russian leaders have had a “complicated relationship” (as many Facebook users will recognize). They’ve had close cooperation on some issues and very contentious issues on others.

Erdogan said to PBS after the summit meeting that he urged Putin to end the war and return all occupied areas to Ukraine.

Russian President Putin. Image Credit: Russian Government.

“The lands which were invaded will be returned to Ukraine.” He added that those lands should include Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Crimea was incorporated into Russia after a sham referendum, much like the ones he’s preparing to conduct now.

Putin’s war in Ukraine is failing, and his bluster in his comments hides the fact that he’s being increasingly backed into a corner with no place to go.

Expert Biography: Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. A proven military analyst, he served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts. · by Steve Balestrieri · September 22, 2022

4. CIA's first podcast disses Russia as a 'declining' power, warns China is a 'central geopolitical challenge'

I wonder how popular this new PIA podcast will become? And will they be able to sustain developing new content?  Will this be used to drop unclassified analytic hints about the focus of intelligence collection and analysis to support policy making? Can trial balloons be sent up here"

CIA's first podcast disses Russia as a 'declining' power, warns China is a 'central geopolitical challenge' · by Brooke Singman | Fox News


Russia, China unite forces launching joint war games exercises

Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin has the latest on the week-long drills on 'Your World.'

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

CIA Director William Burns called Russia a "declining" power in the first episode of the intelligence agency's new podcast, while warning that China is a "central geopolitical challenge" for the United States.

The CIA's podcast, "The Langley Files," launched on Thursday, and featured Burns as its first guest.

The podcast comes during the CIA’s 75th anniversary — a time, Burns said, for the agency to "reflect on how we need to organize ourselves to navigate successfully what is an incredibly complicated international terrain."

Burns warned that terrain features a "major power competition with rising powers like China," which he referred to as a "central geopolitical challenge."


CIA Director, William Burns, testifies during a House Intelligence Committee hearing about worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 15, 2021. (Photo by Al Drago / POOL / AFP) (Photo by AL DRAGO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) (AL DRAGO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Burns pointed to the CIA's formation of the China Mission Center, which was created to counter Beijing and "best position" the agency to address current and future national security challenges posed by China.

Earlier this year, Burns warned that China's Xi Jinping has even served as a "silent partner" in Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine.

Chinese President Xi Jinping talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan September 15, 2022. Sputnik/Alexandr Demyanchuk/Pool via REUTERS

"We have to deal with declining powers, not just rising ones like Russia," Burns said. "And Putin demonstrates every day that declining powers can be at least as disruptive as rising ones."

Burns pointed to Russia’s war in Ukraine and stressed the importance of CIA intelligence.

"We were able to paint a pretty clear picture of Putin’s plans to mount a major new invasion of Ukraine last fall, months before he actually launched that invasion on the 24th of February," Burns explained. "That enabled us to help Ukrainians defend themselves. It helped us to build allied unity."

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the country's transport industry via a video link in Sochi, Russia May 24, 2022. (Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.)

"It helped to expose the fact that what Putin was about was a naked, unprovoked aggression, and we reinforced that by the President’s decision to declassify some of our secrets as well," he said.

Burns was referring to intelligence declassified by President Biden earlier this year that revealed Putin’s plans to stage false flag attacks to serve as a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine.


Meanwhile, Burns pointed to the "successful" U.S. counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan that killed the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, last month, a strike that degrades the terror network's ability to operate.

But Burns said the United States still faces "the continuing challenge of terrorism."

"It may take different forms today than it did over most of the last 20 years, but it’s still a significant challenge," Burns said. "We still have significant capabilities at this agency working with partners across the U.S. government, and that’s going to be another of our most important priorities."

President Joe Biden is shown here on July 1 during a meeting "to discuss the counterterrorism operation to take out Ayman al-Zawahri," the White House says. (White House)

He added: "It’s a balancing act, is what it’s going to be."

Burns went on to say that "ingenuity and dedication" are critical to the work of the CIA, but also stressed that the agency is "apolitical."

"[O]ur job is not to bend intelligence to suit political party or policy preferences or agendas. It is to deliver the best intelligence that we can gather, the best analysis that we can put together, with honesty and integrity," Burns said. "Our job is to tell policymakers what they need to hear, not what they want to hear."


Burns, who has worked under six presidents and both Republican and Democratic administrations, said that without working in an apolitical manner, "we only get ourselves in trouble as a nation, and we make bad policy choices, when we forget those very basic truths."

As for the CIA's decision to launch the podcast, Burns acknowledged that intelligence agencies are "supposed to collect secrets and keep them and not talk too much about them."


"We do usually operate in the shadows, out of sight and out of mind," Burns said. "Our successes are often obscured, our failures are often painfully visible, and our sacrifices are often unknown."

"We have a profound obligation to protect agents and officers who risk their lives in support of our mission, which is to help protect Americans," he continued. "But I’m convinced, as I know you are, that in our democracy, where trust in institutions is in such short supply, that it’s important to try to explain ourselves as best we can and demystify a little bit of what we do."

Brooke Singman is a Fox News Digital politics reporter. You can reach her at or @BrookeSingman on Twitter. · by Brooke Singman | Fox News

5. A ‘senility theory’ of US foreign policy over Taiwan

This is from the South China Morning Post.

Has China really softened its rhetoric?

Interestingly, maybe it’s merely a coincidence, or not. After Biden’s latest stunt, Beijing appears to have softened its rhetoric over Taiwan. “I would like to reiterate that … we are willing to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and utmost efforts,” said Ma Xiaoguang, of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office. The statement is significant in that it came a day after US and Canadian warships jointly sailed through the Taiwan Strait.
If all sides try to calm waters and de-escalate because the US military posture is now even more ambiguous and confusing, is that really so bad?

A ‘senility theory’ of US foreign policy over Taiwan

  • Richard Nixon made famous the madman theory of international politics and Donald Trump resurrected it. The idea is that erratic and unpredictable behaviour frightens your enemies into compliance. A president perceived to be mentally deficient making dangerously provocative statements such as over Taiwan may have a similar impact

Alex Lo


Published: 9:00pm, 22 Sep, 2022

Why you can trust SCMP

By Alex Lo South China Morning Post4 min

View Original

Portraying the head of state as a madman, especially one in control of a vast nuclear arsenal and military force, can be a rational strategy. You may have heard of the madman theory in political science, nuclear deterrence and game theory. Those theories have been variously applied to analyse Richard Nixon, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and three generations of the Kim regime in North Korea.

No one would accuse US President Joe Biden of being a madman, but I am beginning to think whether playing at senility may have a comparable impact. Maybe we can call it the “senile old man theory”.

After all, everyone assumes that the US government will continue to function even if its commander-in-chief is crazy or mentally deficient. But a mad or senile sitting president – however you understand those words – can still have a great impact on foreign policy, and decisions on war and peace. That perception by his adversaries is what matters.

Whether Nixon really was irrational and volatile, he liked the Russian and Vietnamese communists to think so. Perception is all. In his thinking, your enemies will be more accommodating, or at least less inclined to take risks and be provocative, if they think you are unpredictable and may react disproportionately.

Nixon wasn’t completely “crazy” to think so. There is a rich and respectable literature in the social and political sciences behind the idea. Thomas Schelling, a giant in the development of game theory, won the Nobel economics prize in 2005 partly on the strength of his study of seemingly irrational behaviour as a strategy in a bargaining or competitive situation.

He was also an adviser to Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 classic satire on nuclear war, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. In the movie, the Doomsday Machine and “General Ripper”, that is, the madman Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper represented nuclear-deterrent ideas of what Schelling calls “pre-commitment”, that is, both sides know once a nuclear war has started, they can’t halt it or disengage even if they both wanted to.

Though Schelling didn’t come up with the colourful name, he has been credited with originating the madman theory. The jury is still out on its usefulness. Some international relations scholars have argued it’s actually counterproductive and escalates conflicts.

You wonder, though, if a variant of the madman theory is being played out across the Taiwan Strait at the moment. Lately, Biden has kept saying the US will defend the island of Taiwan if mainland China attacks, no matter the circumstances.

We can all imagine scenarios. Maybe Taiwan decides to hold an island-wide referendum on independence or elects a president who vows to declare independence; or Taipei simply, unilaterally declares it. Maybe the mainland is provoked into attacking as a response; or it simply decides to strike first, to pre-empt independence and achieve unification. No matter, Biden seems to be saying, America will come to Taiwan’s defence, with its own troops.

He has said something like that four times since May last year (see my previous column). And each time, the White House walked back his statement. Observers, including yours truly, have argued that Biden is undermining the US’ long-standing policy on “one China”; turning “strategic ambiguity” into “strategic clarity” and encouraging the island towards independence.

But how about this: intentional or not, Biden and the White House are making strategic ambiguity even more ambiguous. The president says one thing, hours later, the White House’s spin machine comes out to “clarify”: No, no, no, he really doesn’t mean that. The old policy on “one China” stays the same.

If you are sitting in Beijing, will you be considering all the possibilities? For example: 1. The septuagenarian president is senile and doesn’t know what he is talking about. 2. He is not senile but doesn’t know what he talking about. 3. He is not senile and knows what he is talking about. 4. Senile or not, the rest of the administration is happy to have him talking like a loose cannon so as to confuse and frighten the Chinese from acting hastily over Taiwan.

The fourth possibility is what I call the “senile old man theory”. There are, of course, other possibilities, such as that nobody responsible for Taiwan policy knows what’s going on at the White House, hence the confusion. But that would be an unlikely worst-case scenario.

The end result is that the US position over Taiwan is now even more ambiguous and confusing, however you like to call it. Relations between the US and China are at their worst since Nixon visited Beijing, and the mainland and the island are pushing each other into dangerous territory.

Interestingly, maybe it’s merely a coincidence, or not. After Biden’s latest stunt, Beijing appears to have softened its rhetoric over Taiwan. “I would like to reiterate that … we are willing to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and utmost efforts,” said Ma Xiaoguang, of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office. The statement is significant in that it came a day after US and Canadian warships jointly sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

If all sides try to calm waters and de-escalate because the US military posture is now even more ambiguous and confusing, is that really so bad?

6. Russia will lose the war against Ukraine. Here's why - opinion

Fighting with one hand tied behind their back? Sounds familiar. But I would hate to see the atrocities if whatever restrictions they may have in place are lifted.


Russia’s hawks claim that it is fighting with one hand tied behind its back. They want a nationwide mobilization, a set of wartime emergency decrees, and an economy on a war footing. They demand carpet bombings of Kyiv, Lviv and other cities, and annihilation of civilian infrastructure such as power plants, railway lines, bridges and dams across Ukraine. Some even call for blowing up nuclear power plants and using tactical nuclear weapons. Anything less would be cowardice or treason.
The truth is that Russia can no longer do it. It simply lacks the required resources and firepower. A major escalation of the war, and more war crimes by Russia, will only bring more weapons – and more advanced weapons – to Ukraine. Ukrainians are getting better at using them and are learning to fight a modern war. Things are going to get even worse for Putin’s soldiers, and infighting in Russian society will intensify with each new defeat.

Russia will lose the war against Ukraine. Here's why - opinion

Things are going to get even worse for Vladimir Putin’s soldiers, and infighting in Russian society will intensify with each new defeat.

By ALEXEI BAYER Published: SEPTEMBER 21, 2022 23:54

When Vladimir Putin decided to start rebuilding the Soviet Union by conquering Ukraine, he didn’t realize that Russia’s industrial base was too weak to support his military adventures. As his promises of international greatness clash with reality on the battlefield, he faces discontent and accusations of defeatism and, worse, treason.

One thing Russia has always been good at is amassing territory. Someone calculated that between around 1450, when the Grand Duchy of Muscovy came into its own, and the demise of the Russian Empire in 1917, it expanded at the average rate of three square kilometers per hour.

World War I brought an end to the empire. Lenin denounced Russian imperialism, declaring the principle of national self-determination. Some nations on the western edge of the empire broke loose, but the Red Army brought Ukraine, Transcaucasus and Central Asia back into the fold. The Bolsheviks married Russia’s expansionist drive to their millenarian ideology, developing a version of the land grab based on a supposedly scientific claim of the inevitable worldwide triumph of communism.

The task of spreading communism by the bayonet – and keeping it there – required a large war machine, which in turn required a powerful industrial base. Stalin’s industrialization thus gave absolution priority to military production. During the 1930s, and before Hitler’s rearmament gained momentum, the Soviet Union produced more tanks than the rest of the world combined.

The Soviet military got the best equipment and manpower, as well as advanced technology and science. Military jobs paid well and attracted the best graduates. Some 15-20% of Soviet GDP was devoted to the military-industrial complex, and the true share was probably higher since some civilian production also served the needs of the Defense Ministry and its agencies.

A view shows captured Russian tanks with installed Ukrainian flags, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, near the town of Izium, recently liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine September 19, 2022. (credit: GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS)

The Soviet Union never stopped spreading communism (and Moscow’s domination) with satellites added in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Much of that was done indirectly through military aid, but it used its own troops to invade Afghanistan in 1979. At the same time, in countries where the Soviet-style system had already been established, the Brezhnev Doctrine envisioned the use of Soviet troops to prevent regime change – as in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Unlike the Bolsheviks, Mikhail Gorbachev promised a definitive break with Russia’s imperial ambitions. He allowed a major rollback in Eastern Europe in 1989, and then the Soviet Union too collapsed, creating 14 new nations, some of which never had independent states.

The reality of post-Soviet Russia

POST-SOVIET Russia still contains nearly 200 ethnic groups ranging from 3.7% of the population (the Tatars), to just a handful of representatives. But it now has the smallest territory in several centuries.

Gorbachev’s was a political decision; then came market reforms that made it impossible for Russia to expand its territory by military means.

During the 1990s, Russia’s economic model shifted from autarky to integration in the global economic system. As the prices of oil, natural gas and other commodities increased, boosting Russia’s export revenues, it became easier to import rather than build domestic production. Russia became a textbook example of the Dutch syndrome, when a nation exporting natural resources suffers deindustrialization.

Meanwhile, the face of industrial production in the world also changed. The technological revolution made producers dependent on hi-tech and on the US-centered hi-tech establishment. Globalization opened the borders and created an international division of labor and cross-border supply chains.

Russia’s participation in this system was limited due to pervasive corruption, government interference, an ineffective legal system, and a generally poor business climate.

Deindustrialization and corruption have long been evident in the military industrial complex as well. According to a recent investigation by Russian journalists, Leninets, an enormous St. Petersburg defense contractor specializing in radars and navigation equipment, continues to produce at one-quarter of its three dozen facilities. The rest have been rented out or converted to shopping malls and residences.

Vast sums allocated to the development of new systems are routinely stolen or misappropriated, with nothing to show for it. Small wonder: its design bureau on the shores of the Gulf of Finland has been replaced by a villa for the owner, a friend of Putin’s.

Lack of resources

PUTIN IS NO economist. When he decided to revive Russia’s expansionist dreams and recapture old Soviet lands, starting with Ukraine, he didn’t realize how few weapons Russia produced and how much it relied on imported components. Such components were cut off by sanctions; even countries that don’t support Western sanctions are apprehensive of selling to Russia for fear of incurring sanctions of their own.

But after years of relentless propaganda, Russians still see their country as a military superpower. And all of a sudden it can’t defeat Ukraine, which in their imperial arrogance they have always treated with disdain and taught to regard as a failed state. Faced with this unsettling disconnect, jingoist right-wingers, who used to applaud Putin’s invasion, have changed their tune. Surely Russia is failing because treason has reached high into the Kremlin and Putin is taking direct instructions from Biden.

Russia’s hawks claim that it is fighting with one hand tied behind its back. They want a nationwide mobilization, a set of wartime emergency decrees, and an economy on a war footing. They demand carpet bombings of Kyiv, Lviv and other cities, and annihilation of civilian infrastructure such as power plants, railway lines, bridges and dams across Ukraine. Some even call for blowing up nuclear power plants and using tactical nuclear weapons. Anything less would be cowardice or treason.

The truth is that Russia can no longer do it. It simply lacks the required resources and firepower. A major escalation of the war, and more war crimes by Russia, will only bring more weapons – and more advanced weapons – to Ukraine. Ukrainians are getting better at using them and are learning to fight a modern war. Things are going to get even worse for Putin’s soldiers, and infighting in Russian society will intensify with each new defeat.

Born in the USSR, the writer has lived in the US since 1975, having emigrated on an Israeli visa during the Let My People Go campaign for Soviet Jewry. He has worked as an economist for 35 years, including positions at Standard and Poor’s and The Economist Intelligence Unit. During the past 10 years, he has published four murder mysteries set in Moscow in the 1960s.

Jerusalem Post

7. ‘A Lot of Panic’: Russian Men, Fearing Ukraine Draft, Seek Refuge Abroad

‘A Lot of Panic’: Russian Men, Fearing Ukraine Draft, Seek Refuge Abroad

Vladimir V. Putin’s new military call-up has sent young men who don’t want to fight in Ukraine heading to the borders.

By Ben Hubbard

Ben Hubbard covers Turkey for The Times. He was on the scene at Istanbul International Airport as Russians fleeing the draft arrived on multiple flights.

Sept. 22, 2022

Updated 4:45 p.m. ET

Vladimir V. Putin’s new military call-up has sent young men who don’t want to fight in Ukraine heading to the borders.

Istanbul International Airport. With the government replenishing its military in Ukraine, some Russian men have headed for the borders.Credit...Ozan Kose/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ben Hubbard covers Turkey for The Times. He was on the scene at Istanbul International Airport as Russians fleeing the draft arrived on multiple flights.

A little more than 12 hours after he heard that Russian civilians could be pressed into military service in the Ukraine war, the tour guide said he bought a plane ticket and a laptop, changed money, wrapped up his business, kissed his crying mother goodbye and boarded a plane out of his country, with no idea when he might return.

On Thursday morning, he walked into the cavernous arrival hall of the Istanbul International Airport carrying only a backpack and the address of a friend who had promised to put him up while he figured out what to do with his life.

“I was sitting and thinking about what I could die for, and I didn’t see any reason to die for the country,” said the tour guide, 23, who, like others interviewed for this article, declined to give his name for fear of reprisals.

Since President Vladimir V. Putin’s announcement on Wednesday of a new troop call-up, some Russian men who had once thought they were safe from the front lines have fled the country. And they have done so in a rush, lining up at the borders and paying rising prices to catch flights to countries that allow them to enter without visas, such as Armenia, Georgia, Montenegro and Turkey.

Though Mr. Putin officially called up only reservists, saying that only men with military experience would receive orders to report for duty, many worried that the government would impose new travel restrictions on conscription-aged men and wanted to make a quick escape just in case.

President Vladimir V. Putin’s announcement of a new troop call-up alarmed some men who had thought they were safe from the front lines.Credit...Pool photo by Ilya Pitalev

Turkey already was among the countries that received a large exodus of Russians at the beginning of the Ukraine invasion. Many were fleeing the crackdown at home, including the criminalization of dissent, with speaking out against the invasion or even calling it a war now carrying serious penalties. Others worried about the impact of international sanctions and Russia’s growing isolation on the economy and their jobs.

Now, a new wave may be beginning, and while the exact scope of it was not immediately clear, the rush for plane tickets and the long lines of cars at the borders were indications that the prospects of an expanded conscription have alarmed a swath of Russian society.

Aleksandr, an executive manager from Moscow, said he started packing even before Mr. Putin had finished his announcement on Wednesday. Minutes later, he was on his way to the airport, looking for available tickets en route.

Tickets to his preferred destinations — Istanbul and Almaty, Kazakhstan — had already sold out, so he settled on Namangan, Uzbekistan, a city he said he had never even heard of. Then he sweated his way through passport control, fearing that the Kremlin would close the border to reservists like him.

The State of the War

“I realized that the stakes just were very high,” said Aleksandr, 37, in a phone interview from Namangan. “I was already ready for everything, that they would just turn me away at the border.”

The plane, he said, was full of people like him — “stooped young men with laptops.” A passenger next to him had never heard of Namangan either.

Back in Moscow, Aleksandr’s wife, suddenly alone with their three children, was in shock. “My hopes that things might remain more or less OK collapsed today,” she said by phone.

Anastasia Burakova, the founder of Kovcheg, a group that helps Russians who oppose the war settle abroad, said her organization had seen a surge in requests for help after Mr. Putin’s announcement. But it is becoming harder for Russian men to quickly leave the country, she said, with flights selling out and the prices for any remaining seats skyrocketing.

“It was a lot of panic,” she said.

Until now, most Russians looking to flee had been activists, protesters or journalists who had spoken out publicly against the war, Ms. Burakova said.

“Now we see a lot of people who did not care about it, but are leaving the country because they are scared of mobilization and they worry that it could be a reality for them and their families,” she said.

A billboard in St. Petersburg promoting military service.Credit...Olga Maltseva/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As airline tickets sold out, some Russian men were looking into driving across borders to neighboring Georgia and Finland, according to numerous channels on Telegram, a popular messaging app. Some reported long lines at the borders as border guards conducted thorough checks of men.

Live Updates: Russia-Ukraine War


Sept. 22, 2022, 6:30 p.m. ET

The conscription announcement did not immediately affect policies in the United States and in Europe that have made it difficult for Russians to enter.

In principle, European Union officials say they stand in solidarity with the men who don’t want to fight. “Russians are voting with their feet, basically, ” said Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Commission. But in practice, offering asylum or even a faster visa process to help them get out of Russia quickly will be a challenge.

Israel, however, was looking to facilitate an expected influx of Russian Jews, officials said. Israel’s immigration minister, Pnina Tamano-Shata, told local media on Thursday that her ministry was “doing all we can to help them get to Israel in safety, despite the challenges they are facing at this time.”

One of the challenges was finding flights.

The few direct flights from Moscow to Tel Aviv were almost fully booked, with individual tickets selling for more than $5,000, according to the Israeli media reports.

Some of the Russians arriving in Istanbul dragged huge roller bags stuffed with personal belongings they hoped would make it easier to set up new lives. Others had left in a rush with small bags containing only a few changes of clothes.

Many said they would not return home as long as the threat of conscription loomed. But the suddenness of their departure meant that few had definite plans for what they would do next.

Cars attempting to enter Finland from Russia on Thursday waited in long lines.Credit...Olivier Morin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The tour guide, who is a reservist, said that he had arranged a temporary place to stay in Istanbul and that he hoped to improve his English and look for work in Turkey.

One Russian information technology worker in the Istanbul arrival hall stood out for his tan and his Hawaiian shirt. He said he had been on his honeymoon in Egypt when he heard the news about the military call-up.

A reservist, he decided to remain in Istanbul during his layover, while his wife continued on to Moscow to collect the couple’s money and important documents. With $300 in his pocket, he planned to take an overnight bus to Tbilisi, Georgia, where he hoped his wife would join him in a few weeks.

“We decided that we don’t want to live in this country anymore,” he said of Russia. “If you live in this country, every five to eight years, everything you know goes upside down.”

A 26-year-old merchant mariner who gave his name only as Dmitriy said he would wait in Turkey until his next ship job began in December, to ensure that he would not be drafted in the meantime.

“I decided that I needed to leave now,” he said.

Over the past 24 hours, he said, his friends had been messaging each other to explore their options and consulting Telegram channels where people share information about the conditions at Russian airports and border crossings.

The mariner said that most of his friends had stayed in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, believing the war would not affect them much. He said most were rushing to get out.

“Lots of people want to leave Russia now because they don’t want to fight for the opinion of one person,” he said, dismissing the invasion as a personal project of Mr. Putin.

“It is not about defending your family,” he said.

Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting from Tbilisi, Georgia, Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.

© 2022 The New York Times Company.

The content you have chosen to save (which may include videos, articles, images and other copyrighted materials) is intended for your personal, noncommercial use. Such content is owned or controlled by The New York Times Company or the party credited as the content provider. Please refer to and the Terms of Service available on its website for information and restrictions related to the content.

8. The West Mimics Mao, Takes a Green Leap Forward

Video at the link.

The West Mimics Mao, Takes a Green Leap Forward

The green scramble to transform energy is reminiscent of China’s forced industrialization.

By Helen Raleigh

Sept. 21, 2022 1:33 pm ET

The green movement’s rush to transform the energy economy while ignoring the laws of nature and economics calls to mind China’s ruinous Great Leap Forward. By 1957, Mao Zedong had grown impatient with his country’s slow industrial development relative to the West. He sought to transform China quickly from an agricultural society to an industrial powerhouse through forced industrialization and agricultural collectivization.


Why Income Inequality Is Better Than Advertised




Steel production was a priority of the Great Leap Forward. Mao wanted China to surpass the U.K. in steel output within 15 years. Across the country, including in the village where my father lived, people tried to contribute to this goal by building small backyard furnaces. Each village had a production quota to meet, so everyone—including children and the elderly—pitched in. Using everything they could find to keep the furnaces burning, villagers melted down farming tools and cooking pots. These efforts yielded only pig iron, which had to be decarbonized to make steel. That was a process a backyard furnace couldn’t handle. The effort and resources were wasted.

The steel campaign diverted manpower from farming, even as the government ordered farmers to meet unrealistic quotas. Local party officials initially compelled farmers to experiment with ineffective and sometimes harmful techniques, such as deep plowing and sowing seeds much closer than usual. When these radical methods failed to increase yield and depleted the soil, local leaders had no choice but to lie to their political superiors about how much had been produced (a practice referred to as “launching a Sputnik”). Based on these false production figures, the state demanded villages sell more grain than they could spare. In a vicious circle, the more the local officials lied about their output, the higher the central government set the quotas. Farmers were forced to hand over every bit of grain they had, including the following year’s seeds, to meet the quotas. Resistance was violently suppressed.

The combination of lies, failed experiments, absence of labor and violent requisition practices led to famine. From 1959 through 1961, an estimated 30 million to 40 million Chinese people died from hunger. The Chinese government continues to refer to the famine as a natural disaster, pretending forces beyond their control were to blame for this man-made calamity.

Like Mao, today’s advocates for the green-energy revolution have become impatient with the slow progress made by renewable energy. Fossil fuels and nuclear power provide 80% of the energy the world needs. Despite years of subsidies, renewable energy is still unstable and unreliable, since the sun doesn’t shine at night and the wind doesn’t blow all the time. Almost all renewable-energy power plants require either nuclear or fossil fuels as backups.

Rather than gradually phasing out fossil fuels while investing in renewable energy research and development, Western green-energy revolutionaries have launched their own version of the Great Leap Forward in Europe and the U.S. Today’s greens operate in a democratic system unlike Mao, but they have resorted to government coercion to replace fossil fuels (and nuclear power) with renewables on an aggressive deadline. The European Union is set to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, and the Biden administration promises to “achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030.”

One of the essential lessons from China’s Great Leap Forward is that catastrophic failures inevitably follow from politicians’ insistence on ignoring reason, logic, truth and economics. Europe’s current energy crisis, California’s continuing power outages and Sri Lanka’s food shortages are all warning signs. The Green Leap Forward has set humanity on a fast track to another man-made catastrophe.

Ms. Raleigh is the author of “Confucius Never Said” and “Backlash: How China’s Aggression Has Backfired.”

Chinese peasants on a communal farm during the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s.


Appeared in the September 22, 2022, print edition as 'The West Mimics Mao, Takes a Green Leap Forward'.

9. Vladimir Putin’s Nuclear Threats Work, but Using the Weapons Probably Wouldn’t

So what is the concept of employment for tactical nuclear weapons? What kinds of targets are worth their use? What effects can be achieved that are worth the risks of escalation or the possibly decisive US response to their use?

(Similar questions should be asked and answered in regards to the possible introduction of tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.)

Vladimir Putin’s Nuclear Threats Work, but Using the Weapons Probably Wouldn’t

Deployment of a nuclear weapon on the battlefield would produce ‘very big bang’ but few military advantages

By Stephen FidlerFollow

Sept. 22, 2022 2:25 pm ET

With the possible exception of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, no global leader throws around nuclear threats more freely than Russian President Vladimir Putin. The world heard more of the same this week. The reason he issues such threats is that they work.

Fears of Russian escalation have limited the involvement of the U.S. and its allies in the war in Ukraine. While supplying Kyiv with arms that have been critical in turning the tide of the war, Western governments have ruled out steps, including the imposition of a no-fly zone, that would lead to a direct confrontation between forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Russia.

Western governments have said in recent months that they haven’t identified any Russian actions to suggest Moscow is preparing to use nuclear weapons. But they say they have to take Mr. Putin’s threats seriously because there is a nonzero chance that he will act on them.

What’s Next in the Ukraine War as Putin Threatens Nuclear Response


What’s Next in the Ukraine War as Putin Threatens Nuclear Response

Play video: What’s Next in the Ukraine War as Putin Threatens Nuclear Response

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons and mobilize 300,000 reservists for the war in Ukraine drew widespread condemnation from world leaders. Here’s what the West might do next and the challenges for Russia. Photo Composite: Emily Siu

Leaders in the West widely depicted Mr. Putin’s rhetoric on Wednesday as a sign of desperation. Their strategists struggle to identify any scenarios where using a nuclear weapon would benefit Russia. In most scenarios, Russia’s breaking of a nuclear taboo that has held since the end of World War II would leave it worse off, potentially losing some of the few friends who have stayed by its side since it began the invasion.

“Everybody’s fixated on the intimidation, the rhetoric, rather than what benefits might come to Russia from actually using it. And part of the reason for that, of course, is because the propaganda has been so very successful, it has put brakes on support for Ukraine,” said Keir Giles, head of the Conflict Studies Research Centre, a U.K. think tank focused on Eurasia.

François Heisbourg, defense adviser at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, said that use of a tactical nuclear weapon on the battlefield would yield “a very big bang and actually relatively few military advantages.” Ukraine is dispersing its forces and there are no large troop concentrations to attack. Meanwhile, Russian forces would have to advance through nuclear fallout to take advantage.

That leaves a Russian attack of intimidation or terror on a major Ukrainian population center. Western analysts struggle to see any strategic benefit in such a move, and it likely would lead to the self deterrence now being practiced by the U.S. and its allies to fall away. President Biden has said Russia would face an unspecified “consequential” U.S. response if Moscow used nuclear weapons. Such consequences, say strategists, would be unlikely to involve American nuclear weapons but could put significant Russian military assets in Ukraine at risk.


U.S. Lawmakers Push Pentagon to Send Ukraine Advanced Drones

P.M. Edition for Sept. 22. A bipartisan group of members of Congress has urged Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to give Kiev advanced drone support. WSJ National Security correspondent Nancy Youssef tells host Daniella Cheslow lawmakers see the drones as a way to help Ukraine maintain its momentum during a successful counteroffensive against Russia.Read Transcript

00:00 / 14:05



Yet Mr. Putin has shown himself in the war in Ukraine to be something less than a master strategist, Western analysts said. British nuclear-weapons expert Lawrence Freedman says the Russian leader already has done some “really stupid things” in invading Ukraine so the possibility that he might do something “even stupider” can’t entirely be ruled out.

In a televised address Wednesday, Mr. Putin boasted that Russia had some more modern weapons than NATO, adding that in the event of a threat to Russia’s territorial integrity, “we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us.”

In formulating the threat, Mr. Putin is going beyond Russia’s official rationale for using nuclear weapons. In 2020, Moscow published a new nuclear doctrine that said one of the circumstances in which Russia reserved the right to use nuclear weapons was in response to a conventional attack “that threatens the very existence of the state.”

Valeriy Akimenko, a Russian nuclear weapons specialist at the Conflict Studies Research Centre, said a threat to the territorial integrity of Russia “is quite a different set of circumstances from a threat to the very existence of the state.”

Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons on the battlefield follows setbacks for Russian forces in Ukraine.


In practice, Mr. Akimenko said the document shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a definitive guide to what Russia would do in a war. “Think about to what extent Russia is law abiding. It’s not really law abiding at all,” he said.

One reason Western governments remained relatively unmoved by Mr. Putin’s threat this week was that it was nothing new—it is actually a step down from the messaging in the early days of the war. In a staged televised event at the Kremlin on Feb. 27, he ordered an increase in the alert level of the Russian nuclear arsenal.

The order was confusing because Russia’s strategic nuclear forces are routinely on high alert. In early March, however, the U.S. postponed a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Western officials said later they didn’t detect any unusual nuclear activity that would give rise to concern, but there was enough anxiety in France for the government to make an unprecedented operational order to send three of its four nuclear-armed submarines out to sea, said Mr. Heisbourg. “These things change, but I’m less worried now than I was in March,” he said.

Mr. Putin’s reference to territorial integrity isn’t new either. It was first outlined by a Russian general as part of a military exercise in 2019, according to Mr. Akimenko.

Still, the juxtaposition with new plans to annex further parts of Ukraine, raised concerns that Mr. Putin was linking Ukrainian attacks on the soon-to-be declared Russian territories with Russia’s territorial integrity, though he made no such explicit connection. Ukraine already has struck targets in the illegally annexed territory of Crimea—and on the Russian city of Belgorod, Moscow claims—without any escalatory response.

Indeed, Mr. Putin’s warning was vague enough to allow for many other escalatory actions to take place—including full military mobilization—without using nuclear weapons.

In calculating the risk-reward around nuclear-weapons use, other factors could come into play. Mr. Akimenko says the failure rate of the missiles that would likely be used to deliver a nuclear weapon has been significant during the conflict, entailing risks to Russia if they were nuclear armed and failed.

Military analysts say that detonating a nuclear warhead would be a last dangerous throw of the dice for the Russian leader, possibly more directed at saving his own skin than the Russian state. Whether Russia’s military commanders would follow any such order would be yet another calculation that Mr. Putin would have to make.

Write to Stephen Fidler at

10. Washington Punishes Iranian Cyber Actors While Preparing to Enrich Regime

FDD | Washington Punishes Iranian Cyber Actors While Preparing to Enrich Regime · by Annie Fixler CCTI Deputy Director and Research Fellow · September 21, 2022

September 21, 2022 | Policy Brief

Annie Fixler

CCTI Deputy Director and Research Fellow

Richard Goldberg

Senior Advisor

Michael Sugden


Richard Goldberg

Senior Advisor

Michael Sugden


September 21, 2022 | Policy Brief

Washington Punishes Iranian Cyber Actors While Preparing to Enrich Regime

The U.S. Treasury Department issued two sets of sanctions against Iran in mid-September for its malicious cyber operations. While the sanctions and other corresponding U.S. government actions raise awareness of the Iranian cyber threat, their impact will be undermined by the sanctions relief the Biden administration is reportedly prepared to give Tehran as part of a nuclear deal.

First, on September 9, Treasury sanctioned Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and Minister of Intelligence Esmaeil Khatib, blaming MOIS for a July attack on NATO ally Albania. The White House called the attack — which disrupted government services and destroyed data — an “unprecedented cyber incident,” and pledged to “hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a U.S. ally.”

Days later, Treasury imposed sanctions on 10 individuals and two companies for ransomware, data exfiltration, and other attacks against U.S. and global targets. A corresponding Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment elaborated that the hackers were responsible for “hundreds” of attacks against small businesses, nonprofit organizations, religious institutions, healthcare centers, and utility providers. The victims included electric utilities in Mississippi and Indiana and a domestic violence shelter in Pennsylvania.

While DOJ said that the hackers were not acting on orders of the Iranian government, both the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Treasury affirmed they are affiliates of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

In parallel to the sanctions, CISA issued a cyber advisory providing technical details about the attacks, which network defenders can use to determine if their companies might also have been victimized and to prevent future attacks. The advisory co-authors included the DOJ, Treasury, the National Security Agency, and U.S. Cyber Command, signifying the high-degree of confidence in the reported information. Cybersecurity agencies from Canada, Britain, and Australia co-signed the advisory, demonstrating the breadth of allied concern.

Sanctions, indictments, and technical advisories are valuable: They provide useful, actionable information to network defenders. They disrupt active cyber campaigns. And they demonstrate America’s ability to definitively attribute cyberattacks to their perpetrators — a prerequisite for holding malicious actors accountable. Public attribution also undermines the plausible deniability of those who ordered the attack, limiting the appeal of offensive cyber operations.

Yet the coordinated steps by Treasury, DOJ, and CISA and their domestic and international partners fall short of the White House promise to “hold Iran accountable.” The new sanctions on MOIS amount to a slap on the wrist: The ministry has been subject to U.S. sanctions since February 2012 for supporting terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda, and for facilitating human rights abuses in Iran and Syria. Designation under another sanctions program will not materially affect the ability of MOIS to engage in global operations.

Furthermore, while the State Department offers up to $10 million for information about IRGC-affiliated hackers as part of its Rewards for Justice program, the Biden administration is reportedly offering Tehran a nuclear deal with sanctions relief worth $275 billion in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. And that means increased budgets for the MOIS and IRGC, far outweighing the effects of sanctions.

Annie Fixler is the deputy director of the Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation (CCTI) at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Richard Goldberg is a senior advisor. They both contribute to FDD’s Iran Program and Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP). Michael Sugden is a CCTI intern. For more analysis from the authors, CCTI, CEFP, and the Iran Program, please subscribe HERE. Follow Annie and Richard on Twitter @afixler and @rich_goldberg. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD@FDD_CCTI@FDD_CEFP, and @FDD_Iran. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy. · by Annie Fixler CCTI Deputy Director and Research Fellow · September 21, 2022

11. In an About-Face, Russia Announces Mobilization and ‘Referendums’ in Occupied Ukrainian Territories


In sum, while it appears unlikely to win the war for Putin, mobilization could help Russia sustain it and fend off further Ukrainian gains. But mobilized troops will take time to arrive on the battlefield in large quantities, so Ukraine still has a good opportunity to continue its counteroffensive in the coming weeks and months.

In an About-Face, Russia Announces Mobilization and ‘Referendums’ in Occupied Ukrainian Territories | FDD's Long War Journal · by John Hardie · September 22, 2022

In a televised address on Wednesday morning, President Vladimir Putin promised to ensure the security of upcoming “referendums” in occupied Ukrainian territories and declared Russia would conduct a “partial mobilization.” These announcements represent an about-face from the Kremlin’s position on these issues mere days ago, likely reflecting Putin’s realization that drastic measures are necessary to avoid defeat in Ukraine. While mobilization likely will not buy victory for the Kremlin, it could enable Moscow to sustain the war and hold already occupied territory, although mobilized Russian troops will take time to arrive on the battlefield in large numbers.

After railing against alleged Western efforts “to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy” Russia, Putin defended his war in Ukraine as “necessary and the only option,” saying it continues to seek to “liberate” the entirety of Ukraine’s Donbas region. Putin noted that Russian-installed authorities in the occupied parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions had announced plans for so-called referendums on joining Russia, set to be held this weekend. He said Russia “will do everything necessary to create safe conditions for these referendums.”

Putin then announced he had ordered a “partial mobilization,” beginning immediately. Apparently seeking to justify the move, he stressed that Russia’s military is fighting on an over 1,000 km-long front line, battling “not only against [Ukrainian] units but actually the entire military machine of the collective West.”

The Russian leader promised that “only military reservists, primarily those who served in the armed forces and have specific military occupational specialties and corresponding experience,” would be called up. (In Russia, discharged veterans, military academy graduates, military-eligible men older than 27 who have not served or who completed alternative civilian service, and women with military expertise qualify for the reserve. Moscow had begun forming a Western-style professional ready-reserve prior to launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but the force is still inchoate, and many of its members have already deployed to the battlefield.)

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu later claimed Russia would mobilize 300,000 people, calling up only reservists with prior military service, specialist skills, and combat experience. However, the Kremlin redacted the section of Putin’s decree specifying the number of draftees, and the independent Novaya Gazeta Europe cited an unnamed Kremlin source as saying the true number is 1 million. Both those figures should be treated with caution.

The Kremlin’s decisions regarding the referendums and mobilization reflect a sudden break from its previous position on these issues.

Moscow had repeatedly postponed the referendums due to battlefield failures, most recently targeting the date of November 4, Russia’s National Unity Day. On September 11, however, the independent Russian outlet Meduza, citing two sources close to the Kremlin, reported Moscow had postponed the referendums indefinitely after Ukrainian forces retook large swathes of territory in Kharkiv Oblast.

But the Kremlin quickly reversed course, reportedly swayed by a coalition of high-ranking hawks within Russia. According to sources cited by Meduza, the Kremlin moved up the referendums in part to reassure Russian-installed occupation officials who worry Ukraine will retake the occupied territories — fears exacerbated by Ukraine’s success in Kharkiv.

The Kremlin reportedly also hopes that formally absorbing the occupied territories will deter further Ukrainian advances, according to three Kremlin-connected sources cited by Meduza. In his Wednesday address, Putin rattled the nuclear saber, warning Kyiv’s Western backers that Moscow would employ “all weapon systems” in its arsenal to defend Russia’s “territorial integrity” and the Russian people. Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president and prime minister and current deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, explicitly threatened that Moscow could use its strategic deterrence forces to protect the soon-to-be annexed territories.

Mobilization aims to redress Russia’s mounting manpower problem. Russian forces in Ukraine have suffered heavy attrition and grow increasingly exhausted. Moscow has deployed virtually all its professional troops to Ukraine, leaving it unable to rotate forces. Thousands of Russian soldiers reportedly have refused to continue fighting. Conversely, Ukraine’s Western aid and large pool of motivated manpower (thanks to mobilization when the war began) has enabled Kyiv to replace losses and fill out reserve brigades.

Russian forces currently in Ukraine may be insufficient to defend all the occupied territory, let alone to gain further ground. Moscow discovered this the hard way during Ukraine’s counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast, where Russia’s front lines were thinly manned after Russia had redeployed forces from the area to head off a separate Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south.

Mobilization carries significant domestic political risks for Putin, as it is deeply unpopular among most of the Russian people. Likely for that reason, he for months assiduously avoided formal mobilization, which the Kremlin just last week assured was not on the table. Instead, Moscow turned to piecemeal measures, such as offering lucrative short-term contracts to volunteers and forcibly mobilizing men from the Donbas proxy republics. But those pools of manpower are likely running dry, and many of the short-term contracts signed throughout the war will soon expire if they have not already.

That Putin finally resorted to mobilization suggests that he sees it as necessary to avoid losing in Ukraine, and that he views the costs of losing as greater than the risk of popular unrest. Mobilization can help Russia sustain the war, although predicting exactly how Moscow will use the mobilized troops and what impact they will have on the battlefield is difficult. Russia is in uncharted waters, and key questions remain unanswered.

The mobilized personnel will likely face issues with morale, training, and unit cohesion, and it is unclear whether Moscow can even properly equip all of them. These problems will likely limit their combat effectiveness, especially in offensive missions. But they should be sufficient at least to defend fixed positions, and many of the troops may not serve in front-line roles.

Another unknown is whether Russia has sufficient officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) to train and lead the mobilized personnel. Moscow’s piecemeal force-generation efforts earlier in the war cannibalized Russia’s military at the expense of its mobilization potential. Many of the officers and NCOs who would serve those roles likely already deployed to Ukraine as part of volunteer battalions or to replace losses.

Regardless of what impact mobilized troops achieve on the battlefield, it will not be immediate.

Russian authorities have already begun delivering summons and collecting mobilized personnel, but it will take time to gather, organize, and equip these troops and provide them with refresher training, which Putin promised they would receive prior to “being sent to their units.” One former serviceman said he had received a notification on Tuesday and will leave for two weeks of training this Monday. At least initially, Moscow may use mobilized troops to replenish losses in units already fighting in Ukraine rather than to form new ones. Generating new units could take months.

Moscow does have mobilization infrastructure in place, and Russia’s military and civilian authorities conduct regular mobilization exercises. (According to Shoigu, Putin’s order actually coincided with a planned exercise, which he says has now been canceled in favor of the real thing.) Last spring, Russian military commissariats began contacting reservists to update their rolls (while also attempting to persuade them to sign short-term contracts).

But unlike the Soviet army, the Russian military is not designed to quickly intake and deploy vast numbers of mobilized personnel. Moscow, focused on more pressing matters and viewing mass mobilization as a relic of the past, largely neglected its mobilization base following its post-2008 military reforms. Russia will have to conduct mobilization gradually, as Shoigu and the Kremlin spokesman acknowledged.

Partly for that reason, some observers expected Moscow might deploy already serving conscripts before resorting to mobilization. Shoigu, however, promised on Wednesday that these conscripts would not be sent to the war (although it remains to be seen whether Russian authorities will keep that promise). Moscow may be hoping to minimize draft dodging during Russia’s fall conscription cycle. But Russia could tap conscripts set to be released this fall, who presumably would not need refresher training.

In the immediate term, mobilization’s chief impact may simply be to stem the bleeding. A new bill rushed through Russia’s parliament will impose yearslong prison sentences for soldiers who refuse to continue fighting, whereas these so-called “refusniks” have heretofore faced no criminal penalties for doing so. And Putin’s mobilization decree indefinitely extends the contracts of Russian troops — presumably including volunteers on short-term contracts — already serving in Ukraine.

In sum, while it appears unlikely to win the war for Putin, mobilization could help Russia sustain it and fend off further Ukrainian gains. But mobilized troops will take time to arrive on the battlefield in large quantities, so Ukraine still has a good opportunity to continue its counteroffensive in the coming weeks and months.

John Hardie is the deputy director of FDD’s Russia Program and a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

Tags: russiaukraine · by John Hardie · September 22, 2022

12. Hezbollah Emerging as Winner from Israel-Lebanon Maritime Talks


If a border agreement is finalized, the Biden administration will have set a terrible precedent by leveraging Hezbollah threats to secure Israeli concessions that enrich and empower a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The administration will also have turned Hezbollah into a significant player in Eastern Mediterranean energy, enshrining the group’s partnership with France and its investments in Lebanon. The precedent might even extend beyond Lebanon as now Hezbollah is encouraging Hamas to follow its lead with gas fields off the coast of Gaza.

FDD | Hezbollah Emerging as Winner from Israel-Lebanon Maritime Talks · by Tony Badran Research Fellow · September 22, 2022

Israel and Lebanon are apparently close to a final agreement delineating their maritime border after a Lebanese government delegation met with the Biden administration’s energy envoy, Amos Hochstein, this week in New York. If the deal goes through, the Biden administration will have turned Hezbollah into a significant player in the Eastern Mediterranean energy industry, a development that will both enrich the terrorist group and expand its regional influence.

While the Lebanese delegation consisted of government officials, the real, if indirect, interlocutor for the Biden administration was always Hezbollah. The group’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, set the parameters and the tempo of the negotiations and has found an eager and cooperative partner in the Biden team. In fact, Hochstein leveraged Hezbollah’s threats to obtain major Israeli concessions.

With talks apparently headed toward the finish line, Nasrallah reiterated last week the ultimatum that has framed the talks. As before, Nasrallah threatened to attack Israel’s Karish offshore gas rig, unless the U.S. and Israel agreed to his conditions before starting to pump gas from Karish, even though it lies entirely in Israeli waters. The Hezbollah leader said, “our red line is the start of extraction at Karish. … We cannot allow for oil and gas extraction from Karish before Lebanon obtains its rights.” Nasrallah added, “our eyes and our missiles are [fixed] on Karish.”

Nasrallah’s threats are cost-free, especially as he knows the Biden administration has leveraged them to impose a sense of urgency on Israel’s caretaker government to concede Lebanon’s demands and conclude the agreement without any escalation.

Based on official Lebanese statements and reports in pro-Hezbollah media, the talks are in their final stage and Hochstein is supposed submit a formal draft agreement shortly. While the details of a final agreement have not been made public, the satisfied assessments from the Lebanese side indicate that Washington has managed to extract critical concessions from Israel that meet Hezbollah’s demands. First, Israel will cede the entire disputed area of 854 square kilometers of Mediterranean waters. It will also cede the whole of a prospective gas field that protrudes into Israeli waters beyond Line 23, which Lebanon has filed as its border.

Israel has reportedly requested a buffer area extending a few kilometers out to sea from its land border with Lebanon. UN peacekeepers would presumably monitor the area, although Israel would still cede sovereignty to Lebanon. The details of this buffer area and its coordinates were reportedly the final item to be determined. Once the agreement is finalized, French energy giant TotalEnergies would begin operations in Lebanon’s Block 9, which borders Israel — a core Hezbollah demand.

Despite concerns of a conflagration before the end of September, given Hezbollah’s threats against Karish, Nasrallah’s speech affirmed the likelihood of that scenario was small. He was clear that an Israeli test of the gas transport system from the Karish platform to the shore and back would not cross Hezbollah’s red line.

The key Hezbollah condition was for production at Karish to be frozen until the consortium led by TotalEnergies had agreed it would begin drilling for gas in Block 9 of Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which Israel now will have conceded in full. The Biden administration sought to satisfy that condition, meeting with French officials and TotalEnergies executives to discuss the start of operations.

If a border agreement is finalized, the Biden administration will have set a terrible precedent by leveraging Hezbollah threats to secure Israeli concessions that enrich and empower a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The administration will also have turned Hezbollah into a significant player in Eastern Mediterranean energy, enshrining the group’s partnership with France and its investments in Lebanon. The precedent might even extend beyond Lebanon as now Hezbollah is encouraging Hamas to follow its lead with gas fields off the coast of Gaza.

Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where he contributes to FDD’s Israel Program. For more analysis from Tony and the Israel Program, please subscribe HERE. Follow Tony on Twitter @AcrossTheBay. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy. · by Tony Badran Research Fellow · September 22, 2022

13. U.S.-China Tensions Fuel Outflow of Chinese Scientists From U.S. Universities

What will be the long term effects of this?


U.S.-China Tensions Fuel Outflow of Chinese Scientists From U.S. Universities

Harvard, MIT lose experienced scholars as fear of government surveillance prompts 4 in 10 to consider leaving

By Sha HuaFollow

 and Karen HaoFollow

Sept. 22, 2022 1:15 pm ET

HONG KONG—An increasing number of scientists and engineers of Chinese descent are giving up tenured positions at top-tier American universities to leave for China or elsewhere, in a sign of the U.S.’s fading appeal for a group that has been a driver of innovation.

The trend, driven in part by what many of the scholars describe as an increasingly hostile political and racial environment, has caused the Biden administration to work with scholars of Chinese descent to address concerns.

More than 1,400 U.S.-trained Chinese scientists dropped their U.S. academic or corporate affiliation for a Chinese one in 2021, a 22% jump from the previous year, according to data gathered by researchers from Princeton University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The data, to be published by the advocacy group Asian American Scholar Forum on Friday, is based on changes to the addresses listed under authors’ names in academic journals.

Chinese scientists trained in the U.S. have returned to China in increasing numbers over the past two decades as the country has grown more affluent and gained stature as a center of scientific research. In the past decade, China has tried to recruit top researchers through talent programs, but historically the majority elected to stay in the U.S.

Departures from the U.S. rose sharply starting in 2020, however, when the Covid-19 pandemic coincided with an increase in criminal cases filed against academics under the China Initiative, a Trump-era Justice Department program intended to counter national security threats from China.

President Biden’s Justice Department said it would stop pursuing new cases under the China Initiative in February, following a series of failed prosecutions and complaints of racial profiling, but some scientists of Chinese descent said they still feel as though suspicions are being directed toward them and fear that will continue as long as relations between the U.S. and China remain tense.

Among those Chinese and Chinese-American scientists who have left the U.S. during the past year are widely cited names from Harvard, MIT and the University of Chicago, including a winner of the Fields Medal, the highest honor in mathematics.

A poll in the summer of 2021 by researchers at the University of Arizona found that four out of 10 scientists of Chinese descent had recently considered leaving the U.S. out of fear of being subjected to U.S. government surveillance.

In interviews, nearly 20 ethnically Chinese scientists who have either left the U.S. or are contemplating leaving cited anxiety about government persecution and increasing violence against people of Asian heritage during the pandemic. Some said their thinking was also influenced by other factors, including better pay or proximity to loved ones.

The majority of those who spoke to The Wall Street Journal were tenured and naturalized U.S. citizens, and many were experts in aerospace and biology—strategically important fields that Beijing has singled out for increased investment and that were among the most scrutinized under the China Initiative.

One Chinese mechanical-engineering professor said he left a top American university this summer after more than two decades in the U.S. to join a university in Hong Kong, citing a desire to be closer to his aging parents and saying he was fed up with the political environment in the U.S. The scientist, whose children were born in the U.S., said the political atmosphere had grown so tense that he stopped seeking out collaborations with other scientists.

“I didn’t want my Chineseness to expose them to scrutiny from the federal authorities,” he said.

A winner of the Fields Medal, the highest honor in mathematics, left Harvard University for a position at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.


Some Chinese scientists now say they feel trapped given restrictions on speech and academic freedom in China, where scholars often have to attend political education sessions and have to be careful not to cross the Communist Party’s political red lines. The country’s strict Covid-19 restrictions have also reduced its appeal.

A doctoral candidate in artificial intelligence at the University of California, Berkeley, said both factors damped his initial enthusiasm for returning to China. But he also worries about becoming a target of the U.S. government.

“It’s really a dilemma,” he said. “You can’t go to China for many reasons. You can’t stay in the U.S. happily.”

The disquiet among scientists of Chinese descent comes as Washington seeks to defend its edge in scientific and technological innovation, and as China quickly narrows the gap. Congress recently passed the Chips Act to boost American competitiveness in tech, with $80 billion in funding to improve research into core technologies like artificial intelligence.

A 2020 analysis by Chicago-based think tank MacroPolo found that China-born scientists account for nearly 30% of artificial-intelligence researchers working for U.S. institutions.

Chinese and other foreign-born scientists have been a source of national strength, Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet Inc. and chairman of the U.S. government’s National Security Commission on AI, said in an interview. “We should never aim to cut ourselves off from a country that is home to 1.4 billion, with immense talent.”

In 2019, China-based scholars overtook U.S.-based scholars in producing the largest share of the top 1% most highly cited scientific papers—generally considered a key metric for scientific leadership—according to a study by scholars from the U.S., China and the Netherlands.

Increased global competition for scientific talent means the U.S. should be taking even more care to make top researchers feel welcome, said Ann Chih Lin, director of the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan. “Good people have the opportunity to leave, so why push them?” Ms. Lin said.

A survey of scientists of Chinese descent by the Asian American Scholar Forum last winter found that 89% said they wanted to contribute to U.S. scientific and technological leadership.

While the scientists who spoke to the Journal said they believed that it was important to go after Chinese espionage, they said that for many the China Initiative had changed their perception of America as a place where they would be free of potential persecution. As an example of the potential risk to the U.S., some pointed to the example of renowned rocket scientist Qian Xuesen, who moved to China from the U.S. during the McCarthy era and went on to help build China’s space and nuclear-weapons program.

Fields Medal winner Yau Shing-Tung, one of the highest-profile departees, left Harvard for a position at Beijing’s Tsinghua University in April. The mathematician, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, had previously expressed interest in helping China win its first Fields Medal. Mr. Yau also lamented what he described as an atmosphere of suspicion surrounding Chinese students and professors in the U.S.

“The U.S. government used to criticize the academic environment of the Soviet Union,” he said in a speech to Harvard freshmen in September 2021. “I didn’t expect that to be revived here.”

Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen has said he would take the concerns of Chinese scientists into consideration with future investigations and prosecutions.


One of the architects of the China Initiative, Andrew Lelling, a former U.S. attorney in Massachusetts, said earlier this year that the program had succeeded in warning scientists to rethink their connections to China and in pushing universities and grant-making bodies to be more vigilant.

In a statement to the Journal, the Justice Department referred to comments made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen in February, in which he promised to take the concerns of Chinese scientists into consideration with future investigations and prosecutions.

“Safeguarding the integrity and transparency of research institutions is a matter of national security,” Mr. Olsen said, adding: “But so is ensuring that we continue to attract the best and the brightest researchers and scholars to our country from all around the world.”

A group of senior scholars of Chinese descent in the U.S. met several times with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in the first half of this year in an effort to address their concerns, according to Yiguang Ju, a mechanical- and aerospace-engineering professor at Princeton University who attended the meetings.

In response to complaints from the scholars that many of the China Initiative cases had stemmed from scientists incorrectly filling out complex forms for disclosing research ties to China, the White House technology office has been working to standardize the disclosure process across government agencies, Mr. Ju and other participants said.

Michigan’s Ms. Lin said such procedural changes are positive but fall short of resolving the chilling effect many Chinese scholars feel.

In a statement, the White House technology office said the standardization of disclosure requirements is intended to increase transparency and trust. “We also intend to continue working closely with diverse stakeholders across the U.S. research enterprise to create an open and welcoming research environment,” it said.

Write to Sha Hua at and Karen Hao at

Appeared in the September 23, 2022, print edition as 'Chinese Scientists Abandon U.S. Universities'.

14. Over 1,000 Russian Protesters Arrested After Putin Mobilizes More Troops

Can they sustain collective action and can collective action by the Russsians have a strategic effect?

Over 1,000 Russian Protesters Arrested After Putin Mobilizes More Troops

By CHRIS BUCKLEY DAN BILEFSKY DAVID E. SANGER ERIC SCHMITT MARC SANTORA MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ IVAN NECHEPURENKO JIM TANKERSLEY Thomas Gibbons-Neff Derrick Bryson Taylor Anton Troianovski Alan Yuhas Valerie Hopkins Carly Olson The New York Times36 min

View Original

Over 200 Ukrainian fighters, including commanders of the Azov Battalion that fought in Mariupol, were released in an exchange with Russia, the war’s largest. Two U.S. military veterans were also released.

People across Russia protested the “partial mobilization” policy announced by President Vladimir V. Putin that would push 300,000 into military service.CreditCredit...Alexander Nemenov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Protesters across Russia took to the streets to show their disapproval of the “partial mobilization” policy announced by President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday morning that would press 300,000 into military service. At least 1,252 people from 38 cities were detained, according to OVD-Info, a human rights watchdog that monitors police activity.

In Moscow, hundreds of protesters gathered on the Old Arbat, a well-known pedestrian street in central Moscow. They screamed “Send Putin to the trenches!” and “Let our children live!” Footage showed riot police dragging people away.

In Tomsk, a woman holding a sign that said “Hug me if you are also scared” smiled serenely as she was dragged away from a small protest by three police officers. In Novosibirsk, a man with a ponytail was taken away after he told police officers, “I don’t want to die for Putin and for you.”

Protest is effectively criminalized in Russia, where before this week almost 16,500 people had been detained for antiwar activity, according to OVD-Info — including the simple act of an individual standing in a public place holding a blank piece of paper. Since March, it has been illegal to “disseminate false information” about the war and to “discredit the Russian Army.”

Russians came to protest despite a warning from the general prosecutor’s office issued Wednesday that unsanctioned protests could result in punishment of up to 15 years of prison for spreading false information about the military, which became a criminal offense in February.

The jailed opposition politician Aleksei A. Navalny and the antiwar group Vesna, or Spring, both called for protests on Wednesday.

Russians have grown so accustomed to the idea of being detained that one pet shelter that funds itself by selling apparel created T-shirts showing children playing outside a school bus that is actually an AvtoZak, the vehicle riot police use to take detainees to be booked at the police station.

Mr. Putin has relied on a strategy of keeping life as normal as possible for Russians in order to to maintain a passive support for the war. While thousands protested on Feb. 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, law enforcement agencies were able to stifle much public dissent.

Now, the prospect of reservists being called up brings the war ever closer to ordinary people’s homes.

The draft announced by Mr. Putin could rattle the Russian public because most Russian men of military age are legally considered reservists; a year of military service is a requirement for men aged 18 to 27. Though Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu has said that only those with prior military experience are eligible to be drafted, some ordinary Russians fear that there could be broader conscription on the horizon, potentially creating consequences for Mr. Putin at home.

“Mobilization raises the stakes not only in war, and not only in international relations, it raises the stakes in domestic politics,” Ivan Kurilla, a professor of history and international relations at the European University in St. Petersburg, wrote on Facebook.

However, Greg Yudin, a professor of political philosophy at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences currently at Princeton University, said while the “partial” mobilization order did not set limits to the draft, it was still “not a breach of the famous ‘you don’t mess up with our business, we don’t mess up with yours’ contract either.”

petition against “full and partial mobilization” had gathered almost 300,000 signatures by Wednesday evening.

“I think people couldn’t pull themselves out of shock — they simply couldn’t believe that there would be a mobilization announced,” said Anastasia, 36, one of the petition’s organizers, who lives in St. Petersburg and whose last name is being withheld for security reasons. “Even yesterday we thought that it couldn’t happen,” she said, referring to the anticipation of Mr. Putin’s announcement speech, which was initially expected on Tuesday evening. “But it seems to me that today people are still in shock that it is happening. And they finally realized: ‘This concerns me, too.’”

On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Navalny published the results of a poll his organization commissioned asking respondents how they would react to mandatory mobilization. Almost half said they disagreed.

Oleg Matsnev, Alina Lobzina, and Anton Troianovski contributed reporting.

Ukrainian soldiers took shelter inside the ruined Azovstal steel plant during the 80-day siege in Mariupol in May.Credit...Dmytro Kozatsky/Azov Special Forces Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard Press Office

The Ukrainian authorities have secured the release of the commanders of the Azov Battalion, whose defense of Mariupol from within a sprawling steel plant turned them into celebrities throughout Ukraine and made them a valuable prize for the Kremlin when they surrendered to Russian forces in May after an 80-day siege.

Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, confirmed late Wednesday that the commander of the Azov Battalion, Lt. Col. Denis Prokopenko, and his deputy, Captain Svyatoslav Palamar, were among 215 Ukrainian prisoners of war who were released in a prisoner swap, making it the largest such exchange since the start of the war.

To free them, the Ukrainians gave up their own valuable prize: Viktor Medvechuk, a Ukrainian businessman and politician, who is a close friend of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Medvechuk had been arrested after going into hiding while awaiting trial at the start of the war and charged with treason, according to Ukrainian officials.

For the Ukrainians, it was a price worth paying.

“President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a clear order to return our heroes. The result: our heroes are free,” Mr. Yermak said in a statement Wednesday evening. “We exchanged 200 of our heroes for Medvechuk, who had already given all the testimony he could.”

Mr. Medvechuk was among 55 people the Ukrainian government handed over to the Russians as part of the exchange, Mr. Yermak said. He did not give details about their identities, but a senior Ukrainian military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the exchange, said they included pilots and senior Russian military officers.

The official did not indicate when exactly the exchange occurred, though Ukrainian news media outlets began publishing photos late Wednesday Kyiv time of what they said were the newly freed commanders.

The exchange represents a significant victory for Mr. Zelensky, who had vowed to bring home all prisoners of war. Returning the Azov commanders in particular is likely to provide another morale boost to Ukrainian forces across the front line, and comes after Russian forces were swiftly routed in a surprising Ukrainian offensive that largely pushed them out of territory in northeastern Ukraine they occupied in the early weeks of the war.

Among the Ukrainians released in the exchange were soldiers, border guards and police officers, as well as several Ukrainian fighters who were pregnant, Mr. Yermak said. The chief of Mariupol’s patrol police, Mikhail Vershinin, who was among the defenders of Mariupol, was released, along with 10 foreigners, including two Americans, who were members of Ukraine’s foreign legion, a group of foreign fighters who have taken part in some of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Also freed were 108 members of the Azov Battalion, a unit within the Ukrainian armed forces that Russian propaganda has attempted to paint as neo-Nazis as part of the Kremlin’s justification for war.

The Azov soldiers’ defense of Mariupol, the southern Ukrainian port city decimated by Russian forces in the first months of the war, has become a source of inspiration and pride for Ukrainians, with the commanders’ likenesses displayed on billboards around the country.

For 80 days, the band of soldiers, wildly outnumbered and outgunned by Russian forces, continued to fight despite heavy losses and a severe lack of food, water and weaponry. They holed up in a warren of bunkers beneath the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, a sprawling factory that became both a fortress and a trap, from which they ultimately failed to escape.

The decision by Ukraine’s military to order the fighters’ surrender in May was a gamble. While it saved their lives, it raised fears that the Kremlin could use them as propaganda, perhaps by staging show trials. It also sent them into punishing captivity. Soldiers released in earlier exchanges described terrible conditions, little food and regular beatings by their guards.

In July, a huge explosion ripped through a barracks where many prisoners from Azovstal had been detained, killing at least 50 of them. The Kremlin blamed Ukrainian forces for shelling the prison, offering shifting explanations for possible motives. Ukrainian officials called the assertion absurd, pointing to their repeated efforts to free the captives. Ukraine’s government accused Russia of murdering them.

Late Wednesday, Ukraine’s presidential administration released a video of Mr. Zelensky speaking with the newly freed Azov commanders, who are now in Turkey. Dressed in military uniforms and looking gaunt and underfed, the soldiers thanked Mr. Zelensky for refusing to give up on them.

“Glory to Ukraine!” Colonel Prokopenko said in the video. “Mr. President, everything is fine with us, the health conditions are acceptable. I’m thankful to you and the entire team,” he said.

Mr. Zelensky called the exchange a “great victory for our state,” but said he would continue to press for the release of all Ukrainians still in captivity.

The State of the War

Ten prisoners of war, including U.S. and British citizens, have been transferred to Saudi Arabia as part of an exchange between Russia and Ukraine, Saudi officials said on Wednesday.

The Saudi foreign ministry said on Twitter that Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, had mediated the release.

The timing of the release was striking, coming just hours after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia intensified his war effort in Ukraine by announcing plans to call up roughly 300,000 reservists to fight while also taking the West to task over its support for Ukraine with a veiled threat of using nuclear weapons.

The arrest of foreigners in Ukraine has alarmed human rights advocates and Western governments, raising questions about the protections afforded to thousands of foreign-born fighters serving in the country, some of whom have been taken prisoner on the battlefield.

The released prisoners included several who had been sentenced to death in Russia-occupied eastern Ukraine.

Among those released were two Americans who had been held captive for more than three months: Alex Drueke, a former U.S. Army staff sergeant who served two tours in Iraq, according to his aunt, Dianna Shaw; and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, a former U.S. Marine, according to Ms. Shaw, who said she had been texting with Mr. Huynh’s family.

“We’re just so deeply grateful,” Ms. Shaw said.

Mr. Drueke and Mr. Huynh, a California native who had been living in Alabama, disappeared together when their platoon came under “heavy fire” on June 9, causing all its members to fall back except for the two of them, according to a statement from Mr. Drueke’s family. They had volunteered to fight in Ukraine and were captured near the city of Kharkiv on June 9 while fighting alongside other foreign soldiers.

Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh in Hartselle, Ala., in April.Credit...Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily, via Associated Press

Alex Drueke in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in March.Credit...Lois Drueke, via Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a statement that the United States appreciated Ukraine’s inclusion of American citizens in its prisoner of war negotiations, and that he had called Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud of Saudi Arabia to thank him for his country’s role in the exchange.

Later on Wednesday, Ukrainian officials said they had secured the release of a total of 215 prisoners, including the foreign fighters and the commanders of the Azov Battalion, who defended Mariupol from within a sprawling steel plant before surrendering to Russian forces in May. The prisoner swap is the largest such exchange since the start of the war.

Five British citizens who had been held in Ukraine by Russian-backed proxies have been released, Prime Minister Liz Truss said, calling it “hugely welcome news.” Ms. Truss thanked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and Saudi Arabia for their help securing the citizens’ release.

“Russia must end the ruthless exploitation of prisoners of war and civilian detainees for political ends,” she said.

The Saudi ministry said it was working to return those released to their home countries, which also included Morocco, Sweden and Croatia.

Robert Jenrick, a Conservative member of the British Parliament, wrote on Twitter that Aiden Aslin was among the prisoners who was released. Mr. Aslin’s hometown, Newark, is in Mr. Jenrick’s district.

Mr. Aslin was one of three men — including Shaun Pinner, a British citizen, and Brahim Saadoun, a Moroccan — who were sentenced to death in June by a court in Russia-occupied eastern Ukraine. Prosecutors had accused the three men of being mercenaries and terrorists who were seeking to violently overthrow the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, one of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine that Russia has recognized.

“Aiden’s return brings to an end months of agonizing uncertainty for Aiden’s loving family in Newark who suffered every day of Aiden’s sham trial but never lost hope,” Mr. Jenrick wrote. “As they are united as a family once more, they can finally be at peace.”

One of the freed Americans, Mr. Drueke, is an avid hiker who before the war had been living on family land in rural western Alabama while hoping to plan “a new adventure” with his Mastiff rescue, Diesel, according to a previous statement by his family.

In April, before leaving for Ukraine, Mr. Huynh told WAAY-TV, an ABC affiliate in northern Alabama, that he had decided to travel to Ukraine and fight after seeing 18-year-olds fighting for their freedom.

Mr. Huynh studied robotics. He had been in the Marines for four years, entering right after graduating from high school.

“I know there’s a potential of me dying,” he told WAAY-TV. “I’m willing to give my life for what I believe is right.”

— and

In a recorded speech delivered to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine criticized countries that have tried to avoid antagonizing Russia.Credit...Dave Sanders for The New York Times

In a defiant address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky outlined what he called Ukraine’s “formula” for peace, calling for nations to give more support to his military and to punish Russia on the international stage.

“A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment,” he said in his address, a prerecorded video that required an Assembly vote to allow.

Pointedly refusing to say the name of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, Mr. Zelensky said that there was “only one entity among all U.N. member states who would say now, if he could interrupt my speech, that he is happy with this war.” He said that Ukraine “will not let this entity prevail over us, even though it’s the largest state in the world.”

Mr. Zelensky has for months pleaded for aid from the world in phone calls with presidents, videos to lawmakers and on social media. Speaking in English, Mr. Zelensky reiterated several of those requests — most urgently, a call for continued arms and ammunition as Ukraine wages two campaigns to reclaim territory that Russia had taken.

Describing the horrors that civilians had suffered in the war, Mr. Zelensky said that weapons, ammunition and financial support would protect lives by helping to expel Russian troops from Ukraine.

“Russia wants to spend the winter on the occupied territory of Ukraine and prepare for a new offensive: new Buchas, new Iziums,” he said, referring to towns where hundreds were found dead in the wake of Russian retreats. “Or at least it wants to prepare fortifications on occupied land and carry out military mobilization at home.”

He also urged nations to punish Russia in the United Nations, at least as long as “aggression lasts.” He said that Russia should be deprived of its veto power in the U.N. Security Council, that a special tribunal should be created to adjudicate the war and that prosecutors should seek out Russian money.

“Russia should pay for this war with its assets,” he said.

And he said countries should not be intimidated by Russia’s leverage with oil and gas supplies, calling for caps on Russian energy prices as a way to mitigate soaring energy costs.

“Limiting prices is safeguarding the world,” he said. “But will the world go for it? Or will it be scared?”

Mr. Zelensky criticized countries that have tried to avoid antagonizing Russia, saying they acted only to protect their “vested interests,” but he did so without naming names. He reserved his most castigating language for Russia itself and for the handful of nations that had sided with Russia in voting against allowing his speech to be played for the General Assembly: Belarus, North Korea and Syria among them.

He ended the address by broaching the subject of peace talks, which have stalled for months despite some progress on specific issues like grain exports and a U.N. nuclear mission.

“Probably you have heard different words from Russia about the talks, as if they were ready for them,” he said, before alluding to Russia’s efforts to call up more soldiers and to hold referendums in occupied territory. “They talk about the talks but announce military mobilization,” he said. “They talk about the talks but announce psuedo-referendums.”

He said that Ukraine, in contrast, was not just ready for talks, but for “true, honest fair peace.” The heads of state and diplomats in the audience gave him a sustained ovation after he added, “That’s why the world is on our side.”


In a rare address, which was prerecorded, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia announced a partial mobilization of his military, effective immediately, stoking speculation that Mr. Putin could officially declare war and a nationwide draft.CreditCredit...Olga Maltseva/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia accelerated his war effort in Ukraine on Wednesday, announcing a new campaign that would call up roughly 300,000 reservists to the military while also directly challenging the West over its support for Ukraine with a veiled threat of using nuclear weapons.

In a rare address to the nation, Mr. Putin stopped short of declaring a full, national draft but instead called for a “partial mobilization” of people with military experience. Though Moscow’s troops have recently suffered humiliating losses on the battlefield, he said that Russia’s goals in Ukraine had not changed and that the move was “necessary and urgent” because the West had “crossed all lines” by providing sophisticated weapons to Ukraine.

The videotaped speech was an apparent attempt to reassert his authority over an increasingly chaotic war that has undermined his leadership both at home and on the global stage. It also escalated Russia’s tense showdown with Western nations that have bolstered Ukraine with weapons, money and intelligence that have contributed to Ukraine’s recent successes in reclaiming swaths of territory in the northeast.

Mr. Putin accused the United States and Europe of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” against his country and warned that Russia had “lots of weapons” of its own.

“To those who allow themselves such statements about Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and some components are more modern than those of the NATO countries,” he said.

Mr. Putin also reaffirmed his support for referendums hastily announced on Tuesday that have set the stage for him to declare that occupied Ukrainian territory has become part of Russia. That annexation could potentially come as soon as next week.

Pro-Kremlin analysts and officials have said that at that point, any further Ukrainian military action on those territories could be considered an attack on Russia itself. Mr. Putin did not spell that out, but warned that he was ready to use all of the weapons in Russia’s arsenal to protect what the Kremlin considered Russian territory.

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” he said. “This is not a bluff.”

​In announcing a call-up of soldiers, Mr. Putin was also responding to those in Russia who support the war but have criticized the Kremlin for not devoting the resources and personnel necessary to wage an all-out fight. Mr. Putin had previously avoided conscription in an effort to keep the war’s hardships as distant as possible from ordinary Russians, but the recent battlefield setbacks, and the drumbeat from pro-war nationalists for a more robust effort, apparently changed the calculation.

In a subsequent speech, Russia’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, put the number of new call-ups at 300,000 people, all of them with some military experience. The mobilization makes it mandatory by law for reservists who are officially called up to report for duty, or face fines or charges. Mr. Shoigu said that students would not be called up to fight and that conscripts would not be sent to the “special operation zone,” the term the Kremlin uses to refer to the war, though observers were skeptical of that claim.

Ukrainian officials called Mr. Putin’s remarks a sign of desperation. “Referendums and mobilization in the Russian Federation will not have any consequences, except for accelerating the collapse and revolution in Putin’s Russia,” said Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

President Biden, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday morning, opened his speech by condemning Putin and accusing Russia of violating the U.N. charter.

“Let us speak plainly: A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor,” Mr. Biden said, adding later, “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state.”

The number of Russian troops in Ukraine — including Russia-aligned separatists, members of private security companies and volunteers — does not currently exceed 200,000, according to estimates by military analysts and experts. If the partial mobilization is successful, the new recruits would more than double that amount, making it easier for Russia to defend hundreds of miles of front lines in Ukraine. However, observers say, most high-ranking personnel have already been deployed, and those called up will need further training and weapons.

Marc Santora, Ivan Nechepurenko and Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.

— and

Tickets to some of the most popular visa-free destinations out of Moscow are either sold out or are skyrocketing in price.Credit...Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Some Russians on Wednesday rushed to buy one-way plane tickets out of the country or expressed interest on social media in moving after President Vladimir V. Putin ordered up reservists to bolster Russia’s military in Ukraine.

Tickets to visa-free destinations such as Istanbul; Dubai; Yerevan, Armenia; and Almaty, Kazakhstan, were either sold out for the next several days or their prices had skyrocketed.

There were no one-way tickets out of Moscow to Yerevan, Istanbul or Dubai for Wednesday on an airline ticket aggregator that is popular in Russia. Aeroflot, Russia’s national airline, had no tickets to Istanbul or Yerevan for this week, according to its website. Aeroflot operates up to eight flights per day to the two cities, according to its schedule.

Channels discussing relocations on the Telegram messaging app have been filled with messages about the border situation and possible ways to get out of the country. Some posters said that they were afraid the Kremlin could shut the border soon for men of military age.

Meduza, a Russian media outlet in exile, published a guide to countries Russians can travel to without visas.

Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said he would not comment on whether the borders would be shut for potential recruits, asking that people wait for the law to be clarified, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency.

For months since the start of the war, Mr. Putin has avoided mandatory conscription, even a limited one, in order to preserve the sense of normalcy in Russia. However, recent Russian setbacks in Ukraine’s northeast have prompted increasingly vocal pro-war nationalists to demand the Kremlin bolster its efforts.

Some Russians also expressed anger at countries in the European Union for seeking to ban them, even those trying to escape from Mr. Putin’s war machine.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which all border Russia, this month banned Russians from crossing into their countries by land, sealing one of the last relatively easy routes out of Russia. Latvia said Wednesday it would not issue humanitarian or other visas to Russian citizens seeking to avoid mobilization.

“So, traveling around Europe is a privilege, but fighting Ukraine is a duty,” said Ilya Krasilshchik, a Russian media entrepreneur.

“It’s great that Russian men now will not be able to enter Latvia and Estonia,” he said on Twitter. “But will go to fight against them.”

Finland, the only E.U. country with a land border with Russia that still allows Russians to cross, said that the situation at the border remained normal. The country recently cut the number of tourist visas it issues to Russians by 90 percent, to only 100 a day.

Valerie Hopkins contributed reporting.


President Biden said Russia “shamelessly violated” the core tenets of the United Nations by invading Ukraine and urged continued international solidarity with Ukraine.CreditCredit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden castigated President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in an address to the United Nations on Wednesday, accusing him of seeking to extinguish Ukraine and its people and of pushing the world back toward nuclear confrontation.

Hours after Mr. Putin issued new threats to deploy Russia’s nuclear arsenal as he pursued the war in Ukraine, Mr. Biden’s speech, which was unusual in its focus on a single adversary, drew a Cold War-style contrast between Russia and the West.

Mr. Biden cast the United States and its allies as the protectors of a fragile global order that has endured since World War II, while seeking to reassert American leadership on existential issues like warming temperatures and faltering food supplies. And he portrayed Russia as the chief threat to global peace, accusing Mr. Putin of making “irresponsible nuclear threats” and warning the Russian leader against following through.

“A nuclear war cannot be won,” Mr. Biden said, “and must never be fought.”

The president opened his address by accusing Mr. Putin of violating the U.N. charter with his invasion of Ukraine this year. “Let us speak plainly,” Mr. Biden said, “a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor.” The war, Mr. Biden added, is about “extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state.”

“If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences,” Mr. Biden said, the post-World War II order crumbles. He added, “We will stand in solidarity to Russia’s aggression.”

U.S. administration officials indicated this week that Ukraine would be a central focus for Mr. Biden in his remarks. Even then, the scope and scathing nature of Mr. Biden’s attacks on Mr. Putin were startling; they appeared to be the most direct and sustained focus on a single adversary by an American president at the United Nations since 2002, when President George W. Bush called the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein a “grave and gathering danger.”

Mr. Biden had already planned to condemn Mr. Putin forcefully, even before the Russian leader announced further mobilization efforts for the war in a speech broadcast on Wednesday morning. That speech also included new threats of Moscow using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. A U.S. senior administration official said Mr. Biden had tweaked his speech only modestly after the news.

— and

The eastern city of Bakhmut near the front lines in the Donbas region, on Monday.Credit...Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

In his provocative 20-minute speech on Wednesday announcing the call-up of hundreds of thousands more Russian soldiers, President Vladimir V. Putin also insisted that his top war aim — “liberating” Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region — remained unchanged and announced his support for referendums that would see that region and other occupied Ukrainian territory become part of Russia.

A day earlier, Russian proxy officials in four regions — Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, which are collectively known as Donbas, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south — announced plans to hold referendums over several days beginning on Friday. Russia controls nearly all of two of the four regions, Luhansk and Kherson, but only a fraction of the other two, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk.

U.S. officials have warned for months that Mr. Putin could use the referendums in occupied areas — which many residents have fled amid fierce fighting — to try to legitimize the illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine. If the territories are formally annexed, the Kremlin could cast further Ukrainian military action in those areas as an attack on Russian soil, and a justification for further escalation.

“Russia can’t give up on people living close by to be torn apart by executioners and fail to respond to their desire to determine their own fate,” Mr. Putin said on Wednesday, referring to Ukrainians in occupied territory, even as reports continue to emerge of torture at the hand of Russian occupying forces.

A senior State Department official told reporters on Tuesday that the United States has “made clear that there will be increased consequences” if Russian forces expand or bolster their occupation of parts of Ukraine, perhaps as a result of the planned referendums.

The official said the world has seen the United States use a range of tools in recent months to punish Russia, and insisted that allies and partners would be ready to join in any escalation, but declined to give more details.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who was expected to address the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, said in his nightly address before Mr. Putin’s speech aired that whatever “sham” vote is staged in occupied parts of Ukraine, his military would continue to fight to drive Russian forces from the country.

“We enjoy the full support of our partners in this,” Mr. Zelensky said. “So let’s maintain the pressure. Let’s preserve unity. Let’s defend Ukraine. We are liberating our land. And we are not showing any signs of weakness.”

Edward Wong contributed reporting.

— and

Billboards with patriotic slogans and images of Russian soldiers have gone up in cities across Russia, as the military attempts to shore up the combat losses it has suffered in months of war in Ukraine.Credit...Dmitri Lovetsky/Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine — This summer, when the Russian military was still grinding out bloody gains in eastern Ukraine, the unrelenting thunder of its artillery on the battlefield underscored the vast arsenal of munitions Moscow’s army could draw on to smash its way forward.

But Russia was struggling with another vital resource: soldiers. As its casualties in Ukraine mounted, military analysts said, Moscow began to engage in what they called a “covert mobilization” aimed at creating “volunteer battalions.” State television broadcasts aired telephone numbers to call for those interested in joining the “special operation” in Ukraine. Solicitations for “contract soldiers” were widespread.

This month, a video emerged showing prisoners being recruited to fight as mercenaries in Ukraine, offering a vivid example of Russia’s desperation to replenish depleted ranks.

Even with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia’s announcement on Wednesday of a “partial mobilization,” Western military analysts, as well as current and former U.S. military officials, said it could take several weeks, if not months, for Russia to mobilize, train and equip additional combat-ready troops.

Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at CNA, a defense research institute in Arlington, Va., said the Kremlin’s first step will likely be to call up reservist officers and others with more recent military experience to replenish badly depleted units in the field. The Russian military has been identifying such personnel for months in anticipation of Mr. Putin’s order, he said.

“Bottom line, it’s not going to change a lot of the problems the Russian military has had in this war, and the military will be limited as to how many additional forces it can deploy in the field,” Mr. Kofman said. “But it does begin to address the structural problems that Russia has had with manpower shortages.”

Crucially, Mr. Kofman said, Mr. Putin’s announcement extends indefinitely the service contracts of thousands of soldiers who signed up thinking that they would only serve several months, and enacts policies preventing them from refusing deployment to Ukraine or leaving the service.

Russia’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, asserted in his speech on Wednesday that 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed in the fighting in Ukraine, offering the first official account of casualties since March. Western officials put the Russian casualties much higher, estimating that more than 80,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded.

Sailors moving a Russian military helicopter during military exercises in the Sea of Japan off Vladivostok, Russia, this month.Credit...Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Even if Moscow can mobilize reservists, the Russian military faces serious shortages in equipment, vehicles and weapons, and generating new units to replace those lost in battle might not happen until early next year, some officials said.

“It will be many months before they can be properly equipped, trained, organized and deployed to Ukraine,” said Frederick B. Hodges, a former top U.S. Army commander in Europe. “And without massive artillery support, these new soldiers will be pure cannon fodder, sitting in cold, wet trenches this winter as Ukrainian forces continue to press.”

Its struggles to mobilize enough regular troops has forced the Kremlin to rely on a patchwork of impoverished ethnic minorities, Ukrainians from the separatist territories, mercenaries and militarized National Guard units to fight the war.

In parts of the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions that Russia has occupied since 2014, conscription is mandatory for men aged between 18 and 65. Many of the frontline fighters are local recruits. Since they are Ukrainian citizens, the Kremlin is cavalier about their casualties, experts say.

Yurii Sobolevskyi, an exiled member of the regional council in Kherson, one of the occupied territories where a referendum is planned, warned on Wednesday that men of conscription age who received a Russian passport or provided their personal data to occupying forces are most at risk of conscription.

“The best way to avoid forced mobilization is to leave for Ukrainian-controlled territory,” he said. “If this is not possible, people should change the place of residence known to the occupying authorities and try to avoid crossing checkpoints and patrols.”

— and

Remnants of destroyed Russian military vehicles on the outskirts of the recently recaptured town of Balakliya, Ukraine, last week.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times

DRUZHKIVKA, Ukraine — The announcement by President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday of the mobilization of thousands of additional reservists comes as Russian forces contend with mounting battlefield setbacks and an emboldened Ukrainian military.

While Russian forces in southern Ukraine are dug in, slowing a Ukrainian offensive around the Black Sea port city of Kherson, they are struggling elsewhere. Russia’s front line in the northeast collapsed in recent weeks as poorly manned Russian defensive positions evaporated following a Ukrainian military breakthrough. Farther east, in the mineral-rich Donbas region, which Mr. Putin has pledged to capture, Ukrainian forces are holding onto what territory remains under their control and attempting to advance into occupied areas. But the Ukrainians are also being worn down after losing two strategically important cities over the summer, and as Russian forces continue to bombard frontline towns and villages.

Russia, which has the world’s second-largest military, has suffered thousands of casualties, according to some of the more modest Western intelligence estimates. Prison inmates have been sent to the front lines as cannon fodder. And despite honing artillery tactics and the use of drones, some of the most basic military skills remain lacking in Russian units.

While Ukraine seems to have the upper hand, Kyiv’s forces, too, are enduring thousands of casualties. Their Soviet-era equipment is in desperate need of replacement. And even with the influx of Western weapons and ammunition, Ukrainian forces are rarely able to match the amount of firepower Russia brings to the battlefield.

But one thing the Ukrainians seem to have in abundance, and that their Russian counterparts often struggle to match, is the will to fight.

For the past eight months, most Russians could have more or less ignored the war, but President Vladimir V. Putin’s announcement of a “partial mobilization” could shatter that illusion.Credit...Nanna Heitmann for The New York Times

Reactions in Russia to President Vladimir V. Putin’s announcement of a “partial mobilization” of reservists broke along ideological lines. Kremlin officials and their cheerleaders issued full-throated support while opponents — who have been largely sidelined — called the move an admission of failure and urged protests in cities across the country.

After the speech, Mr. Putin projected a business-as-usual approach, visiting an engineering university and celebrating the anniversary of Russia’s founding, but his televised address appeared to mark the beginnings of a shift in his domestic strategy in the war. For eight months, most Russians could more or less ignore the war as part of an unspoken agreement with Mr. Putin’s government that anyone who stays away from politics would be left alone.

By announcing the call-up of some 300,000 people with military experience — including former soldiers and conscripts — the Kremlin avoided, for now, a full mobilization that could provoke more public opposition. But even a partial mobilization means that many more ordinary Russians could be called to fight, and soldiers’ existing contracts will be indefinitely extended.

“The period of passive, contemplative heroism, with which the Russian political regime satisfied the self-respect of citizens, is over,” Aleksandr Baunov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote on Telegram. “Now they will be required to make sacrifices.”

The Russian antiwar movement Vesna, or Spring, invited people to mass demonstrations at 7 p.m. local time in cities across Russia’s 11 time zones and overseas in the biggest coordinated protest action since the full-scale invasion began on Feb. 24.

The call marks a test for the beleaguered antiwar movement. Such protests are in effect criminalized in Russia, and since the war began, almost 16,500 people have been detained for protesting the war, according to OVD-Info, an independent human rights watchdog. Russia’s general prosecutor issued a warning Wednesday that unsanctioned protests could result in punishment of up to 15 years of prison for spreading false information about the military, which became a criminal offense in February.

On Wednesday, according to local media, at least several dozen people protested in multiple Siberian cities. Dozens of people have been detained across Russia so far, according to OVD-Info.

Russian stocks fell sharply on Wednesday, with major indexes dropping about 4 percent, extending significant losses from the previous day. The main index for the Moscow Stock Exchange has lost more than 10 percent so far this week, and nearly half of its value this year.

But supporters of the war pointed to Mr. Putin’s speech as a strong response to the West’s arming of Ukraine, and suggested it marked an escalation. Backers of the war have been calling for a nationwide draft for weeks amid recent Ukrainian successes on the battlefield.

Olga V. Skabeeva, one of Mr. Putin’s best-known propagandists on state television, praised Mr. Putin’s veiled threat to use nuclear weapons to protect territory it sees as Russian — including four partially occupied Ukrainian regions that plan referendums on joining Russia. The West has described such votes as a sham.

“The West is now aware that an attack on Ukraine, on those lands, with the use of Western weaponry, including American or any other, will be viewed as an attack on Russia, with absolutely all the ensuing consequences,” she said on her program.

Andrey V. Kartapolov, the head of the Russian Parliament’s defense committee, advised reservists not to try to leave the country, promising that military service would be lucrative.

“If you are called, you will pay the mortgage from your new pay, which will be very high,” he said.

Analysts warned that Mr. Putin’s moves would require more repression, especially as the war goes on and Russian forces continue to struggle in Ukraine.

“Society will slowly get annoyed and indignant,” Tatiana Stanovaya, a Russian political analyst, wrote on Telegram, advising not to expect mass protests to take off. “The regime will increase repression. This is the erosion of Putin’s power in its purest form.”

Jason Karaian, Alina Lobzina, Oleg Matsnev and Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant this month.Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

KYIV, Ukraine — Renewed shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine knocked out the power to one of the reactors on Wednesday, forcing engineers to use backup generators to keep safety equipment running until power could be restored, according to Ukrainian officials.

The Ukrainian nuclear energy company, Energoatom, said that a transformer used to power Reactor No. 6 had been damaged by shelling and that two diesel generators were switched on at 1:13 a.m. to “ensure the operation of fuel cooling pumps.”

By 2 a.m., engineers had found a way to transmit power from other sections of the station to Reactor No. 6, allowing them to turn off the diesel generators.

While all six reactors at the plant — Europe’s largest nuclear station — have been powered down as a safety precaution to prevent a nuclear disaster, vital systems are still needed for cooling and then storing spent nuclear fuel.

Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for the shelling at the plant, which has moved from one crisis to the next after being occupied by Russian forces in early March. It is controlled by Russian forces but run by Ukrainian engineers.

About a month ago, the plant was completely cut off from external power for the first time in its history, briefly plunging it into blackout and forcing the emergency diesel generators to be switched on for the first time. Engineers were able to reconnect the plant to the grid 14 hours later.

As the situation raised concerns of a nuclear catastrophe, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, dispatched a team to the plant led by the agency’s head, Rafael Mariano Grossi.

His team called for a safe zone to be established around the plant and for an end to shelling in and around it. Ukraine and its Western allies have called for the creation of a demilitarized zone around the plant, something Moscow has rejected.

Even though the U.N. agency left two monitors on site, shelling did not stop. A fire at the plant on Sept. 5 caused by shelling severed all external power lines. Reactor No. 6, the plant’s last working reactor, had to keep operating to power the cooling and other crucial safety equipment.

Once external power was re-established almost two weeks later, a decision was made to power down the reactor, putting the entire station into “cold shutdown,” its safest state. But cooling is still essential.

After the plant was reconnected to the national power grid last week, the situation appeared to have stabilized momentarily. The shelling on Wednesday appeared to not affect the plant’s connection to external power, but only the power transmission within the reactor unit itself.

Mr. Grossi said the latest shelling demonstrated the urgent need for a safe zone around the plant. “Until yesterday, there seemed to be less shelling at or near the plant, but this latest episode shows that the danger remains very real,” he said in a statement. “It hasn’t gone away, and we can’t afford to lose any more time.”

The use of diesel generators is the last fail-safe operation for engineers. There are 20 diesel generators at the plant with enough fuel to keep the cooling systems at all six reactors and the spent fuel pools running for 10 days. But they have not been tested to run for more than a day, and keeping them fueled could be a challenge.

As the situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant remains the focus of global concern, a missile strike near another Ukrainian nuclear power plant about 160 miles west also raised new alarms this week. A powerful Russian missile exploded less than 900 feet from the reactors of the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, a stark reminder that Russia can still threaten disaster at any of Ukraine’s four active nuclear plants.

Russian service members sitting next to a mobile recruitment center for military service under contract in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Saturday.Credit...Sergey Pivovarov/Reuters

As Western leaders blasted President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday for calling up about 300,000 reservists for his war effort in Ukraine, China issued a more cautious response, reflecting a desire to distance itself from Russia’s invasion even while trying to maintain a strong partnership with Moscow.

“China’s stance on the Ukraine crisis has been consistent and clear,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a regular news briefing in Beijing, the Chinese state-run media reported. “We call on all the parties involved to reach a cease-fire through dialogue and negotiations.”

“We also hope that the international community will create the conditions and room to bring this about,” he added.

At the start of talks with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in Uzbekistan last week, Mr. Putin said that China had “questions and concerns” about Russia’s war in Ukraine, appearing to nod to qualms in Beijing about the direction that the fighting has taken. But Mr. Xi also sees Russia as a vital counterweight to the United States.

On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, which is meeting this week in New York, Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, denounced what he called Mr. Putin’s “utter contempt and disdain for the United Nations, for the General Assembly, for the United Nations Charter.”

Ben Wallace, Britain’s defense minister, said in a statement that Mr. Putin, who has avoided declaring a draft, was breaking “his own promises not to mobilize parts of his population,” adding that the move was an “admission” that Mr. Putin’s invasion was failing.

Mr. Putin and his defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, “have sent tens of thousands of their own citizens to their deaths, ill-equipped and badly led,” Mr. Wallace said. “No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war.”

Peter Stano, the European Commission’s spokesman for foreign affairs, told reporters that Mr. Putin’s speech was further “proof that Putin is not interested in peace, that he’s only interested in escalating this war of aggression.”

Latvia, a European Union member that borders Russia, condemned the move and said that it would not issue humanitarian or other visas to Russian citizens seeking to avoid mobilization. Latvia’s foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, said on Twitter that the military threat to Latvia was still low, but that officials there would consult with allies.

“Russia is as dangerous to Europe and the world’s peace today as Nazi Germany was in the last century,” he said.

Finland, the only E.U. country with a land border with Russia that stills allows Russians to cross, may tighten its visa policy, according to its minister of defense, Antti Kaikkonen.

Edward Wong and Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.

— and

© 2022 The New York Times Company.

The content you have chosen to save (which may include videos, articles, images and other copyrighted materials) is intended for your personal, noncommercial use. Such content is owned or controlled by The New York Times Company or the party credited as the content provider. Please refer to and the Terms of Service available on its website for information and restrictions related to the content.

​15. Alleged Russian War Crimes in Ukraine Are Focus of U.S., Allies at U.N.

Alleged Russian War Crimes in Ukraine Are Focus of U.S., Allies at U.N.

As Moscow’s threats escalate, the West is using the U.N. meeting in New York to gather international support

By Jessica DonatiFollow

 and Vivian SalamaFollow

Updated Sept. 22, 2022 5:48 pm ET

WASHINGTON—Facing Europe’s biggest humanitarian crisis in decades, the U.S. and its allies used Thursday’s United Nations Security Council special session to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and call for an investigation into Moscow’s alleged war crimes, in the latest step to push back against President Vladmir Putin and Russian aggression.

“We support a range of national and international efforts to collect and examine mounting evidence of war crimes in Ukraine,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the meeting. “We must hold these perpetrators to account.”

France is leading calls for the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute crimes of atrocities in Ukraine. But it proposed few concrete measures, and how the process was supposed to move forward couldn’t be determined.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting that Kyiv supported continuing efforts to create a mechanism to hold Russia to account, but that providing Ukraine with more weapons was critical to prevent more atrocities from taking place.

“The only feasible way to put President Putin and his entourage on trial is to establish a special tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine,” he said later at the meeting. “I reiterate my call on all states to back this undertaking for the sake of the very basic principles of humanity and the U.N. Charter.”

What’s Next in the Ukraine War as Putin Threatens Nuclear Response


What’s Next in the Ukraine War as Putin Threatens Nuclear Response

Play video: What’s Next in the Ukraine War as Putin Threatens Nuclear Response

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons and mobilize 300,000 reservists for the war in Ukraine drew widespread condemnation from world leaders. Here’s what the West might do next and the challenges for Russia. Photo Composite: Emily Siu

Mr. Putin in recent days has moved to mobilize as many as 300,000 reservists and annex occupied parts of Ukraine, and threatened nuclear strikes. Those moves come after Ukraine launched a lightning offensive in the country’s northeast earlier this month, retaking some 10% of territory Russia had captured since the beginning of its invasion.

Mr. Putin’s threat of a nuclear response to battlefield losses in Ukraine fueled a new sense of urgency to the U.N.’s gathering this year, but longstanding differences among permanent members, which include Moscow, have increasingly become an impediment to global security.

The creation of any tribunal to try war crimes is fraught with legal complications and Thursday’s session highlighted the limits of the U.N. body to respond to the crisis. At the same time, the meeting captured a continued effort of Western nations aligned against Russia’s war in Ukraine to strike back at Mr. Putin and to coax countries that have remained neutral to reassess where they stand on the conflict.


U.S. Lawmakers Push Pentagon to Send Ukraine Advanced Drones

P.M. Edition for Sept. 22. A bipartisan group of members of Congress has urged Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to give Kiev advanced drone support. WSJ National Security correspondent Nancy Youssef tells host Daniella Cheslow lawmakers see the drones as a way to help Ukraine maintain its momentum during a successful counteroffensive against Russia.Read Transcript

00:00 / 14:05



“Really the purpose of these council meetings is to draw attention to Russia’s ongoing atrocities, to put Russia publicly on the defensive, and to add pressure to other nations, especially in the global south, that have been on the sidelines in this conflict, to distance themselves from Moscow,” said Ash Jain, the Atlantic Council’s director for democratic order and a former State Department official.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine are parties to the Rome Statute, which created the International Criminal Court. Still the court has begun an investigation into allegations of war crimes, deployed a permanent field presence to Ukraine in May, and following the discovery of mass burial sites in the east last week, it plans to send additional investigators to collect possible evidence.

“The process of accountability, of collecting evidence, of sieving it and weighing it and determining what is shown is not simply an academic exercise. It is critical in order to pierce the fog of war,” said International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan, at the start of the meeting. “When we have done our job, we will in due course present matters to the independent judges of the ICC.”

A screen showed International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan speaking during the Security Council meeting.


The ideal pathway would be to establish an international tribunal through an agreement between the U.N. and Ukraine, according to Oona Hathaway, a professor of international law at Yale Law School, as it would help repair damage to the international legal system.


Are world leaders doing enough to support Ukraine? Join the conversation below.

Using the U.N. Security Council to establish such a mechanism would likely fail because Russia, as a permanent member, wields a veto and would likely block any move. The U.S. and some of its allies have proposed reforming the Security Council by adding new members and changing the veto system, but acknowledge that would be difficult given that it would require China and Russia to approve the move.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, responded to the allegations from the U.S. and France with counter accusations, saying the West was fomenting the war in Ukraine by pumping Kyiv with weapons and supporting extremist groups in the country that trampled the rights of Russian-speaking communities. He also dismissed allegations of crimes in the Ukrainian city of Bucha as staged.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in light blue tie and glasses, accused the West of fomenting the war in Ukraine.


“I think this is very timely,” Mr. Lavrov said referring to calls for accountability for alleged war crimes in Ukraine at Thursday’s meeting, “Precisely this term, impunity, reflects what has been going on in the country since 2014.”

Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 after protests ousted the president and led to the installation of a Europe-friendly government. The U.S. and its allies have repeatedly denied Russia’s accusations of wrongdoing in Ukraine. France’s foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, said that Ukraine’s “only fault was to want to live freely.”

Divisions ran deep among the permanent members of the Security Council, which includes Russia, the U.S., the U.K., France and China, long before Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. Friction among the most powerful countries has hindered the U.N.’s ability to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from human rights violations to climate change.

Ukraine’s ‘only fault was to want to live freely,’ said France’s foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, in light blue jacket.


On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stepped back from the fray and called for continuing dialogue to de-escalate the conflict.

“The top priority is for the parties to resume dialogue without preconditions,” he said. “When it comes to the safety and security of nuclear facilities, there is no room for trial and error. Accidents and risk must be prevented.”

The Biden administration, for its part, has said it would use the General Assembly to help build support for its position on Ukraine, but would rely on persuasion rather than more forceful tactics to persuade member states.

“We’ve taken a position from the start that we are not going to come with a heavy hand on every country that abstained on the General Assembly vote,” a senior administration official said Wednesday, ahead of the Security Council meeting. “We were going to let countries reach their own conclusions. We were going to shape the arguments for them, and we were going to point out to them the reality of what was happening.”

William Mauldin in New York contributed to this article.

Write to Jessica Donati at and Vivian Salama at

16. Ukraine President Zelensky presents plan to end war with Russia

Ukraine President Zelensky presents plan to end war with Russia

The Washington Post · by John Hudson · September 21, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky unveiled a plan to end the nearly seven-month war between Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday at the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

The five-point plan urged world powers to punish Russia and surge military aid to Kyiv in an effort to force Moscow forces out of Ukraine, which Russia invaded Feb. 24.

“Russia wants war, it’s true, but Russia will not be able to stop the course of history,” Zelensky said.

The remarks were an implicit rebuke of non-Western and developing countries who called on Ukraine and Russia to immediately engage in a negotiated end to the conflict.

“Russia will be forced to end this war, the war it has started,” Zelensky said. “I rule out that the settlement can happen on a different basis.”

Scores of nonaligned countries this week maintained a neutral position on the conflict — a stand Zelensky described as only seeking to “protect their vested interests.”

The remarks earned a rare standing ovation from world leaders in the U.N. General Assembly who earlier voted to allow Zelensky to address the body remotely by a 101-7 count — a privilege denied to other world leaders. The Russian delegation remained seated after Zelensky’s remarks, along with delegations from Namibia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.

Zelensky chided the seven countries that voted against his request, saying they were “afraid of a video address.”

As a part of his plan, Zelensky said a special tribunal should be formed to punish Russia. He also said the Kremlin should lose the veto power it enjoys as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Zelensky said the entire international community wants peace except for Russia.

“Ukraine wants peace, Europe wants peace, the world wants peace, and we have seen who is the only one who wants war,” he said, not mentioning Russian President Vladimir Putin by name. “There is only one entity among all U.N. member states who would say now, if he could interrupt my speech, that he’s happy with this war, with his war.”

Zelensky said Ukraine would regain its territory but that it would take time and require military force. He renewed his demands for nations to send military aid to Ukraine so that it can repel Russia’s better-equipped forces.

“We can return the Ukraine flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms, but we need time,” he said.

The speech came as Putin appeared poised to escalate the conflict, announcing referendums in four occupied regions of Ukraine on joining Russia — an apparent precursor to annexation. Putin also announced a partial mobilization order for some 300,000 reservists to join the war.

The Washington Post · by John Hudson · September 21, 2022

17. On Efficacy: A Beginner’s Guide to Strategic Theory

"Strategy to the left of me, campaign plans to the right - here I am stuck in the middle with a strategic problem (apologies for the attempt at humor - my adaption of the song Stuck in the Middle with You" - "Clowns to the left of me Jokers to the right Here I am stuck in the middle with you​")​

On a serious note I think the most used word in the essay is assumptions. We need to think about the importance of assumptions.


Strategy is therefore ubiquitous. It is everywhere. And all of us who function as conscious adult human beings, behave in a manner that might be construed as ‘strategic’: that is, we think, gauge, and assess, the ways by which we can achieve things that are meaningful to us. In this regard, as a process, strategy can be regarded as a supremely pragmatic enterprise: to achieve our aims, to maximise our well-being, to succeed in our goals.

On Efficacy: A Beginner’s Guide to Strategic Theory - Military Strategy Magazine

M.L.R. Smith - King’s College London, Department of War Studies

M.L.R. Smith is Professor of Strategic Theory at King’s College London. He is the author of numerous books and essays on strategy. His latest publication is The Strategy of Maoism in the West: Rage and the Radical Left (Elgar, 2020).

The term strategy is one of the most over-used words in current language. You might have first become conscious of the term via corporate-speak: long, jargon infused, cliché ridden ‘mission’ statements or ‘vision’ documents, usually devoid of any real meaning, where your school, college, local council, university, employer, utility company, supermarket – or whatever – expostulate their lofty and frequently unattainable aspirations, or simply camouflage what they do already, in flowery, feel-good, rhetoric.[i] The word strategy is invariably deployed in such a way that it is intended to sound authoritative and far-sighted, and to convey the image that the people in charge know what they are doing (when often they don’t).[ii]

The idea of ‘strategy’ as something that only supremely accomplished people in high performing roles can understand or accomplish, whilst ‘ordinary’ people should fall into line and execute the ‘strategic plan’ prepared for them, is one of the most prevalent of misapprehensions. ‘Strategy’ as a source of mystery and elite power is an enduring myth, and one that I, as a self-declared strategic theorist, wish always to dispel.

The strategic road map

The first task of this analysis, then, is to reveal that the fundamentals of strategy are not complicated because all of us are, at some intuitive level, strategic practitioners. It is about being effective, that is, realising desired objectives. However, easy though it may be to comprehend strategy at the level of the individual, as I stated in another article for this journal, putting the fundamentals into practice is hard, especially when strategy expands beyond the realm of personal advancement.[iii]

The essay will outline how the idea of strategy has evolved as a method of understanding about what it means to be effective, and that it is not something that is intrinsically tied to war, as many tend to believe, but is about life choices in general. Simple in concept though the idea of strategy may be, this article elucidates the practical challenges inherent in evaluating the notion of effectiveness. It will show how theorists reflected upon lessons from the Cold War and the Vietnam War era, which were particularly instructive in framing a coherent intellectual basis upon which a discipline of strategic analysis can be constructed.

The basis of good strategic analysis, as this article will argue, is really all about putting in the hard effort to understand your surroundings and the factors that impinge on the decision-making processes of you, your allies and your adversaries. It will suggest that this effort can be distilled into six basic principles of strategic analysis that can act as a guide, and a point of entry for beginners, to become more sophisticated strategists. It will conclude by offering several observations about what it ultimately means to be strategically effective, in particular emphasising that strategy is a universal and never-ending intellectual endeavour.

It’s not complicated

Strategy is neither complicated, nor the preserve of some monastic clique of initiates, who have, in some inexplicable manner, gained insight into the world of strategic affairs. There are those, like myself, who study strategy for a living and who profess to specialise in strategic affairs. However, while there may be communities of thinkers who identify themselves as ‘strategists’, and institutes and associations that purport to specialise in strategy, there is, strictly speaking, no ‘guild’ of strategists or well-defined profession of strategy. There is, moreover, no training or fool proof guide that will qualify you as a strategist or make you better at being a strategist.

Nevertheless, in essence, strategy as an idea is straight forward to comprehend. And the reason for this is because strategy is universal. It is all around us. In fact, strategy, both in concept and practice, is profoundly personal. Strategy is about you.

The best way to think about it, is that we are all at some level capable of strategising. We all make decisions, large and small, each day of our lives, where we weigh up the costs and benefits of different courses of action. Often such calculations exist at the level of the mundane. Our decision making is thus usually intuitive or even unconscious, be it choosing what to wear when we get up in the morning, which route to take to work to beat the traffic, or how to balance our monthly budgets until the next pay day.

In myriad ways, far too many to enumerate, we as individuals think and act strategically almost every moment of our waking lives. To put it another way, human beings are more than able to think strategically about their own personal lives. Anyone who is not is likely to lose their way in the world very quickly.

Strategy is all around you

Strategy is therefore ubiquitous. It is everywhere. And all of us who function as conscious adult human beings, behave in a manner that might be construed as ‘strategic’: that is, we think, gauge, and assess, the ways by which we can achieve things that are meaningful to us. In this regard, as a process, strategy can be regarded as a supremely pragmatic enterprise: to achieve our aims, to maximise our well-being, to succeed in our goals.

Since individuals invariably function within collectives – families, clans, neighbourhoods, ethnic and religious communities, and so on – we can discern how strategy proceeds from the micro level of the individual to the macro level of the collective, be it the social, corporate or the state entity. Wider social groupings also possess aggregate goals that they wish to attain, and therefore they, too, operate as strategic actors.[iv]

To be clear, this does not mean that people are evolved to think strategically at the grand collective level, in the spheres of national policy making for example. The preponderance of dreadful policy errors that one can recount throughout history attest to the fact that when it comes to the weighing up of highly complex issues and executing a course of action that is effective and proportional, is all too susceptible to human frailty and miscalculation.

Having the cognition required to think or visualise strategically at the national level, which often means having the courage to take tough decisions, is rare. To reiterate, at the level of the individual most people have the capacity to act ‘strategically’ in accordance with their own interests. To that extent, the basic principles of strategy are simple and observable. Putting them into practice at any other level beyond that of individual advancement, however, is always likely to be hard.

To boil down the essence of what it means to be ‘strategic’, at the level of the individual or the collective, I would say it is to be effective: namely, realising the capacity to attain desired objectives. Efficacy, the degree to which a desired result can be achieved, is the process that strategic theory seeks to capture and analyse within a coherent framework.

What does it mean to be effective?

The objective of this short essay, then, is to reflect upon what it means to be effective, to show how this can be understood and analysed in a systematic manner, and how this process of understanding can be said to constitute the basis of strategic theory. In so doing, the intention is to illuminate what strategic theory entails as an approach to the study of social phenomena, and through the provision of examples from war, politics – and life in general – illustrate how strategy is a universal concept that can apply to anything from national policy, to business, to personal choices.

Above all, the aim is to demonstrate that strategic theory is a method of comprehending how to be effective in decision making. The content of decisions, especially when they involve issues concerning the exercise of military power or national policy, can of course be complex and contentious, but the application of strategic theory is geared towards simplifying the process of understanding, not complicating it.

Demystifying strategy

Demystifying strategy is therefore the first task of the strategic theorist. The easiest way to do this is to first identify, where the word ‘strategy’ originates. Linguistically, strategy derives from the Ancient Greek word, ‘strategos’, which literally means ‘the general’. The term, in this respect, does clearly have military origins and is usually interpreted as the ‘art of the general’ to denote the skill with which a commander wields their forces to attain victory in battle.[v]

However, the timeless essence of strategy as the means of ‘winning’ in war is embedded in the human condition. Whether we like it or not, succeeding in what you wish to gain in competition with others is a universal striving. Therefore, the principles of ‘winning’ in wars, and in life – that is succeeding in what you set out to do, often in competition with others – is an idea that transcends time and space and applies to numerous spheres of human activity.

So, yes, strategy does have military origins, and relates to ‘winning’, though as has been emphasised, the notion of strategy as a pure concept – relating your means to your ends, to achieve your goals – is much broader than war and the practice of military power. Here, I need to outline why strategy, beyond its linguistic origins, is often coupled with war in the popular imagination, rather than life choices in general.

Why is strategy associated with war but is not intrinsic to war?

Strategy is associated with war, namely, the physical clash of organised armed forces, because the outcomes in war are usually easier to observe and evaluate than other areas of life. The choices and consequences in war often present themselves in stark, binary, terms: life and death; victory and defeat, success and failure. Therefore, the criteria for observing or measuring effectiveness is often clearer to see. The same cannot necessarily be said of other areas of life, where the distinctions between what is a successful outcome and one that is not is debatable.

That said, while there are parallels between life, business, and war. The challenge in each of the many areas of human conduct – be it in life, business, politics, or war – is that people often fail to define what constitutes success (or ‘winning’) in clear or measurable ways that lend themselves to an objective assessment of success. No one area, including the stark domain of war, necessarily presents clearer criteria than another; it is how we define (or fail to define) those criteria that is crucial.

Differing approaches to parenting provide a telling example. Raising children is invariably a challenge for anyone, and there is certainly no ‘rule-book’, but there are different styles, or strategies, that might be considered. One parenting style might emphasise discipline, rules, and boundary-setting. The parental goal here might be to ensure that the child grows up with a strong sense of morals, a clear sense of direction and the capacity for self-organisation. The downside of this, however, might be that far from inculcating these values, the child evolves into adulthood feeling insecure, repressed, and resentful against their upbringing.

Conversely, a more liberal parenting style might accentuate a freer and less rule-bound upbringing, with the intention of nurturing the child’s ability to flourish and express themselves. The potential downside is that the child might grow up lacking sufficient self-restraint or be unfocused in their life goals. They too might, in fact, begin to resent their parents as a result.[vi]

Of course, most parents, one surmises, probably do not deliberately think in terms of differing strategies. As Steve Leonard sagely notes, ‘parents can choose to take a strategic approach to raising children, but they generally don’t. By the time they are wise enough to understand how things work, their children are adults already paying for therapy’.[vii]

Nevertheless, the point is that different approaches or styles, if executed only intuitively, will involve the consideration of difficult, often conflicting, choices, where the ultimate outcomes are harder to evaluate in terms of whether they were successful or not. This is the stuff of the ‘strategy’ of everyday life. Different courses of action involve subjective choices, dictated by different value systems, different ways of looking at the world, and different forms of analysis about what is right and wrong, or ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Life is perpetually lived in shades of grey. To be efficacious, is well, complicated! Give me a war to study any day in comparison.

Competence, optimisation, efficiency, rational action and performance

The point is that to be effective in life involves the weighing up of choices and potential consequences. In many cases, there is no obvious right and wrong path.[viii] Strategic theory is therefore all about the study of what it means to be effective in highly contingent settings. But you may ask, what does ‘effectiveness’ mean?

  • Does it mean competence: possessing capability, skills, knowledge, and expertise?
  • Does it mean being able to achieve optimal outcomes: the ability to reach the most favourable, interest-maximising, situation?
  • Does it mean efficiency: the attainment of goals with the minimum of effort and resources?
  • Does it mean rational choices: taking decisions based on objective reason and logic?
  • Does it mean performance: the accomplishment of a task to a high standard?

Or is it all the above? Oh, and by the way, can any of this be objectively measured?

Hmm…well…? Such questions have preoccupied self-proclaimed strategic theorists, usually in the fields of economics and political science, over the decades. A mixture of theory, reflection and experience has tended to lead to a broad conclusion that may not come as a stunning surprise: namely, that being a slave to some or all of the above is a fallacy. The criteria of competence, optimisation, efficiency, rational action and performance cannot establish any objective measure of effectiveness, let alone predict who is likely to be successful in their chosen strategy.

The problem of theorising in the Cold War

American theorists did try, nonetheless, to map out just such a criteria. During the Cold War, theorists of nuclear deterrence – perhaps the earliest, and undoubtedly some of the most sublime, practitioners of a discipline of strategic theory – used Game Theory, imported from the fields of mathematics and economics, to model optimal outcomes and behaviours. This involved a great deal of abstract theorising and modelling.[ix] However, the employment of rational actor-based game theory during this era exposed its limitations as an explanatory and predictive tool.

The problem was this: the whole point about nuclear deterrence was never to use nuclear weapons. Therefore, what was the criteria for effectiveness? Answer: not using them. But you can’t really prove a negative. You cannot show definitively why someone did not do something. Come the end of the Cold War in 1990, you might conclude that you had succeeded in your basic objective of not starting a nuclear holocaust, but it doesn’t give you any measurable criteria of effectiveness. Why so?

Well, in the first instance, proving a negative is conceptually unfalsifiable, but the broader empirical truth is that abstract theorising doesn’t consider the infinitely varied complexities of human conduct. Humans are motivated by issues and concerns that are not always, or even primarily, governed by a material cost-benefit analysis. Your idea of ‘rationality’ or what constitutes an optimal outcome is not necessarily someone else’s idea. Your cost-benefit analysis may be entirely unique to you, informed by your own subjective values and experiences as to what is meaningful and important. Thus, your appreciation of what it is to be effective in the world may be very different from everyone else’s.

The Americans are taught a lesson

So, that’s a problem for diagnostically minded theorists: effectiveness cannot be measured accurately according to some objective scientific criteria. And how do we know this? Because United States policy makers were taught a gorilla of a lesson to this effect in the Vietnam War. In this era, the Americans fought with a plan to impose a ‘rational’ cost-benefit analysis on the North Vietnamese regime. The intention was to inflict more suffering on North Vietnam than the Americans thought they could possibly withstand, particularly through very large aerial bombing offensives and by utilising enormous amounts of firepower on the ground. Yet, North Vietnam possessed a completely different set of moral and practical considerations than the Americans, encapsulated by President Ho Chi Minh who is reported to have remarked to a US diplomat that ‘You will kill ten of us, we will kill one of you, but in the end, you will tire of it first’.[x]

In other words, the North Vietnamese fought to a diametrically opposed strategic calculus. For the Americans, being ‘effective’ was the imposition of ‘unacceptable’ costs on the North, through the massive employment of firepower. The United States asserted a cost-benefit analysis that made sense to them but had no purchase on the North Vietnamese. Why? Because the North Vietnamese communists did not share the same value system as the Americans. The Hanoi regime was prepared to accept huge costs in pursuit of unification and national independence. These were values and goals for which many Vietnamese were prepared to sacrifice everything.

Putting in the hard yards

Usually, I hate cliches, but Sun Tzu’s ancient wisdom that to ‘know the enemy and know yourself and in a hundred battles you will never be defeated’ rings true.[xi] The Americans did not go through the effort of understanding their adversary. They did not seek to appreciate the underlying nationalist appeal embodied in Vietnamese communism.

The Americans are not uniquely guilty of failing to appreciate the adversarial viewpoint. It is a common failing almost everywhere. Had there been, for example, serious consideration given to understanding Russian geo-strategic sensibilities over Ukraine, then Europe may have averted the current crisis on its continent (as several eminent strategic thinkers from Henry Kissinger to John Mearsheimer have already pointed out).[xii]

And that is what a great deal of strategic theory is all about. There is no mystery to it. It is putting in the hard yards to understand your strengths, your limitations, your adversary, and your allies. But, above all, it is about understanding your situation. Remember, strategy is all about you, and what you want. However, what you want is quite often dependent upon the choices and actions of others, who you must influence to obtain what you desire. That doesn’t mean being self-centred or narcissistic. Being effective – being a good strategist – should be an antidote to such failings, because ultimately, strategic theory teaches you not to be intellectually lazy.

But of course, this is all easier said than done. This is why so many policy responses fail. There may not be any mystery to it, but the hard work is antithetical to many. It is not complex, necessarily, but it can be complicated, especially as strategy evolves in scope and scale. The basic formula does not change, but the numbers of variables in the equation increases exponentially. And that gets complicated. That is also where strategy evolves beyond the science and into the art – a truly exceptional strategist is one who can see those variables and sense the interaction between them.

How not to be lazy: what is strategic theory?

Even if the practice of effective strategy remains elusive in many policy making circles, at least in theoretical terms, arising out of the trauma of the Vietnam War, a more secure and balanced understanding of the nature of how to evaluate effectiveness began to emerge within scholarly analysis. It was in the aftermath of this era, that we can therefore suggest that a ‘discipline’ of strategic theory took shape, framed by six underlying principles. It is around these six principles that one can cohere a systematic understanding, of how to investigate matters of strategy.

Before identifying these six principles, let us briefly define what we mean by a ‘theory’ in this context. A scientific understanding of theory is that a hypothesis can survive experimental testing to yield replicable results, and thus reach an approximate truth about a particular matter. Strategic theory cannot aspire to this level of predictive accuracy, but it does constitute a theory more broadly in that it advances a set of propositions that can be held to explain certain facts or phenomena, which can then be subject to scrutiny and analysis. In that sense, strategic theory is less a hard ‘theory’ or set of rules than a set of purposive assumptions that seek to clarify what it means to think and act effectively in the world.[xiii] These can be summarised briefly as follows:

  1. The study of ways, ends and means: Strategic theory is concerned with the ways in which available means can be employed to reach a desired end. As Michael Howard put it, strategy is the ‘use of available resources to gain any objective’.[xiv] Here the term resources (the ‘means’), refers not just to the material elements of power (e.g., economic strength, the numbers of soldiers and weapons, technological prowess, etc) but to the many intangible elements that might impose themselves on a decision maker such as the degree of popular enthusiasm for a cause and the extent to which popular will is prepared to support particular courses of action to achieve or defend certain goals and values.
  2. Interdependent decision making: This is the assumption that decision making is influenced to some degree or another by the existence of a wilful adversary, or adversaries, or other actors more generally, who are also engaged in a determined pursuit of their own values and interests, which may be antagonistic to your own. This assumption means that decision-making cannot be measured against any fixed standard of efficacy, but in the light of the responses that your actions can be expected to elicit from an adversary. Effective decision making, therefore, is dependent on the consideration of the choices and actions of others with whom you might be in contention.
  3. Unitary actors: Strategic theorists concern themselves with ‘unitary’ actors, be they states, sub-state entities, or any other social grouping. Even though all social actors are comprised of individuals and other collectives (for example, armed forces, civil service bureaucracies, social classes, etc.), strategic theory assumes that the decision to act is an expression of a singular collective will. Therefore, strategic theory is primarily interested in examining the choices available to such actors and evaluating the composition of their decision-making, tracing the line of thought any social actor seeks to follow in pursuit of its stated objectives with its chosen means.
  4. Understanding value systems: Evaluating decision making requires the attempt to comprehend a social actor’s value system – that is, how it sees the world, how it thinks about its own motivations and preferences. Strategic theory is, in this respect, interested in how actors construct their interests in the light of their ‘values’, informed as these are likely to be by all manner of contingent historical and social forces. Strategic theorists are therefore concerned with how value systems shape the understanding of national objectives (in the case of a state), and choices and the means that they subsequently employ to achieve them.
  5. Rationality: Strategic theory assumes the actor is behaving rationally, according to its own value system, namely, that it is behaving in a manner consistent with the attainment of its desired ends. This is not, please note, the imposition of rational-actor modelling. Nor does it presume that the actor functions with perfect efficiency or that its decisions will automatically lead to a successful outcome. It does, though, assume that the actor’s decisions are made after some kind of cost-benefit analysis that makes sense to the actor concerned in a way that results in a choice of action designed to optimise the attainment of a desired end in accordance with its own value system.
  6. Moral neutrality: To avoid distorting ethnocentric evaluations, that is, judging others by your own values, strategic theory is disinterested in the moral validity of an actor’s ends, ways, and means. Evaluation of the effectiveness of an actor’s decision making is confined principally to how well the chosen means are used to attain stated ends. This applies to all ways and means, including the use of violent methods, which are viewed solely in instrumental terms. This assumption is a necessary requirement to ensure that insight is gained dispassionately, and to avoid conflating the attempt to describe and understand social action with normative judgements that inevitably undermine any attempt to provide objective analysis.

A point of entry

These six basic assumptions provide a serviceable way to reflect upon the idea of effectiveness. These assumptions incorporate as few postulates as possible, and readers can discern how ideas of competence, rationality, optimisation, efficiency, and performance are presented in qualified terms that are conditioned by an understanding of how any individual actor sees its own place in the world. Presented in this manner, the assumptions of strategic theory are configured to help the analyst avoid situational bias and offer a parsimonious way to investigate social behaviours, particularly in environments where social actors are endeavouring to gain their interests and values against the interests of other actors.

All these assumptions do is provide a point of entry into a much wider set of questions, which those who take an academic approach to the study of strategy would naturally seek to explore, such as how is it possible to gain insights into someone else’s value system? How do we know if an actor has engaged in a cost-benefit analysis? How might we discern whether an actor has reached a point where it has maximised its potential with its chosen means? Like any mode of inquiry strategic theory can be complexified and problematised, but in its fundamental precepts it provides a simple, straightforward, method of analysing how, why, and with what purposes social actors work to attain the goals and objectives they set themselves.

Conclusion: In the end, there is no end

In understanding how people, either individually or collectively, seek to make themselves successful and effective in the world, strategic theory merely endeavours to render explicit what is already implicit in human behaviour. To this end, and drawing upon reflections from recent events (for example, the failures of Western foreign policy interventions in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, ‘surprising’ political events like Britain’s decision to leave the EU, the election of Donald Trump as President in the US, the disproportionate and economically damaging policy responses during the Covid-19 pandemic),[xv] some of the more thoughtful and interesting engagements in strategic theory have sought to establish several solid conclusions about social and political behaviours. With this in mind, and by way of conclusion, let me leave readers with five broad insights that we can derive from this brief discussion:

  1. Effectiveness cannot be measured accurately, but it can be evaluated according to one unimpeachable criterion: namely, did you succeed in achieving your objectives? This statement is subject to nuance and qualifications, but it is an objective marker of success. Did you achieve what you set out to achieve? If the answer is yes, then you have, definitively, performed effectively.
  2. Effectiveness – achieving what you set out to achieve – can be boiled down to good judgement, that is, making good decisions within the contingent settings that you find yourself in at any given time. Of course, this raises more complicated questions as to whether good judgement can be learnt or whether it is something innate, but it points to a particular ability to discern and calculate issues proportionately in a way that attains your goals but at an acceptable cost, howsoever that may be defined.
  3. Non-materially based values often matter much more than material ones. Traditions, identity, customs, and community, as the Americans found in Vietnam, and as elite policy makers are apt to re-discover time and again, are put at a higher premium than temporal concerns. Consequently, cost-benefit appeals based on pure self-interest, preaching or fear have a propensity to fail, at least over the longer term. In other words, money and fear, attractive and powerful incentives though they may be, doesn’t buy loyalty or conquer the mind of those you are trying to win over.
  4. You win against your own value system. The notion of ‘winning’ is not necessarily objective. According to strategic theory, the most important consideration is what matters to you.[xvi] If you have conformed to, or gained, relative to your value system – if you have defended, advanced, or upheld what is important to you – then you have been effective, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
  5. Lastly, even if you have been effective, achieving what is meaningful to you according to your own values, it is wise to appreciate that one’s strategic success is usually only ever provisional and temporary. Strategy is about life and life is continuously evolving. Life is an eternal struggle. As Carl von Clausewitz observed, the ‘result in war is never final’,[xvii] and strategy, like life itself, goes on, and on. It never ends.


[i] For a good example of the genre see King’s College London, King’s Strategic Vision 2029 (London: KCL, 2016), a vacuous 36-page document where the words, ‘strategy’, ‘strategic’ and ‘strategies’ appear no less than 68 times, available at:

[ii] See ibid.

[iii] M.L.R. Smith, ‘Why Strategy is Easy but Difficult (at the Same Time): A Short Study on the Complexities of Escalation’, Military Strategy Magazine (originally Infinity Journal), Vol, 5, No. 4 (2017), pp. 10-13.

[iv] Bruce D. Henderson, ‘The Origin of Strategy’, Harvard Business Review, November-December 1989, available at:

[v] See Mithun Sridharan, ‘Origins: How Did Strategy Evolve Through History’, Think Insights, June 2022, available at:

[vi] See for example, Sarah Naish, The A-Z of Survival Strategies for Therapeutic Parents: From Chaos to Cake (London: Jessica Kingsley/Hachette, 2022).

[vii] I am grateful to Steve Leaonard for his insightful and effective comments, 6 August 2022.

[viii] See Thomas Schelling, Choice and Consequence: Perspectives of an Errant Economist (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980).

[ix] Fred Kaplan, The Wizards of Armageddon (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983).

[x] James M. Lyndsay, ‘The Vietnam War in Forty Quotes’, Council on Foreign Relations, 30 April 2015, available at:

[xi] ‘Sun Tzu’s Art of War’, available at

[xii] M.L.R. Smith and Niall McCrae, ‘Straight from the Freezer: The Cold War in Ukraine’, Daily Sceptic, 21 April 2022, at:

[xiii] See John Garnett, ‘Strategic Studies and Its Assumptions’, in John Baylis, Ken Booth, John Garnett and Phil Williams, Contemporary Strategy: Theories and Policies (London: Croom Helm, 1975), pp. 3-21.

[xiv] Michael Howard, The Causes of War (London: Counterpoint, 1983), p. 86.

[xv] M.L.R. Smith, ‘Setting the Strategic Cat Among the Policy Pigeons: The Problems and Paradoxes of Western Intervention Strategy’, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, published online 23 May 2021, available at:, pp. 1-5.

[xvi] Thomas Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960, pp. 4-5)

[xvii] Carl von Clausewitz, On War (trans. and ed. Michael Howard and Peter Paret), (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986), p. 80.

De Oppresso Liber,

David Maxwell

Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Senior Fellow, Global Peace Foundation

Senior Advisor, Center for Asia Pacific Strategy

Editor, Small Wars Journal

Twitter: @davidmaxwell161

Phone: 202-573-8647


David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email:
Web Site:
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."

Company Name | Website
Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest