Keir Giles

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Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron walks past a display of destroyed Russian military vehicles in Saint Michael's Square, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 2, 2024 . (Photo by Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images)

The Kremlin has responded with predictable theatre to comments from foreign secretary David Cameron, after he said Ukraine is free to use weapons supplied by Britain to launch strikes inside Russia.

That theatre was both diplomatic, with the British ambassador summoned to the foreign ministry in Russia on Monday to warn of retaliation, and nuclear: Moscow announced it would be holding exercises involving tactical nuclear weapons in the near future to remind the world yet again that it has them.

The UK position is a sharp contrast to that of the US, which has consistently forbidden Ukraine from using the weapons it supplies to hit targets in Russia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia’s renewed campaign of missile and drone strikes against Ukrainian civilians has begun in earnest. The campaign was long expected — but even so, Ukraine’s Western backers appear to be repeating the same mistakes of last year in responding to it.

During last year’s winter assault on Ukraine’s heating and power infrastructure, intended to freeze the country into submission, Western support efforts focused on replacing that infrastructure — keeping the lights on in Ukraine, but also inevitably lining up more targets for Russia to attack.

This year, the emphasis is on supplies of air defense systems to better shield Ukraine’s skies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia’s war on Ukraine will soon enter another winter. And as surely as the seasons roll around, the debates over US provision of military aid to Ukraine are following their own familiar and predictable cycle.

Supplies of HIMARS rocket artillery, Patriot air defence systems, Abrams tanks, cluster munitions and F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv have all followed the same pattern: initial refusal by Washington, followed by resistance to months of lobbying by Ukrainian officials supported by public opinion across the West, eventual hints of a change of view and finally confirmation that Ukraine will receive the weapons.

The latest equipment on the table is the long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (also known as ATACMS) — currently at the ‘hints’ stage despite long being recognised as a critical enabler for Ukraine’s efforts to evict its Russian invaders.…  Seguir leyendo »

A view of the site where a private jet, allegedly carrying Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin and other passengers crashed in Russia's northwestern Tver region. (Photo by Wagner Telegram Account/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Retribution against Yevgeniy Prigozhin, leader of Wagner’s failed coup attempt in June, was inevitable.

Prigozhin knew President Vladimir Putin’s methods well enough to take precautions. It is known that multiple individuals have changed their name to Yevgeniy Prigozhin as part of the mercenary leader’s efforts to obfuscate his travels.

Therefore it may never be established for certain that he died in the private jet. Even President Putin, in his first comment on the incident, delivered a stilted obituary but stopped short of saying Prigozhin was definitely among the dead. And the crash is so politically significant that there is no chance of a transparent or credible investigation.…  Seguir leyendo »

While the dust starts to settle from Yevgeny Prigozhin’s abortive march on Moscow with his Wagner mercenaries, details of the deal that brought their short-lived insurrection to an end remain incomplete and confusing.

In fact, anybody who says they’re not bewildered by the situation plainly hasn’t been paying attention. But while the short-term impact of the challenge to Moscow’s authority is still playing out, the long-term consequences for Russia are far more clear.

Both President Vladimir Putin, and Russia itself, have been shown to be far weaker than they would like to pretend to be. The sight of Wagner columns apparently being waved through on their way to Moscow, and calmly breezing in to occupy a key military headquarters while holding coffees, has exploded the idea that Putin has a firm and unchallenged grip on power throughout his own country.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Invoking what happened in 1917 may mean that Putin realises he has left this too late, and allowed a real challenge to the stability of his power in Russia to develop.’ Photograph: Xinhua/Shutterstock

Once again Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has taken a turn he never expected. The Russian leader’s brief speech denouncing the Wagner group’s Yevgeny Prigozhin, and what appears to be a significant mutiny, showed he knows just how dangerous the situation could be for him – but if he has a convincing plan for how to deal with it, he didn’t share it.

Putin compared Prigozhin’s actions to the “intrigues” that he said brought down the Russian army, and then the state itself, in 1917. He’s not wrong – this is not unlike the way Russian army units left the front en masse during that military collapse.…  Seguir leyendo »

Vladimir Putin last week gave details of Russia’s stated intent to base tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. The flurry of alarmist reporting on what this meant highlights much of what is wrong with Western responses to Russian nuclear intimidation.

How Putin’s words have been spun in the West may be a surprise to Moscow — but there’s no doubt it will be a highly gratifying one. Because Russia has already “used” nuclear weapons. It’s used them highly successfully without firing them, by trading on empty threats about potential nuclear strikes to very effectively deter the West from fully supporting Ukraine against Russia’s imperialist war.…  Seguir leyendo »

A soldier with the Ukrainian Army tests a drone, near Bakhmut, Ukraine, on November 25. Leah Millis/Reuters

To understand Russia and Ukraine’s very different ways of fighting, a good first place to look is up.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been described as the “first full-scale drone war.”

That description may be a little misleading – all of the ways in which we have seen drones being employed in the conflict have precedents, some of them dating back over a decade.

And this isn’t the first war in which the capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been so thoroughly integrated into operations.

But it is true that the fighting in Ukraine represents the first long-term, sustained conflict where all the currently available uses for drones are an indispensable part of combined operations – and on both sides.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian soldier inspects the wreckage of a destroyed Russian armoured column on the road in Bucha, north of Kyiv. Photo by Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

The patterns of behaviour by the occupying troops now emerging as Ukraine liberates areas around Kyiv have direct implications for how the war between the two countries can – and must – be ended. It is now harder for Ukraine’s friends and supporters to ignore what Ukrainians – and other countries bordering Russia – have known from the start: that they are defending themselves against a war of annihilation.

Organized mass murder of civilians in the occupied areas of Ukraine is not only a natural function of the manner in which Russia fights wars. It also flows entirely logically from the image of Ukraine that has been relentlessly inculcated by Russian domestic propaganda over the course of a decade.…  Seguir leyendo »

The German Chancellor's foreign and security policy adviser Jens Plotner (left) enjoys a hot drink before talks with Russia and France on strengthening stability in Europe. Photo by Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images.

Russia should be pleased with what it has achieved by parking part of its army within reach of Ukraine. Ahead of the upcoming US-Russia meeting and later planned talks within the OSCE and the NATO-Russia Council, there is every sign Russia may end up getting something for nothing – which will only confirm for Moscow that military threats are the best way to achieve its goals.

Russia’s demands have been widely written off as unrealistic. But based on past performance, Moscow has good reason to believe that it can extract substantial concessions. This belief will have been strongly encouraged by the responses to date of US president Joe Biden – both the early mention of finding an ‘accommodation’ for Russia’s concerns, and the promise of negotiation which endorses Moscow’s demands as acceptable for discussion.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ukrainian servicemen in a trench on the front line with Russia-backed separatists near Svitlodarsk in the Donetsk region. Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images.

Russia’s proposed new security treaties with the US and NATO are so unrealistic that it is widely suspected they are designed to be rejected out of hand to give Moscow an excuse to escalate its war on Ukraine.

But the Kremlin may have entirely different outcomes in mind. Based on past performance it is reasonable for Moscow to hope that at least some of the treaty proposals will be accepted. And there are plenty of options for attacking Ukraine that are less costly, and more manageable, than another land invasion.

It is true the draft treaties should be emphatically rejected because even though some may superficially appear reasonable, the way they would be implemented (and breached) by Russia means nothing in them should be acceptable.…  Seguir leyendo »

Conscripts depart by train for military service with the Russian army. It is estimated the autumn military call-up in Russia in 2021 is likely to draft up to 127,500 men. Photo by Sergei Malgavko\TASS via Getty Images.

As Russia assembles both the means for conducting an attack on Ukraine and the excuses for doing so, its demands for avoiding a conflict are expanding rapidly. How the US, NATO, and the West respond to those demands and the overt military threats accompanying them will have far-reaching consequences for the future direction of Russia as a state, and consequently for the security of Europe.

Russia’s drive to dominate Ukraine and dictate its future stems from Moscow’s implicit assumption of entitlement and exceptionalism. Western optimists may continue to hope for a more benign Russia, one that doesn’t terrorise its subjects or threaten its neighbours.…  Seguir leyendo »

British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender in the port of Odessa on Ukraine's Black Sea coast. Photo by Konstantin Sazonchik\TASS via Getty Images.

HMS Defender entered the Black Sea knowing it would be an eventful visit. Between friendly port stops in Ukraine and Georgia, passing by the tense region of Russian-occupied Crimea was bound to be a serious business.

Moscow likes to claim that foreign ships or aircraft in its vicinity change course and retreat when challenged by Russian forces. It is usually a fiction, but Russia needs to tell its people two stories – that it is under threat from a dangerous, aggressive West, but also that Russia itself is strong and can protect itself and see off unwelcome intruders.

This leads it not only to carry out aggressive and dangerous manoeuvres close to Western aircraft and ships on and above the seas around Russia, but also to concoct fanciful stories about the supposed power and reach of Russian weapons, including in the Black Sea.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ryanair passenger plane from Athens, Greece finally lands at its intended destination of Vilnius International Airport after being diverted to Minsk by Belarus authorities. Photo by PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP via Getty Images.

The recent action against a civilian flight between two EU capitals has removed any remaining doubt Belarus is content to continue down the path of becoming a rogue state. There could be no clearer statement that President Lukashenka has turned his back on the West and abandoned any restraint or concern for international censure.

Since the rigged presidential election in August 2020, Lukashenka has placed all his bets on Moscow and Russia has been quick to take advantage of the military opportunities this offered. Russian troops have held demonstrative exercises showing how speedily they can be inserted by air directly from Russia onto Belarus's borders with Poland and Lithuania – all with full cooperation from Minsk.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man prays in the Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo by MICHAL CIZEK/AFP via Getty Images.

The bad news from Russia continues to come thick and fast with the ongoing slow-motion murder of Alexey Navalny in prison and the continuing presence of Russian troop concentrations on the Ukrainian border, both of which present significant policy challenges to supporters of human rights and of Ukraine’s independence.

But the disclosure of a direct attack by Russia on a NATO and EU member state – a massive explosion in an ammunition depot in the Czech Republic back in 2014 – is an action to which a failure to respond assertively would be both inexcusable and highly dangerous.

The Czech authorities say the explosion was the work of the same two Russian military intelligence officers – Aleksandr Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga – who carried out the 2018 Salisbury poison attack.…  Seguir leyendo »

A mass rally in Grodno, Belarus where factory workers went on strike in protest against the election results and actions of law enforcement officers. Photo by Viktor Drachev\TASS via Getty Images.

Having failed to swiftly translate popular support into tangible political achievements, there are signs the protests against the fraudulent presidential election in Belarus may be losing momentum in the face of the state’s resilience and still-confident security and enforcement apparatus.

Attempts to blame the unrest on the West have focused on groups Lukashenka and Russia can both call enemies. And now Aliaksandr Lukashenka is not only inventing anti-Russian policies supposedly held by the opposition, such as suppressing the Russian language and closing the border with Russia, but also a supposed military threat from NATO.

Border movements

Increased military activity inside Belarus does give Lukashenka a wider range of options.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Belarus president Aliaksandr Lukashenka skiing in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. Photo by SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP via Getty Images.

Amid outrage and revulsion at Belarus’s fraudulent election and the subsequent savage repression of protests, Western responses must be planned with half an eye on Russia. Not just for what is often described as the risk of ‘driving Belarus into Russia’s arms’ but also for the danger of unilateral Russian action, with or without Belarusian acquiescence.

In the past six years, there have been endless discussions of what might prompt another Russian military intervention in Europe after Ukraine. In many of these scenarios, it is precisely the situation currently unfolding in Belarus that has been top of the list, with all the wide-ranging implications for security of the continent as a whole that would follow.…  Seguir leyendo »

An airlifter of the Russian Aerospace Forces prepares to fly to Serbia carrying equipment and professionals during the COVID-19 crisis. Photo by Russian Defence Ministry\TASS via Getty Images.

Both Russia and China have mounted combined charm offensives and disinformation campaigns on the back of the pandemic. Shipments of ‘aid’ – reportedly of questionable utility and quality - have gone hand in hand with a concerted effort to deflect any blame from China for the early spread, and an ongoing drive by Russia to undermine states’ confidence and have sanctions lifted.

These concurrent operations have very different objectives, as Russia seeks to subvert international order while China is continuing its bid to demonstrate global leadership - but in both cases, they are seeking long-term gains by exploiting the inattention and distraction of their targets.…  Seguir leyendo »

Celebrations in March marking Poland's 20 years as a NATO member. Photo: Getty Images.

Under NATO’s ‘enhanced forward presence’ programme, small additional contingents from other NATO allies join the host nation’s troops in Poland and the Baltic states to bolster deterrence against any further Russian military adventurism.

These contingents have inevitably become the targets for malign Russian information activities. But so have their communities and families at home.

In the Russian view of information warfare, there is no front line and rear areas, and no non-combatants. According to Russia’s Chief of General Staff General Valeriy Gerasimov, a key feature of modern warfare in the information domain is ‘simultaneous effects to the entire depth of enemy territory’.…  Seguir leyendo »

American and Russian flags in Helsinki on 16 July. Photo: Getty Images.

President Donald Trump's joint press conference with Vladimir Putin has sparked anger, embarrassment and shame in the United States. But there are two key aspects of the summit that are being overlooked. They are that, first, anybody who was surprised by Trump's willingness to accommodate President Putin has simply not been paying attention; and second, that it could all have been so much worse. In fact, both the United States and its European allies may have got off lightly.

Trump's reluctance to recognize Russia as an adversary that means harm to the US was already well demonstrated before the summit, as was his unwillingness to address Russia’s aggressive behaviour against the US and its friends and partners in Europe and beyond.…  Seguir leyendo »