Putin’s response to the COVID-19 crisis is focused on shaping reality to conform to his desired narrative. The Kremlin is restricting the free flow of information on COVID-19, jailing doctors, and obfuscating its public infection numbers to support Putin’s central narrative that COVID-19 will affect Russia less than much of the world. The Kremlin is additionally testing new methods of societal control as part of its efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. The Kremlin will retain these improved authoritarian tools for use against future opposition.
The Kremlin is exploiting calls by the United Nations for limited sanctions waivers to combat COVID-19, to advance the Kremlin’s longstanding objective of removing international sanctions on Russia and its partners. The Kremlin has launched an information campaign on this issue and is leveraging its sanctioned allies around the world, alongside networks of Russia-amenable actors in Europe, to amplify the Kremlin’s message.
Russia in Review is a weekly intelligence summary (INTSUM) produced by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). This ISW INTSUM series sheds light on key trends and developments related to the Russian government’s objectives and its efforts to secure them.
Likely Russian actors conducted a disinformation campaign against Ukraine exploiting COVID-19 fears related to the Ukrainian government’s evacuation of its citizens from Wuhan, China. The campaign’s tactics, timing, and nature all point toward Kremlin involvement.
The Kremlin is successfully posturing as a legitimate, impartial mediator for the war in Donbas despite being a belligerent in the conflict. Claims that the Kremlin-initiated peace process is stabilizing the war in Donbas misrepresent the reality of the Kremlin’s actions and objectives.
The Kremlin is successfully increasing its political influence in Moldova. The pro-Kremlin Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova won the largest share in the February 24 Moldovan Parliamentary Elections.
The U.S. and NATO must recognize that Russia is serious about integrating information operations with both conventional and unconventional military operations and adjust their preparations for potential conflict with Russia accordingly.
Russia's brazen act of war on Ukraine in the Sea of Azov is part of a broader deliberate campaign by Russia to test the resolve of the U.S. and NATO.
Russia is a poor country—its economy is roughly the size of Italy’s on a bigger population and a vast territory—and conventional warfare is exceedingly expensive. That is why Russia’s Vladimir Putin has opted for hybrid warfare whenever possible—it is the manner of fighting best suited to the brilliant poor.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's political-military campaign in Ukraine undermines Ukraine's sovereignty and threatens Europe more than three years after Russia's invasion. Russian leaders will continue to extend and exploit the war to destabilize Ukraine and prevent its further integration with the West until the costs of their campaign change their calculus.