This weekly recap focuses on Russian and Chinese campaigns to spread malign and subversive information on COVID-19, President Biden's address to Congress, the planned U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and more.
Russia could blunder in Ukraine as Soviet rulers did in Afghanistan. Unlike then, however, a new Russian thrust into Ukraine could lead to early, heavy casualties. This could quickly bring home to the Kremlin the political costs of any incursion.
President Biden has proposed that the United States and Russia hold a summit in the coming months. If that happens, major gains may be out of reach at first. Some progress might be possible, but the risks may be greater than at most previous summits.
The weaknesses within Russian mercenary forces and within the Russian state in relation to press-ganged youths, conscripts, and casualties may offer opportunities for exploitation in great-power competition. These broader weaknesses in Russian national will to fight could be examined to identify more ways to prevent Russia from aggressively undermining Western democracy.
Prolonging Alexei Navalny's imprisonment, attempting to murder him—or actually succeeding—would only galvanize his supporters. And releasing him could be viewed as a victory for the opposition, making the Kremlin look weak.
China built a wall to protect against foreign invaders, but Russia is erecting a barrier that could weaken its position. Moscow's pressure on neighbors has spurred NATO to bolster its presence in Russia's immediate vicinity.
President-elect Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have wisely promised to extend the 2010 New START Treaty, which cuts long-range nuclear arms. The two leaders may also pursue a broader follow-on accord, but frigid U.S.-Russian relations could put this out of reach. Progress on arms control often comes when political winds are warmer.