Opening remarks  

  1. Few words about last issue
  2. Don’t miss out on our latest publication!
  3. EVC Talk!
  4. Soviet Joke

Policy & Research  

  1. Russia condemns Western sanctions against Belarus
  2. Putin and the West spar over Ukraine

U.S. Developments  

  1. US Intelligence warns of a possible plan for the Russian invasion of Ukraine
  2. The US, Poland Talk Russian Military Build-up near Ukraine and Belarus

Kremlin’s Current Narrative 

  1. Nord Stream II in jeopardy due to “multiplying lies”
  2. Ukraine “hides behind foreign powers” according to Kremlin

Taipei News

Don’t miss out!

Orban’s Hungary: A Russia and China Proxy Weakening Europe 

Today’s Hungary is adversarial to transatlantic interests and democratic values. Under Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s leadership, Hungary has embraced the efforts of authoritarian Russia and China to broaden and deepen their politico-economic influence throughout Central Europe. Hungary has become the primary staging ground for Russian and Chinese intelligence and influence operations targeting countries in the wider region. Hungary itself is a destabilizing force as it stirs irredentism in its near abroad while building alliances with authoritarian-leaning leaders throughout Southeast Europe. In response, Orban and his Fidesz Party should be increasingly contained and isolated until Hungary’s government decidedly foregoes actions that gravely compromise Euro-Atlantic security and values.

Good Old Soviet Joke

 How did every joke in the Soviet Union start?

With a glance over your shoulder.

Policy & Research

Russia condemns Western sanctions against Belarus

Russian officials condemned the West for imposing a series of sanctions on Belarus over the ongoing migration crisis on the country’s border. On Thursday, the United States, the European Union, Britain, and Canada agreed to place sanctions against several Belarussian officials. The West has accused President Lukashenko of “unleashing an unprecedented wave of asylum seekers in retaliation for existing sanctions imposed by the EU on his country.”

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova responded to the sanctions stating they are “inhumane” and unnecessarily harm Belarussian citizens. Russia’s reaction shows its use of Belarus as a political destabilizer towards the EU and the West. Its strategy of supporting Belarus shows that it can find different ways to indirectly place political influence across European affairs.

Putin and the West spar over Ukraine

President Putin demanded “legal guarantees” on Wednesday that the NATO alliance would never expand eastward, ratcheting up the stakes as the West scrambled to respond to Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine. NATO officials and Ukraine’s foreign minister met in Riga last Sunday to discuss possible replies to the rising army buildup near Ukraine’s border. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, emphasized the need for additional military equipment to deter Russian military presence at these meetings.

President Putin considers the military expansion of US and NATO an existential threat to Russian territorial integrity. Moreover, he uses the deepening partnership of Ukraine with is western allies as a justification for the current Russian army build-up operation on its border. Russia views Ukraine’s membership in NATO as a threat to its strategic hegemony and influence. Ukraine feels the only way to prevent Russian pressure is Western military aid and further integration with the West.

U.S. Developments

US Intelligence warns of a possible plan for the Russian invasion of Ukraine

An unclassified US intelligence document first reported by the American outlet Washington Post on Friday reveals that Moscow has plans to launch a military offensive involving roughly 175,000 troops and 100,000 reservists in early 2022. 

The unclassified document details some of the US intelligence findings including the positioning of tactical groups, heavy armour and other equipment. US officials have stressed that the intelligence report does not show that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to execute the plan. 

After a conversation with his European allies, US President Joe Biden warned that the US and its allies would impose “significant and severe economic harm on the Russian economy” if Putin decides to invade Ukraine. 

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that it plans to invade Ukraine and has blamed the tensions on the US and NATO. 

Initially, the US intelligence was shared among EU member states and with NATO members to help convince some sceptical countries including Germany that the Kremlin could soon order an invasion of Ukraine. The efforts by the US have galvanized support among the EU and NATO. 

This is not the first time Russia has moved troops around the Ukrainian border. Earlier in April, Russia suddenly moved 100,000 troops, tanks, aircraft, naval forces and warfare equipment a move which alarmed Kyiv and its western allies. Some troops eventually returned to their bases. 

The US, Poland talk Russian military build-up near Ukraine and Belarus

The US is reaching out to its European allies including Poland in response to Russian military build-up along the Ukraine-Russia border.

Last Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke on the phone with Polish Minister of National Defense Mariusz Blaszczak to discuss the “unusual military activity” at the Ukrainian border. The two discussed the migrant situation at the Poland-Belarus border. Poland and the EU have accused the Lukashenko regime of using thousands of migrants to raise tensions. 

On the Polish-Belarus border, Reuters reported that fewer migrants are crossing, but Poland is still at risk of provocations by Belarusian forces. 

Russia has repeatedly accused the US and its NATO allies of stoking tensions in the region by arming Ukraine and has denied that it plans to invade Ukraine. The Russian state media outlet TASS quoted Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu who alleged that US strategic bombers were practising nuclear weapons against Russia. 

Kremlin’s Current Narrative

Nord Stream II in jeopardy due to “multiplying lies”

A recent RT article demonstrates the Kremlin’s defensive response to German comments around the Russia and Ukraine conflict, where Germany stated that NS2 will be phased out in the event of the Russian invasion. According to “experts” consulted by RT, “political forces in Europe and the United States opposing the implementation of Nord Stream 2 are using the information campaign about the “invasion” of Ukraine as a political reason to stop the project.” RT unironically quotes Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, who says “The US State Department is pumping these fakes, this lie, both its allies and the heads of the media and political science centres in the US, so that they multiply, multiply and multiply this lie”, a quote that well applies to its purpose.

Ukraine “hides behind foreign powers” according to Kremlin

RT reports on the Russian MFA’s declaration of Ukraine’s desire to “huddle” under external control in order to share international blame for the failure of the Minsk agreements – commenting on the conflict, RT quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, who noted the role of the US should only be “to force Kyiv to fully implement the agreements” and that such an approach is the only reliable possible solution”, an argument which puts the onus on Ukraine and US rather than Russia as instigators and continuers of the conflict. In addition to portraying Ukraine as hiding behind foreign powers, the article quotes multiple figures such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who argue that Russia is fulfilling all of its obligations and that NATO is aggravating the situation.

Taipei News

Despite the angry reaction of China, the country of Lithuania confirmed last week that it is firmly decided to carry on with deepening relations with Taiwan. “Lithuania reaffirms its adherence to the ‘One China’ policy, but at the same time has the right to expand cooperation with Taiwan,” the ministry of foreign affairs said in a public statement. The last step of Vilnius-Taipei cooperation that brought loud criticism by Beijing was the action of Lithuania that allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in its capital. The institution is officially called the ‘Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania‘ and opened at the end of November. At this moment, only 15 countries in total keep formal diplomatic ties with the island country, the rest is fearing to make their relations fully official due to China’s threats. 

Therefore, other offices of Taiwan in Europe and North America (that de facto provide all functions as an actual embassy would) use the name of the city Taipei, thus circumventing a direct reference to the island itself, in order to avoid a direct clash with Beijing. Also, in this case, Beijing had reacted by expelling the Lithuanian ambassador in protest against the growing ties between his country and Taiwan. Additionally, China announced that relations with the Baltic country would be downgraded to the level of charge d’affaires, a level below ambassador. Nevertheless, the case of Lithuania clearly shows, that there is growing support for Taiwan in the international community and, most importantly, that even smaller countries are able to withstand China’s pressure when firmly standing their ground. Despite Chinese protests, Vilnius announced it will go on with its plans and general policy concerning relations with Taiwan.

Moreover, they received also international support for their stance when the U.S. offered support to face Chinese pressure and in connection to it, Washington and Lithuania will sign an export credit agreement with the American Export-Import Bank that will amount to 600 million dollars. At the same time, other Baltic countries are silently expected to follow Lithuania’s example in the future.

Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values Center for Security Policy, which aims to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations focused against the liberal-democratic system.