Key Takeaways from the ISW:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened Finland and the wider NATO alliance in a statement ostensibly meant to dismiss concerns about the threat Russia poses to NATO.
  • Putin’s reassurances about his peaceful intentions toward NATO ring hollow in the context of the threats he and Kremlin pundits have recently been making against NATO member states.
  • Putin has been seeking to curtail and weaken NATO for two decades and continually demands changes to the alliance that would amount to dismantling it.
  • Putin’s interview indicated that he continues to perceive the West as weak, contrasting with his confidence in the growth of Russia’s power over the past two decades.
  • Putin is increasingly invoking a purposefully broad, vague, and pseudo-realist conception of Russian sovereignty in an effort to justify Russian goals to impose Putin’s will in Ukraine and beyond.
  • Putin continues to express a world view in which Russia must impose its will without any compromise or face existential consequences.
  • The Kremlin's repeated rhetoric about its hostile intent towards NATO, coupled with Russia’s potential future military capabilities in the event of Russian victory in Ukraine, poses a credible - and costly - threat to Western security.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of December 16 to 17.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia on December 17 and advanced in some areas.
  • Relatives of Russian mobilized personnel continue to appeal directly to high-ranking Russian military and political officials about demobilization and the return of their relatives from Ukraine.
  • The Kremlin continues attempts to expand political infrastructure in occupied Ukraine in an effort to further integrate occupied territories into Russia.

Authors: Riley Bailey, Kateryna Stepanenko, Christina Harward, Angelica Evans, and Frederick W. Kagan.

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