Key Takeaways from the ISW:

  • The failure of Russian operations in Ukraine to achieve Russian President Vladimir Putin’s maximalist objectives thus far is not a permanent condition, and only continued Western support for Ukraine can ensure that Putin’s maximalist objectives remain unattainable.
  • ISW has assessed that the collapse of Western aid would likely lead to the eventual collapse of Ukraine’s ability to hold off the Russian military and that the current positional war in Ukraine is not a stable stalemate because the current instable balance could readily be tipped in either direction by decisions made in the West.
  • US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby stated that the White House assesses that Russian forces will be able to conduct offensive operations more easily when winter weather conditions become more conducive for mechanized maneuver warfare (likely in January–February 2024) — an assessment that is consistent with ISW’s observations and assessments about the tempo of fighting in Ukraine during the winter.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of December 20 to 21.
  • Japan is reportedly preparing to revise its defense equipment export policy to backfill US stockpiles of Patriot missiles and UK artillery ammunition stores.
  • The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) objected to military exercises in Japan involving the Japanese military, possibly in an effort to deter or respond to the Japanese government’s decision to change its defense equipment export regulations.
  • The Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) summoned Russian Ambassador to Uzbekistan Oleg Malginov after Russian ultranationalist and former Russian State Duma Deputy Zakhar Prilepin suggested that Russia should annex part of Uzbekistan, likely demonstrating post-Soviet countries’ concerns about intensifying Russian imperial designs against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.
  • An investigation by Africa-based French-language outlet Jeune Afrique highlights the Kremlin's ongoing efforts to maintain and expand Russia's influence in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Sahel while subsuming Wagner Group operations on the continent.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to formalize avenues for the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia under the guise of humanitarian services.
  • Kremlin-appointed Commissioner on Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova continues to implicate herself in the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia against the backdrop of the death of a 12-year-old Ukrainian girl in Russian custody.
  • The US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a series of sanctions against oil traders with opaque ownership and a Russian-owned ship manager that have been helping Russia skirt the G7 price cap on Russian oil and petroleum products.
  • Russian forces made confirmed advances near Kreminna, Bakhmut, and Avdiivka and continued positional meeting engagements along the entire frontline.
  • The Russian government continues efforts to digitalize and organize conscription through a unified digital register as part of ongoing attempts to improve the effectiveness of issuing military summonses and prevent draft dodging.
  • Russian authorities are using Rosgvardia to perform law enforcement functions and strengthen occupational control in occupied Ukraine.
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