• Russia has recently started extending defensive positions along its international border with Ukraine, and deep inside its Belgorod region. On 6 December 2022, the governor of Belgorod announced he was establishing local ‘self-defence units’.
  • Trench digging has been reported in Belgorod since at least April 2022, but the new constructions are probably more elaborate systems, designed to rebuff mechanised assault.
  • There is a realistic possibility that the Russian authorities are promoting defensive preparations within internationally recognised Russian territory to burnish patriotic feeling.
  • However, it probably illustrates some Russia decision-makers’ genuine (but false) belief that there is a credible threat of invasion by Ukrainian forces.
  • Paucity in strategic assessment is one of the critical weaknesses in the central Russian government architecture: as highlighted by Russia’s original decision to invade Ukraine.
  • Impartial official analysis is almost certainly frequently undermined by a tendency toward group-think and politically expedient conclusions.

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