June 17, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Putin continues purge of Defense Ministry

Institute for the Study of War

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that NATO may take steps to enhance NATO’s nuclear deterrence, eliciting varying responses from senior Kremlin officials. The Telegraph reported on June 16 that Stoltenberg stated that NATO states are discussing removing an unspecified number of nuclear missiles from storage and placing them on heightened readiness levels due to the growing threat from Russia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Stoltenberg stated that “transparency helps to communicate the direct message that… [NATO] is a nuclear alliance.” Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergei Naryshkin reacted in a level-headed manner and characterized Stoltenberg’s statements about taking nuclear missiles out of storage as “exercises,” stating that he understands that Stoltenberg’s statement aims to scare Russia but “on the other hand, exercises are conducted regularly and should be conducted regularly.” Naryshkin stated that there is no “special significance” to Stoltenberg’s statement and that Russia “must take it calmly.” Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, on the other hand, claimed that Stoltenberg’s statement is “nothing more than another escalation of tension.” Naryshkin’s characterization of NATO’s efforts to increase its nuclear transparency as insignificant “exercises” is notably different than Peskov’s claims that this is part of NATO’s alleged ongoing escalation. Naryshkin has expressed opinions that strayed from the Kremlin narratives previously, most notably when Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly chastised Naryshkin to firmly support Russia’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics on February 21, 2022, three days before the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Key Takeaways:

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that NATO may take steps to enhance NATO’s nuclear deterrence, eliciting varying responses from senior Kremlin officials.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed four deputy defense ministers and replaced them with a “close relative,” the son of a former Russian prime minister, and an economist on June 17 in an ongoing purge of officials in the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD).
  • Tsivileva’s, Fradkov’s, and Gornin’s appointments support Putin’s recent efforts to introduce his relatives and the children of other senior Russian officials to the Russian public and to install economic advisors to the MoD to improve the wartime economy.
  • Russian milbloggers largely focused on celebrating the dismissal of Pankov, Tsalikov, Shevtsova, and Popov and largely overlooked the apparent nepotism that benefited two of the new deputy defense ministers.
  • A Russian state media outlet manipulated an interview with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi to blame Ukraine for strikes against the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in an attempt to legitimize Russia’s illegal occupation of Ukraine.
  • Ukraine’s Western partners continue efforts to train more Ukrainian pilots on Western-provided F-16 fighter jets.
  • The Kremlin confirmed on June 17 that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit North Korea on an official state visit on June 18 and 19.
  • Russian forces recently advanced near Siversk, Chasiv Yar, and Avdiivka.

  • Russia is reportedly experiencing issues with producing artillery shells and select artillery systems.

For full report:   https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-june-17-2024 

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