Russian officials are promoting an information operation that falsely frames Russia’s war in Ukraine as existential to the continued existence of the Russian Federation. In an interview with TV channel Rossiya-1 on February 26, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that he does not know if “such an ethnic group as the Russian people can survive in the form in which it exists today” if the West succeeds in “destroying the Russian Federation and establishing control over its fragments.” Putin accused the collective West of already having plans “set out on paper” for the destruction of the Russian Federation in its current form. Putin also remarked that Russia had to suspend its participation in the START treaty in order to ensure its strategic stability and security in the face of a concerted Western effort to use START to cripple Russia’s strategic prospects.
Putin began to set conditions for the perpetuation of this information operation in his speech to the Federal Assembly on February 21, where he blamed the collective West for using the war in Ukraine to threaten the existence of the Russian Federation. Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev invoked similarly existential sentiments in an essay entitled “Points of No Return” published on February 27 in which he accused the West of fueling the current situation in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union and concluded that “the calm power of our great country and the authority of its partners are the key to preserving the future of our entire world.” Both Putin‘s and Medvedev’s statements engage with an information operation that frames the war in Ukraine as existential to the continued survival of the post-Soviet Russian Federation, which is likely an attempt to present the war as having higher stakes for Russia and the West than it actually does. Putin likely hopes to set informational conditions to accuse Ukraine and the West of threatening the survival of the Russian Federation in response to Russian military failures and Western support for Ukrainian victories. No prominent Western official has called for the dissolution of the Russian Federation, and Western leaders have been very careful to articulate their aims as being to enable Ukraine to liberate all its territory at most. Putin’s language is designed to fuel support for the war in Russia and stoke fears in the West of the instability that would follow the collapse of Russia to deter Western support to Ukraine and persuade the West to coerce Kyiv into accepting Russian demands.
Russian officials continue to engage in information operations in an attempt to discourage the Western provision of military aid to Ukraine. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated during a TV interview with Rossiya-1 on February 26 that the types of weapons that the West decides to provide to Ukraine will determine how far Russian troops will need to “push the threat away” from Russian borders. Putin made a similar statement in his February 21 address to the Federal Assembly. These statements are likely meant to discourage the West from providing long-range systems to Ukraine by suggesting that the provision of such systems will protract the war by “forcing” Russia to take more Ukrainian territory to be “safe.” ISW has previously reported on concerted Russian information operations to discourage Western military aid to Ukraine.
- Russian officials are promoting an information operation that falsely frames Russia’s war in Ukraine as existential to the continued existence of the Russian Federation.
- Russian officials continue to conduct information operations in an attempt to discourage the Western provision of military aid to Ukraine.
- Ukrainian military officials continue to respond to Western concerns over Ukrainian capabilities and suggest that Ukrainian forces are preparing for a spring counteroffensive in southern Ukraine.
- A reportedly captured Russian military manual suggests that Russian forces are implementing new assault tactics to compensate for the current limitations on combat capability in light of continued offensive failures.
- The manual suggests that Russian forces are trying to adopt smaller and more agile combined arms formations than were employed earlier in the war.
- The tactics of the assault detachment additionally suggest that the Russian military may be attempting to institutionalize tactics used to marginal tactical effect by the Wagner Group in Bakhmut.
- US Central Intelligence Director William Burns stated on February 25 that the CIA is confident that Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment to Russia but has not made a final decision or provided lethal aid to Russia.
- Ukrainian officials stated that Russian forces have been concentrating and escalating operations along the Luhansk Oblast front line.
- Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna.
- Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks across the Donetsk Oblast front line, and Russian sources widely claimed that Wagner Group forces made territorial gains north of Bakhmut.
- Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces continue to focus on establishing defensive fortifications in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast and Crimea.
- Russian forces are continuing to expend their already limited stocks of precision munitions.
- Russian officials announced that all social support measures will enter into force in occupied territories on March 1.