ISW’s Russia team is closely monitoring the ongoing situation around Ukraine, including Russian force deployments, rhetorical changes, and Western responses. This issue includes coverage of Russian activity in Vietnam, Egypt, Belarus, the Balkans, India, Tajikistan, and Germany.
Turkey’s volatile currency has worsened the humanitarian crisis in northern Syria and raised the cost of Ankara’s governance responsibilities there. The Turkish lira’s recent volatility and Turkey’s high inflation rates pose significant problems for not only those living in Turkey but also in Turkish-controlled northern Syria, where Turkey has built extensive financial networks and introduced the use of its currency. The Turkish lira lost up to 40 percent of its value over 2021 as a result of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unconventional monetary policies. The lira’s value has improved slightly and stabilized since December 20, but price hikes on basic goods will likely remain, disrupting the purchasing power of Turks and Syrians alike.
The Taliban central leadership continues to consolidate its power within Afghanistan by asserting control over the judicial system, replacing civil servants with Taliban loyalists, expelling some Taliban fighters, and meeting with Shi’a community leaders. The Taliban leadership will continue to appoint Taliban members throughout the Afghan bureaucracy in order to exert control over the state and reward its fighters and commanders. The Taliban’s work with Shi’a communities may run into conflict in the future, however, as the Taliban has historically persecuted Shi’a communities in Afghanistan and some hardline elements of the Taliban may not support this change in policy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is amassing a large force near the Ukrainian border and reportedly has a military plan to invade and conquer most of unoccupied Ukraine. Western leaders are rightly taking the threat of such an invasion very seriously, and we cannot dismiss the possibility that Putin will order his military to execute it. However, the close look at what such an invasion would entail presented in this report and the risks and costs Putin would have to accept in ordering it leads us to forecast that he is very unlikely to launch an invasion of unoccupied Ukraine this winter. Putin is much more likely to send Russian forces into Belarus and possibly overtly into Russian-occupied Donbas. He might launch a limited incursion into unoccupied southeastern Ukraine that falls short of a full-scale invasion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is amassing a military force on and near Ukraine’s borders large enough to conduct a full-scale invasion. Western intelligence agencies have reportedly intercepted Russian military plans to do so by early February. Visible Russian military activities and these plans so clearly support preparations for an invasion that it seems obvious that Putin really might invade if his demands are not met.