Few developments will embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin more than regaining influence in his priority theater and weakening Western sanctions. Putin is currently advancing these objectives. The Kremlin is regaining influence in Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. It is likely using Belarus to rebuild its influence in Ukraine. This progress comes at little cost to Putin. The Kremlin has not curbed its aggression. It is instead focused on changing perceptions and fueling the self-imposed urgency in the West for a settlement of the war on Ukraine. Russia arguably needs the deal more in order to lift sanctions. A recent shift in Western rhetoric in Putin’s favor and tension in U.S.-Ukraine relations have weakened Ukraine’s negotiating position with the Kremlin. Putin’s progress is neither solidified, nor is it inevitable. The West can prevent the Kremlin from regaining and linking its influence in its neighboring states. The West should help stave off the more dangerous scenarios that are emerging in Ukraine.
The Kremlin is regaining influence in Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus to varying degrees. In Ukraine, the Kremlin is exploiting President Volodymyr Zelensky’s haste to establish peace in Eastern Ukraine and his perception of diminishing Western support to force him into an agreement on Russia’s terms. In Moldova, the Kremlin facilitated a parliamentary coalition under a veneer of cooperation with the West to legitimize its preferred political actor – Moldovan President Igor Dodon. In Belarus, the Kremlin began to reap the benefits of a multi-year campaign targeting President Alexander Lukashenko with the aim to force deeper Belarus-Russia integration through the Union State mechanism. The Union State is a planned but not yet implemented federation-type entity that would ensure Belarus’ allegiance to Russia.
The Kremlin, if unimpeded, is on a trajectory to regain its influence in the former Soviet Union (FSU), legitimize its aggression in Ukraine, and weaken the Western sanctions regime. The Kremlin is making progress without making meaningful concessions or curbing its aggressive behavior. The West will face an emboldened Kremlin if it allows Putin to deepen his grip over the FSU at limited cost.
THE KREMLIN’S RECENT GAINS
The Kremlin has been conducting a months-long campaign to exploit Zelensky’s election promises, which include a self-imposed deadline to reach a settlement of the conflict in the Donbas (Eastern Ukraine). U.S. domestic political tensions that have ensnared Ukraine have also weakened Zelensky who is now more vulnerable to Putin’s pressure. The Kremlin moved closer to achieving its objectives of legitimizing its proxies without giving up control over them. ISW forecasted this risk in March 2019. The Kremlin is likely simultaneously setting conditions to generate options for escalating in more dangerous ways.
Zelensky made several concessions to the Kremlin without getting much in return. He agreed to the so-called “Steinmeier Formula” on October 1 that risks holding elections in Donbas on Russian terms. Thousands of Ukrainians have since been protesting in Kyiv against what they view is a capitulation to Russia. The formula – at least in its current form – provides no mechanism for the verified withdrawal of Russian forces from Donbas during the elections. The presence of Russian troops precludes a legitimate vote. The Kremlin claimed that it does not have control over the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR)” and “Luhansk People's Republic (LNR)” on October 7 in response to a question about the Kremlin’s willingness to guarantee the disengagement of its proxies. This feint indicates the Kremlin’s unwillingness to guarantee disengagement of its forces. The Kremlin might create a veneer of compliance using its signature hybrid tactics. For example, it may order some of its proxies to temporarily stand down or leave the territory, but the majority of the Russia-controlled forces will likely stay. This plan also ignores Russia’s control of the information space in Donbas that would influence any vote.
Zelensky has made additional concessions to Russia. He withdrew some Ukrainian forces from the frontlines and promised additional redeployments. He stated the intent to lift the economic blockade and renew railway transportation links to territories illegally occupied by Russia. Zelensky released a witness in the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 by Russian-controlled forces in 2014 at Russia’s request during a recent prisoner exchange. Numerous Russia-linked powerbrokers have returned to Ukraine’s political scene. Ukraine also resumed importing electricity from the Russian power grid after a four-year pause on October 1.
The Kremlin has continued to raise its pressure on Ukraine despite Zelensky’s concessions. Russian-controlled proxies continued to violate the ceasefire, including near the designated disengagement area. The Kremlin has consolidated control over the railway systems of the DNR and the LNR.” The Kremlin took steps to integrate the DNR and LNR’s banking systems with Russia’s banking system. The Kremlin has applied pressure at critical moments, namely during the prisoner exchange when Russia stalled in a likely attempt to extract additional concession from Zelensky. The Kremlin included the Steinmeier Formula as a precondition of further Normandy Four (Ukraine, France, Germany, and Russia) talks, which Zelensky is eager to hold.
Most Dangerous Scenarios
The Kremlin will continue to pressure Zelensky to legitimize Russia’s proxies in order to lift sanctions and create a permanent enclave of influence in Ukraine. Putin could be setting conditions for more dangerous scenarios, however. Russia might intend to launch a renewed push for Ukraine’s federalization if it succeeds in legitimizing the DNR and LNR. Russia initially intended to federalize at least six regions in Ukraine in 2014. The Kremlin will try to conceal its push for federalization under the guise of Ukraine’s ongoing decentralization efforts.
The Kremlin might also decide to destabilize Ukraine from within. Elements within Ukrainian civil society and the Ukrainian military view Zelensky’s policies as a surrender of Ukraine’s national interests. The Kremlin might fuel the resultant friction to ignite internal discontent and use it as a justification to introduce a “peacekeeping force” directly or through a proxy, like Belarus. Zelensky said on October 10 that he is open to discussing a peacekeeping force in Donbas via the Normandy Four talks. The Kremlin-controlled media is already pinning the pause in the peace process – caused by Russia and its proxies’ violations of the ceasefire in Donbas – on ‘Ukrainian radicals who want war’ and are planning ‘a coup.’
The Kremlin’s campaign to integrate Belarus with Russia is advancing, despite resistance from Lukashenko. Lukashenko stated that Belarus and Russia would finalize the implementation of a road map for the Union State by December 8. The countries are discussing creating a joint tax code. Russia continues to grow its control over the Belarusian Armed Forces. Russia led a major military exercise with Belarus in September 2019 and explicitly practiced defending the Union State. The exercise marked the final stage of a two-year cycle of joint training between the Russian and Belarusian militaries. The Kremlin initiated the process of updating the Union State military doctrine in 2018.
The Kremlin might be leveraging Belarus to expand its influence in Ukraine. Lukashenko offered to send Belarusian peacekeepers to Ukraine on September 26. The Kremlin has an interest in placing its peacekeepers in Ukraine as a legitimized military presence. Putin might intend to use Belarusian peacekeepers as a proxy force. The use of forces from FSU states as a Russian proxy is potentially an emerging adaptation of the Kremlin’s hybrid warfare. Ukraine signed over a dozen deals with Belarus on October 4 reportedly worth of $500 million. Lukashenko invited Ukraine to develop a joint project on missile engineering and stated that Belarus is ready to develop a network of joint roads with Ukraine. Belarusian officials expressed willingness to supply electricity to Ukraine during the “Russian Energy Week” in October. Russia has an interest in building its energy leverage over Ukraine and expanding its access to Ukraine’s military industrial complex. ISW forecasted that Russia would attempt to revive its economic presence in Ukraine under Zelensky. ISW will be watching for indicators of Russian efforts to leverage Belarus and other foreign partners to achieve this goal.
The Kremlin facilitated a Moldovan parliamentary coalition between pro-European and pro-Russian forces in June 2019 and signaled nominal alignment with the West. The Kremlin rapidly moved to regain influence to reverse major setbacks in recent years – a risk ISW forecasted in June 2019. Russian officials stated on June 24 that relations between Russia and Moldova were officially ‘unfrozen’. Dodon said that Moldova would “no longer take a systematic anti-Russian approach” and aims to restore strategic cooperation at all levels with Russia.
The Kremlin used this rapprochement to initiate a series of engagements across the military, political, economic, and informational domains. The Kremlin launched an outreach campaign, including at least ten high-level visits with Moldovan officials in the past three months. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu suggested a three-year military cooperation plan between Russia and Moldova during an unofficial visit on August 24 – the first time a Russian senior military official visited Moldova in years. Moldova is considering a Russia-proposed military cooperation plan – a development that would have been unlikely several months ago. Moldova lifted the ban on Moldovan politicians traveling to Russia on June 26. The Russia-Moldova Inter-Parliamentary Commission also resumed its work after a three-year pause. Moldovan Parliamentary Speaker Zinaida Greceanii chose Russia as the destination of her first foreign visit in June. Moldovan companies signed at least 11 agreements with Russian businesses on September 24. The Kremlin agreed to lower gas prices for Moldova on September 9. Dodon also discussed the need to abolish the existing ban on Russian broadcasting in Moldova.
FACTORS ENABLING THE KREMLIN’S PROGRESS
The Kremlin has undertaken deliberate, coordinated campaigns to regain suzerainty in Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. The Kremlin seized the initiative and moved rapidly to secure its gains when it saw an opportunity with Zelensky in Ukraine and with the new coalition in Moldova.
Russia arguably needs a settlement of the conflict it is stoking in Ukraine more than the West does. Putin seeks to gain relief from Western sanctions imposed due to Russia’s intervention in Donbas. Sanctions have had a limited effect in reversing the Kremlin’s calculations thus far, but have likely dampened additional aggression and raised the costs required for Putin to keep his inner circle and Russian citizens content.
The Kremlin is spinning this situation through its information campaign so that Western leaders think they need to reach a peace deal and make concessions. The Kremlin has reinforced the West’s self-imposed urgency for a peace deal in Europe and Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron and Zelensky are both eager to be perceived as peacemakers. The Kremlin therefore prioritized outreach to both presidents. The Kremlin also invested in narratives about ‘Ukraine fatigue’, Europe’s ‘realpolitik’, and ‘ineffectiveness of sanctions.’
The Kremlin is thus outlasting the West in the information space. The Kremlin exploited the West’s inability to sustain attention on the fact that Russia is engaging in unwarranted hostility in violation of its own commitments and international laws. Macron recently said that “pushing Russia from Europe is a profound strategic error,” and expressed willingness to consider Russia’s return to the G7 (the organization of advanced industrial economies). Russia managed to reinstate its voting rights at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in June. Russia gradually shifted the narrative without making any meaningful concessions. The Kremlin likely tapped into a sub-generation of politicians in the West and in Ukraine for whom an “anti-Russian policy” was something they have inherited. Russia continued its ‘war on truth’ and efforts to alter historical memory, including attempting to distract from its invasion of Ukraine by portraying the conflict as a civil war.
The Kremlin focused on neutralizing internal resistance mechanisms in the FSU. In Ukraine, Russia invested in a campaign to discredit former President Petro Poroshenko. The Kremlin’s information operations focused on building a mental link between the war and Poroshenko. Zelensky is now capitalizing on anti-Poroshenko sentiment to promote the ‘peace’ efforts. The Kremlin is now trying to marginalize the recent civil society protests that took place in Kyiv against the Steinmeier Formula by framing them as radicals led by Poroshenko. In Moldova, Russia successfully sidelined the main obstacle to its influence — namely, oligarch and former leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) Vladimir Plahotniuc and his party. Plahotniuc opposed efforts to pull Moldova fully into the Kremlin’s orbit, although likely out of his own pragmatic concerns rather than ideological opposition to Russia. In Belarus, the Kremlin’s pressure campaign has been going for years.
While the narrative has started to drift in the Kremlin’s favor, the West has maintained sanctions and launched numerous initiatives to counter Russian subversion — an important check.
New Security Environment: If the Kremlin is successful in fully regaining and linking its influence in the FSU, it will have additional levers with which to militarily pressure Europe and drive wedges within NATO. Russia is likely attempting to construct a multi-layer, informal security network. The Moldova-Belarus-Ukraine layer is critical.
Putin’s Aggression on Steroids: The FSU, and Ukraine in particular, holds asymmetric value for Russia and its campaign against the West. The Kremlin perceives Ukraine as part of its cultural, economic, and military core. The Kremlin will be emboldened to free some of its resources to expand focus elsewhere if it regains its influence in the FSU. The sanctions imposed on Russia over the Donbas are a dampener on Putin’s ambitions. The ripple effect of any sanctions relief will be significant and will likely make it easier for Putin to overcome other coercive measures.
An International Precedent: Putin and other international actors will likely internalize the lesson that, with enough time and manipulation of the information space, they can outlast any resistance to the pursuit of their goals. Russia’s gradual restoration of influence in the FSU would also legitimize its aggressive actions in Ukraine and beyond. Other states are likely to emulate this behavior.
Loss of Sovereignty: Putin will work to ensure that the Kremlin never loses control again if he strengthens his grip over Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. Russia would likely attempt to influence governance in those countries in order to build permanent levers of control over the FSU states through institutions, human networks, erasing historical memory, and further suppressing internal resistance mechanisms against the Kremlin’s influence. The Kremlin also will also attempt to disrupt any successful democratic model in the FSU that could threaten Putin’s regime.
The Kremlin’s progress is not inevitable. The Kremlin has not solidified its gains. For example, in Belarus Lukashenko continues to attempt to balance Russian pressure and while reaching out to the West. Belarusian officials reinforced that they do not see a need for a Russian military airbase. Lukashenko allowed a protest against the Union State to take place in Minsk on October 6. Moldova continues to expand its partnership with the West and receive significant aid from the EU, while signaling the limits of cooperation with Russia. In Ukraine, Zelensky made important but not irreversible concessions to Russia. Ukraine’s civil society continues to serve as a check on the Kremlin’s influence.
The FSU states are unlikely to be able to withstand or even recognize the full scope of Putin’s current campaign on their own, however. The West should:
Focus public and diplomatic attention on Russian aggression and prevent the Kremlin’s disinformation operations to mask the reality of these situations. For example, the West should not allow Russia to recast the nature of the war in Ukraine and portray Ukraine as a spoiler of the peace process or as ‘a problem’ weighing down the West.
The West should seize the initiative from Russia and remember that it does not have any urgency to make a deal with Russia; any deal under the current circumstances on the ground would likely amount to a surrender to Putin.
The West should cease enabling the Kremlin to peddle its false narrative. The EU should stop pushing Ukraine to concede to Russia’s terms. The U.S. should focus on a bipartisan commitment to supporting Ukraine’s long-term independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.
The West must not confuse the Kremlin’s temporary changes in approach for a change in its goals. In Moldova, for example, Russia continues to leverage its nominal alliance with the West.
The West can help the FSU countries avoid the most dangerous scenarios. The West should support genuine internal reform efforts and, perhaps most importantly, efforts to fight Russian disinformation campaigns that are becoming more sophisticated.
The West must maintain its sanctions regime until Russia meaningfully changes its behavior.
 Mitchell Orenstein, “Wait – why are the U.S., Russia and the E.U. suddenly cooperating in Moldova?” The Washington Post, June 27, 2019, https//www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/06/27/wait-why-are-us-russia-eu-suddenly-cooperating-moldova.
 Nataliya Bugayova, “The Balancing Challenge for Ukraine,” Institute for the Study of War, September 5, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/09/the-balancing-challenge-for-ukraine.html; Nataliya Bugayova, “Ukraine’s New President: The Stakes for Ukraine and the West,” Institute for the Study of War, April 22, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/04/ukraines-new-president-stakes-for.html; Nataliya Bugayova, “Russia in Review: Exploiting Transition in Ukraine,” Institute for the Study of War, July 12, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/07/russia-in-review-exploiting-transition.html; Nataliya Bugayova, “Russia in Review: Recasting the War in Ukraine,” Institute for the Study of War, August 13, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/08/russia-in-review-recasting-war-in.html.
 Nataliya Bugayova, “Ukraine’s New President: The Stakes for Ukraine and the West,” Institute for the Study of War, April 22, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/04/ukraines-new-president-stakes-for.html.
 Christopher Miller, “Explainer: What Is The Steinmeier Formula -- And Did Zelenskiy Just Capitulate To Moscow?” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, October 2, 2019, https://www.rferl.org/a/what-is-the-steinmeier-formula-and-did-zelenskiy-just-capitulate-to-moscow-/30195593.html.
 Tamara Kiptenko and Artur Korniienko, “Thousands of Ukrainians rally against Zelensky’s plan to end war with Russia,” Kyiv Post, October 6, 2019, https://www.kyivpost.com/multimedia/video/thousands-ukrainians-rally-against-zelenskys-plan-to-end-war-with-russia; “Participants in ‘No Surrender’ march in Kyiv voice demands to Zelensky,” UNIAN, October 14, 2019, https://www.unian.info/politics/10719075-participants-in-no-surrender-march-in-kyiv-voice-demands-to-zelensky-photo.html; ‘Thousands march to celebrate Defender of Ukraine Day,” Kyiv Post, October 14, 2019, https://www.kyivpost.com/multimedia/photo/thousands-march-to-celebrate-defender-of-ukraine-day-photos.
 Anastasia Stanko, “The Steinmeier Formula: What Could It Mean For Ukraine?” Hromadske International, October 3, 2019, https://en.hromadske(.)ua/posts/the-steinmeier-formula-what-could-it-mean-for-ukraine.
 Pavel Kalashnik, [“The Kremlin Refused to Guarantee Withdrawal of its Militant Forces in the Donbas,”] Hromadske, October 7, 2019, https://hromadske(.)ua/ru/posts/kreml-otkazalsya-garantirovat-otvod-sil-so-storony-boevikov-na-donbasse.
 [“Khomchak: With the Withdrawal of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, the Ukrainian Army will Return to its Position in 2016,”] Ukrainskya Pravda, October 8, 2019, https://www.pravda(.)com.ua/rus/news/2019/10/8/7228470/; “Ukraine conflict: Zelensky plans frontline troop withdrawal,” BBC News, October 4, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49931755; “Zelensky announces disengagement in Petrivske, Zolote in Donbas,” UNIAN, October 1, 2019, https://www.unian(.)info/war/10705452-zelensky-announces-disengagement-in-petrivske-zolote-in-donbas.html; [“Zelensky: An Agreement was Reached on Troop Withdrawal in Petrovsky and Zolotoy,”] Focus, October 1, 2019, https://focus(.)ua/politics/441360-v_minske_soglasovano_razvedenie_voisk_v_petrovskom_i_zolotom__zelenskii.
 [“The Minister of Foreign Affairs Wants to Restore Railway Service to the DNR and LNR,”] Korrespondent, October 5, 2019, https://korrespondent(.)net/ukraine/4146804-myd-khochet-vosstanovyt-zhd-soobschenye-s-ldnr; [“Pristayko Said Amnesty and Lifting of the Blockade is Under Consideration,”’] RBC, August 28, 2019, https://www.rbc(.)ua/rus/news/pristayko-dopustil-amnistiyu-snyatie-blokady-1567097692.html; [“Zelensky Named the Conditions for Lifting the Blockade of the Donbas Region,”] Obozrevatel, July 8, 2019, https://www.obozrevatel(.)com/ukr/economics/zelenskij-nazvav-umovu-znyattya-blokadi-donbasu.htm.
 “MH17 crash: 'Key witness' released in Ukraine,” BBC News, September 5, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49591148.
 Nataliya Bugayova, “The Balancing Challenge for Ukraine,” Institute for the Study of War, September 5, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/09/the-balancing-challenge-for-ukraine.html; “Yanukovych’s security chief returns to Ukraine, meets Zelensky,” Kyiv Post, October 12, 2019, https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/yanukovychs-security-chief-returns-to-ukraine-meets-zelensky.html; Oleg Sukhov, “Yanukovych’s Old Guard is Staging a Comeback,” Kyiv Post, August 30, 2019, https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/yanukovychs-old-guard-is-staging-a-comeback.html.
 “Ukraine resumes commercial import of electricity from Russia,” Kyiv Post, October 2, 2019, https(:/)//www.kyivpost(.)com/ukraine-politics/ukraine-resumes-commercial-import-of-electricity-from-russia.html.
 [“Summary of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine regarding the situation in the area of the operation of the Joint Forces (updated),”] Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, October 3, 2019, http://www.mil(.)gov.ua/news/2019/10/03/zvedennya-minoboroni-ukraini-shhodo-obstanovki-v-rajoni-provedennya-operaczii-obednanih-sil/; “OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 234/2019 issued on 3 October 2019,” OSCE, October 3, 2019, https://www.osce.org/special-monitoring-mission-to-ukraine/434498; “OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 236/2019 issued on 5 October 2019,” OSCE, October 5, 2019, https://www.osce.org/special-monitoring-mission-to-ukraine/434741; [“’We Will Wait for 7 days.’ Pristayko Accused Militants of Breaking down the Withdrawal,”] Liga news, October 7, 2019, https://news.liga(.)net/politics/news/pristayko-o-razvedenii-voysk-v-donbasse-ne-rekomenduem-igratsya.
 “Fighters from 'DNR' and 'LNR' Created a New Cross Border Concern,”] Lenta, August 8, 2019, https://lenta((.))ua/boeviki-iz-dnr-i-lnr-sozdali-novyy-transgranichnyy-kontsern-20873/; [“”’DNR’ and ‘LNR’ Combined the Railways in the Concern ‘Railways of Donbass,’”] Antikor, August 19, 2019, https://antikor(.)com.ua/articles/320311-dnr_i_lnr_objedinili_heleznye_dorogi_v_kontsern_heleznye_dorogi_donbassa.
 [“The Russian Federation is Preparing Occupied Donbas’ Banking System for Integration – InformNapalm,”] Gordon, August 21, 2019, https://gordonua(.)com/news/war/rf-gotovit-bankovskuyu-sistemu-okkupirovannogo-donbassa-k-integracii-informnapalm-1210939.html.
 Nataliya Bugayova, “The Balancing Challenge for Ukraine,” Institute for the Study of War, September 5, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/09/the-balancing-challenge-for-ukraine.html.
 Nikita Pidgora, [“What Does the Attack on the Bridge Mean?,”] Vesti, September 19, 2019, https://vesti((.))ua/strana/351085-chto-oznachaet-terakt-na-mostu; [“In Lviv, the Participants of the “Coal Blockade” Were Dispersed, Among the Detainees – the Ex-Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada,”] Fraza, September 21, 2019, https://fraza((.))ua/video/282809-na_lvovschine_razognali_uchastnikov_ugolnoy_blokady_sredi_zaderzhannyh__eksdeputat_verhovnoy_rady; “Thousands in Kyiv Protest President's Plan for Local Elections in Eastern Ukraine,” VOA News, October 6, 2019, https://www((.))voanews.com/europe/thousands-kyiv-protest-presidents-plan-local-elections-eastern-ukraine.  [“Zelensky: The Question of Peacekeepers in Donbas Will be Discussed at the Normandy Four Meeting,”] Ria Novosti, October 10, 2019, https://ria(.)ru/20191010/1559618434.html.
 Elena Erofeeva, [“The Nazis Want War. Ukrainian Radicals Flock to Donbass,”] Vesti, October 8, 2019, https((:))//www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=3197473.
 Mason Clark and Nataliya Bugayova, “Russia in Review: May 9 – 13, 2019,” Institute for the Study of War, May 14, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/05/russia-in-review-may-9-13-2019.html.
 [“The End of Sovereignty? Lukashenko and Putin to Sign Integration Program on December 8,”] UDF, September 9, 2019, https://udf((.))by/news/main_news/198590-konec-suvereniteta-lukashenko-i-putin-podpishut-programmu-integracii-8-dekabrja.html.
 [“Russia and Belarus Will Develop a Single Tax Code, But Will Not Introduce a Single Currency,”] Vesti Finance, October 1, 2019, https(:)//www.vestifinance.ru/articles/125873; [“Russia and Belarus Will Begin to Develop a Unified Tax Code,”] RBC, October 1, 2019, https://www((.))rbc.ru/politics/01/10/2019/5d920ba49a79472eb99769f5.
 Yuri Sizov, [“The Active Phase of the Exercise “Union Shield-2019” has Completed,”] RG, September 18, 2019, https((:))//rg.ru/2019/09/18/reg-pfo/zavershilas-aktivnaia-faza-ucheniia-shchit-soiuza-2019.html; “Over 4,000 Belarusian Military to Participate in Union Shield 2019 Exercise,” Belta, August 14, 2019, https://eng((.))belta.by/society/view/over-4000-belarusian-military-to-participate-in-union-shield-2019-exercise-123339-2019/.
 “Over 4,000 Belarusian Military to Participate in Union Shield 2019 Exercise,” Belta, August 14, 2019, https://eng((.))belta.by/society/view/over-4000-belarusian-military-to-participate-in-union-shield-2019-exercise-123339-2019/.
 [“Union State Military Doctrine Approved by the Russian Side,”] Ministry of Defense of Belarus, December 20, 2018, http://www((.))mil.by/ru/news/81508/.
 “Lukashenko Says Belarus Ready to Deploy Peacekeepers in Donbas,” Unian, September 26, 2019, https://www((.))unian.info/politics/10699125-lukashenko-says-belarus-ready-to-deploy-peacekeepers-in-donbas.html.
 [“Road Construction, Investment, and Transit of Goods. Key Topics of the II Forum of the Regions of Belarus and Ukraine,”] ONT, October 3, 2019, https://ont((.))by/news/ii-forum-regionov-belarusi-i-ukrainy; Natalia Datskevych, “Zelensky Meets Belarusian President Lukashenko in Zhytomyr, Key Economic Questions Discussed,” Kyiv Post, October 4, 2019, https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/zelensky-meets-belarusian-president-lukashenko-in-zhytomyr-key-economic-questions-discussed.html; “Ukraine, Belarus at Regional Forum Sign 17 Agreements – Babak,” Ukrinform, October 4, 2019, https://www((.))ukrinform.net/rubric-economy/2793404-ukraine-belarus-at-regional-forum-sign-17-agreements-babak.html.
 “Lukashenko Invites Ukraine to Collaborate in Missile Engineering,” Belta, October 4, 2019, https://eng((.))belta.by/president/view/lukashenko-invites-ukraine-to-collaborate-in-missile-engineering-124738-2019/; [“Lukashenko: Belarus is Ready Together with Ukraine to Develop a Network of Roads,”] Belta, September 26, 2019, https://www((.))belta.by/president/view/lukashenko-belarus-gotova-sovmestno-s-ukrainoj-razvivat-set-avtomobilnyh-dorog-363551-2019/.
[“Karankevich Does Not Exclude the Possibility of Supplying Electricity from BelAES to Ukraine,”] Belta, October 2, 2019, https((:))//atom.belta.by/ru/news_ru/view/karankevich-ne-iskljuchaet-vozmozhnosti-postavki-elektroenergii-s-belaes-v-ukrainu-10410?utm_source=yxnews&utm_medium=desktop&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fyandex.by%2Fnews.
 Nataliya Bugayova, “Ukraine’s New President: The Stakes for Ukraine and the West,” Institute for the Study of War, April 22, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/04/ukraines-new-president-stakes-for.html.
 Darina Regio and Nataliya Bugayova, “Russia in Review: Opportunity in Moldova,” Institute for the Study of War, June 24, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/06/russia-in-review-opportunity-in-moldova.html.
 [“Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation: From Today, Bilateral Relations are Unfrozen,”] Sputnik Moldova, June 24, 2019, https((:))//ru.sputnik.md/politics/20190624/26561428/kozak-s-segodnyashnego-dnya-rossiysko-moldavskie-otnosheniya-razmorozheny.html.
 [“Igor Dodon: Moldova and Russia Resume Strategic Cooperation,”] Sputnik Moldova, September 20, 2019, https://ru((.))sputnik.md/economics/20190920/27622033/igor-dodon-moldova-i-rossiya-vozobnovlyayut-strategicheskoe-sotrudnichestvo.html; [“Dodon: Moldova Seeks to Restore Strategic Relations with Russia,”] Sputnik Moldova, June 24, 2019, https((:))//ru.sputnik.md/news/20190622/26532030/Dodon-Moldova-stremitsya-k-vosstanovleniyu-strategicheskikh-otnosheniy-s-Rossiey.html; [““For Vladimir Putin to arrive, we need a clear and some breakthrough agenda”,”] Kommersant, September 23, 2019, https((:))//www.kommersant.ru/doc/4101755?query=%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%BD.
 [“Dodon Spoke About a Possible Official Visit of Shoigu to Moldova,”] Sputnik Moldova, August 24, 2019, https://ru((.))sputnik.md/society/20190827/27378388/dodon-rasskazal-o-vozmozhnom-ofitsialnom-vizite-shoygu-moldova.html; [“Shoigu Will Clear Transnistria from Soviet Shells,”] Vzglyad, September 12, 2019, https://vz((.))ru/politics/2019/9/12/491477.html; [“Dodon: Russian Ministry of Defense is Preparing a Plan of Cooperation with the Defense Department of Moldova,”] Publika, August 27, 2019, https://ru((.))publika.md/dodon-rossiyskoe-minoborony-gotovit-plan-sotrudnichestva-s-oboronnym-vedomstvom-moldovy_2185841.html.
 Zinaida Greceanîi [“Zinaida Grechnaya Adressed Deputies of the Russian State Duma.”] Sputnik Молдова, June 27, 2019. https(:)//ru.sputnik.md/world_politics/20190627/26608895/zinaida-grechanaya-vystupila-pered-deputatami-gosudarstvennoy-dumy-rf.html; [“Moldovan Parliamentarians Establish Cooperation with the State Duma of the Russian Federation,”]Sputnik Молдова, June 27, 2019, https(:)//ru.sputnik.md/politics/20190627/26602501/moldavskie-parlamentarii-nalazhivayut-sotrudnichestvo-s-gosdumoy-russia.html; [“Moldova lifts ban on Russia trips for deputies and officials,”] Radio Sputnik, Sputnik Moldova, July 29, 2019. https(:)//radiosputnik.ria.ru/20190729/1556962554.html?in=t.
 [“Zinaida Greceanîi:We Will Restore the Close Partnership Between Moldova and Russia,”] Duma, Russian Government , June 27, 2019, http(:)//duma.gov.ru/news/45477/.
 Мikhai Kosov l, [“Moldova-Russia: Reloading Relations,”] Komsomolskaya Pravda, September 24, 2019. https(:)//www.kp.ru/online/news/3617488/; [“MREF-2019: the First Agreements between the Regions of Russia and Moldova Are Signed.”] Sputnik Moldova, Sputnik, September 20, 2019 https(:)//ru.sputnik.md/economics/20190920/27618639/mref-2019-podpisany-pervye-soglasheniya-mezhdu-regionami-russia-moldova.html; [“Partnership without Borders: Results of the Second Moldovan-Russian Economic Forum,”] Utro.ru, September 21, 2019, https(:)//utro.ru/life/2019/09/22/1417718.shtml.
 Ria Novosti, [“Dodon Announces Discount on Russian Gas up of to Seventy Dollars for Moldova,”] Ria novosti, ://cdn22.img.ria.ru/i/export/ria/logo.png, September 9, 2019, https://ria.ru/20190909/1558484859.html; “Gas Prices for Moldova Will Be Lowered by 10-15 Dollars on October 1,” Bloknot Moldova, http(:)//bloknot-moldova.md/news/vadim-cheban-tsena-za-gaz-dlya-moldovy-s-1-oktyabr-1146146.
 “Moldova Plans to Life Ban on Broadcasting News and Analytical Programs from the Russian Federation,” Duma TV, Russian State Duma , July 29, 2019, https(:)//dumatv.ru/news/moldaviya-planiruet-snyat-zapret-na-translyaciyu-novostnyh-i-analiticheskih-programm-iz-rf; “Moldova Announced Plans to Lift a Ban on Russian Broadcasting Programs,” Ria Novosti, July 29, 2019, https(:)//ria.ru/20190729/1556968166.html.
 [“Dodon Will Seek to Restore the Broadcasting of Russian Television Channels,”] Ren, July 31, 2019, http://ren(.)tv/novosti/2019-07-31/dodon-budet-dobivatsya-vosstanovleniya-veshchaniya-rossiyskih-telekanalov.
 Frederick Kagan, Nataliya Bugayova, and Jennifer Cafarella, “Confronting the Russian Challenge: A New Approach for the U.S.,” Institute for the Study of War, June 2019, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ISW CTP Report - Confronting the Russian Challenge - June 2019.pdf.
 Sergei Lavrov, “New Sanctions against Russia Will Not Work: Lavrov,” Xinhua, Accessed October 9, 2019, http(:)//www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/02/c_138444782.htm; “New Sanctions against Russia Reflect US Domestic Policy Crisis, Says Moscow,” TASS, September 30, 2019, https(:)//tass.com/world/1080626.
 Nataliya Bugayova, and Darina Regio, “Russia's Long View on Ukraine's Elections,” ISW Blog, April 3, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/04/russias-long-view-on-ukraines-elections.html.
 Dmitry Kiselev, “Ukrainian Nationalists Threaten a New Coup,” vesti.ru. Vesti.Ru, October 6, 2019, https(:)//www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=3196642; Tseybulko, Polina, “Zelensky Is Ready for Peace in Donbas but Kiev's Streets Are Ready for War,” RIA FAN, October 3, 2019, https(:)//riafan.ru/1216992-zelenskii-gotov-k-miru-v-donbasse-no-ulica-v-kieve-khochet-voiny; Artur Korniienko , “Thousands Rally in Kyiv against Zelensky’s Plan to End War with Russia,” Kyiv Post, October 6, 2019, https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/thousands-rally-in-kyiv-against-zelenskys-plan-to-end-war-with-russia.html.
 Nataliya Bugayova, and Darina Regio, “Russia in Review: Opportunity in Moldova,” Institute for the Study of War , June 24, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/06/russia-in-review-opportunity-in-moldova.html.
 Nataliya Bugayova, and Mason Clark, “Russia in Review: Military Exercises as Geopolitical Tools,” Institute for the Study of War, September 4, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/09/russia-in-review-military-exercises-as.html; Catherine Harris, and Jack Ulses, “Russia in Review: August 14 - 20, 2018,” Institute for the Study of War, August 21, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2018/08/russia-in-review-august-14-20-2018.html; Catherine Harris, Darina Regio, and Andrea Snyder, “Russia in Review: December 12, 2018 - January 16, 2019,” Institute for the Study of War, January 17, 2019. http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/01/russia-in-review-december-12-2018.html; Glen E. Howard, “The Growing Importance of Belarus on NATO's Flank,” The Jamestown Foundation, September 2019, https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Howard-Why-Belarus-Matters-web.pdf?x54374.
 Nataliya Bugayova, “The Balancing Challenge for Ukraine,” Institute for the Study of War, September 5, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/09/the-balancing-challenge-for-ukraine.html; Terri Moon Cronk, “Esper: Russia, China Want to Disrupt International Order,” U.S. Department of Defense, September 6, 2019, https://www.defense.gov/explore/story/Article/1954110/esper-russia-china-want-to-disrupt-international-order/.
 Nataliya Bugayova, and Mason Clark, “Russia in Review: Military Exercises as Geopolitical Tools,” Institute for the Study of War, September 4, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/09/russia-in-review-military-exercises-as.html.
 [“Lukashenko Threatens Russia with the Loss of an Ally,”] Ria Novosti, January 10, 2019, https(:)//ria.ru/20190110/1549201631.html.
 [“Minsk Refused to Host the Russian Base,”] Gazeta, October 1, 2019, https://www.gazeta(.)ru/army/2019/10/01/12698539.shtml.
 Vitaliy Kropman, [“Independence Rally Held in Minsk,”] Deutsche Well, October 6, 2019, https://www.dw.com/ru/в-минске-прошел-митинг-за-независимость/a-50716580
 “Moldova Insists on Withdrawal of Russian Troops from Transnistria,” UAWire, September 12, 2019, https://uawire.org/moldova-insists-on-withdrawal-of-russian-troops-from-transnistria.