Episodes
A week before Victory Day,  I consider some different constituencies' notions of victories. For Patrushev and the hard-liners, they could win politically not despite failing in the war, but thanks to it. Nuclear rhetoric may be scary, but it is also a reflection not of victory but failure. The war and sanctions are reshaping the opportunities in the Russian underworld, and this create new winners and losers. And what does Patriarch Kirill hope to win? The Moscow Times piece I mentioned is...
Published 05/01/22
For an experimental change in format, this episode is given over to a long conversation with Fabian Burkhardt of IOS-Regensburg, who works on Russian elites, institutions and authoritarian politics. He gives his sense on the state and loyalties of the elites, on the chances of any kind of palace coups, and the degree to which we are all flailing around in the fog of (info)war. As for relevant publications of Fabian's on the topic of the podcast: "Institutionalising Authoritarian...
Published 04/22/22
Published 04/22/22
Who is General Dvornikov, the new Russian operational commander for the war in Ukraine? Will Prime Minister Mishustin and the other technocrats be able to prevent the militarisation of the Russian economy? Four scenarios for the war. And why it's all about 'enemies' versus 'traitors' for Putin now... The piece on Rusich I mentioned is here, and the Telegraph piece is here. You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain...
Published 04/16/22
Another brief and unedited podcast trying to track some of the latest Ukraine-related Russian stories, all distinctly depressing: - the war crimes of Bucha (and the Kirill Shamiev twitter thread I mentioned is here) - comparing Ivan the Terrible and Vladimir (Putin) the Pretty Terrible Too - the dilemmas for ordinary Russians - and why today's support may not be tomorrow's (the Farida Rustamova piece I mention is here) You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of...
Published 04/03/22
A brief and thoroughly unedited look at four particular issues relating to Ukraine: - the 'new strategy' of concentrating on the Donbas - where's Shoigu? - fear and loathing in the National Guard - a comparison with medieval Lithuania (yes, really) You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain question-asking rights and access to exclusive extra materials right here.  Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/InMoscowsShadows)
Published 03/26/22
Rather than try and follow the day-by-day, I tackle one of the tricky conundra: not just why the Russians have done so badly, but why the Ukraine war hasn't been fought the way the Russian army is meant to fight. My suspicion is that it is what happens when autocracy meets technocracy, and I explain what I mean. In the second part, I look at the current claims that Colonel General Beseda of the FSB is under arrest and the hints of opening divisions in the security apparatus, as well as the...
Published 03/12/22
What can one say about the unfolding horror in Ukraine. In this podcast I alight on a few specific issues: Putin's nuclear signalling (at least I hope that's all it is), the idiocy of 'No Fly Zones' in this context, Russian morale, and how, if Putin is re-booting the Brezhnev franchise, this could in the long-term let Russia finally complete its reform process. You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain question-asking rights...
Published 02/27/22
It may well be, as US/UK leaders are saying, that it is too late, that Putin is determined to wage war on Ukraine, but even as we assiduously wargame the potential routes of advance and attack, we should continue to try and peacegame, too, to apply the same imagination to framing any potential settlement. It would be exquisitely difficult and complex, but right up until the tanks cross the border, we ought to try. Today, I try and sketch out some thoughts as to what such a deal - one that...
Published 02/20/22
With Schrodinger's War both imminent and unthinkable there is, to be blunt, only so much that can usefully be said about Russia and Ukraine. I start with a few observations on whether insiders are trying to warn Putin off escalation and what it means if Russia does launch a full-scale invasion (in short, welcome the Brezhnevian stagnation and the rule of the hawks), before turning to some listener questions. Specifically, why Russia is so good at hacking the international system, whether it...
Published 02/14/22
I spin a post on the Nezygar Telegram channel out to explore the current uncertain state of play over Ukraine, covering topics from the current US claims of what its intelligence says about both Zelenskyy and Putin to whether recognising the Donbas pseudo-states is being floated in Moscow precisely as an escape route.  In the second segment, I tackle some of the requests for predictions sent in by Patrons and offer what turn out to be some disappointingly unexciting responses. The article...
Published 01/30/22
One of the short bonuses provided to Patrons over the 2021-22 Christmas and New Year season, released generally a month later. A Christmas tale of villainy and corruption. There are all kinds of rumours about embezzlement and theft at a state bank, but the directors swear blind that all is fine. The chief teller is clearly rich beyond his means, and his wife is never seen but that she is dripping with diamonds, but no one sees fit to enquire further. Eventually, when it turns out that the...
Published 01/28/22
One of the short bonuses provided to Patrons over the 2021-22 Christmas and New Year season, released generally a month later. Who is Lt. Gen. Dmitry Mironov? It may prove worth knowing about this bodyguard-turned-governor-turned-presidential-aide, in effect Putin's eyes and ears over the security forces, and now you can spend just 13 minutes and feel that you do! How being a bodyguard and an ice hockey player can be one of the best routes to success in Putin's Russia. You can also follow...
Published 01/24/22
After the Blinken-Lavrov talks, a brief one-segment podcast with a few thoughts on the current state of the dialogue, the risks of conflict, and the chances that Moscow will formally recognise the Donbas and Lugansk 'Peoples' Republics.' You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain question-asking rights and access to exclusive extra materials right here.  Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/InMoscowsShadows)
Published 01/22/22
One of the short bonuses provided to Patrons over the 2021-22 Christmas and New Year season, released later: usually a month, in this case a fortnight, as I think it's worth hearing early in the year! I freely admit business is not my area of expertise, so who better to give a quick assessment of what may await in 2022 than Ben Aris, Editor-in-Chief of bne Intellinews (https://www.intellinews.com/) and one of the more grounded commentators on ‘Planet Business.’ You can also follow my blog, In...
Published 01/12/22
A Russian-led force deploying into Kazakhstan has inevitably had some people talking invasion, some stabilisation. I make no claims to being a Kazakhstan expert and look forward to people who are having the opportunity to work out if this was a coup by President Tokaev against his patron and master Nazarbaev or something else. So instead, I look at the crisis through the Russian lens: why did the CSTO agree to send forces, what are Moscow's interests, and what can we learn from the Russian...
Published 01/09/22
To kick off the year, rather than making some grand predictions about Russia, instead I speculate as to what 2022 may offer Putin, Patrushev, Mishustin, Shoigu, Kirienko and Kadyrov. So much will depend on one key decision, whether the system will legitimate itself 'socially' or as a 'fortress.' The twitter thread on the VTsIOM poll I mentioned is here, and the Riddle 'Key Event of 2021' compilation is here. You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's...
Published 01/01/22
A short, one-segment piece on Russia's proposed new treaties and how, despite what their deputy foreign minister may say, we have to treat them as the basis for some kind of negotiation, and see what comes of it. So long, that is, that we also step up our deterrence, to ensure Moscow has good reason to talk. You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain question-asking rights and access to exclusive extra materials right here. 
Published 12/19/21
Quite what is Russia's game plan over Ukraine? It seems hard to explain through common sense, so I conduct a thought experiment: what would Putin have to be thinking to believe that a war, with all the consequent and catastrophic political and economic costs, might make sense? In the second part, I look at some developments in the Russian underworld that suggest that a long nightmare - the prospect of nation-wide mafia wars - might well actually be on the wane. You can also follow my blog,...
Published 12/12/21
Something of a miscellany. First of all, latest thoughts - that turn out to be disappointingly inconclusive - about what's going on with Ukraine. Then reflections on the appointment of a career cop as the new head of FSIN, the Federal Penitentiary Service, and the prospects for pragmatic reform. (The 2011 blog I mentioned is here.) Then short and sour comments about the vacuous and dangerous virtue signalling that is the proposed Congressional resolution not to recognise Putin as president...
Published 11/28/21
In the first part, a little exploration of MID, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, its decline - and yet why it still ought not to be taken lightly. Then in the second half I look at the current crises in Belarus and Ukraine. The article by Kadri Liik I mentioned is here, and my earlier 'Free Sergei Lavrov!' article here. I also looked at the Belarus crisis (and why it should not be turned into a 'Putin story') here. You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the...
Published 11/21/21
While still processing a month spent in Russia, I feel that the uniting leitmotif is survivalism, that every sector - from ordinary Russians through the liberal intelligentsia and the bureaucracy, all the way to the Kremlin - are hunkering down, bracing for winter. I explore what this means to each. Then in the second half I tackle a series of questions sent in by patrons, from whether I felt at risk in Russia (in short: no) to whether you can now get decent parmesan there (in short: yes)....
Published 11/14/21
A trip to Tula, 200km south of Moscow, provides a chance to mix a little history and travelogue with some thoughts about what the city reveals about the nature of provincial life, regional politics and the state economy versus the market economy. In the second half, I look at Tula's governor Alexei Dyumin, a former bodyguard to Putin and for some still a potential successor. How much do governors matter? The travel blog I mention is Travels in Deepest Muscovy, which will later feature a...
Published 10/24/21
Just back to Russia, my first trip since February 2020, and for this podcast I try something different - a random collection of impressions, mainly recorded on the street (so apologies for the often poor sound quality). Normal podcasting will resume shortly! You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain question-asking rights and access to exclusive extra materials right here. 
Published 10/17/21