Author Topic: Ukraine  (Read 59785 times)

DougMacG

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Charles Krauthammer: Obama Writes Off Ukraine, use "Tripwires" not red lines
« Reply #100 on: September 05, 2014, 09:30:19 AM »
Yes, Zbig got that right in 1994.  Who knew Russia would still have an eye on re-taking Ukraine and any/all of its old empire that it could!

Here is Krauthammer writing on the same mess today.  These 3 opinion pieces, VDH on deterrence, George Will on Putin acting like Hitler and Charles Krauthammer on the surrender of Ukraine should be read together IMO.  Quoting Krauthammer,

"...what NATO did not do. It did not create the only serious deterrent to Russia: permanent bases in the Baltics and eastern Poland that would act as a tripwire. Tripwires produce automaticity. A Russian leader would know that any invading force would immediately encounter NATO troops, guaranteeing war with the West.  Which is how we kept the peace in Europe through a half-century of Cold War. U.S. troops in West Germany could never have stopped a Russian invasion. But a Russian attack would have instantly brought America into a war — a war Russia could not countenance."

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/387151/obama-writes-ukraine-charles-krauthammer

SEPTEMBER 4, 2014 8:00 PM
Obama Writes Off Ukraine
Putin’s invasion may be nothing new to Obama. For Ukraine, it changed everything.
By Charles Krauthammer

At his first press briefing after the beheading of American James Foley, President Obama stunned the assembled when he admitted that he had no strategy in Syria for confronting the Islamic State. Yet it was not nearly the most egregious, or consequential, thing he said.

Idiotic, yes. You’re the leader of the free world. Even if you don’t have a strategy — indeed, especially if you don’t — you never admit it publicly.

However, if Obama is indeed building a larger strategy, an air campaign coordinated with allies on the ground, this does take time. George W. Bush wisely took a month to respond to 9/11, preparing an unusual special ops–Northern Alliance battle plan that brought down Taliban rule in a hundred days.

We’ll see whether Obama comes up with an Islamic State strategy. But he already has one for Ukraine: Write it off. Hence the more shocking statement in that August 28 briefing: Obama declaring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — columns of tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and a thousand troops brazenly crossing the border — to be nothing new, just “a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now.”
And just to reaffirm his indifference and inaction, Obama mindlessly repeated his refrain that the Ukraine problem has no military solution. Yes, but does he not understand that diplomatic solutions are largely dictated by the military balance on the ground?

Vladimir Putin’s invasion may be nothing new to Obama. For Ukraine, it changed everything. Russia was on the verge of defeat. Now Ukraine is. That’s why Ukraine is welcoming a cease-fire that amounts to capitulation.

A month ago, Putin’s separatist proxies were besieged and desperate. His invasion to the southeast saved them. It diverted the Ukrainian military from Luhansk and Donetsk, allowing the rebels to recover, while Russian armor rolled over Ukrainian forces, jeopardizing their control of the entire southeast. Putin even boasted that he could take Kiev in two weeks.

Why bother? He’s already fracturing and subjugating Ukraine, re-creating Novorossiya (“New Russia”), statehood for which is one of the issues that will be up for, yes, diplomacy.

Which makes incomprehensible Obama’s denial to Ukraine of even defensive weapons — small arms, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. Indeed, his stunning passivity in the face of a dictionary-definition invasion has not just confounded the Ukrainians. It has unnerved the East Europeans. Hence Obama’s reassurances on his trip to the NATO summit in Wales.

First up, Estonia. It seems to be Obama’s new red line. I’m sure they sleep well tonight in Tallinn now that Obama has promised to stand with them. (Remember the State Department hashtag #UnitedforUkraine?)

To back up Obama’s words, NATO is touting a promised rapid-reaction force of about 4,000 to be dispatched to pre-provisioned bases in the Baltics and Poland within 48 hours of an emergency. (Read: Russian invasion.)

First, we’ve been hearing about European rapid-reaction forces for decades. They’ve amounted to nothing.

Second, even if this one comes into being, it is a feeble half-measure. Not only will troops have to be assembled, dispatched, transported and armed as the fire bell is ringing. The very sending will require some affirmative and immediate decision by NATO. Try getting that done. The alliance is famous for its reluctant, slow, and fractured decision-making. (See: Ukraine.) By the time the Rapid Reactors arrive, Russia will have long overrun their yet-to-be-manned bases.

The real news from Wales is what NATO did not do. It did not create the only serious deterrent to Russia: permanent bases in the Baltics and eastern Poland that would act as a tripwire. Tripwires produce automaticity. A Russian leader would know that any invading force would immediately encounter NATO troops, guaranteeing war with the West.

Which is how we kept the peace in Europe through a half-century of Cold War. U.S. troops in West Germany could never have stopped a Russian invasion. But a Russian attack would have instantly brought America into a war — a war Russia could not countenance.

It’s what keeps the peace in Korea today. Even the reckless North Korean leadership dares not cross the Demilitarized Zone, because it would encounter U.S. troops and trigger war with America.

That’s what deterrence means. And what any rapid reaction force cannot provide. In Wales, it will nonetheless be proclaimed a triumph. In Estonia, in Poland, as today in Ukraine, it will be seen for what it is — a loud declaration of reluctance by an alliance led by a man who is the very embodiment of ambivalence.

Crafty_Dog

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Russia still fg w Ukraine, US still not doing diddly
« Reply #101 on: November 15, 2014, 07:19:17 AM »
Summary

Following the separatist elections in Donetsk and Luhansk on Nov. 2, the political entities representing both regions -- the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic, respectively -- have established what is likely to be yet another long-term frozen conflict in the former Soviet periphery. Ukraine's inability to retake these regions by force, combined with continued weapons and personnel support from Russia, mean they are here to stay.

Russia will have difficulty propping up these new breakaway territories at a time when Moscow is under growing economic and political strain. Still, Russia has strategic interests in supporting these territories as a check against Ukraine's Western integration efforts. Along with its history of subsidizing other breakaway territories in the region, Moscow has shown with its efforts in Ukraine that it will be willing to incur the financial and political costs of backing the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics.
Analysis

The breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine trace their origins to the Western-backed uprising in Kiev and the subsequent Russian response to this uprising. From pro-Russian demonstrations in Donetsk and Luhansk, Moscow-backed rebel militias and the political entities representing them simultaneously emerged. In Donetsk, activists who occupied administration buildings declared the establishment of the Donetsk People's Republic on April 7, while in Luhansk a similar declaration was made for the establishment of the Luhansk People's Republic on April 27. Both groups subsequently held referendums on May 12 on the issue of declaring independence from Ukraine, and according to the local referendum organizers (international observers were not allowed), both received over 95 percent of votes in favor of secession.

Russia Maintains Supply Flow to Ukrainian Separatists
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Following the military gains made by the rebels at the expense of Ukrainian security forces in the ensuing months, the territories controlled by the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics did not take part in Ukraine's political process, including the presidential election in May and parliamentary elections in October. Instead, the separatists held their own parliamentary elections Nov. 2, which essentially solidified the existing leadership of Alexander Zakharchenko in the Donetsk People's Republic and Igor Plotnitsky in the Luhansk People's Republic. While most of the international community did not recognize the elections, the polls further cemented the reality that Ukraine was no longer in control of these territories.
From Rebellion to Administration

With the separatists having achieved territorial control, the question now is how the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics will manage the administration of their territories. Together, the people's republics control nearly 16,000 square kilometers (a little less than 6,200 square miles) of territory -- roughly 30 percent of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts combined. Donetsk and Luhansk are two of the most densely populated regions of Ukraine, and Kiev estimates that nearly 65 percent of the Donetsk oblast's population and 50 percent of the Luhansk oblast's population (or around 1.5 million and 2 million people respectively) are under separatist rule. The separatists also control both regional centers, the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Administering these territories therefore represents quite the undertaking for the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics. This is especially the case since both regions have experienced significant dislocations from the conflict, both in terms of outflows of population and economic disruption. An estimated 800,000 people have been displaced as a result of the conflict, with nearly 400,000 seeking refuge across the border in Russia. While some of the population has started returning to the area, anecdotal evidence suggests that many of those returning are middle-aged or elderly, while the younger and more productive members of the population have so far chosen to stay away. Adding to these problems, the Ukrainian government recently decided to stop paying social benefits -- including pensions in certain cases -- to residents in these areas.

Donetsk and Luhansk historically have been two of the most economically productive regions of Ukraine, jointly making up the Donbas industrial belt, but much of their industrial production has been hurt by the military conflict. Coal mining is a major part of the economy in the rebel-controlled territories, and over 50 percent of the coal plants and steel mills there have halted production or are producing under capacity. Those that are still producing, such as the coal mines controlled by oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, have refused to pay taxes to the separatist governments (though according to sources, there may be kickbacks being paid to the rebels under the table). Without an effective mechanism for tax collection, much of the local revenue the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics have collected has come from soliciting local businesses.

Furthermore, if and when industrial production in these regions does pick back up, the separatist governments will find it difficult to legally export products abroad -- or at least to Europe, which has placed sanctions on the breakaway territories. Additionally, the banking systems in these territories have been frozen, and most workers reportedly have been receiving their salaries in cash.
Russia Continues Its Support

The economic prospects for these breakaway regions -- at least for the short to medium term -- are not particularly bright. The territories have only one viable option for sustaining themselves -- Russia. Indeed, Moscow is already playing a significant role in propping up the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics. First and foremost, Russian aid has come in the form of military supplies -- including tanks and heavy weaponry -- and flows of personnel to assist in the battle against Ukrainian security forces. Russia has also sent humanitarian convoys with food and other supplies to the parts of the rebel territories that have been most damaged in the conflict zone, such as areas around the city of Luhansk.

Moscow's direct financial and economic assistance to these territories, however, is more opaque. Though the rebels have admitted that they have not yet been able to set up a reliable tax collection system, sources have said they are still getting paid, which reportedly comes in part from cash transfers from Russia. The self-declared republics also reportedly receive aid from businessmen close to the Kremlin, such as Konstantin Malofeev.

Additionally, there are other important economic activities in the separatist-controlled territories. There have been reports of coal supplies from the breakaway regions being smuggled into Russia, with Moscow then selling these supplies back to Ukraine and channeling revenues to the rebels. There also have been reports of the continuing production of machines that service the coal and steel sector as well as the agricultural production of wheat, corn and sunflower seeds, which could allow Russia to increase its imports of these goods from the rebel territories. Finally, Moscow could choose to subsidize energy exports, given that pipeline infrastructure is directly integrated across the border.
Costs and Benefits to Russia

Still, Russia's ability to directly finance the breakaway territories or absorb their products is not infinite. Moscow is already experiencing significant economic problems as a result of the Ukraine crisis, including capital flight, a depreciating ruble and financial restrictions caused by Western sanctions. Russia has had its own internal debate over budgetary expenditures for social and defense spending, which declining oil prices have only exacerbated. Projections of stagnant growth or even mild recession for 2015 do not suggest a dramatic improvement in Russia's economic position.

Nevertheless, the total amount of financing needed to sustain these regions is unlikely to cost Russia more than a few billion dollars per year, especially since much of the economy will be operating in the grey zone. Furthermore, Russia's ability to project power into its periphery has traditionally outstripped the country's economic weaknesses. Indeed, even in the chaos of the 1990s, Russia militarily and financially supported a number of breakaway territories throughout the former Soviet space, including Transdniestria in Moldova and Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia. Moscow continues to support these territories to this day, both in terms of subsidizing local economic production and providing direct budgetary assistance to the breakaway governments. Russia has only increased such support, given that Moldova and Georgia have attempted to get closer to the West as a result of the crisis in Ukraine.

Ultimately, the benefits of backing the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics will outweigh the financial and political costs for Moscow. The uprising in Ukraine and the subsequent pro-Western government it has produced in Kiev is a fundamental threat to Russia's national security interests. Supporting the breakaway territories in Donetsk and Luhansk not only gives Russia direct military and political influence in these regions but also serves as a check against Ukraine's Western integration efforts. This explains why, despite sanctions from the West and its own economic difficulties, Moscow has not stopped supporting the breakaway territories and continues to be the main power player in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russia has redrawn the borders, and the new breakaway territories are here to stay.

Read more: Russian Interests Reshape Ukraine's Borders | Stratfor
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Crafty_Dog

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Why Russia would intervene in Ukraine
« Reply #102 on: December 11, 2014, 05:39:07 PM »
Note date

Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene in Ukraine
Analysis
August 6, 2014 | 22:04 GMT Print Text Size
Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene in Ukraine
Ukrainian soldiers patrol Debaltseve, a city in the eastern region of Donetsk, on Aug. 3. (ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Analysis

Editor's Note: The following is an internal Stratfor document produced to provide high-level guidance regarding the conflict in Ukraine. This document is not a forecast but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions for areas of focus.

With 20,000 troops positioned on its border with Ukraine, Russia has all the pieces in place to launch a direct, limited ground intervention in eastern Ukraine without having to make any additional preparations. Of course, that kind of military invasion would cost Moscow a lot of political capital, but Russian policymakers may believe the high price of intervention is justified in certain scenarios. Those scenarios are as follows:
The Humanitarian Crisis Worsens

On Aug. 5, Russia officially requested to lead a humanitarian mission in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide aid for civilians in eastern Ukraine. Parts of Donetsk and Luhansk are experiencing food, water and electricity shortages, but so far Kiev has rejected Russia's offers of assistance, arguing there is no humanitarian crisis to end. The civilian death toll has increased steadily as fighting moved from the countryside into the cities. If more civilians die, Russia may decide to intervene.
The Ukrainian Military Threatens Rebel Strongholds

Over the past few weeks, the Ukrainian military has tallied several notable victories in its fight against the rebels, one of many factors that guided Russia's decision to amass troops along the border. However, Ukrainian forces have not been able to move into the urban areas surrounding the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk; in addition to general difficulties associated with urban warfare, some rebels have already started a counteroffensive. If the Ukrainian military seriously threatens to take these important rebel strongholds, Russia may intervene.
Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene In Ukraine
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NATO Deploys More Assets

After Russia's annexation of Crimea, NATO initiated new rotational exercises in Poland and the Baltics; however, no additional measures have been taken since then to increase the security of the alliance's members in the region. Any serious push to build up combat power in areas adjacent to Ukraine — including Poland, Romania, the Baltics and Turkey — may indicate that NATO and the United States believe a Russian intervention is imminent. (Meanwhile, Russia could see the congregation of NATO and U.S. forces as a sign that the West plans to intervene.) U.S. naval movement in the Mediterranean or Black seas is also important to watch.
The United States Arms the Ukrainian Military

U.S. aid to Ukraine has been limited to nonlethal equipment and rations, but many in Russia attribute the Ukrainian military's recent gains to advising from the U.S. military. If Washington supplies the Ukrainian military with weapons or trains or assists soldiers more overtly, Russia may respond by intervening.
More Sanctions Are Imposed

The Kremlin has reacted to the latest round of Western sanctions by restricting some food and agricultural imports from the United States and the European Union. But the application of additional, more severe sanctions, especially those targeting Russia's financial and energy sectors, could provoke Russia to invade Ukraine, especially if Moscow believes it has nothing else to lose.
Russian Public Opinion Changes

The majority of Russians oppose direct military intervention into Ukraine. The factions within the Kremlin, including the typically hawkish security circle, are divided on the issue, too. This opposition has constrained the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who wants to maintain his popularity levels among his constituents and retain the loyalty of his supporters within the government. If Putin can disguise the intervention as a peacekeeping or humanitarian mission, he may be able to sell it to the Russian public more effectively, giving him more freedom to act.
The Ukrainian Government Collapses

The Kremlin's goal is for Ukraine, an important buffer state, to become at least a neutral territory between Russia and the West. After the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and Ukraine's decision to sign the EU association and free trade agreements, the Kremlin hoped that the new government in Kiev would be unable to remain stable and united and fail to implement the International Monetary Fund-mandated austerity and reform measures. So far, internal divisions have not affected the government's ability to implement reforms and make military decisions. But the emergence of more significant internal divisions over policy, especially security policy, is key to watch. If the government in Kiev fails on its own, Russia will have no need to intervene. 

Read more: Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene in Ukraine | Stratfor
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Crafty_Dog

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Arms at last?
« Reply #104 on: February 02, 2015, 08:31:05 PM »


Several developments over the weekend related to the Ukraine crisis indicated that the standoff between Russia and the West could soon reach a turning point. Fighting continued between Ukrainian security forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine while the latest round of peace talks in Minsk collapsed in a matter of hours. Shortly after the talks failed, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic announced that a general mobilization of up to 100,000 fighters would occur within two weeks. Meanwhile, a report from The New York Times published on Sunday suggested that the United States is seriously considering providing the Ukrainian military with lethal weapons. The United States is characterizing this as a defensive move, but the pro-Russian rebels and Russian government are not likely to agree.

All of these events point to an acute risk of escalation in the conflict over Ukraine. The main question is where this escalation will lead. During the crisis, which has dragged on for more than a year now, there have been several ebbs and flows, as demonstrated by numerous declarations and breaches of cease-fires that occurred while political dialogue between various representatives continued. One thing that is clear is that all options remain on the table in this evolving standoff, including the potential for a larger military conflict.

There are two broader perspectives from which to view the crisis in Ukraine. One is that of the West, which sees the origins of the conflict in Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine — illegal and illegitimate responses to what was considered a democratic revolution in Kiev in February 2014. The West regards Russia's actions as a violation of Ukraine's territorial sovereignty and believes that the appropriate response are sanctions against Russia and the backing of a pro-Western government in Kiev. The other view is that of Russia, which sees the February 2014 uprising as an illegal coup d'etat orchestrated by the West. The annexation of Crimea and the eastern Ukrainian insurgency are viewed as legitimate reactions that had substantial support from the local population and were an appropriate response to a conflict the West started as a means of containing and weakening Russia.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

Russia's view of the West's intentions existed long before the uprising in Kiev. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has witnessed what it perceived as deliberate efforts at containment by the West. One was the expansion of NATO into the former Soviet bloc in the late 1990s and early 2000s; with the inclusion of the Baltic states, the Western military alliance expanded to within 161 kilometers (100 miles) of St. Petersburg. Another was the wave of "color revolutions" that swept the former Soviet space in the mid-2000s, most notably the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which brought Western influence even closer to the Russian heartland. The 2014 uprising in Ukraine was, from Moscow's perspective, merely the latest chapter in the same story of the West's attempts to contain Russia in the former Soviet borderlands.

This thinking has framed Russia's actions in Ukraine. If Ukraine is aligned with the West it poses an existential threat to Russia, so Moscow feels that it must do whatever is necessary to prevent this alignment. Following the Orange Revolution, Russia used several tools, including energy cutoffs and political connections in Ukraine, to undermine the pro-Western government in Kiev and eventually got a Russian ally in power in 2010. However, the current iteration of Moscow's standoff with the West has left the Russian economy isolated by Western sanctions just as it is reeling from a dramatic drop in oil prices. Meanwhile, the United States and NATO have increased their military presence and commitment to countries in Central Europe, with plans to pre-position equipment and forces in the Baltic states, Poland and Romania. Now the West is signaling its intentions to increase military assistance to Ukraine significantly.

This leaves Russia in a difficult position. A weakening economy puts Russian President Vladimir Putin under pressure at home, and although most Russians oppose a direct, overt military intervention in Ukraine, being seen as capitulating to the West on an issue as strategic as Ukraine could have dire consequences. The issue is particularly delicate given Putin's limitations within the Kremlin as he juggles different power circles' interests.

These circumstances lend greater importance to the intensification of fighting in key areas such as the Donetsk airport and Mariupol. These moves could be meant to demonstrate Russia's capabilities in degrading Ukraine's forces on the battlefield while steering the negotiations over Ukraine's future toward a diplomatic settlement. But the United States and Russia's neighbors cannot discount the possibility that these actions are precursors to a wider Russian military offensive. The West has increased its support to Kiev since the crisis started, and the Times report about possible U.S. weapons sales to Ukraine shows that Russia cannot assume that the West's commitment will not grow. Therefore, Putin could be calculating that if any major military action is to be launched, it would be best to do it before the West increases its presence and assistance in Ukraine and nearby states.

This is not to say that a broader war is looming or inevitable. There are a number of possible outcomes in the range between a negotiated settlement and a full-scale military conflict over Ukraine. The conflict could continue for a long time. But the fact remains that Putin must survey his options, and continuing with the current tactics might not be one of them.

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: On the road to Putinlandia
« Reply #105 on: February 16, 2015, 07:58:54 AM »
by Bernard-Henri Lévy
Feb. 13, 2015 6:59 p.m. ET
372 COMMENTS

The meeting was scheduled for that very evening—the evening before the Minsk summit this week—in Petro Poroshenko’s office at the presidential palace in Kiev. But the moment my colleague Gilles Hertzog and I arrive at the Kiev airport and step on the tarmac, my phone rings.  It is Valeriy Chaly, the Ukrainian president’s deputy chief of staff, who is already in Belarus for the summit.

“Stay where you are. Whatever you do, don’t go into town. I can’t tell you anything on the phone. Protocol is coming to pick you up.”

We sit in a deserted waiting room where a converted duty free is selling bad coffee and bars of the Rohsen chocolate, ubiquitous in Ukraine, on which Petro Poroshenko made his fortune.  After two hours, the security ballet begins—men in black, headsets in the ear, long, ultra-slim briefcase in hand, a routine that several decades in the planet’s hot spots have taught me signifies the imminent arrival of the Boss.

From there, everything moves quickly. The men in black assume battle stations as we charge back onto the tarmac, where a jet sits with its twin engines running. We scramble up the ramp at the rear. A security man leads us to the forward cabin, where Petro Poroshenko is waiting. The Ukrainian president is barely recognizable in his khaki T-shirt, camouflage pants and military boots—but mostly because of an almost worrisome pallor, something that I have not seen on him before.

“Sorry about all the mystery, but except for him”—Mr. Poroshenko gestures to Gen. Viktor Muzhenko, the Ukrainian army’s commander in chief, who is also in uniform—“nobody knows where we’re going. Security reasons. But you’ll see. It’s awful. And I want you as witnesses.”

The flight, headed southeast, lasts an hour.

We are headed to the Donetsk region, where, the president tells me, vicious shelling of a civilian area has just claimed several dozen victims.

The conversation turns to the summit in Minsk, Belarus, where the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine will meet.

“Tomorrow at this time you’ll be face to face with Putin. What are you going to say to him?”

“That I will yield on nothing,” Mr. Poroshenko replies. “That neither Ukraine’s territorial integrity nor its right to Europe are negotiable.”

“And if he persists? If he won’t abandon his idea of federalizing the areas now in the hands of the separatists?”

“Then I’ll walk out and submit the question to public opinion and to the United Nations. We are not Ethiopia in 1935 or Czechoslovakia in 1938 or one of the little nations sacrificed by the great powers at Yalta. We’re not even your friend [Alija] Izetbegovic, who accepted the partition of Bosnia in Dayton.”

I tell him that the difference this time is that France, under François Hollande, is with him. He says he knows that.

I remind him that Germany contracted an ineradicable debt with respect to Ukraine (seven million dead in World War II alone) and that Chancellor Merkel cannot fail to honor it. He nods as if to say that he knows that, too, but is a little less sure of it.

In any event, he feels strongly that his country has paid too dearly for its freedom and independence to accept any form of diktat. “I am hoping with all my heart for a peace agreement, but we are not afraid of war. Didn’t your General de Gaulle say that great people, in dark times, have no better friends than themselves?”

We spend the rest of the flight discussing the formal statement that he will make at the opening of the summit, where the fate of his country will be hanging in the balance. It is a little after 10 p.m. when we land in Kharkov.

About 30 armored vehicles are waiting for us near the plane.

And off we go in convoy across the deserted plains of the Dnieper to Kramatorsk. After three hours of fairly easy going, the last 30 miles are a frozen track rutted by military convoys.

No lights to be seen.

Not a soul stirring.

The chilling atmosphere of a dead city.

And then, suddenly, a clutch of poor people warming themselves around a fire.

Here, the middle of the city had been the target of a Smerch rocket fired from a distance of more than 30 miles in the early afternoon.

Here, and within a radius of about 900 yards, the giant antipersonnel weapon released its rain of minirockets, killing 16 people and wounding 65.

And here I discover another Petro Poroshenko: no longer the military leader from the plane; still less the billionaire president that I accompanied to the Élysée Palace a year ago; but a ravaged man, livid in the floodlights illuminating the scene. He listens as survivors recount the hellish whistle of the rocket, the women returning from the market who were mowed down by the deluge of pellets, the panic in the streets as people rushed for shelter, tripping over bodies, the brave mother who covered her child with her body and was killed, the arrival of rescuers, the anguish that another rocket could follow.

“What a disaster,” he groans.

He repeats it several times: “What a disaster . . . We are kilometers from the front. There’s no one here but civilians. This isn’t war—it’s slaughter. This isn’t a war crime; it’s a crime against humanity.”

And then, standing at the edge of the crater formed by a rocket that had failed to explode, Mr. Poroshenko—suddenly immense and strangely colossal because of the bulletproof vest that his aides had him don under his jacket—points at the engine of death as if it were his personal enemy and adds: “A monster of that size, outlawed by the Geneva Convention, the separatists don’t have those. That could only be the Russians.”

He repeats, a grim smile freezing his features. “The Russians. When I think that the Russians will be there in Minsk tomorrow and will have the audacity to talk about peace . . .”

A doctor, his arms bare even though the temperature is well below zero, approaches to escort us to the nearby hospital emergency room.

The president lingers at the bed of each of the injured, sometimes asking questions, sometimes offering sympathy, sometimes, with the hardiest, trying to joke. I think I even see him give a quiet blessing to an old woman as she hands him the fragments that had been removed from her legs, saying, “Here, Petro, you give these to Putin. Tell him they’re from Zoya in Kramatorsk.”

We make a last stop, far from the city, at the military headquarters of the general staff of the Donetsk region. In a vast building entirely covered with camouflage net are dozens of officers, helmeted Herculeses, their faces furrowed and exhausted, some asleep on their feet with their backs to the wall, still clutching their weapons. And there Mr. Poroshenko resumes the role of war leader. He disappears into the map room with his top officers, where he gives orders for the counteroffensive that will have to be launched if the Minsk summit fails.

It is 3 a.m.

Military intelligence fears the launch of another rocket attack. In any event it is time to go. We take the same route back, though it seems even more desolate.

Once we return to the plane, I tell President Poroshenko that I had dinner the night before in Paris with a former ambassador to Ukraine who is advocating deliveries of weapons—and who believes that the Ukrainian armed forces are in a tough spot, especially in the Debaltsevo pocket, where thousands of troops are menaced on three sides.

“He’s not wrong there,” Mr. Poroshenko responds with a smile, digging into the cold cuts that the flight attendant has just brought to him. “But make no mistake: The time is long past when the navy at Sebastopol and the barracks at Belbek and Novofedorivka gave up without firing a shot. That’s the only advantage of war: You learn how to wage it.”

I also tell him that many in the U.S. and Europe doubt the capacity of his soldiers to make good use of the sophisticated weapons that eventually may be delivered to them. At this, he guffaws and, after exchanging a few words in Ukrainian with his chief of staff, says:

“Well, tell them, please, that they’ve got it wrong. We would need a week, no more, to take full possession of the equipment. Know that, because we had no choice, our army is about to become the best, the bravest, and the most hardened force in the region.”

From that point on, he darkens again only when I mention the uphill battle that his American friends will have to fight before any equipment can be delivered: Congress will have to reapprove the Ukrainian Freedom Support Act that it first passed on Dec. 11. It is an appropriation bill to release the $350 million in military aid that was approved. Final approval will be needed from President Obama, whose tendency to procrastinate in such matters is well known. And a decision will need to be made about whether the equipment can be taken from existing stocks or will have to be manufactured, which would take even more time.

“I know all that,” Mr. Poroshenko mutters, closing his eyes. “I know. But maybe we’ll get a miracle. Yes, a miracle.”

That reminds me that Petro Poroshenko is a practicing Christian, a deacon in civilian life. On the presidential campaign trail last year, in Dnepropetrovsk and elsewhere, before every meeting, I watched him find the nearest church and take a moment to kneel and pray.
***

The idea also crosses my mind that the skilled strategist that he has become—the civilized man whom circumstances have obliged to join the admirable club of reluctant heroes who make war without wanting to—is possibly thinking that what he most needs now is to gain time. Perhaps gaining a few weeks would be the chief advantage of the accords that, without for an instant trusting Vladimir Putin’s word, he is going to sign.

Minsk. Is it a fool’s bargain?

Will the agreement he signs be a false one that, like last September’s, stops the war for just a month or two?

Of course. Deep down, he knows it. His statement after the signing of the accord was simple: “The main thing which has been achieved is that from Saturday into Sunday there should be declared without any conditions at all a general cease-fire.”

For the time being, the nightmare will recede a bit.

It is nearly dawn when we finally land in Kiev. And President Poroshenko has only a few hours to make it to that summit where, one way or another, he has a rendezvous with history.

Mr. Lévy’s books include “Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism” (Random House, 2008). This article was translated from the French by Steven B. Kennedy.

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Russia and Ukraine economically intertwined
« Reply #106 on: February 18, 2015, 05:46:48 AM »
Summary

Despite Russia's annexation of Crimea and fighting in Ukraine's east, Ukraine and Russia remain economically intertwined. Kiev has lobbied Western governments to impose sanctions on Russian companies and advocated reducing dependence on Russia natural gas imports. However, Ukraine's banking and energy sectors are tied to Russia, giving the Kremlin several options with which to influence Kiev.
Analysis

Russia and Ukraine have substantial trade ties in addition to closely integrated industrial sectors. Before the crisis began, Russia provided 6.8 percent of foreign direct investment in Ukraine, though the real figure may be higher. Formally, 33.4 percent of FDI to Ukraine in 2013 came from Cyprus, raising the possibility that Russian investment has passed through Cypriot banks and corporations. In 2014, with the onset of the crisis, the share of both Russian and Cypriot FDI flows to Ukraine decreased to 5.9 percent and 29.9 percent, respectively. At the same time, German FDI flows to Ukraine increased to 12.5 percent from only 10.9 percent a year earlier.

Moreover, Russian firms such as Rosneft and Lukoil were active in Ukraine before hostilities broke out. Fighting in the east and pressure from the new, pro-Western authorities, however, has led some Russian firms to cut back on their operations. In July 2014, Lukoil sold one of its subsidiaries, Lukoil-Ukraine CFI, which controlled 240 filling stations in Ukraine, to Austrian company AMIC Energy Management.

Ukraine's banking sector is still closely connected to Russia without these investments. Ukraine's fifth-largest bank in terms of total assets is Prominvestbank, a subsidiary of Russia's Vnesheconombank. Moreover, subsidiaries of Russia's Sberbank, Alfa-Bank and VTB Bank constitute Ukraine's eighth-, ninth-, and 10th-largest banks, respectively. Together these Ukrainian subsidiaries hold over $6 billion in assets. Because the Russian state owns Vnesheconombank and is a majority shareholder in Sberbank and VTB, the Kremlin indirectly controls a significant portion of Ukraine's banking sector. According to Ukraine's Finance Ministry, in the beginning of 2015, Ukraine's total direct and guaranteed debt to the Russian state and Russian banks totaled over $4 billion, the equivalent of about 12 percent of the country's external debt.

However, Russia's own banking sector has experienced difficulties over the past month. Some banks, including VTB, are even seeking state aid, motivating the Kremlin to avoid using its banks to destabilize Ukraine's banking sector. Still, Russia's strong presence does give the Kremlin another opportunity to influence the country's financial markets and pressure Kiev.

In addition to banking, Ukraine's energy sector is also closely tied to Russia. VS Energy International, a Russian firm, owns stakes in eight of Ukraine's 27 regional energy supplier companies, including power distributors in the Odessa and Kiev regions. Electricity shortages resulting from the loss of some of Ukraine's coal resources have led the country to begin importing electricity from Russia as well to fill the projected 10 percent shortfall. Indeed, in late December, Ukrainian energy company Ukrinterenergo signed a one-year contract to purchase up to 1,500 megawatts from Russia (Ukraine currently uses the total 26,000 megawatts it generates). With Russian firms controlling about 30 percent of Ukraine's regional power distribution companies and beginning to export electricity to the country, the Kremlin is positioned to continue playing a role in Ukraine's energy sector.

Kiev knows how dependent it is and has made moving away from relying on Russian natural gas a top priority. Ukraine is buying natural gas reverse flows from Slovakia and has purchased supplies from Poland and Hungary in the past. Also, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced Feb. 14 that his country would borrow $1 billion in order to build up new natural gas and oil reserves.

But Ukraine will have to continue relying on Russia because Slovakia, Poland and Hungary are unable to provide sufficient natural gas supplies to meet demand during winter. Furthermore, the temporary deal between Ukraine's Naftogaz and Russia's Gazprom is set to expire at the end of March. Kiev will have to come to at least another temporary agreement with Gazprom before the summer months when Ukraine must begin filling up its storage facilities in preparation for winter.

On the surface, it appears the crisis has lessened Ukraine's economic and financial ties to Russia. The truth, however, is that Russia is still a significant player in the country's banking and energy sectors. In addition, it is maintaining its long-standing trade and industry ties. Moscow will continue using the subsidiaries of Russian firms, as well as Russian exporters, to apply pressure to Kiev and maintain influence within Ukraine's struggling economy. Nevertheless, Russia's own economic vulnerabilities to the West persist and will impact how the Kremlin wields its leverage over Ukraine.

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WSJ Ukraine to buy arms from UAE
« Reply #107 on: February 24, 2015, 11:45:06 AM »

By Robert Wall in Abu Dhabi and James Marson in Moscow
Updated Feb. 24, 2015 2:06 p.m. ET


Ukraine said it would buy what it called defensive weapons from the United Arab Emirates, bypassing the West’s reluctance to provide arms to help Kiev’s forces against Russia-backed rebels.

President Petro Poroshenko, speaking Tuesday at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi, didn’t specify what type of equipment Ukraine would buy or in what quantities, but said they would help Ukraine protect its territory from the separatists.

The U.A.E. Defense Ministry couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. It didn’t include any Ukraine-related arms deals in its daily contract update for the exposition.

Ukraine has for months requested lethal weapons from its backers in the West, but run into stiff resistance especially from Germany, France and Britain, which fear an escalation in the nearly yearlong conflict.

The Obama administration recently began reconsidering supplying Javelin antitank missiles, small arms and ammunition to Ukraine, but delayed a decision during the latest European peace efforts, which brought a cease-fire agreement on Feb. 12.  Like a similar agreement in September, the truce has failed to fully take hold, as militants overran the strategic, Ukrainian-held town of Debaltseve last week.

In Washington on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia has repeatedly lied about the presence of Russian troops and weapons in Ukraine, and it is still “a question mark” on whether the U.S. will step up sanctions or provide lethal aid. The U.S. still wants to see the cease-fire agreements implemented, he told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

“Russia is engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I’ve seen since the very height of the Cold War,” Mr. Kerry said. “And they have been persisting in their misrepresentations, lies, whatever you want to call them about their activities there, to my face, to the face of others on many different occasions.”

Col. Andriy Lysenko, a government security spokesman, said militants continued to shell Ukrainian positions on Tuesday, with one serviceman killed and seven injured in the last 24 hours.

He said that although the frequency of shelling had decreased, a full cease-fire needed to hold for two days before Kiev would pull its heavy weapons from the front lines—the next stage of the peace agreement.

Eduard Basurin, a rebel army commander, said his fighters had withdrawn heavy weapons from some towns on the front lines, but Col. Lysenko said the militants were regrouping elsewhere.

Russian President Vladimir Putin , who helped broker the Feb. 12 truce, said in a television interview in Moscow that “the situation will gradually normalize” if the full cease-fire deal is implemented. That includes a decentralization of power that would hand rebel-held areas greater powers, including the right to create their own police force and appoint prosecutors and judges.

Foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France reaffirmed their commitment to the accord hashed out by their leaders, calling for “strict implementation” of all provisions.

Meeting in Paris, the envoys discussed the violence around Debaltseve and Mariupol—a Ukrainian port that has also been targeted by separatists—demanding that international monitors receive full access to the disputed areas.

“We call on all parties to cooperate,” the ministers said afterward, without saying which side was preventing the monitoring.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is looking to bolster its armed forces, which mostly use aging equipment from the Soviet era, after losing its Crimea region to Russia in March 2014, and then large swaths of its Donetsk and Luhansk regions to pro-Moscow separatists.

But the fighting has caused havoc in the local weapons industry, which has suffered the loss of some facilities as it tries to maintain production of items such as armored combat vehicles.

Mr. Poroshenko said a “practical dialogue” remained under way with the U.S. to provide defensive weapons, including communications gear and the ability to counter artillery fire that has been heavily used by rebels in eastern Ukraine.

“We hope that in the very near future we have the decision,” the Ukrainian president said. EU leaders have urged the U.S. not to provide lethal weapons, apparently fearing it would lead to more bloodshed.

The U.S. has provided Ukraine with nonlethal military aid, such as protective vests, night-vision goggles and counter-mortar radar systems.

U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon on Tuesday announced additional nonlethal support “in light of continued Russian-backed aggression,” including medical, logistics, infantry and intelligence capacity-building. He said up to 75 British troops would conduct the training from mid-March in Ukraine, but “well away” from the conflict area.

Prime Minister David Cameron told a parliamentary committee that Britain was “not at the stage of supplying lethal equipment” to Ukraine.

After a meeting with senior U.A.E. officials, Mr. Poroshenko said military technical-cooperation agreements were signed to bolster Ukraine’s arms industry, which he said also managed to secure several export orders. He called the deals “extremely important so we have the money to modernize our armed forces.”

Ukraine has been forced to scrap some foreign orders as it diverts items intended for export to fighting at home, said Lukyan Selsky, spokesman for UkrOboronProm, which represents most of Ukraine’s defense industry. “We had to put all the vehicles in the fight in eastern Ukraine,” he said.

Some production facilities in Crimea and eastern Ukraine also are no longer under government control, he said. Ukrainian officials believe some of the equipment has been relocated to Russia, though they lack proof.

Some personnel who worked in eastern Ukraine have been relocated to other plants. The ability to manufacture explosive powder, for instance, is being rebuilt after a key production site fell into rebel hands, Mr. Selsky said.

Ukraine also is trying to balance military needs with its limited financial resources. The country, for instance, can’t afford its own Oplot main battle tank, Mr. Selsky said. It has decided to continue their export and instead take older tanks that were in storage and upgrade them.

Write to Robert Wall at robert.wall@wsj.com and James Marson at james.marson@wsj.com

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Ukraine's arms deal with UAE
« Reply #108 on: February 26, 2015, 10:28:03 AM »
 An Arms Deal for Ukraine Serves to Warn Russia
Geopolitical Diary
February 25, 2015 | 21:58 GMT
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A day after Tuesday's announcement of an arms deal between Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates, the dust is beginning to settle and the details are starting to become clear. Much attention has been given to the potential for U.S. involvement in this deal and the possibility that the agreement is a way to indirectly transfer U.S. weapons Ukraine, a move that would cross a red line for Russia. However, UAE weapons cooperation with Ukraine is not likely to be that incendiary. For now, the deal serves the political purpose of signaling to Moscow that there are consequences for its actions — not only in Ukraine, but also in Iran and the rest of the world.

Stratfor sources have indicated that UAE military supplies to Ukraine are likely restricted to lower-profile items such as armored vehicles rather than "game-changing" technology. Using the United Arab Emirates simply as a conduit for U.S.-produced arms makes little sense because of the permission required from Washington to transfer critical U.S.-produced systems to a third party. Such a move would not give the United States any more political cover than a direct delivery to Ukraine would.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

Defense deals between Abu Dhabi and Kiev are not new. Even during the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates delivered armored vehicles to the Ukrainian military that have been used in active operations. The United Arab Emirates has developed a modest defense industry, and securing export deals for these armored vehicles is a normal practice.

But the timing of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's claim that the countries signed a contract worth tens of millions of dollars on Tuesday is critical. In recent weeks, the United States has issued a deluge of statements about retaining the option to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine, and Russia has responded with a deluge of warnings. Abu Dhabi is not seeking to antagonize Moscow, but right now, defense-related cooperation with Ukraine at any level inadvertently affects relations with Russia. Poroshenko's invitation to the IDEX 2015 defense industry convention in the United Arab Emirates is certain to have caught Russia's eye. The invitation follows a recent visit to Iran by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that put the delivery of Russian air defense systems to Iran back on the table. The delivery of the S-300 air defense system has been a source of diplomatic controversy for some time and would exacerbate Abu Dhabi's concerns about Iran's military capabilities and nuclear program. In this context, displaying some degree of defense cooperation with Ukraine would serve as a reminder to Moscow that the United Arab Emirates can deliver weapon systems to places sensitive to Russian interests.

However, any weapon in and of itself will not reverse Ukraine's fortunes in the war. A weapon system has a capability, but that capability can only be used for a certain set of specific tasks on any given battlefield, whether they be offensive or defensive — a distinction the Russians will not make about any weapons sold or transferred to Ukraine. A weapon can have a massive impact on the battlefield if its capabilities neutralize or destroy the enemy's strength or exploit a weakness, if it is present in enough numbers and if the troops wielding it have been properly trained. All of this requires money — something the Ukrainians do not have much of, leaving them largely dependent on third-party largesse and a geopolitical context that rises above just fighting separatists in eastern Ukraine.

This explains the level of noise surrounding any potential weapons transfers to Ukraine. The separatists, with heavy Russian support, have had much success on the battlefield against a fairly weak Ukrainian military, predominantly by using armor and artillery. But the United States and its allies possess some weapons systems that could impose painful costs if they are fielded in large enough numbers and the Ukrainian military is trained in their use. The Javelin anti-tank guided missile is an oft-cited example of such a system. It may not win the war, but it could result in a higher attrition rate for Russian tanks, and that is why Russia has warned it would respond if significant weapons deliveries occur.

There is a context and timing to all of this noise as well. It grew louder when the separatists and their Russian backers looked like they could seriously expand their territorial holdings in eastern Ukraine. The threat of weapons deliveries from the United States was meant to deter such thinking. In other words, the United States has been telling Russia that the conflict in eastern Ukraine will get much more painful if Moscow continues using the combat situation as leverage in negotiations with Kiev. This strategy seems to have worked, to a point; a cease-fire has been implemented, albeit slowly and painfully.

A deterrent like the threat of arms deliveries does not go away. The combination of U.S. threats and the secretive UAE deal with Ukraine has opened up all levels of speculation. This deal seems to be more about low-level transfers and subtle messaging for now, but many options remain open as the conflict continues. All sides are likely to continue discussing and speculating about negotiations as well as any future arms deals with Ukraine as long as the status of eastern Ukraine remains in doubt.

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Ukraine's gold in US hands?
« Reply #109 on: March 02, 2015, 03:45:40 PM »

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US troops in Ukraine, Russia pist off, confrontation in the air
« Reply #110 on: March 06, 2015, 05:40:47 AM »
 The U.S. and Russia: Exercises and Venom
Geopolitical Diary
March 6, 2015 | 02:14 GMT
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Three hundred U.S. paratroopers could soon be arriving in Lviv, western Ukraine, for training exercises with the Ukrainian army. The arrival of the troops, which was signaled several weeks ago and alluded to as recently as Monday by the commander of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade — the unit that would supply the troops — would represent a significant event in the Ukraine crisis. No matter how few or what their mission, these are U.S. combat forces. The United States would at that point have taken the step of openly deploying combat forces in Ukraine, something that had not happened in some time, taking the U.S. relationship with Ukraine to a new level. It signals to the Russians that Ukraine, however informally, is now in a special relationship with the United States. At the same time, military exercises are taking place in the Black Sea involving a U.S. warship and cruiser and Romanian, Bulgarian and Turkish assets. It is a fairly routine exercise, but under these circumstances, what had been routine now takes on special meaning.

Russian forces are conducting exercises as well in southern Russia and the North Caucasus, including Armenia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. As significant, the exercises extend to Crimea. They focus on air defense. Significantly, both NATO and the Russians are conducting exercises around the Baltics.

Armies exercise all the time, but context is everything. Before the Russo-Georgian war of 2008, the United States was exercising with Georgian forces while the Russians were conducting exercises just north of Georgia. The Americans went home when the exercise ended. The Russians stayed put: The exercise was the preface for the Russian move into Georgia. Similarly, what has been routine before now is not necessarily routine right now.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

The United States has indicated it may introduce a small force into Ukraine. The Russians may easily view that as a preface to a larger force. According to Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Russian Security Council: "The U.S. is funding political groups under the guise of promoting civil society, just as in the color revolutions in the former Soviet Union and the Arab world. At the same time, the U.S. is using the sanctions imposed over the conflict in Ukraine as a pretext to inflict economic pain and stoke discontent. It's clear that the White House has been counting on a sharp deterioration in Russians' standard of living, mass protests." Others in Russia are charging that the United States is trying to overthrow President Vladimir Putin, and some that the CIA murdered Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov to generate protests. Meanwhile, the assumption on the U.S. side is that Putin had Nemtsov murdered.

The atmosphere has become increasingly toxic. Under the circumstances, every military exercise must be taken seriously for its implications. U.S. exercises in Ukraine and the Black Sea can be viewed as the dress rehearsal for naval action and larger forces. On the American side, the emphasis on air defenses raises the possibility of a Russian move to the west. If the Russians were to attack Ukraine, and the Americans chose to resist, the primary means available would be air power designed to strike at armor concentrations. The Russian counter is not its own air force, which is limited, but rather its mobile and strategic surface-to-air missiles to deny aircraft access to the skies over the attackers. Therefore, of all the exercises to cause potential concern in the United States concerning Russian intentions, exercising this capability would raise the specter of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.

There is, of course, a certain hollowness to all this rhetoric and maneuvering. This is not 1980, with massive forces carefully trained and deployed on both sides. The United States is planning to send a battalion of paratroopers. That really isn't much. The Russian army is a shadow of the Soviet army, and its ability to move even with minimal resistance is limited.

At the same time, the rhetoric and the charges disproportionate to the forces available are still noteworthy. The head of the Russian Security Council has essentially accused the United States of trying to cripple the Russian Federation. The Americans are saying that the Russians have violated the territory of a sovereign state and must be repelled. And the death of Nemtsov has triggered charges against both the FSB and the CIA.

It is difficult to see how either side backs off its position; this has become an American-Russian confrontation. Both are increasingly locking themselves into a hostile posture. Neither is in a position to launch a war, but both are ultimately capable of waging one. We expected a new Cold War between the United States and Russia, but we are surprised at the speed and venom that is framing this confrontation. The force is not there to match the venom, but given the intensity, no one should be confident that the force will not be generated.

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Russia's military options in Ukraine
« Reply #111 on: March 09, 2015, 07:43:38 PM »
Summary

Editor's Note: As part of our analytical methodology, Stratfor periodically conducts internal military simulations. This series, examining the scenarios under which Russian and Western forces might come into direct conflict in Ukraine, reflects such an exercise. It thus differs from our regular analyses in several ways and is not intended as a forecast. This series reflects the results of meticulous examination of the military capabilities of both Russia and NATO and the constraints on those forces. It is intended as a means to measure the intersection of political intent and political will as constrained by actual military capability. This study is not a definitive exercise; instead it is a review of potential decision-making by military planners. We hope readers will gain from this series a better understanding of military options in the Ukraine crisis and how the realities surrounding use of force could evolve if efforts to implement a cease-fire fail and the crisis escalates.

Russia's current military position in Ukraine is very exposed and has come at a great cost relative to its limited political gains. The strategic bastion of Crimea is defensible as an island but is subject to potential isolation. The position of Ukrainian separatists and their Russian backers in eastern Ukraine is essentially a large bulge that will require heavy military investment to secure, and it has not necessarily helped Moscow achieve its larger imperative of creating defensible borders. This raises the question of whether Russia will take further military action to secure its interests in Ukraine.

To answer this question, Stratfor examined six basic military options that Russia might consider in addressing its security concerns in Ukraine, ranging from small harassment operations to an all-out invasion of eastern Ukraine up to the Dnieper River. We then assessed the likely time and forces required to conduct these operations in order to determine the overall effort and costs required, and the Russian military's ability to execute each operation. In order to get a baseline assessment for operations under current conditions, we initially assumed in looking at these scenarios that the only opponent would be Ukrainian forces already involved in the conflict.
Analysis

One of the most discussed options is a Russian drive along Ukraine's southern coast in order to link up Crimea with separatist positions in eastern Ukraine. For this scenario, we assumed that planners would make the front broad enough to secure Crimea's primary water supply, sourced from the Dnieper, and that the defensive lines would be anchored as much as possible on the river, the only defensible terrain feature in the region. This would in effect create a land bridge to secure supply lines into Crimea and prevent any future isolation of the peninsula. Russia would have to drive more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) into an area encompassing 46,620 square kilometers, establish more than 450 kilometers of new defensive lines, and subdue a population of 2 million.

Taking this territory against the current opposition in Ukraine would require a force of around 24,000-36,000 personnel over six to 14 days. For defensive purposes, Russian planners would have to recognize the risk of NATO coming to Kiev's assistance. Were that to happen, Russia would have to expand the defensive force to 40,000-55,000 troops to hold the territory.

Planners must also consider the force needed to deal with a potential insurgency from the population, which becomes decidedly less pro-Russia outside of the Donbas territories. Counterinsurgency force structure size is generally based on the size of the population and level of resistance expected. This naturally leads to a much wider variance in estimates. In this scenario, a compliant populace would require a force of only around 4,200 troops, while an extreme insurgency could spike that number to 42,000. In this particular case, no extreme insurgency is expected, as it would be in cities such as Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkiv or Kiev. The defensive force could overlap with the counterinsurgency force to some degree if there were no external threat, but if such a threat existed the forces would have to be separate, potentially doubling the manpower required to secure the territory.
Wargaming Russia's Military Options in Ukraine

A similar scenario that has been considered is the seizing of the entire southern coast of Ukraine in order to connect Russia and its security forces in the Moldovan breakaway region of Transdniestria to Crimea. The logic goes that this would cripple Kiev by cutting off access to the Black Sea and would secure all of Russia's interests in the region in a continual arc. In terms of effort required, Russia essentially would be doubling the land bridge option. It would require an attacking force of 40,000-60,000 troops driving almost 645 kilometers to seize territory encompassing 103,600 square kilometers over 23-28 days. The required defensive force would number 80,000-112,000. This would also add a complicated and dangerous bridging operation over a large river. Moreover, the population in this region is approximately 6 million, necessitating 13,200-120,000 counterinsurgency troops.

These first two scenarios have a serious flaw in that they involve extremely exposed positions. Extended positions over relatively flat terrain — bisected by a river in one scenario — are costly to hold, if they can be defended at all against a concerted attack by a modern military force. Supply lines would also be very long throughout the area and, in the scenario that extends beyond the Dnieper River, rely on bridging operations across a major river.

A third scenario would involve Russia taking all of eastern Ukraine up to the Dnieper and using the river as a defensive front line. When it comes to defending the captured territory, this scenario makes the most sense. The Dnieper is very wide in most places, with few crossings and few sites suitable for tactical bridging operations, meaning defending forces can focus on certain chokepoints. This is the most sensible option for Russia if it wants to take military action and prepare a defensive position anchored on solid terrain.

However, this operation would be a massive military undertaking. The force required to seize this area — approximately 222,740 square kilometers — and defeat the opposition there would need to number 91,000-135,000 troops and advance as much as 402 kilometers. Since the river could bolster defensive capabilities, the defensive force could remain roughly the same size as the attacking force. However, with a population of 13 million in the area, the additional troops that might be required for the counterinsurgency force could range from 28,000-260,000. Russia has approximately 280,000 ground troops, meaning that the initial drive would tie down a substantial part of the Russian military and that an intense insurgency could threaten Russia's ability to occupy the area even if it deployed all of its ground forces within Ukraine.

One positive aspect would be that this operation would take only 11-14 days to execute, even though it involves seizing a large area, because Russia could advance along multiple routes. On the other hand, the operation would require such a vast mobilization effort and retasking of Russian security forces that Moscow's intent would be detectable and would alarm Europe and the United States early on.

Two remaining options that we examined were variations on previous themes in an effort to see if Russia could launch more limited operations, using fewer resources, to address similar security imperatives. For example, we considered Russia taking only the southern half of eastern Ukraine in an effort to use decidedly less combat power, but this left the Russians with an exposed flank and removed the security of the Dnieper. Similarly, a small expansion of current separatist lines to the north to incorporate the remainder of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to make the territory more self-sustaining was considered. Both operations are quite executable but gain little in the grand scheme.

The final scenario we considered was the most limited. It involved Russia conducting small temporary incursions along the entirety of its border with Ukraine in an effort to threaten various key objectives in the region and thus spread Ukraine's combat power as thin as possible. This would be efficient and effective for the Russian military in terms of the effort required. It could accomplish some small political and security objectives, such as drawing Ukrainian forces away from the current line of contact, generally distracting Kiev, or increasing the sense of emergency there, making the Ukrainians believe Russia would launch a full invasion if Kiev did not comply.

For all of the scenarios considered, the findings were consistent: All are technically possible for the Russian military, but all have serious drawbacks. Not one of these options can meet security or political objectives through limited or reasonable means. This conclusion does not preclude these scenarios for Russian decision makers, but it does illuminate the broader cost-benefit analysis leaders undertake when weighing future actions. No theoretical modeling can accurately predict the outcome of a war, but it can give leaders an idea of what action to take or whether to take action at all.

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WSJ: Sanctions
« Reply #113 on: March 18, 2015, 04:54:13 AM »
BRUSSELS—A political deal is emerging within the European Union that could help the bloc navigate its divisions on policy toward Russia, by delaying an immediate decision on extending economic sanctions against Moscow, according to people involved in discussions.

The arrangement would also clearly link an easing of sanctions explicitly to the full and final implementation of the Ukraine cease-fire accord signed in Minsk, Belarus, last month, the people said.

The understanding, crafted in talks in Brussels, Paris and Berlin in recent days, aims to create a broad consensus at an EU leaders summit this week that when heads of government meet again in June or July, they would likely extend the economic sanctions on Russia through at least the rest of 2015.

EU governments are still working on the exact language leaders will use in a statement they will issue after this week’s summit.

After European affairs ministers met in Brussels on Tuesday, Edgars Rinkevics, foreign minister of Latvia said he doesn’t believe “there is going to be...any decisions” on sanctions this week. Latvia holds the rotating EU presidency,

According to several people involved in the talks, there is now what one diplomat called a clear “political understanding” that there will be no decision to renew sanctions this week. However, the leaders’ statement is expected to say sanctions will be tied to Russia fully implementing its Minsk obligations, which include the crucial step of handing back control of the Ukrainian border at the end of 2015.

Extending the sanctions would be “more or less a formality” at the next EU leaders summit, said a second senior official involved in discussions. The emerging political deal would “get the issue out of the way for now.”

The EU has imposed a series of sanctions on Russia since March 2014, when Moscow annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Russia denies western accusations that it has supplied and supported separatist forces in eastern Ukraine that battled Ukraine’s army for most of the past year.

The EU already has extended until September 15 targeted sanctions on Russian and separatist individuals and entities whose actions were deemed to have undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty. EU leaders have said sanctions would be stepped up if the situation in eastern Ukraine deteriorates.

With the cease-fire largely holding, however, divisions have been emerging within the EU about when and whether to roll over the bloc’s toughest response to the crisis: major economic restrictions on energy, banking and defense ties with Russia imposed last summer and which expire in July.

Speaking on Monday after meeting in Berlin with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said pressure on Russia shouldn’t be lifted until Moscow has fully implemented the Minsk agreement. “The sanctions and the implementation of the Minsk plan must be connected,” she said.

However at a meeting in Brussels that same afternoon, EU foreign ministers again exposed their rifts on what is best to do. The Austrian and Spanish foreign ministers were among those warning the bloc should take no step at this point to ratchet up pressure, saying that would send the wrong signal at a critical moment in the cease-fire.

“There is no need to decide now on Russia sanctions--they are still ongoing until summer,” said Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz. “Sanctions are a means of pressure, not a goal as such. Extension of sanctions depends on the situation on the ground in eastern Ukraine.”

Others pressed the bloc to give a clear signal that economic sanctions would stay in effect well past July. “I hope we can have a clear political commitment to maintaining sanctions until Minsk is implemented in its entirety,” said British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. “It’s important to send a signal to the Russians that we are united, we are determined and that they have to deliver on their commitment.”

The U.S. has signaled it will keep its sanctions in place for the foreseeable future.

Since the start of the crisis in Ukraine, the EU has struggled to maintain unity and divisions have become increasingly transparent in recent months.

Governments in Hungary, Slovakia and Greece have criticized the effectiveness of the restrictions to secure a political solution in Ukraine while others, like Italy, Spain and Cyprus have been tentative about the measures. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Budapest last month. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Mr. Putin in Moscow in early March, and Greece’s new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is due to see the Russian president in Moscow early April.

Other countries such as Poland, those in the Baltic and the U.K. have frequently vented frustration that the EU hasn’t reacted more resolutely to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish premier, said in January that what he termed as the West’s “appeasement” of Moscow “encouraged the aggressor to greater acts of violence.”

The economic sanctions issue still has the potential to crack open the unity that the bloc has managed to sustain so far. To renew the measures beyond July, the bloc needs the approval of all 28 member states. Greece’s government, which is entangled in a conflict with its fellow eurozone members over its economic plans, has said it won’t give up its right to veto any EU decision that threatens its national interests.

However, the EU has time and again swung behind a consensus led by France and Germany—the two countries that helped broker the Minsk agreement along with Ukraine and Russia. Diplomats say that while Paris was wary of German talk about extending the sanctions in recent weeks, the two are now agreed that delaying any immediate decision on sanctions in exchange for an understanding that the pressure will remain beyond July is a policy that can keep the bloc united.

Write to Laurence Norman at laurence.norman@wsj.com
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Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Backtracking from the Brink in Ukraine
« Reply #114 on: April 02, 2015, 05:19:33 AM »
 Backtracking From the Brink in Ukraine
Global Affairs
April 1, 2015 | 08:04 GMT
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By Jay Ogilvy

If ever there were a flashpoint — to invoke the title of George Friedman's new book — Ukraine is it. The fragile cease-fire now in place in eastern Ukraine is the pilot light to a new Cold War between the United States and Russia as their proxies poise to reload.

At this critical moment, American media have been fanning the flames of this flashpoint. While Russia has hardly been innocent of violating international law in its annexation of Crimea, it is worth taking stock of some history, near and distant, to temper the narratives that could escalate into a shooting war that should be entirely avoidable.

Ever since the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the American media have been filled with Vladimir Putin bashing. For Americans, Putin is an easy target with his KGB background, bare-chested bravado and anti-gay policies. But this obsessive focus on Putin's personality obscures much more important geopolitical realities.

False Parallels

The dominant U.S. narrative for Ukraine is that Ukraine is simply one more Eastern European country trying to pry itself out from under seven decades of Soviet oppression. This narrative is profoundly misleading. Ukraine is not Poland and it is not Latvia or Romania. These countries are each largely united by a shared language and culture. They are also further fused through suffering from prior Russian incursions.

Ukraine is different from most of its neighbors in Eastern Europe. It is both deeply divided, culturally and politically, and its eastern half is strongly bound to Russia.

Just look at the maps of the presidential elections of 2004, 2010 and 2014.

Note the similarity between these electoral maps and the distribution of Russian speakers:

Eastern Ukraine is not equivalent to the former East Germany artificially divided from the whole. "Rus," the identity that is the root of the Russian identity, was born in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, centuries before Moscow's more recent accession to the central role. During the civil war that followed the Russian Revolution of 1917, some of the fiercest fighting over the founding of post-revolutionary Russia took place in Ukraine. Crimea, which was part of Russia until it was ceded to Ukraine after World War II, has long served as Russia's equivalent to Florida — a vacation destination for the elite to escape winter's cold or enjoy summer at the seashore.

In addition to these historical and cultural realities that go back centuries, the U.S. media also ignore more recent history. The Soviet Union gifted Crimea to Ukraine in 1954, shortly after the death of Josef Stalin in 1953. The new leader, Nikita Khrushchev, felt a strong attachment to his favorite province of the Soviet Union. He had worked in a Ukrainian mine as a young man and took a Ukrainian woman as his wife. Shifting Crimea's attachment from Russia to Ukraine was like moving money from his right pocket to his left. Khrushchev could hardly have imagined that his beloved Ukraine would cease to be part of the Soviet Union in less than 40 years.

Moving still closer to the present, an amnesiac American media forgets that, after the fall of the Soviet Union, in the words of the last U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union in a Feb. 20 address at the National Press Club, "first President [George H.W.] Bush, at a Malta meeting in 1989, and then later, in 1990, almost all the Western leaders, told Gorbachev: If you remove your troops from Eastern Europe, if you let Eastern Europe go free, then we will not take advantage of it."

Despite that admittedly controversial "promise" — controversial because it was only verbal and never put in the form of a written treaty — the United States and NATO have moved steadily eastward toward the Russian border. Never mind juicy details like U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt getting caught on tape discussing the imminent coup of elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. Never mind the dark shadow of anti-Semitism in groups like western Ukraine's nationalist Svoboda party, or the out of control militias responsible for some of the worst of the fighting. There is plenty of blame to go around on both sides of a very messy reality. The important thing is to appreciate that this mess has many hues other than black and white before righteously arming those poor Ukrainians against the vicious Putin.
A Warmer Cold War

Today it is almost hard to recall the warmer relationship between the United States and Russia before and immediately after the fall of the Iron Curtain. As part of a decadeslong effort at citizen diplomacy, I traveled to Russia in 1983, 1985 and 1991. Those were heady days with talk of a "peace dividend" and "a new world order." Our tiny group — Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy — numbered fewer than 50 individuals. Nevertheless, we managed to sponsor then-President Boris Yeltsin's first trip to the United States, during which he experienced an epiphany. Faced with dozens of different brands of mustard in a Houston, Texas, supermarket (he loved mustard), he broke down in tears at what 70 years of communism had denied his people. He returned to Russia, quit the Communist Party, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I tell this story to heighten the contradictions between what could have been, what is now and what might yet be. When I returned to Russia again in 2005, feelings were much cooler. I had the opportunity to conduct 28 high-level interviews over a period of 10 days and, time and again, what I heard was a message that said, in effect, "No, we are never going to go back to the old centrally planned economy; we renounce Marx; we embrace the market; but we want to do it our way. You Americans are overbearing and arrogant. Back off!"

What had happened in the intervening years? In retrospect, I would say the United States simply got distracted around the time of the first Gulf War. We took our eye off the Russian ball. Various advisers and consultants confused Russia with Poland and advocated a sudden transition to a market economy. Lacking the requisite institutional infrastructure for managing a fair marketplace, many of Russia's treasures fell prey to asset grabs by the now infamous oligarchs.

When runaway inflation led to the devaluation of the ruble in 1998, millions saw their precious pensions evaporate overnight. Many Russians were not at all happy with their transition from a centrally planned economy to a market economy. Perhaps the jokes had been true — "All Russians are equal: equally poor" and "We pretend to work; they pretend to pay us." Nonetheless, those pensions had provided something of a safety net, however meager. The new world order was considerably more brutal — economically speaking — than the old regime.

Further, as former President Mikhail Gorbachev has remarked, Americans indulged in what he calls "triumphalism," which was all the easier to do when the Russian economy fell so far down. But as former U.S. Ambassador Jack Matlock argues vigorously in his book Superpower Illusions, the United States did not "win" the Cold War. Matlock was there with President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev when they achieved what both sides regarded as a negotiated settlement that was to the advantage of both nations — at least at first. Only later, when the promise of Russian wealth did not materialize, did that negotiated settlement come to appear to the Russians to be every bit as punitive as the Treaty of Versailles had been to the Germans in the wake of World War I.

The American media, with a few exceptions like Stephen F. Cohen, neglects these geopolitical realities. Instead it repeats over and over its cartoons of a demon Putin, its tales of unwarranted Russian aggression across Ukraine's eastern border, its sympathy for a nation mistakenly believed to be united in its fear of Russia. But Ukraine is not united. It is riven by wounds that run deep. No winner-take-all solution to its problems is likely to succeed.

What chance is there that Russia will use military force to achieve a winner-take-part solution? An earlier Stratfor three-part series began by gaming Russia's options via several scenarios; then, in part two, considered possible responses by the West. Part three, Russia Weighs the Cost, wrapped up with the following paragraph:

    "The conclusion reached from matching up these scenarios with Moscow's strategic imperatives is that no obvious options stand out. All of the scenarios are logistically feasible, though some would come at an incredible cost, few of them actually meet Russia's needs, and none of them can be guaranteed to succeed as long as the possibility of a U.S. or NATO military response remains. If the prospect of such a military engagement deters the West from taking direct action against a Russian offensive, the West's option to subsume the remaining parts of Ukraine significantly minimizes the benefits of any military operation Russia might consider. As Joshua, the computer in the 1983 movie WarGames, observed, 'The only winning move is not to play.'"

This scenario-based analysis reflects a disciplined effort to weigh the options from the perspective of Russian strategists: what is to be gained or lost for Russia, not for a cartoonish Putin.

The point of this column is to overcome the simplistic narrative of Ukraine that has been painted in the U.S. media. If we fail to appreciate Russia's real interests, if we obscure geopolitical realities with glossy dramas about Putin's bare chest, then we are in danger of fanning the flames of old enmities at this critical flashpoint.

Crimea was, is and will be part of Russia. Get used to it. For Donetsk and Luhansk this will also very likely be the case. But Russia (not Putin) has no real interest in advancing more deeply into eastern Ukraine: "The only winning move is not to play." Unless, of course, the West — NATO urged on by the United States — presses needlessly for a winner-take-all solution. In that case many Russians, if not the strategists in the Kremlin, would almost surely be motivated to engage in a "humanitarian intervention" to protect their Russian friends suffering under "oppression" just over the border in eastern Ukraine. In this Western-pressured scenario, there will be blood.

Pressure for a winner-take-all solution by the West would be unreasonable and totally in violation of those verbal assurances made when Reagan and Gorbachev negotiated the conclusion of the Cold War. Such pressure could build upon media-fed delusions about an undivided Ukraine. But a deeper understanding of the geopolitical realities, seen in the context of history, near and far, should give us pause before foolishly giving in to calls to arm the Ukrainians against an unlikely Russian offensive.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #115 on: May 10, 2015, 08:14:17 AM »
Analysis

By Eugene Chausovsky

The Ukrainian city of Lviv is located in the far west of the country, less than 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Polish border. Lviv was once part of the kingdom of Galicia, which included parts of modern Ukraine and Poland. The city has long been known as the center of Ukrainian culture, overshadowing Kiev as the driving force behind the development of a distinct national identity. Lviv played a particularly important role in the period between World War I and World War II, when Ukraine first attained independence, and again in the lead-up to the collapse of the Soviet Union. During Ukraine's unrest in 2014, the city was once again at the vanguard of history. Demonstrators stormed local government buildings and declared the city independent on Feb 20, a full two days before Kiev's EuroMaidan protesters forced then-President Viktor Yanukovich to give up his hold on power and flee abroad.

Of Ukraine's major cities, Lviv is the most European — in terms of both history and culture. The city was ruled by Poland from the 14th to the 18th century and, as rival powers gradually partitioned Poland, was then controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire until World War I. After the war, nationalists in Lviv attempted to form an independent state, only to ultimately fail, and Poland reclaimed the city in 1919. It was not until the end of World War II that Lviv fell under Moscow's control as part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Kiev, by contrast, had been under Russia's sway for three centuries already.

A view of buildings at Lviv University, established in 1661 by Poland's King John II Casimir. (Wikimedia Commons)

Modern Lviv bears the marks of this European history and has a distinctly different character than eastern Ukraine or even Kiev—it is the city in which Western influence is at its maximum and Russian influence is at its weakest. The Ukrainian language predominates on the streets of Lviv, which are lined with classical and Gothic European architecture. Catholic cathedrals such as the Church of the Holy Communion and the Latin Cathedral stand in the city's old town. On the main thoroughfare, Svobody Avenue, a monument to Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz is erected in front of an Austrian-built Baroque opera house and a statue of Taras Shevchenko, the icon who made Ukrainian into a literary language.

A tent stands on Svobody Avenue in central Lviv as a memorial to government troops killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine. (EUGENE CHAUSOVSKY/Stratfor)

Today on Svobody, there stands a more immediate symbol of Lviv's Western-orientation and solid Ukrainian credentials: a memorial tent to the "freedom fighters" battling pro-Russia separatists in the east. Nearby is a small booth set up by the nationalist Svoboda party, whose leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, is from Lviv and played an important role during the EuroMaidan demonstrations. Ukrainian flags can be spotted on every street, along with a few EU and Council of Europe flags. Troops occasionally walk by, chatting casually with locals. Many shops and cafes are decorated in the Ukrainian national colors of yellow and blue as well as posters supporting Kiev's efforts against eastern separatists. Most have buckets soliciting donations for the war effort.

A truck soliciting donations to support the Ukrainian military's efforts in eastern Ukraine. (EUGENE CHAUSOVSKY/Stratfor)

It was here, in the center of the city, amid the nationalist decorations, that I met up with some Ukrainian friends — two couples in their mid-thirties from Kiev. Normally the May holidays would find them abroad, but Ukraine's current economic circumstances have made that difficult. The hryvnia, which once exchanged at eight to the dollar, depreciated over the past year and now sits at 22 to the dollar. A road trip to Lviv was much more affordable for them.

My first question was what they thought of Ukraine's national crisis. Right away, one of them responded that it didn't matter what they thought — they couldn't change anything. Before the ouster of Yanukovich, this sort of apathy was the norm among young people. It surprised me, however, to hear it at such a critical and tumultuous time. But this knee-jerk cynicism belied the fact that my previously apolitical friends had, over a short period, become intensely aware and involved in domestic politics. While fatalism was still the norm, even after Kiev's pro-European Union protests broke out in November 2013 and police began to beat student demonstrators, many otherwise apolitical people rallied to the anti-government cause. They provided food and supplies to protestors on the Maidan. When the rallies succeeded in toppling Yanukovich, my friends were thrilled.

When Russia reacted by annexing Crimea and providing support to militants in eastern Ukraine, my friends transformed into full-fledged Ukrainian patriots. Before 2014, none of them had voted in elections. In recent parliamentary elections, however, they all voted — two chose Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's party and two voted for the radical Right Sector party. The latter choice shocked me. When I asked why, they said they chose Right Sector because it was the only party fully committed to defending the nation; in their minds, the other parties seemed self-interested and willing to sell out to the highest bidder. None of my friends cared whether Ukraine pursued EU membership, but they all said Russia was clearly a threat and that Ukraine needed help meeting that threat.

All of my friends have been affected by last year's conflict and instability, either emotionally, physically or economically. Utility prices, for example, have risen substantially. They will continue to do so under the new government's reform and austerity program, which is key to obtaining funds from Western financial institutions. My friends said that these costs were difficult for them to bear, but that they would endure them. To them, that was the price of progress. They preferred higher bills to the humiliating corruption under Yanukovich. They acknowledged that the reform process would take time, but were willing to wait and see it out if it would lead to a more well-run and just state. Ultimately, however, they wanted at least some demonstrable improvements soon, saying that Poroshenko could suffer Yanukovich's fate if he did not deliver.

Elsewhere in Lviv, I found others who shared my friends' cautious optimism. A Lviv-born taxi driver told me that his life had worsened since 2014. Most of his complaints were about the economy — high gas prices, food costs and heating rates did not balance with stagnating wages. He noted, however, that Ukraine had suffered worse hardships before and that at least now the West was acknowledging Russian President Vladimir Putin's designs on Ukraine. In addition, he was relieved that Yanukovich was gone. In Lviv, life was calm and plenty of tourists still came to the city, while the fighting was "way out there in the east."

A Ukrainian flag flies in a rural village near Rivne, about 180 kilometers (112 miles) northeast of Lviv. (EUGENE CHAUSOVSKY/Stratfor)

Leaving the city, however, it became clear that even nearby towns were suffering the crisis more acutely than Lviv. This became quickly apparent as the charming old city gave way to Soviet-style concrete apartment blocks and small, rusting factories. Along the E-40 highway heading east, these concrete buildings eventually faded out, leaving only flat, green fields and small, derelict villages. I spotted people on horse-drawn carts working the land as they and their families had done for centuries. Many of these people likely camped out in the EuroMaidan and were essential in championing the demands for reform that ultimately led to Yanukovich's ouster. Passing through them made it easy to see why — there really wasn't much else to do.

All the signs along the road to Kiev were printed in both Ukrainian and English – none were in Russian. A few Soviet-era monuments stood alongside the road — a tank, a MiG-29 fighter. All of these, however, were draped with Ukrainian flags. The welcome sign outside the town of Tarakanov bore not only the Ukrainian flag, but also the red and black Ukrainian nationalist flag now used by Right Sector.

Driving into central Kiev, we crossed the over the Dnieper River on the yellow and blue illuminated Peshechodny Bridge. Seeing Ukraine's national colors, my friend said "Isn't it beautiful?" Hearing this middle class, Russian speaker who had once been so politically apathetic swell with Ukrainian pride underlined the drastic evolution they and other Ukrainians had undergone over the past year. Alongside the political, economic and security changes Ukraine had undergone, many of its people had experienced an emotional transformation. Their identity had changed. They knew the war with Russia would be difficult and long. They knew that the economy was weak and that the government was still corrupt and influenced by oligarchs. In spite of all this, they now felt more Ukrainian than they had before.

This, however, does not mean they support the new government unconditionally. Instead, it means they hold Kiev to higher standards than ever before. This was a shift in public sentiment on a deeper, more personal level. The government could just as easily be voted or removed from office as the previous one. This new identity, however, could not be removed as easily. Granted, Ukraine still has a number of cultural divides and were I to speak to Ukrainians in Kharkiv or Odessa, not to mention separatist-dominated Donetsk and Crimea, the answers would be quite different. Regardless of its scope, the new and politically engaged attitudes that I witnessed in Lviv will play an important role, both domestically and abroad, in Russia and the West, in charting Ukraine's new future.

Crafty_Dog

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US changes tactics
« Reply #116 on: May 19, 2015, 06:53:18 PM »
 The U.S. Changes Its Tactics With Russia
Geopolitical Diary
May 19, 2015 | 00:31 GMT
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On Monday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland met with Russian deputy foreign ministers Sergei Ryabkov and Grigory Karasin in Moscow. The Russian reaction to Nuland's visit has been mixed. Karasin called his discussions with the assistant secretary "fruitful" but also said he is not in favor of the United States' joining the Normandy talks on Ukraine, which include representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France. Ryabkov noted that the current state of the U.S.-Russia relationship is not conducive to moving forward. Nevertheless, Nuland's visit is the latest indicator that the U.S. role in the negotiations over Ukraine's future and the U.S. administration's position on Ukraine may be shifting.

During the past week, U.S. officials have been shuttling between meetings with Russian and Ukrainian leaders, inserting the United States directly into the complex negotiations. Last week, Nuland met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk after accompanying Secretary of State John Kerry on his trip to Sochi, Russia, on May 12. Kerry's meetings in Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were inconclusive but elicited positive public feedback from the Kremlin.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

For the past year and a half, Germany and France have been at the forefront of Western negotiations with Russia. However, differences between the German and U.S. views of events in eastern Ukraine and interpretations of the Minsk agreement have come to the fore. Germany has taken a more favorable view of progress in implementing the Minsk agreement, while the United States has maintained a hard line, emphasizing continued active Russian military support for the separatist forces.

Moreover, members of the European Union are divided over how to approach Russia, especially regarding sanctions. Poland and some Baltic states have sought to increase pressure on Russia, while countries such as Greece, Italy, Hungary and Spain are seeking to protect their trade ties and have indicated that they would consider voting to ease sanctions down the line. As a result, Germany is having an increasingly difficult time maintaining a hard line in dealing with Russia.

Nonetheless, Germany would rather remain at the forefront of the negotiations with Russia and avoid a scenario in which the United States forces Russia into a confrontation that Berlin does not want. Although U.S. officials have been involved in discussions with their Russian and Ukrainian counterparts throughout the conflict, the recent direct high-level negotiations — without the participation of European leaders — signal that Washington wants a larger and more direct role in discussions regarding Ukraine.

At the same time, Russia's negotiating position has changed since the beginning of the conflict. Low energy prices and sanctions have contributed to economic troubles in Russia. Simultaneously, Putin's temporary disappearance from public view in March, as well as the Federal Security Service's efforts to boost its influence relative to competing Kremlin factions, could have affected the U.S. strategy for negotiating with the Kremlin.

There are indications that U.S. demands for Russia in the Ukraine crisis are evolving as well, possibly as a part of negotiations. In contrast to previous statements from U.S. officials, both Kerry and Nuland refrained from publicly discussing the status of Russian-annexed Crimea over the past week. Though the Minsk agreements envision Ukraine retaking control of its border with Russia, in both Kiev and Moscow Nuland merely spoke about the necessity for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to have a presence on the border and the ability to inspect cargo moving into Ukraine. Nevertheless, while in Moscow, Nuland did note Russian support for the separatists and, in a symbolic move, met with Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group and a human rights activist critical of the Kremlin.

Russian negotiators would like to elicit several key concessions from the United States. The first concerns U.S. military support for Ukraine. U.S. trainers are in western Ukraine on a six-month mission, but Russia wants to ensure that U.S. forces do not extend or expand this mission. Thus far, the United States has refrained from providing significant military support to Kiev. The Kremlin is likely pushing its U.S. counterparts not to provide weapons to Ukraine and to end training activities there and in other countries in Russia's periphery such as Georgia.

Another key Kremlin demand is curbing U.S. and NATO activity along the alliance's eastern edge, in countries such as the Baltics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Further, Russian negotiators are pressing for the United States and the European Union to lift sanctions imposed on Russian firms and citizens.

The United States probably is unwilling to compromise on its military training mission to Ukraine, but the U.S. administration could, as it has thus far, avoid providing Ukraine with weapons that add to the country's military capabilities. Creating an alliance along NATO's eastern edge is likewise a part of the U.S. strategy in the region for countering Russia.

But when it comes to sanctions, Washington may be open to compromising. U.S. sanctions were imposed in spring and summer 2014 using executive orders and can be lifted should the U.S. administration decide to do so, unlike EU sanctions, whose fate depends on decisions by all the bloc's members. If it occurs, the lifting of U.S. sanctions would take place piecemeal, beginning with lighter sanctions such as travel bans on individuals, since the administration would likely work to ensure that it still has some means of pressuring Russia as negotiations continue. In order to begin lifting some sanctions, the United States will likely demand a full cease-fire along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, as well as greater access for international observers.

The United States and Russia have been in close contact regarding the situation in Ukraine since the beginning of the crisis. But Nuland's visit, as well as Kerry's trip to Sochi and meeting with Putin, could signal a shift in U.S. strategy in talks with the Kremlin. The latest flurry of meetings likely does not herald an end to the crisis. For Russia, rendering Ukraine at least neutral is still a strategic goal. However, greater direct U.S. involvement in the negotiations could change the dynamics of the talks. The United States does not necessarily want a neutral Ukraine, but it appears more open to directly negotiating with Russia and keeping potential compromises on the table

DougMacG

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Re: Ukraine, Putin winning or losing
« Reply #117 on: September 21, 2015, 06:10:17 AM »
The American Interest

HOW TO READ UKRAINE
Is Putin Winning or Losing?
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD
Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine don’t think they’re getting enough support from the Kremlin, and are openly wondering if Putin still wants to help them win.

Ukrainian separatist leaders say their hopes of full integration with Russia or greater independence are fading as the Kremlin tightens the reins on their rebellion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin appears unwilling to risk broadening his conflict with the U.S. and European Union over Ukraine, senior separatist officials said in interviews this month, meaning the rebel regions’ future is more likely to resemble Transnistria, the Russian-backed breakaway area of Moldova, whose fate is still unresolved more than two decades after fighting subsided.
Russian nationalists want to bring Ukraine back into the fold; there should not, some Russians feel, be an international border between Moscow and Kiev. Yet there’s little sign that Putin has ever made this his goal. For one thing, Ukraine’s economy is in such bad shape that Russia would have to subsidize it heavily. That’s not something Putin is eager to do. Even the nationalists’ fallback position—a Ukraine so committed to Russia’s version of the European Union (the “Eurasian Union”) that further EU integration is impossible—would require heavy Russian support.

On the other hand, Putin cannot tolerate a Ukraine that is fully integrated into the West. A democratic Ukraine that was traveling the road taken by Poland and the Baltic States to become increasingly economically successful, ultimately to join the Western institutions of the EU and NATO, would be a crippling defeat for Putin for two reasons: First, because the Russian nationalists who are an important part of Putin’s coalition would turn against him in anger and disappointment if Russia were seen to have ‘lost’ Ukraine in this way. Second, because the core arguments that Putin uses to defend his methods and regime would be gravely weakened.

Putin’s argument to the Russian people is that Orthodox Slavs are part of a different civilization from the West: Russia isn’t like France or Germany, England, or even Poland. Western democracy, Western economic organization, and Western ideas about personal autonomy and freedom are foreign to Russia and don’t work. Look what happened in the 1990s when Yeltsin tried to move the country Westward, the argument goes. Russia almost fell apart! Then, when the kind of strong government that Russia needs was restored (by Putin) things got better. Western pressure to democratize is part of a plan to defeat, dismember and humiliate Russia. The West’s true hope, Putin contends, is for Russia to fall apart the way the Soviet Union did.

The trouble for Putin is that a successful Ukraine, democratizing and Westernizing, undercuts this argument. If Ukraine were to start looking more like Denmark, or even Poland, that would be an important sign that an Orthodox Slavic culture (and remember, Russian nationalists consider Ukraine and Russia to be deeply similar) really can succeed on the basis of liberal economic and political ideas. Russia doesn’t have to be isolated, undemocratic and poor. If the Russians get rid of Putin and his cronies, they too could have a better life.
Putin’s core concern with Ukraine, then, is defensive. He considers its Westward aspirations to be a serious danger to his power. His goal isn’t to conquer all Ukraine or even part of it; his goal is to spoil Ukraine—to prevent it from taking the Westward road with success. Conquest or integration of Ukraine into the Eurasian Union is something he can’t afford and doesn’t particularly want. But keeping Ukraine from assimilating into the West: that’s vital.
Long term Russian control over Crimea and a poor, corrupt, Ukraine run by greedy and unpopular oligarchs is pretty much Putin’s dream scenario. And it’s better still if this crippled entity is subsidized by the West—if the EU and the U.S., for example, end up helping Ukraine pay its oil bill to Gazprom and otherwise have to prop up its staggering economy.

That’s not a perfect situation for him; there are, for example, important defense plants in eastern Ukraine that Russia would like to have back under his control. But given that Russia is a weaker power, and that the oil price collapse has exacerbated Russia’s weakness, what we see now is pretty much a status quo that Putin can live with—as long as Ukrainian reforms fail and its economy flounders.

So the important battle line in Ukraine isn’t actually in the east. The important battle in Ukraine is political and economic. Can the West and pro-Western Ukrainians reform the economy and build a competent, honest and modernizing state, or will the oligarchs and the legacy of Soviet corruption drag Ukraine down?
Putin hopes (not without reason) that time and inertia are on his side. Ukraine has never been able to build a Western style state, and its oligarchs remain in charge. The West’s goals for Ukraine are harder to achieve than Putin’s goals; this is why Russia, a fundamentally weaker power than the West it opposes, has a chance at getting its way in Ukraine.

Therefore, the purpose of the badly organized and poorly-led mafias and militias in the Russian dominated chunks of eastern Ukraine is to keep Ukrainian politics on the boil. By controlling when and whether Donetsk militias fight, Putin can create a political crisis in Ukraine at any moment. This frozen conflict (which Putin always has the option of unfreezing) helps deter foreign investors who fear the risk of renewed unrest. It pushes Ukrainian nationalists toward more radical politics in ways that Putin hopes will further unbalance Ukraine’s precarious political order. It forces Ukraine to borrow money for military defense. It confirms the impression of people inside Russia that their country is surrounded by implacable enemies and needs a strong leader to defend it.

Meanwhile, Putin has other tools he can use to make the task of reform inside Ukraine harder. There are oligarchs whose loyalties are divided, and who want to keep on good terms with the Kremlin while keeping the EU and the reformers from changing the way they do business. Some members of parliament and of Ukraine’s government and security forces are susceptible to Russian bribes or blackmail. Some groups in Ukraine fear that reform will undercut their power and privilege (like the masses of corrupt civil servants and judges who will ultimately be sidelined and marginalized if the New Ukraine really takes shape). And there are others who, for reasons of sentiment or interest, want Ukraine to look East rather than West.

For all these reasons, Putin doesn’t need military success in eastern Ukraine or further advances into Ukrainian territory to get his way. This is a political struggle for Putin more than a military one, and from his point of view, the situation in Ukraine looks reasonably good. Success isn’t guaranteed, of course, but the odds against a successful state building effort in Kiev remain long.

Posted: Sep 20, 2015 - 3:49 pm
http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/09/20/is-putin-winning-or-losing/

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #118 on: September 21, 2015, 08:55:49 AM »
That seems a pretty good analysis to me.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor
« Reply #119 on: December 29, 2015, 07:28:38 AM »
Summary

Editor's Note: This is the second installment of a five-part series that explores the past, present and future of the confrontation between Russia and the West on the Eurasian landmass.

Russia's desire for influence in Ukraine is as old as the Russian state itself. It has fought for centuries to protect its stake in the Eastern European nation from the encroachment of the West, often turning to natural gas cutoffs or outright military intervention to do so.

Since the end of the Cold War, Ukraine has vacillated between East and West, split between the country's pro-Russia and pro-Europe factions. Now, as Ukraine swings once more toward the West, Russia stands to lose much of its power over one of its most important satellites.
Analysis

There was once no distinction between the Russian and Ukrainian nations in their earliest forms; both peoples belonged to the loose federation of eastern Slavic tribes known as Kievan Rus that emerged in Eastern Europe toward the end of the ninth century. Over time, the medieval state grew to become one of the largest on the Continent, spanning between the Baltic and the Black seas. But it was different from its neighbors to the west: Orthodox Christianity was the dominant religion in Kievan Rus, setting it apart from the mostly Catholic Western Europe.

In the 13th century, Kievan Rus began to destabilize in the face of internal discord, only to be swept away completely by invading Mongol hordes from the east. The state's capital, Kiev, as well as the rest of the land that is now Ukraine, languished until the Western Catholic powers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and then the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth conquered it at the start of the 14th century. Meanwhile, the principality of Muscovy, which lay northeast of Kiev, grew to become the new center of the Slavic Orthodox civilization to the east.

Emergence of the Ukrainian Front

The two major powers — the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the west and the burgeoning Russian Empire to the east — competed for control of Ukraine over the next 300 years, giving rise to the East-West divide that exists in the country to this day. But a third force — the Cossacks — began to gain influence in Ukraine as well, complicating loyalties even further. A frontier people, the Cossacks had a fierce warrior mentality and were constantly feuding with their Asian and Muslim neighbors to the south. They were also staunch observers and defenders of their Orthodox faith.

The Cossacks were the precursors of Ukraine's modern independence movement, belonging to neither the Catholic Poles nor the distant Orthodox Russians. In 1648, Bohdan Khmelnytsky — perhaps the most famous Cossack — led an uprising against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and established an independent Cossack state centered on the banks of the Dnieper River, which bisects the city of Kiev. However, much like the kingdom of Kievan Rus, the Cossack state did not last. Six years after launching his rebellion, Khmelnytsky allied with Muscovy in its war against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, ultimately leading to the integration of Kiev and modern-day eastern Ukraine with Muscovite Russia. Western Ukraine remained under Polish control.

As the Russian Empire expanded throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, its influence in Ukraine grew. The Partitions of Poland gradually chipped away at the commonwealth's territory, granting the Austro-Hungarian Empire control of the far western Galicia region while giving the rest of the country to Russia.

In the early 20th century, after the fall of the Russian Empire, a Ukrainian nationalist movement emerged in the western province of Lviv. When the Soviet Union was founded in 1922, Lviv was the only Ukrainian territory that was not incorporated into the new Soviet state. Instead, it became the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and Kiev was its capital.

Josef Stalin's forced collectivization of the Soviet Union's agricultural sector brought starvation to the Ukrainian countryside in the 1930s, and soon after World War II began the Nazis invaded. When the Allies defeated Nazi Germany, all of Ukraine, including the province of Galicia, was brought under the Soviets' domain for the first time in centuries. The next 40 years were relatively calm for Ukraine, though they were marked by Soviet rule. When the Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991, Ukraine became an independent state.
The Past 25 Years: Tug-of-War Between Russia and the West

The end of the Cold War brought an unprecedented degree of independence to Ukraine. Nevertheless, the legacy of suzerainty lingered, making the country's political scene more volatile. Russia continued to influence Ukraine from the east, while the newly formed European Union began to exert its power over the country from the west. Within Ukraine, competing political factions emerged that were loyal to one foreign patron or the other.

At first, the weak Ukrainian government attempted to rebuild the country while maintaining a precarious balance between Russia and the West in its foreign policy. But when the pro-Russia Viktor Yanukovich won a narrow and contested victory over his pro-West opponent, Viktor Yushchenko, in Ukraine's 2004 presidential election, mass protests erupted. After what became known as the Orange Revolution, the election results were deemed illegitimate, and Yushchenko assumed the presidency instead.

During the decade of political polarization that followed, Ukraine began to politically reorient itself toward the West, and it formally pursued membership in the European Union and NATO. This aggravated tensions with Russia. Moscow responded by cutting its natural gas flows to Ukraine in 2006 and 2009 and by expressing explicit discomfort with Kiev's new pro-West policies.

Still, the defining feature of this period was the infighting taking place within Ukraine's own government, especially between Yushchenko and his running mate, Yulia Timoshenko. Their dispute, which divided the government, prevented the country from meaningfully integrating with the West and led to a steep decline of the government's popularity among Ukrainian voters. By the next presidential election in 2010, the political tides had turned: Yushchenko garnered a mere 5 percent of the vote and ceded the presidency to Yanukovich accordingly.

However, Yanukovich's victory was hardly sweeping, and the bulk of his support came from constituencies concentrated in the country's pro-Russia east and south; he registered very little support in Ukraine's pro-Europe center and west. Upon assuming office, Yanukovich wasted no time in reversing his predecessor's efforts to integrate Ukraine with the West. He made NATO membership illegal and extended the Russian Black Sea fleet's port lease in Crimea by 25 years in exchange for lower natural gas prices. These decisions alienated and angered pro-West Ukrainians, who complained that Yanukovich abused his power.

The final straw came when Yanukovich pulled out of an EU free trade agreement just before an Eastern Partnership summit, again in return for financial aid and lower prices on energy imports from Russia. Protests erupted, eventually becoming the large-scale demonstrations known as the Euromaidan movement that culminated in Yanukovich's ouster in February 2014. The scale and intensity of the protests were unmatched by any in Ukraine's post-Soviet history.

When a new pro-West government led by President Petro Poroshenko rose in Yanukovich's place, Ukraine swung away from Russia yet again. Unsurprisingly, ties between Ukraine and Russia have deteriorated again, but this time Russia has responded more aggressively. To counter what it considered to be a dangerous level of Western influence near its borders, Russia annexed Crimea and instigated a pro-Russia rebellion in eastern Ukraine. The situation there has come to a tense standstill as Russia faces off against the West.
The Next 25 Years: Moving Away From Russia

A look at Ukraine's long history shows that major shifts in the country's foreign policy and political orientation are not unique to the Euromaidan uprising. The country has frequently pivoted between Russia and the West as the pro-Russia east and the pro-Europe west vie for power.

However, the latest conflict in eastern Ukraine has polarized the country more than any other in its post-Soviet history. In fact, it resembles how divided Ukraine was before it was incorporated into the Soviet Union. This polarization is likely to continue in some form for several years, if not decades, as the military engagement with Russia becomes ingrained in Ukrainian society and weakens the historical bonds between the two countries. Animosity will probably only intensify as younger generations with no memory of Ukraine's Soviet period grow up in a country where Russia poses the greatest threat to national security.

In the meantime, the high level of economic integration that has defined the relationship between Ukraine and Russia for centuries is also likely to weaken in the coming decades. Because of the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the two have already significantly reduced trade ties: Ukraine has slashed its imports of Russian natural gas, while Russia is preparing to embargo Ukrainian agricultural products. Such retaliatory measures will probably intensify over time, and the two countries will come to rely less on each other economically. Similarly, political and military ties will remain neutral at best. Each of these factors makes a reorientation toward Russia highly unlikely in the next 25 years.

As Ukraine's ties with Russia erode, Kiev will meanwhile try to strengthen its connection with the West. This does not necessarily mean that Ukraine will become an EU and NATO member, since those institutions will undergo changes of their own over the next 25 years. However, Ukraine will probably integrate further with the two countries that played a major role in shaping its pre-Soviet history: Poland and Lithuania. Poland and the Baltic states are currently in the throes of a long-term effort to merge their energy and economic infrastructure to create a regional bloc. Joining the bloc will become increasingly attractive to Ukraine in the coming decades, especially if membership comes with the political and security backing of the West's most powerful member, the United States.

This potential grouping, which harken back to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, will be made more feasible by the sweeping demographic changes taking place in Ukraine. The country is set to experience one of the steepest population declines in the world: It will lose 21.7 percent of its population by 2050, dropping from 45 million people to 35 million. As it does, Ukraine will need to secure partnerships with larger countries or multinational alliance groups to maintain its economic viability and gain security patrons to protect itself from Russia — something that also interests Poland and the Baltic states, as well as Moldova, Romania and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

However, Ukraine and Russia will not sever all ties over the next 25 years. The deep cultural, linguistic and religious bonds that exist between them are not likely to be broken entirely over the course of a generation. Still, the bonds will weaken, as will the two countries' broader bilateral ties when Ukraine moves out of Russia's shadow.

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Ukraine helped Clinton campaign
« Reply #122 on: January 16, 2017, 03:43:43 AM »


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Re: The Holocaust in the Ukraine
« Reply #124 on: April 25, 2017, 08:59:06 AM »
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3205754/Blood-oozed-soil-grave-sites-pits-alive-secrets-Ukraine-s-shameful-Holocaust-Bullets-killing-centre-1-6million-Jews-executed.html

Amazingly powerful photos.  I wonder what the Holocaust deniers think of this.

I can't help but think of my father who never told me they were the first medical unit at the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp in Buchenwald, Germany.  His buddy told me that everyone who was anywhere near it knew what was going on there based on the smell.

Crafty_Dog

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Geopolitical Futures: Ukraine
« Reply #125 on: July 26, 2017, 01:13:34 PM »
•   Ukraine: On July 25, the U.S. special representative to Ukraine said the United States was considering providing defensive weapons to Ukraine. On July 26, the CEO of Ukrainian state energy distributor Ukrenergo announced that the company had suspended electricity to Donetsk region; it had threatened to take this action in April. On the same day, a district court in Kiev ordered Ukraine’s State Security Service to open a case against Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the charge of treason, claiming that he had helped finance fighters in Donbass. These are all potential signs of a more assertive Ukraine. It may be coincidence that these developments happened after the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to extend sanctions against Russia, but coincidences are rare in our line of work. The bill passed with such a strong majority that it can’t be vetoed by the president. Russia is threatening retaliation of some type and has to respond to provocations in Ukraine. All of this points toward a potential destabilization in Ukraine. In the immediate term, we need to look at each of these moves and figure out whether they are a result of the sanctions or whether they were long in the making.

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GeoFut
« Reply #126 on: August 01, 2017, 12:14:57 PM »
•   Ukraine: The U.S. State Department and Defense Department agreed to supply Ukraine with anti-tank missiles and weapons, pending U.S. executive approval. The weaponry is described as defensive and will reportedly help Kiev fight pro-Russia rebels. We need to track the progression of this proposal, when the delivery of weapons would occur and troop movement in contested areas such as Crimea.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Russians about to adjiust strategy in Ukraine?
« Reply #127 on: September 16, 2017, 06:34:30 AM »
Russia may soon change its strategy on the conflict in Ukraine. According to a report from independent Russian news publication RBC on Sep 15, Russia will cut humanitarian aid to the breakaway territories of Donbas in Eastern Ukraine beginning in 2019-2020. These plans were reportedly outlined in the minutes of a meeting, which allegedly came into the possession of RBC. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak chaired the meeting Sept. 1.

Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov refuted the reports, saying that Russia, the primary military and financial supporter of separatists in the region, had not and would not consider refusing humanitarian aid to Donbas residents. However, Peskov also said that a restructuring of the Russian Finance Ministry's funding process was underway. The comments are notable because they suggest Russia is contemplating a shift in how — if not how much — it finances the breakaway territories in Donbas.

The timing of the report is also notable. Russia and Ukraine are expected to hold discussions next week over Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal for a U.N. peacekeeping force in Donbas. The proposal, made on Sept. 5, called for a peacekeeping force to protect monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on the line of contact between Ukrainian security forces and Russia-backed separatists in Donbas.

Ukraine and the West have criticized the proposal for being too limited in scope. Kiev has instead called for a U.N. peacekeeping force with access to all of Donbas, including along the border with Russia. Nevertheless, the proposal has breathed new life into the long-running negotiation process over the Ukrainian conflict. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is slated to present Kiev's plan for a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Donbas before the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Sep. 20. Putin has even indicated openness to expanding his initial proposal to include more locations where OCSE monitors already carry out inspections in accordance with the Minsk agreements.

The upcoming UNGA will be important to watch for diplomatic movement in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, as well as for the involvement in these talks of key Western players such as Germany, France, and the United States. Given the conflicting positions and divergent demands of the various sides, it's unlikely that a U.N. peacekeeping force will actually be deployed in the near future. However, the UNGA will offer an opportunity to de-escalate growing animosity between Moscow and the West. At the very least, these recent developments suggest Russia is looking at ways to ease Western pressure against its involvement in Ukraine. Russia will continue to support of Donbas because of the region's position on the country's borderlands. But Moscow is demonstrating a willingness to be more flexible in how it approaches — and how much it supports — Donbas.

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GPF: Ukraine: End in Sight?
« Reply #128 on: September 28, 2017, 03:53:29 AM »
An End in Sight for Ukraine … Maybe
Sep 28, 2017
By Jacob L. Shapiro

The conflict in Ukraine has developed an interminable quality. We are now over three years into the war in Donbass, and every day brings new updates on cease-fire violations or steps forward and backward on implementing the Minsk accord. This can make it hard to determine when conditions have actually changed. There have been a few key developments lately, however, that suggest real change is in the offing. The likeliest shape of this change is an acceptance of the stalemate and formalization of the status quo so that the fighting can finally stop. It’s a little too soon to say that this is what’s happening, but the early indicators are there.

Positive Indicators

The first indicator was a meeting between the newly appointed U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and one of Russian President Vladimir’s Putin’s top aides, Vladislav Surkov. The two met in Minsk on Aug. 21, and although no major developments arose out of the meeting, both sides characterized it as cordial and honest. It was a startling characterization given that the meeting occurred amid a firestorm related to new U.S. sanctions against Russia and the possibility that the U.S. would provide Ukraine with new weaponry.

The second indicator came Sept. 5, when Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council that raised the possibility of sending U.N. peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine to provide security in Donbass for monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Putin endorsed the plan himself, describing the deployment of the peacekeepers as “absolutely appropriate” at a BRICS press conference in Xiamen, China. This was an about-face for Russia, which had consistently blocked the idea of U.N. peacekeepers in the region. Germany’s foreign minister said the move could be a “first major step towards lifting anti-Russian sanctions,” which meant it could also be a first step toward removing a stumbling block in Russian-German relations.

Neither the U.S. nor Ukraine, however, reacted favorably to the Russian proposal. This is because the initial proposal said that the U.N. peacekeepers could be deployed only along the line of contact between separatists in the Donbass region and Ukraine. Ukraine wants the peacekeepers stationed not at the line of contact but at what it views as the border between Ukraine and Russia.
 
(click to enlarge)

The third indicator came in the Russian response to these concerns on Sept. 11. In a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin reportedly said the U.N. peacekeepers “could guard OSCE observers not only on the line of contact … but in other locations as well.” Putin’s statement was broad enough as to be practically meaningless, but even so, it was a gesture of compromise, and these agreements do not sprout from the ground fully formed overnight.

The gesture was not initially reciprocated. Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. lamented on Sept. 18 that the U.S. and Ukraine had told Russia that they would not work with Russia on the U.N. peacekeepers plan. A week later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized that point, claiming that Russia had made a good-faith proposal but had received no response and wasn’t going to force the U.S. and Ukraine to sit down at the table.

That changed Sept. 25 when Volker, the U.S. special envoy, was interviewed by Voice of America’s Ukrainian service chief. This serves as our fourth indicator. Volker was blunt about the fact that the U.S. does not view the Russian proposal as viable – according to Volker, it “will even more divide Ukraine, and not solve the problem.” But Volker also made a point of saying that he did not believe Russia would have proposed a solution if Moscow weren’t prepared to talk seriously about a resolution, and that Volker took this as a sign that serious negotiations were possible. Notably, last week, Interfax reported that Volker and Surkov may meet again in the first week of October in an undisclosed country in the Balkans.

Not So Fast

Of course, these are just preliminary indicators. Just because both sides are willing to talk to each other does not mean they are willing to put aside their differences and reach a compromise. The EU’s ambassador to Russia said Sept. 27 that the EU would not link deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to the removal of anti-Russia sanctions, cutting against the optimism that Germany’s reaction to Russia’s proposal engendered. And no doubt Russia did not miss the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the U.S. saying in his testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 26 that he was of a mind that the U.S. should provide Ukraine with weapons to help it defend its sovereignty.

Ukrainian soldiers take part in the “Rapid Trident-2017” international military exercises at the Yavoriv shooting range not far from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Sept. 15, 2017. YURI DYACHYSHYN/AFP/Getty Images

What makes the indicators more compelling, however, are the interests that suggest that a resolution makes a good deal of sense. Russia’s interest in Ukraine is as a buffer to potential threats emanating from its West. Donbass is a shabby excuse for that buffer – what Russia really wants is for all of Ukraine, not just two small separatist statelets, to side with it. The longer the war in the east drags out, the more hostile western Ukraine grows toward Russia, and the more precarious Russia’s position becomes – especially if the U.S. ends up supplying Ukraine with new weapons.

Consider also that Russia is spending a lot of money to keep those separatist areas, Donetsk and Luhansk, afloat. The exact amount is impossible to know. A study by the German newspaper BILD concluded that Russia was spending 1 billion euros ($1.17 billion) a year on public service salaries and pensions alone in separatist Ukraine. The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, meanwhile, estimated Russian expenditures in Donbass at $6 billion per year. No doubt those figures are too high; Ukraine has an interest in making it appear that Russia’s position in Donbass is untenable. But even though it’s hard to quantify the precise cost, it’s not hard to deduce its significance. The Russian economy is not in a state that it can afford to throw money at a problem with no end in sight.

Russia’s options are the status quo or some kind of settlement. Neither is particularly savory, but Russia may be at the point where the latter is preferable to the former.
Donetsk and Luhansk are not going to march on Kiev and bring Ukraine back into Russia’s sphere of influence, and a policy of supporting them against a larger and better-equipped enemy is unsustainable. The choice for Russia right now looks to be either a hostile government in Kiev, backed and armed to the teeth by the U.S., or a pro-West government that the U.S. will not arm and that Russia can slowly try to bring back into its orbit. Russia would settle for neutrality in Kiev right now, and that is something the U.S. may be open to.

That’s because the U.S. has been trying to improve relations with Russia through multiple presidential administrations. The U.S. does not want Russia to be able to dominate Eastern Europe and therefore will oppose any solution that could put Kiev at risk. But the U.S. also isn’t spoiling for a fight. It has concerns throughout the world, most notably on the Korean Peninsula, and it would not be opposed to de-escalation. This doesn’t mean the U.S. is going to turn away from Ukraine, but it does mean the U.S. may be willing to promise not to provide Ukraine with weapons or to consider other Russian requests if they are accompanied by Russian compromises. As for the rest of Europe, and especially the EU, the situation in Ukraine is an inconvenience but nothing more. Germany in particular wants to get past this problem so it can get back to selling its exports to Russia.

There’s a long way to go yet, and it’s possible that this is another false start. There have been periods of de-escalation before in the past three years, and it could be that Russia is dangling a proposal it knows is a non-starter for the U.S. to appear willing to make accommodations without doing anything. Still, the four indicators are more likely to represent a trend than a series of anomalies. And considering that both the U.S. and Russia have geopolitical interests in bringing the conflict to an end, and that our 2017 forecast expected exactly these types of developments, the indicators are even more notable. The thing to watch for next is whether Volker and Surkov do indeed meet again, and if they do, what comes out of their meeting. If it’s positive, then the situation in Ukraine may be on its way toward formalization. If it’s more of the same, then the stand-off continues.

Crafty_Dog

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POTH: Ukraine- intrigue and corruption
« Reply #129 on: October 08, 2017, 04:46:03 AM »
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/07/world/europe/ukraine-russia-manafort-corruption.html?emc=edit_th_20171008&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0


POLTAVA, Ukraine — After four years of investigation by the German police, the F.B.I. and other crime-fighting agencies around the world, heavily armed security officers stormed an apartment in the central Ukrainian town of Poltava. After a brief exchange of gunfire, they captured their prey: the man suspected of leading a cybercrime gang accused of stealing more than $100 million.

The arrest of Gennadi Kapkanov, 33, a Russian-born Ukrainian hacker, and the takedown of Avalanche, a vast network of computers he and his confederates were accused of hijacking through malware and turning into a global criminal enterprise, won a rare round of applause for Ukraine from its frequently dispirited Western backers.
By the following day, however, Mr. Kapkanov had disappeared.

A judge in a district court in Poltava turned down a prosecution request that he be held in preventive custody for 40 days, and ordered him set free. Mr. Kapkanov has not been seen since.

Whether Mr. Kapkanov’s flight was the result of corruption, incompetence or a mix of the two has not been clearly established. The prosecutor general in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, threatened to fire the local prosecutor but backed off when it became clear that the case had been handled by one of his own deputies.
The Poltava debacle helps explain why Ukraine, a land of so much promise thanks to its educated population, fertile farmland and vibrant civil society, has a tendency instead to generate so many headline-grabbing scandals.

Over the past year, Ukraine has been battered by revelations: off-the-books payments to President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort; the creation in Ukraine of malware used in hacking attacks by Russia during the 2016 American presidential election; and speculation that its Soviet-era missile technology may have been smuggled to North Korea.

The sagas are unrelated in their substance and timing. Mr. Manafort’s activities in Ukraine predate Ukraine’s 2014 revolution, while the others follow it. But they all flow in part from the same dysfunctions of a weak state gnawed by corruption and thrown off balance by constant Russian pressure, and the open vistas of opportunity for skulduggery that these have offered.

“Why is there so much noise around Ukraine? Because Ukraine is the epicenter of the confrontation between the Western democratic world and authoritarian, totalitarian states,” Oleksandr Turchynov, the head of Ukraine’s national security and defense council, said in an interview. He denounced reports of Ukraine providing missiles to North Korea as Russian disinformation aimed at undermining Western support.

But while Russia has worked steadily since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union to weaken Ukraine and keep it within Moscow’s orbit of influence — first through economic pressure and political meddling and then military aggression — Ukraine has also enfeebled itself.

“The thread that ties strange things together in Ukraine is nearly always corruption,” said Serhiy A. Leshchenko, an opposition member of the Ukrainian Parliament and vociferous critic of President Petro O. Poroshenko.

Mr. Poroshenko, he conceded, is better than his predecessor, the kleptocratic, pro-Russian leader — and former Manafort client — Viktor F. Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in February 2014 after months of street protests in Kiev. “But that is only because he is weaker, and society is much stronger,” Mr. Leshchenko said.

President Petro O. Poroshenko in 2014. He is better than his predecessor, a critic says, “only because he is weaker and society is much stronger.” Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Mr. Poroshenko, unlike his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir V. Putin, also has to contend with a lively free press that delights in probing and exposing government stumbles and the maneuvers of self-dealing insiders.

“Ukraine, with the exception of the Baltic States, is the only post-Soviet republic which is not authoritarian,” said Serhii Plokhii, a Harvard professor and the author of a history of Ukraine. And unlike the three Baltic States, which enjoyed brief periods of independence between the First and Second World Wars, Ukraine has only an acute awareness of centuries of subjugation by outside powers, among them Poland, Austria and Russia, that left its people inherently wary of authority.

“What is Ukraine’s national idea? It is resistance to authority,” said Taras Chornovil, a former adviser to Mr. Yanukovych.

Ukraine’s painful history as a put-upon appendage has left it ill-equipped to curb unruly habits at odds with the rule-based, scandal-shy order of the European Union, which it aspires to join.

“Its attempts to stay democratic while building a nation are often messy, its oligarchs all powerful and, given the virtual absence of state control over media and oligarchic competition, post-Soviet corruption is out in the open,” Mr. Plokhii said.

Ukraine’s domestic intelligence service, or S.B.U., its powers of surveillance greatly enhanced by monitoring equipment provided by the United States after Mr. Yanukovych
decamped to Russia, has added its own highly selective and distorted form of transparency by leaking information about alleged wrongdoing, often for political or financial gain.

Controlled by Mr. Poroshenko, the S.B.U. has become a tool in domestic political and business battles, with anti-corruption activists accusing it of working to undermine, not help, their cause.

While still politically influenced, Ukrainian law enforcement is no longer the swamp of incompetence and corruption it once was. It has been able to monitor Mr. Manafort’s former business associates and turn up evidence of Russian hacking in the 2016 United States election, in part owing to American technical support.

The Central Intelligence Agency tore out a Russian-provided cellphone surveillance system, and put in American-supplied computers, said Viktoria Gorbuz, a former head of a liaison office at the S.B.U. that worked with foreign governments.

Ms. Gorbuz’s department translated telephone intercepts from the new system and forwarded them to the Americans. “This team would translate and immediately, 24 hours a day, be in full cooperation with our American colleagues,” she said.

It is unclear whether any phone intercepts relevant to the election meddling investigation have gone to the American authorities. But a Ukrainian law enforcement official has given journalists partial phone records of former associates of Mr. Manafort.

Dismantling Russian spy gear, however, proved far easier than purging Russian power, which has shadowed Ukraine constantly since it declared independence in 1991 but became far more aggressive in recent years.

Since March 2014 Ukraine has lost Crimea to Russian annexation and large chunks of its industrial heartland in the east to rebels backed by fighters and weapons from Russia. It has also been used as a testing ground by Moscow for disinformation and hacking techniques later deployed during presidential election campaigns in the United States and France.

A pro-Russian rally in Feodosia, Crimea, in 2014. Russia annexed Crimea and aided separatists in eastern Ukraine, contributing to the chaos that keeps Ukraine unstable. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Ukrainian officials invariably cite Russian meddling to explain why anti-corruption and other steps demanded by the West have often faltered. While Russia is a convenient excuse, it is also a very real menace.

In Poltava, the center of town is dominated by a czarist-era monument to Russia’s victory over Sweden in a 1709 battle that sealed Russia’s rise as the region’s pre-eminent power and ended Ukrainians’ early aspirations for their own state.

Now draped in Ukrainian flags, the monument nonetheless stands as a powerful reminder of Russia’s looming presence in a country that has struggled to create a functioning independent state on the fragile foundations left by more than 70 years of communism and centuries of subjugation by Russian czars.

Igor Gavrilenko, a lecturer in Ukrainian history at the Poltava National Technical University, said the release of Mr. Kapkanov, the man accused of being a cybercrime kingpin, was typical of the dysfunction that has plagued Ukraine.

“The whole situation is absurd, but nothing in my country really surprises me anymore,” he said, sitting in a park near the Poltava battle monument. “Ukraine is a country where anything is possible if you have money.”

It was to Ukraine that Mr. Manafort looked for new business horizons after doing work for despots in Africa and Asia. Setting up shop in Kiev, he became entangled in a murky constellation of Russian and Ukrainian business tycoons and politicians, notably Mr. Yanukovych, the president ousted in 2014.

Mr. Chornovil, who worked as Mr. Yanukovych’s campaign manager in 2004, remembers Mr. Manafort as “arrogant and full of self-confidence,” a showman who liked to organize big, splashy events that required lavish spending.

A secret ledger recording payments to Mr. Manafort and others, he said, was part of a crude effort to keep track of all the money sloshing through Mr. Yanukovych’s administration.

“Everyone was stealing, and the party wanted a record of who got what,” Mr. Chornovil. “They never imagined that they might lose power one day and the accounts would come to light.”

Mr. Manafort, he said, often clashed with members of the president’s entourage but “had a colossal influence on Yanukovych for some reason.”
He added: “He was not here out of any ideology but to make money. He was here exclusively for the money.”

A rally in Independence Square in Kiev in 2013. Ukraine has been too fragmented to impose either Russian-style authoritarianism or a modern democratic order. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

The end of Mr. Yanukovych’s rule in 2014 upended Mr. Manafort’s business in Kiev and brought in Mr. Poroshenko on a wave of reformist fervor.

Left in place, however, was what has for years been Ukraine’s strength as a pluralistic society and also its fundamental flaw: a fragile state that is too fragmented by competing economic and regional interests to impose either Russian-style authoritarianism or European-style rule of law.

“There was never a strong state on this land. Medieval feudal mosaics, fragile kingdoms and early-modern Cossack republics had nothing in common with European absolutism or Russian authoritarianism,” said Valerii Pekar, a lecturer at the Kiev-Mohyla Business School, in a recent article. “This is a country of balance, not of leadership. Nobody can rule Ukraine like a king.”

The West, fed up with the dysfunction, has been pushing Mr. Poroshenko with only partial success to tip the balance away from the corruption-tainted oligarchs and Russian proxies who often held sway under Mr. Yanukovych.

He did establish an independent anti-corruption agency and introduce a mandatory declaration of assets for officials and members of Parliament. But he has so far stalled on setting up a tribunal outside the existing court system to try corruption cases.

Larissa Kulishova, the judge in Poltava who let the hacker go, denied that she had erred. In a brief interview, the judge said she had made her ruling “in full accordance with Ukrainian and European law.” She disputed an appeals court judgment issued after the hacker had fled that overturned her decision and said she had been wrong: “I don’t think I made a mistake.”

Larissa Golnyk, a judge in the same courthouse, said she could not speculate on what prompted her fellow judge to free Mr. Kapkanov but expressed dismay at the decision.  Ms. Golnyk has bitter experience of the pressures put on judges. Equipped with a secret camera by anti-corruption investigators, she filmed a representative of Poltava’s mayor offering her a $5,000 bribe to close a case. Posted online, the video produced a public uproar but no action against the mayor or his emissary.

“Every time something clearly wrong happens I ask, ‘How can this be happening?’” Ms. Golnyk said. “I am always told, ‘Come on, you must be used to such things by now.’”


Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: US-Ukraine arms deal
« Reply #130 on: January 11, 2018, 05:46:23 AM »


Highlights

    Considering its long-standing opposition to the move, Moscow will probably respond in one way or another to the United States' recent decision to send lethal weapons to Ukraine.
    Beefing up the separatist forces' arsenal to ensure their capabilities match those of Ukrainian fighters may be Russia's best bet for retaliating without damaging relations with the United States too much.
    Russia could also opt to defer a response for now in favor of diplomacy, but it will fire back as it sees fit if the United States or the European Union increases sanctions against it or makes a move it considers aggressive.

Since the war in Ukraine began in 2014, the United States has considered sending arms to the country. Now Washington is ready to follow through with the idea. U.S. President Donald Trump approved the sale of lethal weapons to Ukraine on Dec. 22, signing a $47 million deal that includes 35 FGM-148 Javelin command launch units and 210 anti-tank missiles, along with smaller arms. Wary of provoking Russia, the United States has been careful to frame the recent decision as a purely defensive measure, and not a means to encourage military action against separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. But Moscow, viewing the move as an act of escalation, will doubtless respond in one way or another.

A Cautious Move

Though the previous administration also entertained sending arms to Ukraine, it chose not to take that route to avoid stoking the conflict, which had become less intense in 2015. Trump signaled on taking office that he would take a similar approach. He preferred to work with Russia on issues such as the war in Ukraine, rather than ratchet up tension. Over the first year of Trump's presidency, however, relations between Washington and Moscow have only declined. Congress passed stricter sanctions against Russia in 2017 and may impose more punitive measures on the country this year. At the same time, officials in the Trump administration, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, advocated more firmly for supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine.

Even so, the administration has tread lightly on the issue. An unnamed U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal that the Javelin missiles promised in the arms deal would be used only for training purposes in western Ukraine — far from the front lines — under the close watch of U.S. military personnel. That way, Washington hopes not only to avoid a flare-up in the fighting but also to make sure its weapons don't wind up in the hands of the separatists and their Russian patrons.
Firing Back

Moscow isn't convinced, though. Following the arms deal's announcement, the Russian deputy foreign minister called the United States "an accomplice in fueling a war" because of the decision. And that accusation may not be the extent of Russia's reaction. Moscow, for example, could respond to the move in kind by ramping up its support for the separatists in Donbas to ensure they have capabilities on par with those of the Ukrainian military. On Jan. 10, a member of the Ukrainian parliament said the Russian military was working on technology to shield vehicles from Javelin missiles. Beefing up the separatists' arsenal may be the best option for Russia to respond to the U.S.-Ukraine lethal weapons deal without making relations with the United States much worse.

In addition, Moscow could opt for an asymmetric response. Russia could use the hybrid tactics it routinely employs against Ukraine — including targeted assassinations of security forces and officials, cyberattacks, economic restrictions, and political manipulation — to put more pressure on the country and its Western backers. It could even apply these methods outside Ukraine, for instance in Syria or in the European borderlands, to retaliate against the United States for increasing support to the Ukrainian government. Russia, after all, has followed a similar strategy many times in the past.

Still a third option for Moscow is to defer a response for now in favor of diplomacy. With only two months to go before the next presidential election, the current Russian administration has an interest in preventing the conflict in Ukraine from escalating, lest the United States compound Russia's economic troubles with more sanctions. Staying engaged with U.N. peacekeeping negotiations, likewise, offers Moscow a potential solution to keep heavier sanctions at bay.

So far, at least, the arms deal has yet to aggravate hostilities along the front lines in eastern Ukraine. The two sides of the conflict, in fact, went through with a major prisoner swap just days after the United States announced the decision. But should the United States or European Union take further punitive action against Russia, or make more moves in the security sphere that it considers aggressive, then the Kremlin will fire back as it sees fit.

DougMacG

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Re: Stratfor: US-Ukraine arms deal
« Reply #131 on: January 11, 2018, 11:01:38 AM »
Maybe we could use some of our leverage in Ukraine to stop the hacking.  I learned yesterday from a call from a federal agent that my ebay account was hacked, most likely out of Ukraine where we don't have enforcement cooperation.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2018, 01:59:40 PM by DougMacG »

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: A US-Russian deal in the making?
« Reply #132 on: January 31, 2018, 06:57:54 AM »
n Stratfor's 2018 Annual Forecast, we wrote that a resolution for Ukraine would remain out of reach, despite potential progress in negotiations between the United States and Russia over a U.N. peacekeeping force. Even as the two major powers cautiously signal a willingness to find common ground over such a force, that analysis still holds.
See 2018 Annual Forecast

Even as the animosity continues to build between the United States and Russia, the two countries may be moving toward compromise in a hotly disputed theater: Ukraine. Following Jan. 26 talks in Dubai between Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov and U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker, Surkov said that Russia would carefully study U.S. proposals for a U.N. peacekeeping force in Ukraine. More specifically, Surkov spoke favorably of a U.S. plan to deploy U.N. peacekeepers in phases.

A phased approach, if carried out, would be a significant departure from the United States' and Russia's respective positions up until now. Ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin first signaled his openness to a U.N. peacekeeping mission last September, the Kremlin has been adamant that such a mission must be limited to guarding independent observers on the line of contact between Ukrainian troops and separatist forces. The United States and its allies in Ukraine, on the other hand, have insisted that a U.N. peacekeeping mission should be deployed throughout Donbas, including at the border between the separatist territories and Russia where the Russians regularly provide weapons and troops to sustain the rebels. A phased approach would, ostensibly, provide a compromise between the two plans.

Few specifics are currently available about Washington's proposal. U.S. officials have yet to comment, and Surkov approached the topic cautiously, stating only that Russia would provide a prompt answer after careful study and that a follow-up meeting would be arranged. It's unlikely that Russia will implement the plan until after its March presidential vote, given that doing so would represent a concession to the United States — something it wants to avoid during election season.

Russia's post-election landscape could offer more room for negotiation, however, especially since Moscow is also facing the possibility that Washington will expand sanctions against it. For the Kremlin, a more constructive approach to the Ukraine conflict might go a long way toward avoiding a major expansion of sanctions. Russia is not about to abandon its position in eastern Ukraine, but allowing U.N. peacekeepers to the frontlines could show cooperation with the West, while still leaving open the possibility for Russia to subsequently freeze the process if and when it sees fit. For now, the phased approach is still just at the proposal stage. But if the United States and Russia do eventually agree on a plan, it could bring about a real, if limited, deployment of U.N. forces.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Russia not supplying gas to Ukraine
« Reply #133 on: March 01, 2018, 12:06:36 PM »

Russia, Ukraine: Russia has stopped supplying gas to Ukraine. In fact, Russia returned a Ukrainian payment, saying there was no existing agreement between Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz for March supplies of gas. Why is Russia making this an issue? Is it a tactical move or does it portend a shift in Russia’s policy on Ukraine? We will try to find out what prompted Russia’s action.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: In Eastern Ukraine, no good options remain
« Reply #134 on: March 01, 2018, 02:36:40 PM »
second post

In Eastern Ukraine, No Good Options Remain
Mar 1, 2018

 
Summary
In November 2013, protests erupted in Kiev over the pro-Russian government’s refusal to sign a trade deal with the European Union. The protests led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych and the establishment of a new, pro-Western government, which promptly announced that the country would continue its move toward integration into the European Union. And so it became evident that there was a deep divide in Ukraine between two camps: one that wanted to increase integration with Europe and another that preferred to maintain strong ties with Russia.
 
The second camp is represented strongest in eastern Ukraine, which has been simmering in conflict since 2014, when the Russian-backed Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic declared independence. Both republics are just part of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which are part of the wider region of Donbass. Separatism is ubiquitous here because of the region’s cultural and economic ties to Russia and its industrial roots. 

Of the two republics, the LPR is less stable and weaker economically. It has been plagued by infighting, occasional violence and even allegations of an attempted coup in November, when armed men appeared on the streets of the city of Luhansk, the self-proclaimed republic’s capital. The incident was apparently the result of a power struggle between the leader of the LPR, Igor Plotnitsky, and the ousted interior minister. Days later, security minister Leonid Pasechnik announced that Plotnitsky had resigned for health reasons and that he would be taking over as interim leader. This Deep Dive will focus on Luhansk, a region that stands on the frontline of the conflict between East and West. It will look at how this conflict spread to the self-proclaimed republic, why the LPR has remained unstable and what its future might look like.

Origins of the Conflict

Luhansk is a highly urbanized region on the eastern edge of Ukraine that spans roughly 10,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers). It borders two other Ukrainian regions, Kharkov and Donetsk, but the border it shares with Russia is longer than the one it shares with the rest of Ukraine. It once had a population of more than 2 million, but this number has been declining for years as people fled the fighting for cities like Kiev or Moscow. As of December 2017, the population of the LPR was 1.4 million, with 435,000 of those living in the city of Luhansk.
 
(click to enlarge)

The population of the LPR can be divided into four categories: Russian speakers (the largest category), Ukrainian speakers, speakers of both languages, and Russian speakers who call themselves ethnic Russians. According to the 2001 census – the most recent census in Ukraine – 52 percent of the population in the LPR is Ukrainian and 44 percent is ethnic Russian. But 77 percent of people said their native language was Russian, and there are areas within the LPR – including the Krasnodonsky district and the Stanichno-Luhansky district – where the Russian population is dominant.
 
(click to enlarge)

When the new, pro-Western government in Kiev took office in February 2014, it had the support of the population in the capital and in the northern and western parts of the country, but it failed to sway people in the southern and eastern parts, where Yanukovych and his political party, the Party of Regions, enjoyed greater support. By late April 2014, a confrontation was brewing between Russian-backed separatist rebels and Ukrainian security forces. Occasional clashes soon turned into a full-fledged armed conflict. Kiev’s drift into the Western sphere of influence concerned Moscow, which sees Ukraine as a critical buffer between itself and Europe. But Russia also viewed the unrest in eastern Ukraine as an opportunity to increase its influence over the region by supporting the separatists and even annexing Crimea.
 
(click to enlarge)

Today, there is a divide not just between Ukraine and the separatist parts of Luhansk but also within Luhansk itself. The government in the LPR is a hybrid between the prewar civilian-controlled structures and the structures that emerged after the war broke out – a somewhat chaotic arrangement. When the LPR declared independence, its leaders were little known, and many believe that the Kremlin chooses its government officials. During his time as head of the republic, Igor Plotnitsky attempted to subdue all areas of the republic but ultimately failed. Plotnitsky fled to Russia and left behind a population that has yet to decide how to define its relationship with its eastern neighbor or to what degree it wants to be administered by Moscow.

Economic Development

The part of the Luhansk region where the LPR is located is known for its vast deposits of high-quality coal. Sitting in the Seversky Donets River basin, the area accounts for roughly a third of Ukraine’s total coal reserves and two-thirds of its reserves of anthracite, a type of coal with a high carbon content that produces more energy than other types of coal. These resources, as well as the area’s natural gas deposits, offered Ukraine domestic sources of energy and commodities for export. The driver of the LPR’s economy, therefore, has been industry, coal and metal production, and engineering.

Significant coal extraction in eastern Ukraine began in the late 18th century. The minerals concentrated there transformed the area into an industrial hub, and during the rule of Catherine II (1762-96), its first factory was built. Coal from the east not only fueled local industrial activity but also served as a cornerstone of Russia’s industrialization.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the first attempt was made to separate this region from other industrial regions. In 1918, the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic – which included present-day Kharkov, Donetsk and Luhansk – was established as an autonomous republic, uniting the coal-producing regions. Despite the territory’s autonomous status, however, the Soviet Union maintained control over it, since the Soviets wanted to create an industrial zone that would service and depend on Moscow. The importance of this history is that this region, unlike other autonomous regions in the Soviet Union, was united not by a common sense of identity or nationality but by its economic utility.

The Donetsk region had two advantages that enabled it to outperform Luhansk economically: a higher population, and direct sea access through the Mariupol port. But in the 1960s and early 1970s, Luhansk prospered. Its economy began to grow, coal and pig iron production increased, and electricity supplies expanded. Progress diminished over time, however. The industrial facilities built in Luhansk could not sustain long-term growth, and the region’s development was placed on the back burner as oil began to play a larger role in the energy market. Moscow dedicated less time and fewer resources to the upkeep of infrastructure and industry unrelated to the oil sector, and the Luhansk region suffered.

The poor economic conditions of the 1980s were the springboard for separatism, which really took off in the 1990s. Before the 1991 referendum that gave Ukraine its independence from the Soviet Union, representatives of the Soviet Union’s Constitutional Democratic Party proposed separating the southern and eastern portions of Ukraine to form a new state called Novorossiya. In 1993, local miners went on strike over their belief that Donbass was subsidizing the poorer regions of Ukraine while receiving little investment in return. Miners demanded autonomy for Donbass over its economic affairs. In addition, a 1994 survey showed that 90 percent of the residents of Donbass supported implementing a federal system and imposing Russian as the second official language in Ukraine.

The region saw its second growth spurt in the 1990s, but it too would prove unsustainable. During this time, two activities became important contributors to the economy – and both were illegal. The first was surface mining for coal. The Soviet Union had prohibited the practice, but it was a cheap and quick way to extract coal. When Ukraine became independent, surface mining remained illegal, but those who participated in it weren’t punished and it therefore became widespread. The second profitable business was smuggling goods, especially fuel. The drawback of both these activities, however, is that they never created the conditions for further growth in Luhansk.

At the same time, legal coal production enterprises were going bankrupt. Their employees weren’t paid for years, and the riots that resulted were often suppressed by militias throughout the 1990s. As a result, in the 2000s, legal coal production declined. The post-industrialization era had taken root, and the service sector was becoming a critical part of the global economy. Luhansk, however, was left behind.
 
(click to enlarge)

Moreover, industry and coal mining proved to be a double-edged sword for Luhansk. For a long time, they served as the source of the region’s economic development; but they also strengthened its dependence on Russia. Russia was the main buyer of the region’s industrial products, and illegal supplies coming in from Russia only increased this dependency. The economy of the region was built to be a component of the Soviet economy, so after the collapse of the Soviet Union, factories in Luhansk had no choice but to continue to work closely with Russian businesses.

This explains, at least in part, why Luhansk and its neighbors were reluctant to support a pro-Western government that could put their relationship with Russia at risk. The coal, metals and machine-building industries that had survived were less competitive than those in the rest of Europe. Given that Russia is Luhansk’s biggest market, there is concern in the manufacturing sector that if this territory does not maintain a pro-Russian outlook, thousands of jobs could be lost.

The Rise of Separatism

There were three sources for the discontent in Luhansk that explain its embrace of separatism. First, people were dissatisfied with the government in Kiev, particularly the way it distributed the country’s resources. As in previous decades, many believed that the region’s wealth and resources were being unfairly redistributed to the impoverished and less productive parts of the country, which contributed to a growing sense of alienation from the rest of Ukraine. But this was a misconception. Luhansk region accounted for 4 percent of Ukraine’s gross domestic product in 2013, 13 percent of its imports and 5 percent of its exports. It also accounted for 8 percent of state subsidies in 2010 and 11 percent in 2011 – more than double its GDP contribution. Nevertheless, the perception of economic inequality and unfair conditions was still there, and it was a major driver of the separatist movement.

Second, the Euromaidan revolution bolstered right-wing Ukrainian nationalists who, among other things, tried to repeal the law that allowed regions to give special status to minority languages. The separatists argued that Kiev was trying to diminish the importance of the Russian language in Russian-speaking regions, although ordinary people in these regions were less concerned about the language law than they were about potentially declining economic opportunities.

Last, these regions believed there were negative consequences to joining the European Union – specifically reduced trade with Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union and the possibility that Ukraine could be forced to adopt austerity measures similar to those imposed on countries like Greece that have struggled with high debt and other economic problems.

But despite the rising desire to form an entity that was free from Kiev’s oversight, there was a lack of national identity that could draw the regions of eastern Ukraine together. Here, separatism was not motivated by nationalism, since no single nation has ever formed in Luhansk. Rather, Luhansk’s industrial surge attracted migrants from a wide variety of places, such as Siberia, the Volga region and western Ukraine. What emerged in Luhansk during its age of industrialization was what the Soviet Union dreamed of: a proletariat. The population of Donbass was therefore mainly composed of the working class, which served the interests of the state and large industries.
The population has always been fragmented. It is essentially dominated by the workers, who desire stability – as an autonomous republic. Whether this autonomous republic was part of Ukraine or Russia was not nearly as important for the population as autonomy itself was.

The Future

For the LPR, there are few options remaining. It can be absorbed into the Russian Federation, become an autonomous region within Ukraine, unite with Donetsk or continue the frozen conflict as it stands today. None of these are good options.

It is unlikely that the territory will become part of Russia because Moscow, by agreeing to the Minsk agreement, has indicated it doesn’t want to absorb the LPR. Taking over the LPR would require dedicating more funds – already in short supply – to the region. Russia is more interested in having the LPR as a loyal buffer zone and strengthening its dependence on Moscow by providing it more supplies and military assistance. The LPR’s reliance on Russia is already growing as it is, with Moscow delivering much-needed aid, food and energy supplies.

In 2017, Ukraine imposed a cargo blockade on the LPR, following unofficial blockades imposed by Ukrainian activists – although deliveries of some humanitarian aid are still allowed. This only deepened the area’s dependence on Russian supplies. Before the war, 70 percent of the products available in stores were from Ukraine; this number has fallen to 20-30 percent. Many products sold in the region now are made in Russia or in other countries such as Finland, Germany, Turkey and Greece and imported through Russia. Luhansk’s main factories supply a narrow market, without the possibility of export outside Russia due to the lack of recognized quality. In addition, Russia – through the energy giant Gazprom – is the main supplier of electricity to the LPR.

It is also unlikely that the LPR would rejoin Ukraine as an autonomous region – the solution offered by the Minsk agreement. Ukraine has been unwilling to accept this arrangement. It believes the country should be unified and won’t accept autonomous status for the breakaway republics.

The third option – forming one state with the Donetsk People’s Republic – is also probably a nonstarter. The DPR – the economically stronger and politically more stable region – would be interested in uniting with the LPR, since it could then take control over the LPR’s coal and metal production and other industrial activities. But the LPR wouldn’t accept this option because the two regions have been engaged in an unofficial struggle for leadership over Donbass for years, and joining the DPR would mean ceding control. Both sides claim that they support the idea of integration – the heads of both republics agreed in 2016 to create a single economic zone, though it has been fraught with problems, and they recently signed an agreement to form a customs union – but the reality is much different. For its part, Russia opposes unification of the republics because it could diminish Moscow’s influence over the region and increase Donetsk’s. Russia prefers to have Luhansk and Donetsk as two separate buffers rather than one large territory with its center in the city of Donetsk, which is far from the Russian border.

For now – and as long as the parties involved are unwilling to make the concessions necessary to find a solution – the LPR seems destined to remain in this frozen conflict. Moscow, meanwhile, will continue to strive to expand westward and claim lands historically connected to Russia, and Ukraine will seek to limit the spread of Russian influence.

The post In Eastern Ukraine, No Good Options Remain appeared first on Geopolitical Futures.


Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Ukraine;; US-Russia beyond Helsinki
« Reply #136 on: July 25, 2018, 12:11:40 AM »
By Jacob L. Shapiro
US-Russia Relations Beyond Helsinki


For the U.S., Ukraine is important. For Russia, Ukraine is everything.


In 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Slovenia. After the summit, Bush said he had “looked the man in the eye” and gotten a “sense of his soul.” By the end of Bush’s presidency, Russia had invaded Georgia, and the U.S. was installing missile defense batteries in Poland. In 2009, early in President Barack Obama’s first term, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a reset button to usher in a new era of U.S.-Russia relations. By the end of Obama’s presidency, Russia had invaded Crimea and was propping up Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump met with Putin in Helsinki in an attempt to improve relations that the Russian president said were “worse than during the Cold War.” The question no one is asking is: What will U.S.-Russia relations look like by the end of the Trump administration?

A Claustrophobic Russia

For over 100 years, the issue of Russian expansion in Eastern Europe has dominated U.S. strategic thinking. The U.S. entered World War I in part because of the Russian Revolution. Allowing Germany a dominant position on the European continent was untenable – as was leaving a power vacuum the Soviet Union might fill. In World War II, the power vacuum couldn’t be avoided – the U.S. needed Soviet help to defeat the Germans. The cost was ceding Eastern Europe’s fate to Moscow. In effect, the staring contest across the Iron Curtain was the real frontline of the Cold War – not Korea or Vietnam or the Middle East.

(click to enlarge)

When the Soviet Union collapsed, there was hope that this long-running disagreement between two global heavyweights might finally be put aside. But hope could not change the strategic reality of the U.S.-Russia relationship. The U.S. was eager to welcome former Soviet states in Eastern Europe into the liberal world order – a world order that had triumphed over communism – in part because there was a lot of money to be made in the former Soviet states, and Western businessmen were eager to make it. But the U.S. also saw an opportunity to nip any potential challenge from the new Russian Federation in the bud by creating a strong, pro-Western buffer between Europe and Russia.

Russia immediately began to feel claustrophobic. Without Russian control over Eastern Europe, Napoleon and Hitler might have succeeded in conquering Russia. Taking this region away from Russia would be like taking away the oceans from the United States.

It was that loss of control that in part led to the rise of Vladimir Putin as Russia’s newest czar. The corruption and economic privation of the late 1990s played a significant role as well. Putin represented (and still represents) a need for order at home and power abroad. U.S. presidents have come and gone, but Putin has remained, and that is not a coincidence. The Russian Federation was not structured to profit from the world order the U.S. had created, and Russia’s brief experiment with behaving like a liberal democracy made that abundantly clear. There is opposition to Putin inside Russia, but there is far more fear about a return to the instability that preceded Putin than there is discontent with the way his regime has behaved.

Successive U.S. administrations have sought to make amends with Russia – and have failed spectacularly. The Obama administration failed not so much because of what it did, but because of how it reacted to an unpredictable event – the Maidan revolution, which ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russia president. In Maidan, the seeds of a more serious U.S.-Russia confrontation were sown. Losing Eastern European states like Poland or Hungary as a buffer was one thing, but losing Ukraine, which borders Russia and is so culturally linked to Russia, was a bridge too far. For all of Russia’s efforts to prevent Ukraine from turning to the West, Putin was left with Crimea (a financial black hole for a government that isn’t awash in expendable cash) and two separatist uprisings in eastern Ukraine. In effect, Putin failed to do what should be any Russian president’s top duty: to defend Russia’s interests in Europe. He has not forgotten this, primarily because no Russian leader can last long in office if key buffer territory is suddenly populated with NATO troops and advanced U.S. weaponry.

This is not a problem Russia can solve by force, at least for now. From a military perspective, Russia could probably defeat Ukrainian forces, but it would be an extremely costly endeavor. And occupying the territory after conquest would be another risky affair: The farther west Russian forces extended, the more difficult holding the territory would be. Not to mention the crippling economic sanctions that would inevitably follow. Even if the U.S. and its allies didn’t intervene, it’s unclear that Russia would be able to repeat the success it had in Georgia – Ukraine is a much larger country with more concerned neighbors.

Russia, therefore, can’t afford to be the instigator. Any Russian aggression is bound to unite Russia’s enemies, which Moscow can’t afford right now. Instead, Russia must bide its time. It must rebuild and modernize its military forces. It must ease the financial burden – even if that means touching the third rail of Russian politics, pension reform. And to keep its rivals at bay, it must sow divisions in the Western world.

Ukraine Is Everything

But this strategy can work only if the threats on Russia’s borders appear to be under control and Moscow appears to have a handle on Russian security interests. And there is no place where that hold is more tenuous or more important right now than in Ukraine. It’s impossible to know what Trump and Putin talked about in their one-on-one meeting in Helsinki, but one doesn’t need to know what they were talking about to know what’s on Putin’s mind – because it’s what would be on the mind of any Russian leader in his situation. Ukraine is tilting toward the West, and a Ukrainian presidential election is coming up in March 2019.

According to polls, Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and fierce rival of Russia-backed former President Viktor Yanukovych, is the frontrunner (although the election is still eight months away and Ukrainian polls are hardly the most reliable). No matter who emerges as the winner, Russia can’t allow a staunchly pro-West candidate to hold office in Kiev. What political persuasion such a candidate might come from is impossible to predict. It may be a Ukrainian populist candidate who supports joining the EU and NATO to protect Ukraine from Russian revanchism – essentially willing to give up sovereignty in one aspect to preserve it in another. Whatever the case may be, if something like this happens, Russia will face a very difficult choice, and judging from the disposition of Russia’s military forces right now, it is a contingency Russia is preparing for.

Or perhaps a candidate acceptable to Russia will be elected, and Moscow will continue to bide its time. In this scenario, Russia will slowly repair the damage done in 2014 by offering money, political support or resources to pro-Russia voices in Ukraine, which remain a significant faction in the country. Even having a pro-West candidate win office in Kiev would be tolerable for Moscow as long as Ukraine maintains a pragmatic relationship with Russia and does not engage in outright hostility toward Moscow and its interests.

After getting back from Helsinki, Trump attempted to justify his comments at the press conference to his domestic audience. Putin, however, warned of a serious risk of escalation in southeastern Ukraine at a meeting of Russian ambassadors. He also leaked an alleged proposal he made to Trump in Helsinki about a referendum in eastern Ukraine to resolve the frozen conflict. (The leak also included details about Putin’s agreement not to discuss the plan publicly so Trump could consider it privately first.) For the U.S., Ukraine is important. For Russia, Ukraine is everything. Russia can accept the status quo of the current frozen conflict, but this cannot be a permanent state of affairs, nor can Russia tolerate any further displays of weakness on this issue. This will be the center of gravity of U.S.-Russia relations for the rest of the Trump presidency.
As long as the U.S. and Russia are competitors in Eastern Europe – and there’s little to suggest that over a century of history is about to reverse – no summit, reset button or deep look into Putin’s eyes will change the nature of U.S.-Russia relations.

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Sea of Azov
« Reply #138 on: November 26, 2018, 02:21:11 PM »
The Big Picture
________________________________________
Stratfor has noted that Ukraine-Russia skirmishes like the recent clash at the Kerch Strait would become more likely and that the Sea of Azov remains a flashpoint between the two countries. In addition, Ukraine is emerging as a key battleground between the United States and Russia as part of the wider great power competition.
________________________________________
The Fight for Russia’s BorderlandsThe Ukraine Conflict

What Happened

The Russian-Ukrainian dispute over maritime access through the Kerch Strait escalated on Nov. 25 when paramilitary forces from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) disabled, boarded and captured two small Ukrainian naval vessels and a tugboat attempting to pass through the strait. Six of the 24 Ukrainian crew members detained by Russia were injured in the forced boarding. The strait, positioned at the eastern end of Crimea, connects the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea. The Ukrainian government in Kiev immediately denounced the Russian actions and accused Moscow of military aggression. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also declared that a state of martial law would begin Nov. 28 and last for 30 days (but could be subsequently extended). Ukraine and Russia requested an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

A Treaty, Crimea and Trade

According to Russia, its annexation of Crimea in 2014 invalidated the 2003 agreement with Ukraine over the use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. With control of the Crimea, Russia argues that the waters around the Kerch Strait are effectively its territorial waters. However, Kiev and most of the rest of the world does not recognize the Russian takeover of Crimea, and Ukraine insists on its right to pass through the strait and the sea without interference. A few months ago, Ukraine announced that it would build a naval base on the Sea of Azov by the end of the year, raising tensions. Recently, Russia has intensified its interference with Ukrainian maritime traffic in the area. For Ukraine, access to the Sea of Azov is critical for economic and security reasons. Without unhindered traffic through the strait, it would effectively lose maritime access to key ports such as Mariupol.

Why It Matters

The biggest current risk is the escalation of this skirmish into a broader military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine. Both countries are already embroiled in a semifrozen conflict in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, so escalation there is already a distinct possibility. Given Ukraine's limited naval capabilities, however, Kiev can do little in response to Russia at sea — any attempt by Ukraine to force its claim on the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait would fail. And the threat of wider escalation appears relatively contained because the Ukrainians haven't shown any signs of preparing a military riposte.

But other motives — both global and domestic — could lie behind Ukraine's latest naval foray into the disputed waters. Given its military weakness in comparison to Russia, especially on the seas, it is in Kiev's interest to highlight Russian aggression to the rest of the world — and particularly to the European Union and the United States. A U.S. rapprochement with Russia that leaves it in control of Crimea and leaves Russian-aligned forces in control of much of the Donbas in eastern Ukraine would be a disaster for Kiev. And mere days before U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Argentina, Ukraine is pressing its maritime claims and highlighting Russia's belligerence. However, it might not have expected Russia to go so far as to board its vessels and capture its sailors. Declaring martial law also serves to intensify the spotlight on Russia's actions and Ukraine's position.
 
For Ukraine, the payoff from this maritime move could lead either to additional EU and U.S. pressure on Russia through new sanctions or to new direct assistance, especially in the form of military equipment or increased NATO forays into the Black Sea. NATO could also step up efforts to build up the Ukrainian navy, but given the force's current state, that would entail providing support, training and equipment for years. And the degree to which Russia enforces its claims also matters in the Western response — the more belligerent it appears in denying Ukrainian access and the firmer it responds to Ukraine's attempts to press its claims, the risk of drawing more EU and U.S. pressure rises.

In addition, domestic motivations could be playing a part in the Ukrainian gambit and the subsequent declaration of martial law. Presidential elections are set for March 2019, and Poroshenko, who doesn't appear to be doing too well in the polls, is at serious risk of losing. Some in the opposition have decried the declaration of martial law as a ploy by the president to either delay or manipulate the election. The extent of martial law restrictions is unclear so far, and not every measure possible under the law will necessarily be enacted. Some provisions allow the government to limit and regulate media, including telecommunications, radio and the press. They also permit a postponement of presidential elections, creating the possibility that martial law could be used for political advantage. The measures the government enforces, therefore, will indicate whether a domestic political agenda, as well as national security interests, are motivating it to magnify a skirmish with Russia.

Whatever Kiev's reasoning, the weekend's events are taking their toll on the fragile Ukrainian economy. Its currency, the hryvnia, dropped as much as 1.6 percent against the U.S. dollar on Nov. 26, and the country's borrowing costs rose to their highest level since a bond sale last year. Yakiv Smoliy, governor of Ukraine's central bank, reportedly met with representatives from the country's major banks on Nov. 26 to reassure them about Ukraine's financial stability. The country has been under an International Monetary Fund reform program since 2015. So far, the IMF has not indicated that martial law would put the program in jeopardy. However, it will probably keep a close eye on the economic policy decisions that Kiev makes while under martial law to see whether they deviate from the IMF program.

===================================================

GPF:

Tensions in the Sea of Azov. On Sunday, the Russian navy opened fire on three Ukrainian ships before seizing them in the Kerch Strait, the narrow passageway connecting the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. Moscow claims the Ukrainian ships – two small armored artillery vessels and a tugboat – had entered Russian territorial waters near Crimea illegally. Russian warplanes and combat helicopters were deployed in the area. Six Ukrainian sailors were injured. Russia accused Kiev of orchestrating the entire incident; making Moscow the villain would create the conditions for new Western sanctions, and the imposition of martial law in Ukraine would allow Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to delay upcoming elections, in which he is trailing. (The parliament will vote on the issue of martial law later today.) Russia has been slowly solidifying its position in Crimea since seizing the peninsula in 2014. It’s bided its time, preparing for a potential military conflict, and if statements made by Poroshenko are to be believed, that conflict is in the offing: He claims to have intelligence that Russia is readying itself for a ground invasion. But those statements are hard to believe. Russia is wary of new sanctions, and it doesn’t need to fight a war with Ukraine to secure its interests there. Still, the coming days will be unpredictable, as is often the case when domestic politics muddies the waters.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2018, 03:31:35 PM by Crafty_Dog »

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GPF: Fallout from the Sea of Azov
« Reply #139 on: November 27, 2018, 08:46:47 AM »
Fallout from the Sea of Azov. In response to the dust-up in the Kerch Strait this weekend, Ukraine has imposed martial law in the areas that border Russia. It will last for 30 days. The government in Kiev has put troops in eastern Donbass on high alert, and it has stopped Russian citizens from crossing the border with Crimea. Russia has yet to officially announce its position, noting only that it wanted to restore contacts with NATO. European governments, meanwhile, have reacted with their customary rhetoric. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced today that Europe may need to impose more sanctions on Russia. Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said further sanctions would depend partly on how Russia and Ukraine move forward. France, however, may have issued the most honest response: It acknowledged that it’s impossible to discuss major international problems without Russia.

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GPF: Quelle surprise; Germany rules out action
« Reply #140 on: November 29, 2018, 10:55:05 AM »


•   Germany has ruled out military action in Ukraine, adding that the crisis must be separated from the issue of implementing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

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WSJ: Ukraine is Moscow's Guinea Pig
« Reply #141 on: November 29, 2018, 12:15:16 PM »
second post

Ukraine Is Moscow’s Guinea Pig
Russia uses its neighbor to hone its aggressive tactics and test whether rivals are willing to fight back.
141 Comments
By Adrian Karatnycky
Nov. 28, 2018 6:22 p.m. ET
On a Ukrainian military ship moored at Mariupol on the Sea of Azov, Nov. 27.
On a Ukrainian military ship moored at Mariupol on the Sea of Azov, Nov. 27. Photo: SEGA VOLSKII/AFP/Getty Images

Russia’s attack Sunday on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Azov Sea shows the Kremlin is ready to take the veil off the conflict. After nearly five years of clandestine war using private armies, proxies and unmarked federal forces, the Russians announced themselves loudly with an open strike on Ukrainian forces.

The aggression specifically underscores Russia’s willingness to use naval power to block commerce and restrict trade routes. The attack violated a 2003 treaty that designated the Azov Sea as shared territory between Russia and Ukraine.

The Kremlin dared to act in such a brazen way because the West’s response to its campaign in Ukraine so far has been largely feckless. The U.S. and its European allies answered the annexation of Crimea and occupation of the Donbas region with halfhearted rhetoric and meager material aid to the Ukrainian resistance. The Russians this week had little reason to expect that their overt attack would prompt a reaction they couldn’t withstand.

Westerners unmoved by the conflict should acknowledge that Russia has long used Ukraine as a testing ground for its hybrid-war techniques. What happens in Ukraine does not stay there; it is a preview of what Russia will bring to its fight with the West.

In 2004 Russian agents disrupted Ukraine’s presidential election with financial assistance for Moscow’s favored candidate, along with technical advice, fake news and other tricks—inadvertently triggering the Orange Revolution that followed once Ukrainians uncovered the manipulation. The Russians refined their election-meddling tactics over the following decade and have attempted to interfere with campaigns in the U.S. as well as Spain, Sweden and other European countries. Early in the conflict Russia also launched cyberattacks on Ukraine’s government communications, commercial institutions and power grid, and it has since attempted similar strikes in the U.S.

Cyberwar is one dimension of Russia’s hybrid-war testing process. The Russian military-intelligence operatives identified as the attackers of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in the U.K. were found to have deployed in Kiev during the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. The Wagner group, a Russian paramilitary contractor, was active in Crimea and the Donbas from 2015-16, and its forces were used again this year to attack the U.S. military in Syria.

Days before the latest escalation, Britain’s army chief, Gen. Mark Carleton-Smith, argued that Russia is now a bigger threat to Britain than ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups. “Russia has demonstrated that it is prepared to use military force to secure and expand its own national interests.” Gen. Carleton-Smith told the Daily Telegraph on Nov. 23.

Increasingly aware of the danger Russia poses, the West must more thoroughly support Ukraine’s effort to rebuke the aggression on the eastern front. The Ukrainian government has shown its commitment, spending 5% of gross domestic product on national security and upgrading its military and advanced-weapons arsenal. But it needs significant additional help to raise the cost to Russia of Vladimir Putin’s aggressive war.

The Trump administration already provides lethal military aid to Kiev in the form of Javelin antitank missiles, and it should expand assistance to include land-based antiaircraft and antiship missiles. The U.S. should take the lead in supporting the modernization of Ukraine’s advanced-weapons systems. This defensive aid would enable Ukraine to deter or respond to Russian attacks on every front.

The U.S. and its allies should also bolster their naval presence in the Black Sea. British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson announced in September that the Royal Navy would send more troops and take a more aggressive posture in the region. The calendar for such a deployment should be sped up after Sunday’s events.

If Russia moves to shut off Ukrainian trade through the Azov Sea, Western nations should consider bypassing the blockade by expanding Ukraine’s major ports in Odessa and Mykolaiv and enhancing rail links to eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. and U.K. should lead the charge to ratchet up sanctions on Russia dramatically. They should pressure Europe to cancel Moscow’s planned Nord Stream 2 and South Stream pipeline projects, which would foster European dependence on Russian oil and help shore up Russia’s finances. The West should also consider further economic sanctions on an array of Russian companies, such as those involved in shipbuilding and infrastructure.

Finally, Russia must be told that further military adventurism will lead to its expulsion from the Swift banking system. Western leaders should announce the possibility of such a penalty and lay out the actions that would trigger it—a deterrent against future Russian escalation.

During this conflict Russia has used Ukraine not only as a testing ground for techniques of hybrid war and political disruption, but as a test of the West’s resolve. The Kremlin’s latest escalation is the right moment to show the West’s commitment to back Ukraine and deter Mr. Putin from his dangerous path.

Mr. Karatnycky is a co-director of the Ukraine in Europe program at the Atlantic Council.

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Stratfor: Russian Military Movements in Crimea
« Reply #142 on: December 22, 2018, 09:54:04 AM »
Russian military movements in Crimea. According to local media, a convoy consisting of armored personnel carriers, artillery cannons and a field kitchen was spotted near the town of Pervomaiske in northern Crimea. Increased Russian military hardware near a manufacturing plant owned by Crimean Titan was also reported. This comes as Russian submarines conducted a series of drills in the Black Sea near the Crimean coast and more than a dozen SU-27 and SU-30 fighter jets reportedly landed at Russia’s Belbek air base in Crimea. In response, the U.S. pledged an additional $10 million to help defend Ukraine, and the U.K. said it will send a naval training delegation there in January. At this point, the Russian moves appear to be more posturing than anything else, since Moscow doesn’t want a direct military confrontation with the U.S. over Ukraine, but they are nonetheless notable, especially when compared to Moscow’s actions before the 2008 war in Georgia.

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GPF: The Second Partition of the Ukraine?
« Reply #143 on: January 02, 2019, 08:24:36 AM »

The Second Partition of Ukraine?

The country lost part of its territory nearly five years ago. Was that just the beginning?

Jacob L. Shapiro |December 31, 2018


In the 18th century, the once-mighty Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth collapsed, ending an empire that, just a century prior, had been the most populous entity in Europe. After 100 years of war, corruption and sclerotic rule, it was dismembered over 23 years by three of its neighboring rivals – the Russian Empire, Prussia and Habsburg Austria. Present-day Poland still bears the scars of those partitions. For another 200 years after its division, Poles were deprived of their autonomy, which was only regained following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Those years of subjugation remain the driving force behind Polish national strategy today. While Austria no longer poses a risk, Russia and Germany are the biggest threats to Poland’s independence and prosperity.

(click to enlarge)

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with Ukraine. The answer is, Ukraine is in danger of experiencing disintegration similar to what Poland endured in the 18th century. In fact, Poland is one of a number of regional rivals that have claims to Ukrainian territory and may be waiting for an opportunity to take back what they see as rightfully theirs. Poland’s own dismemberment hasn’t prevented the emergence of a nascent Polish revanchism, and the same can be said to varying degrees of Hungary, Romania and, most notably, Russia. Caught between these stronger powers, beset with acute internal political fractiousness, bereft of significant military force and governed by a corrupt and well-entrenched oligarchic class, Ukraine is a ticking time-bomb, and it’s becoming increasingly uncertain whether anyone is willing or able to defuse it.

Underlying Problems

Ukraine’s fragility has been widely overlooked. The narrative in the Western media narrative around Ukraine has been shaped mainly by a combination of understandable, if hysterical, fears in Ukraine about Russian domination and an intense anti-Russia bias. Just last week, the Institute for the Study of War, a resource we’ve occasionally cited in our own work, published a report predicting possible imminent Russian “offensive operations against Ukraine from the Crimean Peninsula and the east.” The evidence for a Russian offensive includes the movement of a few military convoys, a few Foreign Ministry statements, a planned naval drill in the Black Sea and the transfer of “more than a dozen” fighter jets to a base near Sevastopol. Taken together, these moves might well give the impression that Russia is preparing for an operation in eastern Ukraine. But the reality is more complicated. And the underlying problems in Ukraine are more serious than the threat of a limited Russian incursion.

Internally, Ukraine is facing a number of challenges. Its gross domestic product dropped by 17 percent in the two years following the 2014 revolution, Russia’s subsequent seizure of Crimea and insurgencies in Luhansk and Donetsk. Sensing an opportunity to pull Ukraine further into the Western camp, the International Monetary Fund in 2015 approved a $17.5 billion loan over four years to help boost Ukraine’s economy. It took roughly two years and a dispersal of about half the total amount for the IMF and its Western backers to become dissatisfied with how Ukraine was spending the money and suspend the loan. (The IMF agreed to a new $3.9 billion program with Ukraine just last week.) Then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden even said the U.S. might have to abandon sanctions against Russia if Ukraine couldn’t overcome its corruption problems. He might as well have asked the sky to stop being blue.

Ukraine has taken some small steps in recent months to satisfy its creditors. Fearful of what the IMF might do if Kiev didn’t at least appear to be meeting the obligations of its loan program, it followed through on a promise to raise gas prices by almost 25 percent in October. Ukraine was in danger of a serious liquidity crisis – in July, it had to delay pension and public sector salary payments – and without more IMF funding, it might have been unable to meet its debt payments and finance its budget. This is the cost of keeping Ukraine in the pro-West camp and why Russia feels less urgency than most think it does to reverse the outcome of the 2014 revolution. It’s happy enough to wait for Ukraine to revert to a more neutral position while the West grows tired of footing the bill for its recovery.

The situation will only get worse in the year ahead. In 2019, Russia will complete work on the TurkStream and Nordstream 2 pipelines, which will enable Russian natural gas exports destined for Europe to bypass Ukraine and slash Ukrainian revenue from delivery of these exports through its territory. (Last year, Ukraine earned roughly $3 billion in transit fees from Russian gas exports to Europe – no chump change for a country on the edge of a liquidity crisis.) In March, Ukraine will hold its first presidential election since the 2014 Maidan Revolution. Due to its struggling economy, social divisions and competition between political factions with conflicting business interests and personal allegiances, no single candidate has even 25 percent of the vote so far. Russia’s main concern, therefore, is not a pro-Western government in Kiev but that chaos following the election could cause volatility on the Russian border.

External Issues

Ukraine also has several external problems, chief among them being Russia. Russia doesn’t want instability in Ukraine any more than the United States or any other Western country does – but it’s more affected by economic uncertainty and political competition in Ukraine than the other outside powers involved in the frozen conflict there. And while Russia isn’t exactly a 21st-century incarnation of the Soviet Union – Moscow isn’t peddling a global ideology and has no delusions that it can compete as an equal with Washington on the world stage – the Russian government has relied heavily on Russian nationalism to legitimize its rule. And its brand of nationalism requires Moscow to protect Russians wherever they live – including in eastern Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s government can’t abandon the ethnic Russian population there without looking weak.

There’s no doubt Russia has beefed up its military presence on its western border and is increasingly active in the Black Sea, but these are more signs of Moscow preparing for a meltdown in Ukraine than precursors to an invasion. Russia has wanted relief from U.S. and EU sanctions for years, and it behooves Russia not to antagonize the West but to find some kind of accommodation (especially with a potential global recession and possibly lower oil prices approaching). But to do so, it can’t be seen as the aggressor in a conflict with Ukraine – and Ukraine knows it, which is why Kiev made such a big deal out of the Kerch Strait incident, a relatively minor affair, all things considered. There are some in the Russian establishment who want to make up for the embarrassment of losing Kiev in 2014, and perhaps even some who think a show of force in eastern Ukraine might distract Russians from their own financial woes. But it’s more likely that Russia is preparing for any eventuality, including a possible internal collapse in Ukraine – and, meanwhile, is biding its time.

(click to enlarge)

Russia, however, isn’t the only country eyeing Ukrainian territory. Hungary has long wanted to reabsorb parts of western Ukraine that still have a majority ethnic Hungarian population. Similarly, Moldova and Romania both have claims to Ukrainian territory along their borders, though they have been less vocal about their grievances than the Hungarians. (For its part, Romania doesn’t want to jeopardize its close relationship with the United States by compounding Ukraine’s problems. Washington barely pretends to care about Ukraine and certainly doesn’t want to get involved in squabbling over post-World War II territorial claims, especially if such squabbling could make blocking Russian ambitions in the region even costlier.)

Poland, too, has had political disputes with Ukraine. The ethnic Polish population in Ukraine was less concentrated after World War II than the ethnic Hungarians and Romanians, so it’s harder to point to a specific area that Poland wants back. But Poland once held much of the territory now in western Ukraine. Present-day Lviv was once a powerful Polish city called Lwow – almost 60 percent of the city’s population in 1944 was Polish. But just six years later, Ukrainians had become the largest ethnic group in Lviv and today represent more than 90 percent of the population. Poland is an emerging power in Eastern Europe, but its power has limits. Its curse is that it’s located on the North European Plain, but in times of strength, that curse becomes a temptation. Indeed, Polish influence and economic ties in western Ukraine have been growing. And although most Poles don’t think in these terms, the stronger Poland is, the more its influence is felt in the region, especially in Ukraine.

Ukraine is facing a number of serious internal and external challenges. Internally, a corrupt, oligarchic ruling class is presiding over a crisis-prone economy dependent on outside aid to remain afloat. Elections are upcoming, and if the polls and previous elections are any indication, they could once again stir up discontent in the country. Russia, meanwhile, is preparing for a time when it may need to intervene in Ukraine to secure its interests and protect ethnic Russians living beyond its border. Others are waiting in the wings for an opportunity to settle old scores and redraw borders while keeping Russia sufficiently at bay. None of this is yet inevitable, but the forces threatening to tear Ukraine apart are very real. Considering the history of the region – including the loss of Crimea nearly five years ago – it’s reasonable to ask whether Ukraine stands on the precipice of a second partition.

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Stratfor: Ukraine, Sea of Azov, Russia, NATO
« Reply #144 on: January 03, 2019, 07:11:36 AM »
The Big Picture
________________________________________
In our 2019 Annual Forecast, Stratfor noted that the Sea of Azov will be the site of heightened conflict between Ukraine and Russia this year. A standoff toward the end of 2018 and recent naval movements by Russia, Ukraine, and NATO countries point to the potential for a more serious confrontation in the coming months.
________________________________________
Eurasia
What Happened
On Jan. 1, the commander of Ukraine's navy, Adm. Ihor Voronchenko, issued a statement saying his force had made deployments to the Sea of Azov and increased the combat capabilities of its maritime, air and coastal units in response to Russian aggression in the area. This came after Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned on Dec. 26, 2018, that the West should refrain from supporting any new "provocations" by Ukraine in the sea after a confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian naval ships in the last months of 2018.

Background

As of Jan. 2, Russia was still holding the three ships and 24 sailors from Ukraine that it had seized during the Nov. 25, 2018, standoff over the Sea of Azov. The sea has been the site of growing tensions between the two countries; Russia had restricted and interfered with Ukrainian commercial vessels throughout 2018. Before the November 2018 standoff, the Ukrainian government had announced that it would build a naval base in the Azov port city of Berdyansk by the end of 2018. Since the standoff, Ukrainian officials have stated that they intend to send warships to Ukraine's ports in the sea through the Kerch Strait. The chief of Ukraine's naval staff, Vice Adm. Andriy Tarasov, has also warned that Ukraine could use weapons in the event of another confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian naval vessels in the sea, though he did not specify which type of weaponry.

Why It Matters

These latest developments point to the potential for a more serious confrontation between Ukraine and Russia on the sea. In particular, the West has boosted its political and security support for Kiev in the standoff. The United Kingdom sent the HMS Echo, a Royal Navy survey ship, to the Ukrainian port city of Odessa on Dec. 19, 2018; it was the first NATO vessel to enter the Black Sea in explicit support of Ukraine over its Azov tensions with Russia. British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson then met his Ukrainian counterpart and said the United Kingdom would help organize joint exercises with the Ukrainian navy in early 2019. That same week, the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev and said the United States would send Ukraine a new batch of weapons in the coming months.
 
However, it bears remembering that Ukraine's naval fleet is much weaker than that of Russia; Kiev, accordingly, understands that it cannot simply force its navy into the Sea of Azov in the face of Russian resistance. Furthermore, NATO is extremely unlikely to risk its forces by intervening directly in the area, not least because they would be at a military disadvantage so close to Russia. Nevertheless, access to the Sea of Azov remains a critical priority for Ukraine for economic, security and sovereignty reasons, and Ukrainians feel compelled to risk further clashes with Russia in pressing their claims. Even if Ukraine understands it is unlikely to come out on top in an armed skirmish with Russia at sea, Kiev hopes that any such incident would maintain and increase Western pressure (in the form of sanctions and military buildups) on Russia and drum up even more support for its own armed forces and position.

What to Watch For

•   Ukrainian activity in and around the Sea of Azov: The movement of naval vessels into the Sea of Azov and the buildup of forces, especially at the new naval base in Berdyansk, will be important to track. And Ukraine's warning about using weapons in another naval confrontation will be crucial, because that could range from warning shots across the bow to the launching of torpedoes or anti-ship missiles, though the latter would represent a serious escalation.
•   Russia's response to Ukraine's moves: As Ukraine bolsters its forces in the area, Russia could pursue its own military buildups in the Sea of Azov, as well as in Crimea. The Kremlin could also increase its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and amass ground troops on its borders with the territory.
•   NATO's presence in the Black Sea: The alliance is likely to become more active in the region. A survey vessel isn't an overt threat, but a warship would send a different signal. It will also be important to track how close any NATO naval vessels come to the Kerch Strait.
•   A Western boost in training exercises and weapons support for Ukraine: Additional joint drills could occur between Ukraine and NATO. However, such exercises need to be organized in advance and coordinated with current training and maintenance schedules. And, the larger the platforms involved — and the number of nations participating — the bigger the training bill, which could deter a full commitment by NATO, politically or militarily. The specific types of U.S. weapons delivered to Ukraine will also be key to watch.

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #145 on: January 16, 2019, 08:15:19 AM »
From a friend born in Ukraine:

Ukraine already had an economy downturn before the Russian annexation. When I last visited there were these million dollar homes in the center of the Kiev. They were beautiful but had no electricity, or running water. Very few people in Ukrainian would be able to afford it. It seems its worse now.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2423723/amp/Kievs-millionaires-ghost-town-left-Ukrainian-economy-crashed.html&ved=2ahUKEwjyqZ7kjvHfAhXzoYMKHQeuDT8QFjAKegQIBhAB&usg=AOvVaw02N1VGIP6lAWK-iSdFpnOJ&ampcf=1



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Stratfor: Ukraine,
« Reply #146 on: January 25, 2019, 01:04:55 PM »
Russia, Ukraine: NATO Hits Its Limits in the Black Sea

The Big Picture

After a November 2018 escalation in the conflict between the Ukrainian navy and the Russian coast guard at the Kerch Strait, the maritime situation in this area has remained tense. Russia contests Ukraine's freedom of movement into the Sea of Azov, which is separated from the Black Sea by the strait. That channel came under de facto Russian control after the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014.
See The Ukraine Conflict
What Happened

Since the confrontation last year between Russia and Ukraine at Kerch Strait, NATO warships have been traveling into the Black Sea to demonstrate support for Ukraine. In the latest visit, the destroyer USS Donald Cook entered the Black Sea on Jan. 19 and visited Batumi in Georgia, while being closely tracked by Russian navy vessels. The British HMS Echo, a hydrographic survey ship, had visited the area in December. At the time, the British presence was openly tied to the Kerch Strait incident, and British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson even boarded a Ukrainian frigate on the Black Sea. NATO has consistently conducted maritime operations in the sea, but its visits have taken on added significance since the breakdown in relations between Ukraine and Russia in 2014. And the recent heightened tensions mean Russia is watching the transits even more closely.
Why It Matters

The situation in the Black Sea resembles the dispute in the South China Sea, where U.S. and British vessels both conduct freedom of navigation operations. In the Black Sea, the visits have evolved from a conceptual show of support for Kiev to a more practical backing of Ukraine's freedom of navigation. However, unlike the operations in the South China Sea, these NATO vessels are unlikely to directly challenge Russian limits to freedom of navigation by traveling through the Kerch Strait and into the Sea of Azov. While the Montreux Convention, which governs the presence of foreign navies in the Black Sea, technically doesn't prevent them from doing so, a great degree of tactical risk would be associated with such an operation deep in an area where the Russian navy is dominant.
A map shows the Black Sea, Russia, Ukraine, Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.

The Montreux Convention also severely limits the NATO presence, restricting the number of non-Black Sea state naval vessels and their time in the sea. Even when the sizable fleet of Turkey, a NATO member, is taken into account, Russia's ability to project significant force over the Black Sea through its land-based missile systems, as well as its air assets, gives it a sizable advantage. And the limited strength of the Ukrainian navy means that the Russian Black Sea fleet — despite its own challenges — is able to maintain supremacy there and particularly in the Sea of Azov.
What Happens Next

Though NATO has made it clear that it wants to support Ukraine when it comes to freedom of navigation in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov, the reality is that this area is still very much at the mercy of Russian power. The Kremlin has been growing assertive and harassing both civilian and Ukrainian navy vessels traveling in the area, but short of a military engagement, there isn't a lot standing in Russia's way. Such an armed engagement would be conducted from a position of inferiority for Ukraine and the West in this particular area, and it would come with a great risk of escalating beyond. Therefore, NATO navies will find themselves limited to a largely symbolic presence in the wider Black Sea.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: more Sea of Azov
« Reply #147 on: February 15, 2019, 02:07:50 PM »
Ukraine, Russia: Pressure on Moscow Builds Over Its Seafaring Standoff With Kiev
The Big Picture

In its 2019 Annual Forecast, Stratfor noted that the Sea of Azov would emerge as a key front in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia — writing that both countries would bolster naval assets in the area, with the United States weighing in through additional security support for Ukraine. A recent meeting between Ukrainian and NATO defense officials, along with upcoming sanction decisions against Russia related to the Sea of Azov, point to the growing importance of this front.


Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and other NATO officials Feb. 14 in Brussels to discuss security issues related to the Black Sea. Following the meeting, Poltorak announced that NATO would significantly increase its presence in the Black Sea this year to help Ukraine improve its defense capabilities in the area, including "troops training, modern weapons and development of military infrastructure." He also added that "special attention will be paid to naval and air force capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces."

Why It Matters

The Sea of Azov and broader Black Sea area have been the site of escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia since a confrontation between the two countries in November 2018. The standoff has enabled Ukraine to elicit greater political support from the West in recent months, particularly when it comes to increasing sanctions pressure on Russia. There are growing signs that both the European Union and the United States will pass greater sanctions against Russia over the Sea of Azov standoff with Ukraine, including individual sanctions on Russian security officials involved in the impasse, as well as restrictions on Russia's shipbuilding sector. The EU Foreign Affairs Council is scheduled to discuss increasing such sanctions on Feb. 18, while the United States has floated its own sanctions package partially related to the matter as well.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin recently warned that U.S. plans to hold naval drills with Ukraine in the Black Sea represent "a dangerous idea," which suggests tensions in the region will heat up in the coming months.

The Sea of Azov standoff has also driven greater security support from NATO countries to Ukraine, as evidenced by visits from NATO vessels to country's ports on the Black Sea. The Ukrainian defense minister's recent meeting with NATO officials indicates that this support will now include more active involvement in joint NATO-Ukrainian naval exercises in the Black Sea, as well as increased deployments in, and weapons deliveries to, Ukraine.

These expanded actions will increase the likelihood of additional confrontations between Ukraine and Russia in the Sea of Azov and greater Black Sea area, which could, in turn, escalate the broader conflict in eastern Ukraine. Indeed, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin recently warned that the United States' plans to hold naval drills with Ukraine in the Black Sea represent "a dangerous idea," which suggests tensions in the region will heat up in the coming months.
Background

On Nov. 25, Russia seized three Ukrainian ships and detained 24 Ukrainian sailors in a standoff on the Sea of Azov. Leading up to the confrontation, Moscow had been intercepting Ukrainian ships in the area following Ukraine's announcement in September 2018 that it would build a naval base in Berdyansk by the end of the year. The Ukrainian sailors remain detained in Russia.

Crafty_Dog

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A history of Ukraine
« Reply #148 on: March 01, 2019, 07:58:51 AM »
 
The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine
By Serhii Plokhy

The edge of Western civilization. The breadbasket of Europe. Of the many roles Ukraine has played throughout its history, perhaps the most important has been as Europe’s borderland. The world was reminded of as much in 2014, when protests erupted in the capital of Kiev, unleashing a chain of events that would lead to the ouster of the Ukrainian president, the introduction Russian patrols in eastern Ukraine, and the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Russia called the uprising a Western-backed coup, while the West welcomed the developments. Many feared the country would splinter along pro-Russia and pro-Europe lines. And so, Ukraine’s status as Europe’s first frontier was once again secured.

But in “The Gates of Europe,” Serhii Plokhy’s meticulous telling of Ukrainian history shows that these events weren’t as unique or unexpected as one might think. Ukraine’s history is littered with uprisings and ethnic, cultural and linguistic divides. Plokhy begins his account in the fifth century B.C. with Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian whom Plokhy refers to as “the first historian of Ukraine.” He goes on to describe the pivotal moments that shaped the country’s history, from the Great Revolt to the collapse of empires following World War I, allowing Ukraine to form its own not-yet-independent state.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the book is the epilogue, where Plokhy writes about the issue of nation-building and Ukrainian identity. Russia was able to take control over Russian-speaking Crimea with relatively little military force in part because of the linguistic and cultural connections between the population there and Russia. Many Russian leaders and “volunteers” who joined the fight in eastern Ukraine have made direct connections between the Russian language and Russian nationality. From this perspective, anyone who speaks Russian is part of the Russian nation and deserves Moscow’s protection, even if they live beyond the country’s official borders. This was part of the justification for the annexation of Crimea and it’s part of Ukraine’s ongoing weakness – a large chunk of its population speaks something other than the official language of Ukraine. The country has thus struggled to form an identity of its own. Indeed, Vladimir Putin has repeatedly claimed that Russians and Ukrainians are the same people and downplayed ethnic distinctions between them.

It’s important to remember, however, that the New Russia project – the attempt to merge parts of eastern Ukraine with the Russian state – wasn’t as successful as its architects had hoped. Plokhy points out that most Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Donbass refused to identify themselves as Russian, and after five years of war, Russian-backed rebels haven’t managed to secure full independence from Ukraine. It’s hard to see where the conflict will end, but the broader struggle in which Ukraine has repeatedly found itself may never be resolved.

Valentina Jovanovski, editor


Crafty_Dog

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #149 on: March 28, 2019, 11:12:42 AM »
Ukraine Provides a Test Case of Russia's Hybrid Warfare Strategy
By Eugene Chausovsky
Senior Eurasia Analyst, Stratfor

Passersby walk past a giant electoral poster of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko displayed on a building in central Kiev on March 22, 2019.
(SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)


    Ukraine will provide a laboratory for the evolution of Russia's hybrid warfare strategy as Moscow adjusts its tactics and expands the scope of such actions around the world.
    The competition over Ukraine will factor heavily into the broader Russia-West standoff, which is only likely to intensify in the coming years.
    But regardless of who wins Ukraine's presidential elections on March 31, the country will maintain its orientation to the West, thereby highlighting the limitations of Russia's hybrid strategy.

 

On March 31, Ukrainians will head to the polls for one of the most pivotal and unusual elections in the country's post-Soviet history. This will be the first presidential election since the immediate aftermath of the country's Western-backed Euromaidan uprising in 2014, in which large-scale protests overthrew pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich, clearing a path for the pro-Western Petro Poroshenko to capture the post in May 2014. But five years after Euromaidan, Ukraine has yet to find its political footing, as evidenced by the fact that Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko — two familiar faces in Ukraine's political scene — are trailing Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a 41-year-old TV star and comedian with no previous political experience, by a wide margin. But regardless of who wins the election, one thing is clear: Ukraine's pro-Western orientation is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Following Euromaidan, Ukraine became ground zero for Moscow's expansion of its hybrid warfare strategy, but the country's decisive break from its powerful eastern neighbor has laid bare some of the limitations of such Russian activity.

The Big Picture

Ukraine has long been a battleground between Russia and the West. The consequences of its 2014 Euromaidan uprising have rippled far and wide over the past half-decade. As Ukraine prepares for a presidential election — and the future beyond — it will be a vital test case for the evolution of Russia's hybrid warfare strategy, since it showcases both the impact of the strategy and its ultimate limitations.

The Comedian Who Could be President

The latest opinion polls released by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology on March 25 show Zelenskiy with 32.1 percent of support, far ahead of Poroshenko's 17.1 percent and Timoshenko's 12.5 percent. It is worth noting that pre-election polls in Ukraine can prove unreliable, but Zelenskiy's substantial lead over his two main opponents (as well as a field of nearly 40 other presidential candidates) shows that the star of the popular TV comedy series "Servant of the People," in which he plays the president, has a good chance of joining the ranks of U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro as anti-establishment candidates who unexpectedly upended the political status quo in their countries.

Zelenskiy's rapid rise is contextualized by Ukraine's post-Euromaidan political climate, in which lofty expectations of significant change remain largely unfulfilled. In terms of foreign policy, Ukraine has made important strides in its bid to integrate with the West under Poroshenko, as Kiev has concluded a free trade and visa-free agreement with Brussels, while the United States and NATO have increased security support for the country. Still, membership in either the European Union or NATO remains a distant dream despite Poroshenko's initiative to enshrine Ukraine's desire to join these blocs in the country's constitution. Such aspirations have come at a high cost, including a prolonged conflict with Russia that has led to the loss of Crimea and Donbas — as well as over 10,000 lives.

A map showing Ukraine and the disputed areas of Donbas and Crimea.

On the domestic front, there has also been a mix of progress and setbacks over the past five years. Reforms in the energy sector, while lessening Ukraine's dependence on Russia, have raised utility costs substantially. In the meantime, wages have not kept pace with inflation, while efforts to tackle corruption through judicial and legal reform have largely stalled. Against this backdrop, Zelenskiy is a protest candidate against the powers that be; in such a situation, his fresh face and dearth of political experience is not a weakness for many voters, but rather a positive sign that he can shake things up.

Ukraine and the Russia-West Standoff

The impact of Euromaidan has also traveled well beyond Ukraine's borders, sending ripple effects throughout Eurasia and the West. While the revolution was not the first Western-supported uprising to occur in Russia's backyard (a wave of color revolutions, including one in Ukraine, preceded it earlier in the century), it was by far the most violent and most enduring in terms of its implications. For Russia, Euromaidan posed a major threat to its strategic interests and represented the biggest breach between Moscow and the West since the Cold War, fundamentally altering the way Russia interacts with the West.

Russia's initial reaction to the uprising serves as a case in point. Rather than pursue a formal military invasion of Ukraine, Russia sent in "little green men," or unmarked military personnel, to Crimea and, later, eastern Ukraine in a bid to spawn counter-Euromaidan political movements and forces to oppose the new government in Kiev. At the time, Russia's actions seemed like a thinly veiled effort to cover its tracks and avoid blame for a direct military intervention. In retrospect, however, these were the baby steps in a profound shift in Russian strategy to something different: hybrid warfare.

To be sure, hybrid warfare is not a new concept to either Russia or other states all the way back to antiquity. However, the manner in which Moscow waged hybrid warfare underwent a significant evolution and expansion after Euromaidan. While Russia had previously used hybrid tactics in a restricted manner to achieve limited objectives, such as during the Russia-Georgia War in 2008, Moscow expanded the tactics tremendously in both scope and breadth after Euromaidan in 2014. Russia's techniques grew to encompass everything from targeted assassinations and other covert security operations to cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns. All of these were designed — with varying degrees of intensity and effectiveness — to weaken the Ukrainian state and undermine its efforts to align and integrate with the West.

Using Ukraine as a test case, Russia applied some or all of these expanded hybrid warfare techniques to other pro-Western countries in the former Soviet periphery, such as Moldova and Georgia, so as to undermine their efforts to integrate with the West. Russia expanded its political and economic backing for pro-Moscow parties like the Socialists in Moldova and boosted security support for contested territories like Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia also looked further afield to wield its enhanced tools, supporting Euroskeptic parties in Germany and Italy or establishing entire bot armies on social media platforms with the ultimate aim of fomenting divisions and sowing chaos in the West. Naturally, the scope of Russia's tools varied based on the country it was targeting: Moscow was not willing to challenge countries like the United States or France in a direct military sense, but it was willing to conduct cyberattacks and meddle in their political systems during critical elections.
Euromaidan's Global Reverberations

Russia's prolonged standoff with the West has also had a significant impact on the manner in which Moscow interacts with the rest of the world. Just a year after the Euromaidan uprising, Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict, deploying military forces to back the government of Bashar al Assad against U.S.- and Western-backed rebels. As in Ukraine, Russia's military involvement in Syria began with a small and unofficial presence to test the waters before growing to include a much larger and more powerful force. Russia's intervention also demonstrated that the country was ready and willing to challenge the West not only in the post-Soviet space but also in areas further afield like the Middle East.

Today, signs are emerging that Moscow could go even more global in its use of hybrid warfare. Russia's use of covert or mercenary forces has spread to regions like Africa, including in Libya and the Central Asian Republic, and even as far as Venezuela. What's more, Russia could bolster its military presence in Venezuela, especially after Russian military planes recently landed in Caracas with more than 100 troops and advisers. If so, Russia's forays into Venezuela would share important similarities with previous hybrid interventions in Ukraine or Syria, both in terms of tactics and its goals of enhancing its standing and leverage in its broader negotiations with the United States.

Euromaidan not only reoriented Ukraine's foreign policy toward the West, the decisiveness with which it occurred means the shift will likely endure long beyond this election.

Russia's Hybrid Strategy Hits a Wall

The West, however, has not been completely silent in the face of Russia's hybrid warfare activities. The United States and the European Union have ramped up sanctions against Russia, while NATO has bolstered its military presence in European border areas to protect front-line countries and reinforce defenses against Russia. In addition to conventional buildups, NATO members and countries like Ukraine have redoubled their efforts to enhance and integrate cybersecurity defenses and defend against online propaganda and disinformation tactics. Such efforts have led to diminishing returns for Russia, as the West has worked to both increase the cost of Russia's hybrid tactics and reduce their effectiveness.

Which brings us back to Ukraine. Despite public frustration over the uneven progress of reforms and the persistence of day-to-day difficulties for many citizens, the country has nevertheless undergone a major transformation over the past five years that is hard to ignore from a strategic perspective. Euromaidan not only reoriented Ukraine's foreign policy away from Russia and toward the West, the decisiveness with which it occurred means the shift will likely endure long beyond this election. Regardless of who wins on March 31, all leading candidates support the continuation of Ukraine's Western integration efforts; in fact, not a single pro-Russian candidate has a realistic chance of qualifying for the second round. That, in the end, is a major departure from Ukraine's polarized politics before Euromaidan, when the country was split roughly evenly between pro-Russian and pro-Western factions. More than that, it is also a testament to the limitations of Russia's hybrid tactics.

Ultimately, the motivation for Russia's hybrid warfare strategy goes deeper than the Euromaidan uprising to reflect Moscow's difficulties in competing with the United States and the West in a direct manner. Even as Russia's standoff with the West has been intensifying for half a decade, Moscow suffers from a number of inherent weaknesses, including a resource-dependent economy that can't keep up with the likes of the United States or China, as well as increasingly pressing demographic challenges at home. As a result, Russia has resorted ever more to a continuously evolving and spreading hybrid strategy to attain its strategic ends. Perhaps more than any other country, Ukraine has showcased both the effectiveness and limitations of this strategy for Russia — and that is unlikely to change, even as Moscow refines its strategy and deploys it much further afield.