Author Topic: Ukraine  (Read 59787 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Landslide win for the comedian
« Reply #150 on: April 22, 2019, 10:56:57 AM »

https://www.wsj.com/articles/ukraines-presidential-gamble-11555875881

also see

What Happened

With over 98 percent of the votes counted from the second round of the Ukrainian presidential election, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, best known as a TV comedian, has overwhelmingly won the post by capturing over 73 percent of the vote. Incumbent Petro Poroshenko has conceded defeat.
Why It Matters

Zelenskiy’s landslide victory can be seen as an expression of public frustration over business as usual in Ukraine. The 2014 Euromaidan revolution elevated public expectations of seeing significant changes in the country, but reform efforts under Poroshenko produced mixed results. Reforms in the energy sector, for instance, have led to higher utility costs, while wages have not kept up with inflation, and efforts to tackle corruption through judicial and legal reforms have largely stalled. Zelenskiy — who had no previous political experience and offered no clear policy prescriptions during his campaign — thus served as a protest candidate.

The Ukrainian parliament, currently led by the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, presents a significant limiter on the power of the presidency.

With Zelenskiy’s victory now all but official, the question becomes how he will reshape Ukrainian policy after he takes office. In the short term, the likely answer is not much. The Ukrainian parliament, currently led by the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, presents a significant limiter on the power of the presidency. Therefore, Zelenskiy — whose party currently has no parliamentary representation — will find it difficult to push through any significant policy changes at least until parliamentary elections in October, when he will have a chance to build his party’s numbers and will factor more heavily into coalition-building. Any changes Zelenskiy wants to make will also face external influence, including a push by the West for policy continuity on economic reforms tied to the country’s financial assistance program through the International Monetary Fund.

Beyond the immediate term, Zelenskiy could shift Ukraine’s approach to key issues like the conflict with Russian-backed separatists in Donbas. Indeed, he has called for a reset of the negotiation process over ending the war in Eastern Ukraine, but he also faces obstacles to that ambition. Ukraine’s Western backers have pushed for a continuation of the Minsk process and Normandy format of negotiations, a step that Zelenskiy’s representatives have confirmed a commitment to keeping, meaning the bid to find a resolution to the conflict will face the all same constraints. Russia, which has taken a cautious approach to Zelenskiy’s victory, will also serve as a major roadblock to ending the conflict, considering Moscow's interest in undermining Ukraine’s Western integration process regardless of who is president. Given that Zelenskiy supports broader integration with Western blocs such as the European Union and NATO (he has called for a referendum on Ukraine’s NATO membership as a means to clarify public consensus on the issue), any difference in foreign policy between Zelenskiy and Poroshenko is likely to be tactical, rather than strategic, in nature.

There could, however, be more potential for domestic change, as the Ukrainian public will hold Zelenskiy accountable to his pledge to do more to tackle corruption. But this, too, will be complicated by his alleged ties to influential oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, as well as efforts by vested interests within the political and economic establishment to resist anti-corruption reforms. The extent of the resistance that Zelenskiy will face in changing Ukrainian policy will become clearer in the weeks ahead as he makes key Cabinet and personnel appointments and pushes to increase his party's representation in parliament.
What's Next?

Ukraine is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections on Oct. 27. The Petro Poroshenko Bloc and the Popular Front currently make up the ruling coalition, while Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party will be trying to seat its first members.

 
« Last Edit: April 22, 2019, 01:50:34 PM by Crafty_Dog »



Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Watching for signs of progress
« Reply #153 on: September 28, 2019, 02:00:24 PM »
 

Watching for Signs of Progress in Eastern Ukraine

The Big Picture
________________________________________
As the conflict in Ukraine enters its sixth year, recent signs point to a revival of the stalled negotiation process between Ukraine, Russia and the West. While various political and security challenges still stand in the way of a comprehensive truce between Kyiv and Moscow, the successful implementation of more tactical measures, such as prisoner swaps and troop withdrawals, could help break the diplomatic deadlock over the war.
________________________________________
The Fight for Russia’s BorderlandsThe Ukraine Conflict
Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's 2019 Fourth-Quarter Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis of key developments over the next quarter.
On Sept. 18, Ukraine announced it was preparing to pull back its military presence 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) from the roughly 450-km front line in eastern Ukraine on the basis that Russian-backed separatist forces do the same. Specifically, Kyiv stressed that the successful completion of this plan would depend on concurring "reciprocal actions from the opposite side." This announcement follows a high-profile prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia on Sept. 7. Combined, these two recent developments suggest that the door to further de-escalation may be opening wider — and with it, the potential for diplomatic progress toward addressing the nearly six-year conflict in the region.
Closer to Diplomacy?
There have been discussions of a resumption of talks between heads of state in the Normandy Four format (Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France). The last time such a meeting took place regarding the conflict in eastern Ukraine was in 2016. A successful, mutual pullback of military personnel and equipment along the front line in Donbas would create positive momentum going into the Normandy summit, as well as boost parallel natural gas transit negotiations between Ukraine, Russia and the European Union (which are part of broader talks among Ukrainian officials). This could, in turn, increase the chances for Kyiv and Moscow to start implementing some of the political aspects of the 2014 Minsk Protocol, and lay the groundwork for further political concessions as well, including the potential lifting of EU sanctions against Russia.
 
What Stands in the Way
However, there are still significant hurdles for a comprehensive breakthrough (or even piecemeal agreement) to take place as a result of the potential upcoming Normandy Four talks. These include:
•   The Minsk impasse: Russia and Ukraine have divergent positions on implementing the Minsk protocols, particularly its sequencing. Before granting any concessions, Ukraine has demanded a complete removal of Russian military personnel from the region and the restoration of Ukrainian control over the Russian border with Donbas. Russia, however, has pushed against these demands, insisting that Ukraine must first recognize Donbas' political autonomy.
•   Domestic political pressures: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — who took office earlier this year after securing a landslide victory — has made ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine one of his top priorities. However, domestic political pressures will make Zelenskiy (and, to a lesser extent, Russian President Vladimir Putin) hesitant to pursue more meaningful concessions for fear of appearing politically weak.
•   Past failures: Finally, previous troop pullbacks have proven to be unsuccessful. A previous agreement in 2016 to push back both Ukrainian and separatist forces from three specific areas (Stanitsa Luganskaya, Zolotye and Petrovskoye) has had little success. Over the past three years, the pullback has been successfully completed in only Stanitsa Luganskaysa — and even then, only recently.
A step back from the front line in eastern Ukraine could at least allow Kyiv and Moscow to reopen the conversation around ending the conflict.
What to Watch for
Despite these challenges, the fact that there is movement on the ground in terms of both prisoner exchanges and a limited version of troop pullbacks nonetheless suggests that more diplomatic progress could soon be reached. In gauging the likelihood of such traction, it will be important to monitor the following developments in the coming weeks and months:
•   A sustained cease-fire: Persistent crossfire in eastern Ukraine risks delaying or thwarting any troop pullbacks. A sustained cease-fire in the region would first have to take place for either side to feel comfortable enough to move their military troops and equipment.
•   A strong start to the pullback: Any successful troop pullback would have to occur sequentially across the front line in eastern Ukraine, likely beginning first in the Luhansk regions of Zolotye and Petrovskoye (the sites of the previously failed 2016 plans). If both Russian and Ukrainian forces are successfully removed in these two regions, then pullbacks in other parts of Luhansk and the more contentious Donetsk region would likely take place next.
•   The U.S.'s diplomatic position: The United States — while not a part of the Normandy Four — will nevertheless play a key role in peace negotiations. Given its own rivalry with Russia, along with its political and security support for Ukraine, Washington can be expected to side with Kyiv and insist on more concessions from Moscow. Zelenskiy is scheduled to have his first sit-down with U.S. President Donald Trump on Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. The White House also recently signed off on the release of a $250 million military assistance package for Ukraine.
•   The Normandy Four summit: Concrete movement toward a cease-fire and troop pullback would likely set the stage for additional meetings among Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany that are needed to reach any more meaningful truce. There is also a chance that the potential meeting will yield some limited concessions from Ukraine and Russia, such as additional prisoner swaps, or granting greater access for forces with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor separatist territories in eastern Ukraine.
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Crafty_Dog

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« Last Edit: October 06, 2019, 10:43:11 AM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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The mess that Victoria Nuland made
« Reply #155 on: October 06, 2019, 10:46:07 AM »
I'm not going to Monday morning quarterback this , , , yet, but I post this to give an idea of the complexity of the situation.

https://truthout.org/articles/the-ukraine-mess-that-nuland-made/



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DougMacG

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Re: Nation: Why are we in Ukraine?
« Reply #160 on: November 15, 2019, 05:42:10 PM »
https://www.thenation.com/article/why-are-we-in-ukraine/

"Ukraine is not “a vital US national interest, ...
Ukraine is a vital Russian interest."

I realize this is The Nation, but isn't containing Russia to Russian borders, when and where we can, to not become Soviet Union 2.0, isn't that a "vital US national interest"?

What was the lesson of WWII? In my view it is to stop regimes like Hitler sooner, before they capture more territory, resources, confidence, momentum, before we have to take a half million casualties or more to stop them.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #161 on: November 15, 2019, 07:02:58 PM »
Yes, understood! 

I should have clarified with an accompanying explanation, that I posted because it articulates well a particular, and rational, POV.

It most certainly fair to point out that if the shoe were on the other foot, we would NOT be happy with the Russians militarily present in Mexico, contrast our NATO presence on Russian borders and our vague declarations of adding Ukraine and Georgia to the list.

My current thinking is this:  The problem is that in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Empire there were two basic ways to play it with the Russians.  Extend the hand or step on the neck while they were weak.  President Clinton did it half-assed instead.


DougMacG

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #163 on: November 17, 2019, 10:00:26 PM »
Yes, understood! 

I should have clarified with an accompanying explanation, that I posted because it articulates well a particular, and rational, POV.

It most certainly fair to point out that if the shoe were on the other foot, we would NOT be happy with the Russians militarily present in Mexico, contrast our NATO presence on Russian borders and our vague declarations of adding Ukraine and Georgia to the list.

My current thinking is this:  The problem is that in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Empire there were two basic ways to play it with the Russians.  Extend the hand or step on the neck while they were weak.  President Clinton did it half-assed instead.

Thank you Crafty. 

"we would NOT be happy with the Russians militarily present in Mexico, contrast our NATO presence on Russian borders and our vague declarations of adding Ukraine and Georgia to the list."

   - Our Denny S also makes a persuasive 'backyard' argument.  Cuban missile crisis might be an example.  I would add clarification..  I would add a distinction, the US has no designs on Mexico or Cuba, except for them to be sovereign, independent and free, unlike the way Russia looks at Crimea/Ukraine.  If our goal was annexation, we might find ourselves facing reaction of a world community alliance in resistance to that, whether we like it or not.

"...in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Empire there were two basic ways to play it with the Russians.  Extend the hand or step on the neck while they were weak.  President Clinton did it half-assed instead."

    - Yes.  Just the voters' choice of Clinton was a significant left turn away from what should have been a 'third Reagan term' and then a fourth term (Bush Sr.) emphasizing freedom instead of statism.  That election took away our credibility to tell other nations to choose individual rights and freedoms and steer away from statism.  Russia was lost.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #164 on: November 18, 2019, 03:54:15 AM »
"I would add clarification..  I would add a distinction, the US has no designs on Mexico or Cuba, except for them to be sovereign, independent and free, unlike the way Russia looks at Crimea/Ukraine.  If our goal was annexation, we might find ourselves facing reaction of a world community alliance in resistance to that, whether we like it or not."

Well articulated and I agree entirely. 

That said, the Russians do not see themselves as we see them.  The Russian sense of history comes through the very distorted lens of Marxist-Leninist Pravda propaganda while shutting off Truth from the outside, which with the fall of the Soviet Empire simply put on a new cloak over the same old rationalizations.


Crafty_Dog

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Interesting reminders of reality in Ukraine with regard to Russia
« Reply #166 on: November 20, 2019, 01:31:27 PM »
https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/impeaching-trump-and-demonizing-russia-birds-of-a-feather/?fbclid=IwAR0GlURRpJ6YZcfzplG4SXHw10oiBw7EYAoaPPhCuj_r9lxRAn6kj2Qa004

A friend with unusually deep expertise in Russo-American strategic issues comments:

"The author is a bit more willing to take the Russian perspective than I think is wise, but this is still a good and interesting piece. The bits about NATO’s expansion and our support for factions in Ukraine are particularly useful reminders. The moves may have been in our interest, and largely I agree that they were, but the notion that Russia wouldn’t react was naive."


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« Last Edit: November 20, 2019, 05:23:08 PM by Crafty_Dog »

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The Budapest Memorandum
« Reply #171 on: December 19, 2019, 01:59:19 PM »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #172 on: December 30, 2019, 05:40:07 AM »
Stratfor Worldview

ASSESSMENTS

A New Gas Transit Deal Won't Keep Ukraine and Russia Together for Long
6 MINS READ
Dec 30, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

A natural gas line runs outside Donetsk, Ukraine, on March 11, 2015. In the future, gas transit deals between Ukraine and Russia could have less ability to keep the countries' tensions in check.

(ANDREW BURTON/Getty Images)
HIGHLIGHTS
Their new agreement notwithstanding, Moscow and Kyiv are ultimately set to go their separate ways on energy....

For the short term at least, Ukrainians and Europeans won't have to worry about shelling out more to heat their homes this winter. An eleventh-hour extension to an energy transit agreement will guarantee the continued flow of natural gas from Russia to Europe through Ukraine over the next five years, but there is little indication that the current deal will presage longer-term cooperation between Moscow and Kyiv. Indeed, lingering distrust between the two capitals will lead Ukraine down the path of producing its own natural gas to achieve self-sufficiency in the longer term, while Russia will strive to shift shipments to pipelines in the Baltic and Black seas that don't present as much of a political nuisance. Ultimately, the emergence of other transit routes will reduce the calming effect that natural gas transit deals have had on the two countries' larger political disputes over hot-button issues like Crimea, eastern Ukraine and more.

The Big Picture

Russia supplies nearly half of Europe's natural gas, and Ukraine's pipeline infrastructure plays a key role. But the construction of new pipeline infrastructure in the Baltic and Black seas will allow Russia to reduce its dependence on Ukrainian infrastructure.

See The Politics of Pipelines

The Road to an Agreement

At the outset of the most recent talks, Russia proposed a one-year deal. At the same time, Russia also demanded that Ukraine's Naftogaz drop all litigation it had filed against Gazprom for allegedly pumping less than the 110 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year it was required to ship during the previous contract from 2009 to 2019. Ukraine, by contrast, wanted a 10-year agreement that would have provided Kyiv with a guaranteed income from transit fees over a long period in which it hoped to further develop its own natural gas production or alternative import sources. At the same time, Ukraine, as well as the European Union, had proposed a minimum transit of 60 bcm per year, with an additional capacity for 30 bcm.

After exhaustive negotiations, representatives of Russia's Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz finally reached a preliminary agreement for a five-year extension to their new gas transit contract on Dec. 19, just 12 days before the present deal was set to expire.

Gazprom also committed to paying $2.9 billion that a Stockholm court earlier ordered it to pay Naftogaz as compensation after volumes dropped to less than 90 bcm per year, particularly as a result of the Euromaidan uprising. Naftogaz, in exchange, agreed to stop pursuing additional lawsuits related to transit in which it had demanded a total of $13 billion.

Both Ukraine and Russia ended up making concessions relative to their initial demands in order to pragmatically sustain gas flows.

And in terms of yearly volumes, the new agreement envisions a progressive reduction in Russia's use of Ukrainian infrastructure from the current volume of 90 bcm to 65 bcm next year and just 40 bcm in 2021. As a result, Ukraine would normally collect less revenue, just as the costs of maintaining the aging infrastructure will rise. But under the new deal, Naftogaz and Gazprom have reportedly fixed the transit fees over the next five years at a higher level to allow Ukraine to sustain its roughly $3 billion in revenue even though volumes could drop by more than half.

The extension is of great economic importance to both Russia and Ukraine, as the lack of a deal would have physically prevented Russia from pumping enough natural gas to European markets to meet demand, while Kyiv would not have been able to reap transit fees. Both countries ended up making concessions relative to their initial demands in order to pragmatically sustain gas flows. From Ukraine's perspective, the new agreement will give Kyiv some level of reliability and generate revenue of at least $15 billion — $2 billion more than it would have gained if Naftogaz had won the lawsuits it originally filed against Gazprom. While the country might not have achieved as much as it could if it had stood its ground in negotiations, it evidently chose to sacrifice revenue for more certainty.

This map shows various pipeline routes from Russia to Europe.

Toward New Routes

The agreement, however, does not herald a long future of Russian-Ukrainian energy ties. The importance of Ukraine as a transit country lies within the broader context of the natural gas pipelines that connect Russia and European markets. Next year, Russia hopes to bring both TurkStream and Nord Stream 2 online to increase its total export capacity to Europe and develop more alternatives to Ukraine. Since the breakdown of relations between Kyiv and Moscow in 2014, Russia has considered Ukraine an unreliable transit route, and numerous legal and political conflicts between the two have complicated their relationship.

For one, Gazprom has chosen to honor the $2.9 billion compensation verdict, but Naftogaz is still exposing itself by dropping litigation in the name of a new deal, as it has accepted the risk that Russia may choose not to abide by their new agreement in years ahead — something that could cost the Ukrainian company revenues down the road. (Naftogaz, nonetheless, will continue its efforts to recover over $5 billion from Russia it says it incurred when Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.)

While the latest agreement may succeed in averting the disruption of natural gas flows to Europe, the devil in the details does portend a radical shift in the infrastructure that brings Russian gas to Europe.

As it is, Ukraine ceased to directly consume Russian natural gas in 2015 (it still depends on Russia for about 10 bcm a year, or a third of its consumption, through so-called reverse flows of Russian natural gas that Moscow sells to other European countries, which then sell it on to Ukraine) and intends to develop its own resources to the extent that it would no longer be import-dependent. While Ukraine is unable to do this for now — and has failed to meet several targets in developing such abilities — the country's long-term goals of self-sufficiency would make its transit infrastructure a viable political tool that Kyiv could use to disrupt Moscow's access to European markets without risking its own supply.

While the latest agreement may succeed in averting the disruption of natural gas flows to Europe, the devil in the details does portend a radical shift in the infrastructure that brings Russian gas to Europe. Despite U.S. attempts to sanction the construction of Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream, Russia will bring both of these pipeline projects online in 2020, allowing it to begin shipping natural gas to Europe through routes it considers more reliable. How quickly that happens will depend on Gazprom's delivery contracts with customers in Europe, as such contracts often specify the point of delivery. Whatever the case, the writing is on the wall for Ukraine's status as a major transit corridor between Russia and Europe, as cost and geopolitical risk are likely to drive Moscow to ship more natural gas to its European customers through alternate routes in the year to come. And that reality could have profound effects on their political problems; with the need to cooperate to ship natural gas to Europe diminishing, there will be one fewer factor inhibiting their geopolitical quarrel

Crafty_Dog

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Ukraine Pogrom?
« Reply #173 on: January 12, 2020, 06:27:50 PM »

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Ukraine clashes
« Reply #174 on: February 18, 2020, 01:10:06 PM »


Clashes in Ukraine. Ukraine’s military and the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic accused each other of shelling in Donbass and of using heavy weapons, which are prohibited under the Minsk agreements. Kyiv said armed groups attacked its military using 120mm caliber mortars, machine guns and grenade launchers near the settlements of Novotoshkovskoye, Orekhovo, Krimskoye and Khutor Volny on the demarcation line in Donbass. One Ukrainian soldier and one LPR fighter died. Kyiv also said armed groups tried to break through the demarcation line. Meanwhile, the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics said Ukrainian security forces attacked settlements using heavy weapons (large-caliber artillery and mortars) and caused damage to civilian infrastructure in Kirovsk and Donetsk. Moscow has not commented on the clashes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attacks a “cynical provocation” and “an attempt to disrupt the peace process in the Donbass.” Zelensky convened a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council to discuss Ukraine’s next steps. It’s clear that neither Ukraine nor Russia is interested in a full-fledged war. But Zelensky is likely considering future negotiations with the Normandy Four leaders over not just Donbass but Crimea as well. He is planning to create a working group focused on returning to Kyiv control over the Ukraine-Russia border.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Crimea's future grows dimmer
« Reply #175 on: February 28, 2020, 03:30:21 PM »
Stratfor Worldview
ASSESSMENTS
Under Russia, Crimea’s Future Grows Dimmer -- and Drier
9 MINS READ
Feb 24, 2020 | 09:00 GMT
This photo shows a dry irrigation canal in Crimea.
An irrigation canal in Crimea runs dry without access to the North Crimean Canal. Russia’s annexation in 2014 has since severed the peninsula’s access to crucial Ukrainian water flows.

(A_Lesik/Shutterstock)
HIGHLIGHTS
Without access to Ukranian water, replenishing Crimea's near-dry resources will force Russia to either front costly infrastructure projects -- or abandon its economic hopes for the region....

Water scarcity is quickly dimming Russia's hopes for economic growth on the Crimean Peninsula. Reservoirs throughout the region are at record lows for this time of year, with only a few months of reserves left to cover the Crimean population's daily consumption. But while an unusually dry winter is partially to blame, Russia's annexation has been at the core of Crimean water woes by prompting Ukraine to close off the North Crimean Canal in 2014.

Without external access to fresh water, permanent relief for the peninsula can only be obtained by either desalinating water from the Black Sea, or by building new pipelines to feed water from Russia's Kuban River directly into Crimea. But unless Moscow coughs up the capital needed to fund such costly infrastructure projects, Crimea risks becoming a mostly barren military bastion as its industries, agricultural lands and population shrivel up alongside its water reserves.

The Big Picture

Crimea lacks the natural water reserves to meet the needs of its population while also serving its agricultural and industrial sectors. For decades, water supplies from Ukraine helped keep Crimea afloat. But ever since Russia’s annexation in 2014 severed this key artery, Crimea has struggled to meet water demands to sustain its economic activity.

Crimea's Water Woes

Crimea’s inherent vulnerability to water shortages has always been a part of its geopolitical reality, with recurrent dry spells limiting local water accumulation every five to seven years. The dry seasons from 2018 until now, however, effectively constitute the first of these cyclical droughts since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, which has denied access to the Ukranian water reserves that have historically carried the peninsula through the droughts. In the 1960s, the Soviet Union built the North Crimean Canal connecting the Dnieper River in Ukraine to Crimean reservoirs and irrigation installations. For decades, the more than 400-kilometer-long (roughly 250 miles) canal provided up to 85 percent of the peninsula’s water needs. But as part of its standoff with Russia in 2014, Ukraine blocked the canal to complicate Moscow's control over the region. And the canal has remained closed, cutting Crimea off from its key water lifeline.

This, along with the effects of climate change and prolonged droughts, has exacerbated Crimea's water woes in recent years. Shortages have started to affect its population centers, reducing their ability to sustain normal consumption patterns. Without access to North Crimean Canal water, the Crimean capital, Simferopol, depends entirely on rainfall and snowmelt to replenish its three main reservoirs. But having endured dry years in 2018 and 2019, and without snowfall this winter, these reservoirs have continued to decline. Currently, they hold the equivalent of no more than five months' worth of daily consumption.


These low levels recently prompted Simferopol to announce it was restricting water flow to only eight hours per day. While a limited refill of the reservoirs has since temporarily delayed those restrictions, the levels of the reservoirs continue to remain low. And depending on weather conditions, they'll eventually drop even lower as summer approaches. Unless consumption is restricted at some point, or the reservoirs are refilled by other means, serious water shortages in Simferopol are all but guaranteed in the latter half of this year.

Water scarcity, however, is not limited to urban Simferopol. Across the peninsula, a large number of reservoirs capable of holding 188 million cubic meters of water (about 500 million gallons)  are now down to just 75 million cubic meters. This is at a time when melting snow typically brings the reservoirs to near full capacity. The rivers feeding these reservoirs — such as the Alma River that runs into the Partizansky reservoir at Simferopol — are now nearly dried up. A repeat of this phenomenon across the peninsula has caused a significant decline in vegetation as well. The southernmost area of the peninsula, an epicenter of Crimea’s tourism sector and the home to the city of Yalta, has been somewhat spared from these effects. But it's apparent that if the current situation holds, the overall water supply in the country has become unsustainable in the long term.

Underwater Investments

These water shortages have thrown a significant wrench into Russia's broader plans to boost economic development in Crimea, currently one of the poorest areas under its territorial control. Moscow set aside $13.3 billion to invest in road, rail and tourism infrastructure in the peninsula between 2015 and 2022, making it Russia's fastest-growing economic region in 2019. Throughout the region, construction and manufacturing levels have grown by 20 percent. And in some areas, such as the major port city of Sevastopol, those levels have spiked by 71 percent. Crimea's diminishing water supplies, however, are now weighing heavily on the potential for Russia to see a return on its infrastructure investments in the peninsula, given that water is an essential resource in many industrial activities — particularly in construction and chemical production.

Perhaps no sector that relies more on the water than agriculture, posing a significant challenge to Russia's desire to increase the output of Crimean farmers. Moscow has been especially keen on leveraging its forceful acquisition of the region to boost its own agricultural potential. Even though Crimea makes up less than a fifth of a percent of Russia’s entire surface area, it accounts for over 2 percent of its total grain exports. In recent years, Moscow has sought to expand this production via investments to increase the efficiency of the region's agricultural sector. But drought conditions have caused Crimea's grain production levels to fall significantly short of Moscow’s ambitions for growth.

Crimea churned out 1.7 million tons of grain in 2017, near-record production. But a dry spell reduced production to just 1 million tons in 2018. Local officials managed to bring production back in line with annual averages at 1.4 million tons in 2019, although as water use increases and soil quality declines, the low production levels of 2018 risk soon becoming the new normal. And indeed, Crimea's near-empty reservoirs at this point already suggest another meager harvest for 2020. In addition to insufficient precipitation, the overuse of groundwater resources is also threatening the quality of Crimean soil. To mediate the current water scarcity, Russia has so far relied on withdrawing from Crimea's underground aquifers. But overtaxing these aquifers has progressively deteriorated their mineral composition, increasing soil salinity. This unsustainable practice thus adds to the effects of water shortages by damaging the fertility of agricultural land in Crimea.

No Quick Fix in Sight

Without significant relief in water access, Crimea's agricultural production (and overall economic activity) will only become harder to sustain. But Russia will be hard-pressed to easily or cheaply remedy this reality. In addition to overusing the peninsula's underground aquifers, Moscow has developed several, localized pipeline networks to transport water within Crimea. Such networks, however, offer only a reprieve and won't provide a sustainable fix without access to external water sources. Indeed, scientific studies have shown that even with extensive infrastructure developments allowing optimal use of runoff and groundwater, the peninsula's water supply would still not be enough to sustain both Crimea's agricultural lands and its population's consumption needs.

Unless Russia coughs up the capital needed to fund costly infrastructure projects, Crimea's economic prospects risk shriveling up alongside its water reserves.

Reopening the North Crimean Canal would, of course, be the most immediate fix in rectifying the region's water access. But Ukraine has made it clear that it will not consider such an option unless Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula. Moscow has even offered to pay for water supplies, but for Kyiv, any economic interaction with a Russian-occupied Crimea is unacceptable, as it would imply a de-facto recognition of Russian sovereignty over the region. Moscow, however, will be just as unwilling to relinquish control over its newly attained military foothold on the Black Sea.

This leaves Russia with more radical — and costly — options to resolve Crimea's water issues: finding alternative access to external water sources, or desalinating seawater. While Moscow has been experimenting with limited desalination of seawater, making this a fully sustainable solution would require drawing in large amounts of water from the Black Sea, along with overall improvements to efficiencies in Crimea’s water distribution infrastructure including extensive wastewater treatment. Moscow has also considered building a pipeline to transport fresh water from Russia's Kuban River across the Kerch Strait into Crimea’s reservoirs, though this too would entail extensive (and expensive) infrastructure investments.

Hung Out to Dry?

While such major development projects to sustain the peninsula's economic potential are not impossible, it will come at a significant cost for Moscow. The question then becomes just how high Crimea ranks among Russia's already constrained economic priorities — and how that financial opportunity stacks up to Moscow's more immediate military priorities in the region. Even without any efforts to mediate the longer-term water emergency in Crimea, Russia would still be able to comfortably sustain its military presence in the peninsula. The water requirements for such an effort would not be nearly as extensive as broader economic development of the peninsula. With Crimea's tourist sector geographically concentrated in the country's southern region, it could more easily persist with current water access or only limited desalination in place.

Even if Crimea can’t be an agriculturally or industrially significant contributor within the Russian Federation, Moscow will still prioritize the region's sustainable military utility over any calls to relinquish control. For these reasons, Russia is unlikely to consider water scarcity in Crimea as an existential threat to its control over the peninsula. It's thus not guaranteed that Moscow will shell out the capital needed to permanently fix the problem. In such a case, Crimea’s agricultural sector may slowly peter out and its industrial potential never reached, as Moscow retains its hold on the geopolitically advantageous region. With no solution in sight, the region's population, meanwhile, would likely start to relocate in the hopes of finding better economic opportunities and more sustainable living conditions elsewhere in Russia.


Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Kyiv's push to end Eastern Ukraine's conflict risks prolonging it
« Reply #177 on: March 04, 2020, 09:02:56 PM »
Stratfor Worldview


Kyiv's Push to End Eastern Ukraine's Conflict Risks Prolonging It

Global Analyst , Stratfor
7 MINS READ
Mar 4, 2020 | 19:21 GMT
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks following an outbreak of violence with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on Feb. 18, 2020. Ruslan Khomchak, the commander of Ukraine's armed forces, stands behind Zelenskiy.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks following an outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine on Feb. 18, 2020. Because of severe challenges in implementing the Minsk protocols, the Ukrainian government is planning to propose an alternative framework to end the ongoing conflict with Russian-backed separatists.

HIGHLIGHTS

The continued lack of progress toward achieving permanent peace in eastern Ukraine has prompted Kyiv to officially pursue a replacement to the Minsk protocols.

Ukraine, however, lacks the leverage to coerce Russia and the region's separatist republics into complying with its plans to negotiate an entirely new diplomatic roadmap.

Kyiv's strategy could instead leave the opposing parties in Donbas without any mutually agreed-upon framework, which would increase the possibility of military escalation in the region.

With no end in sight to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv's desire to forge a new path to peace risks setting it back to square one. In late February, Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it was actively working on a proposal to replace the 2014 Minsk Protocol. But while the chances of permanently ending the conflict under the current Minsk agreements remain slim at best, the chances that Ukraine can successfully negotiate an entirely new framework with Russia-backed separatists in Donbas are even slimmer. Instead, Kyiv's strategy is most likely to collapse existing diplomatic efforts — and could potentially even lead to an escalation in fighting along the region's still-active front lines — by highlighting the very constraints that have prevented progress over the past six years.

The Big Picture

Since the initial Minsk Protocol was signed in September 2014, little progress has been made toward settling the ongoing conflict in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Growing frustration with the deadlock could see Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy abandon or unravel his government's initial efforts to find common ground with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Out of Options

Kyiv's push for an alternative to the Minsk agreement indicates its intent to abandon the existing framework due to its failure to achieve permanent peace in eastern Ukraine. Convinced that certain aspects of the Minsk Protocol are impossible to implement as-is, the Ukrainian government has concluded its potential to secure peace in eastern Ukraine has now been exhausted. Kyiv's primary hangups with the current agreement include the organization of elections in Donbas, the special political status of the breakaway territories, and returning Ukraine's border with Russia back to Minsk's control. Ukraine has also argued that the timeline of these events, which currently requires the implementation of the special political status within Ukrainian law and the organization of elections before Ukraine can reassume control over its border, is particularly troubling. Ukraine's current government under President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has even said that it would have never agreed to an agreement under these terms in the first place.

This push, however, risks jeopardizing the Ukrainian government's apparent progress in normalizing ties with Russia over the past year. After Zelenskiy's election in May 2019, he appeared on track toward reaching a permanent resolution with Moscow to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. By initially tackling the easier aspects of implementing the agreement, through prisoner exchanges and tactical withdrawals from the front line in eastern Ukraine, this perception was drawn out even though greater challenges still continued to cast a shadow over the potential for full implementation.

A map explaining the requirements to implement the Minsk agreements.

These efforts culminated in a Normandy Format summit in Paris in December, where the heads of state of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France — the guarantors of the Minsk agreement — met to negotiate the further implementation of the deal. But despite the optimism around the summit, it failed to provide any breakthroughs beyond the continuation of prisoner exchanges and tactical withdrawals. And since then, there's been little progress on even these elements, and Ukrainian voices calling for the abandonment of the Minsk agreement altogether have grown louder.

The Specter of War

Ukrainian officials have floated the idea of an entirely new Minsk agreement since the second iteration was signed in 2015, and its implementation was questioned. This, however, is the first time the government has officially committed to the "Plan B" concept, which brings with it a great degree of uncertainty. Despite the failure to fully implement the Minsk agreement, both the initial 2014 agreement and the 2015 final version (as well as the 2016 Steinmeier Formula) have so far effectively kept Kyiv and Moscow working within the diplomatic framework. An attempt at renegotiation risks unraveling the achievements to this point, primarily consisting of the delineation of the contact line in eastern Ukraine and efforts to impose a cease-fire. Without a valid diplomatic framework, the parties to the conflict could once again be seen reaching for military means to strengthen their position in negotiations.

If this were to be the case, neither side of the conflict would be in a position to overpower the other. Ukraine has not yet managed to rebuild its military strength following the loss of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, though it has worked steadily toward a potential NATO membership. Russia, on the other hand, continues to provide support to the Donetsk and Luhansk republics, which would allow these separatist forces to extend the conflict indefinitely. Kyiv likely wants to avoid such a return to military operations, as it would complicate its own efforts at economic stabilization, and could potentially even jeopardize its bid for NATO membership (which rules out enrolling new member states with active armed conflicts within their borders). But Ukraine's push to reshape the diplomatic process may very well lead there.

Russia Refuses a Redo

Russia has downright refused to entertain the idea of straying from the current Minsk agreement. In response to the Ukrainian request for a new Normandy summit, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov clearly stated that Russia saw no need for a future summit before decisions made during the previous meeting (implementing elements of the Minsk agreement) had taken place. Even if this were the case, Russia has argued a draft agreement preceding such a summit would have to rule out any attempts at undermining the Minsk agreement. The next steps in this implementation mostly relate to providing the breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine with a permanent political status under Ukrainian law. Kyiv is hesitant to move forward with this step, as it would effectively lock it into the existing diplomatic roadmap that grants Moscow leverage over Ukrainian politics and presents a roadblock to Kyiv's NATO membership. But for that very reason, Russia prefers sticking with the current Minsk framework over exploring a new one.

While the chances of implementing the Minsk protocols in eastern Ukraine remain slim at best, the chances of Kyiv negotiating an entirely new peace deal with Russia are even slimmer.

Currently, this leaves Russia and Ukraine going head-to-head over the future direction of the peace process with no clear outcome. But the one thing that appears certain is the inability for the implementation of the Minsk agreement to progress. Overall, Ukraine's ability to force Russia (and, by proxy, the two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine) to comply with its demands is weak, which was recently made clear in the renegotiation of a key gas transit agreement between the two countries. And unlike Kyiv, Moscow would be perfectly capable of accepting a long-term extension of the current reality in eastern Ukraine, or even an escalation of the conflict.

Kyiv will likely also draw on France, Germany and the United States to exert pressure on Russia to comply with its plans for renegotiation, though the appetite for this will be low. Kyiv's allies (and particularly those in Europe) are not looking to take on additional economic risks by re-escalating tensions with Russia. In the longer term, Ukraine — with help of those Western allies — could hope to rebuild its military strength to force Russia and the region's separatists into accepting Kyiv's conditions. But without any shifts to Kyiv's political or physical leverage, the fighting in eastern Ukraine will likely continue at the hands of separatist forces seeking to force a return to the principles outlined within the Minsk agreement.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Yovanavitch lied under oath
« Reply #179 on: May 17, 2020, 06:24:25 PM »
https://www.foxnews.com/politics/state-dept-emails-yovanovitch-met-with-burisma-despite-testifying

Calculated lying under oath means she is hiding a larger, higher crime, something to do with Biden and Burisma and likely her own complicity?

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Ukraine, Those who gave up Crimea without a fight must be held responsible
« Reply #180 on: October 25, 2020, 02:32:43 PM »
This week in the Kyiv post:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says those who allowed Russia to illegally annex Crimea in early 2014 must be held responsible.

https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/rfe-rl-zelensky-says-those-who-gave-up-crimea-without-a-fight-must-be-held-responsible.html

I wonder if he means Biden Obama...

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Signs of War in Ukraine?
« Reply #181 on: April 06, 2021, 07:12:30 AM »
By: Geopolitical Futures
Signs of war? There are increasing signs of a possible outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine. In an interview with a Russian broadcaster, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said a military conflict in Donbass was nearly unavoidable at this point. He said he anticipated a full-scale offensive launched by the Ukrainian army in the near future as Kyiv redeploys military equipment to the east. Military cargo is also being transported by plane from NATO’s Ramstein Air Base to Kyiv, though this may be connected to NATO’s Defender Europe 2021 drills. Meanwhile, the European Union’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, said he was following developments in the region closely, amid concerns about a Russian military buildup across the border.

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GPF: Ukraine: Black Sea deployments
« Reply #182 on: April 09, 2021, 01:45:18 PM »
Black Sea deployments. Amid rising concerns about a military buildup along the Ukrainian-Russian border, regional powers are deploying assets to the Black Sea. On Thursday, Ukraine carried out unexpected naval drills that limited traffic at Ukraine’s largest ports in the Black Sea. Meanwhile, Turkey said it received official notification that two U.S. warships would enter the Black Sea through the Bosporus next week and stay until May 4. Russia is also deploying ships from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #183 on: April 10, 2021, 06:32:49 PM »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #184 on: April 12, 2021, 08:41:59 PM »
Whatcha gonna do President Magoo?  Co-President Kommiela?
Putin and ‘Consequences’
Putin masses troops near Ukraine in an early test for Biden and the G-7 allies.
By The Editorial Board
April 12, 2021 6:35 pm ET

Most Americans haven’t noticed, but the world is becoming a more dangerous place by the day. The hottest current spot is Russia’s border with Ukraine and the Black Sea, where the Kremlin has amassed more forces than any time since its invasion of the Donbass region when Joe Biden was Vice President.

Vladimir Putin’s ambitions aren’t clear, though some think he wants to control the entire Black Sea coast, further squeezing Ukraine. An invasion to grab more Ukrainian territory is also possible. The U.S. Navy has dispatched two ships to the region.

On Monday the U.S. also joined the other G-7 foreign ministers asking Mr. Putin to cease and desist: “These large-scale troop movements, without prior notification, represent threatening and destabilizing activities. We call on Russia to cease its provocations and to immediately de-escalate tensions in line with its international obligations.”

Mr. Putin has never been one for “international obligations,” so don’t expect the G-7 to scare him—even when the foreign ministers also demand, as they did, that he follow “the procedure established under Chapter III of the Vienna Document.” International law: Such a lovely fiction.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was somewhat more forceful Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “So the question is: Is Russia going to continue to act aggressively and recklessly? If it does, the President has been clear there’ll be costs, there’ll be consequences.”

This sounds like a line in sand, and we’ll see how seriously Mr. Putin takes it. He might assume that a G-7 that can’t even agree to stop the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany might merely huff and puff and do nothing. China and Iran will also be watching to see how Mr. Biden, now in the Oval Office, defines “consequences” if Mr. Putin calls the G-7’s bluff.

Crafty_Dog

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Fortunately the US Navy won't be in the way
« Reply #185 on: April 16, 2021, 04:45:16 PM »
Non-commercial vessels will be blocked from crossing the waterway, according to Kyiv.
By: Geopolitical Futures

Russia's blockade. Russia is planning to block access to the waters around the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, for non-commercial ships, according to Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry. The closure will begin next week and last until October, while the Russian military carries out drills in the area. On Thursday, Ukraine also accused boats from Russia’s Federal Security Service of harassing Ukrainian naval vessels in the Sea of Azov. Meanwhile, the leaders of France and Germany held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday over the recent rise in tensions between Moscow and Kyiv.

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #186 on: April 16, 2021, 05:21:57 PM »
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was somewhat more forceful Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “So the question is: Is Russia going to continue to act aggressively and recklessly? If it does, the President has been clear there’ll be costs, there’ll be consequences.”

This the same Blinken that was just publicly bitch slapped by the Chinese?



Crafty_Dog

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Re: Ukraine
« Reply #189 on: July 21, 2021, 12:05:52 AM »
Why Putin Still Covets Ukraine
A 5,000-word essay by the strongman explains his thinking. It pays to listen.

By Walter Russell Mead
July 19, 2021 6:30 pm ET



Writing long, historically focused opinion pieces is an activity more characteristic of think tankers than heads of state, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is anything but conventional. Last week he published a 5,000-plus-word article that reviews the last millennium to conclude that Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians share a common history, faith and destiny.

In Mr. Putin’s view, Western powers have tried for centuries to separate them, but those efforts are doomed to fail. He argues that “the anti-Russia project has been rejected by millions of Ukrainians” in Crimea, the Donbas and elsewhere. The Russian president believes that after centuries of common development and trade, the Ukrainian economy simply cannot flourish without close integration with Russia. Without his country, Ukraine will flounder, despite the occasional aid it receives from its Western paymasters, Mr. Putin writes. Even before the pandemic, Ukraine’s gross domestic product per capita was below $4,000. “This is less than in the Republic of Albania, the Republic of Moldova, or unrecognized Kosovo.” (Moscow doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.) “Nowadays,” Mr. Putin writes, “Ukraine is Europe’s poorest country.”

Some observers dismissed the essay as an empty propaganda ploy aimed at distracting Russian public opinion in the face of a surging pandemic. Others saw it as an announcement that Russia will escalate its support for the pro-Moscow forces in the smoldering conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since deception and surprise are fundamental tools of Mr. Putin’s statecraft, anything is possible, but Western powers would be well advised to take the essay seriously. The Russian president’s policies will always and inevitably reflect his calculations about the opportunities and risks he faces at any given moment, but his strategic objectives are unmistakable. Mr. Putin’s quest to rebuild Russian power requires the reassertion of Moscow’s hegemony over Belarus and Ukraine.


In Belarus, where the Kremlin enabled the embattled government to survive months of pro-democracy protests and Western sanctions, Mr. Putin has crushed any hopes President Lukashenko had of escaping Moscow’s embrace. Ukraine is a tougher nut to crack. But the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is moving inexorably toward completion, weakening Ukraine’s influence over European policy making. Infighting and disorganization also continue to prevent the European Union from becoming a significant geopolitical actor. Amid all this, Mr. Putin has served notice that he will patiently but relentlessly pursue his strategic goals at Kyiv’s expense.


The best way to think of Russia these days is as being constrained but not contained. That is, the West has failed abysmally to develop a coherent policy to stop the Kremlin’s attacks on its neighbors or its opposition to the EU and the American-based world order. Sanctions don’t deter Mr. Putin; the West is hopelessly disunited on Russia policy, and the resulting incoherent policies offer Moscow opportunities from the Middle East to Myanmar to advance its foreign-policy agenda and bolster its commercial interests. Under these circumstances Russia will continue to test the West, and Mr. Putin will look to victories abroad to bolster his standing at home.

Yet the Kremlin operates within limits. Even as the recent surge in oil and gas prices pumps more money into Moscow’s coffers, Russia’s failure to develop a dynamic 21st-century economy prevents Mr. Putin from exploiting the tempting opportunities he sees on every side. Worse, the Russian president has been unable to replace the Communist Party of the Soviet Union with a political organization strong enough to give him the sort of control in Russia that the Chinese Communist Party affords Xi Jinping. His frustration must be enormous; as a foreign-policy strategist Mr. Putin, not without justification, likely feels a giant among dwarfs, but Ukraine is still out of his reach. Without it, not even his string of high-profile foreign policy wins since 2008 can make Russia great again.

What keeps Russian troops out of Kyiv is neither the Ukrainian army nor the faltering prestige of the West. It is Mr. Putin’s grudging realization that Russian public opinion wouldn’t countenance the accompanying sacrifices and the staggering Russian economy couldn’t bear the costs. Since an Anschluss-style solution is, for now, beyond him, the Russian president must cajole where he seeks to command. In this spirit, Mr. Putin’s essay suggests that if Ukraine adopts a friendly attitude toward Moscow and de-aligns from the West, Russia will welcome the prodigal home without demanding a formal reunion.

Mr. Putin can reasonably hope that time is on Russia’s side. Ukraine shows few real signs of overcoming the corruption and stagnation that keep it weak and poor. The EU continues to dither, the Western world order continues to erode, and Washington’s intensifying rivalry with Beijing both distracts U.S. attention and weakens its hand when it comes to Russia policy. If these trends persist, many things about our world will change, and the political balance between pro- and anti-Russian forces in Ukraine might be one of them.