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Topic: Ukraine (Read 16564 times)
Charles Krauthammer: Obama Writes Off Ukraine, use "Tripwires" not red lines
Reply #100 on:
September 05, 2014, 11:30:19 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."
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.
Russia still fg w Ukraine, US still not doing diddly
Reply #101 on:
November 15, 2014, 09:19:17 AM »
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.
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
Click to Enlarge
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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Why Russia would intervene in Ukraine
Reply #102 on:
December 11, 2014, 07:39:07 PM »
Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene in Ukraine
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)
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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Ukraine's NATO vote
Reply #103 on:
December 24, 2014, 11:44:30 AM »
Arms at last?
Reply #104 on:
February 02, 2015, 10:31:05 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.
WSJ: On the road to Putinlandia
Reply #105 on:
February 16, 2015, 09:58:54 AM »
by Bernard-Henri Lévy
Feb. 13, 2015 6:59 p.m. ET
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.
Russia and Ukraine economically intertwined
Reply #106 on:
February 18, 2015, 07:46:48 AM »
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.
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.
WSJ Ukraine to buy arms from UAE
Reply #107 on:
February 24, 2015, 01:45:06 PM »
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
and James Marson at
Ukraine's arms deal with UAE
Reply #108 on:
February 26, 2015, 12:28:03 PM »
An Arms Deal for Ukraine Serves to Warn Russia
February 25, 2015 | 21:58 GMT
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.
Ukraine's gold in US hands?
Reply #109 on:
March 02, 2015, 05:45:40 PM »
I have no idea whether this is true or not.
US troops in Ukraine, Russia pist off, confrontation in the air
Reply #110 on:
March 06, 2015, 07:40:47 AM »
The U.S. and Russia: Exercises and Venom
March 6, 2015 | 02:14 GMT
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.
Russia's military options in Ukraine
Reply #111 on:
March 09, 2015, 09:43:38 PM »
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.
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.
Reply #112 on:
March 11, 2015, 09:30:26 AM »
Reply #113 on:
March 18, 2015, 06:54:13 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
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Stratfor: Backtracking from the Brink in Ukraine
Reply #114 on:
April 02, 2015, 07:19:33 AM »
Backtracking From the Brink in Ukraine
April 1, 2015 | 08:04 GMT
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.
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.
Reply #115 on:
May 10, 2015, 10:14:17 AM »
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.
US changes tactics
Reply #116 on:
May 19, 2015, 08:53:18 PM »
The U.S. Changes Its Tactics With Russia
May 19, 2015 | 00:31 GMT
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
Re: Ukraine, Putin winning or losing
Reply #117 on:
September 21, 2015, 08:10:17 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
Reply #118 on:
September 21, 2015, 10:55:49 AM »
That seems a pretty good analysis to me.
Reply #119 on:
December 29, 2015, 09:28:38 AM »
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.
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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