Showing posts with label Ukraine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ukraine. Show all posts

9 October 2019

Far From the Front Lines, Javelin Missiles Go Unused in Ukraine

BY AMY MACKINNON, LARA SELIGMAN
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During a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week, U.S. President Donald Trump took a shot at his predecessor, claiming that Barack Obama had supplied “pillows and sheets” to Ukraine while his own administration had delivered “anti-tank busters” to help Kyiv in its fight against Russia and its proxies in eastern Ukraine.

Trump was referring to FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles, which played a central role in the infamous July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky that is at the heart of the current impeachment inquiry. After Zelensky suggested he wanted to buy more Javelins, Trump asked him for a “favor” and then later urged him to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden, and his business dealings in the Eastern European country. 

But while there is evidence that the Javelin sale has been a powerful gesture of support for Kyiv, the missiles’ military application has been far more limited. Under the conditions of the foreign military sale, the Trump administration stipulates that the Javelins must be stored in western Ukraine—hundreds of miles from the battlefield. 

1 October 2019

How Much Damage Will Trump’s Scandal Do to Zelensky in Ukraine?

Candace Rondeaux 

It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Ukraine’s president. The content of Volodymyr Zelensky’s now-infamous July 25th call with U.S. President Donald Trump will doubtless be picked over ad nauseum as the impeachment inquiry against Trump gets underway in Congress. Nor is history likely to forget how the release of a partial, reconstructed transcript of a single phone call between Trump and Zelensky triggered a constitutional crisis in the world’s most powerful country.

Zelensky’s obsequious tone, his cloying requests to Trump for Javelin anti-tank missiles and his disparaging remarks about Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, have severely damaged Zelensky’s political credibility at a time when he needs it most. The comedian who was elected president in April will likely have to work overtime to convince Ukrainians, as well as allies in Europe and Washington, that he is in thrall to no one and is prepared to defend what is arguably the most fragile democracy on the European continent.

How Much Damage Will Trump’s Scandal Do to Zelensky in Ukraine?

Candace Rondeaux

It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Ukraine’s president. The content of Volodymyr Zelensky’s now-infamous July 25th call with U.S. President Donald Trump will doubtless be picked over ad nauseum as the impeachment inquiry against Trump gets underway in Congress. Nor is history likely to forget how the release of a partial, reconstructed transcript of a single phone call between Trump and Zelensky triggered a constitutional crisis in the world’s most powerful country.

Zelensky’s obsequious tone, his cloying requests to Trump for Javelin anti-tank missiles and his disparaging remarks about Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, have severely damaged Zelensky’s political credibility at a time when he needs it most. The comedian who was elected president in April will likely have to work overtime to convince Ukrainians, as well as allies in Europe and Washington, that he is in thrall to no one and is prepared to defend what is arguably the most fragile democracy on the European continent.

30 September 2019

What We Know and Don’t About the Trump-Ukraine Affair

By Michael Crowley, Kenneth P. Vogel and Charlie Savage

WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry on Tuesday amid mounting furor over President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine’s government to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., apparently the subject of a classified whistle-blower complaint the administration refused for weeks to show to Congress before dropping objections.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, said he planned on Wednesday to release the transcript of a phone call he had in July with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Mr. Trump insisted it would show that he said nothing inappropriate, but scrutiny about his conduct toward Ukraine has spread beyond the single conversation.

Here are some of the basic facts behind the controversy.
What did Mr. Trump do?

20 September 2019

Russia and Ukraine Seek a Contentious New Gas Transit Deal


Russia, Ukraine and the European Union have a shared interest in avoiding economic losses by reaching a new deal on gas transit before the current agreement expires. But significant obstacles — including geopolitical competition and the impact of new energy infrastructure in the region — could lead to a delay or impasse in negotiations. If the parties cannot reach an agreement before the current agreement expires Dec. 31, Russian gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine could well experience interruptions.

Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's upcoming 2019 Fourth-Quarter Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis on key developments over the next quarter.

Representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the European Union are set to meet Sept. 19 in Brussels to begin negotiations over a new agreement on the transit of Russian gas to Europe through Ukraine. The current agreement, reached in 2009 only after tough negotiations resulting in a temporary cutoff of gas flows to Europe, expires Dec. 31. European and Ukrainian elections delayed the start of the upcoming talks, limiting the amount of time for a new deal to be struck before the old one lapses. Even without the time pressure, these negotiations would have been difficult, meaning talks could hit an impasse, and if they do, natural gas cutoffs could possibly result.

14 September 2019

Fresh Approaches Enable Russia-Ukraine Prisoner Swap


For the Kremlin, key conditions for the prisoner exchange were President Zelensky’s reference to joint work by two states and two presidents, recognition that there were advantages to the swap for both sides, and the exclusion of the exchange from the victory/defeat paradigm.

After weeks of rumors that a prisoner swap between Moscow and Kiev was in the cards, the two sides finally exchanged thirty-five prisoners each on September 7. They included high-profile prisoners such as the film director Oleg Sentsov and Kyrylo Vyshynsky, a journalist for Russian state media, as well as the twenty-four Ukrainian sailors taken prisoner by Russia in the Kerch Strait last year. The capture of the sailors had prompted the United States, EU, and Canada to introduce new sanctions against Russia and cancel meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 in Argentina, while a high-profile campaign had been waged for the release of Sentsov ever since he was sentenced to twenty years in jail in Russia on terrorism charges back in 2015.

Just as the 2016 pardoning and exchange of Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian military pilot jailed in Russia for allegedly causing the deaths of two Russian journalists in Ukraine, meant the end of the active phase of war in Ukraine, this latest landmark prisoner exchange is designed to show that both sides are ready to put an end to the current limbo that is neither war nor peace, and move toward something that could truly be described as peace.

7 September 2019

Heading for (another) Ukraine-Russia gas figh

Steven Pifer

Gazprom, a large Russian parastatal, now transits a significant amount of gas to European destinations via Ukrainian pipelines. The volume totaled 87 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2018, one-third of Russian gas exports to Europe.

However, the contract that governs this gas transit expires at the end of 2019. Kyiv wants to replace the current agreement with another long-term contract, preferably for 10 years. Moscow, on the other hand, wants just one year.

Russia hopes to bring Nord Stream 2 — which runs from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea — online in 2020. (The U.S. government has raised the possibility of sanctions against companies involved with Nord Stream 2, but the pipeline is already 75% complete.) Moscow also hopes that Turk Stream — two pipelines running under the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey — will reach full capacity next year. Nord Stream 2 will have a capacity of 55 bcm of gas per year. Turk Stream consists of two pipelines, each with an annual capacity of 15.75 bcm. The Turks plan to use half of the gas domestically and export the rest to southeastern Europe. If Gazprom can move an additional 70.75 BCM of gas to Europe via Nord Stream 2 and the Turk Stream pipelines after 2020, its need for the Ukrainian pipelines will drastically decline.

27 August 2019

Can Zelensky, Riding High, Negotiate an End to the War in Eastern Ukraine?

Candace Rondeaux 

Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is on a roll. In April, he trounced incumbent Petro Poroshenko at the polls. Last month, Zelensky’s Servant of the People party won a majority mandate in a snap parliamentary election, so it can press ahead with much-needed reforms. But a bigger challenge looms: finding a path to negotiate an end to the war in eastern Ukraine. 

Zelensky’s winning streak could be tested when he meets with U.S. President Donald Trump in September. He is seeking more leverage over Russia in an attempt to resolve the conflict that has raged in eastern Ukraine since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. But to do so, Zelensky will need to square a circle over the question of Ukraine’s potential NATO membership bid. ...

22 August 2019

Deterring Hybrid Threats: The Need for a More Rational Debate

By Michael Rühle 

Michael Rühle writes that following Russia’s use of hybrid warfare in Ukraine, it wouldn’t take long before the Western strategic community would examine how to best deter hybrid threats. After all, deterrence was the central paradigm of Western security throughout the Cold War. However, Rühle contends that this examination is being held back by the West’s own debate on hybrid warfare, which is characterized by alarmism, fuzzy terminology and sweeping generalizations. In response, he here outlines five key factors hindering this debate and their implications for hybrid threats deterrence policy.

Since Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine in 2014, the Western strategic community has been trying to come to grips with the concept of hybridity.1 Some observers were quick to point out that the idea of combining military and non-military tools was far from new, and they warned against exaggerating hybrid warfare.2 However, Russia’s apparently seamless and effective blending of political, diplomatic, economic, electronic and military tools in order to annex Crimea and support separatists in the Donbas seemed to herald a new era of hybrid warfare: a revisionist power was using both old and new means to undermine and, eventually, tear down a post-Cold War order it considered unfair and unfavourable.

17 August 2019

Breathing Life Into Eastern Ukraine

By Melinda Haring

The Russians took and held Kramatorsk, a small city in eastern Ukraine, for about three months in 2014. Since then, the only battles this town has seen have taken place in the kitchen. Or several kitchens, to be exact. Last year, on the anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence Day, government officials sparred for the titles of “Best Plov,” “Best Borscht,” and “Best Goulash.” This year there will be no Independence Day competition, since the organizer of the borscht battle was recently sacked.

Yevgen Vilinsky was the first deputy governor of the Donetsk Regional State Administration. The Ukrainian province, or oblast, he helped govern directly borders the breakaway region currently under Moscow’s control. The Donetsk area has been hard hit by war and division, and its citizens are not of one mind about their future. Vilinsky and his team had made significant progress helping the oblast rebound from the war. But when Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, assumed office, he promptly began replacing everyone associated with the previous administration—including Vilinsky, who was fired on July 4.

14 August 2019

Ukraine’s Petroleum-Sector Challenges: Raising Domestic Output and Cutting Corruption

By: Rauf Mammadov

Volodymyr Zelenskyy inherited formidable challenges when he was elected Ukraine’s sixth president this spring, including a Kremlin-backed war with “separatists” in the east, deep-rooted corruption, and an ongoing natural gas dispute with Russia. Ukraine is now responding to the gas discord by trying to negotiate an extension of a long-term contract with Russia, filling its storage tanks in case Russia cuts gas shipments to it this winter, and trying to increase domestic production.

The contract under which Russia exports natural gas to Ukraine and on to Europe via Ukrainian pipelines expires on January 1, 2020. Russia’s Gazprom had hoped to complete its Nord Stream Two pipeline by then so it could transit gas to Europe without going through Ukraine. This gas transit pipeline would double the annual capacity of the already-existing 55-billion-cubic-meter (bcm) Nord Stream One, which directly links Russia and Germany via the Baltic seafloor. But Denmark has yet to approve the Nord Stream Two project in part of its waters, making the pipeline unlikely to be completed until mid-2020—a key reason why Russia asked for the contract extension talks with Ukraine.

13 August 2019

Ukraine-Russian Relations and the Future of Ukraine

by Matthew Petti 

The unexpected election of the former comedian and businessman Volodymyr Zelensky in April 2019 to the presidency upended Ukrainian politics. Will Zelensky now grow into a serious political leader? To discuss Ukraine’s future, the Center for the National Interest hosted a Thursday luncheon talk titled “The Future of Ukraine and Ukraine-Russia Relations,” by John Herbst, director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. The Center’s own board member Richard Burt, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany, moderated. Herbst, who has a long record of diplomatic service and has previously served as ambassador to Uzbekistan, is a fluent Russian speaker and a major authority on Russian and Ukrainian politics.

9 August 2019

The Conflict in and around Ukraine



This week’s featured graphic concerns the conflict in and around Ukraine, highlighting the territory and border checkpoints not under the control of the Ukrainian government. For an insight into the complexity Ukraine peace process, read Anna Hess Sargsyan’s recent contribution to the CSS Analyses in Security Policy series here.

28 July 2019

A NEW EASTERN FRONT: WHAT THE U.S. ARMY MUST LEARN FROM THE WAR IN UKRAINE

COL. LIAM COLLINS

The situation in eastern Ukraine might best be described as “World War I with technology.” Venturing to the front line today, you would quickly learn the two greatest threats facing Ukrainian soldiers are snipers and Russian artillery. Unlike in 1915, however, soldiers on 2018’s “Eastern Front” receive text messages on their phones telling them their cause is hopeless and they must regularly attempt to avoid being spotted from an unmanned aerial vehicle.

The fighting in Ukraine during the past 2½ years provides great insight into the types of threats facing the U.S. Army today and sheds light on what a war with a near-peer enemy—or an enemy sponsored by a near-peer—would look like.

Over the past few decades, the landscape of potential threats the U.S. must navigate has diversified greatly. During the Cold War, the major threat, the Russians, was simple to conceptualize and the battle plan was well-known. Junior leaders needed to know their part.

25 July 2019

A People-Centered Approach to Conflict Resolution in Ukraine

By Cecilia Malmstrom

It’s rare to hear firsthand accounts of daily life amid the conflict in Donbass. But we do have a few. The photographer Paula Bronstein captured the broken bodies and tormented souls of elderly people. The documentary filmmaker Simon Lereng Wilmont shot the war through the eyes of a 10-year-old orphan boy living in a small village with “The Distant Barking of Dogs.” My colleague Ioulia Shukan, a French sociologist, keeps a blog on ordinary citizens affected by the war in Eastern Ukraine. She recounted the everyday life of three female villagers in the grey zone, their fear of shells and their cohabitation with soldiers. She also told the story of a young family that left the little Ukrainian town of Marinka — where there is still no heating and no drinking water — for the separatist-held city of Donetsk to escape immediate danger and precarious conditions. These Ukrainians’ stories highlight not only the human cost of the ongoing war, but also the perils of the Ukrainian government — and its Western partners — ignoring that cost.

23 July 2019

Lessons of the War in Ukraine for Western Military Strategy

By Niklas Masuhr for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

When Russian intervention forces occupied the Crimean peninsula in February 2014 in a coup de main, NATO was still committed in Afghanistan. After more than ten years of counterinsurgency and stabilization operations, the crisis in Ukraine triggered a reorientation towards its original purposes of defense and deterrence. During the same year, at the NATO summit in Wales, it was decided to enhance the speed and capability with which NATO forces could respond to a crisis. The subsequent Warsaw summit in 2016 added rotating multinational contingents in its eastern member states in order to signal the entire alliance’s commitment to their defense. Below these adaptations at the level of NATO, national armed forces are being reformed and rearranged because of the shift in threat perception. This analysis focuses on the military forces of the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. The tactics and capabilities Russia has brought to bear in eastern Ukraine in particular serve as the benchmark according to which these Western forces are being shaped. 

A People-Centered Approach to Conflict Resolution in Ukraine

By Cecilia Malmstrom

It’s rare to hear firsthand accounts of daily life amid the conflict in Donbass. But we do have a few. The photographer Paula Bronstein captured the broken bodies and tormented souls of elderly people. The documentary filmmaker Simon Lereng Wilmont shot the war through the eyes of a 10-year-old orphan boy living in a small village with “The Distant Barking of Dogs.” My colleague Ioulia Shukan, a French sociologist, keeps a blog on ordinary citizens affected by the war in Eastern Ukraine. She recounted the everyday life of three female villagers in the grey zone, their fear of shells and their cohabitation with soldiers. She also told the story of a young family that left the little Ukrainian town of Marinka — where there is still no heating and no drinking water — for the separatist-held city of Donetsk to escape immediate danger and precarious conditions. These Ukrainians’ stories highlight not only the human cost of the ongoing war, but also the perils of the Ukrainian government — and its Western partners — ignoring that cost.

15 June 2019

NATO’s Ukraine Challenge

By Steven Pifer

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited Brussels on June 4 and 5, where he met with the leadership of the European Union and NATO. He reaffirmed Kyiv’s goal of integrating into both institutions—goals enshrined earlier this year as strategic objectives in Ukraine’s constitution.

At their April meeting to mark NATO’s 70th anniversary, NATO foreign ministers noted their commitment to the alliance’s “open door” policy for countries that aspire to membership. Russian aggression over the past five years has only solidified domestic support within Ukraine for membership, though the path to achieving that objective faces serious obstacles.

Growing Support for NATO in Ukraine

When NATO leaders in July 1997 invited Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to join the alliance, they also stated the “open door” policy. That reaffirmed Article 10 of the Washington Treaty that established NATO, which reads in part: “The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty.”

7 May 2019

Going Toe-to-Toe With Ukraine’s Separatist Hackers

BY ELIAS GROLL

The hacker realized that he was being watched.

The spy software he was attempting to run against the Ukrainian government had infected the wrong machine, and now an analyst working for an American security company was picking apart the program—known as RatVermin—trying to understand how it worked.

The hacker, likely working on behalf of the Luhansk People’s Republic, a breakaway region of Eastern Ukraine, first tried to run a ransomware program dubbed Hidden Tear to scramble the contents of the computer it had mistakenly infected. The program would have made the computer useless to the analyst and flashed a sardonic message: “Files have been encrypted with hidden tear. Send me some bitcoins or kebab. And I also hate night clubs, desserts, being drunk.”

But the analyst blocked the program from executing, and then, for a few hours on March 20, 2018, the two engaged in the digital equivalent of hand-to-hand combat.

2 May 2019

Ukraine’s Failed Attempt to Stop Russian Interference Is Trampling Digital Rights

Samuel Woodhams 

Ukraine’s hybrid conflict with Russia over the past five years has not just unfolded in annexed Crimea and the regions of eastern Ukraine where Russia continues to back separatist groups. It has also been felt in Kiev and across the rest of the county, as Russian interference continues to destabilize Ukrainian politics. 

In an effort to defend against Russian disinformation and propaganda, Ukraine’s government has responded with measures that have led to a substantial erosion of digital freedoms for journalists, activists and the wider Ukrainian public. A country once heralded as one of the most progressive in Eastern Europe for digital rights, Ukraine is now actively restricting them.

Much of this is the legacy of President Petro Poroshenko. Will the landslide victory of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine’s presidential election Sunday lead to a reversal?