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

11 February 2019

Putin’s Game Plan in Ukraine

By Konstantin Skorkin

At the end of 2013, Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president, postponed signing an association agreement with the European Union, choosing instead to pursue closer ties with Russia. Protesters began massing on Kiev’s central square, known as the Maidan. Weeks of tension spilling into violence culminated with Yanukovych’s ouster on February 22.

Russian President Vladimir Putin looked on with anger and alarm. Suppose that what had happened on the Maidan sparked similar protests in Russia?

Putin began to refer to the Ukrainian government as a “junta” in speeches. The term belonged to the Soviet propaganda lexicon: the Kremlin used it to describe the Latin American dictatorships the United States supported during the Cold War. Putin’s revival of this language marked a steep downturn in relations between Moscow and Kiev. Russian state-controlled media took up a propagandistic narrative, in which the new Ukrainian authorities were illegitimate and Russia would not hesitate to “protect” the Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine from these “fascist usurpers.”

6 February 2019

10 Years on, Tymoshenko’s Ill-fated Deal Still Haunts Ukraine’s “Gas Princess”

By Theodoros Papadopoulos

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the infamous gas deal brokered with Russia by Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko. The anniversary, which fell on January 18, came at a particularly inopportune time for the charismatic populist, just days before she formally announced her candidacy in Ukraine’s upcoming presidential elections. Tymoshenko is striving to show voters that she can drive progress in a country still blighted by conflict. But, in the eyes of her detractors, the gas deal demonstrates the exact opposite: that she in fact represents the very same conservative, pro-Russian interests she promises to overthrow.

Gas, in fact, is central to Tymoshenko’s platform. The two-time prime minister, famous for her pugnacious oratory and braided blonde hair, says she wants to drive down gas prices, defying Ukraine’s recent commitment to the International Monetary Fund. She thinks the market, rather than government decrees, should determine prices. This is part of a wider commitment to economic growth, increasing salaries and pensions while blitzing graft. On the international front, she pledges to confront Russian aggression and move closer to the EU and NATO, pulling Ukraine from beneath “the hand of the Kremlin” that wishes to impose “devastation and chaos, corruption and poverty” on Ukraine.

28 January 2019

Russia-Ukraine Gas Transit Talks Look Ahead Post-2020

By: Vladimir Socor

On January 21, in Brussels, Russia and Ukraine held ministerial-level talks on the transit of Russian natural gas to Europe via Ukraine (TASS, January 22, 2019). The European Commission is chairing this process, and the ministerial meeting just held in Brussels was the second at this level, the first having been held in July 2018. The Commission is a neutral mediator, impartially seeking to apply the European Union’s legislation to the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine to the EU, in the interest of market competition and supply security for Europe. Correspondingly, Ukraine needs the protection of the EU’s legislation against the recurrence of Russian depredations in Ukraine’s natural gas sector, particularly its transit system at this stage.

23 January 2019

Assessing the Failure of Minsk II in Ukraine and the Success of the 2008 Ceasefire in Georgia

By Sarah Martin

Sarah Martin is a recent graduate of George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, where she wrote her thesis on Chechen foreign fighters in Syria. She was previously a fellow at NatSecGirlSquad, supporting the organization’s debut conference on November 15, 2018. She can be found on Twitter @amerikitkatoreo. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Summary: In 2019 the Donbass War in Ukraine will enter its fifth year. Over 10,000 people have been killed, 3,000 of them civilians, and one million displaced. Two ceasefire agreements between Moscow and Kyiv have failed, and no new agreements are forthcoming. When compared to the agreement of the 2008 August War between Russia and Georgia, ending the stalemate in Ukraine and determining a victor might be the key to brokering a lasting ceasefire.

21 January 2019

Check Out All of the Places World War III Could Start in 2019

by Robert Farley

The flashpoints may change over time, but the fundamental foundations of conflict—the decay of U.S. military hegemony and of the global international order that has accompanied it—mean that the near future will likely become more hazardous than the recent past.

The world has avoided war between major power war since 1945, even if the United States and the Soviet Union came quite close on several occasions during the Cold War. In the first two decades following the fall of the Berlin Wall, great power war seemed virtually unimaginable. Today, with China’s power still increasing and Russia’s rejection of the international order apparently complete , great power conflict is back on the menu.

17 January 2019

Ukraine’s Crumbling Economy

By Ekaterina Zolotova

The country’s persistent economic strife is veering toward crisis.

Ukraine is in internal disarray. Driving the disarray is its deteriorating economic situation. While poor economic conditions predate the 2014 revolution, the subsequent Russia-backed insurgencies and annexation of Crimea exacerbated the underlying economic problems and forced Ukraine to attempt a rapid reorientation toward the West. Ukraine staved off potential disaster in December when the International Monetary Fund, as part of its four-year assistance program, approved a new $3.9 billion standby loan, $1.4 billion of which has been disbursed. (Ukrainian government debt is now approaching 70 percent of gross domestic product.) But the program is just a Band-Aid. This year will be a serious test for Ukraine, as millions of citizens – already hurting from the current conditions – will feel the pinch of economic reforms mandated by Ukraine’s creditors.

13 January 2019

Why Finding a Diplomatic Solution to the Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh Should be a US Foreign Policy Priority

William McHenry

There is little doubt that post-Soviet Eurasia is beset with unresolved territorial conflicts. Indeed, all former Soviet states that are not either members of western institutions or in the orbit of Moscow— Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine —have either territorial disputes with their neighbors or self-sustaining internal secessionist movements with considerable foreign support—often provided by Russia itself.

These protracted disputes are described by experts as “frozen conflicts.” Each conflict not only weakens the parties involved, but they are also, more importantly, used by Russia to manipulate the politics of the region to favor the foreign policy goals of the Kremlin. A recent example of this phenom is the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine, which features a secessionist movement that survives via Russian military support, and recently made headlines as the Russian Navy seized Ukrainian warships near the frontline of the conflict.

1 January 2019

Ukraine conflict: Russia completes Crimea security fence

Russia has finished building a high-tech security fence along annexed Crimea's border with mainland Ukraine.

The fence, more than 60km (37 miles) long, is topped with barbed wire and has hundreds of sensors.

Russian forces annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March 2014 - a move condemned internationally. Crimea has a Russian-speaking majority.

Russia's FSB security agency says the fence is necessary to prevent "infiltration attempts by saboteurs".

An FSB statement, quoted by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency, said the fence would also thwart smugglers trading in illegal weapons, drugs, alcohol and other contraband.

The fence spans the neck of land connecting Crimea with Ukraine's Kherson region.

Most of its sensors pick up vibrations from any potential intruders, the FSB said, but some are also radio-location devices. Russia has similar equipment along its northern and eastern borders.

28 December 2018

Throwing the Ukraine War in Putin’s Face

Anna Nemtsova

MOSCOW—Russia is fighting Ukraine on several fronts at the same time: Its trolls are waging information war and regular troops are deploying closer to Ukrainian borders. Fear of a huge war is growing here as well as in Kiev. So it was inevitable journalists hoping to understand the Kremlin’s strategy would try to ask President Vladimir Putin pointed questions during his four-hour press conference Thursday.

But Ukrainian journalist Roman Tsymbaliuk became a hero of the day by pushing the Ukraine war into Putin’s face. He asked the Russian president directly how much money Russia was spending on the rebel-controlled “occupied Donbas” in the east of the country. Several journalists from Kremlin-loyal publications began to laugh, some of them a little nervously.

18 December 2018

Russia ramps up cyber warfare as it loses economic footing in Ukraine


U.S. leaders should keep a close eye on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cyber sleight of hand. Behind the smokescreen of multi-polar chaos, Putin is ramping up cyber warfare to keep Western powers, including the U.S., from keeping Ukraine from Russian state capture.

Russia needs Ukraine to be aligned not only because of the large ethnic Russian population there, but also because it represents the last line of defense between Moscow and the Western powers, as well as a huge economic partner. In five years, however, if current trends continue, Russia’s economic footprint in Ukraine will be diminished to such a capacity that Putin will either have to concede — or be forced into military action against the West.

12 December 2018

The World Has Failed Children in Conflict Zones


Though Human Rights Day this year marks the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is hardly a happy occasion. Around the world, children in conflict zones are increasingly coming under fire because those charged with upholding international law have turned their backs on it.

LONDON – This Human Rights Day (December 10) marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Sadly, events over the past few years show that the world is failing to uphold the commitments enshrined in that document, particularly when it comes to protecting children.

8 December 2018

If we want to survive on this planet, we need to abandon the cause of the nation state


If we really care for the fate of the people who comprise our nation, our motto should be: America last, China last, Russia last.

The latest news from the border of Ukraine and Russia indicates that we already live in a pre-war situation – so what should we, ordinary people, do when the explosion of global madness looms?

7 December 2018

Prospects for a Strategic Military Partnership Between Turkey and Ukraine

By: Ridvan Bari Urcosta
One of the most undesirable geopolitical scenarios for Russia would be the establishment of a strategic alliance between the two other major Black Sea regional powers—Turkey and Ukraine. Such an outcome would not only hamper the Kremlin’s plans in Europe’s East and the wider Black Sea region but also undermine its ambitions in the Middle East. And though little noticed in the West, just such a process appears to quietly and gradually be underway between Ankara and Kyiv.

When relations between Moscow and Ankara rapidly deteriorated in late 2015, following Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian bomber that strayed into Turkish airspace near the border with Syria (see EDM, December 3, 2015), Kyiv and Ankara immediately commenced a broad range of cooperative initiatives across their military and economical spheres. That cooperation has persisted, even as Turkey’s relations with Russia improved since roughly the summer of 2016 (see EDM, June 30, 2016).

5 December 2018

Showdown Over the Sea of Azov

A controversial Russian bridge over the Kerch Strait has escalated tensions around the Crimean Peninsula.

Last weekend, three Ukrainian naval ships were traveling from Odessa, on the coast of the Black Sea, to Mariupol, on the coast of the Sea of Azov, when the Russian coast guard opened fire on and seized the vessels. Ukraine said three sailors were injured in the incident; Russia said it was three. According to Kiev, Russia’s actions violated a 2003 treaty that gave both countries access to the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, where the ships were intercepted. Russia, however, said the vessels were maneuvering dangerously and needed to be stopped.

The Kerch Strait is a narrow passageway between the eastern tip of Crimea and the Russian mainland. To access the Sea of Azov, on which two critical Ukrainian ports are located, vessels need to pass through this waterway. Though both Ukraine and Russia have a right by treaty to patrol this area, Russia began construction of a controversial bridge connecting the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, to the Russian mainland via the Kerch Strait. The bridge, which spans 12 miles (19 kilometers), was opened only six months ago. At just 108 feet (33 meters) high, it has restricted access to the Sea of Azov for some Ukrainian ships. Indeed, Kiev and Washington have accused the Russians of using the bridge to try to block maritime traffic and further destabilize Ukraine.

Strategic Implications of Russia and Ukraine’s Naval Clash on November 25

Ihor Kabanenko

Russian Coast Guard assets rammed a Ukrainian naval tugboat, on November 25, and then opened fire on it and two accompanying Gurza-class gunboats, which were sailing from Odesa to Mariupol (see EDM,, November 26). Subsequently, Russian personnel forcibly boarded the vessels, resulting in injuries to six Ukrainian sailors. The damaged Ukrainian naval ships were seized by the Russians and directed to the port of Kerch, in occupied Crimea. The Ukrainian crews remain in Russian custody (, November 26). The Russian side fired upon the Ukrainian ships in Black Sea international waters, off the southeastern coast of Crimea (, November 28).

The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine qualified this naval clash as an act of military aggression and made the decision to implement Martial Law across the country (, November 26). It was approved, albeit in more limited form, by the Verkhovna Rada (national parliament) of Ukraine on November 26. Martial Law will enter into force for a period of 30 days in ten Ukrainian oblasts: five that border on Russian territory, two adjacent to Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria (which hosts a Russian military presence), and three oblasts along the Black Sea and Sea of Azov coasts (Interfax, November 27).

2 December 2018



As tensions mount between Russia and Ukraine, many observers are starting to wonder what a war between the two countries would look like. 

On Monday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared that his country’s intelligence services have evidence that Russia is preparing a ground offensive. The address was made just one day after Russian troops attacked three Ukrainian navy vessels attempting to enter the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea.

Throughout all this, President Donald Trump has remained silent. He eventually addressed the issue at the end of the day on Monday when questioned by a reporter, saying that that the U.S. does "not like what's happening."

But that tepid response made some question how the international community would react should an overt Russian military attack on Ukraine occur. Experts agree that the entire international community would have to band together to put pressure on Russia to withdraw.

Elections Staged in Ukraine’s East Under Russian Control

By: Vladimir Socor

Kremlin-orchestrated, internationally unrecognized “elections” were held on November 11 in the Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” (DPR, LPR), Russian-controlled territories in Ukraine’s east. The final returns, made public on November 14, serve to confirm and prolong the authority of the “head of the republic” (“glava respubliki,” would-be president) and the “people’s council” (would-be legislature) in each of the two territories.

The DPR’s “interim acting head,” Denis Pushilin, is credited with 61 percent of the votes cast (the remainder being shared by four also-rans). Pushilin’s political organization, Donetsk Republic, is attributed 72 percent of the votes cast in the “parliamentary” election, versus 26 percent to the Free Donbas group. The former has a nomenklatura flavor, the latter a populist flavor; and both are billed as movements, rather than parties.

In Serious Escalation, Russia Openly Attacks Ukrainian Vessels in Azov Sea

By: Maryna Vorotnyuk

On November 25, Russian Coast Guard ship Donrammed a Ukrainian tugboat, damaging the latter vessel’s main engine. The attack occurred while two Ukrainian small-sized armored artillery boats, the Berdyansk and Nikopol, and the tugboat Yany Kapu were being transferred from the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa to Mariupol, in the Azov Sea, according to the Ukrainian Navy (Kyiv Post, November 25). Subsequently, Russia blocked the passage through the Kerch Strait beneath the newly built Kerch Bridge, and the Russian Coast Guard fired on a group of Ukrainian Navy ships as they were leaving the Strait, wounding at least six sailors (UNIAN,, November 25). Reportedly, Russia forcibly seized several of the Ukrainian vessels in the Strait, leading to tense protests in Kyiv (Kyiv Post, November 26). The following day, an emergency meeting of the National Security and Defense Council adopted the introduction of martial law, which still requires consent from the parliament (Kyiv Post, November 26). The November 25 incidents represent the first time, since the start of Russia’s “hybrid” war against Ukraine in 2014, that the Russian military has carried out an unmistakably open attack against Ukrainian forces.

1 December 2018

Why Putin Is Pressuring Ukraine

by Nikolas K. Gvosdev

In salons and seminars in Washington, Russia (and China) is routinely described as a “revisionist” power. This is usually accompanied by anguished commentary that the “postwar liberal international order” is being undermined—and calls for the United States to do “something” to demonstrate that it still has the capacity to lead in the global environment. Yet the revisions continue because, despite the steps taken by the United States and the European Union, the rewards of revision continue to outweigh the costs.

The old Greek proverb, “Bean by bean the sack is filled,” is apropos here. At some point, revisions create facts on the ground that become the new normal, the next “status quo.” Ever since taking office, Vladimir Putin has not hidden his desire and interest in revising the post–Cold War settlement. Over time, what has changed are his methods. In the early 2000s, he hoped for cooperative revisions with the United States and the European Union; since his 2007 address at the Munich Security Conference, he has opted to test the resilience of the West to uphold the status quo that emerged in the aftermath of the 1989–1991 collapse of the Soviet bloc.



During a televised speech on Monday in which he outlined his case for imposing martial law, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko claimed that his country’s intelligence service had evidence that Russia was preparing a ground attack.

Poroshenko's speech was given after Russia blocked three Ukrainian navy vessels from passing from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait on Sunday. The incident was a major escalationof the tensions that have existed between the two countries ever since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and began backing armed separatists in the country in 2014. Poroshenko is close to imposing martial law in Ukraine, which would allow the military to run the country, saying it was necessary for Ukraine’s security.

Many experts said Russia’s attack on Ukrainian naval ships on Sunday was a game changer.