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

26 September 2021

The Russian and Ukrainian Spring 2021 War Scare

Mykola Bielieskov

Summary
The massing of troops and hardware by Russia along its border with Ukraine in April 2021 brought back memories of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine in 2014–15 and raised fears of another round of Russian aggression against its neighbor. Although the worst-case scenario did not materialize, these events require close attention and in-depth research because they could happen again should Russia’s leadership assess that their national security interests are at stake once more.

Several observations arise from a detailed analysis of this spring’s war scare between Russia and Ukraine. First, statements on the number of Russian troops involved were misleading in certain respects—the majority of troops in question were already at Ukraine’s borders from past incursions. Second, Russian armed forces involved in these exercises practiced complex scenarios, including encirclement of the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation in Donbas and blocking of Ukrainian access to the Black Sea. Third, Russian public justifications of the movement of troops and hardware near Ukraine’s border were unpersuasive upon closer look. It seems that a major driver of Russian actions was the desire to send signals to the new U.S. administration—namely that the Biden administration should not attempt to challenge the status quo vis-à-vis Ukraine by bringing it closer to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or aid in the liberation of parts of occupied Donbas. Finally, though Russia might have succeeded in sending specific signals to the Biden administration, the intended effect backfired in the case of Ukraine.

14 September 2021

US-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Gets Another Lease on Life (Part Two)

Vladimir Socor

The Joint Statement on the US-Ukraine Strategic Partnership was released during President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Washington visit (Whitehouse.gov, President.gov.ua, September 1), but surprisingly it carries no signatures. This document’s two direct predecessors, in 2008 and 2018, respectively, had been signed by the US secretaries of state and the Ukrainian foreign ministers.

This document falls, on the whole, short of substantiating the notion of strategic partnership as such. It does not spell out the major, shared national interests and mutual strategic objectives underlying such a partnership. The United States has yet to focus on integrating Ukraine (along with like-minded allies) into a coherent strategy of containing Russia in Europe’s East.

US military assistance to Ukraine is not commensurate to the challenge. According to the Joint Statement, that assistance has totaled $2.5 billion since 2014, including more than $400 million in 2021 (of which $60 million, previously appropriated but held up by the White House in the spring, is finally being disbursed now). Ukrainian commentators ruefully compare these amounts with the $88 billion that the US spent on Afghanistan’s army and police forces, averaging $4.4 billion annually, to no strategic payoff. Ukraine itself bears the heaviest defense spending burden in Europe, at 5.4 percent of GDP in 2020 and 5.93 percent of GDP in 2021 (USCC.org.ua, August 27).

6 September 2021

Russian Cyber-Operations in Ukraine and the Implications for NATO

Alexander Salt and Maya Sobchuk

Introduction
All members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) should view Russia’s 2014 invasion of Eastern Ukraine as a significant security issue. Although the strategic situation in Ukraine is indeed plagued by conventional combat (particularly in the Donbas region), it is important to note that Russian cyber-operations have emerged as one of the more troublesome challenges. Cyber-attacks are increasing in regularity and will likely remain a consistent part of emerging conflicts in the contemporary global security environment. Russian boldness in this context is particularly noticeable as it was just recently that Ukraine became a NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner, meaning Russia is clearly willing to challenge the West more directly. In some ways this is not entirely a new threat. For example, Keir Giles, a Chatham House Russian security expert, has argued that Russia is essentially taking the information/propaganda experiences that it honed and mastered during the Cold War and is enhancing them by using modern information technology to amplify their effectiveness.1 This crisis’s lingering implications for the Alliance suggest it is in NATO’s best interest to continue to strengthen its existing cyber-capabilities and aid Ukraine. Indeed, NATO members are best suited to respond to the broadening cyber-challenge via the Alliance framework, rather than individually, due to the inherent complexity and transnational character of cyber-threats.

29 August 2021

Afraid of China’s Missiles Forces? Thank Ukraine

Charlie Gao

Here's What You Need to Remember: Given all the different vectors through which rocket and missile technology are flowing from Ukraine to China, it’s reasonable to say that Ukraine has provided considerable aid to the Chinese ballistic missile program.

While Ukraine renounced its own possession of nuclear weapons in 1994, many scientists and design bureaus in the country still have the know-how required to manufacture important components of strategic weapons. China has often been particularly keen on this knowledge, acquiring Ukrainian help in designing their first phased-array radar system. Chinese poaching of Ukrainian aerospace, tank, and naval engineers is also a common phenomenon, most notably Valerii Babich, designer of the Varyag aircraft carrier. There are even rumors of “Ukrainetowns” in some Chinese cities founded by the large number of expats hired by Chinese firms. Ukrainian and Russian businessmen even sold Kh-55 nuclear cruise missiles (without the warheads) from Ukrainian stockpiles to China in the 2000s. As China continues to modernize its ICBM fleet, it begs the question: how much help is Ukraine providing, willingly and unwillingly?

2 August 2021

China Used Vaccines, Trade To Get Ukraine To Drop Support For Xinjiang Scrutiny – Analysis

Yevhen Solonyna and Reid Standish*

(RFE/RL) — Ukraine succumbed to Chinese pressure to remove its name from an international statement about human rights abuses in China’s western Xinjiang region by threatening to limit trade and withhold access to COVID-19 vaccines, Ukrainian officials and lawmakers with knowledge of the issue told RFE/RL.

After initially joining with more than 40 other countries on June 22, Kyiv withdrew its signature two days later from a statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva that called for China to allow independent observers immediate access to Xinjiang, where Beijing is operating a camp system that UN officials estimate has interned more than 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities.

The incident was first reported by AP last month citing Western diplomats speaking anonymously. RFE/RL has since spoken to three Ukrainian lawmakers and a senior government official who confirmed the report and provided new details.

23 July 2021

Brief: Russia Accuses Ukraine of Smuggling Fuel


Background: Relations between Russia and Ukraine have been severely strained for years. Russia wants to bring Ukraine, part of the buffer between it and the West, back into its sphere of influence. Kyiv wants to reclaim Crimea from Russia and restore its authority in breakaway, pro-Russian eastern regions.

What Happened: Russia’s Federal Customs Service accused a tanker of smuggling 80,000 tons of Russian oil, worth more than 2 billion rubles ($27 million), to Ukraine. According to the customs agency, the oil was loaded in Novorossiysk and was supposed to go to an Italian port, but it was unloaded at Ukraine’s Yuzhny port instead. This violated a Russian ban on the export of fuel and energy products to Ukraine.

Bottom Line: This is not the first case of fuel smuggling into Ukraine since Russia imposed sanctions, but it’s a hot issue at the moment because Ukraine is threatened with potential shortages. A supply agreement with Russia could offer a way out, if the two governments can work out their differences. Interestingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an article earlier this week arguing that Ukrainians and Russians were one people and that Ukraine could achieve true sovereignty only through partnership with Russia. Needless to say, Kyiv’s pro-Western government is unlikely to read Putin’s article as an attempt at reconciliation.

18 July 2021

Why Putin is Upping the Ante on Ukraine

Jacob Heilbrunn

This past April, Russian president Vladimir Putin massed over 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, escalating tensions between the two countries and prompting widespread speculation about his intentions before he ultimately withdrew some of his forces. Then, in June, Russia, after an apparent confrontation with a British destroyer sailing into the 12-nautical mile territorial zone around Crimea, threatened to bomb such vessels in the future. Now, in an expansive essay that was published on a Russian website on Monday, and with a State Duma election looming in September, Putin has elaborated upon his views of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia. Consistent with Putin’s previous essays, it delves deeply into the anfractuosities of Russian history, delivering what can only be described as an uncompromising description of Russian and Ukrainian ties. Put bluntly, an emboldened Putin appears to be inaugurating a new phase in the East-West competition.

13 July 2021

Biden faces further battle over Putin’s pipeline

Diane Francis

US President Joe Biden’s efforts to strike a deal with Germany over Vladimir Putin’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline are coming under further critical scrutiny and encountering additional domestic opposition as recent developments underline the Kremlin’s continued readiness to use energy supplies as a geopolitical weapon.

Talks between the United States and Germany are ongoing over possible ways to avert negative consequences from the completion of the Baltic Sea gas pipeline. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said these discussions aim to “ensure that Russia cannot use energy as a coercive tool directed at Ukraine or anyone else.”

However, opponents argue that coercion is the main objective of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. They also point out that none of the solutions currently being discussed would actually work, even if implemented. There is additional alarm over the fact that countries likely to be most adversely affected by the pipeline, such as Ukraine and Poland, are not involved in the current discussions.

Faltering fightback: Zelensky’s piecemeal campaign against Ukraine’s oligarchs

Andrew Wilson


Summary
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has declared a “fightback” against oligarchs.

Zelensky is motivated by worries about falling poll ratings, pressure from Russia, and a strong desire for good relations with the Biden administration.

The fightback campaign has resulted in action against some oligarchs but, overall, it is incomplete.

The government still needs to address reform issues in other areas, especially the judiciary, and it has an on-off relationship with the IMF because of the latter’s insistence on conditionality.

The campaign has encouraged Zelensky’s tendency towards governance through informal means. This has allowed him to act speedily – but it risks letting oligarchic influence return and enabling easy reversal of reforms in the future.

9 July 2021

Hackers attack websites of Ukraine's president and security service


KYIV, July 7 (Reuters) - A cyber attack hit the websites of Ukraine's president, security service and other institutions on Tuesday afternoon but they were working again by the evening, the state service for special communications said on Wednesday.

It did not say who was behind the attack.

Kyiv has previously accused Russia of orchestrating cyber attacks as part of a "hybrid war" against Ukraine. Russia denies this.

Kyiv and Moscow have been at loggerheads since Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and backed separatists in a conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region which Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.

8 July 2021

Ending the Threat of War in Ukraine: A Negotiated Solution to the Donbas Conflict and the Crimean Dispute

Anatol Lieven

Executive Summary
“Forget the cheese — let’s get out of the trap.”
Robert A. Lovett, U.S. secretary of defense, 1951–1953.

The unresolved conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the Donbas region represents by far the greatest danger of a new war in Europe — and by far the greatest risk of a new crisis in relations between the United States and Russia. The Biden administration does not wish to escalate tensions with Russia, and no doubt appreciates that admitting Ukraine into NATO is impossible for the foreseeable future, if only because Germany and France would veto it. Nonetheless, so long as the dispute remains unresolved, the United States will be hostage to developments on the ground that could drag it into a new and perilous crisis.

A war between Ukraine and Russia could end only in Ukrainian military defeat, and perhaps in the loss of much larger territories. The United States, which has declared “unwavering” support for Ukraine,1 would face the choice of either going to war with Russia (an unthinkable proposition with disastrous consequences for the United States and its citizens, in addition to strengthening China’s hand) or leaving Ukraine to its fate and suffering a severe loss of international credibility.

25 June 2021

Vladimir Putin Accuses U.S. Of Organizing Coup in Ukraine

BRENDAN COLE 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the 2014 overthrow of Ukraine's then-President, Viktor Yanukovich, was the result of a coup organized by the U.S. and backed by the rest of Europe.

Yanukovich was removed from office following an uprising by his country's opposition, spurred by his rejection of a trade deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Moscow.

In an op-ed in the German newspaper Die Zeit to mark the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, which ushered the Red Army's entry into World War II, the Russian president reiterated the position of the Kremlin and Yanukovich—a Putin ally— that the revolution had been facilitated by the West.

Putin wrote that the west had promoted "mutual distrust" with Moscow following the end of the Cold War with NATO expansion in which post-Soviet and eastern European countries were given a choice to side with the West or with Russia.

19 June 2021

Biden’s Worried About Ukraine’s China Fling

By Jack Detsch

U.S. President Joe Biden and his European allies are worried China is making inroads into Ukraine’s defense industry by buying up companies, an effort officials believe Beijing is using to establish a beachhead to extend its influence into Eastern Europe.

Since former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, U.S. officials have urged their Ukrainian counterparts to halt sales of defense companies to China, including Motor Sich, an aerospace engineering company that designs engines for helicopters and larger aircraft, and Trident Defense, a manufacturer of .50-caliber machine guns. The acquisition of Motor Sich is currently being challenged in Ukrainian courts.

10 June 2021

The Conflict in Ukraine is Getting Very High-Tech

by Sebastien Roblin

Here's What You Need to Know: In the past, Ukraine harbored a major share of the Soviet Union’s military-industrial sector, building Antonov transport planes, T-64 tanks and even aircraft carriers. Ukraine is seeking to leverage that industrial base to strengthen its hand in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

For several years, Ukrainian troops have been locked in a “frozen conflict” with Russian-backed separatists for control of the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine. The maneuver warfare and urban/airport siege phase of the conflict ended in 2015. Now the opposing forces glare at each other across no man’s land from fortified outposts and periodically lash out with sniper fire, artillery and mortar barrages, or even precision-attacks delivered by anti-tank missiles.

When the slightest exposed movement spotted by adversaries could provoke a deadly bombardment, it’s easy to understand why Ukrainians are seeking to introduce robotic vehicles to minimize the risks to flesh-and-blood combatants.

In the past, Ukraine harbored a major share of the Soviet Union’s military-industrial sector, building Antonov transport planes, T-64 tanks and even aircraft carriers. Ukraine is seeking to leverage that industrial base to strengthen its hand in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

4 June 2021

Four Setbacks to Western Credibility in Ukraine (Part One)

By: Vladimir Socor

Within the last three weeks, a series of decisions by leading Western powers seem to indicate a downgrading of Ukraine on the scale of Western policy priorities. Taken partly in deference to Russia, these decisions risk demotivating Ukrainian reform efforts (hesitant though these are) and eroding Western credibility in Ukraine.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has scrapped the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia commissions that had been envisaged to be held during the Alliance’s upcoming summit in Brussels. United States President Joseph Biden’s administration has decided to exempt the Russian-owned Nord Stream Two subsea pipeline from US sanctions, thus effectively greenlighting that project as a favor to Russia and Germany and at the expense of other countries‘ interests, first and foremost Ukraine’s. The German and French governments have given Kyiv reason to conclude that their position is weakening in the “Normandy” negotiations with Russia on the war in Ukraine’s east. And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave Ukraine’s concerns the short shrift when meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Reykjavik, preparatory to a Biden-Putin summit.

Some of those decisions seem to be in line with preexisting Western policies, but mostly they seem related to the launch of a new “reset” of sorts in US-Russia relations—the second such reset in Biden’s career. This initiative also tends to redefine the transatlantic consensus on a low common denominator that would accommodate Germany first and foremost, along with German-Russian special relations.

Armenia, Ukraine Lessons Shape New US Cyber/EW Unit

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR

WASHINGTON: The Army’s year-old Cyber Warfare Support Battalion has “fully fielded” the first of 12 Expeditionary Cyber Teams, the head of Army Cyber Command said today.

“We’re going to get the first ECT out this summer [to] run it through its paces,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty told the Association of Old Crows CEMA conference. “We’re going to try out a series of ideas that we had” in the field.

“Much of it is has been influenced by the lessons-learned” from recent conflicts, he said, especially the Azerbaijan-Armenia war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

But Fogarty disagrees with the widespread wisdom that Azerbaijan defeated Armenia primarily through the power of drones. After all, before Azerbaijan’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) could attack Armenian targets, they first needed to find them. They needed to electronically blind or disable their defenses. And above all, they needed commanders to pull together a wide range of information and quickly make the decision to strike – before the target moved on and was lost.

3 June 2021

Four Setbacks to Western Credibility in Ukraine (Part One)

By: Vladimir Socor

Within the last three weeks, a series of decisions by leading Western powers seem to indicate a downgrading of Ukraine on the scale of Western policy priorities. Taken partly in deference to Russia, these decisions risk demotivating Ukrainian reform efforts (hesitant though these are) and eroding Western credibility in Ukraine.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has scrapped the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia commissions that had been envisaged to be held during the Alliance’s upcoming summit in Brussels. United States President Joseph Biden’s administration has decided to exempt the Russian-owned Nord Stream Two subsea pipeline from US sanctions, thus effectively greenlighting that project as a favor to Russia and Germany and at the expense of other countries‘ interests, first and foremost Ukraine’s. The German and French governments have given Kyiv reason to conclude that their position is weakening in the “Normandy” negotiations with Russia on the war in Ukraine’s east. And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave Ukraine’s concerns the short shrift when meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Reykjavik, preparatory to a Biden-Putin summit.

Some of those decisions seem to be in line with preexisting Western policies, but mostly they seem related to the launch of a new “reset” of sorts in US-Russia relations—the second such reset in Biden’s career. This initiative also tends to redefine the transatlantic consensus on a low common denominator that would accommodate Germany first and foremost, along with German-Russian special relations.

29 April 2021

Military Aid for Ukraine: Offsetting Moscow’s Asymmetric Edge

By Stephen Blank

Russia’s continuing threats to invade Ukraine, or otherwise traumatize it by military force, are predicated on Russia maintaining its asymmetric edge over Ukraine in several key areas of non-nuclear military capability. Russia’s Soviet-derived military thinking emphasizes moving only when the “(Correlation of Forces) offers enough of an advantage that a decisive outcome is produced.

While many Western observers see the invasion of 2014 to have been an outstanding success for Russia and defeat for Ukraine, against Russia’s sought objectives in the Novorossiya campaign, this is not really the case. The hastily reconstituted Ukrainian forces and militias drove Russia’s irregular forces out of two-thirds of initially held Donbas territory, and deep raids by Ukrainian paratroopers catastrophically disrupted Russia’s attempt to regain momentum. Russia was able to hold what it has now by virtue of numbers and by inserting large numbers of its regular forces alone.

Therefore Moscow’s toxic reaction to the meeting between Zelensky and Erdogan in Istanbul did not come as a surprise. Turkey and Ukraine have developed close defense industry ties since 2014 with multiple joint projects, in which both nations provide complementary military technologies to gain mutual benefit. Cooperation in the development of drones is an example where the Turks intend to use Ukrainian-made engines. Turkey has supplied a wide range of equipment to Ukraine, but Russia has been especially irked by the supply of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones that distinguished themselves in Syria, Libya and especially Nagorno-Karabakh. Constructed from composite materials and smaller than U.S. Predator drones, the TB2 is often undetectable by the radar systems on Soviet and Russian short-range air defense systems and can attack using up to four Turkish developed MAM-L/C miniature laser-guided bombs.

26 April 2021

Ukraine-Turkey cooperation has its limits

Dimitar Bechev

On April 10, President Volodymyr Zelensky made his way to Istanbul to take part in the ninth meeting of the Turkish-Ukrainian High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council. The primary purpose of his visit was to solicit support from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against Russia, a more pressing priority than trade and investment.

In recent weeks, Ukraine has been feeling the heat. Since the end of March, Moscow has been amassing troops on the Ukrainian-Russian border. According to Kyiv, there are currently about 40,000 Russian troops in the area, not far from the frontlines in the Donbass, and the same number in Crimea which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

While Zelensky’s first port of call is the United States, he has good reason to count on Turkey, too. Ankara refuses to recognise Crimea’s annexation and offers rhetorical support to Ukraine. In a joint declaration, Erdogan and Zelensky pledged to continue “coordinating steps aimed at [..] the de-occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions”. The wording matches their last joint statement from October 2020, when the two leaders met in Turkey.

Erdogan also re-committed to the so-called Crimean Platform launched by Kyiv and backed by the Biden administration, which aims to put pressure on Russia. Turkey intends to use the foreign policy initiative to channel economic assistance to Crimean Tatars in regions bordering the peninsula.

18 April 2021

War of unreality: Why Russia is threatening to escalate the Ukraine conflict

https://ecfr.eu/article/war-of-unreality-why-russia-is-threatening-to-escalate-the-ukraine-conflict/

Gustav Gressel, 14 April 2021

War of unreality: Why Russia is threatening to escalate the Ukraine conflict

European governments have yet to learn a key lesson from the war in Ukraine. The alternative reality the Kremlin lives in is becoming increasingly dangerous.

Over the past two weeks, Russian military movements and deployments near Ukraine’s border have increasingly caught the attention of the West. In late March, such movements were occurring to Ukraine’s east, north, and south – including through the deployment of some Belarussian troops – but, last week, the centre of gravity of Russia’s military build-up shifted towards the occupied Crimean peninsula and the Krasnodar region, which borders Donbas.

As the situation is still developing, there are varying estimates of the size of Russia’s deployments. But it deployed many of the Southern Military District’s manoeuvre brigades and regiments to the field, each of them deploying at least one battalion tactical group (for a total of over 30). And 16 more have been deployed from other regions across Russia. This roughly correlates with the troop strength the Ukrainian General Staff has indicated. (By comparison, NATO’s rapid response force is intended to be 30 battalions strong.) Because aerial deployments are much harder for civilians to track, there is little publicly available information on the Russian air force’s movements. However, there have been recorded increases in Russian aerial activities in the Baltic region during the time in question, and the Russian Ministry of Defence has stated that all air force and naval aviation units of the Southern Military District will be exercising common operational tasks. There is little doubt that Russia is pulling together an assault force capable of invading Ukraine. But how far will it go