Ukraine Conflict Monitor, Aug. 15-22, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • No significant developments.

West’s leverage over Russia:

  • No significant developments.

Russia’s leverage over West:

  • The acquisition of a 51% stake in Russia's Eurasia Drilling Co. by U.S. oilfield services giant Schlumberger "has big problems" in the current political situation. (Reuters, 08.16.17)
  • Shipments of U.S. liquefied natural gas cost $6.29 per million British thermal units, according to S&P Global Platts data based on an average of cargo coming into Europe in the past year. Over the same period, Russian gas delivered into Germany cost an average of $4.86 per million British thermal units. (Wall Street Journal, 08.19.17)

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • From Aug. 15 to Aug. 22, a total of two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 19 were wounded in action in the Donbas, the press center of Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) headquarters has reported. A rescuer from the emergencies ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic was killed and two more were wounded in shelling by Ukrainian troops, the Donetsk News Agency reported. The International Committee of the Red Cross reports that more than 2,700 civilians have been killed in the Donbas conflict since the beginning of hostilities. More than 200 people living in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic have been killed and 477 wounded in shelling by Ukrainian troops since the beginning of the year, the press service of the DPR’s human rights ombudsman said Aug. 18. (UNIAN, 08.22.17, 08.21.17, 08.20.17, 08.19.17, 08.19.17, 08.18.17, 08.17.17, 08.16.17, TASS, 08.20.17, 08.18.17)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Russia will not respond with reciprocal measures after the U.S. Embassy announced on Aug. 21 it would temporarily stop processing non-immigrant visa applications starting Aug. 23. Operations in Moscow would resume in September, but at other U.S. consulates would “remain suspended indefinitely.” (The Moscow Times, 08.21.17)

Impact of Russia’s actions vis-à-vis Ukraine on other countries:

  • The U.S. State Department has approved the sale of mobile-artillery-rocket systems and related equipment valued at $1.25 billion to Romania. (RFE/RL, 08.18.17)

Red lines and tripwires:

  • No significant developments.

Factors and scenarios that could cause resumption of large-scale hostilities or lead to accident between Western and Russian forces in Europe:

  • Robert W. Merry, editor of the American Conservative, writes: “Trump’s Russia initiative appears dead. The anti-Russian elites have won the day, whatever the merits of the case or wherever the facts now lead. The president looks hapless on the issue. New sanctions are coming, whether he wants them or not. NATO expansion and the West’s Ukraine meddling will continue. Encirclement is firmly in place. It’s difficult to envision where this could lead, short of actual hostilities.”  (The National Interest, September-October 2017)

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will visit Ukraine on Aug. 24 as the Trump administration considers giving Ukraine lethal weaponry, a plan endorsed by the Pentagon and the State Department. Awaiting Trump and his closest advisers is an authorization to provide Ukraine with anti-tank and potentially anti-aircraft capabilities. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has earlier said he expects defense agreements to be signed with the U.S. soon. "And very important agreements will be signed, including agreements on defense cooperation, including an agreement on defense procurement and an agreement on military-technical cooperation," Poroshenko said. (New York Times, 08.18.17, Reuters, 06.12.17, AP, 08.14.17) See what our experts have to say on what U.S. vital interests might be at stake in Ukraine and whether or not the U.S. should supply lethal arms.
  • Reductions in the U.S. State Department budget would lower funding for Europe and Eurasia by $336 million, as well as other programs covering support for democracy and development assistance. Nations affected include Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine. Additionally, the White House is urging an increase in spending at the Department of Defense, some of which is earmarked for Eastern Europe. $1.4 billion more is headed to the European Reassurance Initiative, but details currently available don’t give a breakdown by country. While Ukraine’s 2018 aid via the State Department is set to plunge by a third, it is also in line to receive $150 million for training and equipment to “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.” (Bloomberg, 08.15.17)
  • U.S. military instructors have completed training Ukrainian servicemen who will train Ukrainian artillerists to be deployed in Donbas, according to (Russia Matters, 08.16.17)

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • Former Under Secretary of Defense Dov S. Zakheim writes: “Washington may not be able to do much about Crimea, but it could reach an understanding with Moscow regarding Ukraine. Washington should insist that Russia withdraw its forces and cease to support pro-Moscow militias. For its part, the United States could guarantee that it would veto any Ukrainian attempt to join NATO.” (The National Interest, September-October 2017)


  • Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University, writes: “Ukraine remains another major stumbling block to improved ties. The prospects for the Minsk agreement being fulfilled are not good. … Given the fundamental differences between the two sides on a host of issues, and the lack of trust, the U.S.-Russian relationship will at best remain a limited partnership, with cooperation on some issues of mutual interest, and disagreement or competition on others.” (The National Interest, September-October 2017)
  • Robert Legvold, professor emeritus of political science at Columbia University, writes: “Trump and his people, and Putin and his, say the same thing: the two countries are in a deep hole and need to stop digging. … The two greatest nuclear powers in the world cannot have this kind of a relationship. We have to stabilize it and we have to start finding a way back.” (The National Interest, September-October 2017)
  • Eric Edelman, a counselor at CSBA and the Hertog distinguished practitioner in residence at SAIS, writes: “Resolving the problems of Syria and Ukraine—the two biggest bones of contention between the United States and Russia before the blatant effort to interfere in the U.S. election—would have been a daunting challenge for any president … Any reset that satisfied Putin would require U.S. concessions on Ukraine and European security in exchange for dubious Russian promises. For a president whose son apparently sought damaging kompromat on his opponent during the election campaign, it is simply beyond reach.” (The National Interest, September-October 2017)

Other important news:

  • U.S. envoy Kurt Volker met with Vladislav Surkov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's point man for the conflict in eastern Ukraine, behind closed doors in Minsk Aug. 21."The meeting was useful and constructive," Surkov told Russian reporters afterward. "The two sides proposed fresh ideas and novel approaches" for implementing the February 2015 Minsk agreement. (RFE/RL, 08.22.17)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the city of Sevastopol on Aug. 18 violates the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said. (Interfax, 08.21.17)
  • The number of Ukrainians who support the country's accession to NATO and the EU has risen slightly to 40% from 38% in 2016, according to a survey conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. (BBC Monitoring Ukraine & Baltics, 08.22.17)
  • U.S. company XCoal Energy & Resources has delivered a first shipment of anthracite coal for Ukraine's Centrenergo power company. Russian Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky said this will not influence Russian exports of this fuel to Ukraine. "I do not think it will be significant because of a simple reason: we are supplying coking coal to Ukraine. We essentially have never supplied steam coal to them from Russia," Yanovsky said. (Interfax, 08.22.17, TASS, 08.22.17)
  • A hacker, known only as “Profexer,” went dark in January—just days after American intelligence agencies publicly identified a program he had written as one tool used in the Democratic National Committee hacking. Profexer, who turned himself in early this year according to the Ukrainian police, has now become a witness for the FBI. There is no evidence that Profexer worked, at least knowingly, for Russian intelligence, but his malware apparently did. (New York Times, 08.16.17)
  • Ukrainian state nuclear corporation Energoatom this week hosted the working group created five years ago to achieve a zero-failure rate of nuclear fuel. The group visited the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant. (World Nuclear News, 08.18.17)
  • French national Gilbert Chikli, who was sentenced in absentia for a scam that tricked dozens of French banks and businesses out of millions of euros, has been arrested in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 08.20.17)
  • Minsk has invited seven states and a number of international organizations, including NATO, to monitor the Zapad 2017 Belarusian-Russian joint military drills. (TASS, 08.22.17)