Ukraine Conflict Monitor, Aug. 8-15, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • A total of 427,240 Ukrainian citizens have asked Russia for asylum since January 2014, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. According to a bulletin released on Aug. 8, 9,600 Ukrainians have asked for asylum in Germany, 9,300 in Italy, 4,300 in Poland, 3,500 in France and 3,100 in Sweden since January 2014. (Interfax, 08.08.17)

West’s leverage over Russia:

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • At least seven civilians were killed and 42 injured in July 2017. (U.N. Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs, 08.15.17)
  • From Aug. 8 to Aug. 15, a total of eight Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 33 were wounded in action in the Donbas, the press center of Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) headquarters has reported. The ATO headquarters also reported on Aug. 14 that eight Russia-backed separatists were killed and 35 wounded in the last week. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic reported that in the last week, a total of two servicemen were killed, one serviceman was wounded, one civilian was killed and three civilians were wounded. One man was also injured when the tractor he was driving hit a landmine in the Kiev-controlled Donetsk Region. (UNIAN, 08.15.17, 08.14.17, 08.14.17, 08.13.17, 08.12.17, 08.11.17, 08.09.17, TASS, 08.14.17, 08.12.17, 08.12.17, 08.10.17, Sputnik, 08.12.17, BBC Monitoring Ukraine and Baltics, 08.12.17)

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

  • In Germany, the U.S. is spending $1 billion on a hospital an Army general describes as the most ambitious medical construction project the military has ever undertaken. (Wall Street Journal, 08.11.17)

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:

  • Dmitry Gorenburg, a research scientist in the strategic studies division of CNA, writes: “The likelihood of the Zapad-2017 exercise serving as cover for some larger nefarious aim, whether it is an attack on Ukraine or Lithuania or a stealth occupation of Belarus, is practically zero. In fact, some analysts in Moscow believe that the exercise is being kept unusually small this year precisely in order to reduce the reaction in neighboring NATO states.” (The National Interest, 07.07.17)
  • Dimitri K. Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest, writes: “Current mutual hostility threatens an explosive confrontation that could destroy American (and Russian) civilization as we know it. The truth is that no one knows what might happen if U.S. and Russian warplanes started shooting at each another or if American cruise missiles hit Russian bases in Syria. Russia could retaliate asymmetrically, perhaps in eastern Ukraine, and fighting could escalate and spread in ways that trigger NATO’s Article Five guarantees.” (The National Interest, September-October 2017)

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • Seeking leverage with Russia, the Trump administration has reopened consideration of long-rejected plans to give Ukraine lethal weapons, even if that would plunge the United States deeper into the Ukraine conflict. An authorization to provide Ukraine with anti-tank and potentially anti-aircraft capabilities is awaiting Trump and his closest advisers. (AP, 08.14.17)
  • The joint Ukrainian-U.S. project of building a Ukrainian naval center at the Ochakiv base in the Mykolaiv region does not envision stationing foreign vessels there, the Ukrainian Navy said. (Interfax, 08.15.17)
  • Ukrainian Naval Forces marines took part in Platinum Lion 2017, a multinational military exercise held in Bulgaria. The aim of participating in the event was for the marines to acquire coordinated action skills as part of a multinational unit in line with NATO standards. (Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, 08.14.15)
  • Moscow has noticed Washington's growing inclination toward possible lethal weapons supplies to Ukraine, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. (Interfax, 08.15.17)

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • Harvard Kennedy School professor Graham Allison writes: “By punishing Russia for its unacceptable aggression against Ukraine by cutting off all communication and cooperation with Russia—including joint actions to secure nuclear weapons and materials in Russia and other countries and communication between commanders in Europe and the Middle East whose military forces were operating in close proximity—did Washington decrease or increase the level of risk? …  Just as in the Cold War, Americans and Russians today share a vital national interest in averting a nuclear war. … President Trump has an opportunity to make Americans safer by reversing these Obama initiatives and regrounding relations with Russia on the foundation of Cold War fundamentals.” (The National Interest, September-October 2017)
  • Thomas Graham, a managing director at Kissinger Associates, Inc., writes: “A better option would be to engage with Moscow pragmatically and focus on managing the geopolitical rivalry to reduce to a minimum the risk of a full-blown conflict. Washington and Moscow must recognize that the mounting global disorder necessitates a more balanced relationship that, without glossing over historical disagreements, would advance the interests of both.” (Politco, 08.12.17)
  • Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, writes: “The West's best option, the only one that has a chance of forcing Mr. Putin to abandon his zero-sum game of revenge and restoration, is to engineer for him unambiguous setbacks and reversals—in Ukraine, Syria and wherever else he chooses to go next.” (Wall Street Journal, 08.09.17)


  • Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, writes: “Russia’s principal foreign policy priorities, as evidenced by its actions in Ukraine and Syria, are checking any further advance of NATO in Eastern Europe and confirming Russia’s status as a great power outside the post-Soviet space … It should be clarified what is not a priority or even an objective for the Kremlin. The list includes conquering the Baltic States or establishing pro-Russian enclaves there and taking over Ukraine by force. Even integration of the part of Ukraine’s Donbas region controlled by the anti-Maidan separatists presents a major problem for Russia, both in economic and legal terms.” (Carnegie Moscow Center, 08.10.17)

Other important news:

  • North Korea’s success in testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears capable of reaching the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful RD-250 rocket engines probably from a Ukrainian factory with historical ties to Russia’s missile program. Government investigators and experts have focused their inquiries on the Yuzhmash missile factory in Dnipro, Ukraine, on the edge of the territory where Russia is fighting a low-level war to break off part of Ukraine. During the Cold War, the factory made the deadliest missiles in the Soviet arsenal. (New York Times, 08.14.17)
    • "Ukraine has never supplied rocket engines or any kind of missile technology to North Korea," the secretary of Ukraine's Security and Defense Council, Oleksandr Turchynov, said Aug. 14. (RFE/RL, 08.14.17)
    • The head of Ukraine’s top rocket-making company, KB Yuzhnoye, on Aug. 15 rejected claims that its technologies might have been shipped to North Korea, helping the pariah nation achieve a quantum leap in its missile program. Company chief Alexander Degtyarev voiced confidence that employees haven’t been leaking know-how to Pyongyang. (AP, 08.15.17)
  • Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov and U.S. State Department Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker may meet in Minsk. (Interfax, 08.15.17)
  • Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region, says his plan to create a country called Little Russia has failed. (RFE/RL, 08.10.17)
  • A Russian court has found Ukrainian citizen Artur Panov guilty of planning a terrorist attack in the city of Rostov-on-Don and sentenced him to 8 years in prison on terrorism charges. (RFE/RL, 08.11.17)
  • Russia’s main intelligence agency says it has detained a Ukrainian intelligence agent, Gennady Limeshko, who was plotting acts of sabotage in Russia-occupied Crimea. (AP, 08.14.17)
  • Ukrainian authorities have deported Russian journalist Tamara Nersesian over national security concerns. (RFE/RL, 08.15.17)
  • The in-absentia treason trial of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych resumed on Aug. 15. (RFE/RL, 08.15.17)