Ukraine Conflict Monitor, Dec. 5-12, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • Denys Kiryukhin, research scholar at the Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy, National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine: It cannot be said that the political system formed under then-President Leonid Kuchma “has undergone major changes. The system is based on the close alliance of business and power, as well as on the reiteration of many of the features of the authoritarian Belarusian and Russian regimes.” (Russia File, Kennan Institute, 12.11.17)

West’s leverage over Russia:

  • No significant developments.

 Russia’s leverage over West:

  • Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Michael Carpenter, a former vice president and deputy assistant secretary of defense, respectively: “The manipulation of energy markets is another important tool that Russia uses for coercion and influence peddling.” (Foreign Affairs, 12.05.17)
  • “Even if Gazprom takes no actions to exert political power through energy trade, the fact that it has the means to do so, the mere threat of a cutoff, gives Russia political leverage,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, a former George W. Bush administration official who is now director of the Geopolitics of Energy project at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. (Foreign Policy, 12.12.17)

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • The United Nations says daily cease-fire violations in eastern Ukraine have led to more civilian deaths and "further aggravated a dire human rights and humanitarian situation" as temperatures drop. In a report published on Dec. 12, the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said that increased fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists resulted in at least 15 deaths and 72 injuries among civilians from Aug. 16 to Nov. 15. The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 10,303 conflict-related deaths between April 14, 2014, and Nov. 15, 2017, the report said. In June, that figure was 10,090, including 2,777 civilians. (RFE/RL, 12.12.17)
  • More than 8,000 private homes and more than 2,000 apartment houses were badly damaged in Donetsk, according to data provided by its administration. Most of these homes are uninhabitable and cannot be rebuilt. (Reuters, 12.12.17)

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

  • Twenty-five European Union member states have taken the formal decision to establish a new defense and security cooperation network. (RFE/RL, 12.11.17)
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO and the EU agreed to work together on improving military mobility within Europe, strengthening the exchange of information in the fight against terrorism and promoting "women’s role in peace and security." (RFE/RL, 12.06.17)
  • Eight hundred American and NATO soldiers, attack helicopters and tank busters are deployed in a military exercise of extraordinary complexity in Poland, preparing for trench warfare against an army with a level of sophistication the U.S. military hasn't seen in decades. (PBS, 12.11.17)

Red lines and tripwires:

  • Max Bergmann and Carolyn Kenney, a senior fellow and a policy analyst, respectively, at the Center for American Progress: The White House and Congress must deter state-sponsored cyberattacks by sending a clear message to Russia about U.S. cyber redlines. (Center for American Progress, 12.05.17)

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

  • OSCE Secretary-General Thomas Greminger said the risk of military confrontation in Europe is rising amid tensions between NATO and Russia. (RFE/RL, 12.07.17)

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • No significant developments.

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • Maxim Eristavi, research fellow with the Atlantic Council and co-founder of Hromadske International, a Kiev-based news outlet: “Western governments have channeled hundreds of millions in taxpayer money into Ukraine’s anti-corruption reforms. The time to protect that investment has come. The United States and the European Union should be telling Poroshenko and his friends that they must hold the line on corruption.” (The Washington Post, 12.07.17)


  • Michael Kofman, a research scientist at CNA Corp.: “Russia’s overarching objective remains keeping Ukraine in its privileged sphere of influence, denying the country opportunities to join either NATO or the European Union. Given the interests at stake, Russian leadership is unlikely to let the present situation drift, with its attendant political and economic costs, without taking some action to alter the present state of affairs.” (American Enterprise Institute, 12.12.17)
  • Sabine Fischer of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs: “If Russia was taken by surprise by Berlin’s tough policy in light of the annexation of Crimea and the unfolding war in the Donbas, Germans were dumbstruck by the ferocity of Russia’s response to EU sanctions… If, at some point in the future, a Russian leadership wants to normalize relations with the EU and rebuild European security, it will have to take into account, among many other things, the almost complete collapse of trust in its relations with Germany and France.” (Carnegie Moscow Center, 12.12.17)
  • Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Michael Carpenter, a former vice president and deputy assistant secretary of defense, respectively: “Maintaining the sanctions that the United States and the EU levied on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine has been important not only in pressuring Moscow to resolve the conflict in the near term but also as a signal to the Kremlin that the costs of such behavior will eventually outweigh any perceived benefits.” (Foreign Affairs, 12.05.17)
  • Andrew Wilson, professor of Ukrainian Studies at University College, London: “Russia still has unresolved issues with accepting Ukraine’s right to exist as a nation-state, and Russia is likely to try to keep Ukraine weak and dysfunctional in whatever way possible. Ukraine making real economic and political progress is the best protection against Russian destabilization.” (American Enterprise Institute, 12.12.17)

Other important news:

  • The United States would “badly” like to lift sanctions against Russia but will not do so until Moscow has pulled its forces out of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Tillerson said Dec. 7, calling that the main obstacle to normal ties. The issue that stands in the way is Ukraine, Tillerson said. “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine remains the biggest threat to European security, and demands continued transatlantic unity in confronting that threat,” he said (Reuters, 12.07.17, AP, 12.07.17,, 12.06.17)
  • Tillerson said Dec. 6 he is hopeful that Moscow and Washington can bridge differences and agree on a peacekeeping force for Ukraine. "We hope we can close those gaps," Tillerson said. "We think it is vitally important to stop the violence in east Ukraine. People are still dying from that violence." (Wall Street Journal, 12.06.17)
  • Retired Russian Gen. Nikolai Tkachyov, who was accused in a recent investigation of being a coordinator of separatist forces in eastern Ukraine and of possibly playing a role in the downing of a civilian airliner in July 2014, has said he plans to sue the authors of the report for defamation. (RFE/RL, 12.09.17)
  • The IMF urged Ukraine to end attacks on its anti-graft agencies, joining a growing chorus of criticism of the country’s reform efforts that already includes the U.S. and the European Union. Ukraine’s government and parliament should safeguard the independence of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, or NABU, and the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, the Washington-based lender said Dec. 7. The World Bank also voiced concern about Ukraine's willingness to tackle graft. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement Dec. 4 that “recent events—including the disruption of a high-level corruption investigation,” the arrest of NABU officials and “the seizure of sensitive NABU files—raise concerns about Ukraine’s commitment to fighting corruption." Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he has not interfered in the work of state anticorruption agencies. He was speaking a day after activists and reformist lawmakers managed to derail parliamentary consideration of a bill—authored by lawmakers from Poroshenko's party and that of former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk—that would have removed Artem Sytnyk, the head of NABU. (Bloomberg, 12.07.17, RFE/RL, 12.08.17, RFE/RL, 12.05.17, Bloomberg, 12.05.17)
  • A court in Kiev rejected a request by prosecutors to place Mikheil Saakashvili—the ex-Georgian leader-turned Ukrainian opposition politician—under house arrest as he fights accusations he plotted to overthrow the government. Saakashvili, who denies accepting funding from an exiled Ukrainian businessman in a bid to seize power, greeted hundreds of his allies gathered outside the courthouse after an almost-eight-hour hearing Dec. 11. A day earlier, thousands of supporters of the former Odessa governor swarmed city streets demanding his release, the impeachment of Poroshenko and progress to stamp out corruption. (Bloomberg, 12.11.17)