Ukraine Conflict Monitor, Nov. 6-14, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • No significant developments.

West’s leverage over Russia:

  • The European Commission on Nov. 8 proposed new regulations that would introduce common jurisdiction for all gas pipelines entering the bloc and could render the Russian Nord Stream 2 project unprofitable. (RFE/RL, 11.08.17)

Russia’s leverage over West:

  • Foreign-funded media outlets that refuse to register as foreign agents under new legislation drafted by Russian lawmakers will be ejected from the country, State Duma deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoi announced, a day after state-funded Russian channel RT said it had registered under the U.S. foreign agent law. (RFE/RL, 11.14.17)
  • Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor said Nov. 8 it planned to check whether Facebook was in compliance with Russian law. (Reuters, 11.08.17)

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • The casualty rate in Donbass is higher in 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission has reported, with 425 civilian casualties so far this year. Thirty-nine of those were children. (Interfax, 11.10.17)
  • Three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 13 were wounded in action in Donbass Nov. 7-Nov. 14, the press center of Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation headquarters has reported. No separatist casualties have been reported. (UNIAN, 11.14.17, 11.12.17, 11.11.17, 11.10.17, 11.09.17, 11.08.17)
  • Five civilians have been killed and 17 injured in shelling by the Ukrainian side in Donbass since the beginning of “the school truce,” says Ruslan Yakubov, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic's mission to the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the ceasefire. (Interfax, 11.13.17)

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

  • NATO defense ministers agreed to increase the number of alliance military headquarters from seven to nine. One of the new centers will focus on Atlantic maritime security and the other will be responsible for troop movements in Europe, with the locations to be chosen next year. The ministers also decided to integrate cyber into all NATO operations. Additionally, NATO has announced it will increase the number of troops in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 16,000 to aid Kabul in its fight against the Taliban. (Bloomberg, 11.08.17, RFE/RL, 11.09.17)
  • The European Union has moved toward closer defense ties with more than 20 member states committing to deepen cooperation and improve coordination in the development of military hardware. (RFE/RL, 11.13.17)
  • Russia and Finland have opened a new 24/7 hotline between their defense administrations to help prevent accidents, deal with disruptions and talk in case of emergency. (Bloomberg, 11.09.17)
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis praised Finland on Nov. 6 for establishing a new center dedicated to countering the unconventional forms of warfare that Russia is fond of using. (The Washington Post, 11.06.17)
  • Lithuania expects NATO to reach an agreement next year to shield Baltic countries with air defenses, plugging a gap in its security against Russia. (Reuters, 11.07.17)

Red lines and tripwires:

  • No significant developments.

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

  • No significant developments.

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • Several U.S. officials said the White House has approved in principle providing Ukraine with lethal weapons, including Javelin antitank weapons. However, a White House official strongly rejected this report. Should the United States begin supplying lethal weapons to Kiev, the situation around Donbass would deteriorate and put further strain on relations with Russia, a Russian Foreign Ministry said. (Wall Street Journal, 11.09.17, TASS, 11.10.17, Interfax, 11.14.17)

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former special assistant to U.S. President Ronald Reagan, writes: “The Trump administration reportedly plans to propose a peacekeeping force for Ukraine. The initiative would have a greater chance of success if Washington offered a package that made Ukraine a neutral country, backed by a promise not to further expand NATO.” (The National Interest, 11.13.17)


  • Nikolas K. Gvosdev, a professor at the Naval War College, writes: “There is no support (even from Trump’s own appointees) for any compromise with Moscow that leaves [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad in power in Damascus, or that ratifies any of the gains Russia has made in Ukraine since 2014—not when there is still a sense that strong, concerted U.S. action could lead to different outcomes.” (The National Interest, 11.13.17.)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s earlier consultations with the leaders of Iran and Turkey, as well as the Russia-U.S. joint statement, awkward as it may have been, allow us to conclude that Russia is seeking a way out of Syria, Alexander Shumilin, head of the Center for Analysis of Greater Middle East Conflicts at the Institute of the U.S. and Canada, told Vedomosti. (Wilson Center, 11.13.17)

Other important news:

  • “We agreed very quickly… We can save many, many, many lives by making a deal with Russia having to do with Syria, and then ultimately getting Syria solved and getting Ukraine solved and doing other things, having a good relationship with Russia is a great, great thing,” U.S. President Donald Trump said Nov. 11 regarding the joint statement on Syria that he signed with Putin. (The White House, 11.11.17)
  • Trump, in a stream of Twitter posts, has said having a positive relationship with Russia is "a good thing" and that Moscow can "greatly help" solve crises in Ukraine, North Korea and Syria, and with global terrorism. (RFE/RL, 11.12.17)
  • After talks on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, U.S. and Russian envoys say their countries have "different concepts for how to make peace," but will continue to work to achieve that goal. "Both sides agreed to reflect on the discussions … and to think about further ways to address this challenge," said a joint statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow after U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker and Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov met on Nov. 13. (RFE/RL, 11.14.17)
  • U.S. officials are preparing to test Moscow's willingness to end the Ukraine conflict by seeking Russia's approval for 20,000 peacekeepers across Ukraine's embattled east, U.S. and Western officials said. (Wall Street Journal, 11.09.17)
  • Wess Mitchell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, will visit Ukraine on Nov. 14-15. (RFE/RL, 11.06.17)
  • The Normandy format should continue to address Ukraine, and the next round of talks may take place after Germany forms a new government, the French government's special representative for relations with Russia, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, said. (Interfax, 11.13.17)
  • Human Rights Watch says authorities in Russian-occupied Crimea have "intensified persecution" of Crimean Tatars for their opposition to Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian region in 2014 in a new report released Nov. 14. (RFE/RL, 11.14.17)
  • The Kremlin said Nov. 8 that a reported plan by Ukraine to cut all diplomatic ties with Russia would further deepen the crisis between the two countries and end up hurting the interests of both Ukrainians and Russians. (Reuters, 11.08.17)
  • The United Nations has expressed "extreme" concern that an escalation of fighting near water infrastructure in Donetsk could lead to a deadly chlorine gas disaster. (RFE/RL, 11.08.17)
  • Ukraine is puzzled by the lack of a U.S. response to requests it has made to question former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort as a witness in two cases involving misuse of Ukrainian state funds, the chief investigator said. (Reuters, 11.14.17)
  • Ukraine’s GDP growth in the third quarter of 2017 year over year reached 2.1 percent compared with 2.3 percent in the second quarter and 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2017, the State Statistics Service has reported in a preliminary report. (Interfax, 11.14.17)