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

24 March 2017

Get Ready, Russia: Ukraine Wants to Build Its Very Own MiG-29 (Sort of)

Dave Majumdar

Ukraine is developing a new indigenous lightweight fighter aircraft fighter according to a new report. However, the project has existed in some form for more than ten years.

According to a report in Jane’s, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that Kiev would develop its own twin-engine, multirole fighter during a visit to the Ivchenko-Progress engine design bureau. The aircraft—which currently exists as sketch drawing—is called the Legkiy Boiviy Litak or Lightweight Combat Aircraft. It apparently bears more than a passing resemblance to the MiG-29.

Though the prospective Ukrainian fighter might look like a MiG-29, it would use indigenous engines and avionics. The jet would be powered by a pair of AI-322F derivative engines, but the fighter’s avionics would be of both Western and Ukrainian origin. "We will soon be able to create our own aircraft engine for the fighter," Poroshenko said—according to Jane’s.

Reports of an indigenous Ukrainian fighter date back to before 2005, indeed former Antonov designer general Dmitry Kiva made the claim in 2014 that Ukraine can independently develop gunships and fighter aircraft. However, in reality, it is highly dubious if Kiev has the industrial base or money to develop its own jet independently. Particularly, it is highly unlikely—given the nature of the former Soviet industrial base—that Ukraine would have the wherewithal to independently develop avionics for the new jet, particularly the radar.

Geolocated: Russian Military Convoys Near Ukrainian Border

 
This week, the commander of Russia’s Southern Military District announced snap checks for a number of the military units in the south of Russia. Some of these military units were in the Krasnodar Krai, Rostov Oblast, Astrakhan Oblast, and at Russian bases in Armenia and Abkhazia, among other locations.

According to Russian news service TASS, about 6,000 soldiers were involved in the combat readiness check. Earlier in March, another readiness check was instituted for military units in occupied Crimea and the North Caucasus, which are also in the Southern Military District.

We can observe much of the equipment involved in these snap checks through videos shared by ordinary Russians who noticed military convoys driving past them. A number of these videos were shot in the Rostov Oblast, bordering Ukraine. These military convoys were a common sight in the summer of 2014 throughout the Rostov Oblast, where they were transported to large bases that served as the staging ground for Russia’s intervention in the war in the Donbas.

4 March 2017

Donbas Blockade Exposes Political Fault Lines in Ukraine

By: Maksym Bugriy

It has been one month since a group of demobilized Ukrainian soldiers and veterans of the volunteer battalions took it upon themselves (starting on January 25) to enforce a trade embargo with the occupied territories of Donbas (region of eastern Ukraine encompassing the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces) (Euromaidanpress.com, February 6). Increasingly, this blockade of several rail and road routes leading into occupied Donbas is spilling over into political protests in Kyiv. The government is accused of profiting from the trade with the Moscow-backed separatist authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk, which simultaneously provides an economic lifeline to the separatists, thus prolonging the war (Realist, accessed February 22; Euromaidanpress.com, February 9). Some of the blockade’s organizers, Verkhovna Rada (national parliament) members Volodymyr Parasiuk and Semen Semenchenko, joined by the OUN and some other radical nationalist organizations, clashed with police in the capital, on February 19, as they attempted to set up a protest camp in front of President Petro Poroshenko’s administration building (Ukrainian News, February 20). But the police and National Guard forces swiftly broke up the crowd.

Meanwhile, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has exposed a series of subversive operations it says are being masterminded by Russia, which attempt to spark political chaos and potentially give rise to an insurgency in government-controlled areas of Ukraine. Subversive activities and legislative initiatives to promote a pro-Kremlin agenda were explicitly targeted at provincial groups, some of which have expressed clear separatist sympathies. Several of these groups were expected to smuggle firearms into the national capital. One recording published by the SBU quoted a Russian handler requesting that a known Ukrainian separatist use the campaign slogan “The Revolution of Dignity Continues” during public rallies in Kyiv, on February 20–23, commemorating the victims of the EuroMaidan revolution of 2013–2014 (LB.ua, February 21). Whereas, Ukrainian Military Prosecutor Anatoliy Matios posted photos of seized AK and SVD rifles that the so-called “Odesa People’s Republic” group was allegedly attempting to bring onto Kyiv’s central square (Anatolii Matios February 21).

2 March 2017

Ukraine charges Russia with new cyber attacks on infrastructure


By Natalia Zinets

Ukraine on Wednesday accused Russian hackers of targeting its power grid, financial system and other infrastructure with a new type of virus that attacks industrial processes, the latest in a series of cyber offensives against the country. 

Oleksandr Tkachuk, Ukraine's security service chief of staff, said at a press conference that the attacks were orchestrated by the Russian security service with help from private software firms and criminal hackers, and looked like they were designed by the same people who created malware known as "BlackEnergy." 

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) could not be reached for comment. Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations from Kiev that it has been waging a "cyber war" on Ukraine since relations between the two countries collapsed following Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of Russian-backed separatist fighting in Ukraine's Donbass region. 

The allegations are the latest sign that Russia's behavior in conflict areas has not changed markedly since Donald Trump became U.S. president last month, calling for warmer relations between Washington and Moscow. 

The new attacks caused some of Ukraine’s cyber defenders to cancel plans to attend this week’s RSA cyber security conference in San Francisco, according to one Western expert familiar with the situation. 

If the allegations are confirmed, that could help Ukraine further its case for the United States to help coordinate a multi-national effort to counter the threat of Russian cyber warfare. 

"There is a global cyber war of Russia against (the) whole world," President Petro Poroshenko told Reuters in an interview in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos. 

28 February 2017

What I Saw in Kyiv

By REP. MIKE QUIGLEY 

Ukraine’s democrats are desperate for American leadership, but they fear Trump will abandon them to Moscow’s clutches. 

I last visited Kyiv in April 2014, when the energy in the city was still electric. For months, Independence Square—dubbed the Euromaidan by Ukrainians seeking to tug their country out from under Russia’s grasp—had been occupied by protesters and police as unrest gripped the city in the dead of the Ukrainian winter. As I stood on Khreshchatyk Street, the Euromaidan was still filled with Ukrainians from every walk of life, demanding a more transparent government, a more democratic society and closer integration with Europe and the West.

The major protests had dissipated by February, when 100 demonstrators were tragically killed by sniper fire. Nevertheless, the protests resulted in a victory for the people of Ukraine. By the time our congressional delegation arrived to assess the situation, former president Victor Yanukovych had fled to Russia and Ukraine was in the early days of organizing a new government. As an American, it felt inspiring. As a member of Congress, it felt essential. As I arrive in Kyiv today, this time as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that U.S. support for Ukraine is more important than ever.

24 February 2017

Consequences of the Deterioration of the Situation in Donbas

By Anna Maria Dyner and Daniel Szeligowski 

In this bulletin, Anna Maria Dyner and Daniel Szeligowski analyze the deteriorating security situation in the Donbas region of Ukraine and its potential consequences. They conclude that Russia will continue to leverage the ongoing conflict as a way to maintain its influence over its neighbor and break existing Western sanctions. In response, EU countries will need to back Ukraine more vigorously and extend additional humanitarian aid to its people.

The recent exacerbation of hostilities in Ukraine’s Donbas is a reaction by Russia-backed irregular forces to actions taken by the Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF), who since December 2016 have been gradually restoring control over territory along the Minsk-agreed separation line. Russia accuses Ukraine of breaching the Minsk agreement and blames the Ukrainian authorities for the outbreak of fighting. The argument will be used by Russia to lift sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the EU. However, the Ukrainian authorities claim that the UAF’s actions have not violated the Minsk agreement since it provides for the territory in question to be under Ukraine’s control.

Deterioration of the Situation in Donbas

On 29 January, Russia-backed irregulars launched a massive attack on Ukrainian positions around Avdiivka, 10 km north of Donetsk. The offensive was repelled, but more than a dozen Ukrainian soldiers were killed and several dozen more were wounded. Shelling of the city also resulted in civilian casualties. The situation stabilised on February 4 and 5, which allowed some basic infrastructure such as electricity, water and heating to be restored. However, the two sides continue to exchange fire.

23 February 2017

Illusions vs Reality: Twenty-Five Years of U.S. Policy Toward Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia

EUGENE RUMER, RICHARD SOKOLSKY, PAUL STRONSKI, ANDREW S. WEISS

The U.S.-Russian relationship is broken, and it cannot be repaired quickly or easily. Improved personal ties between President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin may be useful, but they are not enough. The Trump administration needs to temper expectations about breakthroughs or grand bargains with Moscow. Instead, the focus should be on managing a volatile relationship with an increasingly emboldened and unpredictable Russian leadership. The real test for any sustainable approach will be whether it advances U.S. interests and values, especially in the wake of Moscow’s reckless meddling in the November presidential election.

Key Themes 

The breakdown in U.S.-Russian relations is a product of long-standing disagreements about the fundamentals of each country’s national security interests and policies. 

The Kremlin’s political legitimacy is increasingly predicated on stoking fears of external threats and anti-Americanism. 

Moscow’s relationship with its neighbors will be inherently unstable due to persistent Russian attempts to dominate their political and economic orientation, and a yawning power and wealth differential. 

Better U.S.-Russian relations are impossible without a major course correction by either or both sides. It is unlikely that Putin will compromise on core Russian interests. Thus, unless Trump is prepared to cave on U.S. principles and interests, relations will remain largely competitive and adversarial. 

22 February 2017

Ukraine accuses Russia of cyberwar amid new attacks on its power grid

By Jason Murdock

Key security officials in Ukraine have accused hackers aligned with the Russian government of targeting its critical infrastructure, including the power grid and the financial systems, using a strain of malware previously linked to a major state-sponsored cyberattack.

Ukraine's security chief, Oleksandr Tkachuk, said on 15 February the attacks were linked to a gang that uses a type of computer malware dubbed BlackEnergy. In an unprecedented attack, the attackers allegedly used it to cause a widespread electricity blackout in Kiev two years ago.

"Russian hackers [have] become an important tool of the aggression against our country," Tkachuk said, as reported by Reuters.

He said the latest round of cyberattacks used a type of malicious software called Telebots with the aim of infecting its national infrastructure.

In late 2016, Slovakian cybersecurity firm Eset, which has previously tracked the BlackEnergy gang, said Telebots malware was used in "targeted cyberattacks against high-value targets in the Ukrainian financial sector." Its main aim was simple: cyber-sabotage.

"It's important to say that these attackers, and the toolset used, share a number of similarities with the BlackEnergy group, which conducted attacks against the energy industry in Ukraine in December 2015 and January 2016," Eset experts wrote in a blog post. "In fact, we think that the BlackEnergy group has evolved into the Telebots group."

19 February 2017

Ukraine charges Russia with new cyber attacks on infrastructure


By Natalia Zinets

Ukraine on Wednesday accused Russian hackers of targeting its power grid, financial system and other infrastructure with a new type of virus that attacks industrial processes, the latest in a series of cyber offensives against the country. 

Oleksandr Tkachuk, Ukraine's security service chief of staff, said at a press conference that the attacks were orchestrated by the Russian security service with help from private software firms and criminal hackers, and looked like they were designed by the same people who created malware known as "BlackEnergy." 

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) could not be reached for comment. Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations from Kiev that it has been waging a "cyber war" on Ukraine since relations between the two countries collapsed following Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of Russian-backed separatist fighting in Ukraine's Donbass region. 

The allegations are the latest sign that Russia's behavior in conflict areas has not changed markedly since Donald Trump became U.S. president last month, calling for warmer relations between Washington and Moscow. 

The new attacks caused some of Ukraine’s cyber defenders to cancel plans to attend this week’s RSA cyber security conference in San Francisco, according to one Western expert familiar with the situation. 

17 February 2017

Ukraine Buffeted from East and West

Paul R. Pillar

A visit to Kiev reveals a Ukrainian national identity that has come a long way for a corner of Eurasia that once was known as Little Russia. Ukraine was a large part of the USSR and a major contributor to its economy and military strength, but now, conflict with Russia is a defining characteristic of Ukrainian national consciousness. Parliamentarians of various partisan affiliations, as well as other politically engaged people in the capital both inside and outside government, share a sense of unfair treatment at the hands of Russia. This involves not only the happenings in recent years in Crimea and in the rebellious Donbass region in eastern Ukraine but also an overall Russian presumption that Ukrainians should accept—consistent with old attitudes underlying the “Little Russia” label—being part of Moscow’s sphere of influence.

Ukrainians exhibit much pride in what their nation has accomplished in the 25 years since independence, and in the three years since the “Revolution of Dignity” that toppled former president Viktor Yanukovych. The paving stones that had been torn up in the blood-stained Maidan square during the latter uprising have been put back in place, but with the addition of memorials to those who died there. The memories of Maidan are still recent, and their impact on Ukrainian thoughts and emotions profound.

15 February 2017

** The Geostrategic Importance of the Black Sea Region: A Brief History

Source Link

This Commentary is the first in a series of essays that will examine the strategic significance of the Black Sea region to the United States and NATO.

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014 refocused global attention on the strategic significance of a region that rests on the fault lines of two former empires—the Russian and Ottoman Empires—with involvement by European powers, such as Great Britain, France, and Germany. This analysis provides an overview of the region with a view that the past is prologue to the region’s future as restive powers reanimate empirical political and military strategies in a modern context.

Of Conflict and Treaties


Source: Wikipedia.

Six years of conflict between Russia and an overstretched Ottoman Empire from 1768 to 1774 led to the signing of the 1774 Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, which provided Russia direct access to the Black Sea region (via the Kerch and Azov ports). Russia was also granted the right to protect Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire, and the nominally independent Crimean Khanate was placed under its influence. Nine years after the treaty was signed, popular resentment toward reforms introduced by the Russian co-opted ruling elite, combined with the constant inflow of settlers to the Crimea, fueled regional unrest, giving Catherine II’s envoy, Prince Grigory Potemkin, a long-awaited pretext to annex Crimea through military means with little armed resistance. The Crimean capital of Sevastopol was established the same year, and from 1783 onward, Russia emerged as a growing Black Sea power as the Ottoman Empire slipped onto a slow, declining path.

14 February 2017

ESCALATION IN DONBAS: UKRAINE FIGHTS FOR THE STATUS QUO

BALAZS JARABIK

It is all too easy to think the Kremlin is escalating the fighting in eastern Ukraine to test a Trump administration widely believed to be pro-Russian. Moscow, this argument goes, is exploiting an opportunity to show that President Trump actually cares very little about the conflict in Donbas and is focusing instead on deals with Moscow on bigger priorities like the fight against Syria or the challenge posed by China and Iran. Regardless of whether such efforts yield a big payoff for Moscow, like the relaxation of U.S.-EU economic sanctions, the new tone from Washington should be sufficient to increase political uncertainly and sow unrest inside Ukraine.

During a recent research trip to Ukraine, I found the country’s political elite are dealing with this uptick in geopolitical uncertainty and insecurity in two ways.

First, there is scrambling by various political factions to build bridges to the new U.S. administration. Yulia Tymoshenko, the controversial former prime minister turned populist opposition leader, has been playing up her brief informal interaction with Trump last week at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Second, Ukraine is using the flare-up in the Donbas to call attention to Russia’s thinly disguised role in the war — a tactic that has worked in the past. A tough statement from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley suggested that this tactic is starting to do the trick with the new team in Washington. However, Trump’s press secretary’s statement, the readout from Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and Trump’s latest note that “we don’t know exactly what is happening there” begs for a more careful assessment. So far, the Trump administration has only been talking about the importance of maintaining Crimea-related sanctions while implying that the more far-ranging sanctions imposed over the war in Donbas could be rolled back if Moscow partners up with Trump in Syria.

13 February 2017

** Ukraine, Russia and Recent Fighting

By Antonia Colibasanu

Geopolitical Futures’ forecast for 2017 is that the frozen conflict in Ukraine will be formalized in some way. Increased fighting in Ukraine since Jan. 29 poses a potential challenge to this forecast and therefore warrants a close look. Last week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko cut short his visit to Germany amid news of heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine, near the town of Avdiivka. Both sides – the Ukrainian army and Russian-backed separatists – accuse each other of starting the most recent fighting. To understand why this is happening now, it is necessary first to understand what is happening and then to take a step back and understand the strategic position of each of the major players. This line of analysis leads to the conclusion that at present, the forecast remains on track.

It’s not unusual for Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists to shell each other in Donbass, but in terms of casualties and number of attacks, last week represented a significant uptick. In Avdiivka, north of Donetsk, shelling has been ongoing since Jan. 29, peaking on Feb 2-3. Attacks on the Oktyabr coal mine and the city’s coke chemical plant cut the energy supply for local residents (power has since been mostly restored). Donetsk Filter Station stopped operating due to the destruction of electricity infrastructure. Since Feb. 1, a water pipeline leak near Avdiivka disrupted the water supply to residents of Mariupol. On the night of Feb. 4, more shelling damaged electricity infrastructure for the city of Horlivka. Hostilities also further escalated in Luhansk and Mariupol. Over 33 people have been killed and dozens more injured since the violence began to escalate last month.

11 February 2017

In Ukraine, Fears of a U.S. Pivot to Russia


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met Jan. 30 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an effort to solidify EU support for his country. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Summary

U.S. President Donald Trump had a busy first week in office. Within days of his inauguration, Trump had already begun making good on campaign promises, laying the groundwork to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and temporarily suspending immigration to the United States. Then, during his eighth day in office, Jan. 28, Trump held his first direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During their telephone conversation, the two leaders stressed the importance of "restoring mutually beneficial trade and economic ties" between their countries. They also agreed to work together on foreign policy issues, touching on the Middle East, North Korea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. This last area of collaboration raised concern among members of the Ukrainian government who fear that warmer ties between the United States and Russia could damage Kiev's strategic position and lead to reduced support from Washington. As the Trump administration re-evaluates U.S. policy toward Russia, Ukraine's leaders are reaching out to other allies in the West while ramping up military efforts in Donbas. Still, these measures may not be enough to shelter Kiev from changing geopolitical winds.
Analysis

The United States has been an important ally for Ukraine since the Euromaidan uprising in 2014. Once Russia annexed Crimea and began supporting the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, the United States, along with the European Union, imposed economic sanctions on Moscow in rebuke. Washington has also supplied Kiev with economic assistance while bolstering Ukrainian security forces with joint training efforts and non-lethal materiel support.

10 February 2017

Will Ukraine Build a Wall to Keep Out the Russians?

ANNA NEMTSOVA

As rumors mount of a Trump-Putin deal on Ukraine, some in Kiev talk about walling off the Russian-sponsored east. For others, that’s anathema.

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine—The temperature dropped down to minus 12 C (10.4 F) in eastern Ukraine and continued to fall. On Wednesday afternoon over 200 vehicles packed with colorful plastic bags, suitcases, and exhausted passengers waited on the grimy road in the middle of a windy field to pass through Mariinka checkpoint to the part of the Donetsk region that is under the control of rebel militants.

Some of the people in line had been waiting for longer than eight hours but none of them dared to get out and stretch their legs in the surrounding fields, which are sown with land mines. So they stayed among the armored vehicles and the troop transports full of Ukrainian soldiers and security service offices, waiting, and waiting… to pass through the customs control toward the Russia-backed breakaway territory.

Mines are not the only danger. Militants from the pro-Russian side often fire in the direction of Mariinka checkpoint. The Ukrainian army reported three wounded soldiers on Jan. 25, adding to hundreds of military and civilians killed and injured during the most recent months.

In Ukraine, Fears of a U.S. Pivot to Russia


U.S. President Donald Trump had a busy first week in office. Within days of his inauguration, Trump had already begun making good on campaign promises, laying the groundwork to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and temporarily suspending immigration to the United States. Then, during his eighth day in office, Jan. 28, Trump held his first direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During their telephone conversation, the two leaders stressed the importance of "restoring mutually beneficial trade and economic ties" between their countries. They also agreed to work together on foreign policy issues, touching on the Middle East, North Korea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. This last area of collaboration raised concern among members of the Ukrainian government who fear that warmer ties between the United States and Russia could damage Kiev's strategic position and lead to reduced support from Washington. As the Trump administration re-evaluates U.S. policy toward Russia, Ukraine's leaders are reaching out to other allies in the West while ramping up military efforts in Donbas. Still, these measures may not be enough to shelter Kiev from changing geopolitical winds.

Analysis

The United States has been an important ally for Ukraine since the Euromaidan uprising in 2014. Once Russia annexed Crimea and began supporting the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, the United States, along with the European Union, imposed economic sanctions on Moscow in rebuke. Washington has also supplied Kiev with economic assistance while bolstering Ukrainian security forces with joint training efforts and non-lethal materiel support.

8 February 2017

Counterinsurgency Options for Ukraine


by Vincent A. Dueñas

The most effective strategy that Ukraine can select against Russian-backed separatists is a population-centric approach; with targeted utilization of their growing special operations units pursue militant separatist leaders in a limited enemy-centric approach. The key point being that the targeting of the separatist leaders should only continue to the extent that it serves political goals in Kiev, since this type of “kingpin” strategy cannot account for extensive degree of Russian involvement in the conflict. If it is not already understood, Kiev should acknowledge that they cannot fight to retake Crimea and that outside support is currently non-existent for such an endeavor. Moscow has made clear that it views the annexation of Crimea as an issue of sovereignty over its territory and the release of audio recordings of Russian presidential advisor, Sergei Glasyev, helps to validate the theory that the justification of the Crimean referendum appears to have been a ruse.[i] The cost-benefit analysis of a Crimean campaign leaves only the possibility of a counterinsurgency strategy for the Donbas.

In assessing the root causes for the Donbas separatist movement and their Russian supporters a short history is useful. From the perspectives of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), the region known as the Donbas, they identify culturally with Russia, as the majority their inhabitants are Russian-speaking. The historical background to the region includes its role as an industrial power base for the Soviet Union. Having been declared independent under the fledgling Ukrainian nation over 23 years ago, it came as a surprise to its inhabitants when they realized they were no longer part of the Soviet Union. From that time forward, corruption and lack of interest in the region saw the Donbas’ oligarch’s take control of the mines and industry that did remain.[ii] The events of the Maidan revolution, followed by the annexation of Crimea set in motion the DNR and LHR’s referendum for independence with Russian support. Today, the region survives on the financial support of Russia, with Russian military leaders continuing to spearhead and fund the organization of the separatist factions.[iii] For the separatists, Russia was their natural ally. Although the people of the Donbas, to include some separatists, understand that to some extent their revolution was for the benefit of Russia, they distrusted Kiev even more. Russian information operations that vilify Kiev as fascist, corrupt oligarchs that have no real connection with the people of the Donbas have been very successful.[iv]

6 February 2017

There Are the 5 Killer Weapons Russia Could Use to Crush Ukraine

Source Link
Robert Farley

Because of Western reticence about transferring lethal arms to Kiev, as well as Ukraine’s dire economic situation, there is no obvious path to overcoming Russia’s military advantages along the border. As long as Russia persists in committing men and weapons to Donetsk and Luhansk, Kiev will struggle to restore order, and recapture its territory. And now with Moscow seemingly pressing Kiev once again with fierce fighting once again taking place, these would be the weapons of choice for Russia. 

The smoldering conflict in Ukraine’s eastern provinces has now gone on for more than two years. Although an uneasy status quo has settled on the region, skirmishes continue, and tension periodically run high. With the prospect of open, large scale conventional combat receding, the focus has shifted to the tactics and weapons that either side can use to press the other at the margin, to recapture a sliver of territory, or increase the temperature on the enemy. Here are five kinds of weapons that Russia uses to maintain pressure on eastern Ukraine, and Kiev as a whole.

Cyber:

Unless it decides to expand its incursion into Ukraine, Russia’s ability to hurt the Ukrainian government depends on its willingness to leverage airpower, economic power and cyber-power. Of the first of these, Russia has been reticent to carry out direct attacks against Ukraine with either aircraft or ballistic missiles. Given the weakness of the Russian economy, Moscow can offer less and less in terms of coercive economic statecraft. But in the cyber-arena, Russia remains dangerous.

As Thomas Rid and others have argued, the prospects for “cyber-war” are a combination of murky and over-hyped. Nevertheless, Russia has established that it has the capacity to engage in annoying, often disruptive attacks against unfriendly cyber-networks. These attacks cannot destroy the social fabric on their own, but they can certainly prove costly to the targets. Moreover, cyber-attacks continue to carry a degree of deniability that saves Russia from paying the diplomatic costs of aggression.

Air Defense:

In the early days of the Ukrainian Civil War, Kiev tried to leverage its airpower advantage over the rebels by conducting airstrikes and other missions over the disputed eastern provinces. Central governments traditionally have airpower advantages over rebel groups, as the former remain in control of air assets and of the logistical framework necessary to keeping planes in the air.

5 February 2017

Don’t Ignore the Fighting in Ukraine

Source Link
NOAH ROTHMAN

The “frozen conflict” in East Ukraine is thawing out. This week, in the wake of a much-anticipated phone call between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, fighting in the former Soviet Republic’s eastern districts erupted again. Since Sunday, eight Ukrainian soldiers have been killed with another 26 wounded. According to the government in Kiev, an unspecified number of civilians have also become casualties in the fighting. The often intense violence between Ukrainian troops and Russian-supported forces has, however, been met with stony silence from a distracted political class in the United States. It would be a grave mistake to ignore this slowly boiling conflict.

Both Kiev and Moscow blame one another for the recent surge in fighting, but that is an immaterial concern for Americans who want to see Russian aggression contained. From the Middle East to the frontiers of NATO, it isn’t Ukraine but Russia that has demonstrated a penchant for irredentism and expansionism. The West and the citizens of the United States should not overlook this war. It may be a prelude to something with more immediate repercussions for global peace and stability.

In the campaign, Donald Trump made no secret of his desire to cede to Moscow a sphere of unrivaled geopolitical influence in the Middle East and Europe. He even went so far as to entertain the prospect that he would not come to the aid of a NATO ally like Estonia if it invoked the Atlantic Alliance’s mutual defense provisions following a Russian attack.

1 February 2017

Ukraine's Problem is Ukraine

By James D. Durso

Ukraine’s government has hired Washington lobbyists to fix its problems with the Trump Administration, but would do better to fix its internal problems, instead. Ukraine’s problems are in four categories: a structural problem caused by the multiple overlapping entities involved in military strategy and procurement; the absence of a unified strategic vision for ordering equipment and supplies; a “Fifth Column” of pro-Russian officials; and a staggering corruption that divides the self-interest of the elites from the national interest.

A recent Rand study highlighted the deficiencies in the command structure of Ukraine’s security sector. Defense procurement particularly has several overlapping structures with no clear lines of authority or unity of command. The President, Prime Minister, Defense Ministry, General Staff and the infamous state-owned defense company, Ukroboronprom, compete against and undercut one another. Each entity produces its own wish list, driven more by impulse than strategy, and each entity has separate financial controls, opening the door to insider dealing and corrupt sales of government property.

In Ukraine, citizens are played for suckers: local militias fight to preserve home and liberty, while the leaders focus on procedure, personal prestige, and offshore bank accounts. Ukroboronprom is infamous for selling arms to the black market, and domestic contracts are given to factories indirectly owned by President Petro Poroshenko, who still hadn't divested his business interests as he promised to do when he took office in 2014. 

However, Ukraine’s political leaders are not fiddling while their country burns, they are busy stealing their military budgets -- nearly half, in the estimate of a former Ukrainian senior military officer who requested not to be identified. They reason that when the rest of Ukraine is swallowed up by Russia, they will have a well-funded Plan B. 

But it is not just the corruption that’s the problem. The system is plagued with inefficiency and lack of commitment. In 2015, at a time when the Ukrainians were complaining about the cost of spare tires and repairs, the U.S. government was prepared to ship them over 150 Humvees, along with spare parts and training - over $300 million worth of equipment. However, the government of Ukraine refused to spend $600,000 to pay the shipping cost.

Complicating these issues is the presence of the Russian Fifth Column. Many of the senior leadership -- military as well as political -- are loyal to President Putin, and they work actively to undermine Ukrainian independence. For them, corruption is a political tool as well as a means of personal enrichment. (That Plan B, again.)