November 21, 2016

Week's News Express Analysis № 25/11

 

LAST WEEK'S KEY FACTORS AND MAIN TRENDS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SITUATION AROUND UKRAINE

(November 14-20, 2016)

 

I. Major-Profile Events in the Development of the Situation around Ukraine

The main aspect in the development of the situation in the world and around Ukraine is the consequences of the election of D. Trump the new US President. Throughout the week, D. Trump and his environment made a number of resonance steps and statements describing Washington's future policy.

Thus, November 14, 2016, D. Trump in his telephone conversation with V. Putin expressed readiness for the resumption of constructive cooperation with Russia. At the same time, he publicly disavowed the US intelligence community's conclusions about Moscow's attempts to influence the results of the presidential elections in the United States.

However, according to one of the closest assistants of the new US President R. Giuliani, “...D. Trump will build relations with Russia exclusively from a position of strength”. It was also pointed out that D. Trump has intentions to cooperate with V. Putin's regime only in those spheres that will serve the interests of the two countries.

The new US President's first staff decisions are also quite indicative. In particular, R. Pribus (headed the Republican National Committee) has been appointed the head of D. Trump's administration, while M. Pompeo (was the member of the House of Representatives' Committee on Intelligence) has been proposed for the post of CIA Director. They both are committed to a strict policy towards Russia. Similar is the position of a candidate for the post of US Secretary of State G. Bolton. In particular, he called to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons and to reanimate former US President George W. Bush's plan to grant our Country membership in NATO as soon as possible.

D. Trump's attitude to the Alliance has also changed. Thus, on 18 November, 2016, during D. Trump's telephone conversation with NATO's Secretary-General J. Stoltenberg, the Alliance's importance for the United States was confirmed.

 

II. Russia's Armed Aggression against Ukraine

The most important for Ukraine is the recognition by the international community of the fact of Russia's armed aggression against our State, that strengthens Ukraine's positions and creates additional prerequisites for the external pressure on the Putin regime, including in the legal (judicial) sphere.

Голосування по проекту резолюції «Ситуація з правами людини в Автономній Республіці Крим та місті Севастополь»Thus, November 15, 2016, the UN General Assembly Committee for Human Rights by a majority of votes supported the Ukrainian draft resolution entitled “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)”. The Resolution is the first UN document to recognize Russia as an occupying power, and the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea and the city of Sevastopol — as occupied territory.

The resolution reaffirms the territorial integrity of Ukraine and non-recognition of Russia's annexation of the Crimea, calls on Russia to grant the UN representatives an access to monitor the situation on the peninsula, but also contains an appeal to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a separate report on the situation in the Crimean Peninsula. Besides, it condemns the forced recruitment of the inhabitants of the occupied Crimea to the military service in Russia, which is contrary to the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Voting on the Resolution demonstrated the world community's real attitude to the Putin regime. Thus, on the side of Moscow were China and India, which always stay away from such resolutions of UN; Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which are Russia's partners in the former Soviet Union; Angola, Bolivia, Burundi, Cambodia, Cuba, Comoros, North Korea, Iran, Nicaragua, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, who count on some support from the Kremlin.

On the eve, the International Criminal Court made public an annual report by the Public Prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal F. Bensouda, which terms Russia's occupation of the Crimea as Moscow's armed aggression against Ukraine. It recognizes the fact of the use of Russia's regular Armed Forces to capture Ukrainian territory. Besides, it contains data on the Russian occupation authorities' violations of human rights in the Crimea. On this basis it is concluded that the situation in the Crimea is subject to the Rome Statute (includes the spread of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court for citizens of the states parties to this Statute).

The above-mentioned circumstances create direct opportunities for the International Criminal Court's opening criminal cases against Russia's leadership for war crimes. This threat is particularly relevant to V. Putin's regime after the recognition by the Special Investigation Commission of the Netherlands of Moscow's being involved in the destruction of the Malaysian passenger plane in July 2014 over the conflict zone in the Donbas. November 15, 2016, the Investigation Commission expressed its intention to make public before 2018, the official data regarding the persons who are directly responsible for the destruction of the aircraft.

With this in mind, Russian President V. Putin signed a decree on Russia's refusal to participate in the Rome Statute, in order to eliminate the juridical grounds for bringing representatives of the Russian leadership and its puppets — Donbas separatists to the International Criminal Court.

 

2.1. The East of Ukraine (The ATO zone)

Russia's leadership is using the political situation in the United States to increase pressure on Ukraine in order to force our State to accept Russia's terms for the “settlement” of the situation in the Donbas. Evidence of this is the intensification of shelling of the ATO forces' positions and peaceful settlements to 40-50 per day, with a trend towards further intensification of the fire from the Russian-terrorist forces, as evidenced by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in the Donbas.

Besides, the OSCE observers point out the facts of Russian troops being built up in the occupied territories of Ukraine, as well as militants' blocking the international representatives' access to the main areas of fighting. Based on the situation in the zone of conflict, US Ambassador to OSCE Daniel Bayer expressed his serious concern about the possibility of Russia's “hybrid army”'s Mariupol offensive.

 

2.2. The Crimean Peninsula

At the same time, V. Putin's regime continues successive measures aimed at creating a negative image of Ukraine before the new US leadership (and, in general, before the international community) as of a country that “...conducts policy of state terrorism”. Thus, last week Russia made public “confessions” of persons detained by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation in Sevastopol on November 10, 2016 for “the preparation of acts of terrorism”, about their “belonging to the military intelligence of Ukraine”. Besides, Russia's FSB detained another “Ukrainian spy”.

To make the story more resonant, at the end of November Russia has planned to conduct anti-terrorist trainings in Dzhankoy and some other towns in the North of the Crimea. At this, local residents are banned from photographing and filming of the above-mentioned activities, as well as from watching them. At the same time, in the Crimean Peninsula, there is a new wave of arrests of those who disagree with V. Putin's regime's policy.

 

2.3. Other Aspects of the Russian Federation's Actions against Ukraine and the West

November 15, 2016, against the background of the election of D. Trump the US President, Russia has begun another large-scale operation for applying massive missile and bomb strikes in Syria. The operation is being carried out by Su-24M and Su-34 front-line bombers of the VKS — Russian Aerospace Forces stationed in Syria, the ship's fighters Su-33 of the heavy aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov”, and by the ships from the Russian Navy group in the south-eastern part of the Mediterranean sea, which carry out launches of cruise missiles. November 17, 2016, cruise missiles were launched from the airspace over the waters of the Mediterranean Sea from aircraft of the Russian long-range bomber aviation (they had flown about 11 thousand kilometers, with two refuels in the air, from the airfield in the central part of the Russian Federation over the northern seas and the North Atlantic).

However, on 17 November 2016, in the Western Military District of Russia, the 20th Combined Arms Army (OVA, with Headquarters in Voronezh) started trainings to master an operation on the Ukrainian direction (Chernihiv, Sumy and Kharkiv) with the use of a wide range of weapons. The operation involves the units of the 20th OVA positioned in close proximity to the borders of Ukraine — in Bryansk, Kursk, Belgorod and Voronezh regions of Russia.

Besides, Moscow continues its actions to discredit Ukraine in front of the leading European countries in the energy sector. November 14, 2016, Russian President V. Putin in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor A. Merkel pointed out the possibility of “...Ukraine's unauthorized taking the Russian gas destined for Europe in winter”. To study this issue, Moscow initiates a special meeting of the representatives of the Ministry of Energy of Russia, “Gazprom” and the European Commission.

 

III. Ukraine, International Organizations and Leading Western Countries

3.1. International Organizations

The possibility of changes in Washington's policy after D. Trump's having been elected the new US President is a concern of the major part of the American political circles and of some European countries and international organizations. At this, they voice consolidated points of view about the need to preserve Washington's previous policy of containment of Russia, support to Ukraine and close cooperation within the framework of NATO and the EU.

In particular, such a position has been demonstrated in the course of US President B. Obama's meeting with the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain on 18 November 2016, in Berlin, as well as separately with the leaders of the EU and NATO.

The European Union. In order to determine the European Union's policy towards the new US administration, on the 14th of November 2016, there was a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the EU countries. They acknowledged a possibility of D. Trump's decreasing attention to the situation in Europe, which requires strengthening of the EU's responsibility for its own security. Besides, they confirmed the immutability of the European Union's position regarding Ukraine and Russia, as well as Iran and Syria. However, the EU leaders expressed willingness to cooperate with the new US administration.

Following the meeting, was adopted the EU Global Strategy Implementation Plan on Security and Defence. In particular, it is supposed to create a common military staff (will lead the non-combat military missions) and the EU joint forces of rapid response, specification of possibility of combat use of battalion groups of the European Union, as well as determination of instruments of “soft power” and civilian crisis response tools. However, it was pointed out that the EU has no intention to create a separate European army, and that NATO remains the main factor in ensuring the coalition security in Europe.

At the same time, the meeting confirmed the existence of political differences within the European Union. Thus, the Foreign Ministers of Britain, France and Hungary did not come to the meeting. According to some estimates, the reason for this was the unwillingness of the leaders of those countries to oppose themselves to D. Trump.

NATO. NATO's leadership has reaffirmed that it would continue its previous course with regard to Russia and Ukraine. According to NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg, the Alliance will never agree to the violations of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. At the same time, he expressed NATO's firm intentions to continue measures to strengthen its military presence in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic states.

Besides, the Alliance's support for Ukraine was demonstrated during the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission on 15 November, 2016. At this, the NATO leadership expressed concern about the tension in the Donbas, complication of the humanitarian situation in the region, and violations of human rights in the Crimea. The participants of the meeting also agreed to deepen military cooperation between NATO and Ukraine.

 

3.2. Leading Western Countries

The USA. The United States' current government continues to show its firm position regarding Russia. In particular, the US Department of Defense has accused Moscow of conducting an aggressive policy towards Ukraine and Georgia, as well as Europe. Given this, there was pointed out a need to continue the US policy to contain the regime of V. Putin and to maintain readiness to repulse a possible act of Russian aggression in Europe. Besides, the US Defense Department opposed the deepening of cooperation between the USA and Russia on the Syrian issue. As the reason for this was named Moscow's support for B. Assad's regime, which only adds fuel to the fire of the civil war in Syria.

In their turn, the MPs from the Republican and Democratic Parties in the US Congress called on D. Trump to provide a decisive response to Russia's actions in Ukraine and Syria, as well as to its attacks on US computer networks. According to Democratic Senator B. Cardin (initiator of the “Magnitsky list”), he is preparing a draft law on this issue.

At the same time, within the framework of pressure on Russia, the United States has imposed sanctions against six Russian citizens — “deputies” of the State Duma from the occupied Crimea. Besides, the House of Representatives of the US Congress has overwhelmingly adopted draft laws on extension of the “Act of Sanctions against Iran” (intended to curb its actions to obtain nuclear weapons), and on imposing sanctions against the Syrian government and its supporters — Russia and Iran for military crimes.

Germany. The German government reaffirms the immutability of its policy as of the main partner of Ukraine in Europe and the initiator and conductor of the European policy of pressure on Russia. According to Federal Chancellor of Germany A. Merkel, despite the election of D. Trump as US President, Germany will not change its policy of supporting Ukraine, and will not lift sanctions from Russia until it fulfills the Minsk Agreements and gets out of the Crimea.

Last week's important political event in Germany was the official beginning of the election campaign in the country within the framework of nomination of candidates for the German Parliament. At this, the FRG's intelligence services pointed out Russia's attempts to influence the results of the parliamentary elections in Germany in order to bring to power pro-Russian forces. The evidence of such a threat are Moscow's targeted actions to discredit A. Merkel.

France. Despite his relatively tolerant attitude to Russian, French President F. Hollande confirmed the firmness of Paris's intentions to maintain sanctions against Russia. At the same time, he supported Ukraine's position regarding the impossibility of holding elections in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions prior to resolving the security issues in the conflict zone.

 

IV. Other Important Trends and Developments that Affect Ukraine's National Interests

Russia. International financial institutions have pointed out the enduring tendency to foreign currency outflows from Russia being greater than the money coming into the country that has been observed for five months in a row. The reasons for this are a sharp decline in revenue from the Russian oil and gas exports, as well as the stagnation of the RF's foreign trade as a result of Western sanctions and Moscow's counter-sanctions. At this, all the available in Russia currency is used for the purchase of imported goods from “third” countries that do not support sanctions against the Putin regime.

In total, over the past 10 months, Russia's currency revenue has declined by 16 billion US dollars to the level as of 1999. Experts predict that with current oil prices, already in 2017 Russia will not have funds to cover the foreign debt and the ruble exchange rate will fall to 82 rubles for 1 US dollar.

Against this background, there is a further deterioration of the situation in Russia's top state leadership. Thus, on 15 November, 2016, on a charge of being bribed by the “Rosneft” company, was detained Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation A. Ulyukayev. At the same time searches were conducted in the office of “Rosnano”, which is headed by the former head of B. Yeltsin's Administration and the Deputy Prime Minister in Ye. Gaidar's government — A. Chubais.

According to the official reports of pro-government Russian media, the above-mentioned is a manifestation of V. Putin's strict policy to fight corruption in the country. However, according to independent experts, the real reason for the above-mentioned actions of law enforcement bodies of the Russian Federation is intensification of the struggle for access to financial resources in Russia's ruling circles. At this, the “siloviki” in V. Putin's inner circle strike at the liberal wing of the Russian political and economic establishment.

Moldova, Bulgaria. According to the results of the second round of the presidential elections in Moldova (November 13, 2016), the winner was the leader of the Socialist Party of Moldova I. Dodon, who sticks to a firm pro-Russian position. On the same day, the presidential elections in Bulgaria were won by the representative of the Bulgarian Socialist Party R. Radev, who is also Russia-oriented.

The above-mentioned is bad for Ukraine in terms of the possibility of those countries' turning to Moscow's positions. For example, I. Dodon has already expressed his intention to hold a referendum on the abolition of the Moldova–EU Association Agreement and the country's joining the Eurasian Economic Union. In turn, R. Radev plans to raise in the EU a question about lifting sanctions against Russia.

 

V. Main Trends in the Development of the Situation around Ukraine in the Future

5.1. Key Events and Trends that Will Be Most Important for Ukraine

In the near future the main factor of influence on the interests of our State will be the process of the new US leadership's determining the main directions of the American policy towards Russia, Europe and Ukraine. Taking into consideration D. Trump's pre-election promises, and his first steps after being elected President of the USA, at the initial stage such Washington 's policy will be controversial and unpredictable.

First of all, it may relate to D. Trump's possible attempts to reach compromises with Russia (including at the expense of Ukraine), as well as to revise the US commitment to NATO and the plans for deepening the economic and trade cooperation with the EU. However, such D. Trump's actions will cause increase in resistance of the major part of his environment, the Republican Party and the majority of deputies of the US Congress who advocate for the preservation of Washington's tough position on Russia, further supporting Ukraine and deepening relations with NATO and the EU. All this will make adjustments to the policy of D. Trump, who will be forced to refrain from drastic changes in the USA's foreign policy.

Despite this, V. Putin's regime will try to use to the maximum the post-election situation in the United States for its own benefit. For example, Moscow will raise the question of the “reset” of relations between Russia and the United States. At the same, V. Putin's regime will increase pressure on Ukraine in order to force our State to agree to Russia's terms of resolving the conflict in the Donbas. Besides, Russia will intensify its activities to destabilize the situation in Ukraine on a large-scale in order to create preconditions for the restoration of the pro-Russian government in our State. It is at this that the inspired by Moscow current protests in Ukraine are aimed at.

The Kremlin will pay special attention to undermining the EU's unity and to strengthening Russia's positions in Europe. First of all, in this respect, Moscow will try to influence the results of the parliamentary elections in Macedonia (December 11, 2016), in Germany (August-September, 2017), as well as of the presidential elections in France (April 2017).

 

5.2. Prospects for the Development of Events in the Conflict Zones of Ukraine

As part of the pressure on Ukraine in matters relating to the settlement of the situation in the Donbas, the Putin regime will continue measures to maintain tension in the conflict zone in the East of our State, including the possibility of resumption of active offensive operations. This will be aimed also at destabilization of the situation in Ukraine in general, dispersion of efforts of the Ukrainian authorities in the situation of the beginning of protests in our Country.

The absence of real prospects for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the East of Ukraine was confirmed by Director of US National Intelligence J. Clapper in his speech at the Congress (November 17, 2016). According to him, Russia's strategic goal is to maintain its influence and military presence in the Donbas. That is why it will continue putting pressure on Ukraine and will never fulfill the Minsk Agreements.

In turn, Russia's main efforts on the “Crimean” direction will be aimed at blocking the possible adoption by the General Assembly (GA) of the United Nations of the Ukrainian draft resolution on the Crimea, adopted by General Assembly Committee on Human Rights on 15 November, 2016. The UN General Assembly's consideration of this issue is scheduled for mid-December this year. Until that time, Moscow will be doing its best to change the attitude of the members of the UN General Assembly to Ukraine in Russia's favour.

To achieve the above-mentioned goals, V. Putin's regime will apply a wide range of methods, including working through diplomatic channels, promoting its interests through the Russian lobby in political and business circles of other countries, and combining measures of bribery and political/economic blackmail. Russia will also try to discredit Ukraine by organizing resonance provocations in the Crimea, including the acts of terrorism, accusing Ukraine of them. Some preconditions are already being created by Moscow in terms of “FSB' s detention of Ukrainian spies in the Crimea”.

In general, the above-mentioned circumstances suggest a high probability of Russia's preparing an offensive in the Donbas in order to expand the territory of the breakaway republics, and to provoke a large-scale internal crisis in Ukraine in the situation of the USA's attention being focused on the problem of the transfer of power in the country.

The signs of this are as follows: the increase in the number of Russian troops in the occupied territories of the Donbas and the aggravation of the situation in the conflict zone in the East of Ukraine; the OSCE and foreign intelligence services' information about the threat of the Russian — terrorist forces' attempts to capture the city of Mariupol; the beginning of the trainings of the 20th OVA (Combined Arms Army) of the Western Military District of the RF AF next to Ukraine's borders; intensification of anti-terrorist operations in the North of the Crimea; Russia's inspiring social unrest in Ukraine; Putin's regime's activities to discredit our Country in the eyes of the world.

 

5.3. Other Important Events that Will Have an Impact on Ukraine's Interests and Security

Important for our Country in terms of accelerating the process of its European integration will be the EU–Ukraine summit of November 24, 2016, in the course of which the liberalization of the visa regime for Ukrainian citizens will be considered. Previously, on 26 September, 2016, the profile Committee of the European Parliament voted for including Ukraine in the list of countries with which the EU introduces visa-free regime, and for the start of negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council concerning the visa-free regime for our Country. However, the final decision of this matter is complicated by the EU's leadership's intention to develop and implement a mechanism for cancellation of visa-free regime with Ukraine (a mechanism of suspension of the agreement on visa-free regime with Ukraine) in case of force majeure (e.g., in case of a critical aggravation of the situation in Ukraine).

 

www.reliablecounter.com