Ukraine: Daily Briefing – August 30, 2017, 5 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
August 30, 2017, 5 PM Kyiv time
1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed or wounded in action. Towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions near Avdiivka and Zaytseve. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions at Krasnohorivka and on the Vodyane-Shyrokyne line. Towards Luhansk, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions near Krymske.
2. US Special Representative Volker interview in Deutsche Welle
US Special Representative Volker. Photo – McCain Institute

US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker was interviewed by Deutsche Welle on August 29. The following are excerpts from the interview.
Some are concerned that Washington might strike some kind of a separate deal with Moscow behind the backs of the Europeans and Ukrainians as well…
[Volker] – That’s absolutely not going to happen. There is no such thing and there will not be any kind of separate deal over the heads of the Ukrainians or behind the backs of the Europeans.
            In fact I’ve been in very close touch with both French and German colleagues before a meeting with my Russian counterpart. And we went through everything in their process. The US has made clear we fully support the Normandy process and it’s not our intention to become a part of it or to try to go over the top of it. And as far as Ukrainians are concerned, I had three visits to Kyiv in just the past six weeks and we’re in very close touch about the contents of any discussions and there is clearly no deal-making over their heads.
You’ve recently said that the US administration is reevaluating its stance towards providing Ukraine with lethal defense weaponry. This prompted critical comments from Moscow. Have the Russians raised this issue in their private conversations with you? […]
[Volker] Having been invaded and part of its territory taken it’s quite reasonable for Ukrainians to want to be better able to defend themselves. […]
             The way I see it is that there is no distinction between Russia’s invasion, occupation of either Crimea or the Donbas. In the case of Crimea, however, they have also claimed to annex the territories – not only occupying it, but taking it for themselves. I don’t think we should be accepting or legitimizing any of that. That being said, the Minsk agreements are only about eastern Ukraine. And if we can make progress there, we should try to make progress everywhere, but I don’t think progress in one place should be hostage to progress in another. […]
              I think it’s a failure of the international community and first on the part of Russia to invade and take a part of Ukraine territory in violation of the Budapest memorandum, but also for the United States, UK, France and the broader international community to have given a security guarantee like that and then not have stood by it. And so it is important that we don’t give up on that and try to actually restore Ukraine’s integrity and to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. […]
           I think Secretary Tillerson and Secretary [of Defense James] Mattis have both defined it very clearly: success is the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as security for all of Ukraine’s citizens.”
3. Atlantic Council: How Trump Can Get Putin’s Attention
Writing for the Atlantic Council, Stephen Blank, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, stated, “Two days after Russia told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson it was willing to talk about Ukraine, Moscow unilaterally and illegally closed the Kerch Strait, ostensibly for technical reasons. So much for a willingness to talk. Russia is not only threatening Ukraine again, it also is displaying contempt for President Donald Trump personally. Moscow’s targeting of Ukraine and its economy are obvious.
           The Kerch Strait connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. Its closure cuts off the two strategically important Ukrainian port cities of Mariupol and Berdiansk, along the northern shore of the Azov Sea, which are major export centers to the West for Ukrainian steel, from the Black Sea. Moscow is signaling that it can strike at Ukraine’s society, politics, and economy whenever it likes.
           Closing the strait is also a strike at Washington; if Moscow wanted to talk seriously about Ukraine with Trump, this action would not have occurred. […]
           Trump should understand what Putin is up to. The psychological warfare of showing bravado and contempt is one that Trump employs, but it is not one he or we should tolerate. Indeed, whatever else we have done, the West is successfully imposing major costs upon Russia through the newest round of sanctions plus the extension of older ones. The limits to Russia’s capacity for military escalation are actually becoming clearer. The situation calls for continuing and extending those costs, while leaving the door open for serious negotiation when Moscow is truly ready. […]
          In practice this means that Washington should send US Navy warships into the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait to demonstrate our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity and the freedom of navigation on the seas, which has been a cornerstone of US foreign policy since 1789. […]And NATO should do the same thing.
          Another way to impose costs on Russia is to give Ukraine the defensive weapons it needs and has requested to fight aggression. Not only is this in keeping with US policy since 1947, it also shows Putin and his cronies that he cannot redraw borders or disrespect the United States without paying the price. […]

Failure to respond to these deliberate provocations only invites more aggression. Indeed, it is the failure to send Ukraine the help it needs that encourages unceasing Russian acts of aggression. The more this war comes home to Putin, the sooner it will become more difficult for him to sustain. And that, after all, has been the US objective from the start. The full article is available at How Trump Can Get Putin’s Attention 

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