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FOREIGN POLICY INSIGHT / March 4, 2014 1
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March 4, 2014
FOREIGN POLICY INSIGHT
Russian Aggression, International Support and
Action Plan for Ukraine
1. Russian aggression and the international response................................................... 2
1.1. Positions of major global players ....................................................................... 2
1.2. Geopolitical and economic interests of Russia .................................................. 2
1.3. Conspiracy theories ............................................................................................ 3
1.4. Restraints of the Russian special operation........................................................ 4
1.5. Information war: Russia vs Maidan ................................................................... 4
2. Plan of action for Ukraine......................................................................................... 5
3. Conclusions............................................................................................................... 6
FOREIGN POLICY INSIGHT / March 4, 2014 2
Russian aggression in Crimea and power play on the Ukrainian-
Russian border has become a key issue of the international agenda
today. Russian actions are aimed at making the world take into
consideration its own geopolitical ambitions, enforcing the order of the
post-Soviet region which would best fit its interests as well as solving a
number of its internal problems.
The international community demonstrates an increasingly
appropriate response to Russian aggression - it was the stance of global
players that became a major counterbalance to the Russian pressure.
However, further steps need to be taken by Ukraine’s new leadership to
strengthening their institutional capacity in terms of responding to this
serious challenge from their neighbour.
1. Russian aggression and international response
1.1. Positions of major global players
Insisting on the legitimacy of Viktor Yanukovych, Russia used him as
a tool in achieving its goals in Crimea, while breaching a number of
international treaties, namely:
United Nations Charter;
1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law;
1975 Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and
Cooperation in Europe;
1997 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership
between the Russian Federation and Ukraine;
Agreement on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet
stationing on the territory of Ukraine dated August 8th
, 1997 (it
was prolonged in April 2010).
Besides, refusal of the Russian Federation to carry out preliminary
consultations with Ukraine and the countries, which are guarantors of its
security and territorial integrity (Great Britain, USA and France), blatantly
neglects international commitments enforced in the Budapest memorandum
Russia breached a
1.2. Geopolitical and economic interests of Russia
From geopolitical viewpoint, Crimean affairs are part of Russian
foreign strategy and the means to enforce its geopolitical positions,
predominantly in the region it considers to be its area of influence.
Through the campaign in Crimea Russia tries to attach the Crimean
peninsula to a so-called “small security belt” which already includes
Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, and Kaliningrad.
At the same time it wants to increase the presence of its Navy in the Black
Sea, which is perceived as a component of national security system and
factor of regional stability in confrontation with NATO.
Besides, Russia tries to solve the following economic tasks:
To ensure energy security through reducing the cost of South
Stream which, in this case, would be constructed on the
continental shelf of the Black Sea instead of deep international
Russia tries to
peninsula to a so-
FOREIGN POLICY INSIGHT / March 4, 2014 3
To use gas pipelines to “tie” Crimea to Russia, whereas
nowadays the former totally depends on Ukraine in terms of
infrastructure and resources;
To neutralize or take under the Russian control profitable
projects of gas exploration and extraction in the Black Sea,
which were initiated by Ukraine with the assistance of major
European and American companies;
To deprive “Ukraine without Crimea” of major territory of
exclusive economic zone in the Black Sea etc.
1.3. Conspiracy theories
In order to explain the Russian logic, experts consider several
1. A Russian game to raise the stakes. Russia decided to use the
vulnerability of the newly appointed Ukrainian government in order to raise
the stakes in the negotiations on Ukrainian-Russian relations after Maidan.
Such a step was aimed at preventing new Ukrainian officials from raising
the issues of Kharkiv treaties denouncement or the withdrawal of the
Russian Black Sea Fleet from the territory of Ukraine. According to this
scenario, after Russian power play, which would not transform into military
conflict, the parties will start negotiations where Russia will insist on its
terms for the conflict resolution. Russia needs a loyal Ukrainian government
which would not enter NATO and would take into account Russian
economic and military interests.
2. Russian reply to the US. Russia perceives Ukrainian Maidan
exclusively as an American “special operation”, the first stage of post-Soviet
“democratization” based on the scenario of the Arab spring. The Kremlin
believes that events in Ukraine from November 2013 – February 2014 may
serve as an example for weakening Putin’s regime in Russia. Therefore, after
Yanukovych’s defeat Moscow decided to counterattack and fight the US on
the Ukrainian territory. In this case it is unknown how far Russia would go;
yet, considering the vulnerability of the newly appointed Ukrainian
government, Moscow may try to split the country and return Viktor
Yanukovych as a puppet leader of a quasi-state.
3. Oligarchs’ theory. Supporters of this theory believe that
Viktor Yanukovych failed to ensure Russian interests in Ukraine and
Vladimir Putin decided to return or introduce other individuals in Ukrainian
politics. The scenario of aggression on the Crimean peninsula was used to
regain control over the processes in the country and allow particular
individuals to get power. In this case Moscow will start negotiations or make
concessions when a pre-approved negotiator will be offered to whom
Vladimir Putin will “grant the victory” – settlement of the conflict and return
of control over Crimea.
4. Economic theory. According to this theory, the Russian
leadership understands that their global positions have weakened due to end
of the crisis in the EU, the start of economic growth in the US, considerable
economic growth in the East and progress in the resolution of Iranian
problem. It is believed that by the end of 2014 an irreversible processes will
start in the Russian economic and financial system, and the Crimean affair
was initiated to distract attention from the Russian economic problems and
power play the
parties will start
Moscow may try to
split the country
and create a
negotiator will be
attention from the
FOREIGN POLICY INSIGHT / March 4, 2014 4
destabilize the global economic system.
5. Psychological theory. Certain experts believe that the actions
of Russian political elite are sincere and they reflect psychological and moral
traumas related to the demise of the USSR.
None of these theories are perfect. We do not fully know the
motivation and logic of Russian leaders. It is possible that their actions were
caused by a combination of factors.
At this point it is impossible to say whether Putin will move on to the
“continental” phase of the conflict and how far Russia will go in case of this
phase. Each of the possible options (1. Crimea; 2. Two or three eastern
regions; 3. 6-7 regions of Russian-speaking South East; 4. Zbruch line,
meaning the whole territory of Ukraine except for Western Ukraine) will
depend on a number of factors, namely:
1. War-making capacity of Ukrainian army;
2. Kyiv’s control over regions and local population supporting the
3. Level of international support to Kyiv and pressure on Moscow;
4. Internal political and economic situation in Russia.
The actions of
elite as reflection
What line Russia
is ready to cross
1.4. Restraints of Russian special operation
Though Russians form the majority in the Crimea (58.5%), there are
also considerable minorities – Ukrainians (24.4%) and Crimean Tatars
(12.1%), - who are against Crimea joining the Russian Federation and may
form an alliance against the Russians.
Nevertheless, it was the response of international community that
restrained Russia from further escalating the Crimea conflict. Furthermore,
the NATO-Russia military ratio in the Black Sea is evaluated to be 5 to 1.
Conflict in Crimea will also activate Muslim factor inside Russia and
may cause new terrorist attacks there.
Aggression in Crimea also negatively affected the Russian stock
market and currency rate, which significantly influenced the calculations of
the Russian government. However, at the same time there can be little doubt
that political expediency will be the only factor which will define any further
ratio in the
is evaluated to be
5 to 1
1.5. Information war: Russia vs Maidan
Over the last few months Russia has carried out full-scale
informational campaign to discredit Maidan in the West and eastern regions
Special attention is paid to depicting Ukrainian protesters as
extremists. In particular, considerable efforts are aimed at discrediting
Dmytro Yarosh, leader of Praviy Sektor.
Another element of the Russian campaign is aggressive speculations
over the issues of language and the rights of ethnic minorities, namely
Russians in the Crimea. Thus, Russia delivers a message that Maidan is a
revolution of Ukrainian nationalists, aimed against ethnic minorities.
Due to this fact, informational coverage of events in Crimea looked
like a demonstration of power, rather than a military operation. Messages
in the West
the issues of
language and the
rights of ethnic
FOREIGN POLICY INSIGHT / March 4, 2014 5
from the Russian mass media about Russian soldiers taking control over
military facilities and panic among the Russian-speaking population in
Eastern Ukraine were not true. The press conference of Viktor Yanukovych,
organized on February 28th
, 2014 in Rostov-na-Donu, is perceived as a part
of the information campaign in which the former Ukrainian president is just
a tool of Russian influence.
We may assume that the aim of this information campaign is to
determine the reaction of Ukrainian citizens to the Kremlin’s steps in order
to define the level to which Moscow may raise the stakes at the negotiations
or the potential scale of military intervention.
At present Putin leaves himself space for manoeuvring in Crimean
situation. For instance, it was done through a statement that the Resolution
of the Council of Federation, which allows Putin to use army on the territory
of Ukraine, was adopted based on the information, which was not
In turn, since December 2013 Maidan was losing the information war
in the West. For a long time Russian positions were strengthened by
Ukrainian official diplomacy.
At the same time, actions taken by the new Ukrainian government (in
particular, the decision of the Council of National Security and Defence of
Ukraine on ensuring security and territorial integrity of Ukraine dated March
, 2014 and parliamentary Resolution “On Appeal of Verkhovna Rada of
Ukraine to parliaments of the countries which are security guarantors of
Ukraine and international organizations” dated March 2nd
strengthened positions of Ukraine in future negotiations with Russia.
Crimean affair as
himself space for
2. Plan of action for Ukraine
The Crimean affair showed the institutional vulnerability of the
Ukrainian state machine, its inability to take preventative measures in
conflict situations. When the information on Russian actions in Crimea
appeared in mass media, representatives of the new government were
focused on the distribution of positions instead of ensuring control over
Russian aggression made the Ukrainian government face reality and
act under extraordinary circumstances. Ukraine’s new leadership took
positive steps. However, it is still necessary to strengthen positions for
negotiations, which would make Moscow start negotiations and would raise
Ukraine’s stakes in the process.
What steps may be taken? First of all, an adequate response to the
military threat is needed. For instance, a state of emergency may be
announced in certain regions; the Minister of Defence may start the
mobilization of the army and inventorying its resources with a public report
to Commander-in-Chief on the readiness to fight against the aggressor. It is
necessary to use the Security Service of Ukraine and army units to
strengthen and protect the eastern borders of the country. The government
should arrest people, responsible for the destabilization of situation and
block the borders so that agent provocateurs would not be able to come from
Steps were made to launch a patriotic information campaign; yet more
proactive work with the international mass media is needed.
More importantly, a national coalition of people’s trust should be
affair showed the
FOREIGN POLICY INSIGHT / March 4, 2014 6
formed. It may be achieved through the transformation of the government
headed by Batkivschyna into a government of national unity which will
include professionals representing various regions and parties. Controversial
and weak personalities should be eliminated from the government.
Instead of being an object for geopolitical games, Ukraine should
become their subject. The country needs its own plan for solving the conflict
and competent negotiators.
Ukraine should offer Russia and the international community a new
memorandum which would become a compromise and basis for long-lasting
peace and stability in the region. This Memorandum should grant Russia and
other countries, which do not aim at entering the EU, the prospect of
integration in European area with freedom of movement of goods, services,
capital and people. Such an opportunity would guarantee political
independence of Russia while providing it with access to European
The Memorandum may offer security guarantees to Russia - for
instance, the consent of Ukraine not to integrate with NATO if Russia
withdraws its fleet in 2017 and provides effective international guarantees
for the borders of Ukraine.
This Memorandum may also cover other issues, including language
and humanitarian ones, and in the future it may complement Helsinki
documents and become a mechanism for reforms within OSCE.
There may be many ideas and concepts in negotiations with Russia
and the international community, yet it is important for Ukrainian
government to have the institutional capacity to elaborate them and conduct
negotiations with partners. A key task today is to appoint a professional
negotiator, who could communicate with Russia on a par and have trust both
on the part of the EU and the Russian Federation.
Russian aggression has become the largest challenge for modern
Ukraine. At the same time it has offered a unique chance to review current
architecture of Europe in which Ukraine does not take its due place. We
shall see whether the government will use this opportunity.
offer a new
become a basis for
and stability in the
To appoint a
Russia is a key
By implementing military aggression in Crimea, Russia makes steps
“to force Ukraine to conduct negotiations” on the part of the international
community and major geopolitical players. Moscow sent a clear signal to the
world community that it would not allow them to define the rules on post-
Soviet territory without taking into consideration its interests. Russia leaves
space for negotiations, but it clearly defined the USA and West, not the
Ukrainian government, as a party in these negotiations.
The most important task for Ukrainian diplomacy is to restore direct
dialogue between Kyiv and Moscow, which is the only way to prevent the
final loss of international legal standing. That is why it is extremely
important to appoint a competent negotiator to represent Ukraine.
Discredited individuals who have political or pragmatic interest to use the
conflict for their own sake should not become such negotiators.
Russia will raise the stakes in negotiations with the West to distribute
spheres of influence and with Ukrainian government to consider interests of
Kremlin in its future politics. Moscow will advance to the point to which
Kyiv would allow it through insufficient control over eastern regions and
FOREIGN POLICY INSIGHT / March 4, 2014 7
institutional weakness of the government. It is only through its own actions
that Kyiv may define the limit to which Moscow will advance, solving its
geopolitical, energy and economic interests in the region.
Ensuring a strong national position in negotiations is a key task for
Ukraine. This position should be based on the highest level of war-making
capacity of the army, its mobilization, control over all regions in the country,
consensus of the elites over major state issues till the conflict is solved.
Ukraine should propose a large-scale document to settle the conflict, which
may become a basis for a long-lasting European order.
advance to the
point to which
Experts: Vasyl Filipchuk, Olena Zakharova, Volodymyr Prytula, Iaroslav Kovalchuk, Amanda Paul (European Policy Centre)
@2014 International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS)
If citing please give reference on the ICPS