The Ukraine situation is oddly stable. There has been no change in the line of contact between Ukrainian and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. There was destruction of property, but few casualties and no changes in the trace of the line of contact.
The latest significant event was the prisoner exchange on 27 December in which 74 Ukrainians were swapped for some 235 eastern Ukrainian rebels. Ukraine was supposed to have transferred 306 prisoners, but the rest reportedly decided to remain in Ukraine. The exchange occurred without incident.
About 19 December, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission reported a 35% surge in ceasefire violations in a week. The observer group reported 16,000 violations in the week ending 17 December. They described the violations as the worst since last February.
The map below is the daily situation map produced for Ukraine’s national defense and security council and posted to the web. It shows three exchanges of fire on 28 December. During the Christmas weekend, a truce was in effect. The daily situation maps showed no exchanges of fire.
Fighting surges whenever a new diplomatic initiative emerges, sanctions against Russia are up for renewal or when Russia, the US or Ukraine take some action.
The last surge in fighting began the day after the departure on 19 December of Russian military officers from the Joint Coordination and Control Center that monitors the ceasefire. Russian officers were ordered to leave because of the supposedly “tense moral and psychological situation” and “disrespectful attitude of Ukrainian servicemen.”
The next surge is due at any time because the US announced on 22 December that it would provide Ukraine with enhanced defensive capabilities. This will spark another surge in ceasefire violations and a surge in Russian support to the separatists in order to main the balance of forces. The sale of defensive US made anti-tank weapons shouldn’t destabilize much, but they provide a boost in morale to the Ukrainians.
Ukrainian President Poroshenko remains committed to recovering the separatist region, known as the Donbass, and Crimea. Russian President Putin is equally determined to maintain the status quo. More shelling is certain, but the line of contact is not likely to change.
The people of Donbass and Crimea overwhelmingly want to be part of Russia, not Ukraine.
Yep, this one has dropped off the media radar, and it's not even back burner anymore. I'm guessing the 'major' action will wait until after the Russian elections this year.
We still have soldiers and Seabees there. Is their function some kind of trip wire/human shield?
The given reason is training Ukraine military. Just how much training do they need that they can't provide themselves?
If there is major action. It's a bit of a tar baby for Putin. I think that they had plans to do something, but US anti-tank missiles made the calculus there far more challenging. Loss of tanks to the Russians is not a small thing. They'll go back to the drawing board but I'm really unsure what the Russians will do with that.
Add to that the fact that the Ukrainians are a$$holes of the first order.
We have soldiers in countries surrounding Russia, all of whom act as tripwires. Russia is interesting in being greater than it is, but they don't want a kinetic exchange with the US. In truth, they never did. The Soviet Union moved slowly and carefully. Today Russia (far weaker) does the same thing.
I understand the Russians have a test-bed for electronic warfare and get a good chance to develop their equipment. Equally the US get a fair chance to experience their own equipment. The new T-XX is said to be well protected against RPG and similar weapons. Maybe these will show up in due time. I understand it is a "friendly" atmosphere between the two enemies illustrated on how the generals communicate. The Ukrainian general carry many cell phones and when the Russians have figured out where he is they jam the system and start sending shells for immediately after calling from one general to the other and ask how he liked it. It might not be true but communication is crucial.
Ukraine and Syria have been places where the Russians could test weapons – Syria more than Ukraine. The addition of US anti-tank (defensive) weapons systems creates a larger political situation for Russia than it does a military one. Ukraine doesn't have the strength to take back the territory that it lost and Russia wins by having the locals hold territory. However, with American assertion (to a greater extent), It creates morale issues.
Syria was better for Russia because they could do whatever they wanted and didn't have to worry about a kinetic war with the US.
Wars and rumours of wars… and now stirring in Iran? Curious.
Maybe the Iranians will rise up and throw out the Imams.
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