Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts “Irreversible Arms Reductions” Finds Reverse Gear: Mr. Putin’s Russia Sends a Signal
“Irreversible Arms Reductions” Finds Reverse Gear: Mr. Putin’s Russia Sends a Signal

“Irreversible Arms Reductions” Finds Reverse Gear: Mr. Putin’s Russia Sends a Signal

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit: RIA Novosti)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit: RIA Novosti)


Arguments to the effect that all violence . . . is evil . . .
amount to a philosophy worthy of Quakers and the old
maids of the Salvation Army.
                               -Leon Trotsky (1918)


On 3 October, the Russian government announced that legislation was introduced into the State Duma[1] to suspend a 2000 agreement with the United States for the disposition of equal quantities of weapon-grade plutonium[2] from their respective stockpiles.[3] President Vladimir Putin designated Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ryabkov (who often speaks for the Russian Foreign Ministry on nuclear disarmament matters) to represent him as the Federal Assembly (Federalnoye Sobraniye) deliberates the legislation.[4]

Mr. Putin was referring to the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), which Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed in August 2000.[5] The PMDA commits the United States and Russia each to dispose of no less than 34 metric tons of weapon-grade plutonium from their respective military stockpiles, which is sufficient material for some 17,000 nuclear warheads. The PMDA inter alia gave substance to a 1998 joint statement in which the United States and Russia affirmed their intention to dispose of weapon-grade plutonium stocks and to convert the material into forms unsuitable for nuclear weapons.[6] In April 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signed the Plutonium Disposition Protocol. The 2010 Protocol updated the then decade-old PMDA to address several implementation-related matters, including delineating a preferred disposal method, United States financial support for Russia’s disposal program, and bilateral inspection rights. 

The declared intent of the PMDA and the 2010 Protocol was twofold: to reduce the risk of nuclear theft and terrorism; and to ensure that any effort to reverse nuclear arms reductions would be technically difficult and economically costly. As a practical matter, however, they promised little with respect to reducing the absolute risk of nuclear theft since the agreements applied to weapon-grade plutonium that was already stored in highly secured sites. Weapon-grade plutonium earmarked for disposition at the Mayak[7] Fissile Material Storage Facility in Ozersk[8] (built with United States assistance and operated by Russia’s Rosatom[9]) included some 25 metric tons already in secured storage there. The remainder was stored in secure vaults at Rosotom’s Siberian Chemical Combine[10] in Seversk and the Mining and Chemical Combine in Zheleznogorsk.[11] Consolidating material at Mayak from existing secure storage sites there as well as from Seversk and Zheleznogorsk would do little to nothing to reduce the already negligible risk that the material would be subject to theft or diversion. Moreover, the material in question represents only about a quarter of Russia’s inventory of weapon-grade plutonium (estimated at 128 metric tons ±8 mt[12]), so its effect on “mak[ing] arms control irreversible . . . ” [13] is questionable.

Here is an image[14] of the transmittal document from Sergei Naryshkin,[15] speaker of the Duma, submitting the draft legislation and related documents:

Document submitted by Sergei Naryshkin

Document submitted by Sergei Naryshkin

In seeking Duma authority to suspend[16] the 2000 PMDA (and by extension, the 2010 Protocol), Mr. Putin declared, “In the period since the Agreement and the Protocol entered into force, the United States has taken a number of steps that have led to radical change in the realm of strategic security.”

Under the pretext of the crisis in Ukraine, the United States escalated its military presence in Eastern Europe, including in states that joined NATO after 2000—the year that the Agreement was concluded. In 2015, six new advanced command and control centers were established in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Estonia. Their main task is to ensure a rapid operational response in the event of a decision to project significant NATO force into Eastern Europe. United States armed force units deployed in the Baltics to increase the number of airfields for NATO aircraft. In Ukraine, United States instructors provide training to “Right Sector” militants, whose activities are banned in Russia.[17]

Mr. Putin also accused the United States of unilaterally adopting a disposition method that does not conform to the 2010 Protocol.[18]

“In addition to actions aimed at changing the military-strategic balance,” said Mr. Putin, “the United States had undertaken steps to undermine the economy of the Russian Federation and to violate the rights of Russian citizens.” He cited objections to the Magnitsky Act of 2012 and the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014,[19] both of which impose punitive sanctions on Russian citizens and entities.

Of all the grievances elaborated by Mr. Putin, one is puzzling—alleged United States support for the Ukrainian ultranationalist group known as Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor).[20]

Right Sector flag

Right Sector flag

The sole reference to Right Sector is found in the explanatory note to the draft federal law in the context of discussing the NATO buildup in the Baltics and Eastern Europe. It is not, however, one the explicit conditions (articulated in Article 2 of the draft federal law) that must be satisfied before Russia will consent to return the PMDA and the 2010 Protocol into effect.[21] Mr. Putin’s Right Sector grievance is this: the United States is actuating a direct threat to Russia’s internal security by supporting (which in the specific case of Right Sector, the United States vigorously denies) Ukrainian paramilitary forces. That internal threat is sharpest today with regard to Crimea, the former Ukrainian territory that Russia annexed in March 2014. The Russian government attributed “attempted terrorist attacks” (popytku teraktov) there in August to agents of the Chief Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry (Holovne upravlinnya rozvidky Ministerstva oborony Ukrayiny or “HOR-MUA”).[22] It claimed in late September that Right Sector is acting “with the tacit approval and support of the Ukrainian leadership” (olchalivomu odobreniyu i pooshchreniyu rukovodstva Ukrainy).[23] The purported threat to Russia’s internal security represented by Right Sector and other Ukrainian paramilitaries is the complement to the external threat that is the object of another of Mr. Putin’s stated grievances. It is NATO’s January 2015 decision to establish six forward command centers—three in the Baltics states and three in eastern frontline member-states—and a 5000-troop strong spearhead force (“Very High Readiness Joint Task Force”), the declared ambition of which is to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine.[24]

The Russian Supreme Court in November 2014 banned Right Sector as an extremist organization. In early March 2014, Russia’s main federal investigative agency known as Sledkom (a portmanteau word derived from Sledstvennyi komitet Rossiyskoy Federatsii) accused Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh of “public appeals to commit acts of terrorism” for allegedly posting a statement on Right Sector’s VKontakte or “VK” (a Facebook-like Russian social networking site) page urging Chechen separatist leader Doku Umarov[25] to join Ukraine’s fight against Russia. The message was republished by the Interfax news agency:

Many Ukrainians took up arms to support the liberation struggle of the Chechen people and the other people of the Caucasus. Now is the time for you to support Ukraine! As Right Sector’s leader, I encourage you to intensify your fight. Russia is not so strong as it seems. You now have a unique opportunity to win. Take advantage of this opportunity![26]

The text was accompanied by photographs of unidentified uniformed men, which the Russian government-controlled RT speculated included Mr. Yarosh “since he was one of several Ukrainians who participated in fighting Russian troops in Chechnya during the First Chechen War.”[27] Right Sector spokesperson Artyom Skoropadsk[28] denied the accusation claiming that the group’s VK page had been hacked.[29] Another Russian news portal (the owner of which is reputed to have close ties to Mr. Putin[30]) reported Right Sector’s claim but disputed its veracity.

Right Sector, which just a day earlier confirmed its reference to Doku Umarov was accurate, disowned him in less than a day . . . [31]

In late April, Russia’s Prosecutor General Yury Chaika submitted a report to the Federation Council (Sovet Federatsii)[32] formally accusing Right Sector supporters of using VK to organize mass riots with the intent of fomenting a coup d’etat in Russia.[33] Right Sector spokesperson Artyom Skoropadsk denied the accusation and claimed Russian authorities had long since blocked its access to VK and other social media portals. 

In late September, Sledkom filed a criminal case against five current and former members of Right Sector.[34] It charged Dmytro Yarosh,[35] Andriy Tarasenko,[36] Andrey Stempitskogo, Valery Voronov, and Artyom Skoropadsky, respectively. 

[I]n the period from 2014 to the present, the extremist organization’s leaders and activists engaged continuously in the systematic planning and execution of criminal acts against the Russian Federation, its citizens and diplomatic missions in Ukraine, as well as Russian-speaking non-combatants. The Department stressed that criminal actions by Yarosh, Tarasenko, Stempitskiy, Voronov, and Skoropadskiy continue to enjoy the tacit approval and support of the Ukrainian leadership.[37]

The Ukrainian Internet television station Espreso reported that Mr. Yarosh greeted news of the indictment, which was announced on his 45th birthday, with a post on his Facebook page: “The best greetings from the eternal enemy . . . Death to the Russian Federation!”[38]  

Several days later, the Russian Interior Ministry announced it was looking for the leader of Right Sector’s Kyiv branch, Igor Mazur, who it suspected had been in the Moscow area since early 2016 for the purposes of “engaging in recruiting activists to organize riots in Moscow” and “preparing acts of sabotage in Russia.”[39] Mr. Mazur reportedly[40] was associated with another ultranationalist group, the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian People’s Self-Defence (Ukrayinsʹka Natsionalʹna Asambleya-Ukrayinsʹka Narodna Samooborona) known by its transliterated Ukrainian acronym, UNA-UNSO, which merged with Right Sector in May 2014.[41]

These events seem less consequential than the other factors Mr. Putin cited in his decision to seek legislative authority to withdraw from the PMDA and the 2010 Protocol. The Kremlin has long accused Washington of supporting Ukrainian paramilitaries including but not limited to Right Sector. So why did the Kremlin explicitly cite American military training to Right Sector paramilitary forces?[42]

Recall that the FSB on 10 August 2016 announced that it interrupted a terrorist plot near the town of Armyansk, located in northern Crimea, targeting infrastructure sites in Crimea.[43] The FSB attributed the plot to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate, which issued a rapid categorical denial. The story was picked up quickly by Russian media: a headline on Russia’s REN TV website declared, “Ukrainian terrorists want to flood Crimea’s beaches with blood.”[44] Mr. Putin was explicit though more temperate:

I believe that it is obvious to everyone that the authorities currently in charge in Kyiv are not looking for ways to solve problems through negotiations, but have moved instead to terrorism. This is a very disturbing thing. [ . . . ] Of course, in the circumstances a Normandy format meeting makes no sense. It seems that those who seized and continue to hold power in Kyiv have shifted to terrorism rather than seeking tradeoffs . . . instead of looking for a peaceful settlement.[45]

While the facts surrounding the 10 August incident remain ambiguous—Russia maintains steadfastly that Ukrainian agents provocateurs were behind the plot, while Ukraine maintains with equal vigor that it was a Russian false flag operation—it is true that Ukrainian ultranationalists have long threatened to use force to suppress so-called Crimean “separatism.”

Any attempt to break Ukraine’s territorial integrity will be harshly punished. If the government isn’t capable, Right Sector will form a “friendship train” like we did in the ’90s and go to Crimea. Then the rats will flee when our column enters Sevastopol.[46]

The speaker in this instance is the Ukrainian paramilitary figure and parliamentarian Igor Mosiychuk[47] (see picture below) who made the remark in September 2014.

Igor Mosiychuk (Source: 112 Ukraina screenshot )

Igor Mosiychuk (Source: 112 Ukraina screenshot )

Russian authorities have made similar allegations against Crimean Tatar leaders who oppose Crimea’s annexation. In April 2016, for example, RIA-Novosti—the Russian-language news agency operated by the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media (Ministerstvo svyazi i massovykh kommunikatsiy Rossiyskoy Federatsii)—reported that Mustafa Cemil posted a statement on his Facebook page in which he said that a “suicide battalion” (batal’one smertnikov) had been deployed to Ukraine’s Kherson region to supplement Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service (Derzhavna Prykordonna Sluzhba Ukrayiny or “DPSU”). Mr. Cemil, a Crimean Tatar, is a Ukrainian parliamentarian associated with the political party Petro Poroshenko Bloc “Solidarity” (Blok Petra Poroshenka «Solidarnist’»).[48] In a now familiar pattern, subsequent reports in Russian media portals embellished the RIA-Novosti one, suggesting, for example, that the Asker [literally, a Turkish warrior] and the Noman Çelebicihan[49] (Batalʹyoni Nomana Chelebidzhykhana) Crimean Tatar paramilitary battalions were prepared “to invade the peninsula, if necessary.”[50] As with Right Sector, Russian media reports have alleged the Crimean Tatar paramilitaries also pose a threat to the Kyiv government. According to a 25 September report in Delovaya Gazeta, two deserters captured by Russian authorities “confessed” that the Noman Çelebicihan Battalion “is prepared to blackmail the Kyiv authorities by threatening to sabotage Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Station [in southeastern Ukraine] and the Kakhovka reservoir [in the northern Kherson region].”[51] The same report alleges that the Noman Çelebicihan Battalion is actively collaborating with the Azov Regiment (the former paramilitary group now part of Ukraine’s National Guard) and Right Sector.

Returning to Right Sector, all this begs the question whether there is any basis for claiming that it intends to prosecute an irregular campaign inside Crimea. That possibility does not exclude a more widely held alternate belief: that Russian authorities are using a purported threat posed by Right Sector and likeminded paramilitaries as a straw man. They have raised alarms since mid-August about an imminent provocation along Crimea’s border with Ukraine’s Kherson region, where not coincidentally, Russian authorities have prosecuted an aggressive soft power campaign,[52] both directly and through disinformation (dezinformatsiya) proxies.[53]

If Russian authorities have some credible basis for believing Right Sector (either itself or as a placeholder for other paramilitaries) poses a bona fide threat, it might explain (at least in part) an apparent non sequitur: why Right Sector merited mention in the context of a bilateral dispute with the United States over the disposition of weapon-grade plutonium. There is an intriguing coincidence between that mention and an interview published on 27 September in the Belorussian news portal Tut (“Here”), which received wide attention in Russian and Ukrainian media outlets if little or no coverage elsewhere.[54] The interview is with Elena Belozerskaya, a popular Right Sector combatant and blogger who appears below in an undated photograph with Dmytro Yarosh.

Dmytro Yarosh (left) and Elena Belozerskaya (right)

Dmytro Yarosh (left) and Elena Belozerskaya (right)

“Ukrainian nationalists, including me, are not against the Russian people and not against Russia,” said Ms. Belozerskaya.

We are for the independence of Ukraine—both from Russia, and from other countries, including the European Union. We believe Ukraine has unlimited possibilities and opportunities to become a strong and independent state.[55]

That is the full extent of any accommodating rhetoric. She continued that in Dnepropetrovsk and Odessa, “Unlike the demoralized police and army, we acted unhesitatingly and harshly. Some of the most active ‘Vatnikov’[56] are gone forever, and the rest fled.”[57] As to the multilateral Minsk process to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, she said:

It cannot and should not be observed. The war between Russia and us is a long-standing conflict, one that doesn’t have a peaceful, non-violent solution. By force of arms alone, we’ll find out whether Ukraine is able to exist as a strong sovereign state, or whether it is an integral part of the Russian Empire.[58]

And then there is the matter of Crimea:

Why didn’t we fight in Crimea? We just didn’t have enough time—it was the start of the Donbass fighting. When Right Sector went into the Donbass, we didn’t immediately begin fighting at full strength, so there were only small skirmishes because it took a long time to equip our fighters. When we win in the Donbass, we’ll take up Crimea. Many of us are ready to start a guerilla war there.[59]

It should be said that Mr. Putin is not the only one keeping his eye on Right Sector. In early October, there were multiple reports of clashes with Ukrainian government forces. Right Sector also has an increasingly visible presence in western Ukraine’s Transcarpathia region—an area bordering Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, with a sizeable ethnic Hungarian population—whereby according to at least one account, it operates as the “pocket army”[60] (kyshenʹkovoyu armiyeyu) of the oligarch Viktor Baloha, who has admitted openly to funding the group.[61]


“The ability to get to the verge without getting into the
war is the necessary art. If you cannot master it, you
inevitably get into war. If you try to run away from it, if
you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost.”
                            -John Foster Dulles (1956)

The United States steadfastly denies that it is training or arming Right Sector paramilitary forces. Some former paramilitaries like the Azov Brigade have been brought under the Ukrainian National Guard command structure—not, however, the estimated 5000-strong Right Sector paramilitary force—and have been seconded to bolster National Guard forces, notably in the area of the Crimean isthmus. The United States openly provides training to National Guard units and to its affiliated paramilitaries.

Mr. Putin’s reference to Right Sector as a reason to suspend the PMDA and the 2010 Protocol seems a non sequitur. So we turn, for perspective, to accounts published by two manifestly pro-Russian news portals, Russkaya Pravda[62] and Svobodnaya Pressa,[63] for remarks made last year by Yuri Butusov, a Ukrainian journalist and military affairs commentator, and editor-in-chief of the news portal ([64] The tenor is captured by the expressive headline in Russkaya Pravda—”A Second Afghanistan” (Vtoroy Afganistan).

This will be a local war of low intensity, its forms disguised or hidden, which will strike blows against specific points . . . You don’t need to amass an army and attack somewhere. One simply has to act effectively along the contact line in order to strike at the enemy. It should be like Afghanistan. The Soviet Union unquestionably held all the key positions but regularly suffered losses. And those losses were huge for the country, for despite their small number, they were unacceptable from an economic and political point of view.[65]

“Our main task,” Mr. Butusov added, “is to make for the occupation of Donbass and Crimea a very expensive luxury for Russia.”[66]  An unsympathetic summary of Mr. Butusov’s commentary by Svobodnaya Pressa concluded, “After ‘cleansing’ the Donbass, Ukraine will begin to attack Crimea.”[67] Svobodnaya Pressa said the following in an accompanying commentary:

What does [Butusov] mean? What does this look like in practice? Wouldn’t attempting to unleash a “pocket war” on Russian territory quickly come to an end in Kyiv? [ . . . ] Butsunov’s statement recognizes explicitly that Ukraine has become a terrorist state, one that intends to employ terrorist methods broadly—against its people, against Crimea, and against Russia. Moscow has long understood the necessity of answering all such statements, which threaten terrorist activities on the territory of the Russian Federation. So why aren’t they given sufficient consideration? After all, you can learn how Washington reacts to similar threats and statements, and adopt its methods.[68]

So what are we to make of this? A couple of observations seem warranted. First, Mr. Putin may now take more seriously the threat of an irregular conflict directed against the territory of Crimea waged by a (relative to what Russian-backed forces faced early in the Donbass conflict) a well-trained and armed paramilitary force. The Kremlin’s intent in electing to fall back on the Right Sector bogeyman may be to warn Kyiv (and Washington) of the danger of unloosing forces over which it has tenuous control. Second, Mr. Putin has clearly cast Right Sector (and by extension, Ukrainian paramilitaries as a whole) as little more than a United States proxy force, one effect of which is to threaten to escalate a (at present) low-grade conflict along the Crimea-Kherson frontier to a much higher geopolitical plane. 

It is worth reiterating that Mr. Putin’s public statement about Right Sector in the context of the PMDA and the 2010 Protocol are not reflected in any of the formal documents submitted to the Duma. It is, as a matter of fact, the only articulated reason that is omitted from the documents. So it seems reasonable to conclude that his emphatic point about American support for Right Sector was meant to signal something else.

An admittedly and not wholly controversial observation is that the United States indicated it would not comply with the PMDA and especially, the 2010 Protocol, long before Mr. Putin emphatically suspended its effect. This has to do with the cost to implement the MOX disposition method that the United States agreed to employ. A September 2016 United States Energy Department report concluded, “Based on this 2016 updated PB analysis, the TPC for the MFFF project is estimated at $17.17B with a projected completion date of 2048.”[69] In plain English, that means the Savannah River MOX facility will cost an estimated $17.17 Billion (four times the original cost estimate) by the time it is completed thirty-two years from now in the year 2048. The Obama Administration sought Russian consent—which Mr. Putin declined to give—to replace the agreed-to MOX disposition method with an alternate one—immobilization [see fn(18)]—and ultimately to bury the material at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico (which has been closed since February 2014 due to a radiation leak caused by a drum of nuclear waste that ruptured underground).[70]

While unaccommodating, Mr. Putin’s refusal is hardly tantamount to “nuclear blackmail,” as claimed by such commentators as Russian political scientist Andrei Piontkovsky, writing on the Ukrainian website Apostrophe. Mr. Piontkovsky reaches a plausible conclusion—the PMDA and the 2010 Protocol are more important for what they symbolize than for what they achieve—but his reasoning is flawed. It is, after all, the United States that so far has failed to fulfill its disposition commitment, not Russia.[71]

By itself, the question of plutonium is not very important for both the Americans and Russians . . . But the emphatic rejection of the agreement is of great psychological importance. It’s part of nuclear blackmail by Russia, not so much directed at American leaders and nuclear weapons experts who understands what is happening here, but of Western society as a whole. Because after all, when the public thinks about plutonium, it immediately remembers that it has something to do with nuclear weapons . . . And now, the ‘Putin-channelers” will say, “Putin is a madman, he has nuclear weapons, so let’s not offend him or to drive him into a corner. Let’s give in, and maybe give him Ukraine . . . [72]

With all due respect, Mr. Piontkovsky’s point about the PMDA’s “great psychological importance” simply does not follow from a histrionic imagined conversation about appeasing Mr. Putin.

The Obama Administration erred when it ignored Vladimir Ulyanov’s dictum (usually misattributed to Lenin) that everything is connected to everything else. How it did so in today’s contentious atmosphere is a mystery. Kenneth Waltz elaborated Ulyanov’s dictum as “In reality, everything is connected to everything else and one domain cannot be separated from others,”[73] continuing that “Interdependence usually suggests little more than that. The thought may be the beginning of wisdom, but not its end.”[74]

Here is one such connection. In April 2010, President Obama and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a bilateral arms control agreement known as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or “New START.” Both countries agreed, among other things, to reduce their number of nuclear warheads by February 2018 to no more than 1550 warheads each. Since New START went into effect in February 2011, however, Russia has increased its number of deployed warheads by 259, increasing its strategic arsenal from 1537 warheads to 1796 warheads, or 246 warheads above the February 2018 New START limit.[75] This leaves the disparity in deployed strategic warheads (429 warheads) at its highest point since New START entered into force in February 2011.[76]

There are two explanations for the increase in the number of Russian warheads. The first is that it is a temporary anomaly, one that reflects Russia’s deployment of new Borei-class [NATO Reporting Name: Dolgorukiy] ballistic missile submarines. In September 2016, the third Borei-class SSBN (of an expected total of eight) deployed to the Rybachiy Nuclear Submarine Base on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The second explanation is that Russia is signaling that it may not intend to comply with the New START limits. The practical effect of Russian non-compliance with the New START warhead cap is likely negligible according to a now-declassified May 2012 United States Defense Department report:

Russian deployment of additional strategic warheads . . . even if significantly above the New START Treaty limits, would have little to no effect on the U.S. assured second-strike capabilities that underwrite our strategic deterrence posture. The Russian Federation, therefore, would not be able to achieve a militarily significant advantage by any plausible expansion of its strategic nuclear forces . . . [77]

The political effect could be significant, however, which begs the question why the Obama administration elected to take on the risk associated with unilaterally reframing its plutonium disposition commitment? The Russian journalist Yulia Latynina elaborated this risk in a recent Novaya Gazeta commentary:

Obama really offended the Russians by closing the [Savannah River MOX] plant, though not deliberately. Obama’s decision unwittingly demonstrated that the Russian “radioactive dust” simply was not taken into account, and is not seen as a threat. It is hard to imagine that at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States would have talked about warheads in economics terms and regretted any sum of money spent on the destruction of 34 tons of weapon-grade plutonium. In those days, nuclear parity agreements cost dearly . . . As for the military aspect of the problem, the [New] Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty says Russia and the United States can only have 1550 warheads each. Whether she retains [the weapon-grade plutonium slated for disposition] or uses it as fuel for fast breeder reactors has little direct relevance for international security, that is, until such time as Russia uses it as a pretext for leaving [New] START.[78]

Benignant American intentions notwithstanding, one must take into account Mr. Putin’s perception of crescive United States encroachment in Russia’s borderlands and a United States-trained paramilitary force in Ukraine (with its legacy of highly distasteful, extremist political associations). This is especially important in the context of the United States seeking to change the heretofore agreed to disposition method to one that Russian experts criticize as disqualifyingly impermanent. If the Obama administration expected Mr. Putin to defer without asking for something in return, it was naive in the extreme. A less charitable view is that it used the expected Russian refusal as a pretense to evade implementing the disposition method to which it earlier agreed.  

The inherent danger is that United States’ actions are interpreted to place legacy arms control agreements lower on the geopolitical priority scale than its pursuit of a rump neo-containment doctrine against Russia. Much the same accusation has been leveled at, for example, the Obama administration’s decision to deploy the “Aegis Ashore” ballistic missile defense system on the western Black Sea,[79] which it rationalized unconvincingly as countering the Iranian ballistic missile threat to Europe. Mr. Putin responded in late September 2016 by deploying Russia’s upgraded Yars road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile system to Tver, a Russian region immediately east of Lithuania.

Suspending plutonium disposition will likely have no practical effect one way or the other on the risk of nuclear theft and terrorism. Important symbolism aside, that risk was unaffected by shifting a fraction of Russia’s stockpile of weapon-grade plutonium from one secure site to another. It will, however, affect another consideration, viz., to ensure that any effort to reverse nuclear arms reductions would be technically difficult and economically costly. It is indeed paradoxical that in the end, what derailed the agreement was that the disposition method to which the United States was bound turned out to be technically too difficult and economically too costly, at least from an American perspective. This is not to say that Russia, at some level, was not pleased with the contrast between on the one hand, Russia’s demonstrated technical hand, and on the other, the United States’ inability (or more fairly, its unwillingness) to implement the MOX disposition method. In early 2016, Russia’s state-owned Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation connected Unit 4 of its Beloyarsk nuclear plant—which uses MOX fuel—to the grid.[80]

One important lesson is that the Obama administration cannot, try though it will, unilaterally isolate one domain of its relations with Mr. Putin from all other domains of that relationship any more than any previous administration has succeeded in doing so. The Russian government-operated domestic news agency RIA-Novosti published a commentary by Rostislav Ishchenko titled “Putin’s Ultimatum” (Ul’timatum Putina) immediately after Mr. Putin acted. Mr. Ishchenko begins by asking rhetorically, “Why is Russia only reacting now, even though it has known for several years that the United States is not fulfilling its part of the deal?”[81]

Putin intentionally and deliberately humiliated the United States by demonstrating that it is possible to speak in a manner even tougher than the one to which the United States is accustomed when addressing the rest of the world [ . . . ] Here is the point: Moscow seized the initiative and upped the ante by escalating the confrontation. Unlike America, Russia did not threaten war. It simply demonstrated that it is capable of a tough political and economic response, one that in the event of further inappropriate behavior by the United States can, instead of realizing Obama’s dream, produce the opposite: to tear Washington’s economic and monetary systems to shreds [ . . . ] Russia’s actions have seriously undermined the international prestige of the United States by showing the whole world it can be beaten with its own weapons [ . . . ] The United States has to make a choice, because the longer Washington pretends that nothing has happened, the more of its vassals (it calls them allies, but they are dependents in reality) will bluntly and openly reject American vanity, and flock to the promise of a new global order.[82]

“The geopolitical reality,” he concludes, “will never be the same. The world has already changed.”[83]

So how does Right Sector fit into this? That question is best answered with another: what are the United States’ geostrategic interests in Ukraine, and how do they relate to its actions on the ground there today? We have a policy on Ukraine, to be sure. But “policy is nothing in itself,” Clausewitz wrote, “it is simply a trustee . . .”[84] He meant policy as the purpose for which war is waged—in his words, the “goals aris[ing] out of the political relation of the two antagonists to each other.”[85] A pithier and more helpful lens was offered by Clausewitz’s contemporary, August Otto Rühle von Lilienstern:

There is a Why? and a What For?, a purpose and a cause at the bottom of every war . . . The individual operations have military purposes; the war as a whole always has a final political purpose.[86]

So what are our why and what in Ukraine? One has to wonder when one reads the Jerusalem Post headline earlier this year, “US lifts ban on funding ‘neo-Nazi’ Ukrainian militia.”[87] Is there some enigmatic political purpose worth the cost paid in lost prestige and a bilateral arms control agreement?  Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen plausibly suggests what our why and what may indeed be:

[T]he “Ukrainian Project” to sever Ukraine’s centuries-long ties to Russia originated in Washington, and it is there we witness a last attempt to salvage the project and Poroshenko . . . But as Ukraine descends deeper into social, political, and economic crisis, saving Poroshenko may no longer be possible. Indeed, he seems to think his salvation is a renewed war by Kiev against the rebel provinces, one that might regain him Western support but also lead to all-out war with Russia.

Mr. Putin’s flare regarding the odious Right Sector ought to provoke reconsideration as to whether our purpose and our cause there is worth the cost we will surely have to pay.

The translation of all source material is by the author.

[1] The Russian State Duma (Gosudarstvennaya Duma also known by the portmanteau word “Gosduma“) is the Federal Assembly’s lower house.

[2] Weapon-grade (as distinguished from reactor-grade) plutonium is plutonium that is usable in nuclear weapons. Its composition is predominantly the radioisotope Pu-239 (a decay product of U-239) with low (<7 percent) concentrations of the radioisotope Pu-240 (which can cause a weapon to pre-detonate because of its high rate of spontaneous fission, which produces a substantial neutron flux).

[3] See: Prezident Rossii (2016).V Gosdumu vnesen proyekt zakona o priostanovlenii deystviya soglasheniya mezhdu Rossiyey i SSHA ob utilizatsii plutoniya (3 oktyabrya 2016). Last accessed 4 October 2016. This document is a statement by the President of Russia published 3 October 2016 titled “A bill is introduced in the State Duma to suspend the agreement between Russia and the United States on Plutonium Disposition.

[4] On the same day, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) and other media outlets quoted a Sputnik interview with Mr. Ryabkov, in which he warned of “a very sharp conceptual disagreement” between Russia and the United States over the Syrian crisis. See: “Ryabkov: Russia Received No Notification of Terminating Russian-US Agreement on Syria.” SANA [published online 3 October 2016]. Last accessed 4 October 2016. See also: “Russia, US at Stage of ‘Very Sharp Conceptual Disagreement’ Over Syria. Sputnik [published online 3 October 2016]. Last accessed 4 October 2016.

[5] Formally, “Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation Concerning the Management and Disposition of Plutonium Designated As No Longer Required For Defense Purposes and Related Cooperation.” Last accessed 4 October 2016.

[6] Formally, “The Joint Statement of Principles for Management and Disposition of Plutonium Designated as No Longer Required for Defense Purposes,” signed by the President of the United States of America and the President of the Russian Federation on 2 September 1998. and Last accessed 4 October 2016. The PMDA provided for the material’s disposition by irradiating it as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in nuclear reactors or by any other method that may be agreed by the parties in writing.

[7] The Mayak Production Association (Proizvodstvennoye ob”yedineniye “Mayak”) is one of Russia’s oldest and largest nuclear facilities, having produced components for the Soviet Union’s first nuclear device, the RSD-1, which was detonated in August 1949. Starting in 1994, a joint executive group managed construction of the Mayak Fissile Material Storage Facility, the USD 412 million cost of which was split between the two countries. Construction was completed in December 2003 and it began accepting fissile materials in 2006, after the United States and Russian governments resolved multiple disagreements on transparency, access, and liability. The facility’s planned lifetime is 100 years, and it is built to resist an airplane crash, earthquakes, and floods.

[8] Ozersk is a closed city in Russia’s Chelyabinsk Oblast, a region in the Southern Urals bordering Kazakhstan. It is a so-called “closed city”—the formal designation is a “closed administrative-territorial formation” (zakrytoye administrativno-territorial’noye obrazovaniye)—known informally by its Russian transliterated acronym, ZATO. There are two other closed cities in the Chelyabinsk Oblast involved in the Russian (and before that, the Soviet) nuclear program, Snezhinsk and Tryokhgorny.

[9] Known formally as “The State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom” (Gosudarstvennaya korporatsiya po atomnoy energii «Rosatom»), Rosatom was established in 2008 as the central holding company for Russia’s nuclear energy complex. It is a so-called “state corporation” (Gosudarstvennaya korporatsiya) created under Russian federal law and wholly owned by the Russian government. Rosatom is the successor to a federal agency, which earlier consolidated the activities of several ministries. It operates some 288 enterprises and scientific institutions across Russia’s nuclear energy complex.

[10] The Siberian Chemical Combine (Sibirskiy khimicheskiy kombinat) also known by its transliterated Russian acronym SkHK is located in Seversk (formerly Tomsk-7) in southeastern Siberia’s Tomsk Oblast. SkHK commenced operations in 1953, and for much of its life produced plutonium and highly enriched uranium, and fabricated warhead components. Intelligence experts believe all weapons-related production activities at SkHK have ceased. Its current activities are believed to be uranium feedstock and enriched uranium production; the conversion and storage of fissile materials; and thermal and electric power production.

[11] The Mining and Chemical Combine (Gorno-khimicheskogo kombinata) formerly known as Combine 815 is located in Zheleznogorsk (formerly Krasnoyarsk-26) in Krasnoyarsk Krai, a Russian federal subject at Russia’s geographic center that runs almost the full north-south span of the country. Also known by its transliterated Russian acronym GKhK, it was the Soviet Union’s third plutonium production facility when it was established in 1953. While no longer involved in any weapon-related activity, there are reports of a possible new storage facility at GKhK, possibly in the underground facility that housed its plutonium production reactors.

[12] The 128 metric ton figure is the sum of Russia’s estimated 88mt military stockpile, 6mt of excess military material, and the 34mt subject to disposition under the PMDA. The estimate is subject to variance of ±8mt. See: International Panel on Fissile Materials (2015). “Global Fissile Material Report 2015. Nuclear Weapon and Fissile Material Stockpiles and Production,” 25. Last accessed 4 October 2016.

[13] United States State Department (2010). “2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement Fact Sheet.” Office of the Spokesman (13 April 2010). Last accessed 4 October 2016.

[14]$File/1186208-6_03102016_1186208-6.PDF?OpenElement. Last accessed 6 October 2016.

[15] In late September, Mr. Putin appointed Mr. Naryshkin to the additional post of Director of the Federal Security Service (Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii “) better known by its transliterated Russian acronym FSB.

[16] In his communication to the Duma, Mr. Putin states “The effect of the Agreement and the Protocol to the Agreement can be resumed after the United States eliminates the causes, which led to a radical change in the circumstances that existed on the date that the Ageement entered into force…”

[17] Prezident Rossii (2016), op cit.

[18] The 2010 Protocol binds the United States to use a disposition method in which weapon-grade plutonium is mixed with low-enriched uranium to make fuel (known as mixed-oxide fuel or “MOX”) for use in commercial nuclear power reactors. MOX meets the PMDA’s spent fuel standard once it is irradiated in a reactor. In 2002, the United States Energy Department abandoned (in favor of MOX) an alternate method known as immobilization. It involves incorporating plutonium into a corrosion-resistant ceramic matrix, and then encasing the immobilized plutonium in glass along with other highly radioactive nuclear wastes. The Energy Department’s Savannah River Site’s Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina has been plagued with delays and cost overruns, leading President Obama to order its closure and to shift disposition to the immobilization method at a Department of Energy facility in New Mexico. Russia, however, has declined to consent to the change.

[19] “The Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 provides inter alia for the imposition of sanctions and travel restrictions on Russian citizens deemed responsible for the 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for Hermitage Capital who was investigating suspected tax fraud by Russian officials. Mr. Magnitsky was imprisoned in a Moscow pre-trial detention center on charges of tax fraud at the time of his death in November 2009. President Obama signed it into law on 14 December 2012, and in April 2013 the United States Government sanctioned 18 Russian citizens under the Act. Another five Russian citizens were sanctioned in February 2016.

                The Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 declares,” it is U.S. policy to assist the government of Ukraine in restoring its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to deter the government of the Russian Federation from further destabilizing and invading Ukraine and other independent countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.” President Obama signed the Act into law on 18 December 2014. It requires the President to impose sanctions on foreign persons deemed to be engaged in certain activities related to Russia’s defense industry, and authorizes (but does not require) the President to sanction foreign persons who make what are called “significant investments” in certain Russian oil projects. See: Last accessed 4 October 2016.

[20] Right Sector is a Ukrainian ultranationalist political party organized in November 2013 as a union of several far-right nationalist movements.  In deference to a legal prohibition against political parties maintaining paramilitary forces, its paramilitary arm is known formally as the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps aka “DUK-Right Sector” for its transliterated Ukrainian acronym (from Dobrovolʹchyy Ukrayinsʹkyy korpus). Many Right Sector battalions have resisted integration into Ukraine’s overall command structure, as territorial defense battalions subordinate to the Defense Ministry; as National Guard units subordinate to the Interior Ministry; or as so-called special purpose units subordinate to the Interior Ministry.

[21] Article 2 articulates three conditions to the PMDA and the 2010 Protocol coming back into effect. They address: (1) reducing NATO troop levels and bases to their September 2000 levels; (2) abolition of the Magnitsky Act and all sanctions imposed by the United States on Russia, and on Russian citizens and entities, as well as the payment of damages to Russia for losses incurred under the sanction regime; and (3) the submission by the United States of a plan for permanent plutonium disposition that conforms to the PMDA and the 2010 Protocol.

[22] “Otvetom na «popytku teraktov» v Krymu mozhet stat’ obostreniye v Donbasse.” Verdomosti [published online in Russian 14 August 2016]. Last accessed 11 October 2016.

[23] “Dmitriy Yarosh stal figurantom yeshche odnogo ugolovnogo dela v Rossii.” Verdomosti [published online in Russian 30 September 2016]. Last accessed 11 October 2016.

[24] At NATO’s September 2014 Wales Summit, the alliance agreed to create a spearhead within the NATO Response Force designated the “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.” As envisioned, the VJTF—a land component supported by air, maritime and Special Operations Force elements—would be deployed at very short notice particularly along NATO’s periphery. United States Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said in January 2015, “[W]e have to keep our security commitments to each other. . .  All must contribute to NATO’s new Spearhead Force which will allow us to speed forces to trouble spots, and we must install command and control centers in all six frontline states as soon as possible. NATO is a defensive alliance: our goal is deterrence of aggression; but if that fails, we must be ready.” [ ‘. Last accessed 4 October 2016] The alliance formally agreed at its July 2016 Warsaw Summit to deploy four battalions totaling 3 to 4 thousand troops in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, all of which earlier requested a permanent NATO presence. The VJTF will have bases ready but will not, however, be permanently based. It will be drawn on a rotating basis from the existing 13,000-strong NATO Response Force.

[25] Doku Umarov was a longtime leader of the Islamist insurgency in Russia’s North Caucasus region. He eventually became emir of the self-proclaimed Islamic Caucasus Emirate, an al Qaeda-linked group that operates in southern Russia. Mr. Umarov claimed responsibility for a number of mass attacks against civilian targets inside Russia. His death was reported on 18 March 2014 by the Caucasus Emirate-associated Islamist website Kavkaz Center,

[26] “Lider “Pravogo sektora” poprosil Doku Umarova o podderzhke.” Interfax [published online in Russian 1 March 2014]. Last accessed 4 October 2016.

[27] “SMI: Lider ukrainskogo «Pravogo sektora» poprosil pomoshchi u Doku Umarova.” RT [published online in Russian 1 March 2014]. Last accessed 4 October 2014.

[28] Artyom Skoropadsk (his first name appears as Artem in Ukrainian) is a well-known spokesperson for Right Sector. He was widely quoted in July 2016 when he threatened marchers in a Kyiv LGBT parade. Asked whether Right Sector would use physical force, he responded, “Our goal is to block the march, and that’s the way it goes.” See: “Pravyy sektor ne otritsayet primeneniye fizicheskoy sily k uchastnikam LGBT-marsha v Kiyeve.” Ukraí̈ns’kí Novini [published online in Russian 8 June 2016]. . Last accessed 4 October 2016. He did the same in July 2016 when the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate organized a procession, which he called “absolutely anti-Ukrainian.” See: “Titushki s ikonami: v Pravom sektore otsenili krestnyy khod UPTS MP.” Obozrevatel’ [published online in Russian 11 June 2016]. Last accessed 4 October 2016] In July 2015, he predicted a coup in Ukraine, telling the Voice of America, “If there’s a new revolution, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko and his teammates won’t be able to make it out of the country the way the previous president [pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych] did. They can’t expect anything other than an execution in some dark vault, carried out by a group of young officers of Ukraine’s army and National Guard.” [ Last accessed 4 October 2016.]

[29] “Pravyy sektor otkrestilsya ot obrashcheniya k Doku Umarovu.” Lenta [published online in Russian 2 March 2014]. Last accessed 4 October 2016.

[30] “Kremlin Helps Media Moguls Expand.” The Moscow Times [published online 21 October 2013]. Last accessed 4 October 2016.

[31] “Pravyy sektor ispugalsya i oproverg obrashcheniye Dmitriya Yarosha k Umarovu.” Life [published online in Russian 2 March 2014].новости/128214. Last accessed 4 October 2016.

[32] The Prosecutor General of Russia (General’nyy Prokuror Rossiyskoy Federatsii) heads the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation (General’naya prokuratura Rossiyskoy Federatsii). She or he is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Federation Council (Sovet Federatsii), the Federal Assembly’s upper house.

[33] “Chayka zayavil o popytkakh «Pravogo sektora» sovershit’ gosperevorot v Rossii.” [published online in Russian 26 April 2016]. Last accessed 4 October 2016. is an information portal operated by the Moscow-based media group RBC Information Systems (RBK Informatsionnyye sistemy).

[34] “Ugolovnyye dela, rassleduyemyye upravleniyem po rassledovaniyu prestupleniy, svyazannykh s primeneniyem zapreshchennykh sredstv i metodov vedeniya voyny.” [published online in Russian 30 September 2016]. The translated title reads “The criminal cases investigated by the Department for the Investigation of Crimes related to the use of prohibited means and methods of warfare.” The document was published on the official website of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation Last accessed 4 October 2016.

[35] Dmytro Yarosh led Right Sector until November 2015, when he resigned and was appointed as an adviser to the Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) reporting to Viktor Muzhenko, Chief of the General Staff.

[36] Andriy Tarasenko was elected Right Sector’s chairman in March 2016 following the resignation of Dmytro Yarosh. He previously served as a member of Right Sector’s five-member central office.

[37] “SKR vozbudil ugolovnoye delo protiv rukovoditeley Pravogo sektora.” Life [published online in Russian 30 September 2016].новости/910496/skr_vozbudil_ugholovnoie_dielo_protiv_rukovoditieliei_pravogho_siektora. Last accessed 5 October 2016.

[38] “Naykrashche pryvitannya vid voroha, – imenynnyk Yarosh pro “kryminalʹnu spravu” u Rosiyi.” [published online in Ukrainian 30 September 2016]. Last accessed 7 October 2016.

[39] “MVD razyskivayet lidera “Pravogo sektora” Kiyeva za podgotovku besporyadkov v RF.” Life [published online in Russian 4 October 2016].новости/912128/mvd_razyskivaiet_lidiera_pravogho_siektora_kiieva_za_podghotovku_biesporiadkov_v_rf. Last accessed 5 October 2016. Mr. Mazor was reported to be accompanied by two Ukrainian lawyers, identified as Alexander Zolotukhin and Nikolai Beller. Mr. Zolotukhin was a combatant in eastern Ukraine with the Aidar Battalion (24-y batalʹyon terytorialʹnoyi oborony «Aydar»), a so-called “territorial defense battalion” (Batalʹyóny terytoriálʹnoyi oboróny) attached to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. He appeared in this YouTube video: Last accessed 5 October 2016. Mr. Zolotukhin founded Soyuza veteranov antiterrora “Svat”, which is an organization of pro-Ukraine veterans of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Mr. Beller is better known in Ukraine as the blogger “Donetsk Fascist” (Fashik Donetskiy)

[40] “V Rossii nashli novykh ‘ukrainskikh diversantov’. Kto oni?” Strana [published online in Ukrainian 4 October 2016]. Last accessed 5 October 2016.

[41] The UNA-UNSO was founded in 1990. A November 2008 unclassified United States State Department memorandum on “Ukraine’s Main Extremist Groups” [] said this about the UNA-UNSO:

“Originally a coalition of nationalist groups that venerated Mussolini, it declared itself a political party in 1991.  In response to the August 1991 anti-Gorbachev coup attempt, the organization formed a paramilitary wing – the Ukrainian People’s Self Defense Organization (UNSO).  UNSO fighters were reported to have participated in the 1992 Moldova-Transnistria conflict against Moldovan forces, the 1993 Georgia-Abkhazia war on the side of Georgia, the 1995 conflict in Chechnya on the side of the Chechyens, and in the 1999 Kosovo conflict on the side of the Serbs.

The organization first registered as a political party in 1994 and was subsequently deregistered in 1995 for its radicalism.  It was reregistered in 1997.  UNA-UNSO has limited representation on local councils in western Ukraine and received 16,379 votes in the March 2006 Rada elections. It was involved in the “Ukraine without Kuchma” movement in 2000-2001 and 18 of its members were arrested for violent clashes with police, including Andriy Skhil, who later left the party and is now an MP with the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc. UNA-UNSO supported Yushchenko in the 2004 elections.

[42] It is worth noting that in a February 2016 interview, Ukraine’s Judge Advocate General Anatoly Matios labeled Right Sector “an illegal armed group.” See: “Anatoliy Matios: DUK «Pravyy sektor» ye nezakonnym ozbroyenym formuvannyam.” U-A Reporter [published online in Ukrainian 1 February 2016]. Last accessed 6 October 2016.

[43] Now the former Right Sector leader, Dmytro Yarosh posted a statement on his Facebook page in which he wrote that the FSB’s accusation against the Ukrainian intelligence service recalls “the beginning of the Second World War and the ‘capture’ of the radio station in Gleiwitz by the Poles.” The reference is to a false flag incident that occurred on 31 August 1939, in which Waffen-SS soldiers in Polish uniforms attacked the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz (now Gliwice), a town located in what was then Germany’s Upper Silesia region. The incident was one of several staged provocations along the German-Polish border that were used as pretext for the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939.

[44] “Ukrainskiye terroristy khoteli zalit’ krov’yu plyazhi Kryma.” REN TV [published online in Russian 11 August 2016]. Last accessed 6 October 2016. REN TV is one of Russia’s largest private television channels.

[45] “POLNYY OTCHET: ETO podtverditsya, UKRAINA khunty spetsagenty stolknoveniyem na granitse s FSB.” Tribunal [published online in Russian 11 August 2016]. Last accessed 6 October 2016.

[46] “Pravyy sektor otpravit v Krym «poyezd druzhby.” Lenta [published online in Russian 25 February 2014]. Last accessed 6 October 2016.

[47] Igor Mosiychuk is a well-known Ukrainian ultranationalist. He began in the 1990s as a UNA-UNSO member [see fn(41)], which in early 1992 organized the so-called “friendship train,” which involved sending some 500 UNSO militiamen to southern Ukraine (especially Odessa and Kherson) and Crimea for the purpose of suppressing separatist sentiment. After the UNA-UNSO’s collapse in 1998, Mr. Mosiychuk joined the openly neo-Nazi Social-National Party of Ukraine (Sotsial-natsionalʹna partiya Ukrayiny), which in February 2004 changed its name to the “All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda” (Vseukrayinske obyednannia “Svoboda”) better known as “Svoboda” (“Freedom”). In 2011, he joined Svoboda’s central committee and became its acting press secretary. In January 2014, he was convicted as one of three so-called “Vasilokovsky terrorists,” who were arrested in August 2011 on terrorism and weapons charges for conspiring to destroy the Lenin monument in Vasylkiv (in central Ukraine’s Kyiv Oblast). He and his codefendants were released by prison in late February 2014 when Ukraine’s parliament (known as the Verkhovna Rada) issued a post-Euromaidan general amnesty to 23 persons identified as “political prisoners.” Several weeks later, in April 2014, Mr. Mosiychuk joined the newly formed Azov Battalion, which along with other paramilitaries formed in response to Ukraine’s Acting Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s call for a 15,000-strong force. He became an Azov deputy commander responsible for press relations. In October 2014, he was elected to Ukraine’s parliament (known as the Verkhovna Rada) for the Radical Party of Oleg Lyashko (Radykalʹna Partiya Oleha Lyashka), and was elected deputy chair of the parliamentary committee on law enforcement.

[48] “Dzhemilev zayavil o “batal’one smertnikov” na granitse s Krymom.” RIA-Novosti [published online in Russian 10 April 2016]. Last accessed 7 October 2016. 

[49] The Turkish Government has denied reports that it helped to organize the Noman Çelebicihan Battalion. According to Russian media reports, a spokesperson for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Tanju Bilgicha, said in a written statement, “Information about Turkish support for the formation of the Crimean Tatar battalion does not correspond to reality.” See: “Ankara oprovergla soobshcheniya o pomoshchi Turtsii v sozdanii krymsko-tatarskogo batal’ona.” Delovaya Gazeta [published online in Russian 29 December 2015]. Last accessed 7 October 2016. The battalion is named after Noman Çelebicihan, a Crimean Tatar and the first President of the short-lived (December 1917-January 1918) independent Crimean People’s Republic, who was executed by Bolshevik forces in Sevastopol in January 1918.

[50] “Mustafa Dzhemilev: «Batal’on smertnikov» mozhet vtorgnut’sya v Krym.” Vogne Broda [published online in Russian 10 April 2016]. Last accessed 7 October 2016.

[51] “Begletsy iz «batal’ona Islyamova» rasskazali o planakh protiv Kryma i Kiyeva.” Delovaya Gazeta [published online in Russian 24 September 2016]. Last accessed 7 October 2016.

[52] This is discussed in the author’s recent essay “Distinguishing the True from the False: Fakes & Forgeries in Russia’s Information War Against Ukraine.”

[53] A frequently cited example of the latter is Aleksey Zhuravko, a former Ukrainian parliamentarian, who is a tireless social media poster. He warned in an 10 August post on his VK page [] that Ukrainian authorities were “preparing a serious provocation on the border with Crimea” and had concentrated forces “in the area of the Crimean isthmus” that included “Right Sector, Azov, Asker, and the Wolves.” The latter is a reference to the Turkish ultranationalist group known as the Grey Wolves (formally, Ülkü Ocakları and informally, Bozkurtlar), which is the unofficial militant wing of Turkey’s far right Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi or “MHP”). The Sputnik news agency (part of the Russian government-controlled news agency Rossiya Segodnya) called the Grey Wolves “the Turkish Frankenstein.” []

[54] “Puteshestviye na voynu. Yelena Belozerskaya. Noveyshaya istoriya ukrainskogo natsionalizma.” [published online in Russian 27 September 2016]. Last accesseded 5 October 2016. Some of the media outlets that picked up the story are well-known media cutouts. For example, the Kharkov News Agency (Novostnogo Agentstva Khar’kova) published a summary of the longer Tut article under the headline “Right Sector threatens to start a guerilla war in Crimea” [ Last accessed 6 October 2016] Its name notwithstanding, the Kharkov (the Russian transliteration) News Agency is domiciled in St. Petersburg, Russia, not Ukraine’s Kharkiv (the Ukrainian transliteration) region located on the country’s northeast border with Russia, and bordering Ukraine’s contested Donbass region (Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts).

[55] Ibid.

[56] The idiom Vatnikov means a Russian patriot or nationalist. Its literal meaning is the padded field jacket issued to Soviet soldiers during the Second World War

[57] Ibid. The report in the Russian news portal Moskovskiy Komsomolets added “Kharkov” for good measure, although Ms. Belozerskaya did not. “Natsistka iz Pravogo sektora priznalas’ v massovom ubiystve mirnykh grazhdan. Yeye memuary mogut stat’ dokazatel’stvom dlya ugolovnogo dela.”  Moskovskiy Komsomolets [published online in Russian 30 September 2016]. Last accessed 6 October 2016.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid.

[60] “Pravyy sektor na Zakarpatti.” [published online in Ukrainian 6 October 2016].

[61] “Baloga priznalsya, chto pomogal “Pravomu sektoru”. RBK-UKRAÍ̈NA [published online in Russian 23 July 2015]. Last accessed 7 October 2016. Last accessed 7 October 2016].

[62] “Vtoroy Afganistan: Ukraina khochet razgromit’ Donbass i uzhe mechtayet o napadenii na Krym.” Russkaya Pravda [published online in Russian 5 September 2015]. Last accessed 7 October 2016.

[63] “Ukraina khochet razgromit’ Donbass i uzhe mechtayet o napadenii na Krym.” Svobodnaya Pressa [published online in Russian 5 September 2015]. Last accessed 7 October 2016.

[64] “Voyennaya kampaniya Rossii na vostoke Ukrainy provalilas’. Putin pytayetsya politicheskim putem legalizovat’ Krym v obmen na ustupki na Donbasse.” [published online in Russian 10 July 2015]. Last accessed 7 October 2016. Mr. Butusov’s video commentary [in Russian] can be accessed at the link provided above.

[65] Svobodnaya Pressa (5 September 2015), op cit.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Ibid. The report published in Svobodnaya Pressa included a colloquy with Viktor Shapinov, who is associated with the Marxist (and notably pro-Russian) group in Ukraine, Association “Struggle” (Ob’yednannia “Boroťba).

[69] United States Energy Department (2016). “2016 Updated Performance Baseline for the

Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site: Overview of DOE’s 2016 Updated Performance Baseline with a Comparison to the Contractor’s Estimates and Data.” Last accessed 7 October 2016.

[70] Last accessed 7 October 2016.

[71] Andrei Piontkovsky (2016). “Otchayaniye Putina: vazhnyy moment, na kotoryy ne vse poka obratili vnimaniye.” Apostrophe [published online in Russian 5 October 2016]. Last accessed 7 October 2016.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Kenneth N. Waltz (1979). Theory of International Politics. (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company) 8.

[74] Ibid., 157.

[75] United States State Department (2016). New START Treaty Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms. Fact Sheet (1 October 2016). Last accessed 12 October 2016.

[76] Federation of American Scientists (2016). “New START Data Shows Russian Warhead Increase Before Expected Decrease.” [published online 3 October 2016]. Last accessed 12 October 2016.

[77] United States Defense Department (2012). “Report on the Strategic Nuclear Forces of the Russian Federation Pursuant to Section 1240 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012,” 7. Last accessed 12 October 2016. 

[78] “Obama obidel Rossiyu, pokazav, chto kolichestvo nashikh boyegolovok uzhe nikogo ne volnuyet.” Novaya Gazeta [published online in Russian 6 October 2016]. Last accessed 12 October 2016.

[79] At Naval Support Facility Deveselu, Romania, on the site of a former Soviet airbase. This system is discussed in greater detail in the author’s July 2016 essay, “If the Atlantic Ocean is the New Black Sea, What’s the Black Sea? Aegis Ashore and the Black Sea Region’s Changing Security Dynamic.” []

[80] “Russian Fast Reactor Connected to the Grid.” Power Magazine [published online 1 February 2016]. Last accessed 8 October 2016.

[81] “Ul’timatum Putina.” RIA-Novosti [published online in Russian 5 October 2016]. Last accessed 8 October 2016.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Ibid.

[84] Carl von Clausewitz (1976). On War. (Princeton: Princeton University Press) 606

[85] Von Clausewitz (1984). Two Letters on Strategy. (Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College) 129.

[86] Otto August Ruhle von Lilienstern  (1817). Handbuch für den Offizier zur Belehrung im Frieden und zum Gebranch in Felde, Vol. II (Berlin: G. Reimer) 8. Cited in Beatrice Heuser (2002). Reading Clausewitz. (London: Pimlico) 30.

[87] Jeruselum Post [published online 18 January 2016]. Last accessed 8 October 2016.