The situation in Ukraine has become critical. As events unfold and the flow of information increases, here is a Stratfor-inspired guide to assessing what is important:
- While it is hard to establish where violence is coming from, its perpetrators have tactical gains in mind, such as “buying up time” or “disturbing momentum.” Therefore it is important to understand the actors’ interests. In this case, watching what the radicals and the police did while the Europeans were on their way to Kiev has been critical to making sense of what’s going on and writing an early analysis (available here).
- Determining who is in control – this is a long-term goal, but a tactical approach, based on sequence-related information, helps establish a framework for forecasting the next moves.
- Assessing what sources in the area tell us – the more views, the better, allowing us to see beyond what mainstream media says on the topic. This is where background knowledge is important – history tells the nuances of a written story in the local media while geography talks about infrastructure limitations.
- Watching for personnel changes and going through the background of the people being replaced and coming in shows how strong and stable factions are.
- What will emerge from the meetings between Yanukovych, the current Ukrainian opposition and the foreign ministers of Poland, France and Germany? (speaking of “what’s in it for Poland to align with France and Germany?” – a quote that stayed in my mind from a recent conversation over strategic alliances: well…the answer is quite obvious, it seems, today).
- Russia is a key actor – statements coming from Moscow are to be read attentively, as well as any statements coming from Washington and Brussels today.
- Monitoring the condition of infrastructure, and the ease of moving from one point to another within Ukraine is important in following any indication of military movements and buildup. Border crossings are also important in light of support coming from abroad to either side.
- What official statements are coming from Yanukovich and the opposition?
While watching all of this, it is important to keep in mind that no external player – from Russia to Germany to the United States – wants to end up being responsible for internal politics in Ukraine. However, the conflict’s result will have consequences for all – especially for neighboring countries, and especially for Russia. This is why, as the situation nears a compromise, tension also mounts.