Withdrawal of Forces Completed Successfully at First Location in Donbas; Lavrov Says No Military Alliance with China is Forthcoming; Russian Government Says Time is Running Out to Renew START Treaty; Putin: NATO is Washington’s Foreign Policy “Tool”

The OSCE reported over the weekend that both the Kiev forces and the Donbas rebels have successfully completed the withdrawal of troops and weaponry from the line of contact at Zolote, near the LPR.

On 1 November, the SMM received a letter from the armed formations in non-government-controlled areas of Luhansk region, notifying that they had completed the withdrawal of forces and hardware in the agreed disengagement area near Zolote.

On 2 November, the SMM received two Notes Verbales from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, notifying that the Ukrainian Armed Forces had completed the withdrawal of forces and hardware in the agreed disengagement area near Zolote.

Withdrawal of forces near the DPR in Petrovskoye are scheduled to begin today.

As analyst Tom Luongo has written, with the last approval permit having finally been granted by Denmark for Nordstream 2 to proceed, if significant progress can be made toward resolving the Donbas war, then a detente between Russia and Europe is likely to follow. This would mean a relaxation or even rescinding of the sanctions.

I agree with this assessment and believe that Washington is likely to find itself isolated within the next couple of years if it persists with its anti-Russia hysteria. If Jeremy Corbyn were to become Prime Minister of Britain, there is also a chance for decreased hostility from the UK, which will leave only Poland and the Baltic states as out-of-tune players in the “we can’t get beyond our animus toward Russia” band.

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In an interview last week with a Russian TV news channel, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that, while Russian-Chinese relations are the best they’ve ever been, neither country is contemplating the establishment of a formal military alliance.

It appears that the Russian government is prepared for Washington to not renew the New START Treaty, which expires in February of 2021. Since there is no active diplomatic work being done on behalf of a possible extension, it would be difficult to get the necessary logistics done in order to extend the treaty before the deadline. Antiwar.com reports:

An expected replacement treaty would be what everyone was hoping for, but with no work active on it, there is no real chance of getting everything done, and indeed no sign that things will even start, with the US showing little interest in arms limitation talks.

Though Russian Foreign Ministry office’s Vladimir Leontyev says it might be possible to rush through a blanket extension of New START under existing terms, even that would take at least six months to implement, and is made even more complicated by President Trump wanting China to also be limited by any new deal.

In a recent interview conducted jointly by Al Arabiya, Sky News, and RT Arabic, Putin answered a question about how Russia will respond to NATO’s continual march toward Russia’s borders. Watch the 3 minute exchange below.

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  1. For instance, much discussion has focused on three disengagement zones – identified by a roadmap document from March 2017, designed to implement former German Foreign Minister and current President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s “Steinmeier Formula” – two of which have seen the withdrawal of forces. But all three areas are small and none is in an area with significant security challenges. Crisis Group interviews, OSCE officials, Kyiv and Vienna, September and October 2017. A senior Ukrainian interlocutor remarked that TCG participants could often only find common ground on a single goal: preserving and restoring shared critical infrastructure. Crisis Group interview, elder Ukrainian statesman, November 2017. Hide Footnote Talks are stalled too: Moscow points to Kyiv’s lack of progress on Minsk political provisions; in turn, Kyiv argues it cannot implement those provisions while there is no security in the conflict zone and adjacent segment of the Ukraine-Russia border. Given this deadlock, Russia’s circulation in September 2017 to other members of the Security Council of a draft resolution for peacekeepers in Donbas came as a surprise. The draft went through two iterations. The first called for lightly-armed UN forces along the line of separation to provide security to civilian teams working with the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM).

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