New Atlanticist

For Long-Term Security, EU Should Push Moscow to Obey Rules and Kyiv to Reform Gas Sector


By brokering a March 2 interim gas deal between Ukraine and Russia, the European Union helped avert a wintertime cutoff of gas to Ukraine and other parts of Europe. Russia had threatened to halt supplies to Ukraine in the two countries’ dispute over prices and payments for Russia’ gas. The deal, in Brussels, came as Ukraine’s parliament passed one of several difficult reform laws that could help the longer-term energy security of both the country and Europe, analysts say.

Europe is at risk of Russian gas cutoffs because almost 15 percent of its total gas needs arrive from Russia via pipelines across Ukraine. But the EU can take a simple step to reduce its dangerous dependence on Russia’s good will in delivering gas to Ukraine, write two Canadian economists. EU leaders should begin building a more flexible, stable gas market in Europe by forcing the Russian gas monopoly, Gazprom, to remove a clause in its contracts that forbid European countries from swapping around volumes of gas bought initially from Russia.

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Raw Numbers on Military Drills Suggest a Gap in the West’s Deterrence


Readers who don’t specialize in NATO or military affairs may have missed a report from the NATOSource blog last week on a wide gap between the scale of military exercises conducted by Russia and by the NATO alliance. In the past two years, Russia’s major military exercises deployed a total of about 745,000 troops, while those of NATO countries involved a total of some 157,000. (Actually, only 72,000 troops took part in full NATO exercises; 85,000 participated in drills run by individual NATO member states.)

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Christine Lagarde

MIT Economist Says Rescue Plan Is Too Small, May Need Adjustment


An International Monetary Fund bailout for Ukraine underestimates the banking sector’s needs and is unrealistic about government expenditure on security and defense, according to Andrei Kirilenko, a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ukraine has secured a $40 billion bailout from the IMF and other creditors. The agreement, which spans four years and includes $17.5 billion from the Fund, “can represent a turning point for Ukraine,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Kirilenko, a Professor of the Practice of Finance at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said the package is not designed to “stimulate sustainable economic growth,” but to “close a bleeding wound in the underbelly of Europe.”

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Passive Responses to Putin Darken the Future for Ukraine—and for Russia


The professional killing of Boris Nemtsov February 27 confronts us with two facts that Western policymakers ignore at great cost in the Russia-Ukraine war. First, Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine is potentially a great domestic political liability for him. Second, it is central to his campaign to crush all democratic inclinations so as to force Russia back under into the authoritarian rule it bore for centuries under tsars and Soviet commissars.

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Boris Nemtsov, a charismatic Russian opposition leader, was shot dead near the Kremlin in Moscow on February 27.

Nemtsov, a former Deputy Prime Minister, had accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of leading Russia into a crisis with the West with his "mad, aggressive, and deadly policy of war against Ukraine."

"The country needs a political reform," Nemtsov said on Ekho Moskvy radio hours before he was assassinated. "When power is concentrated in the hands of one person and this person rules for ever, this will lead to an absolute catastrophe, absolute."

Nemtsov was working on a report documenting Russia's role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. He had planned to lead an anti-government protest in Moscow on March 1.

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How would the United States respond if the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) were to either take control of several Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad or conduct a major terrorist attack on the al-Asad airbase in Iraq where US personnel are based?

Neither development would spur the United States to draw down its presence in the region or overhaul its current approach, according to participants in a war game conducted by the Atlantic Council on February 25.

This response would be grounded in the realities of domestic politics as well as the challenge of balancing the interests of allies and partners, especially those in the region.

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Khaleda Zia
A decision by a court in Bangladesh to issue an arrest warrant for Khaleda Zia on February 25 is likely to escalate tensions between the opposition leader’s supporters and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government.

“We don’t know how this will play out or whether it will precipitate a deeper crisis, but one thing is for sure and that is this is a direction in which you do not want things to go,” said Bharath Gopalaswamy, Acting Director of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center.

“If you want to defuse the political crisis and get the parties to the table you have to work behind the scenes. Issuing a public arrest warrant certainly doesn’t help,” he added.

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Truce Buys Ukraine Time to Get a Little Real Help From Its Friends


Ukraine and its allies hope this month’s cease-fire deal agreed with Russia and Russian-backed rebels brings relative calm to southeastern Ukraine. But the Minsk agreement is deeply flawed, and there is every chance it may yet unravel, even if it holds for the short term.

The accord’s greatest flaw is in letting Russia maintain unsupervised control of Ukraine’s border in the Donbas region until the end of the year. This will mean Russia can freely continue supplying weapons and equipment to locally controlled “people’s militias," armed formations that will now expressly be permitted under the agreement. Moreover, while the accord calls for the withdrawal of “foreign armed formations, military equipment, and mercenaries,” it creates no effective regime for enforcing a pullout of those Russian military assets from the Kremlin-engineered separatist enclave in the Donbas.

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Somali terror group has sympathizers, but no active sleeper cell in United States, says Atlantic Council's Pham

Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked militant group in Somalia, has sympathizers in the United States, but likely does not have the ability to strike targets in the West, despite its recent threat to do so, according to Atlantic Council analyst J. Peter Pham.

“Shabaab has always had a transnational reach, but it has never struck transnationally beyond the region,” Pham, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, said in an interview.

“There has also been no evidence of an active sleeper cell, but there has been more than sufficient evidence of sympathizers,” he added.

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Atlantic Council analysts say both Washington and Havana have incentives to see progress

The second round of talks between the United States and Cuba on February 27 will be marked by tough negotiations, but both sides have incentives to work toward a breakthrough, according to Atlantic Council analysts.

“The United States wants to do a lot of things very fast. The Cubans want to do everything very slow,” said Peter Schechter, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

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