Atlantic Council

New Atlanticist

Russia has invaded Ukraine. This is the only conclusion to be reached from evidence that has built up in the past few days.

Groups of armed men wearing soldiers’ uniforms and working in military formations have fanned out throughout Donetsk province (oblast), and to some extent the adjoining Luhansk province, taking over police stations, Ukrainian Security Service regional offices, and government buildings. Ukrainian security forces began what they labeled an anti-terrorist operation Sunday and casualties on both sides are beginning to mount.

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Russia’s assaults on Ukraine this spring are about to revive an old idea within NATO that has not been in vogue since the Cold War: conventional deterrence .

Russia's ready use of military force in Ukraine, Georgia and beyond puts its non-NATO neighbors very much at risk of military intervention. President Putin’s fracturing of the region’s post-Cold War stability includes the use of covert agents to stage unrest and create excuses for Russia to intervene in the supposed defense of Russian-speaking minorities. Could Moscow apply the same measures in a NATO country with a significant Russian minority population such as Latvia? This question will keep NATO leaders up at night. The answer in the morning will be conventional deterrence.

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Amid the fighting that has spread across towns in southeastern Ukraine, local Russian- and Ukrainian-language websites and news organizations depict a battle in which squads of Russian gunmen are moving and fighting in tight, militarized formations to seize more government buildings and police headquarters. They are fearsomely aggressive, heavily armed, and well organized. The government seems none of the above. City administrations and police forces – in mid-sized cities such as Kramatorsk and Slaviansk, or larger ones such as Donetsk – appear passive at best, and seem in some cases to have virtually melted away in the face of the attacks.  Members of parliament and commentators have accused some local authorities of abetting the militants.

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A former US ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst, is urging the Obama administration to begin providing direct military help to the government in Kyiv, saying new violence by Russian-backed gunmen in eastern Ukraine appears to reflect a Russian government escalation of the crisis.

“The United States should provide Ukraine with anti-air and anti-tank equipment, along with trainers,” Herbst writes in an article published today on the website of the Atlantic Council, which announced his appointment as director of its center on Eurasian affairs. “It should share intelligence on Russian military movements and intentions,” Herbst writes in a question-and-answer overview of the crisis.

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The Global Treaty Banning Nuclear Test Explosions is Increasingly at Risk

Five years ago this month, President Obama won international applause for his landmark speech in Prague calling for a world free of nuclear weapons – a commitment intended as a central organizing principle of his national security framework. But progress on that “Prague Agenda” has stalled, nowhere more clearly than in the Senate’s failure to consent to U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

That failure has reinforced hesitations on the treaty in other countries and is potentially jeopardizing a 16-year-old de facto moratorium on nuclear testing (broken only by North Korea). It is time to recognize that the US failure to ratify the CTBT is slowly eroding international support for this moratorium and increasing the chance that other states could re-start nuclear testing. CTBT supporters must act to take some creative steps to preserve the de facto moratorium and revive progress on bringing the treaty formally into force.

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Escalating Ukraine Crisis Is Unlikely to Let Russian Gas Flow Smoothly to Europe 

"European countries from Germany and Poland to Italy and Turkey now need to ensure they have emergency plans in place to deal with a possible cut-off of Russian gas supplies," Atlantic Council Senior Fellow John Roberts writes in an essay. As new violence erupted this weekend in eastern Ukraine, Roberts notes that a swath of Europe stretching southeast to Turkey gets about 20 percent of its gas from Russia via Ukraine, and a cluster of countries in southern and eastern Europe are especially dependent on the pipelines through Ukraine.

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It is best to watch what Putin does, not listen to what he says

This week's ethnic Russian demonstrations in Eastern Ukraine, fistfights in the Ukrainian parliament, and the image of a country unraveling are all too predictable. They are right out of Putin’s Crimea playbook from a month ago. And just as in Crimea, we shouldn’t believe anything Moscow says about what it is doing. Putin aims to destabilize the heavily Russian-speaking eastern part of Ukraine to weaken confidence in the Kiev government and argue that Russia alone can bring about order.

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Less than a month after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a further Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine remains a distinct possibility. President Vladimir Putin may be emboldened by the weakness of the central government in Kyiv and a failure so far of Western sanctions to enforce painful to consequences on Russia. Putin has had an invasion force assembled on Ukraine’s eastern border for nearly a month, and he may feel that he has sufficiently set the stage for an invasion with the seizure by armed, pro-Russian demonstrators of government buildings in three Ukrainian provinces. After all, that was the method used only weeks ago in Russia’s successful occupation of Crimea.

What type of an incursion might Russia make? A broad or a more limited invasion? Igor Sutyagin and Michael Clarke, scholars at the Royal United Services Institute, paint four possible scenarios:

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Both Europe and the United States are designing broader sets of economic sanctions against Russia over its assaults on Ukraine says the Atlantic Council's Fran Burwell. Like the Obama administration, the European Union is considering a further phase of sanctions that will likely include restrictions on Russian banks doing business in Europe, and on European companies' sale of services to Russia's oil and gas industries, said Burwell, who directs the Council's Transatlantic Relations Program.

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Council Senior Fellow Ian Brzezinski will testify before a panel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recommending policies dealing with the crisis in Ukraine. The hearing starts at 3:00 p.m. The lineup of panelists is below. We will make the video and Ian Brzezinski's testimony as prepared for delivery available on this page as soon as the hearing starts.

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