Still, Ukrainians Wait to See Concrete Steps to End a System of Graft
Ukraine‚Äôs new government is on track to pass a painfully austere budget by the end of the year, according to the Atlantic Council‚Äôs Kyiv-based senior fellow, Brian Mefford. The other center of attention is the government‚Äôs establishment of a National Anti-Corruption Bureau, Mefford writes in his blog this week.
Kremlin Quietly Supports Network That Sends Thousands of Russian Veterans to Donbas War
In Yekaterinburg, the main city of Russia‚Äôs Ural region, retired army officer Vladimir Yefimov organizes army veterans to fight for Russia in southeastern Ukraine, more than 1,000 miles away. While Russia‚Äôs deployment of army troops and non-official Russian ‚Äúvolunteer‚ÄĚ fighters in Ukraine is not news, Yefimov describes in new detail how Russian army vets are selected, organized and paid to join the war. His account underscores that the army of Russian "volunteers" is run with at least the tacit help of the Kremlin.
Yefimov is a former Special Forces (spetsnaz) officer who now heads the Sverdlovsk Oblast Fund for Special Forces Veterans. In an interview with Yekaterinburg Online, a local news website, he told of sending between 150 and 250 fighters to Ukraine‚Äôs Donbas war zone this year. While he says his fighters are ‚Äúvolunteers‚ÄĚ rather than mercenaries, they are paid salaries: from $1,000 per month for a low-ranking enlisted man to $2,000-4,000 for officers. Yefimov did not answer the reporter‚Äôs question about who pays the salaries.
Atlantic Council Analysts Say No Easy Response for US to Sony Cyber Attack
North Korea‚Äôs Internet outage this week could be the work of ‚Äúgood ol' American patriotic hackers,‚ÄĚ according to Jason Healey, director of the Atlantic Council‚Äôs Cyber Statecraft Initiative.
North Korea‚Äôs Internet service appeared to be working again on December 23 following a nearly ten-hour shutdown that came hours after US President Barack Obama promised a ‚Äúproportional response‚ÄĚ to a cyber attack on Sony Pictures. Washington has blamed the North Korean government for the Sony hack, an accusation Pyongyang denies.
Far From Kyiv and Next to Donetsk, the Elderly of Pisky Get Daily Shelling, But No Pensions
Before this year‚Äôs war in southeast Ukraine, the town of Pisky, at the edge of the city of Donetsk, was home to about 3,000 people. Many were academics who worked at the local Donetsk Institute of Agricultural Production.
Now, Pisky is a debris-strewn combat zone, its homes and office buildings empty, with roofs blown off, windows smashed, and the few remaining inhabitants hunkered in frigid basements. Recent video reports, plus social media posts by soldiers in the area depict a desperate scene as winter sets in. Ukrainian government troops, national guard fighters, and militiamen of the ultranationalist Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector) defend Pisky from the Russian-armed forces of the Donetsk People‚Äôs Republic, as little as 350 meters away.
The Ukrainian Project to Keep Europe Whole and Free Needs Adequate Financing‚ÄĒand Quickly
Ukraine's new government has unleashed a ‚Äútiger team‚ÄĚ of ministers committed to quick and comprehensive reforms‚ÄĒbut as that work begins, the costs of war and recession have pushed Ukraine to the edge of default. Ukraine has begun to take steps to slash corruption, improve governance, and open up the economy, but its friends in the European Union and the United States have been much slower at assembling the $32 billion or more in loans now needed to keep Ukraine solvent through the difficult first years of its transformation. Ukraine‚Äôs allies act like they don‚Äôt realize that the reform of Ukraine‚Äôs could be undermined by an economic meltdown as easily as by Russian aggression or obstruction by corrupt local interest groups.
Three recent events in and around Turkey raise concerns about this country's direction for the United States and its European allies.
‚ÄėProportionate‚Äô Response Will Be Hard to Shape, Atlantic Council‚Äôs Jason Healey Says
The US government faces a tough challenge in determining how to fulfil President Obama‚Äôs promise to ‚Äúrespond proportionately‚ÄĚ to North Korea‚Äôs cyber attack on Sony Pictures, according to Atlantic Council analyst Jason Healey.
‚ÄúWhat this really means for now is that the administration will keep the issue quiet, continue the focus on Cuba, and allow DC to take a year-end vacation,‚ÄĚ Healey wrote today in an essay for the Christian Science Monitor.
Pascual: As Russia Faces Economic Downturn, West Should Probe Kremlin on Chances of a Merkel-Brokered Deal
In his annual press conference this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered no clear suggestion for how he proposes to dig Russia out of its deepening economic hole. And he signaled no new direction in government‚Äôs sponsorship of the separatist war in southeastern Ukraine. On both crises, his performance left all his options open.
Putin held to his most recent rhetorical status quo on Ukraine. He averred that he finds in Ukrainian President Poroshenko a man with whom peace could be made, leaving himself room to negotiate for a deal in which he might hope to achieve at least a minimum of his immediate goals‚ÄĒto retain an effective veto on Ukraine‚Äôs integration with Europe and its institutions, beginning with the European Union.