New Atlanticist

Troops from Russia’s Pacific Far East Region Are Prominent in a War 4,200 Miles to the West


The Russian island of Sakhalin, in the Pacific Ocean just north of Japan, is fully a continent away from the war raging in southeastern Ukraine. But Konstantin Gorelov, a 22-year-old, active-duty Russian naval infantry commando, made the 4,200-mile trip as a “vacation” to join other members of his force in the intensive battle this month over the international airport in Donetsk.

Gorelov’s account, in an interview with a Sakhalin-based website, CitySakh.ru, confirms reports by Ukraine, NATO, and news media that active-duty Russian troops were key in the seizure of the airport from Ukrainian forces. In the Donbas war, “there are a lot of Russian military, they are not very visible, but they are working quietly and effectively,” Gorelov says. He gives few details about how he took leave from his marine unit in the Pacific to join the battle, saying simply that he was recruited by a fellow marine to go “help out the guys.” (See the full text of the interview below.)

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REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Atlantic Council analyst sees resurgence of militants as three US contractors are killed in Kabul

The death of three US contractors in a shooting incident at Kabul's airport on Thursday and attacks on a checkpoint and funeral in other parts of Afghanistan prove that the Taliban is “far from being a spent force,” according to Atlantic Council analyst Claude Rakisits.

“The worry now is that with the drawdown of US and NATO troops, all the heavy lifting will have to be done by the [Afghan National Security Forces] themselves,” Rakisits, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, said in an interview.

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REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Atlantic Council analysts see threat from Boko Haram, sore losers


The fact that the militant group Boko Haram controls vast swaths of territory in northeastern Nigeria will likely disenfranchise voters and has elevated the danger of post-election violence, according to Atlantic Council analysts.

“Because of insecurity in the northeast, one party may believe that its supporters may not have had the opportunity to support them, and in a close election that could call into question the electoral outcome,” said Robert Lloyd, nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.

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White House official cites US-China deal, EU pledges, and India's embrace of renewable energy


A landmark US-China climate change deal
, EU pledges to cut emissions, and a new commitment from India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, to expand the use of renewable energy as a way to reduce greenhouse gas pollution are all encouraging signs of “momentum” toward a global climate agreement at a United Nations summit in Paris in December, according to a US climate policy official.

“We have a rough sense of the shape of the elephant, but we don’t know exactly what will come out of Paris yet,” said Rick Duke, Deputy Director for Climate Policy in the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change.

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Chaos in North African nation creates ‘natural environment’ for jihadist groups, Atlantic Council’s Mezran says


Fighters loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are taking advantage of the chaos in Libya to expand their presence in the North African nation.

On Tuesday, an affiliate of ISIS in Libya claimed responsibility for an attack on a luxury hotel in the capital Tripoli in which five people were killed.

“In the vacuum that has been created in Libya since the beginning of last year we have a natural environment for jihadi organizations, whether they are affiliated to ISIS or not, to proliferate and prosper,” said Karim Mezran, a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

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Ukrainian Officer-Pilot Reaches 45 Days on Hunger Strike Against Her Abduction and Politicized Trial


Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian army officer and pilot who was captured in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and spirited to prison in Moscow, may die in captivity there on the hunger strike she has pursued for 45 days, her lawyer wrote yesterday. As attorney Mark Feygin urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a letter to release Savchenko, her supporters mounted a global campaign of rallies and Twitter messages, and the European parliament members voted a resolution in her defense.

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Backing Kyiv’s Independence Will Contain Russian Expansionism—And Damage From the Next Russian Revolution


Although “regime change” has become a dirty phrase, the best thing that could happen to Russia, its neighbors, and the world would be a change from Vladimir Putin’s brand of strongman authoritarianism to some form of democracy.

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Late January has seen two important, highly-anticipated events unfold in Europe: the announcement by the European Central Bank of a large-scale Quantitative Easing program and the results of the Greek general election.

In the first — and by far the more important of the two — the ECB, faced with disinflation bordering on deflation, finally announced a large expansion of its asset purchases to include securities issued by central governments. It was the last to do so amongst the central banks of the developed world.

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Leftist Syriza’s victory likely to roil debate over austerity, fiscal discipline, Montanino says


The victory of an anti-austerity leftist party in Greece’s elections may roil the debate in Europe over questions of austerity and fiscal discipline, says Atlantic Council analyst Andrea Montanino.

Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister on January 26 after his far-left Syriza party swept to victory in elections held over the weekend. Syriza’s victory is seen as a repudiation of the tough austerity measures imposed to deal with Greece’s debt. Syriza has vowed to renegotiate bailouts worth $268 billion.

“What this election in Greece may create is more tension about how to create inclusive growth in Europe, what is the right timing for doing reforms, for making investments, and do this with fiscal discipline,” Montanino, director of the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program, said in an interview.

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Of 2 Million Refugees in Kurdish Zone, Most Languish Outside Camps, With Little or No Aid


Amid the world attention focused on 3.8 million Syrians uprooted by the violent spread of the ISIS Islamist army, a little-noted part of that crisis is the flood of perhaps 2 million refugees from both Syria and Iraq into Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

As of November, Kurdistan had received more than 250,000 Syrians and 1.5 million Iraqis fleeing the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The office in the Kurdish regional capital that tracks displaced persons estimated 2 million of them in the region as of the end of the year. For the Kurdish region’s own population, estimated at 5-6 million, this is a crushing tsunami of human misery. It’s analogous to the United States suddenly absorbing between 90 million and 120 million people—the total population of, say, the Philippines or Mexico.

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