One neglected area where we can render material assistance to Ukraine and advance our own self-interest is the naval sphere.
And yet that is exactly what Germany is about to do if it approves Gazprom’s $11.5-billion pipeline gas megaproject called Nord Stream 2. Proponents argue that the pipeline is an “economic project” that simply will deliver cheaper gas to German industries and turn Germany into a European hub for Russian gas. They say this is the same gas, only a different pipeline.
But this is not an “economic” project and this is not just a different pipeline.
One of Ukraine’s leading activists, Vitaliy Shabunin of the Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC), is facing trial on criminal charges and could receive up to five years in prison. The charges are at best exaggerated and at worst politically motivated. Civil society argues that the facts of Shabunin’s incident in which he punched a provocateur posing as a journalist were intentionally distorted so that authorities could bring more severe charges against him.
YouControl, a platform that provides free access to government data registers used by anti-corruption activists and investigative journalists, was accused of trading classified information, among other charges. Over ninety Ukrainian organizations wrote a cease-and-desist letter to government authorities, requesting that they stop harassing YouControl. The SBU recently dropped the case because of an “absence of proof,” but the decision does not explicitly state that YouControl’s founder and his employees are not guilty. Similarly, three activists from the Auto-Maidan civil society group currently face criminal proceedings for throwing eggs at lawmaker Oleh Barna. Sergei Hadzhynov, one of Auto-Maidan’s leaders, believes this to be part of a larger political vendetta. If convicted, Hadzhynov and his colleagues could face four to seven years in jail.
Many key civic actors argue that the actions against AntAC, YouControl, Auto-Maidan, and others are not isolated incidents, but attempts on the part of President Petro Poroshenko to muzzle key voices of dissent in advance of the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Those who hoped the situation there would improve after Russia took control were wrong. There has been no economic miracle in Crimea, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s promises. The rights of the Ukrainian minority and of Crimean Tatars are constantly violated, the economy is stagnating, and hundreds of thousands of residents are voting with their feet.
Russia is militarizing the peninsula, threatening NATO’s freedom to move forces through the region. And the construction of the Kerch bridge could cut off the Azov Sea from the Black Sea and choke off Ukrainian ports. This is happening at the same time as the Kremlin continues to sponsor its undeclared war in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
The West has already unequivocally stated that it will never accept the illegal annexation of Crimea, but we need to go beyond declarations and focus on concrete steps that could end Russia’s aggression in both Crimea and the Donbas.
An unfortunate consequence was that Russia started a war of aggression against Ukraine in 2014, annexing its southern peninsula of Crimea and occupying part of eastern Ukraine with irregular Russian troops. The United States responded with limited military supplies and eventually lethal weapons.
But the United States should do more for Ukraine.
UkraineAlert asked its experts the following: What does Pompeo think about Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aggressive foreign policy? What does the leadership change mean for US policy toward Ukraine and Russia? Do you expect any changes? Will he support US Special Representative for Ukraine Ambassador Kurt Volker’s efforts to bring peace to Ukraine?
However, neither then-acting President Oleksandr Turchynov nor the subsequent president, Petro Poroshenko, signed or vetoed the law abolishing the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko language law. This means it was still in force until last month.
At numerous meetings with international partners and journalists, I’m often asked where the latest positive dynamic in government reforms is and which groups of reformers are likely to produce positive results. Having worked in the government for exactly 500 days, I can say with confidence one man can’t win a war and that we should put our trust in reform teams, like-minded people, and agents of change.
I can name six teams of reformers who have already achieved great success:
President Petro Poroshenko’s current proposal misses the mark, and fails to meet the criteria stipulated by the International Monetary Fund and the Council of Europe's Venice Commission. Under Poroshenko’s bill, international experts will play only an advisory role in the selection of judges, and civil society has no role.
Without international oversight, the process is a sham.