UkraineAlert

On June 29, President Donald Trump told reporters that he hasn’t ruled out recognizing Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in 2014. Trump is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16 and many worry that he may gamble away Crimea.

US policy on Crimea has been consistent since 2014, and was clearly articulated by the State Department spokeswoman on the anniversary of Crimea’s annexation: “Crimea is part of Ukraine and our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”

UkraineAlert asked its experts and friends the following: Will President Donald Trump give away Crimea at Helsinki on July 16? Is this a real possibility, and what would a deal look like if it happened? What would it mean for Europe (and the United States)?

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From the standpoint of defense spending, Russia’s navy might be thought of as the neglected stepchild of the Russian military. But that conclusion would be wrong. That’s especially true if one considers its recent deployments and activities; in the past year, Russia has actively and strategically utilized its navy to send clear signals to its neighbors that include both military and economic threats.

In the Baltic Sea, recent Russian exercises revealed the Russian navy operating with disregard for Sweden’s and Latvia’s exclusive economic zones, forcing a partial shutdown of local air and naval traffic. This show of force, representing Moscow’s contempt for the sovereignty of its neighbors, is habitual among Russian officials and military. But it is not confined to the Baltic Sea.

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A Russia-Ukraine water war may emerge after the World Cup final on July 15.

Just as President Vladimir Putin made his move to invade Crimea immediately after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, he could decide that it is once again time for decisive action after the Russia-hosted World Cup wraps up.

Currently, a tense situation is building on and around the Black and Azov seas.

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Ukraine’s Finance Ministry doesn’t get enough credit. For four years it has been key to avoiding the worst of the economic downturn and attaining macroeconomic stability as the country continues to respond to Russian aggression.

The Finance Ministry is in the spotlight again.

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A prominent Ukrainian journalist Dmytro Gnap just threw his hat in the ring as a presidential candidate, and threw a spanner in the best laid plans of the country’s corrupt politicians and oligarchs.

He has been an activist and a victim of the country’s corruption and is running because he’s fed up. He has exposed graft in high places and been beaten by thugs, threatened, and disinherited from his Donetsk birthplace. His disgust matches that of the publics, which is pervasive. Among his journalistic achievements was he led a team that exposed corruption by President Petro Poroshenko and others concerning offshore holdings.

“We are at an important historical moment because we now see huge demand for reforms and my colleagues and I will try to do our best to answer this strong civic demand,” he said in a telephone interview.

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It’s been six months since I’ve seen Ukraine’s most energetic minister, Dr. Ulana Suprun, and she’s been busy. Her comprehensive efforts to overhaul Ukraine’s dysfunctional health system are going well, she assures me.

It’s the first time I’ve heard this statement about any reform anywhere in Kyiv.

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Daria Kaleniuk’s rejoinder to our Foreign Affairs article, “How Western Anticorruption Policy Is Failing Ukraine,” misses our main point.

We asserted that Western anticorruption policy was failing because it had been improperly sequenced, especially with regard to judicial reform. Kaleniuk indirectly admits this by pointing to the urgent need to create an anticorruption court three years after other anticorruption prosecutorial and investigative agencies were launched. The facts are that pressure and a focus on reforming existing courts was not a top priority for the West. Clear targets were not set nor were they met with the same alacrity as those set for investigative and procuratorial anticorruption structures.

She points to over 135 cases brought by the Special Anticorruption Prosecutor and the National Anticorruption Bureau. But these agencies have managed only one conviction in three years. Such a weak record has eroded public confidence in the new anticorruption structures as well as longstanding law and justice institutions. Further confirmation that court reform should have been better sequenced.

We also argued that Western policy was excessively hostile to the country’s ruling elite, which has significantly pushed forward a reform agenda, maintained strongly democratic practices, drastically reduced the scope of corruption, solidified its military and national security structures, and fended off Russian aggression and internal interference.

These accomplishments deserve more than grudging approval; they deserve the West’s thanks. For Ukraine has borne the brunt of Vladimir Putin’s attack on Europe and democratic values.

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Last week a court in Moldova’s capital of Chișinău annulled the popular vote in local elections, which were won by pro-European opposition leader Andrei Năstase. The formal grounds for canceling the results are absurd; on election day the candidate urged people to vote on social media. This is no reason to block an elected official from taking office after the people have spoken.

On June 25, the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the ruling and its decision is ”final.” Until yesterday, Moldova was the only country in the former Soviet Union (except for the Baltic states) where all transfers of power had taken place democratically without the abuse of laws or institutions. Sadly this record was broken.

A long-awaited victory over a kleptocratic, nominally pro-European regime is being stolen from the people. The invalidation of the popular vote is just one step in an elaborate strategy to rob Moldovans of their fragile democracy.

The current government lacks the legitimacy that can only be obtained in elections.

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Protesters are taking to the streets of Moldova’s capital of Chisinau again.

On June 3, Andrei Nastase was elected mayor of Chisinau with 52.5% of the vote. Nastase, a pro-European prosecutor and anti-corruption activist, defeated Socialist Ion Ceban who favors closer ties to Moscow. On June 19, a Chisinau court struck down the election results, and the Moldovan Appeals Court upheld the decision on June 22. The case now rests with the Supreme Court of Justice.

Nastase claims that the decision to cancel the results is politically motivated. He was one of the organizers behind Moldova’s large protests in 2015 after $1 billion vanished from the banking system.

Why is an ostensibly pro-Western government in Moldova allowing a court to invalidate these election results? Are the court decisions politically motivated? Is this government really committed to democratic values? What does it mean for Moldova’s long-term prospects? We asked Atlantic Council experts and UkraineAlert contributors to weigh in.

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The World Cup in Russia is a Potemkin football extravaganza or a fancy façade designed to depict the country as advanced and civilized.

In reality, it’s neither.

Facts are that in recent international sporting events Russia’s athletes have been caught doping on a massive scale, or, alternatively, Putin has used festivities to camouflage the invasion of neighboring nation-states Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.

Since the World Cup began on June 14, Russian tanks have not rolled into any smaller countries, but the Games have been blemished by a more than month-long hunger strike by Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker unjustly sent to a Siberian prison camp. The 41-year-old has been starving himself for more than forty days to raise world opinion during the World Cup about the torture and unjust imprisonment of himself and 64 Ukrainian political prisoners.

These human rights abuses, and the fact that no one has access to him to determine how dire his health is, have led to condemnations from people and governments around the world on the front pages of newspapers, not sports pages.

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