UkraineAlert

Kremlin Targets Sleepy Corner of Europe with Hybrid Tactics

No part of Europe is too obscure for the Kremlin's machinations. On April 6 in Odessa, a group claiming to represent ethnic minorities in southwestern Ukraine founded the National Council of Bessarabia (NRB). Released on a Russian-registered website, the NRB's manifesto decrying "discrimination" and calling for greater autonomy was eerily similar to demands made in Donetsk and Luhansk before those regions sought independence last year.

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NATO’s top military commander says Russia set on ‘strategic competition’ with West

A "revanchist Russia" would use violence to alter international norms, boundaries, and institutions and poses a threat to the United States' transatlantic allies and partners, NATO's top military commander US Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove said April 30.

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Russia's track record in the long-simmering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is consistent with Russian efforts in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's calls for a Novorossiya: No war, no peace—but always a place at the table for Russia.

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Ukraine's economy is in crisis. Experts warn that the country's gross domestic product could shrink by 6 to 12 percent and inflation could exceed 40 percent in 2015, although one prominent economist put that figure in triple digits already. The war in eastern Ukraine has throttled the country's industrial capacity. To prevent the country from default, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in with a $40 billion international rescue package in March.

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The Ukrainian army faces growing criticism from within its ranks after humiliating defeats at Debaltseve and Ilovaisk in eastern Ukraine. When fighting broke out between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists, the Ukrainian military was weak and the state had to rely on volunteers. Of the fifty thousand Ukrainian troops in the field, 22 percent are loyal to volunteer battalions, according to one estimate. Now the Ukrainian government must address an inconvenient and pressing question that it has studiously ignored: how to integrate the more than seventy-nine semi-autonomous volunteer battalions into the military. The necessity to integrate the battalions goes beyond military necessity; this issue strikes at the heart of reform in post-Euromaidan Ukraine. The business as usual mixture of violence and politics can no longer be tolerated if the Ukrainian government has any hopes of reforming existing power structures.

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Ian Brzezinski: Our policy “conveys hesitancy and a lack of unity and determination. It has failed to convince Putin to reverse course. Indeed, it may have actually emboldened him.”   


The West's current strategy toward Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine not only promises continued conflict in Ukraine but also poses an increased danger of wider war, the Atlantic Council's Ian Brzezinski told the US Senate this week.

If the West holds to its current course, Ukraine is likely in the next six to eighteen months to lose more territory and see an even weaker economy, while Russia's economy will likely be only somewhat weaker and its leaders marginally more isolated, Brzezinski, a Resident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, said April 28 in testimony to the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

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Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko is no pushover. The former professional boxer turned politician has never been knocked down in a professional boxing match. Known for his powerful punches, Klitschko's 87 percent knockout rate is the second-best knockout-to-fight ratio of any champion in heavyweight boxing history.

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Ukraine has a problem with global public relations. Despite its fundamentally compelling narrative—a recent democracy defending itself against a much larger, authoritarian neighbor—the country's efforts remain uncoordinated, unprofessional, and unfiltered. Even as the state relies on a worldwide diaspora in its struggle for survival, it shows few signs of effectively harnessing its expatriates and the sympathies of foreign audiences. Worst of all, it has not reached a consensus on what message it is trying to send to the wider world, largely abandoning the information space to its adversaries.

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In October 1949, as the defeated forces of Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan and Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People's Republic of China, Republicans in Congress blamed Harry S. Truman for losing China. Some demanded a pivot from Europe to Asia in US foreign policy. Truman might have been persuaded a few years earlier when US relations with the USSR were cordial. After meeting Joseph Stalin in Potsdam in 1945, the American President wrote, "I like Stalin. He is straightforward. Knows what he wants and will compromise when he can't get it."

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A growing number of Russian analysts, in Russia and abroad, have taken to calling Vladimir Putin's regime "fascist." And they don't use the term casually or as a form of opprobrium. They mean that Putin's Russia genuinely resembles Mussolini's Italy or Hitler's Germany.

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