• What Happens if Russia Turns Up the Heat Again in Ukraine?

    Will the low-intensity war in the Donbas continue its current course in the coming years, or will Moscow turn up the heat there, as it occasionally does?

    It’s hard to say. “It all comes down to geopolitics and what Putin wants to do,” said Ihor Kozak, an independent Canadian defense and security expert who visited Ukraine’s frontlines in June, in a recent interview.

    Russia is purposefully building up its military capacity and installations, including a railway line along the Russian-Ukrainian border from Zhuravka to Millerovo—new infrastructure that would make possible the quick movement of troops in the region. Renowned Russian military expert
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  • How History Will Remember Vladimir Putin

    To paraphrase Pravda in 1929, Putin is the Stalin of today. Nobody since Stalin’s death has achieved such longevity or uncontested power over Russia as Putin has. Nevertheless, tomorrow he may be remembered as the Brezhnev of today, for he has presided over a galloping stagnation of the economy and public morality. At the same time, like many former Russian leaders—including Brezhnev, Stalin, and Nicholas I—he seeks to imprison Russia in a straightjacket of repression and mandated official thinking that glorifies autocracy and Russian state nationalism.

    Under Nicholas I, this system was called “official nationality” and it put Russia into an ice age during the last years of his reign. Other despots like Alexander III, Stalin, and Brezhnev presided over such stagnation after they refused to make any reforms that might weaken their leadership and it became clear that their governments had nothing to offer. The results of such policies are well known to Russian...

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  • In Ukraine, Health Security Is National Security

    Three years after its invasion of Ukraine, Russia continues to pummel the country with cyberattacks, ruthless propaganda, and Grad missiles.

    But Ukraine’s dysfunctional institutions, especially its health care system, undermine Ukraine’s national security as well. Policies to reduce the enormous stress on Ukraine’s military and government alone ignore the delivery of core services. Without those services, Ukraine’s citizens remain vulnerable to its enemies, like Russia, who benefit from a weak state.

    That’s why civil society, countless experts, and thousands of activists have stood with Dr. Ulana Suprun, acting Minister of Health, to demand an entirely new model for health care in Ukraine. Such a model would provide stability in a country losing its population; a country where children aren’t always vaccinated and...

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  • Memo to President Trump: It’s Not “The Ukraine” Anymore

    The first meeting between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and US President Donald Trump on June 20 was widely hailed as a small but significant victory for Ukraine, signaling continued American support at a time when many fear Ukraine’s struggle with Russia is in danger of becoming a forgotten war. The only fly in the ointment was Trump’s reference to “The Ukraine,” which elicited a predictable chorus of moans.

    Numerous commentators chose to see this gaffe as yet another example of Trump’s allegedly amateurish and uninformed approach to foreign affairs. However, in fairness to the current resident of the White House, he is far from alone in failing to name Ukraine correctly. His predecessor Barack Obama repeatedly referred to “The Ukraine,” while numerous other international leaders have also been guilty of the same offense in recent years.


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  • Experts Urge Congress and Trump to Arm Ukraine

    A bipartisan task force made up of former US defense officials, ambassadors, and security experts renewed calls for the United States to give lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine. On June 21, the National Security Task Force of the Friends of Ukraine Network urged the United States to provide a range of weapons, intelligence, and training.

    “[T]he purpose of providing defensive weapons is to help Ukraine deter the Russians from carrying out further attacks, and to increase the pressure on Russia to negotiate seriously on implementing the Minsk agreements,” said Alexander Vershbow, a member of the task force and the former deputy secretary general of NATO. “The aim is not to encourage Ukraine to seek a military victory, which Kyiv knows isn’t possible,” he said at the launch event in Washington, DC.

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  • Russia, Not Ukraine, Is Serial Violator of Ceasefire Agreement

    Like many articles and analyses of the Minsk process, “Ukrainian Military Progress Could Violate Minsk Peace Process” requires additional analysis on the geopolitical underpinnings and implications of the issue at hand. Without this context, it is difficult to make sense of any facts presented.

    The context is this: Moscow is conducting the war in Ukraine’s east; without Russian leadership, troops, financing, and weapons, there would be no war. Both the EU and the United States levied sanctions to encourage Moscow to end its aggression and to discourage it from the expanding the war further into Ukraine.

    Equally important is that fact that the sanctions were levied not long before the Minsk I Agreement was negotiated in September 2014, but Moscow’s continuing aggression included the seizure of hundreds...

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  • Will Ukraine Finally Pass Land Reform?

    Ukraine still needs a powerful push to finally shrug off the 2014-2015 crisis, which caused its economy to contract by 16.5 percent. The IMF prescribed anticorruption reform, privatization, pension reform, and allowing private sales of land to give Ukraine that boost. It is important to move fast with these reforms for two reasons: first, elections are fast approaching; and second, peak foreign debt payments are due in 2019.

    Of the major reforms currently being considered, land reform would have the largest economic impact by far. It would bring investment into the agricultural sector, create new lending opportunities for the banking sector, which is still in crisis, and bring important improvements to rural communities through higher land rent fees and greater protection of property rights.

    Still, this reform faces the greatest risk of being derailed, mostly due to a lack of political consensus.

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  • What Do Russians Think of Ukrainians, and Vice Versa?

    Vladimir Putin’s decade long media campaigns turned Russians against Ukrainians and the Ukrainian state prior to his 2014 annexation of Crimea. The divorce between Russia and Ukraine which began with the disintegration of the USSR gained momentum after the 2004 Orange Revolution.

    Putin’s authoritarian and great power nationalistic regime fanned ethnic Russian nationalism, turning Russians against both the Ukraine state and Ukrainians as a people. Meanwhile, Putin’s repeated claim that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people” left no room for a Ukrainian identity other than that of “little Russians” in his Eurasian Union. Putin’s total control of the Russian media mobilized anti-Ukrainian hysteria among Russians in the decade leading up to the Kremlin’s 2014 aggression.

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  • What Will Ukraine’s Next Big Reform Be?

    The IMF has told Ukraine that it must push through a number of reforms before it can receive any additional funds. Currently, the major effort is pension reform, something both the government and the IMF are focused on. Pensions account for 11 percent of GDP and 26 percent of public expenditures. Luckily, pension reform—unlike land and healthcare reform—has few vested stakes, and it has a good chance of passing.
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  • When Winning the War Isn’t Enough

    Since Russia’s military aggression began in 2014, I have been asking myself what Ukraine must do to win.

    There is no simple answer, but we cannot defeat Ukraine’s external enemy until we have overcome the enemy within, which is corruption. And Ukraine is losing this internal battle.

    I am convinced that a zero-tolerance approach at all levels is the only way to defeat corruption. Zero means no exceptions, and the fight needs to begin at the top.

    Over the past three years as CEO of Naftogaz, I have encountered levels of corruption that I could not have previously imagined.

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