Peter Dickinson

  • Ukraine Headed for Perfect Storm of Demographic Decline

    In January, the Czech government announced plans to double its annual quota for Ukrainian fast-track migrant workers from 9,600 to 19,600. Three years ago, the quota had been just 3,800. Prague’s message is clear—Ukrainian workers are not merely welcome but vital to the Czech Republic’s economy.

    The Czechs are not the only ones in Central and Eastern Europe seeking to entice greater numbers of Ukrainian workers to replenish their own depleted populations. From the Baltic to the Balkans, national governments are relaxing employment regulations and looking at ways to bolster their Ukrainian workforce. Many are actively recruiting within Ukraine itself, with billboards in towns and cities advertising the attractions of seasonal work or full-scale emigration. Others have set up agencies and launched multimedia campaigns as they fight over the human resource Klondike that is the highly skilled and grossly underpaid Ukrainian workforce.

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  • Russia Cannot Acknowledge MH17 Role without Exposing Secret Ukraine War

    The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine on July 17, 2014, transformed a localized post-Soviet conflict into a major global crisis. With victims from eleven different countries including 189 Dutch citizens, the international backlash was prompt and marked a clear escalation in the confrontation between Russia and the West over the war in Ukraine.

    Initial analysis of the incident identified Russia as the likely guilty party. A major multinational investigation has since confirmed these conclusions, with Russia now accused of supplying the BUK anti-aircraft missile system responsible for the tragedy. Court proceedings against individual suspects could proceed in the Netherlands this year.

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  • Why Putin Cannot Risk Peace in Ukraine

    Imagine the scene: a patch of overgrown wasteland on the outskirts of an east Ukrainian rust belt town. Emergency services personnel are methodically excavating a large plot of earth while a huddle of journalists and aid workers look on. The date is October 2019. Another mass grave has just been uncovered.

    This grim but all-too-conceivable scenario is perhaps the most compelling reason why Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent UN peacekeeper posturing over Ukraine is hard to take seriously. The desire to keep evidence of war crimes from reaching international audiences is just one of many reasons why the prospect of peace is not only impractical but also unpalatable from Putin’s perspective. While the Russian leader may genuinely wish to extricate himself from the quagmire he has created, it is difficult to see how he could do so without courting disaster.

    First and foremost, any Russian withdrawal from the Donbas would open up a veritable Pandora’s box of...

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  • History as a Weapon in Russia's War on Ukraine

    The international media will embrace all things Bolshevik this autumn as the world marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution. Audiences can expect everything from gushing feature articles about early Soviet cinematography to edgy op-eds on the place of propaganda posters in twentieth century art. Amid this deluge of Communist kitsch, we are unlikely to see a serious analysis of Ukraine’s 1917-21 statehood bid and its considerable relevance to the geopolitical tensions of today. Instead, the Ukrainian independence struggle looks set to be airbrushed out of the Bolshevik spectacular, much as it has been for the past hundred years. Ukrainian history will remain the great unknown of the European narrative.

    This is both an error and a missed opportunity. It is an error because events in Ukraine decisively shaped the outcome of the Russian Revolution. The Ukrainian theater played a central role in the fighting that engulfed the Russian Empire after 1917, while Bolshevik...

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  • Putin Still in Denial over the Loss of Ukraine

    When Kremlin proxies in eastern Ukraine declared the foundation of “Malorossia” in mid-July, most people laughed. This bizarre attempt to replace Ukraine with a “Little Russian” vassal state was seen as one more indication of how hopelessly out of touch Russian policymakers are with Ukrainian public opinion. However, at least one man in Moscow failed to see the funny side. Key Putin aide and Ukraine curator Vladislav Surkov called it a way of sparking debate within Ukraine while emphasizing that the Donbas is not fighting to separate from Ukraine but for the country’s future. “Kyiv wants a pro-European utopia,” he commented. “The Donbas responds with Malorossia.”

    Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced similarly optimistic sentiments during the July G20 summit in Hamburg, where he accused the Ukrainian leadership of “trading in Russophobia” and blamed a handful of Kyiv politicians for driving an artificial wedge between Russia and Ukraine. “I am absolutely convinced the...

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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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  • Miracle of 2014 Was Ukraine’s Dunkirk

    One of the biggest blockbuster movies of summer 2017 looks likely to be “Dunkirk,” a WWII drama set on the beaches of northern France in summer 1940 as Adolf Hitler’s panzer armies closed in on pockets of trapped and surrounded allied forces. The film will introduce global audiences to one of the most celebrated events in modern British history—the successful evacuation of over 300,000 soldiers by a makeshift armada of merchant shipping and pleasure boats manned by civilian volunteers who braved the Luftwaffe to cross the English Channel and bring the stranded troops home.

    British audiences are well aware of the legend surrounding Dunkirk—it has been part of the national fabric for the past seventy-seven years and remains a huge source of patriotic pride. Even today, “The Spirit of Dunkirk” remains a byword for British bravery and resourcefulness that serves as a rallying cry for any...

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  • How Putin Accidentally United Ukraine

    Ukraine became an independent country in 1991, but it took the outbreak of war in 2014 to forge it into a fully-fledged nation. As is often the case with major historic shifts, this change was not immediately apparent at the time. Even now, three years on, it may come as news to the millions of Ukrainians struggling to make ends meet while dealing with a largely unreformed state bureaucracy. Nevertheless, it is increasingly apparent that the traumatic and triumphant events of 2014 represented a national coming of age. We are now witnessing the Ukrainianization of Ukraine.

    Evidence of this national evolution is all around. It is visible in the multitude of Ukrainian flags on display, and in the popularity of anything carrying the “Made in Ukraine” label. You can see it in the enthusiasm for holidays like Vyshyvanka Day and the embrace of national motifs. It has even permeated people’s sense of self. An...

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  • Why Ukraine’s Worst Enemy Is Not Vladimir Putin

    Identifying Ukraine’s enemies has become a popular pastime. Unsurprisingly, Russia was the first one to be listed after the Kremlin dropped any pretense of Slavic fraternity and invaded the country. Corruption was next. Whereas Russia was the enemy at the gates, corruption was the enemy within. An eclectic collection of lesser enemies has since joined the list, including everything from burdensome bureaucracy, emigration, and low birth rates to bad roads, nepotism, and international indifference.

    However, one ubiquitous and insidious enemy has so far escaped detection. This is the relentless negativity that shrouds Ukrainian perceptions of their own country. Most Ukraine-based expats will recognize this condition all too well from endless depressing conversations with Ukrainian friends and colleagues, who treat displays of outsider optimism as a charming but childish flaw. It is the debilitating practice of always expecting the worst, of finding the thorn on every rose,...

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  • Why Did Putin Get Stuck in Eastern Ukraine?

    Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine is now entering its fourth year, but there was a time when few expected it to last even four weeks. The virtually bloodless seizure of Crimea, which fell to Russian troops in early 2014 without a fight, led most observers to conclude that Ukraine was effectively defenseless and at Moscow’s mercy.

    This was the consensus view in Moscow, where many of the bolder voices began speaking of celebrating the traditional May holidays in Kyiv itself. Such swagger seemed perfectly reasonable; Ukraine was still reeling from months of anti-government protests that had spread chaos across the country before culminating in the flight of President Viktor Yanukovych and the collapse of his entire administration. The interim Ukrainian government that hastily replaced Yanukovych’s administration lacked constitutional legitimacy and was in no position to risk a military confrontation with the mighty Russian Federation. A clear window of opportunity had...

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