Peter Dickinson

  • They Speak Russian in Crimea, but That Doesn’t Make It Part of Russia

    US President Donald Trump made headlines ahead of the recent G7 summit in Canada by calling on his colleagues in the group of leading industrial nations to welcome Russia back into the fold. However, it seems that this was not the full extent of his advocacy for the Kremlin. According to a report published by BuzzFeed quoting two unnamed diplomatic sources, the US president also took advantage of the opportunity presented by the traditional G7 dinner to justify Vladimir Putin’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The BuzzFeed report quotes him telling his G7 colleagues that Crimea was Russian “because everyone who lives there speaks Russian.”

    If this account is accurate, it is difficult to exaggerate how troubling the American leader’s comments are.

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  • Will Ukraine Be the Ultimate Loser of Putin’s World Cup?

    Back in 2010 when world football governing body FIFA awarded Russia the right to host this year’s World Cup finals, few viewed Moscow as a threat. At the time, President Dmitry Medvedev seemed eager to portray himself as a Western-friendly reformer. In the diplomatic arena, the reset with the Obama White House had yet to unravel and it would be a further two years before US presidential candidate Mitt Romney would face ridicule for daring to call Russia America’s number one geopolitical foe. The 2007 cyber-attack on Estonia and the 2008 war in Georgia had certainly set some alarm bells ringing, but most still regarded talk of a new Cold War as absurd.

    That is emphatically no longer the case. Few would doubt that Russia and the Western world are engaged in the most intense geopolitical struggle since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Perhaps even more remarkably, Russia appears to be winning.

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  • Reluctant Russophobes: The Underwhelming International Response to Putin's Hybrid War

    If Moscow is genuinely innocent of all the misdeeds attributed to it, why does it always seem to get the blame?

    The Kremlin attributes every new allegation to Russophobia. This excuse has proven ideally suited to the varied terrain of hybrid warfare, serving as a one-size-fits-all explanation for virtually any charge. Whether the claims relate to Russian soldiers in Ukraine, Russian trolls on social media, or Russian chemical weapons in England, Moscow dismisses it all as the work of desperate and irrational Russophobes whose obvious prejudice renders their conclusions null and void.

    The term itself is nothing new and first appeared in the nineteenth century, but references to Russophobia have skyrocketed since 2014. It has become one of the buzzwords of the fake news era and a significant information warfare weapon in its own right. Accusations of Russophobia are most common in the Russian media and official Kremlin parlance. According to the...

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  • From Crimea to Salisbury: Time to Acknowledge Putin’s Global Hybrid War

    Since Russian troops began seizing government buildings in Crimea four years ago, the international community has become accustomed to encountering new acts of Russian aggression on an almost daily basis. Whether it is masked men in eastern Ukraine, a chemical weapons attack in the English countryside, or an attempted coup in the Balkans, the process is more or less the same—faced by a fresh round of accusations, the Kremlin denies everything and declares, “You can’t prove it was us.” If the evidence pointing toward Russia is particularly damning, Moscow then insists that those involved were non-state actors operating entirely independently of the government. Vladimir Putin opted for this position during his recent NBC News interview, dismissing indictments against thirteen named Russians for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election by saying, “So what if they’re Russians? They do not represent the interests of the Russian state.” It was a similar story when an undisclosed but...
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  • Rebel Radio: New Station Challenges Oligarchs’ Media Monopoly in Ukraine

    "We do not feel any pressure from the government,” says Vitaly Sych, the chief editor of Ukraine’s most ambitious independent media holding. “Sometimes we have a dialogue with the authorities, but that is healthy. We recently published a lead article that was highly critical of Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko. He contacted me personally and we met for a long discussion about his work and his background. I do not see anything wrong in that. He didn’t send men in balaclavas after me.”

    Forty-two-year old industry veteran Sych speaks with authority when it comes to the rough and tumble of the Ukrainian media scene. He first cut his teeth in the late 1990s as a reporter at the English-language Kyiv Post newspaper, before rising to national prominence as chief editor of Russian-language weekly Korrespondent magazine. Since 2014 he has headed up the Novoye Vremya (literally “New Time”) holding, a new and expanding post-Maidan multimedia platform backed by...

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  • 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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