Adrian Karatnycky

  • Q&A: What Does Saakashvili's Detention Mean for Ukraine?

    Former Georgian President and Odesa oblast governor Mikheil Saakashvili was taken into custody in Kyiv on December 5. His supporters eventually freed him and he addressed a large crowd outside of the parliament. Later in the day, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told parliament that Saakashvili accepted money from a fugitive oligarch to fund antigovernment protests that have waxed and waned since mid-October. The situation remains tense and ongoing. What does the detention of Saakashvili mean for Ukraine, its democratic prospects, and its relationship with the West? We asked our experts and a number of commentators and politicians to explain the significance of today’s events.

    Michael Carpenter, former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Senior Director at the Biden Center:
    The conflict between Saakashvili and the Ukrainian authorities only benefits Russia. Saakashvili entered Ukraine under dubious circumstances but his case needs to be adjudicated according to the rule of law, not through force.

    Aivaras Abromavicius, former Ukrainian Minister of Economy and Trade: I think there has been a good amount of progress made by the last two governments. Yet many of those achievements are at risk of being eroded by the recent blunt attacks on the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine by unreformed law enforcement agencies. In light of the total absence of sentencing of extremely corrupt current or former top officials, accusations against Saakashvili will always seem politically motivated. The West is going to be puzzled yet again and disappointed about where the priorities of Ukraine's leadership lie.

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  • Ukraine Politicians Embrace Extreme Rhetoric

    Ukraine has experienced some major reforms, particularly the ProZorro electronic procurement system, the restructuring of corrupt banks, and fundamental reforms in the gas sector. Nonetheless, the country still suffers from widespread corruption and a malfunctioning court system that has delayed major cases against allegedly corrupt officials.

    In this environment, politicians on all sides have been rushing to claim that they are the true leaders in the fight for corruption. That isn’t a bad thing; their efforts illustrate a healthy political competition that is occurring within constitutional, parliamentary, and electoral bounds. It is likely to lead to progress in creating a new anti-corruption court and in improving the effectiveness of the procuracy, the police, and the recently established National Anti-Corruption Bureau and National Bureau of Investigation.

    Ukraine is home to a combative, highly competitive political environment where political leaders are often prone to exaggeration and populism. By no means is the reform process easy and clear-cut. But it is broadly occurring within the context of legitimate democratic discourse, much of it critical of the government and the president.

    Increasingly, however, politicians, who were once regarded as responsible voices, are drifting toward extremist rhetoric that is disproportional to the serious problems that exist in Ukraine’s political system.

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  • Why There’s More to Alex Ovechkin’s Team Putin Movement than Meets the Eye

    Hockey superstar Alex Ovechkin’s November 2 announcement that he is creating a social movement to support Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be an ill-considered PR move by the Washington Capitals captain.

    In the capital of a country awash in anti-Putin sentiment, Ovechkin is defiantly flaunting his loyalty to a leader who has supported military aggression in Ukraine, is implicated in assassinations of his political enemies, and approved massive subterranean interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

    Ovechkin’s action is earning him scorn both among Washington Capitals fans and spectators around the NHL.

    One can understand why many Russians who live in an information bubble of Kremlin-manufactured propaganda would support Putin. But Ovechkin has now spent the better part of the last thirteen years living, working, and getting rich in the United States. This means he has access to the truth about his president, and this makes Ovechkin's views especially deplorable. He knows about the Russian military’s direct engagement in eastern Ukraine, he has been exposed to evidence that it was a Russian military unit that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing 298 passengers aboard, and he knows of the vast network of corrupt cronies that surround the Russian president.

    Nor does Putin really need his help. How can a person living the United States and in the middle of a challenging hockey season be of domestic help to the Russian president’s March reelection bid?

    Ovechkin's act is far more than a sign of loyalty and obeisance.

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  • Why Ukraine's Week of Protests Quickly Fizzled

    A week of protests on behalf of needed reforms in Ukraine have rapidly fizzled having made limited headway in pressing for legislative action while discrediting a segment of liberal reformers with its populist rhetoric and aggressive tactics.

    The protest outside parliament, which some organizers had expected would bring at least 10,000 to the streets, peaked on October 17 at around four thousand.

    By October 20, the fourth day of mass action, the ranks had fallen to a few hundred, and the tent city they had constructed was largely empty, with almost as many tents as protestors. On October 22, crowds gathered again, peaking at 1,500, around a third of those who had come out at the onset of protests; on October 23, a small band of protestors remained in the tent city around the parliament.

    The demonstrators had three demands: lifting parliamentary immunity, changing the electoral system to an open-party list, and creating a National Anticorruption Court.

    But these demands were lost amid the insurrectionist tenor of the protests, including some acts of violence by some in the crowd. The creation of a gauntlet of shame for the degradation of one pro-government parliamentary leader and the pelting of another with eggs further detracted from the message.

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  • Trump and Poroshenko: The Billionaire Boys Club

    Petro Poroshenko scored a prized diplomatic plum for which most heads of state and government aggressively vie: a one-on-one meeting with President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

    In addition to Ukraine’s president, Trump held only nine other private meetings with the heads of state or government of Afghanistan, Egypt, France, Israel, Japan, Qatar, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

    For Poroshenko his September 21 meeting was no small accomplishment coming just eight months after Ukraine appeared on the outs with Trump.

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  • Why Trump is Wrong about Ukrainian Interference in US Elections

    President Donald Trump’s July 25 tweet sent shockwaves through Ukraine, a country that relies on US support to resist an ongoing Russian military attack and occupation of large chunks of its territory.

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    It is understandable why Trump and his media cheerleaders like Sean Hannity might be scrambling to find examples of other countries interfering in the US electoral process.

    But the nature of what Trump calls Ukraine’s “efforts to sabotage” the US election in 2016 cannot be compared to Russia’s wide-ranging and systematic efforts.

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  • Karatnycky in The Wall Street Journal: Putin’s Dangerous New Ukraine Doctrine


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  • Karatnycky in the Wall Street Journal: How Trump Became a Russia Skeptic


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  • Watching the Watchdogs: Why Ukraine’s NGOs Should Disclose Assets, Too

    A huge kerfuffle has erupted in Ukraine over amendments to a law on income and asset transparency that will require employees of some nongovernmental organizations and investigative journalists who focus on corruption to post detailed income declarations publicly in electronic form.

    A strong majority in Ukraine’s parliament (266 of 423 legislators) passed the controversial legislation on March 23, and President Petro Poroshenko signed the bill on March 27. The legislation amends a law passed in March 2016 that mandated public income and asset declarations for several hundred thousand government employees.

    That original legislation created what is perhaps the world’s most comprehensive system of electronic income declarations.

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  • Karatnycky Quoted by the Financial Times on Ukrainian Disclosure Laws


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