John E. Herbst

  • Trump’s Wise Policy on Russia

    This article is part of a series that reflects on the first year of the Trump administration.

    As a candidate and president-elect, Donald Trump spoke constantly about the need to improve relations with Russia.  He also spoke positively about Russian President Vladimir Putin.  During Trump’s first weeks in office, his administration began to look seriously at reviewing and perhaps easing, if not lifting, sanctions on Russia related to Moscow’s war in Donbas and its interference in the US presidential election. So, there were clear expectations that Trump might adopt a softer Russia policy than former US President Barack Obama.

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  • People Are Wrong about the War in the Donbas, Says US Envoy

    2017 has been the most violent year of the conflict in eastern Ukraine since it began, according to Kurt Volker, US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations.

    "A lot of people think that this has somehow turned into a sleepy, frozen conflict and it’s stable and now we have...a ceasefire,” Volker said on December 19 during an event on peace in the Donbas at the Atlantic Council. “That’s completely wrong. It’s a crisis.”

    But negotiating an end to the conflict is difficult because of the role that Russia plays.

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  • 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's Fight for Freedom, Four Years Later


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  • Paul Manafort’s Ukraine Connection

    Long before Paul Manafort served as Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign chairman he worked for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian former president of Ukraine.

    It was in this role that Anders Åslund, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, first met Manafort.

    Manafort would seek advice from Åslund, who served as an economic adviser to the government of Ukraine from 1994-1997, on matters of economic policy. Åslund recalls Manafort as “highly intelligent and absolutely ruthless.”

    “When the Ukrainian oligarchs heard Manafort was advising Trump they knew Trump would win the [US presidential] election” in 2016, he said.

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  • The Only Thing Catalonia and Crimea Have in Common Is the Letter C

    A Bloomberg piece in October titled “Why Catalonia Will Fail Where Crimea Succeeded” by Russian writer Leonid Bershidsky is an example of moral equivalence run amok.

    He compares two completely unrelated events—referenda in Crimea and Catalonia—as though they bear any similarity, and as though they carry the same moral weight.

    “The Catalan situation draws comparisons with that in Crimea in 2014, and they are not as easy to dismiss as Catalan independence supporters might think,” he wrote.

    Yes they are.

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  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative: An Opportunity for the United States

    The United States must seize the opportunity presented by a Chinese initiative that envisions the creation of land and sea routes that will span three continents and link more than sixty countries, according to experts who participated in a panel discussion at the Atlantic Council on October 4.

    Making the case for engagement with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, said: “[The BRI] is a generational project and it will take a long time,” but, “the US needs to engage now.”

    “We don’t have to agree to every component of the Belt and Road… we don’t have to buy into the whole package,” he added.

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  • Should the United States Arm Ukraine?

    While analysts agree that diplomacy is the ideal route to ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine, they disagree on whether the United States sending defensive weapons to Ukraine will achieve that end.

    On September 22, the Atlantic Council, in collaboration with the Charles Koch Institute, hosted a debate between experts: Should the United States Arm Ukraine?

    The divisive prospect of sending US weapons to Ukraine as further defense against Russian aggression in the Donbas could, according to those in favor, defend US interests on the world stage. Alternatively, countered those opposed to the idea, it could escalate the conflict in a manner detrimental to US national security.

    Analysts both for and against sending weapons to Ukraine argued that a decision must be predicated on a consideration of what is in the best interests of the United States, yet the opposing sides diverged on how to achieve those ends.

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  • Dealing with the Far-Right in Germany

    Atlantic Council experts share their take on the outcome of the German elections. Here’s what they have to say:

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  • Herbst Joins RTVI to Discuss Lethal Weapons in Ukraine


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