• Aslund in Project Syndicate: Russia’s Neo-Feudal Capitalism

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  • Responding to Russia's 'Hybrid' Threat

    Since its takeover of Crimea in 2014, Russia has become increasingly emboldened
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  • How Ukraine Can Win Back Crimea

    The Crimean Tatars are finally receiving the attention they deserve, and that Ukraine must give, if it is to regain Crimea and again be a unified country.

    On April 19, 2017, the International Court of Justice at The Hague issued a provisional ruling calling for an end to racial discrimination against Crimean Tatars, as well as ethnic Ukrainians, in Russian-occupied Crimea.

    Predating this, in March 2014, parliament adopted a decree guaranteeing Crimean Tatars “protection and the realization of their inalienable rights for self-determination within a sovereign and independent Ukrainian state.”

    As directed by this decree, on April 7, 2017, a draft law was introduced in parliament to grant Crimean Tatars the status of “indigenous people of Ukraine.” Giving them this status would provide them with the legal right to fight for their rights on the international level against Russian annexation.

    Russia laid the first building blocks for the now three-year illegal annexation of Crimea by playing on the historic inequities that have existed in Tatar-Ukrainian relations.

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  • NATO’s Real Problem Isn’t Defense Spending

    When US President Donald Trump attends the NATO summit in Brussels on May 25, he should press the Alliance to confront Moscow’s conventional military superiority and nuclear blackmail tactics, rather than endlessly needle the Europeans about defense spending.

    NATO undoubtedly needs additional funding sources, but the unwillingness of European countries to meet their 2 percent of GDP pledge isn’t NATO’s real problem. Rather the real problem is its unwillingness to realize that Europe is not at peace and will not be for a considerable time to come. NATO’s response to Russian threats to European security has been too slow and halting. As a recent Rand report suggests, European forces are still not ready for prime time. Consequently, NATO faces both conventional inferiority on the Baltic, Balkan, and Black Sea flanks and nuclear blackmail by Moscow.

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  • Russia and the UAE: Friends with Benefits

    Russia’s deepening engagement in the Middle East is a positive development from the United Arab Emirates’ perspective. The Emiratis, with their unique relationship with the Kremlin, are trying to resolve regional security challenges that threaten their interests. More importantly, the Emiratis’ relationship with the Kremlin could help the UAE become an important interlocutor in efforts to defuse tensions between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    The UAE’s strong relationship with Russia was on display when Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ), Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, visited Putin in the Kremlin on April 20. The two discussed crises in the Middle East as well as strengthening an already substantial relationship between their two countries.  The visit took place at a time when the Trump administration has ratcheted up its anti-Iran rhetoric and US-Russia relations have reached an all-time low.

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  • What Do European Countries Think about Russia?

    On April 24, the European Values Think-Tank released a new major study examining how individual member states of the European Union perceive the threat coming from the Russian Federation. More than 450 policy documents, intelligence reports, and other sources were used to assess how Russia's aggressive behavior impacts the foreign and security policies of the twenty-eight EU countries, from Estonia to Portugal.
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  • Russia Funds and Manages Conflict in Ukraine, Leaks Show

    Hacked emails show that the Kremlin directs and funds the ostensibly independent republics in eastern Ukraine and runs military operations there. In late 2016, Ukrainian hacker groups released emails purportedly taken from the office of Kremlin official Vladislav Surkov, who oversees Ukraine policy for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Surkov leaks confirm what many have long suspected: the Kremlin has orchestrated and funded the supposedly independent governments in the Donbas, and seeks to disrupt internal Ukrainian politics, making the task of rebuilding modern Ukraine impossible. Russia has consistently denied accusations from Kyiv and the West that it is providing the separatists with troops, weapons, and other material support or meddling in Ukrainian affairs. The emails from Surkov’s office betray the official Kremlin line, revealing the extent of Russian involvement in the seizure of Ukrainian territory, the creation of puppet “people’s republics,” and the funding to ensure their survival.

    There have been three tranches of information from Surkov’s account: a PDF document detailing plans to destabilize Ukraine, a dump of 2,337 emails, and a final dump of 1,000 emails. While the plot to destabilize Ukraine with its detailed plan to use energy tariffs to foment revolution has garnered attention, its veracity is disputed. The trove of 2,337 emails, released by the group called "Ukrainian Cyber Alliance," including the hacker group Cyber Hunta and research collective InformNapalm, covers the period from September 2013 to November 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and deployed separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine to start a war. The final dump dates from September 2014 to September 2016. We have analyzed the overlooked second and third troves. Here’s what we found.

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  • Russia’s Desperation for More Soldiers Is Taking It to Dark Places

    Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine and intensive military operations in Syria have caused a very big problem: a shortage of qualified people to man its occupation forces. This personnel gap, caused by permanent, heavy losses suffered by Russia’s forces, has drastically changed the scale and character of its military missions.

    At the early stages of the conflicts, this shortage of qualified military personnel was corrected by recruitment from the Army Special Operations Forces, the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Foreign Intelligence Service, and other special services. But now, to fill this gap further, Russia has moved to employ private military companies (PMC), expand its recruitment base, and punish contract soldiers for refusing to partake in its illegitimate operations.

    To date, information about Russian PMCs remains limited. At least ten PMCs exist in Russia; some operate outside its jurisdiction. Following the Kremlin’s September 2015 intervention in Syria, about 1,500 Russian mercenaries arrived from the Russian PMC “Wagner,” which is linked to operations in Ukraine, where the group is known as “The Cleaners” in areas controlled by Russian and Russian-backed forces. Soviet fighters of the PMC “Malhama Tactical,” with mainly Uzbek and North Caucasus roots, have been noted as forming the first jihadist PMC with a “distinct niche between the worlds of professional PMCs and jihadi groups operating in Syria.”

    To further expand its contracted recruitment base, the Kremlin has also amended the recruitment process for Russian conscripts, military reservists, stateless persons, and foreign nationals.

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  • Denmark: Russia Hacked Our Defense Ministry for Two Years

    From Reuters: Russia has hacked the Danish Defense and gained access to employees' emails in 2015 and 2016
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  • More Solidarity with Ukraine Needed, Say Speakers at the Kyiv Security Forum

    The Tenth Kyiv Security Forum—an important foreign affairs conference conducted annually by the Open Ukraine Foundation—occurred on April 6-7. Headed by Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his wife Terezia, the conference underscored an important message: the need for the West to stay engaged and maintain security in the borderlands between Russia and Central Europe, particularly in Ukraine, the most important country in Eastern Europe between the Baltic and Black seas.

    This year, the tenth anniversary event was titled "Old Conflicts and New Trends: Strategies for a Changing World.” For Ukraine today, security challenges are defined by the continuing war in the east, the occupation of Crimea, the new US administration’s efforts to find its own voice, and Europe’s ongoing crises and weaknesses.

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