Russia

  • Ukraine's Diplomatic War for Peace

    These early autumn days are still hot—particularly for the upper crust of the diplomatic world attending the United Nations General Assembly's 72nd session. Much remains at stake.

    In particular, Ukraine will once again be requesting UN peacekeeping missions and other assistance from the United Nations to help bring the conflict in the east to a close. But once again, diplomats from around the world will be forced to choose between an ordinary country at the edge of Europe and the bullying giant that is Russia. It’s time for the international community to deprive Russia, as the aggressor state, of the right of a United Nations Security Council veto concerning the situation in Ukraine.

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  • Why Arming Ukraine Would End the Deadlock in the Donbas

    Signals from the Trump administration are beginning to indicate a new direction in the United States’ support of Ukraine. At the end of August, Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated that the Pentagon is “actively reviewing” the issue of defensive weapons, rightly noting that “defensive weapons are not provocative unless you are an aggressor, and clearly Ukraine is not an aggressor since it is their own territory where the fighting is happening.”

    Arming Ukraine would enable the United States to directly support an independent Ukraine and add to the overall security of Europe. Yet it goes without saying that such a move needs to be done intelligently and with the specific aim of improving the situation.

    Clearly, the United States and its allies in Europe do not want a military confrontation with Russia, especially with a possible conflict with North Korea looming on the horizon. And here lies the most important point in providing defensive weapons to Ukraine: they would act as a deterrent against Russian encroachment further into Ukrainian territory, not a provocation.

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  • The Kremlin’s Agent in the United States

    The US Department of Justice’s demand that a US affiliate of Russian state-sponsored news agency RT register as a foreign agent follows an Atlantic Council report, which suggested that RT be labelled a tool of the Kremlin.

    “We suspect that RT is likely violating US law by spreading propaganda on behalf of a foreign government without properly identifying itself,” Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI) said at the launch of “Agent of Influence: Should Russia’s RT Register as a Foreign Agent?” at the Atlantic Council on September 8.

    According to Cicilline, who delivered the keynote address, RT, a news agency which broadcasts local-language programs all over the world, “is the propaganda arm of the Russian government.” Not only is RT government-funded, but it spreads information which furthers Russia’s aims of destabilizing Western democracy, he said.

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  • Russia: It’s Not Just Putin

    With Russian fingers apparently thrust into all manner of cybercrime and espionage, Western publics are trying to make sense of it all. But most news accounts do not include the key to deciphering Russian behavior in cyberspace. What drives Russia is its unique nexus of government, business, and crime, perpetuated by systemic corruption and glued together by the siloviki—literally, people of power, that is, the secret services.

    Systemic corruption pervades everything in Russia, including law enforcement. Their power of arbitrary investigation is bolstered by a network of fellow operatives in every level of government and all manner of business, licit and illicit. Combined with exponential growth of the Internet, systemic corruption has propelled the siloviki into the dark world of cybercrime.

    Russia offers an overflowing labor supply for cyber-mischief. It has maintained high education standards—many young Russians excel in math, physics, and computer science—without a commensurate growth in well-paying, above-board jobs. Combine that with an atmosphere of impunity, and Russian cybercrime has become big business.

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  • Does Russia Have Hard Power in the US?

    There is something naïve about many people born in democratic countries. They seem to take the human rights, values, and principles upon which their countries are built for granted. Dangerously, they have a difficult time imagining that their rights and freedoms can be manipulated in such a way as to threaten their institutions, national security, and personal safety.

    The Kremlin is a prime example of an organization that masterfully takes advantage of human rights and civil liberties through infiltration. Since 2004, it has done so effectively in over twenty-seven countries by tampering with electoral processes, manipulating mass media and social media, controlling civil societies, and orchestrating cyber-attacks to foment socio-political strife and outright war abroad.

    Although certain elements within Ukrainian society have been informing their allies of the power of Russia’s fifth column—a group of people who infiltrate a territory from within—for many years, Western scholars, politicians, and academics alike have been slow to listen. Without exaggerating the threat, it is vital that they to understand and counter it.

    Even the head of the Russian-American Congress, Igor Baboshkyn, warned the US Congress in 2015 that the Russian Embassy was focusing on diaspora groups to create a network of US citizens who support the Kremlin’s geopolitical objectives.

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  • Russia’s Peacekeeping Proposal in Ukraine Is a Sham

    Russia has introduced a United Nations draft resolution for peacekeepers in Ukraine amid acclaim by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and the chairman of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE). On its face, this would appear to meet a long-standing demand of the government in Kyiv and mark a reversal of Russia’s previous position. As recently as April 25, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the concept of peacekeepers as contrary to the Minsk peace process.

    The resolution follows comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 5 following a meeting of the BRIC countries. Putin’s support was more tepid, however, than noted by most commentators. As soon as he used the term peacekeeper, Putin immediately backtracked and said he supported “not even peacekeepers, but those who provide security for the OSCE mission.” He hedged this support even further, stating that this new group of bodyguards should be located only on the demarcation line between Ukrainian and rebel forces, “and on no other territories.” The rebel-controlled sections of the Ukrainian-Russian border would remain opaque to international observers, and thus remain a conduit for rebel resupply. On September 11, he told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that UN peacekeepers might be deployed in other parts where OSCE monitors work, but even this concession still leaves Russians to decide where monitors can go.

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  • North Korean Missile Engines: Not from Ukraine

    A new report points to Ukraine as a possible source of liquid propellant engines (LPE) powering intercontinental-range missiles successfully ground-tested by North Korea last year and flight-tested this year. As the world grapples with the fait accompli of North Korean nuclear and missile capability, the path Pyongyang took to acquire it is of considerable interest, and allegations of aiding it are of serious consequence.

    The report, authored by Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, attributes the sudden success of North Korean missile tests to a recent illicit transfer of technology from Russia or Ukraine. Elleman uses visual analyses to identify North Korean missile LPEs as derived from RD-250 engines designed by the Russian Energomash and manufactured by Ukraine’s Yuzhmash enterprise. On the same day, The New York Times ran an article drawing on Elleman’s report but more explicitly singling out Ukraine’s Yuzhmash as the likely source of the technology transfer.

    The controversial part of the report is its hypothesis about the recent timing and the source of the transfer. Elleman concludes that North Korea has no ability to manufacture such engines and therefore must have imported them ready-made, most likely by rail, in the last couple of years from Russia or Ukraine. Although Elleman does not point directly to the Ukrainian government or Yuzhmash executives, he strongly suggests that Yuzhmash is the likely source of illegal transfers, since the enterprise had fallen on hard times following the termination of contracts from Russia in the wake of the Russian-Ukrainian war. We examine this hypothesis and find it implausible.

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  • Brummer Joins C-SPAN to Discuss North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela Sanctions


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  • Scarred: How Famine Shaped Modern Ukraine and Russia

    In the 1930s, Joseph Stalin committed crimes against humanity by purposely starving to death more than four million Ukrainians for resisting his Five-Year Plan to collectivize agriculture.

    Millions more fled and in 1937, Stalin executed or imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian leaders and influencers.

    For three more generations, Russia kept Stalin’s genocide hidden until 1991 when Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union and opened the archives.

    Many books and films followed over the years.

    But a new book called Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine, by Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Anne Applebaum, delivers more information and more insights into this dark chapter.

    The book draws parallels between past and present that reveal how little—except the scale of the damage and carnage—has changed. The psychological and demographic damage from the famine, or Holodomor in Ukrainian, has been so profound that it continues to shape the thinking of Ukrainians and Russians, she argues.

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  • Pyongyang’s Ambitions Have Nothing to Do with Kyiv and Everything to Do with Moscow

    The North Korean leadership, headed by 33-year-old Kim Jong-un, is openly threatening its neighbors, as well as the United States, with missile strikes. How has this little country, most of whose citizens live in poverty, managed to cause such a global security issue? A recent New York Times article accused Ukraine of illegally supplying rocket technology to the rogue state. Yet the answer to the question is more intricate. It calls for critical thinking and the recollection of assertions made by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2007 Munich Security Conference.

    Frustrated with the power of the United States, and the Kremlin’s loss of control over the former Soviet Union, Putin postulated the need to destroy American-oriented unipolarity in Munich. Referring to the United States he said, “The force’s dominance inevitably encourages a number of countries to acquire weapons of mass destruction” and that the decisive moment to rethink the architecture of global security had arrived.

    It is within this context that North Korea, isolated and dependent on Chinese and Russian aid, re-joined a privileged group of Moscow’s “friends,” enjoying forms of political, economic, and military support. Military-technical cooperation between the Kremlin and Pyongyang flourished under the brutal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Putin appears to be following in his footsteps.

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