• Five Steps Ukraine Should Take Now to Free Their Hostages in Russia

    Perhaps no one in Kyiv faces a more difficult task than First Vice-Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Iryna Herashchenko. Herashchenko is Ukraine's lead negotiator tasked with freeing Ukrainians held captive in the Donbas. The Ukrainian government and Russia's separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine exchanged nearly 400 prisoners in late 2017—a notable achievement for which Herashchenko deserves her nation's gratitude. 

    Herashchenko now faces an even thornier issue; she must track the fate of the approximately seventy Ukrainian citizens held as de facto hostages on Russian territory. While Herashchenko is not officially responsible for securing their release, she understands its emotional resonance in Ukraine. In an interview with the Atlantic Council, Herashchenko laid out the obstacles to freeing these hostages.

    Russia remains determined to use the Ukrainian hostages as a weapon in its hybrid war against Ukraine, forcing Kyiv to make concessions on fundamental issues of sovereignty that no Ukrainian government could accept, she said.

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  • Former Defense Minister Hrytsenko Is Finally Having His Moment in the Sun

    Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Ukraine’s defense minister from 2005 to 2007, is finally having his moment in the sun.

    The latest poll shows that 12.7 percent of Ukrainians who have made up their minds would vote for Hrytsenko in the first round of the 2019 presidential election. This is progress compared to his previous results. The 2019 race will be the third attempt in Hrytsenko’s political career to become president; he scored 1.2 percent of the vote in 2010 and 5.5 percent in 2014. However, at least 29 percent of Ukrainians are still undecided, so take these numbers with a large grain of salt.

    Hrtysenko’s political party, Civic Position, is also enjoying the same success. It polls second with 11.5 percent support, which is a massive improvement from its performance in the 2014 parliamentary elections, when it garnered 3.1 percent.

    How did Hrytsenko and his party manage to climb the polls in a few short years?

    Hrytsenko has one feature which sets him apart from other major Ukrainian politicians.

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  • Oosterveld and Morales Salto-Weis in MarketWatch: Will Italy’s Next Government Try to Pull it Out of the Euro?

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  • Italy May Soon Be Led by an Anti-EU, Pro-Putin Coalition

    Italy’s populist Five Star Movement and the League have finalized a coalition agreement that challenges the consensus of the European Union (EU).

    There are still a couple of hurdles to be cleared: the parties have yet to agree on a candidate for prime minister and supporters of the Five Star Movement are voting in an online poll this weekend to approve or reject the agreement. Given that many Five Star voters come from the left and the League is far to the right, the outcome could be a surprise. But if the party leaders get their way, Europe’s fourth-largest economy will soon be governed by an anti-EU coalition.

    There are two immediate challenges for the rest of the EU.

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  • Ukraine’s New Populists: Who They Are and Why They’re Dangerous

    Populists are flourishing almost everywhere. The demand for simple solutions in a complicated world makes their messages resonate.

    Ukraine is no exception. The country’s situation with numerous security and economic hardships provides fertile ground for populists.

    Over the last four years, Ukraine has embraced a number of painful structural reforms that have been partially successful. But so far they have not improved the wellbeing of ordinary citizens, although they may bring positive effects in the future. In the short-term, the poor often face worsening economic conditions.

    According to a recent poll by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, 74 percent of Ukrainians say the country is moving in the wrong direction, and 50 percent identify higher prices with stagnant wages as the biggest problem.

    Populists are seducing precisely these types of people.

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  • How to Make Sense of Japan’s Delicate Balance Between Russia and Ukraine

    Showing solidarity with other G7 countries following Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, Japan imposed sanctions on Russia—albeit reluctantly. The Ukraine crisis occurred amid Japan's efforts to reinvigorate Japan-Russia relations in the hope of solving the long-standing territorial dispute over the Northern territories (the Kuril Islands in Russian). Subsequently, maintaining Japan’s balance between other G7 countries and Russia became one of the main challenges for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

    While Japan felt obliged to support the international community and to impose sanctions, the geopolitical dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region forced it to take a conciliatory approach to Russia. This delicate balance resulted in Japan’s symbolic sanctions and in different narratives promoted at home and in Ukraine.

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  • Do Ukraine’s Reformers Have a Real Shot at the Presidency?

    Ukraine’s opposition is a mess—but this is hardly news. Through Ukraine’s nearly three decades of independence, its opposition has never gotten its act together. Consequently, the same corrupt elite continues to govern the country of 45 million to its detriment.

    Ukraine managed to squander the gains of its street revolution in 2004, and as the country approaches the second presidential and parliamentary elections after the 2014 Euromaidan that ousted pro-Russian former President Viktor Yanukovych, it’s seeming possible that the country will face a similar outcome.

    The 2019 presidential election doesn’t look promising. Ukrainians are sick of their leaders—sick enough to consider electing inexperienced rock star Slava Vakarchuk or comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Incumbent president Petro Poroshenko is tanking in the polls, but it’s still quite possible he could be reelected for a second term, despite the fact that Ukrainians traditionally don’t like incumbents; voters have only given one president a second term since 1991. The other real possibility for the presidency is wily and everlasting politician Yulia Tymoshenko. Neither outcome would be good for the country’s long-term health or for US national interests.

    Subsequently, hopes are high for reformers. There are at least six political parties or movements vying for that vote, which makes up 15 percent of the electorate, but no leader to unify them. In Kyiv, three names are being discussed to lead the Maidan opposition movement.

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  • Basque Terrorist Group ETA Disbands, Ending Decades of Violence

    One of Europe’s longest terrorist campaigns is finally over.

    The dissolution of Basque separatist group ETA puts an end to the use of deadly violence for political goals in Spain, namely, establishing an independent nationalist state in the country’s Basque region.

    Like the Good Friday Agreement that sealed the peace process in Northern Ireland in the 1990s, the end of ETA contributes to the long-term decline of violent nationalist movements in Western Europe.  

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  • Is Germany's Military Readiness Problem a Critical Vulnerability for NATO?

    Germany’s military is virtually undeployable and security experts say it is too weak to meet its obligations to its allies, as it prepares to assume command of NATO’s crisis response force next year.
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  • Stoltenberg Provides Details of NATO's Cyber Policy

    In recent years, we have seen many large scale cyber-attacks.
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