• Ukraine Is Serious about Privatization This Time

    Since 2014, privatization in Ukraine has made little progress. Well-connected oligarchs could no longer dominate the privatization process, as had often been the case in the past because of strengthened public scrutiny and involvement of international donors, yet vested interests were still powerful enough to block privatizations and the lingering problems associated with the country’s business climate prevented the participation of foreign investors.

    Last year’s attempts to restart a privatization drive failed despite the government’s increased openness to international advice and absence of obvious manipulations with privatizations. The head of the State Property Fund had to resign after two futile attempts to sell the chemical giant Odesa Portside Plant. The range of unresolved disputes around the company deterred investors despite substantial price reductions. The only large privatization of 2017 was the sale of a minority packages of shares in energy distribution companies, which was purchased by Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov, who already held stakes in these companies. This has not brought more outside players to the market, which was what the government had hoped to achieve.

    But this time may be different: Ukraine is serious this time.

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  • Ukraine's Foreign Minister Says Salisbury Attack Proves Putin Has ‘No Red Lines’

    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin came to Brussels this week to meet European Union (EU) foreign ministers. He had a dual mission.

    Klimkin made his usual appeal to his European counterparts for more help for Ukraine, but also asked them to do more to protect themselves from a Kremlin he says has no limits after Vladimir Putin’s effortless reinstallation as president on March 18.

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  • Nordenman Quoted in Defense News on Norway Potentially Agreeing to Additional US Marine Presence

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  • Crucial EU Initiative that Outs Kremlin Lies Under Fire

    A crucial program that identifies Kremlin methods of disinformation has come under attack. Alarmingly, one of the key accusations is that its activities constitute an attempt to restrict freedom of speech. The situation could not be more absurd. 

    The program running into such controversy is the East Stratcom Task Force and the EU vs Disinfo website that the task force runs. Back in March 2015, EU heads of state decided to create the task force, to be run by the European External Action Service, in response to Russian disinformation campaigns.

    Russia’s “information war” had escalated in 2014, with disinformation and virulent propaganda used to justify its annexation of Crimea and military aggression in eastern Ukraine. It was probably the downing of MH17 on July 17, 2014, with the death of 298 passengers, that served as a wake-up call to the West, 

    While establishing the task force in response, however, there was disagreement between the twenty-eight member states, with those nearest to Russia supporting broader measures, while others wanted a narrower scope in order to avoid antagonizing Russia. 

    As a result, the task force has been under-resourced and under-staffed, and it is an enormous credit to its team that they have achieved so much.

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  • Fried Quoted in The Washington Post on Trump and Macron Relationship

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  • How the US Can Shore Up Ukraine’s Vulnerabilities in the Black Sea

    Four years after the invasion of Crimea and the Donbas, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine continues unabated. For all the failures of the government in Kyiv to reform, Ukraine is still fighting our war. Were it not for Ukrainians’ willingness to defend themselves, NATO would be spending a fortune to reform its past structures and procedures and defend its members against Russian threats. For if Ukrainian independence and/or territorial integrity were suborned by Russia, NATO would be obliged to raise large defenses for Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia in addition to the Baltic detachments already in force. Yet in too many NATO capitals, there is an unwillingness to recognize that Putin is constantly escalating his war against the West as shown by the latest chemical warfare attacks in Salisbury, England. Therefore rendering Ukraine the help it needs even as we pressure it to reform continues to be in US national interests.

    One neglected area where we can render material assistance to Ukraine and advance our own self-interest is the naval sphere.

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  • Wieslander Joins the Army Museum in Stockholm to Discuss Finnish-Swedish Military Cooperation

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  • Russia’s Attack in the UK: the Other Beast From the East

    The attempted murder of a former Russian intelligence officer in the United Kingdom (UK) has not only triggered reprisals from London, but more importantly demonstrated how easy it has been to drive wedges into Western politics.

    Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent created by Russia on March 4 in Salisbury, a rural corner of Britain. In response to the incident, British Prime Minister Theresa May expelled twenty-three Russian diplomats from London. The Kremlin retaliated by expelling twenty-three British diplomats from Moscow.

    As a nation, Russia may be economically, socially, and politically weaker than it appears, but the Kremlin has a knack for finding weaknesses in its adversaries. It has found them aplenty in the UK. As a result, beyond placing the blame at the Kremlin’s doorstep through a series of statements, the UK, United States, and European allies have not committed to any cohesive and coordinated response to the attack.

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  • Why Nord Stream 2 Isn’t Just an Ordinary Pipeline

    Of all nations, Germany must heed the lessons of history, both current and past. This begs the question as to why Germany would help Europe become more energy dependent on a country like Russia that ignores norms, contracts, laws, treaties, and borders.

    And yet that is exactly what Germany is about to do if it approves Gazprom’s $11.5-billion pipeline gas megaproject called Nord Stream 2. Proponents argue that the pipeline is an “economic project” that simply will deliver cheaper gas to German industries and turn Germany into a European hub for Russian gas. They say this is the same gas, only a different pipeline.

    But this is not an “economic” project and this is not just a different pipeline.

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  • Ukraine Should Remove "Stringent" Disclosure Law on Civil Society

    There has been an ominous change in the state of freedom of association in Ukraine over the last year.

    One of Ukraine’s leading activists, Vitaliy Shabunin of the Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC), is facing trial on criminal charges and could receive up to five years in prison. The charges are at best exaggerated and at worst politically motivated. Civil society argues that the facts of Shabunin’s incident in which he punched a provocateur posing as a journalist were intentionally distorted so that authorities could bring more severe charges against him.

    YouControl, a platform that provides free access to government data registers used by anti-corruption activists and investigative journalists, was accused of trading classified information, among other charges. Over ninety Ukrainian organizations wrote a cease-and-desist letter to government authorities, requesting that they stop harassing YouControl. The SBU recently dropped the case because of an “absence of proof,” but the decision does not explicitly state that YouControl’s founder and his employees are not guilty. Similarly, three activists from the Auto-Maidan civil society group currently face criminal proceedings for throwing eggs at lawmaker Oleh Barna. Sergei Hadzhynov, one of Auto-Maidan’s leaders, believes this to be part of a larger political vendetta. If convicted, Hadzhynov and his colleagues could face four to seven years in jail.

    Many key civic actors argue that the actions against AntAC, YouControl, Auto-Maidan, and others are not isolated incidents, but attempts on the part of President Petro Poroshenko to muzzle key voices of dissent in advance of the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections.

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