• NATO Holds its Peace as Relations with Turkey Degrade

    Kjell Brygfjeld, a 67-year-old commercial lawyer in Stavanger, the oil capital of Norway, never expected the aftershocks from last July’s failed military coup in Turkey to reach his door.
    Read More
  • Cyberattack Cripples Ukraine

    The massive cyberattack that crippled public transportation, the central bank, government offices, the state power distributor, and public firms in Ukraine on June 27 serves as a potent reminder of the havoc that can be unleashed by low-level actors, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

    “This is another reminder that low-capability actors can have a profound impact on critical infrastructure like media, finance, energy, and others,” said Beau Woods, deputy director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

    Besides Ukraine, which appears to have been hit particularly hard, symptoms of the attack were also reported from the United Kingdom, Russian oil producer Rosneft, and the Danish shipping company Maersk.

    “Despite early indications, it’s unclear whether this attack was targeted against Ukraine or just happened to hit the news cycle there first,” said Woods.

    Read More
  • What Happens if Russia Turns Up the Heat Again in Ukraine?

    Will the low-intensity war in the Donbas continue its current course in the coming years, or will Moscow turn up the heat there, as it occasionally does?

    It’s hard to say. “It all comes down to geopolitics and what Putin wants to do,” said Ihor Kozak, an independent Canadian defense and security expert who visited Ukraine’s frontlines in June, in a recent interview.

    Russia is purposefully building up its military capacity and installations, including a railway line along the Russian-Ukrainian border from Zhuravka to Millerovo—new infrastructure that would make possible the quick movement of troops in the region. Renowned Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer, who in June 2008 predicted Russia’s August 2008 assault on Georgia, warns that this project and the general buildup of the Russian army could lead to an open Russian invasion into mainland Ukraine.

    The aim of such a foray could be to create a land connection between the occupied parts of the Donbas and Crimea that runs along the shores of the Azov Sea.

    Read More
  • How History Will Remember Vladimir Putin

    To paraphrase Pravda in 1929, Putin is the Stalin of today. Nobody since Stalin’s death has achieved such longevity or uncontested power over Russia as Putin has. Nevertheless, tomorrow he may be remembered as the Brezhnev of today, for he has presided over a galloping stagnation of the economy and public morality. At the same time, like many former Russian leaders—including Brezhnev, Stalin, and Nicholas I—he seeks to imprison Russia in a straightjacket of repression and mandated official thinking that glorifies autocracy and Russian state nationalism.

    Under Nicholas I, this system was called “official nationality” and it put Russia into an ice age during the last years of his reign. Other despots like Alexander III, Stalin, and Brezhnev presided over such stagnation after they refused to make any reforms that might weaken their leadership and it became clear that their governments had nothing to offer. The results of such policies are well known to Russian historians and observers and are of particular significance on this centennial anniversary of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Today, the same phenomenon is apparent under Putin.

    Nevertheless, recent trends suggest that the pressure inside Putin’s regime is growing steadily.

    Read More
  • In Ukraine, Health Security Is National Security

    Three years after its invasion of Ukraine, Russia continues to pummel the country with cyberattacks, ruthless propaganda, and Grad missiles.

    But Ukraine’s dysfunctional institutions, especially its health care system, undermine Ukraine’s national security as well. Policies to reduce the enormous stress on Ukraine’s military and government alone ignore the delivery of core services. Without those services, Ukraine’s citizens remain vulnerable to its enemies, like Russia, who benefit from a weak state.

    That’s why civil society, countless experts, and thousands of activists have stood with Dr. Ulana Suprun, acting Minister of Health, to demand an entirely new model for health care in Ukraine. Such a model would provide stability in a country losing its population; a country where children aren’t always vaccinated and epidemics, like tuberculosis, infect young and old alike. A new health care system is a national security imperative.

    There’s no question that Ukraine’s health care system is broken. There is too little palliative care for patients facing life-threatening illness. Corrupt Soviet-legacy procurement policies, under-equipped clinics, and corruption in the management of controlled substances leave patients navigating a system that does not meet their needs. Petty corruption is the norm. Half of all Ukrainians do not use health services at all because they cannot afford the informal payments many doctors ask for even though Ukraine’s constitution mandates free health care.

    The stories about Ukraine’s failing health care system are heartbreaking.

    Read More
  • Memo to President Trump: It’s Not “The Ukraine” Anymore

    The first meeting between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and US President Donald Trump on June 20 was widely hailed as a small but significant victory for Ukraine, signaling continued American support at a time when many fear Ukraine’s struggle with Russia is in danger of becoming a forgotten war. The only fly in the ointment was Trump’s reference to “The Ukraine,” which elicited a predictable chorus of moans.

    Numerous commentators chose to see this gaffe as yet another example of Trump’s allegedly amateurish and uninformed approach to foreign affairs. However, in fairness to the current resident of the White House, he is far from alone in failing to name Ukraine correctly. His predecessor Barack Obama repeatedly referred to “The Ukraine,” while numerous other international leaders have also been guilty of the same offense in recent years.

    Many struggle to see why the use of the definite article is such a big deal for Ukrainians.

    Read More
  • Experts Urge Congress and Trump to Arm Ukraine

    A bipartisan task force made up of former US defense officials, ambassadors, and security experts renewed calls for the United States to give lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine. On June 21, the National Security Task Force of the Friends of Ukraine Network urged the United States to provide a range of weapons, intelligence, and training.

    “[T]he purpose of providing defensive weapons is to help Ukraine deter the Russians from carrying out further attacks, and to increase the pressure on Russia to negotiate seriously on implementing the Minsk agreements,” said Alexander Vershbow, a member of the task force and the former deputy secretary general of NATO. “The aim is not to encourage Ukraine to seek a military victory, which Kyiv knows isn’t possible,” he said at the launch event in Washington, DC.

    Read More
  • Russia, Not Ukraine, Is Serial Violator of Ceasefire Agreement

    Like many articles and analyses of the Minsk process, “Ukrainian Military Progress Could Violate Minsk Peace Process” requires additional analysis on the geopolitical underpinnings and implications of the issue at hand. Without this context, it is difficult to make sense of any facts presented.

    The context is this: Moscow is conducting the war in Ukraine’s east; without Russian leadership, troops, financing, and weapons, there would be no war. Both the EU and the United States levied sanctions to encourage Moscow to end its aggression and to discourage it from the expanding the war further into Ukraine.

    Equally important is that fact that the sanctions were levied not long before the Minsk I Agreement was negotiated in September 2014, but Moscow’s continuing aggression included the seizure of hundreds of square kilometers of additional Ukrainian territory. A Russian offensive violating Minsk I led to the negotiation of the Minsk II Agreement in February 2015, with terms far more negative for Ukraine. Those terms delayed the return of border control to Ukraine and permitted the Russian-controlled separatists to maintain their own military forces.

    The bottom line is clear: Moscow is conducting a low intensity war in the Donbas to destabilize the government in Ukraine by producing regular Ukrainian casualties, seizing small increments of additional Ukrainian territory, and overtaxing the economy.

    Read More
  • Vershbow Quoted in The Guardian on Trump's Meeting with Ukrainian President

    Read More
  • Will Ukraine Finally Pass Land Reform?

    Ukraine still needs a powerful push to finally shrug off the 2014-2015 crisis, which caused its economy to contract by 16.5 percent. The IMF prescribed anticorruption reform, privatization, pension reform, and allowing private sales of land to give Ukraine that boost. It is important to move fast with these reforms for two reasons: first, elections are fast approaching; and second, peak foreign debt payments are due in 2019.

    Of the major reforms currently being considered, land reform would have the largest economic impact by far. It would bring investment into the agricultural sector, create new lending opportunities for the banking sector, which is still in crisis, and bring important improvements to rural communities through higher land rent fees and greater protection of property rights.

    Still, this reform faces the greatest risk of being derailed, mostly due to a lack of political consensus.

    Read More