• Trump-Putin Summit: Expect the Unexpected

    Just in the past few months, US President Donald J. Trump has blown up the G7 summit in Canada, berated the United States’ NATO allies, criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May on her handling of Brexit, described Germany as a “captive” of Russia, characterized the European Union as a “foe,” and directed the Pentagon to review the cost of withdrawing US troops from Europe.

    In sharp contrast to remarks directed at US friends and allies, Trump has been reluctant to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin whom he has described as “fine.” Acting against the advice of his advisers, Trump went so far as to congratulate the Russian president on his victory in an election widely viewed as unfair. He even suggested that Russia be invited back to a G8—a grouping Russia was expelled from after it annexed Crimea in 2014. On July 16, Trump will meet Putin in Helsinki for the leaders’ first summit. The rest of the world will be watching anxiously.

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  • Why Is the International Media Still Repeating Kremlin Propaganda about Ukraine?

    When two members of Croatia’s World Cup squad recorded a nine-second video dedicating their quarter final victory over Russia to Ukraine, they chose to accompany it with the patriotic slogan “Slava Ukraini” (“Glory to Ukraine”). As former Dynamo Kyiv players, they appear to have believed they were sending a somewhat cheeky but essentially harmless message to their Ukrainian friends. However, to millions of horrified viewers in Russia, there was nothing innocent about the video. To them, it was a dire insult to national honor straight out of the Nazi era.

    This historically illiterate interpretation of the phrase “Glory to Ukraine” is perfectly in line with modern Russia’s preference for viewing all things Ukrainian through the narrow and distorting prism of Ukraine’s World War II-era independence movement.

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  • Donald Trump and Theresa May: On the Issues

    Donald J. Trump and Theresa May attempted to paper over their differences—at least in public—at a joint press conference on July 13. This interaction followed a controversial interview Trump gave to the British tabloid The Sun in which  the US president criticized the British prime minister’s approach to Brexit.

    Here’s a look at where the two leaders came out on some key issues as they fielded questions from journalists at the prime minister’s country residence, Chequers.

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  • If Trump Gambles Away Crimea, What Does This Actually Mean?

    On July 16, a historic summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will take place in Helsinki.

    Many have speculated as to what the Master of the Deal will offer the Russian strongman. No one knows. Kyiv is legitimately worried that Trump will give away Crimea, Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula, that Russia illegally annexed in 2014.  

    Trump set off speculation that Crimea may be up for grabs at the Helsinki meeting after he told reporters on June 29 that “we are going to have to see” if Crimea should be part of Russia. This was only days after he reportedly told world leaders that “Crimea is Russia because everyone there speaks Russian.” During a 2016 election rally, Trump stated that “Putin would not invade Ukraine” despite the fact that Crimea and part of eastern Ukraine have been occupied by regular Russian forces since 2014.  

    One of the arguments Putin is likely to make is that Crimea has historically been part of Russia. Let’s check the facts. Crimea was transferred to Ukraine in 1954 when it was a part of the USSR. Sixty years later in February 2014 it was annexed by Russian military forces. Russian authorities organized a bogus “referendum” in March 2014 which began the process of incorporating it into the Russian Federation. Only a few countries recognized the “referendum,” and they don’t have sterling human rights records; the list includes Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and Afghanistan. The Obama administration immediately slapped sanctions on Russia after the referendum. 

    Meanwhile, US policy on Crimea has been loud and consistent: Crimea is part of Ukraine and sanctions won’t be lifted until Russia leaves.

    As president, Trump does have the authority to recognize Crimea as a part of Russia. But there will be serious consequences if he does. I see at least five.  

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  • In the United Kingdom, Trump and May Put Up a United Front

    A day after a dramatic back and forth with NATO allies over defense spending in Brussels, US President Donald J. Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom has once again provided wild swings from apparent discord between the president and his allies, to firm commitments of unity and claims of success.

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  • Why the Donbas Is So Vulnerable to Russian Propaganda

    When thousands of Ukrainian citizens and most journalists fled to safety, Stanislav Aseev, an aspiring young journalist from the Donbas decided to stay put. Surrounded by frequent shelling, rupturing grenades, flying rockets, worn by the psychological stress of death, destruction, and high unemployment, and bombarded by propaganda that shattered friendships and families, he put his life on the line to tell this story.

    Aseev paid a high price. In June 2017, the separatists arrested him on trumped-up charges of espionage, tortured him, and refused to include him in the last big prisoner swap.

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  • Trump Reveals He was ‘Very Firm’ with NATO Allies

    [Excerpts from remarks by President Trump at press conference after NATO Summit, July 12, 2018.
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  • Stop Freaking Out. Trump Has Less Power Than Everyone Thinks.

    If one took the punditry seriously, it would be easy to conclude that the Western liberal order is being unmade before our very eyes. Some worried that US President Donald Trump would destroy the North Atlantic Treaty Organization this week. He didn’t. Instead, he reaffirmed his commitment to it.

    Yes, he undermined the credibility of the alliance and potentially created deep rifts among its members. He bashed Germany and told the Europeans and Canada that they need to pony up more dough. He was crass, and the United States’ image abroad took another hit. But NATO still stands.

    Trump’s next big meeting is with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16. The president has an unexplained soft spot for the Russian strongman and wants to mend US-Russian relations badly. After last month’s flop in North Korea, Trump needs a win.  

    On June 29, Trump told reporters that he might recognize Crimea as Russia’s. In 2014, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, which had been part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic since 1954 and then of an independent and sovereign Ukraine since 1991. The United States has maintained that Crimea belongs to Ukraine—full stop, and so has the European Union. The White House later walked back Trump’s statement and said that US policy has not changed.

    Still, Kyiv remains understandably anxious. The nation of 44 million worries that Trump will bargain away Crimea for better US-Russian relations. Others fret that Trump will lift sanctions on Russia.

    The truth is that Trump can’t do as much as people think he can. 

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  • Why the Russian Fuss over “Fascist” Salute at World Cup Backfired

    “Glory to Ukraine!” saluted Domagoj Vida in a video message last week to his Ukrainian fans following Croatia’s victory over host Russia in the quarter finals of the World Cup. Vida, a Croatian defender who had played for five years with Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv, was pumped up from a heady goal in a dramatic victory over Russia on July 7.

    It was natural that he would salute the millions of Ukrainian fans who had followed his exploits for five years in Kyiv. And it was normal that—as someone who had lived in Kyiv during the Maidan protests, the killing of more than one hundred protestors, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the ten thousand deaths it has brought—he would have great sympathy for Ukraine.

    Shouting “Slava Ukraini!” or “Glory to Ukraine!” would hardly seem a matter for FIFA, the international football authority. But Vida’s utterance created a major international kerfuffle with FIFA initially threatening to disqualify the offending Croatian footballer and his mate, Ognjen Vukojevic, an assistant coach. Later, the Croatian team would dismiss Vukojevic, who, likewise had played for Ukraine’ s Dynamo club.

    The FIFA kerfuffle revealed a string of paradoxes about the international community, football, money, power, and double standards.

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  • Nordenman Quoted in Defense News on NATO's New Baltic Command Structure

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