UkraineAlert

US President Barack Obama recently derided critics of his foreign policies as offering merely mumbo-jumbo. Yet everyone can plainly see the administration's shocking degree of across-the-board strategic incomprehension and incompetence in Europe and the Middle East. In fact, European Union diplomats publicly admit that confidence in US policies is plummeting throughout Europe. Therefore, I offer a strategy for Europe that aims to restore Western cohesion under a revitalized US and European Atlanticism that meets today's needs and responds to the linked challenges of Russia, Ukraine, immigration, the Middle East, and European economic-political stagnation. It also forthrightly asserts that absent US leadership, no adequate response to current crises will emerge.

Read More

For a brief moment, it felt like déjà vu. As an officer with the Canadian Armed Forces, I visited several hot spots, witnessing my share of misery and destruction. Now I am in the Donbas, the war-torn region of eastern Ukraine.

Since its independence in 1991, Ukraine has struggled to shed its Soviet colonial past and the remaining vestiges of Russian domination. It seeks to join Europe and the world of free nations. The Euromaidan's Revolution of Dignity transformed the country by removing a corrupt dictator and bringing to power a government committed to anchoring Ukraine firmly within the Euro-Atlantic community. Russia responded by resorting to war. It officially annexed Crimea, and then de facto invaded portions of eastern Ukraine. Eighteen months later, entire villages and cities have been destroyed, almost 8,000 lives have been lost, and another 30,000 have been wounded. More than 1.5 million internal refugees have been displaced.

Read More

Russian President Vladimir Putin is pivoting and wants to withdraw from the Donbas but keep Crimea, according to Iegor Soboliev, the head of the Ukrainian parliament's anti-corruption committee.

"He wants to give it back to us right now. He doesn't need the Donbas," he said in an interview on October 5.

"Unfortunately, he will try to keep Crimea. He announced the occupation as a big historical victory for Russia so now it's impossible to return the Crimea because many Russians would see it as a political defeat."

Read More

What Russia hoped would be a small, victorious war has turned into the "geostrategic disaster of a new cold war," writes Volodymyr Horbulin, a respected foreign policy analyst currently advising Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

In an article in Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, Horbulin argues that the main participants in the war have exhausted themselves. The Donbas has become a black hole from which Russia, its creator, cannot escape.

Hybrid war succeeded in Crimea, but it failed in the Donbas. Ukraine's economic blockade of the occupied territories has strained Russia financially. Separatist leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk are incompetent, forcing Moscow to augment its military advisers with administrators. Returning Russian "volunteers" are a problem for Moscow, which has already asked rebels to create a border force to prevent former fighters from coming home to make trouble.

Read More

The demonizing of Ukrainian oligarchs as major impediments to democratization and reform has become a shared mantra of Western and domestic pundits alike. Whenever explaining the slow pace of Ukraine's changes after the Euromaidan, analysts argue that oligarchs only gained influence and that by controlling whole chunks of the state apparatus, mass media, and economy, they are capable of halting reforms whenever their financial interests are at stake.

But instead of blaming the omnipresent bogeymen—the oligarchs—let's acknowledge that this view is just too simple to be true. Ukraine's government is often unprepared to kill the beast of underperforming post-Soviet institutions. Parliamentary support of reforms is similarly weak due to internal political rivalries and contradictions within the ruling coalition. The so-called "new professional faces" who got Cabinet posts on the basis of unjustified quotas were neither "new" nor "professional," while civil-society activists—despite their frenzied efforts to advocate change—are often disunited and too inexperienced to replace the government in the strenuous and intellectually demanding process of political reform.

Read More

The October 2 Paris Summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and Russian President Vladimir Putin produced no breakthrough for peace in Ukraine. But it provided additional proof that, for the moment, Putin wants to lower tensions in the region. The parties spoke about three issues: the withdrawal of armaments, the timing and conditions of elections, and OSCE monitoring of the region controlled by Putin's proxies in eastern Ukraine. The handling of these issues puts most of the onus on Moscow and its agents, and the Kremlin's follow-through should be seen as a test of Putin's intentions.

Read More

We all agree: The greatest threat facing Ukraine, after its war with Russia, is corruption. But few agree how to do so, though it should not be that difficult.

In 1998, Ukraine's main gas importer, Ihor Bakai, stated that "all rich people in Ukraine made their money on Russian gas." The technique was simple. A Ukrainian trader would receive monopoly rights to buy cheap gas from Russia's Gazprom—often financed with Russian credits—then sell it at a much higher price in Ukraine. In return, that trader was supposed to buy Ukraine's rulers to the Kremlin's benefit. After Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution, Bakai fled to Russia, but that trade continued.

Read More

A day after US President Barack Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the United States announced that it will ship long-range counter-battery radars to Ukraine. Obama authorized $20 million to provide the country with radars, bringing US security assistance to Ukraine up to $265 million. Obama's message is clear: the United States will not sacrifice Ukraine in exchange for Russian cooperation against Islamic State in Syria.

The announcement also shows that the United States views the current ceasefire in eastern Ukraine—in place since September 1—as an opportunity to help Ukraine upgrade its deterrent military capability. While Ukraine's request for 1,240 Javelin anti-tank missiles has gone unmet, Washington's willingness to move forward with radars sends a clear signal that the US may consider sending lethal weapons should the Minsk II process fail.

Read More

If the Ukrainian government does not follow through with an ambitious reform agenda, public support will wane while dissatisfaction will increase, threatening political stability and the country's future. "There is no time for slow evolutionary changes. Radical and revolutionary reforms are the only way to success," warns a new report issued September 28.

Read More

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the predominantly Russian-speaking regions of eastern and southern Ukraine that remain under Kyiv's control. Support for those he calls "compatriots" has been at the core of Putin's stated rationale for intervention in Ukraine. Polls show, however, that a clear majority of these compatriots reject Putin's self-proclaimed right to intervene on their behalf.

Although often frustrated with the Kyiv government, these Ukrainians—despite their affinity for Russian language and culture—do not seek to join the Russian Federation or subordinate themselves to the Kremlin's dictates. Russia's aggression has spurred the opposite of what it intended: it has increased the identification of residents in the east and south with the Ukrainian state.

Read More