UkraineAlert

Kyiv Has Begun the Hard Steps of Reform; IMF and Allies Must Now Deliver Quickly


The dramatic plunge last month in the value of the hryvnia, Ukraine’s currency, sparked speculation about an immediate, national economic collapse. Despite the drama—the hryvnia lost more than half of its value against the dollar in February, hitting a record low of 33.75 before regaining (to 23 to the dollar)—a close look at Ukraine’s financial numbers shows that panic is unfounded.

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A Vice News Documentary Shows What Russia Is Hiding—and How


Since last summer, when President Vladimir Putin’s government first deployed major units of Russian conventional army troops to fight in its war against Ukraine, the Kremlin has used state secrecy, propaganda, intimidation, and violence to conceal the story.

Police have obstructed journalists, arrested them—and in one case, thugs beat a local newspaper publisher so badly he had to be hospitalized. That publisher, Lev Shlosberg, who also is a local legislator in the oblast (province) of Pskov, is undeterred, appearing this week among other Russians courageous enough to tell reporters from the US-based Vice News about Putin’s secret war.

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Wilson: Only the US Can Lead in Defending Europe Against Putin’s Rising Ambition


The United States and its allies must confront the aggressive actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin because failing to do so will escalate his ambitions—perhaps to the point of forcing a war with NATO, the Atlantic Council’s Damon Wilson told the US Senate this week.

And the United States must lead, because no European country is strong enough to do so against a Kremlin that increasingly targets not just Russia’s ex-Soviet neighbors but the democracy and unity of Europe, Wilson said. The US government should galvanize a strategy including tightened economic sanctions on Russia, arms supplies for Ukraine’s defense, and a financial commitment similar to those for other major crises such as the Ebola outbreak and the ISIS war in the Middle East, he said.

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Burns: Give Arms to Ukraine, More NATO Cover to Baltics—and Leadership for Europe


President Barack Obama has given space for Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to lead recently in the Western response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. But it's now time for the US president to take the reins back, writes former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns.

The evidence is in the results of the cease-fire deal that Chancellor Merkel led in negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin promptly violated this second truce, as he did the first one, five months earlier. Again, he used the "cease-fire" as cover to seize new territory with his proxy forces in Donbas. 

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Did NATO Provoke a War By Trying to ‘Take’ Ukraine From Russia?


Much Western thinking about the causes of the Russo-Ukrainian War is rooted in a myth. It posits that the West—or, more specifically, NATO—attempted to wrest Ukraine from Russia’s sphere of influence, thereby forcing Vladimir Putin to defend Russia’s legitimate strategic interests by going to war with Ukraine.

The logic is impeccable. The only problem is that there isn’t a shred of truth to this claim.

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For Long-Term Security, EU Should Push Moscow to Obey Rules and Kyiv to Reform Gas Sector


By brokering a March 2 interim gas deal between Ukraine and Russia, the European Union helped avert a wintertime cutoff of gas to Ukraine and other parts of Europe. Russia had threatened to halt supplies to Ukraine in the two countries’ dispute over prices and payments for Russia’ gas. The deal, in Brussels, came as Ukraine’s parliament passed one of several difficult reform laws that could help the longer-term energy security of both the country and Europe, analysts say.

Europe is at risk of Russian gas cutoffs because almost 15 percent of its total gas needs arrive from Russia via pipelines across Ukraine. But the EU can take a simple step to reduce its dangerous dependence on Russia’s good will in delivering gas to Ukraine, write two Canadian economists. EU leaders should begin building a more flexible, stable gas market in Europe by forcing the Russian gas monopoly, Gazprom, to remove a clause in its contracts that forbid European countries from swapping around volumes of gas bought initially from Russia.

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Europe Should Press Moscow to Respect EU Rules—and Kyiv to End Gas Monopoly


In recent days, Russia has once more threatened the security of Europe’s gas supplies by announcing that it will refuse to pipe gas through Ukraine and will require that a southern alternative be built through Turkey. The European gas supply system has become a vital issue over the past year given Europe’s significant reliance on Russian imports and the conflict arising from Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. Europe depends on gas imports from Russia for approximately 30 percent of its requirements, of which about 40 percent are transported through Ukrainian pipelines.

For years, Europe has allowed Gazprom, the monopolistic Russian state gas supplier, to sell in Europe on terms that are highly anticompetitive and inconsistent with market principles. This has let Russia use gas exports as a weapon of intimidation, especially in Central and Eastern Europe.

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Christine Lagarde

MIT Economist Says Rescue Plan Is Too Small, May Need Adjustment


An International Monetary Fund bailout for Ukraine underestimates the banking sector’s needs and is unrealistic about government expenditure on security and defense, according to Andrei Kirilenko, a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ukraine has secured a $40 billion bailout from the IMF and other creditors. The agreement, which spans four years and includes $17.5 billion from the Fund, “can represent a turning point for Ukraine,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Kirilenko, a Professor of the Practice of Finance at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said the package is not designed to “stimulate sustainable economic growth,” but to “close a bleeding wound in the underbelly of Europe.”

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Passive Responses to Putin Darken the Future for Ukraine—and for Russia


The professional killing of Boris Nemtsov February 27 confronts us with two facts that Western policymakers ignore at great cost in the Russia-Ukraine war. First, Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine is potentially a great domestic political liability for him. Second, it is central to his campaign to crush all democratic inclinations so as to force Russia back under into the authoritarian rule it bore for centuries under tsars and Soviet commissars.

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Truce Buys Ukraine Time to Get a Little Real Help From Its Friends


Ukraine and its allies hope this month’s cease-fire deal agreed with Russia and Russian-backed rebels brings relative calm to southeastern Ukraine. But the Minsk agreement is deeply flawed, and there is every chance it may yet unravel, even if it holds for the short term.

The accord’s greatest flaw is in letting Russia maintain unsupervised control of Ukraine’s border in the Donbas region until the end of the year. This will mean Russia can freely continue supplying weapons and equipment to locally controlled “people’s militias," armed formations that will now expressly be permitted under the agreement. Moreover, while the accord calls for the withdrawal of “foreign armed formations, military equipment, and mercenaries,” it creates no effective regime for enforcing a pullout of those Russian military assets from the Kremlin-engineered separatist enclave in the Donbas.

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