Washington has recently expanded its anti-Russia sanctions list to include 29 more individuals and 30 companies including some based in Cyprus, Finland, Romania, Switzerland and the UK. These additions will surely be painful for the Kremlin elite and their business allies.
But the war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, now in its second year, has put a dark stain on this usually festive occasion. This year, Ukrainian kids in Kyiv started school following violent protests outside Parliament. On August 31, a few dozen members of the nationalist political party Svoboda (Freedom) and the paramilitary extremist party Right Sector gathered to protest the vote on a controversial decentralization bill to amend Ukraine’s constitution.
Despite its lofty name, the conference bears little trace of free inquiry. Over the course of six week-long shifts—each with around 1,000 participants representing a different sphere of endeavor—Russia’s most politically reliable youth leaders are introduced to a steady stream of ideas, messages, and talking points to be used over the course of the year in civic and educational work.
Even in the face of plans to send Poland heavy weapons in 2016 while beefing up Baltic defenses and organizing more frequent and larger NATO exercises, the fact remains that Russia—if it chose to do so—could occupy the Baltic states in two days, as Gen. Peter Pavel, the incoming chairman of NATO’s Defense Committee, recently warned.
Ironically, China has outperformed all other economies, even though it has been looted more than most. Between 2003 and 2012, an estimated $1.25 trillion fled the country, bypassing currency controls. China’s most recent attempt to turn off the tap contributed to the collapse of the Shanghai Composite Index.
A recent university graduate with near flawless English, Namazova, 22, had been working as a language tutor before annexation. But once Crimea changed hands, travelers stopped coming, food prices shot up, and banks closed. The peninsula's tourism-dependent economy went into a tailspin. Soon Namazova's clients could no longer afford their English lessons, and she found herself out of a job.
Much has been written about Russia’s information operations against Ukraine and the West. In particular, US and European media outlets love to use the St. Petersburg-based Agency for Internet Studies as the ultimate example of Russia’s determination—and some would have you believe mastery—to win the hearts and minds of disillusioned audiences in Ukraine and in the West.
“The [US] government machine is doing what it can do, but it is doing … more harm than good,” Ilya Ponomarev, a member of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, said in an August 26 interview with the New Atlanticist in Washington.