UkraineAlert

Russia’s military involvement in Syria and Ukraine obligates the United States and its European allies to bring the Kremlin back to Earth and recognize that such adventures cannot be sustained indefinitely. Russia simply does not have the money and human resources to do so in view of low oil prices and birth rates. It will find itself increasingly isolated if it supports Syria’s Assad regime and separatists in the Donbas.

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.

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In peacetime, September 1 is an eventful day for Ukrainian children—it marks the first day of school.

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.

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Each summer, as part of ongoing efforts to influence their young, Russia’s government leaders and propagandists head to a conference center on the Klyazma River about 130 miles northeast of Moscow to address the “Terra Scientia” Russian Youth Education Conference.

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.

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Since the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, the world has seen precious little Western leadership when it comes to confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin—despite US and European Union sanctions, recent efforts to strengthen NATO’s conventional deterrence in Europe, and the first signs of increased defense spending in Europe.

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.

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History is a great teacher, so it’s no surprise that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and his subsequent Kremlin speech justifying it brought back memories of the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland in 1938. Parallels between Hitler and Putin abound, as do their motivations and the eventual global impact of the two annexations—even though they took place seventy-six years apart.  

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The recent collapse in stock markets and the sudden flow of refugees into Europe led world headlines in August—in a convergence of phenomena that are closely linked. Unprecedented flows of hot, or illicit, money are damaging most economies, causing both investors and migrants to flee.

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.

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The Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014 is widely regarded as a tragedy for Crimean Tatars. But for Adile Namazova, it was also a professional catastrophe.

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.

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Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region is strewn with remnants of Russian-made cartridges from AK-74U rifles, littered with the splintered, hollowed-out ruins of Russian-made BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, and scarred with the skeletons of Russian T-74B battle tanks. Yet the Kremlin’s incursion into Ukrainian territory is not isolated to the Donbas. Its influence has also permeated the information environment—especially since the “de-escalation” brought about by Minsk II.

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.

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Privatization has generated controversy in every post-communist country. Ministers of privatization are usually accused of heinous crimes, regardless of how impeccably they have performed their jobs. Yet privatization is vital for all such nations, not least for Ukraine. The goal must be to limit state-owned enterprises so that the private sector dominates. The aim isn’t to maximize state revenues but to transform both the state and the economy.

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The United States must expand the scope of its sanctions well beyond Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle if this effort—a response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine—is to have any real impact, says a Russian lawmaker.

“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.

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