UkraineAlert

Ukraine's economy is in crisis. Experts warn that the country's gross domestic product could shrink by 6 to 12 percent and inflation could exceed 40 percent in 2015, although one prominent economist put that figure in triple digits already. The war in eastern Ukraine has throttled the country's industrial capacity. To prevent the country from default, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in with a $40 billion international rescue package in March.

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The Ukrainian army faces growing criticism from within its ranks after humiliating defeats at Debaltseve and Ilovaisk in eastern Ukraine. When fighting broke out between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists, the Ukrainian military was weak and the state had to rely on volunteers. Of the fifty thousand Ukrainian troops in the field, 22 percent are loyal to volunteer battalions, according to one estimate. Now the Ukrainian government must address an inconvenient and pressing question that it has studiously ignored: how to integrate the more than seventy-nine semi-autonomous volunteer battalions into the military. The necessity to integrate the battalions goes beyond military necessity; this issue strikes at the heart of reform in post-Euromaidan Ukraine. The business as usual mixture of violence and politics can no longer be tolerated if the Ukrainian government has any hopes of reforming existing power structures.

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Ian Brzezinski: Our policy “conveys hesitancy and a lack of unity and determination. It has failed to convince Putin to reverse course. Indeed, it may have actually emboldened him.”   


The West's current strategy toward Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine not only promises continued conflict in Ukraine but also poses an increased danger of wider war, the Atlantic Council's Ian Brzezinski told the US Senate this week.

If the West holds to its current course, Ukraine is likely in the next six to eighteen months to lose more territory and see an even weaker economy, while Russia's economy will likely be only somewhat weaker and its leaders marginally more isolated, Brzezinski, a Resident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, said April 28 in testimony to the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

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Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko is no pushover. The former professional boxer turned politician has never been knocked down in a professional boxing match. Known for his powerful punches, Klitschko's 87 percent knockout rate is the second-best knockout-to-fight ratio of any champion in heavyweight boxing history.

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Ukraine has a problem with global public relations. Despite its fundamentally compelling narrative—a recent democracy defending itself against a much larger, authoritarian neighbor—the country's efforts remain uncoordinated, unprofessional, and unfiltered. Even as the state relies on a worldwide diaspora in its struggle for survival, it shows few signs of effectively harnessing its expatriates and the sympathies of foreign audiences. Worst of all, it has not reached a consensus on what message it is trying to send to the wider world, largely abandoning the information space to its adversaries.

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In October 1949, as the defeated forces of Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan and Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People's Republic of China, Republicans in Congress blamed Harry S. Truman for losing China. Some demanded a pivot from Europe to Asia in US foreign policy. Truman might have been persuaded a few years earlier when US relations with the USSR were cordial. After meeting Joseph Stalin in Potsdam in 1945, the American President wrote, "I like Stalin. He is straightforward. Knows what he wants and will compromise when he can't get it."

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A growing number of Russian analysts, in Russia and abroad, have taken to calling Vladimir Putin's regime "fascist." And they don't use the term casually or as a form of opprobrium. They mean that Putin's Russia genuinely resembles Mussolini's Italy or Hitler's Germany.

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Ilya Ponomarev has not slept in the same bed for more than a few nights since August 2014. The two-term legislator from Russia's third-largest city Novosibirsk has been living in exile since Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, stripped him of parliamentary immunity.

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Editor's note:

It's unfortunate that in a time of critical issues that legislation that disenfranchises certain, if often extreme, points of view looks like it's going to become law.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is expected to sign four laws on "decommunization," recently passed by Ukraine's parliament, which enact an official version of the nation's 20th century history. The laws ban Nazi and Communist symbols and the "public denial of the criminal nature of the Communist totalitarian regime 1917–1991," open former KGB archives, replace the Soviet term "Great Patriotic War" with Second World War, and provide public recognition to anyone who fought for Ukrainian independence in the 20th century.

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Ukraine will remain at the heart of the conflict between the US and Russia beyond the 2016 presidential election. In the polls, Americans are united on Ukraine; the majority of respondents support increased sanctions on the Kremlin. All of the major presidential candidates, save Senator Rand Paul, take a tough approach with Moscow and support arming Ukraine.

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