Europeans do not want to undermine Minsk II, says analyst

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on March 19 are unlikely to either ramp up or lift sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, says Edward W. Walker, a professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley.

“It’s very likely that the EU will decide on the 19th to kick the can down the road,” Walker said in an interview with the New Atlanticist.

It does not want to undermine whatever chance the Minsk II agreement has of being implemented,” he added, referring to the ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels.

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Last week, UkraineAlert linked to an interesting piece by Clifford Gaddy criticizing the West’s sanctions on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. His point is this: Putin believes that Russia is “under assault” by the West and cannot allow Ukraine “to be brought fully into the sphere of influence of its enemy.” Therefore, the West cannot “force a change in Putin’s calculus” by sanctions. Putin will pursue his objectives in Ukraine by any means possible despite sanctions. For the West to “win” in Ukraine, Gaddy says, “Russia must collapse completely.”  

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A Criminal Case Could Turn the City’s Political Strongman Back into a Kremlin Ally

In Russia’s campaign to re-assert control over Ukraine, a logical target for its “hybrid war” is Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city and a center of its Russian-speaking population. And indeed, Russia has been working steadily to destabilize Kharkiv (just 25 miles from Russia’s border) as it has done the cities of Lugansk and Donetsk, further south.

Russian-backed separatists have organized public demonstrations in favor of a pro-Russian “Kharkiv People’s Republic,” and dozens of bombs have exploded in the past year, often targeting groups working for Ukraine’s continued independence from Russia. The bombings have accelerated, with seven “terrorist attacks” in the city this year, according to Ukrainian authorities. Ukraine says it has arrested members of a group called the Kharkiv Partisans that officials say is backed by Russia’s Federal Security Service (or FSB, formerly the KGB secret police agency).

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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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