Anders Aslund

  • Where Should Zelenskiy Start?

    After Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s landslide victory, Ukraine is in a regime change situation, whether we call it so or not. The previous administration carried out great economic reforms, but the country’s law enforcement and judicial system remain predatory. What Ukraine needs most of all is rule of law.

    Zelenskiy has a tremendous popular mandate, 73 percent of the vote, but this is an anti-mandate against the old dysfunctional system, which has rendered Ukraine the poorest country in Europe. Ukrainians want Zelenskiy to break up this system and build something better.

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  • Putin’s Ability to Stash Money in US Banks and Real Estate is a ‘Strategic Danger,’ Warns US Sen. Whitehouse

    In his new book, Atlantic Council’s Anders Åslund says the United States Should Demand Transparency

    The ability for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his oligarch allies to hide money in banks and real estate in the United States is “a real strategic danger,” US Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) warned on May 7.

    The senator lamented the fact that the United States is “now number two in terms of the nations that support secret financing and funding and allow for the hiding of assets behind shell corporations. We should not be on that list at all, much less number two.”

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  • The Illusions of Putin’s Russia

    Vladimir Putin’s regime is much easier to understand than it might first appear. In October 1939, Winston Churchill famously stated that Russia “is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” That was a long time ago. Today, the key is crony capitalism. Putin is about two things—power and wealth.

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  • What Is Wrong with the Ukrainian Economy?

    Construction is booming in Kyiv, Ukraine, but not the rest of the economy. A major reason is that Ukrainians with some extra savings do not put their money into banks but buy additional apartments instead. Others keep their savings in cash. On average, Ukrainian MPs keep $700,000 at home. Those who have a lot of wealth transfer it to offshore havens, where the money is safe.

    Ukraine is now the poorest country in Europe. According to the International Monetary Fund, Ukraine overtook Moldova as the poorest country in Europe as measured in GDP per capita in 2018 at $2,963, 8 percent less than in Moldova. These numbers can be boosted in many ways. Probably half of the Ukrainian economy goes unreported in


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  • Zelenskiy Wins: What’s Next for Ukraine?

    Following his landslide election as president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy must now turn his attention to following through on much-needed economic and anti-corruption reforms, all while continuing to confront Russia in Ukraine’s east and the illegal occupation of Crimea.

    The results of the April 21 contest, which saw Zelenskiy beat incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, with nearly three-quarters of the vote was “clearly a vote for change,” according to Atlantic Council Eurasia Center Director John Herbst, who is a former US ambassador to Ukraine. Zelenskiy cannot be content with the margin of his victory, Herbst added, as “Poroshenko’s 2014 first round victory was also unprecedented and he was very popular at the time he won” before experiencing a decline in popularity.

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  • Here’s How to Tackle Money Laundering

    Europe has been hit by one money-laundering scandal after another. The latest allegation is that the big and well-respected Swedish bank Swedbank has “handled €135 billion from high-risk clients.” This allegation follows the revelation that the Copenhagen-based Danske Bank carried out €230 billion in dubious transactions. Many more scandals involving more banks are likely to emerge. European Union authorities had better get ahead of the train to safeguard the European banking system.

    The main source of these revelations of money laundering are the Panama Papers — documents  leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca that were made public in April 2016. The documents showed how Mossack Fonseca helped its clients to launder money. A number of investigative journalists, the investment banker Bill Browder, and the US Treasury keep digging, and they find ever more. As it is being


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  • The Real Russian Candidate in Ukraine’s Presidential Race

    On March 22, nine days before the Ukrainian presidential election, Ukraine’s pro-Russian presidential candidate Yuriy Boyko went to Moscow to meet Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev without prior announcement.

    It’s strange for a presidential candidate to visit a leader of a country with which it is at war, but that was only the beginning of this extraordinary meeting, much of which was broadcast on Russian state television. Everything was wrong with it.

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  • Mueller’s Findings: What Do They Mean for US Foreign Policy?

    Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s long-awaited investigation has not found adequate evidence to prove US President Donald J. Trump or any of his aides colluded with the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 election. The investigation did not determine “one way or the other” whether Trump had illegally obstructed justice, according to a letter delivered to Congress by US Attorney General William Barr.

    Barr made a summary of Mueller’s findings public on March 24.

    “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mueller wrote in the findings released by the Justice Department.

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  • Nazarbayev’s Resignation is a Sign of Strength

    On March 19, Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, made a brief statement on television declaring that he would resign the next day. Why prompted his decision and what will be its consequences?

    Nazarbayev has discussed his possible resignation aloud for the last couple of years, so it appeared to have been well-prepared. He is seventy-eight, has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, and is considered to be in frail health, so his decision to resign makes perfect sense. He sets a good example for the region, where leaders have been ousted or other former colleagues in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan have died in office. His voluntary and well-planned resignation shows that Nazarbayev remained in full control and by no means was forced out.

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  • Too Little, Too Late

    On November 25, the Russian Coast Guard attacked and illegally seized three Ukrainian naval vessels on international waters in the Black Sea. The twenty-four Ukrainian sailors on board were arrested for having violated Russian territorial waters and jailed in the nineteenth century KGB prison Lefortovo in Moscow.

    These Ukrainian sailors were on Ukrainian vessels going from one Ukrainian port to another, while passing through Ukrainian or international waters. They did nothing wrong.

    It’s important to understand what Russia is doing on the Black Sea. Russia wants to turn the vast Sea of Azov from a joint Russian-Ukrainian water, as agreed to in a 2003 bilateral Russian-Ukrainian agreement, into an exclusively Russian territory. International shipping into the two important Ukrainian commercial ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk is increasingly harassed and delayed by Russian inspections.

    Many supporters of Ukraine called for early and firm Western sanctions on


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