People/Vladimir Putin

  • Putin Finally Tells Russians the Truth (Sort Of)

    In his annual television marathon “Direct Line with Vladimir Putin” on June 20, the Russian president did something unusual. To my knowledge, this is the first time he specified the impact of Western sanctions on Russia, which he usually presents as having a positive effect on the Russian economy because of import substitution.


    Read More
  • The Putin Exodus

    pdfRead the Publication (PDF)

    Human capital is fleeing Russia. Since President Vladimir Putin’s ascent to the presidency, between 1.6 and 2 million Russians – out of a total population of 145 million – have left for Western democracies. This emigration sped up with Putin’s return as president in 2012, followed by a weakening economy and growing repressions. It soon began to look like a politically driven brain drain, causing increasing concern among Russian and international observers.

    In this pioneering study, the Council’s Eurasia Center offers a clear analysis of the Putin Exodus and its implications for Russia and the...

    Read More
  • Time to Shame Putin Again

    Chechnya is at it again. Recent reports indicate that there’s another anti-gay pogrom underway in the Russian region of Chechnya. It is said to include kidnappings, secret torture chambers, and arbitrary executions. Violence against these individuals is escalating, and it’s the biggest spike of targeted attacks against gay Chechens since 2017 when 100 LGBTQ people were targeted. Only this time the torture techniques are harsher, the tactics of silencing victims are smarter, and the perpetrators are emboldened by Western inaction.


    Read More
  • Putin’s Dream Scenario for Ukraine

    Ukraine’s problem is not that it hasn’t changed enough. It’s that it’s changed too much too fast, thereby raising popular expectations, undermining long-existing patterns of behavior, creating uncertainty, and thereby increasing the popularity of populists who argue that a return to the good old days is imperative.


    Read More
  • Putin’s Grand Energy Strategy Is More Ambitious than You Think

    Energy politics are critical in Russia’s long war on the West and Ukraine. Indeed, energy functions as a Swiss army knife for Moscow, cutting simultaneously in several directions. Energy provides the basis for the revenue stream that enables all government operations, comprises a ready source of constant corruption of European elites and institutions, and furnishes an unending source of leverage and corruption over European governments and politics.


    Read More
  • How the West Got Martial Law in Ukraine Totally Wrong

    The past several days have been historic ones in Ukraine’s development as a sovereign and democratic nation. Moscow’s unprovoked attack on and seizure of three Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea on November 25 began this process. This attack represents a serious escalation of Kremlin aggression because it was done openly by regular Russian military forces. Moscow was not hiding its role—as in the Donbas—behind the fiction that local “separatists” were running a rebellion.

    Russian naval forces first rammed one of the Ukrainian boats and then opened fire. Ukrainian communication intercepts show that Russian commanders on shore gave their ships orders to undertake this action and noted that the situation was being monitored by senior officials in Moscow. The Kremlin was likely trying to provoke the Ukrainian ships into firing in order to justify a larger Russian military response. Moscow successfully used this tactic to start its 2008 war with Georgia, but Ukraine wisely did...

    Read More
  • 10 Names Russia Hopes You'll Never Know

    Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Moscow and its proxies have put dozens of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar political prisoners behind bars. However, there are many other people in Russian prisons who have been incarcerated for their unwillingness to bow down to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

    The fabrication of these cases has been refined in Russia's courts. There a court does not need real evidence, just an order from above. The evidence and all other case-related elements can be carelessly thrown together, as the details don’t matter. Moreover, Russians can hold people in pre-trial detention centers for years without trial.

    The number of political prisoners in Russia has been growing in recent years, and this is unlikely to change. More interference and pressure from the international community is necessary, as this has proven to be the only factor which secures the rare and occasional release of political prisoners. 

    Below are...

    Read More
  • The Geopolitical Divorce of the Century: Why Putin Cannot Afford to Let Ukraine Go

    Next month, Europe’s leading budget airline will begin regular flights from Ukraine to a host of EU destinations. This is the latest milestone in a Ukrainian aviation boom that is seeing additional routes announced on a weekly basis and record passenger numbers at airports across the country. Each new flight serves to broaden Ukrainian horizons and anchor the country more firmly within the wider international community. Meanwhile, there has not been a single direct flight between Ukraine and Russia since October 2015.

    The changes in Ukraine’s air travel industry are just one of the many ways in which the country has turned away from Russia and gone global since the climax of the Euromaidan Revolution in early 2014 and the start of Vladimir Putin’s hybrid war. Since then, Russia’s share of Ukrainian exports has tumbled from 24 percent to around 9 percent, while Russian imports to Ukraine have halved. As economic ties between Kyiv and Moscow loosen, Ukrainian businesses...

    Read More
  • Why John McCain Scared Putin

    Many accolades will be written about Senator John McCain this week and deservedly so. He was a consistent champion for democracy and human rights throughout the world, and a man who always stood by his principles. In his role as chairman of the International Republican Institute (IRI), McCain was considered a champion, particularly in the former Soviet space, of freedom, justice, and fairness.

    McCain’s moral leadership was captured well during his final meeting with Boris Nemtsov, leader of Russia’s main opposition political party and chief critic of President Vladimir Putin. Only a few months before Nemtsov’s assassination in Moscow, I organized a meeting for McCain and Nemtsov in Vilnius, Lithuania.

    There McCain showed his prescience when he inquired about Nemtsov’s safety due to his steadfast criticism of Putin as a murderer, thug, and KGB agent. Nemtsov looked McCain directly in the eye, smiled and said, “You know, Senator, Putin really hates you.”

    Read More
  • In the EU’s Eastern Partnership, Western Dissension Opens Doors for Putin

    pdfRead the Publication (PDF)

    While the West continues to support efforts to democratize the countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), shifting international trends threaten to slow the momentum. Increasing confrontation among Western leaders—evidenced, inter alia, by the outbreak of protectionist trade policies and Donald Trump’s dissociation from G7 positions at the June 2018 summit in Quebec—can have unintended consequences across the EaP region, which needs Western harmony if it is to align with Euro-Atlantic visions of common values and security.

    Read More