John E. Herbst

  • With Wess Mitchell’s Resignation, the State Department is Losing a Committed Atlanticist

    Wess Mitchell, the United States’ top diplomat for European affairs, will resign from the State Department next month, sixteen months since he took the job. His last day as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs is February 15.

    As assistant secretary, Mitchell’s responsibilities have included diplomatic relations with countries in Europe and Eurasia, and with NATO, the European Union, and the OSCE.

    Mitchell cited “personal and professional” reasons in his resignation letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to The Washington Post, which first reported the news.


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  • Ukraine’s New Orthodox Church Free from Moscow but Fight Isn’t Over

    It’s Christmas Eve in Kyiv, and Ukraine just won a major victory in its long struggle for independence from Moscow.


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  • Cheap Ways to Make Putin Pay in Ukraine

    Six weeks ago, Russia attacked Ukraine in the Straits of Kerch and it made international news. US President Donald Trump canceled a high-level meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in response. Other governments denounced the Kremlin’s actions. Then the news faded. Right now, the weak Western response means that Putin has gained a tactical advantage, which makes it more likely that Moscow will escalate further in the future.

    It would be easy to dismiss the latest flare-up as Ukraine’s problem, but that would be foolish.


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  • Remembering George H.W. Bush

    George H.W. Bush, the forty-first president of the United States, died on November 30. He was ninety-four. In addition to serving as president, Bush was a vice president, director of Central Intelligence, US ambassador to the United Nations, and representative for Texas’ seventh congressional district in the US House of Representatives.

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  • 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 not take the bait.

    In response, President Petro Poroshenko convened Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council (NSDC), which recommended that the government declare a state of martial law covering the entire country for two months. 

    For many in the West, “martial law” conjures up images of dictators and troops strutting down city streets in fatigues.

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  • Herbst Quoted in Axios on Azov Sea Crisis


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  • Herbst Quoted in Business Insider on Sea of Azov Crisis


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  • Herbst and Eristavi Quoted in Washington Post on Ukraine


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  • Russia-Ukraine Conflict Heats Up the Sea of Azov: Echoes of Russia’s War with Georgia?

    Escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov bear eerie echoes of Russian provocations that led to the war with Georgia in the summer of 2008.

    “For months, Russian forces have been working to make the Azov Sea an internal Russian body of water in order to both cut off Ukraine’s eastern ports and cement Moscow’s hold on Crimea,” said Damon Wilson, executive vice president of the Atlantic Council.

    “Moscow’s incrementalist approach is like the ‘creeping annexation’ we witnessed in Georgia in 2008—any single move tends not to be dramatic, but in the aggregate Russia makes strategic gains. Today, the Russians escalated with the aim of intimidating Ukraine into backing off its own effort to assert its access to its own territorial waters and its own ports,” he added.

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  • Beyond Borderlands: Ensuring the Sovereignty of All Nations of Eastern Europe

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    Territories between great powers—borderlands—have always been areas of strife. So it is with the countries caught between Russia and the West, those that were once part of the Soviet Union or firmly within its sphere of influence. Much of Europe has consolidated and, with the United States, established a lasting liberal democratic order, but Russia has been increasingly pushing back. Though most of the “borderlands” countries are now West-facing, Moscow wants to control at least the national security policies of its near neighbors.

    The West should reject Moscow’s claim. It contradicts Western principles and is dangerous to our interests. The United States should lead the West in adopting an explicit strategy of promoting democracy, open markets, and the right of nations to choose their own foreign policy and alignments. This includes their right, if they meet the conditions, to join the EU and NATO.

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