John E. Herbst

  • One Year Since the Skripals Were Poisoned, Russia Has Not Given Up its Confrontational Policy Toward the West

    On March 4, 2018, a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, were found critically ill on a park bench in Salisbury, England. It was later determined that they had been poisoned by Novichok, a deadly nerve agent. The attack was linked to the Russian state.


    One year later, “Russia shows no sign of rethinking its confrontational policy toward the West,” said Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and  Security who served as the US ambassador to Russia from 2001 to 2005.


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  • Q&A: Will Scandal Sink Poroshenko’s Second Term Chances?

    On February 25, investigative journalistsaccused President Petro Poroshenko’s close associates of getting rich by smuggling spare parts for military equipment from Russia. The Bihus.Info report claims that the son of Oleh Hladkovskiy, deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, was the mastermind behind a scheme to buy spare parts from Russia in 2015. The year before, Russia annexed Crimea and occupies part of the Donbas. Bihus.Info alleges that Ukraine bought the goods from private companies linked to Hladkovskiy at inflated prices and that Ukroboronprom, the state company that oversees everything, knew the origin of the parts.             

    Bihus.Info says that it received the information from anonymous sources. It was published weeks before Ukraine’s presidential election on March 31. 

    Before the scandal broke, most polls put Poroshenko in second place. Support for the army has been one of Poroshenko’s main campaign themes, and he recently said that he wouldn’t allow anyone to steal from the army.

    We asked the Atlantic Council’s Ukraine experts and friends the following questions: How serious are the allegations? How will they impact the presidential race? Is it game over for Poroshenko? Should we be concerned about where the information came from?


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  • More and More Russians Are Fleeing Oppression in Russia

    An oppressive political climate marked by a lack of rights and freedoms is now a key factor driving emigration from Russia, according to a new report from the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. This is in stark comparison to emigration before 2012 when economic factors were the primary driver.

    Emigres who left Russia  after 2000 “are notably more critical of the Kremlin’s authoritarian policies” than those who left in the 1990s, but the newest batch—those who left after 2012—are unique in that they seem to have left primarily because of this oppression, write Eurasia Center Director John Herbst and Rutgers University professor, Sergei Erofeev, authors of The Putin Exodus: The New Russian Brain Drain


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  • 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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