• Why Russia’s War against Ukraine May Never End

    Russian President Vladimir Putin recently requested a UN peacekeeping mission for eastern Ukraine. While at home this looks like a peace overture, Putin is not motivated by the desire for amity.

    The proposal is similar to Russian actions in Georgia prior to 2008, when it supported a UN observer mission in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone and an OSCE mission in South Ossetia in addition to its own “peacekeeping” force. Rather than achieving lasting peace, these moves were a prelude to Russia cementing its presence in Georgia’s conflict regions.

    In the Donbas, Russia is using military force to create a permanent unresolved conflict. The war is putting intense pressure on the government in Kyiv, sapping momentum from its efforts toward reform and Euro-Atlantic integration. But if and when Ukraine, Russia, and the Russian-backed separatists reach a durable ceasefire agreement, temporary respite is all it will be.

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  • Cohen Quoted in Trend on Armenia and Azerbaijan

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  • There He Goes Again. Putin Meddles in the South Caucasus

    Russia President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump likely agreed to restrict intervention in the affairs of third countries at the G-20 summit. This agreement, however, contradicts Russian foreign policy. In Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, Russia seeks to curtail the ability of these governments to pursue independent foreign policies. A series of recent probes in the region demonstrate that Trump’s agreement with Putin is worthless and that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of these states is meaningless from Moscow’s standpoint. Russia feels free to intervene in their affairs at any time, threaten their compatriots in Russia, and regularly brandish military and other forms of power to intimidate them. Unless Washington, Brussels, and NATO step up their game, this region will either explode or be compelled to shelter under Russian power. The West cannot simply look away because European security is linked to the security of the South Caucasus.
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  • Just How Much Influence Does the Kremlin Have in Ukraine, Georgia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic?

    In a handful of Central and Eastern European countries, governments and the media have been slow and ineffective in countering the Kremlin’s propaganda and disinformation. The best defense? An active, engaged civil society.

    Those were some of the findings of the Kremlin Influence Index (KII), a report released in mid-May that analyzed the Russian government’s ability to affect the media environments in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Georgia.

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  • Hall Hall Joins VOA Georgia to Discuss US-Georgian Relations

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  • How to Win Friends and Influence People on a Global Scale

    Dale Carnegie’s famous self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, centers on investing in personal relationships in order to achieve success. President Donald Trump has demonstrated an instinctive understanding of this principle in the way he has interacted with a succession of world leaders, whether over a round of golf at Mar-a-Lago or an informal dinner in Washington. Yet his administration is set to undermine one of the most effective vehicles for this on a global scale, through proposing a radical cut in funds for the State Department’s international scholarship and exchange programs.

    That’s not completely surprising. These programs are often seen as only benefiting foreigners or as wasting money on fuzzy people-to-people contacts, with little tangible outcome for US taxpayers. At a time of competing domestic priorities, it is unsurprising that some believe the funding could be better spent elsewhere.

    But cutting funding for the exchange programs would be a giant mistake.

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  • Mikheil Saakashvili: “By my own standards, I failed on every account in Odesa.”

    Mikheil Saakashvili strode into the Toronto Four Seasons Hotel on a Saturday morning, all smiles and apologies for being late. The café was empty, except for myself, a handful of patrons, and a young waiter who had recently immigrated from Ukraine. I told him who I was waiting for and he smiled.

    Saakashvili is only forty-nine, but has accomplished more politically, and can drop more names, than the previous three US presidents combined. He became president of Georgia in his thirties, turned the country around, was nearly assassinated with his good friend George W. Bush, stared down Vladimir Putin, and became a Ukrainian citizen to join the effort to transform Eastern Europe’s sleeping giant.

    He supported the Euromaidan from afar then was recruited by President Petro Poroshenko, a university pal. Months after becoming an adviser, Saakashvili convinced Poroshenko to appoint him as governor of Odesa oblast to reshape the corrupt port. For less than one year, he ruled with an iron fist and began cleaning up port operations, then suddenly announced his resignation in a typically dramatic fashion. At a press conference, he accused Poroshenko of supporting "corrupt clans in the Odesa region."

    He is unusually forthcoming as an interviewee. “By my own standards, I failed on every account in Odesa. We proved that it was possible to operate customs without corruption. Some people miss this. But we only accomplished 5 percent of what we wanted to do.”

    Poroshenko, he added, has missed his chance to transform the country. “This is because he spends most of the time running his businesses. They cannot be combined. They’re part of the old system. He is part of the old system,” he said.

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  • What Can Ukraine Learn from the Balkans?

    Ukraine wants to join the European Union, but the level of support among many EU member states is low or nonexistent. Many are afraid of Russia’s reaction and lack a clear understanding of both the climate in post-Euromaidan Ukraine and the country’s strong commitment to Western integration.

    The situation is challenging in all aspects. War still raging along the demarcation line in the Donbas, US policy toward the EU and Ukraine is unclear, Russia is strongly opposed to Ukraine’s entrance into the EU, and Ukraine itself faces the twin challenges of war and reform. Only EU and NATO accession can provide a lasting framework that allows Ukraine to master all of the challenges at the same time. The model has been proven through the accession of central European and southeastern European countries and will most likely be similarly successful in the third wave occurring in Eastern Europe.

    If the EU does not allow the country to have realistic European hopes, post-Maidan Ukraine could fail, just as the Orange Revolution did, with all of the related tragic consequences. But how can one ensure a credible EU perspective and increase progress toward EU accession in all sectors simultaneously? To achieve this, Ukraine requires a new strategic approach and an alliance of friends, partners, and allies composed of countries with similar interests.

    In the nearby neighborhood are eight countries—Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia—that had similar traumatic experiences with war and destruction in the 1990s, and that now have seventeen years of reconstruction and pre-accession behind them. They have shared a similar strategic objective of joining the EU and NATO, and some have achieved it: Croatia joined NATO in 2009 and the EU in 2013, for example. Those that are already inside can help the others that are still on their way and facing similar challenges with domestic reform and the EU’s enlargement fatigue.

    The reform and transition experience of the Balkans matters for Ukraine.

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  • One Small Step for Georgia, One Giant Leap for the EU

    At a time when doors across the West are closing to migrants, one small country has managed to buck the trend: the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia. On March 28, the country secured visa-free travel to the Schengen area of the EU, which includes all member states except Ireland, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania, and Bulgaria, as well as to non-member states Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. While this is a landmark achievement for Georgia, counterintuitively, in some respects it is a bigger deal for the EU. Not only does it affirm the EU’s ability to honor its commitments, but it also serves as a timely reminder of the EU’s enduring appeal to its neighbors, and its ability to incentivize reforms and maintain unity in the most difficult of political circumstances. Coming just as the UK files the papers for its separation from the EU, the decision on Georgia should be welcomed by all who still believe in the post-Cold War ideal of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace.”
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  • Linderman Quoted by the Accent on Georgia's Diplomacy and its Democratic Performance

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