• In Putin's Circle, Obama Is Gorbachev

    In private conversations with visiting U.S. business leaders, Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin have recently referred to President Barack Obama as “your Gorbachev.” And they haven’t meant it positively.
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  • European Energy Security: Southern Gas Corridor On The Move

    After years of political bickering and commercial uncertainty, Europe’s Southern Gas Corridor project is finally gaining traction. If all goes well, Caspian gas can start flowing to Europe no later than 2018, easing the overdependence on Russian energy imports.
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  • Strategic Engagement with Russia 2013-17

    Russia remains, in ‘Churchillian’ terms, an enigmatic mystery. In its post-Communist transition to a modern state, Russia has shed most of the impedimenta of Communism and begun to search for new directions. But the old conflict between “Slavophiles” and “Westernizers” has emerged in the streets in a new guise and the outcome remains uncertain.

    Although Putin has secured a third term as President, it would be an exaggeration to say that he has and will have sole command of Russia’s future. But it would be an equally serious mistake to underestimate his influence.

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  • Supporting Human Rights in Russia Should Be a Core Strategic Interest for US

    On Tuesday, July 10, the Russian Duma will vote on ratification of the agreement for Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Policymakers in both countries view Russia’s entry as a foregone conclusion. The question before Congress therefore is how best to pressure Russia to respect human rights following its repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment.
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  • Day of Russia or Day of the Kremlin?

    Today is the Day of Russia. It marks the moment in 1992 when the Declaration on Russian National Sovereignty was adopted by the Russian Parliament and Russia re-emerged from the wreckage of the Soviet Union. Back then there was much hope both in Russia and the rest of the free world that this enormous, great country would take its place amongst the true democracies.
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  • Putin's Management of Russia's Governors Reveals Regional Fractures, Fear of Losing Power

    Since embarking on his third term as Russia’s president on May 7, Vladimir Putin has pushed the issue of gubernatorial elections to the forefront of his agenda. In contrast to his predecessor Dmitry Medvedev, who made several symbolic concessions to the country’s pro-democracy opposition, Putin has taken a decidedly more “managerial” approach which, unsurprisingly, contradicts standard democratic practice.
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  • Ukraine Is Belarus, not Russia

    Ukraine’s leaders remain convinced they will be treated by the West like Russia, whose human rights violations are largely ignored. In reality, Ukraine is being treated like Belarus, whose human rights situation is scrutinized and regularly condemned.

    In a speech to Germany’s lower house of parliament, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “Today we are living in peace and freedom in Germany, and in the European Union, but sadly not in the whole of Europe: for in Ukraine, and in Belarus, people are still suffering under dictatorship and repression."

    As then-President Leonid Kuchma explained in his 2003 book Ukraine is not Russia,Ukraine does not have three strategic assets possessed by Russia – a seat on the UN Security Council, nuclear weapons, and energy resources. President Putin’s crimes against humanity in Chechnya were tolerated by the international community while Serbian President SlobodanMilošević’s crimes against humanity in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia were prosecuted in The Hague.

    Kyiv continues to misunderstand this simple fact of geopolitics. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Ukrainian foreign ministry official responded to Merkel by saying: “we see selective application of democratic standards towards Ukraine. Because according to all respected international ratings, there is quite a number of nations in Europe and other parts of the world where democracy evidently meets much more serious challenges than in Ukraine."

    Ukraine’s leaders are wrong for four reasons.

    The first factor is disinterest. Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer has pointed out how Ukraine is a low priority for both the US and EU, who have far bigger domestic and international problems on their agendas.

    The second factor is a home goal. Ukraine has brought upon itself virulent Western criticism because it has sought EU and (until 2010) NATO membership. Therefore, in seeking to integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions, which require it abide by European values, Ukraine is inevitably treated more harshly than Russia and Belarus who have not sought to become part of the Euro-Atlantic community.

    A third factor is over-self-importance. Ukrainian leaders have an exaggerated sense of their country’s geopolitical importance and use this to threaten to re-orientate their country from Europe and integrate with Russia and the CIS.Nataliya Prykhodko writes that the Ukrainian authorities repeatedly warn, “By its actions, the EU is pushing Yanukovych into Putin's embrace, and if Europe does not close its eyes to the Tymoshenko case and sign the association agreement with Kyiv, Ukraine will be forced into economic and political union with Russia.”   Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski warned Ukraine’s leaders: ‘When raising the stakes you can over-estimate the strength of your own cards."

    A fourth factor is Germany, the dominant country in the EU, with whom it is vital to have good relations if one desires European integration. Yet, Ukraine-German relations have deteriorated under President Yanukovych.

    First, in July 2010, only six months after Yanukovych was elected and a month before he was to visit Germany, Nico Lange, director of the Konrad Adenaeuer stiftung in Kyiv, was detained for twelve hours in Kyiv’s Borispil airport on the personal orders of then-Security Service (SBU) Chairman Valeriy Khoroshkovsky. The trumped up charges against Lange included falsification of visa rules, illegal financing of political parties, and espionage. Merkel and the German Ambassador to Ukraine were forced to intervene to free him from detention.

    Second, growing human rights problems in Ukraine have given enlargement sceptics such as Germany, which has always been cool towards the Eastern Partnership, the ammunition to attack Ukraine as unable to meet political demands in the association agreement.

    Third, Yanukovych  twice broke personal promises to Merkel to ensure reforms were taken to decriminalize two 1962 Soviet articles used to imprison Yulia Tymoshenko. When the opposition put forward decriminalization of the two articles, the Party of Regions voted on both occasions against the reforms. Merkel grew up in Communist GDR and this may be a good explanation of why she understands Yanukovych. Her communist upbringing undoubtedly gives her a better insight into Yanukovych’s Homo Sovietcus mind-set than politicians who grew up in democratic Western Europe.

    Fourth, Tymoshenko, imprisoned for seven years in October 2011, is leader of the Batkivshchina party that is a member of the European Peoples Party (EPP) which includes Merkel’s German Christian Democrats. The EPP understandably defends Tymoshenko as one of their own.

    The West’s treatment of Ukraine like Belarus, not Russia, may lead to consequences for Yanukovych. Western boycotts of Yanukovych have already begun and, as noted in my January post “Time for the EU to End Double Standards on Corruption,” visa blacklists and sanctions could follow after the October parliamentary elections.

    Taras Kuzio is an Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation visiting fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, School of Advanced International Studies, John Hopkins University, in Washington D.C. He edits Ukraine Analyst.

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  • Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia

    The Atlantic Council held a conversation with Anders Åslund and Gary Hufbauer about their latest book, The United States Should Establish Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russiaon May 23. Anders Åslund is senior fellow and Gary Hufbauer is the Reginald Jones senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Ross Wilson, director of the Council's Patriciu Eurasia Center, moderated the discussion

    The Åslund/Hufbauer study presents an analysis of the current US-Russia economic relationship, provides estimates on the potential increase in US exports to Russia and potential growth of two-way trade within the WTO framework, and summarizes the implications of PNTR for US producers, Russian economic growth, and bilateral commercial relations. The discussion focused on this study and broader issues relating to the Congressional decision on granting PNTR status to Russia.

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  • NATO's Ballistic Missile Defense: A Promising Triumph of Prudence

    At their Chicago summit, NATO heads of state and government declared that the Alliance had achieved an interim ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability. This political-military project is one the most important achievements in NATO’s post- Cold War history and goes far beyond the technical aspects of a very unique and complex defense system.

    First and foremost. it proves the viability of the transatlantic link, based on the principles of indivisibility of Allied security and NATO solidarity.

    Second, it proves that when common values are fused with shared threat perceptions, wise and fair leadership, and strong political will the Alliance is indeed an unbreakable, true coalition. The ballistic missile threat has been recognized at the Bucharest (2008) and Strasbourg/Kiel (2009) summits, but it has been the alternative Phased Adaptive approach to European BMD, adopted by the US in September 2009 and designed to cover the whole (not only parts) of the Alliance, that has been embraced by all Allies and boosted the process ahead.

    Third, it proves the relevance of the Alliance as a credible political and military organization, capable of reacting in a timely manner and defending its populations, territories, and forces from emerging new threats. It took less than two years since the November 2010 Lisbon Summit to deploy the first stage of this capability, one directly relevant to NATO's core task of collective defense. NATO's leaders emphasized their determination to complete the full coverage of all Allies, providing the necessary flexibility through voluntary national contributions, including nationally funded interceptors and sensors, hosting arrangements, and the expansion of the existing Allied Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) capability.

    Fourth, it proves that when another party questions or attempts to deny the Alliance the right to undertake justified, clear, unequivocal, and fair defensive steps, it only contributes to an enhanced cohesion of the Alliance and increases public support for its policies.

    It has been unfortunate that so far Russia has chosen to turn European BMD into a stumbling block in its relations with the Alliance. The Russian political elite has been driving its opposition to NATO's BMD dangerously close to irreversibility. Whether this could be explained with Russia's internal political process, with a miscalculated attempt to test NATO unity, or even with a blend of institutionalized irrationality, the fact is that this policy is a loser. Serious people, from missile experts to political leaders in both Russia and NATO know perfectly well that NATO's European BMD is not designed or capable of threatening Russia and its nuclear deterrent. It does not undermine strategic stability. The threats to undertake an offensive posture and deploy offensive systems against a purely defensive arrangement which is not turned towards Russia lack both logic and credibility. Should Russia still decide to materialize the offensive intentions announced recurrently by some of its officials, it would only turn into an expensive propaganda exercise with no military value and a waste of resources.

    More importantly however, by making opposition to European BMD a major obstacle in its overall security relationship with NATO, Russia seems be nearing a threshold of putting at stake other, real and important common geopolitical interests, including joint approaches to real common security risks and threats.

    In Chicago, NATO's leaders left the door wide open for further talks with Russia, based on mutual trust and reciprocity. They supported the ongoing efforts to determine possible synergies between the independent NATO and Russian missile defense systems, including the establishment of a joint NATO-Russia Missile Data Fusion Center and a joint Planning Operations Center. The Allies also suggested the development of a comprehensive transparency regime to benefit both Russia and NATO.

    It remains to be seen whether Russia will chose this door. It also remains to be seen what President Obama had in mind when he whispered to then-Russian President Medvedev his expectation for "more flexibility" after the US presidential elections later this year.

    The Chicago Summit has witnessed a promising triumph of prudence on the ballistic missile defense agenda and all the Allies should be proud of it.

    Ambassador Boyko Noev is a member of the Atlantic Council's Strategic Advisors Group and director of the European Program at the Center for the Study of Democracy. This piece ispart of a series ofNew Atlanticist pieces on NATO's 2012 Chicago Summit.

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  • Yes to Missile Defense, With Russia

    The NATO summit in Chicago starting on Sunday is expected to declare an “interim capability” of a NATO missile defense shield. Although Russia had been invited by NATO at its summit in Lisbon in 2010 to cooperate in setting up a joint ballistic missile defense system, or B.M.D., the alliance is now poised to proceed unilaterally, leaving Russia out in the cold.

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