• How Will Ukraine’s Next President View the World? A Look at the Top 5 Candidates

    Ukraine’s presidential election season is in full-swing. After the holiday recess, the campaign is getting even more dynamic with about forty candidates who have already declared. While the ratings fluctuate almost daily, the top five remain steady, so it’s time to dig in and start evaluating their various views. Below we’ve analyzed their foreign policy platforms. 

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  • The Best Ukraine Can Hope for with Russia in 2019

    Donald Trump has been president of the United States for two years, but it remains uncertain whether he has a Ukraine policy. His administration does, but Trump is famously superficial in his knowledge.

    Trump has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, hardly said anything negative about Russia, and insisted on the need to cut sanctions to improve relations with Russia. Trump has had numerous phone calls with Putin that have not been reported and two scandalous private meetings with Putin from which nothing has become known.

    In practice, US policy on Russia has been tough.

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  • Memo to Congress: Treasury’s Plan to Lift Sanctions on Russian Oligarch’s Companies is a Good One

    US lawmakers must not allow understandable concerns about US President Donald J. Trump’s views of Russia to overshadow the technical merits of the administration’s divestiture plan to remove sanctions on aluminum giant Rusal and two other companies—EN+ and EuroSibEnergo, or ESE—sanctioned for their ties to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. After months of negotiations, Treasury officials have arrived at a delisting arrangement worthy of careful consideration and approval.

    US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s January 10 congressional briefing on the details of the administration’s divestiture plan,  and the ongoing attention to this issue, sharpens the debate on whether the Rusal delisting is the appropriate action and whether Congress ought to exercise its authority under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to prohibit the delisting.

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  • Herbst Quoted in NBC News on Russia's seizure of Ukrainian ships

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  • Ukraine’s 2019 Elections May Be Completely Unpredictable but Five Things Are Certain

    2019 is election year in Ukraine. Ukrainians will select a new president this spring and a new parliament in the fall. Even though the outcome of the presidential race is unpredictable, there are five things about this political cycle that are not.

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  • Even Out of Government, Former Finance Minister Danyliuk Has Big Plans for Ukraine

    It was June 5 and Ukraine’s ebullient and energetic finance minister was under tremendous strain. The Economist had just reported that forty-three-year-old Oleksandr Danyliuk was about to be sacked after speaking out too many times about corruption at the highest levels. He’d made too many enemies, including the president and prime minister.  

    But Danyliuk is an optimist who brims with good humor even when he’s under fire. Speaking with him in his office in Kyiv, I asked if he was worried. “I’m going to stay,” he said decisively.  

    I asked jokingly, “What’s your theme song? ‘I Will Survive’?”

    Too negative, he said. Without skipping a beat, he suggested with a laugh, “We Are the Champions.”

    The next day, Danyliuk was indeed fired. But that light-hearted exchange captures the ex-minister well. He wants Ukraine to thrive, and he thinks he knows how to get there.

    Now Danyliuk is out of government and can speak freely.

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  • How Ukraine’s Next President Can Turn the Country Around

    On March 31, Ukraine will hold the first round of its presidential election. This is a tremendous opportunity to restart Ukraine’s reforms. The election debate needs to focus on the most important issue, namely the enforcement of property rights.

    Five years after the Revolution of Dignity and Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s situation remains precarious. The rule of law has not been established. Scandalously, a Kyiv court just reinstated the former chairman of the State Fiscal Service in spite of major accusations of defrauding the state of $70 million, illustrating the persistent dysfunction of the judicial system. Similarly, the reform of the prosecution has failed, and the security services remain untouched.

    The successful reforms have largely been economic. Inflation and the exchange rate have stabilized. Energy subsidies have been cut, bringing the budget close to balance. The payroll tax has been halved, which has reduced the shadow economy. The ProZorro electronic system has cleaned up much of public procurement. Corporate governance has improved in several big state companies and decentralization reform has endowed municipalities with new initiative.

    Yet economic growth lingers at 3 percent when it should be at least 7 percent for a relatively poor country with open access to wealthy Europe.

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  • How Putin Lost Ukraine for Good

    Russian President Vladimir Putin will go down in history as having “lost Ukraine” for good. Putin has experienced two “geopolitical tragedies” with the disintegration of the USSR in 1991 and disintegration of the Russian world in 2018.

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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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  • 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.

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