Russia

  • Trump Cancels Meeting With Putin

    ‘Better no meeting than a bad one,’ says the Atlantic Council’s Daniel Fried

    Hours after the Kremlin confirmed a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald J. Trump on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires on December 1, the US president cancelled the appointment with his Russian counterpart citing the continued detention of Ukrainian naval vessels and their crew by Russia.

    “Better no meeting than a bad one,” said Daniel Fried, a distinguished fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and Eurasia Center.

    Fried was referring to the last Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki in July.

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  • How to Put Putin in His Place

    Russia’s act of aggression against Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea on Sunday should not be dismissed as an isolated incident in its four-and-a-half year old war against Ukraine. This pre-meditated attack is part of a broader effort by Moscow to take full control of the Kerch Strait—a strategic chokepoint that connects Russia to Crimea and separates the Black and Azov Seas. Control over the Kerch Strait gives the Russian navy complete dominance over the Sea of Azov, whose only direct outlet to international waters is through the strait.

    Such maritime dominance would allow Moscow to effectively blockade the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, two major commercial gateways in eastern Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely betting that by suffocating the fragile war-torn economy in eastern Ukraine, he can sow opposition to Ukraine’s central government and eventually blackmail Ukraine into some sort of accommodation.

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  • The West Has an Opportunity, Yet Again, to Push Back Against Russia

    In August of 2008, Russia used separatist proxies in South Ossetia to attack Georgian villages near the city of Tskhinvali. The attack provoked a Georgian military response, which Moscow used as a pretext for a largescale invasion and occupation of Georgian territories.

    Russia did not embark on that military adventure simply to occupy Georgian territories. It had a more important strategic goal in mind—to prevent an eastern enlargement of NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin calculated, correctly as it turned out, that the Russian commitment to keep Georgia out of NATO was much greater than the Western commitment to Georgia’s security.

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  • Is Another Trump-Putin Meeting a Good Idea?

    US President Donald J. Trump is expected to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Buenos Aires later this week. Is that a good idea in light of Russia’s latest aggression toward Ukraine and the somewhat stymied success of past meetings between the two leaders? In an interview with The Washington Post, Trump left open the possibility that he might, after all, cancel the meeting over the incident in the Kerch Strait. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting,” he said.

    Daniel Fried, a distinguished fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and the Eurasia Center, said: “A meeting would make sense if, but only if, Trump is willing to send the right message to Putin, and the president’s track record doesn’t lead to confidence.”

    Anders Åslund, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, flatly said a Trump-Putin meeting was a terrible idea.

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  • Russia Openly Attacks Ukraine. Why Now?

    On November 25, Russia opened fire on three Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait and then seized them. On November 26, Kyiv imposed martial law in ten regions for thirty days as a response to the attack.

    Contrary to Russia’s previous military presence in Crimea or its military support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, both of which the Kremlin initially denied, this incident is an act of open and unmasked aggression against Ukraine.

    The question is, why now?

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  • Explainer: What Just Happened Between Russia and Ukraine, and Why Does It Matter?

    On November 25, Russia seized three Ukrainian naval vessels as they were preparing to enter the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait. The Russian Coast Guard rammed a Ukrainian tugboat and fired on the three Ukrainian ships, injuring up to six crewmembers. Twenty-three Ukrainian sailors are now in Russian custody.

    This is the first direct naval engagement between the two countries’ militaries since the early days of the conflict in 2014.

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  • Carpenter in Politico: Foreign Dark Money Is Threatening American Democracy


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  • Why Martial Law Cheapens Ukraine’s Democracy

    On November 25, Russia attacked Ukraine again. It was a vivid reminder that Ukraine is at war and the situation can escalate at any time. Three Ukrainian vessels were shot at and seized by Russian maritime forces. Twenty-three Ukrainian sailors are now in Russian captivity. It's the first time Russia has openly attacked Ukrainian forces.
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  • Herbst Quoted in Axios on Russia Firing on Ukrainian Naval Ships


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  • Beware the Lure of Sanctions for Russia’s Latest Aggression

    It’s Monday, which means that Russia is again antagonizing its neighbors to the west. But instead of little green men, Wagner “private” security forces, or Russian regulars acting under another flag, this time the FSB—Russia’s internal security service—openly fired upon and captured three Ukrainian naval vessels attempting to traverse the Kerch Strait that separates the two countries. This is a significant escalation by Moscow of tensions that have simmered for months as Russia has harassed legitimate and important Ukrainian trade ships that traverse the disputed strait to Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov. The chief dispute, of course, centers on Russia’s illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its continued financing, training, and support to so-called separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region, for which Moscow has been subject to broad sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union, and the other G-7 nations.

    Against that backdrop, many in the Russia watcher community have called for significant sanctions to be imposed on Russia to address this latest flagrant violation of international law. While sanctions may be useful to threaten Russia to rectify this situation, any imposition of them needs to be more strategically deployed—ideally with the EU—and lifted only for more strategic gains, vice resolution of this specific incident.

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